I Am No Prey by Amal Clare May 25, 2021

6- No Third Chances

What happened after that was a blur. I got a punch to the skull and blacked out, and when I woke up again, I was on my knees with my hands cuffed behind me. I looked around the room, disoriented. The room was bare. In front of me, the Commander was walking back and forth, his arms clasped behind his back and when he saw that I was awake, he smiled. I shivered. Despite being awake, the hands on my shoulders only gripped me harder. 

"You say you had no idea that she came here to steal?" he said, voice barely hiding what I assumed was humor. 

From the corner of my vision, I saw Brandon. "None."

He chuckled, drily. "I know a liar when I see one. Scurry back to your country and tell your President that I do not take kindly to thieves. Consider yourselves warned." 

I saw Brandon back out of the room, where Green Wings was already waiting. They must've already checked him and his bags if they were letting him go. I was surprised when he stopped, eyes flicking to me. "And Cerise?" 

"Oh she stays. Can't let her go unpunished." 

And with no last words for me, the coward left. Like I was nothing to him, he left. Like he didn't give a damn about me. I would be lying if I said that didn't hurt, a lot. 

I knew my stepmother would have a fit that I was here, and use it to her political advantage, but there wasn't anything she could do. I tried to steal something on Drakhenae soil, so the Drakhenae would deal with me. I looked back to the Commander while I assessed my situation. My gadgets were gone and so was the knife I had tucked into my boot. What good that was. 

I watched as his eerily black eyes narrowed. "Where is it?" 

I blinked. "Where is what?" 

Faster than I could follow, he stood in front of me, his hand gripping my throat. "The file. You don't know what you're doing little girl. Give it back and you can go back home." 

I bristled. I was eighteen, that legally made me an adult. And being six feet tall, many confused me for twenty two, sometimes twenty four. I was definitely not a little girl. Most of the hurt I felt from Brandon abandoning me fueled my anger. Good, that was a better use of my emotions. 

His second didn't return it? Why? It took everything in me to not look at where he was standing to my right and give everything away. 

Instead I looked up at the Commander and smiled. "I have no idea what you're talking about." 

The hand around my throat squeezed tighter and I choked. 

"Where. Is. It," he said, calmly, as if he had no problems with choking a teenager. 

"I don't know," I choked out, spluttering. The grip on my throat eased. "Someone beat me to it." 

He growled in frustration and stepped back. He turned his attention to his second, a slow smile forming on his face. "What do you think Everard? What should her punishment be?" 

A beat of silence and then, "Make her one of us." 

The dread pooling in my stomach turned to ice. No, no, no. They couldn't make me a Drakhenae. That was the worst possible punishment, because even if I escaped, I'd be stuck here, Drakhenae didn't live in human countries, unless they had a death wish. They didn't even visit. 

The Commander nodded. "Efficient." He looked at the soldiers grabbing my shoulders. "Take her away." 

I watched as one of them pulled out a syringe and I flinched, trying to get away. I hated needles and visits to the doctor. Loathed them. I needed a better word to describe my intense dislike of them. But I was pinned to the spot and couldn't do anything when he plunged the needle into the soft spot between my shoulder and neck, and a moment later, my world went dark. 

******

When I came to again, I was lying face first on a bed. My head felt like it weighed a ton and my tongue was lead in my mouth. Groggily, I lifted my head and looked around. I was in a sterile room, one you'd find in a hospital. And I wasn't alone. Two women were moving around the room, pulling vials and needles from cabinets and placing them on a metal cart beside me. They both had identical wings and the same glossy brown hair. I assumed that they were sisters. 

One of them stopped when she saw me. "She's awake. How are you feeling?" 

How was I feeling? Did she really just ask that? 

"Where am I?" I said instead. 

"At the capitol's military base." 

So not in that building anymore. I hoped the Commander wasn't here. After a while, I tried to move my limbs. While I could move my head, the rest of me was completely numb. She went back to moving around, explaining to me how giving me wings apparently worked. How all Drakhenae were born with their wings but they came up with something a few years ago for those born with crippled or malformed wings. She didn't say that it was also for humans they wanted to damn. While I hated my fate, her talking gave me something to focus on, and if it wasn't for the way things were going, I would've been fascinated by what she was saying. When I saw the other one pull out two cylinders with something sinewy and white, I had no doubt that was where the wings would grow from. Panic seized me and I had a hard time breathing. I vainly tried to move, to do anything, but my limbs weren't responding. 

"This isn't going to hurt at all. Take deep breaths. It'll be over in a jiffy." One of them said when she saw my expression. 

A jiffy was exactly one hundredth of a second. There was no way this was going to be done in one hundredth of a second. 

"Please," I gasped. "Don't do this." 

They shot me sympathetic glances and one of them started cutting the back of my shirt, then my bra. A shame. I really liked that shirt. Since I couldn't feel anything, I imagined that now they were rubbing antiseptic on where they would implant the wings. I struggled to maintain my breathing. In. Out. Fainting right now would do me no good. Instead, I focused on the two of them, straining my neck to get a good view. They were just standing there. 

"Where did you get those scars, Miss?" 

For a moment, I stared at her, bewildered, then I realized she was talking about the twin scars beneath each shoulder blade. I had them for as long as I could remember. Papa said that when I was three, some pervert kidnapped me and wanted to 'mark me'. That explained how precise and exact they were. If the sight of those two, small scars scared them, or made them feel sympathetic, they should've gotten a different job. 

I told them as much. One of them glared, the other one chided her for it. I decided that I liked the second one. A lot. 

"Should we tell him or just continue?" she asked her. 

"I'm not taking any chances, just call him." 

One of them pulled out her phone and dialed something. I listened to the one sided conversation. 

"No, there are no issues." A pause. "Yes we already have everything." A pause. "Umm, you might just want to come down and see this." 

My panic was gone and I was brimming with curiosity. Come see what? My back? Please tell me it wasn't the Commander. A few moments later, I got my answer. It was his second. 

"What?" he snapped, by way of greeting. Clearly he wasn't glad to be interrupted from whatever he was doing. That made me happy, since he was the one who damned me to this fate. To be one of them. 

The one who glared at me sighed. "Just look." 

I felt, rather than saw him come to the side of the bed, eyes on my bare back. If I wasn't completely numb, I probably would've shivered. 

"Where did you get those scars?" he asked, repeating the girls' question. 

"Someone cut me when I was younger. Why?" 

He didn't answer my question. "How many years ago?" 

"Fifteen," I answered. "Why?" I repeated. 

He still didn't answer and turned his attention to the sisters. "Give her the regrowth formula." 

Yech, what a horrible name. 

"How much?" 

"Enough for them to regrow before tomorrow. If they're what I think they are." 

"But-" 

"Do it," he cut her off. 

"Why and what are you talking about!" I snapped. 

He walked to the front of the bed and knelt down until we were eye-level. 

"I don't think someone cut your skin fifteen years ago. I think someone cut off your wings."