I was on fire again. Worse than when I got sick from the mutation or when onyx was sprayed in my face. The mutated cells in my body bounced around as if they were trying to claw their way through my skin. Maybe they were. It felt like I was splayed wide open. There was a wetness gathering on my cheeks.
They were tears, I realized slowly.
Tears of pain and anger—a fury so potent it tasted like blood in the back of my throat. Or maybe it really was blood. Maybe I was drowning in my own blood.
My memories after the doors had sealed shut were hazy. Daemon’s parting words haunted every waking moment. I love you, Kat. Always have. Always will. There had been a hissing sound as the doors closed, and I’d been left alone with the Arum.
I think they tried to eat me.
Everything had gone black, and I’d woken up in this world where it hurt to breathe. Remembering his voice, his words, soothed some of the torment. But then I remembered Blake’s parting smile as he held the opal necklace—my opal necklace; the one Daemon had given me just before the sirens went off and the doors started coming down—and my anger flared. I’d been captured, and I didn’t know if Daemon had made it out along with the rest of them.
I didn’t know anything.
Forcing my eyes open, I blinked at the harsh lights shining down on me. For a moment, I couldn’t see around their bright glow. Everything had an aura. But finally it cleared, and I saw a white ceiling behind the lights.
“Good. You’re awake.”
In spite of the pulsating burning, my body locked up at the sound of the unfamiliar male voice. I tried to look toward the source, but pain shot down my body, curling my toes. I couldn’t move my neck, my arms, or my legs.
Icy horror drenched my veins. Onyx bands were around my neck, my wrists, my ankles, holding me down. Panic erupted, seizing the air in my lungs. I thought about the bruises Dawson had seen around Beth’s neck. A shudder of revulsion and fear rocked through me.
The sound of footsteps neared, and a face, cocked sideways, came into view, blocking the light. It was an older man, maybe in his late forties, with dark hair sprinkled with gray buzzed close to the scalp. He wore a military uniform in dark green. There were three rows of colorful buttons above the left breast and a winged eagle on the right. Even in my pain-clouded mind and confusion, I knew this guy was important.
“How are you feeling?” he asked in a level voice.
I blinked slowly, wondering if this man was being serious. “Everything…everything hurts,” I croaked.
“It’s the bands, but I think you know that.” He motioned to something or someone behind him. “We had to take certain precautions when we transported you.”
Transported me? My heart rate kicked up as I stared at him. Where in the hell was I? Was I still at Mount Weather?
“My name is Sergeant Jason Dasher. I’m going to release you so we can talk and you can be looked over. Do you see the dark dots in the ceiling?” he asked. My gaze followed his, and then I saw the almost invisible blotches. “It’s a blend of onyx and diamond. You know what the onyx does, and if you fight us, this room will fill up with it. Whatever resistance you’ve built won’t help you here.”
The whole room? At Mount Weather, it had just been a puff in the face. Not an endless stream of it.
“Did you know diamonds have the highest index of light refraction? While it does not have the same painful effects of onyx, in large enough quantities, and when onyx is in use, it has the ability to drain Luxen, leaving them unable to draw from the Source. It will have the same effect on you.”
Good to know.
“The room is outfitted with onyx as a security precaution,” he continued, his dark brown eyes focused on mine again. “In case you somehow are able to tap into the Source or attack any member of my staff. With hybrids, we never know the extent of your abilities.”
Right now I didn’t think I’d be able to sit up without assistance, let alone go ninja on anyone.
“Do you understand?” His chin lifted as he waited. “We don’t want to hurt you, but we will neutralize you if you pose a threat. Do you understand, Katy?”
I didn’t want to answer, but I also wanted out of the damn onyx bands. “Yes.”
“Good.” He smiled, but it was practiced and not very friendly. “We don’t want you to be in pain. That is not what Daedalus is about. And it is far from what we are. You may not believe that right now, but we hope you will come to understand what we are about. The truth behind who we are and who the Luxen are.”
“Kind of hard to…believe right now.”
Sergeant Dasher seemed to take that for what it was worth, and then he reached down somewhere under the cold table. There was a loud click, and the bands lifted on their own, sliding off my neck and ankles.
Letting out a shaky breath, I slowly lifted my trembling arm. Entire parts of my body felt either numb or hypersensitive.
He placed a hand on my arm, and I flinched. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “I’m just going to help you sit up.”
Given that I didn’t have much control over my shaking limbs, I wasn’t in any condition to protest. The sergeant had me upright in a few seconds. I clutched the edges of the table to keep myself steady as I took in several breaths. My head hung from my neck like a wet noodle, and my hair slid over my shoulders, shielding the room for a moment.
“You’ll probably be a little dizzy. That should pass.”
When I lifted my head, I saw a short, balding man dressed in a white lab coat standing by a door that was such a shiny black it reflected the room. He held a paper cup in his hand and what looked like a manual pressure cuff in the other.