Symbiont Page 23

Assuming she could find me. I was chained up in a sewer. The sleepwalkers hadn’t done that: they didn’t have the intelligence, much less the remaining manual dexterity. They’d have ripped me to pieces to fill their bellies, eating me—clothes and all—to satisfy the hunger that drove them. Someone must have intervened; someone who wanted me alive, for whatever reason.

The more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of someone “wanting me alive.” It smacked of mad science, and I should know, since I’m sort of a mad scientist’s devastatingly beautiful daughter and all—or maybe just her devastating daughter, since I’m pretty good at the destruction thing—and mad science never ended well for the people who woke up in chains. If they were lucky it was the Island of Dr. Moreau and they got to be wacky cat-people with claws and all. If they were unlucky…

Yeah, I needed to get out of here. “Hello?” My voice was incredibly loud in the sewer, which was neat: it told me that I was in a very enclosed space, probably no more than six feet to a side. I’m not a bat, but I know stuff. “Is there anyone there?”

Nothing answered me but the distant drip of nasty-smelling water. I scowled at the dark.

“Hello?” I tried again. “Look, I’m all like, barefoot and lying in yuck, and that’s a serious infection risk, so could you maybe come and get me and take me somewhere clean? Or better, give me back my shoes and let me go? I promise not to murder you even a little.”

I thought it was a very reasonable offer. Whoever was holding me here either wasn’t listening or didn’t agree, because there was still no answer. I sighed.

“Right. Well, when you want to talk to me, you obviously know where I’ll be. Just an FYI though, that murder thing gets more likely the longer you keep me here.” I closed my eyes—there seemed to be no real point in keeping them open—and took a deep, slow breath, trying to center myself. Maybe if I could get my body to start listening to me again, I could turn the pain back on. That would be nice. At least then I’d know what I was working with.

The dark inside my eyes wasn’t like the dark outside my eyes. That dark was absolute and artificial, unrelenting in its blackness. This dark was comfortable. This dark was the color of home, where everything was going to be okay, and where it didn’t matter if I had a damaged host. We were all the same, down in the dark.

I must have fallen asleep, because when I became aware of my surroundings again, the pain was back, filling my body until I felt like a balloon on the verge of popping. I gritted my teeth and made a small grunting sound, wondering why I’d wanted this back. I mean, pain sort of sucks, right? So why had I been lying in the dark wishing it would show up?

My fingers were all there. I could feel them now, little sticks of burning agony curled against my palm and almost certainly broken. Oh, right. That was why. It’s hard to do anything useful with your body when you can’t figure out where you left it, and pain was the first step toward doing something useful.

I opened my eyes, and promptly squeaked and closed them again as the bright white light that had replaced the foul-smelling darkness assaulted my corneas. The smell was gone, too: I realized that belatedly, as I waited for the tears to stop streaming down my cheeks. I hadn’t fallen asleep naturally. I’d either passed out from my injuries or been drugged. I sniffed, trying to filter through the remaining sewer-stink and the smell of dried blood for anything chemical and unfamiliar. It was too hard to tell, but there was a faintly acrid taste in my mouth that made me suspect that I’d been gassed before whoever was holding me here had moved me.

There was a click from somewhere above and off to my right. I forced myself to remain perfectly still, not even allowing my unbroken hand to ball into the fist that it instinctually wanted to be.

“You don’t need to play that game with me,” said a calm, reasonable voice filtered through what I assumed was some kind of intercom. “I know you’re awake. The bed you’re lying on notified me as soon as your vital signs started spiking, and I thought I’d come down to have a little chat with you before you started throwing yourself against the walls. And we have so much to talk about, you and I. It’s been far, far too long.”

I opened my eyes again, more slowly this time, squinting to try and keep them from burning too badly as the light flooded in. I was in what looked like an operating theater, strapped to a narrow bed that sat at the exact middle of the room, preventing me from getting to anything that could have provided me with even an inch of leverage. I still tried. I bucked and writhed against that bed until every bruise I had was singing like Adam in the shower: loudly, discordantly, and without a bit of concern for how I felt about it. Finally I stopped fighting and slumped back into my restraints, panting from the exertion.

“All done? That’s good. It’ll be better if you’re calm.” There was another click, presumably as the intercom switched off.

I looked around the room, straining my neck until it ached as I tried to find the door. Finally, I spotted a faint discoloration in the wall to my left. I subsided, eyes narrowed, and waited for something to happen.

It wasn’t a long wait, which was good, since I’m not very patient. The door opened, swinging inward, and a tall, well-groomed man with sandy hair and a patient expression stepped into the room. He was wearing a pristine white lab coat and shiny black shoes, and I forgot about everything in the middle as soon as I finished seeing it, because it was so blandly corporate that it could have been stolen right off a mannequin at Banana Republic. I stared at him. I honestly didn’t know what to say.

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