I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

5 - Bad Luck or Just Me?

I startled awake to the blare of an alarm. From where he was draped over me, Brandon let out a groan and buried his head in my hair. Groggily, I looked to see my alarm clock beeping. It read two o'clock, not a second to lose. I shut it off and gently pushed Brandon off me before I stood up. I quickly changed into black jeans, black shirt and loosely braided my hair before throwing on a jacket and pulling the hood up. Flinging open the suitcase, I took off the film that managed to get all my gadgets past security without incident and put everything I'd need in my belt. 

Outside, all the lights were off, and I pulled out my flashlight, keeping the glow faint. On the wall, I could make out a camera a few feet away, fading away. I pulled out one of my inventions from my belt, it was long with an antenna in the front. It garbled the cameras with a press of a button and I knew that whoever was checking them at two in the morning would find that the camera on the sixth floor just turned black, but as soon as I was ten feet away from it, it would turn back on so hopefully they wouldn't get too suspicious. With their level of firewalls and security, it was nigh impossible to just play the last hour on loop instead. 

In the elevator, the horrible music wasn't playing anymore, instead it was quiet, and I practically stabbed the third floor button in my haste. The ride down was quick, quicker than expected and I almost forgot to turn on my security camera warbler. Of course I still didn't give it a name, what I was calling it in my head made me want to burst out laughing or cringe. 

I arrived at a hallway similar to where the rooms were, but here, all of the doors were locked with electronic keypads. Was the office behind the third door to the right? Or was it the left? Damn, why didn't I memorize the layout better?

Crossing my fingers, I tried the right. I knelt in front of the electronic keypad, holding my flashlight in my mouth as I fumbled for the code-scanner. A name for the gadget that could discover any code and unlock any padlock. Usually I didn't use it because it made my job too easy, but I needed to hurry right now. A few seconds later, the door popped open. Putting everything back on my belt, I took the flashlight out of my mouth and held it, slowly making my way into the room. I was right, this was the office. 

Not wasting a second, I went to the desk and turned on the giant computer. If they did have anything on Operation Phoenix, there was no way it was only in a file. I made quick work of the password and sighed in relief when I discovered that the Commander had a very neat desktop. It took me no time at all to find was I looking for, and wow, they had a lot on this Operation Phoenix whatever. I downloaded everything into a flash drive before deleting it. Then I went to search the cabinets because there was no way he didn't print everything. And besides, one could never be too careful. After checking the third cabinet, I finally found something, and pulled out the thick file. I probably should've just left right then and there to destroy it, but I opened it. 

The first page had everything I already knew about, and I was relieved to find out that they didn't know who was experimented on fifteen years ago either. While there was more information-or more like guesses- on how papa managed it, there clearly wasn't enough for them to recreate it themselves, not without the experimented person. What got my attention was what this Operation Phoenix could do. Of course Dad gave them wings, the ability to heal quickly, and they were stronger and way faster. Wait. They could control fire and shadows? I knew papa was ahead of his time, but to be able to do that? Times like these were when I wished he was still alive. I snapped the file shut when I heard the unmistakable sound of someone walking outside. 

I didn't think twice, and I hastily closing the cabinets and dived under the desk. It was an office, where else was I supposed to hide? I tensed when I heard whoever it was stand right outside the office door. Please tell me I closed that door. Please, please. 

When I heard boots thud against the carpeted floor a few feet away, I cursed under my breath. I really should've just grabbed the file and bolted. When I heard him-I was assuming it was a he from the sound of his footfalls- walk around the desk, I hugged the file tighter to my chest and drew my legs closer, silently wishing that I was just a little shorter. 

I tensed even further when I saw black boots right in front of me. He would just have to look down and I was a goner. Suddenly, everything about me was too loud. My breathing, the way I was swallowing, and Good Lord, my heart was thumping hard enough that I was sure he could hear it. Didn't they have really sharp hearing too? I got my answer a moment later when a hand shot under the table and gripped my ankle. Before I could even let out a sound, whoever it was dragged me out and I was staring at the face of the Commander's second in command. And when I saw his eyes, the pupils slit, not like a cat's, but a crocodile, or-I shivered- a dragon, I let out a scream. 

One thing was certain, he moved like lightning, instantly covering my mouth with his hand while the other was still wrapped around my ankle. 

"What's wrong with your eyes?" I whispered when he finally dropped his hand. 

I probably should've kicked him or tried to escape, but being able to hold back my curiosity was never my strong suit. 

His eyes narrowed. "They do that in the dark." 

His accent was strong enough that it took me a moment to understand what he said. The fact that my english was rusty didn't help either. Huh. So his eyes were definitely not like a cat's, which restricted in the light instead of dark. Which meant he could probably see in the dark. He probably knew I was here the moment he stepped inside. Which meant that escaping him would be near impossible. Didn't mean that I wouldn't try. 

As quick as I could, I turned the flash light back on and flashed it in front of his face at the same time I used my other leg to kick him in the stomach. It was like kicking a brick wall, and I was pretty sure I hurt myself more than I hurt him, but he loosened his grip on my ankle and I scrambled away. There was no way I'd be able to outrun him or outmatch him. I was a thief, not a fighter. Calling myself fit would be a generous description. So I pulled out the gun and fired. Thank God my stepmom gave me one that didn't make any noise. 

Although it didn't matter anyway, because he lunged to the side, missing the shot and then lunged for me. 

"You're on your own if you get caught," Brandon had told me on the way here. 

Looks like I was on my own, because before I could blink, he knocked the gun from my hand and locked his arms around me. At that moment, I remembered what my P.E teacher told me years ago when he wanted to teach us some self defense moves. 

"If someone gets too close to you and you can't punch or kick them, use your head," he had said, showing us by grabbing one kid's head and in slow motion showing us what to do. 

So that's exactly what I did. I reared my head back and banged it on what I hoped was his nose. It was too straight anyway. My forehead hit his cheek instead, and -wow- it hurt. But he let out what I hoped was a groan and not a growl of frustration that was not good news. His vise-like grip loosened, and not wasting a second, I darted away, hand still gripping the file and to the window. I was going to have to escape the building, probably the city and go into hiding since the Commander's second caught me, and I was probably going to be hunted the moment I crashed out of the window. 

Sadly, I didn't get the chance. A hand fisted in the back of my jacket and yanked me back. One arm banded around my ribs, the other locked me in a choke-hold. Man, he was fast. I tried to kick at him with my heel, but he tightened the arm around my ribs-thankfully not the one around my neck- and downright snarled. 

"I wouldn't try that if I were you, sweetheart." 

I stiffened and stilled. I was trapped. Truly, horribly trapped. 

"Well, get on with it then, drag me to your Commander where I'll then be thrown in prison to spend the rest of my bleak life." 

He snorted. I waited. I'd come prepared incase I was going to be thrown in prison. I knew how to pick locks and had anything I might need to break out in the lining of my underthings. I could only hope that they wouldn't take those away. That would be mortifying. 

"I have no qualms with you, and believe me, whatever you're doing isn't worth it, because he will catch you even if I didn't. Just leave, sweetheart, and don't try anything like this again." 

Qualms? What was he? From the twentieth century? And sweetheart? He was probably the kind of person who called every female he ever met 'sweetheart'. Yech. 

With that, he plucked the file from my hands and the flash drive in my pocket before steering me to the door, keeping his grip on me the entire time. 

I looked up and saw that the cameras were still off. Great, one less thing to worry about. At the elevator, he pushed me inside, and stalked off. I watched him go before the doors closed, furious. If I went back home without that file, I was going to be thrown in jail and even if I escaped there, where would I go? No, I was getting what I came here for. I was still going to destroy that information, but after I gave it to my stepmom. 

Back at my room, I lifted the window and crawled out, firmly gripping the window sill. The office was three stories down and on the other side of the building. I let out a groan, this was going to take a long time. This was probably a stupid idea. A very stupid idea. If any one of the guards patrolling below looked up, I'd be caught. And the chances of me plummeting to my death were high. Too high for my liking. Well, at least my camera disabler was still working. 

By the time I reached the window, I was drenched in sweat, my hair sticking to my nape and forehead. I was sure that my face was splotchy and red from the exertion, and I tried to keep my panting at a minimum. Man, I was really beginning to hate the Commander's second. I still didn't know his name, otherwise I would've mentally cursed at him. 

My arms shook as I pulled out the wick stick. I finally came up with a name for it. Pressing against the window, it smarted and then began to smoke as the metal melted. Gingerly, I pushed the window open and crawled inside. It was still empty, and I turned on the flashlight before looking around. He didn't download the information back on the laptop, and when I checked the cabinets, the file wasn't there. I looked everywhere, and at one point I didn't bother moving quietly anymore. I searched everywhere, and found nothing. 

Now what was I going to do? Search every single room for him and demand he hand them over? Maybe Brandon could manage to extend our stay, long enough for me to think of something. Well, there was no way I was going back to my room from the window, and I heard nothing outside the door so I'd just make a beeline for the elevator. Exhausted and my hair a mess, I pulled open the door and stepped face first into someone. Hands gripped my shoulders and I stared straight ahead, scared to look up, because I recognized that military jacket and now I really wished that I had listened to the Commander's second, because I was caught again. And this time, I wasn't getting another chance. 

Instead of screaming, or begging, I squared my shoulders and looked up, straight at the Commander, dread a living snake coiling around my gut.