“That took longer than was expected, Dexter."
The woman who had spoken was… well, I'm not sure if she was really a woman at all. She wore an expensive looking suit and skirt, but there wasn't an inch of skin anywhere on her body. I found my feet frozen to the floor as I stared into her empty eye sockets, while her ivory white skull gleamed in the overhead lights.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Shavver," Dex said, bowing. When he stood up straight again, he gave my shoulder a painful squeeze and whispered, “Stop staring!"
With some difficulty, I managed to take my eyes off of her eerie grinning face. The other directors weren't much better to look at, though. The room was long and narrow, with a table that stretched all the way across it. Four people sat at the table… and I use the term “people" lightly.
“We have wasted enough time as it is waiting for you," another man said, pointing a clawed finger at an empty chair in front of me. His ghostly white skin was offset by the dark rings around his eyes, and his long golden hair. And when I say golden, I mean literally golden, as if he had hundreds of thin gold chains sprouting from his head. I nodded to him wordlessly, and sat down. Dex remained standing beside me, his hand still on my shoulder.
“So, this is the Silverblood everyone is talking about," yet another director said. Compared to the first two, this man actually looked human. An eight foot tall human, but a human nonetheless. He was wearing a fur suit, the kind mountain men wore in old western movies, and his iron gray beard fell to his chest. After looking at me, he turned to Dex. “She is every bit as beautiful as you said."
I shot Dex an incredulous look, and saw his face turn red. “I didn't…" he said, but then caught himself. “Yes, Mr. Wrogan."
The big man chuckled good naturedly, and folded his hands in front of him on the table. Both of them were big enough to wrap around my entire head, and probably strong enough to pop it.
The man sitting to Mr. Wrogan's right was staring intently at me, and I couldn't help but shiver. While his right eye was focused unblinkingly on me, his left was pointed at his lap. When he saw me looking at him, he grinned. His thinning hair was as white as his lab coat, and stuck out in every conceivable direction.
“Dr. Lacken," the golden-haired director said, bringing the old man's attention back to him. His eye wobbled in its socket when he turned. “What do you think?"
Hearing his name, the red vision Victor had given me flashed before my eyes again. The shadowy man standing in the background, telling Victor to pump more silver into my veins.
“Oh, yes, she is a Silverblood," Dr. Lacken said, standing up. His voice matched the one I remembered, and I had to stop myself from growling. “My assistant, Victor, tested her earlier today. The silver gave her a rash, but caused no damage."
The red skin on my cheek tingled where the silver had touched me, and I instinctively reached up to cover it.
“Then it is settled," the director said decisively. “The girl will stay here for further experimentation."
Ice filled my veins, and I gasped audibly. That was it? I hadn't even had a chance to speak! I started to rise from my seat, determined to say my piece before they carted me off to that torture chamber again, but Dex's firm hand pressed me back down again.
“Mr. Wrogan," the blonde wizard said, his voice respectful, “are you in agreement with this?"
I shot him a venomous glare, but he refused to meet my eyes. How could he go along with me like this? He'd promised me he'd do what he could to help me, but he hadn't even put up a fight!
“Hmm," the large bearded man said softly, and then hoisted himself up from the table. “I'm not sure yet."
“Wrogan, we don't have time for this!" the skeleton lady snapped at him, tapping her bony finger impatiently on the table.
“That is not for you to decide," Mr. Wrogan calmly chastised her. “As Director of Magical Creatures and Wildlife, the final decision in this matter rests on me."
“Well, hurry up then!" the golden haired man snapped, glowering at me as if I were to blame for this entire situation.
“Peace, Vaazkima," Wrogan said. “This will not take long."
With that, the massive man came around the table to stand before me.
“Stand up," he told me.
His voice was gentle, yet firm, and I felt an inexplicable urge to obey him. I got to my feet, pushing my chair back behind me, and faced him. For the first time since we entered that room, Dex's hand let go of my shoulder.
“Hmm," he hummed in his throat again, stroking his beard. Without warning, he reached out and took my left arm in his massive hand. I flinched, convinced that he was going to snap it like a twig, but then breathed a sigh of relief when I found his grasp to be as gentle as his voice. He squeezed my arm in three different places, feeling my muscles before letting me go and taking my head in his hand. He turned it left and right, and I was reminded of the way somebody would examine a horse before buying it. Despite the obvious invasion of my personal space, I couldn't help but feel calm around this man.
“She's a strong one," he said at last, letting go of my face. “She has very little control over her wolf, but that's to be expected of someone who was changed so recently."
I gave Dex a worried look. So much for pretending I had control.
“No," Mr. Wrogan said decisively. “I cannot condone forcing her to stay here."
He went to sit back down, and I felt finally let out the breath I'd been holding. He didn't want me to stay here! I wasn't exactly sure what he meant by “Director of Magical Creatures and Wildlife," but I was relieved to find out that there was someone in here who was on my side.
“Unfortunately," he spoke up again once he'd gotten comfortable, “I cannot deny that we need another Silverblood to continue experimenting on."
And just like that, all the hope I'd felt came crashing down. I knew I looked like an idiot, sitting there with my mouth hanging open, but it was all I could do at the moment.
“So," Vaazkima said, putting his hands together so that the tips of his black claws touched, “we are in agreement, then?"
Mr. Wrogan gave me an apologetic look, but then nodded.
“It really is for the best," he said, spreading his hands. “If Hendricks is as intent on getting you as he says, then Majestic headquarters is the safest place for you."
“But that doesn't help my mom!" I shot back.
“There is nothing we can do for her," Miss Shavver said, waving her fleshless hand dismissively.
“I'm sorry, Amber," I heard Dex say, but he made no move to help me.
“I have just one more question, if I may be permitted."
Without waiting for a response, Dr. Lacken jumped to his feet and came to my side of the table again.
I should bite him, I thought to myself. They'll probably kill me for it, but what else have I got to lose? I'll bite him and then he can do those tests on himself!
“Is it true that a young child named Kimberly was found dead near your neighborhood earlier this week?"
I froze, and suddenly my desire to attack him vanished. In all the excitement, I had completely forgotten about her! I remembered the picture of her I'd seen in the newspaper, and I couldn't help but imagine her lying in a ditch, torn to pieces by a wild animal. I began to feel woozy, and I sat back down in my chair.
“I'll take that as a yes," Dr. Lacken said grimly, and he turned back to look at the directors. “It seems there is something else we must discuss, then."
Vaazkima hesitated a moment, as if he were considering reprimanding the doctor for speaking in such a way. But then his titled his head to the side in interest, his golden hair clinking against itself.
“Very well." He turned to me and Dex. “You may go."
Before I had a chance to ask what was going to happen to me, Dex had taken hold of my shoulder and lifted me out of the seat. With one last bow to the directors, he swept me out of the black door and into the hallway again.
“Get a haircut, Dexter!" Miss Shavver's voice called out after him just before the door clicked shut.
He sighed, and shook his head. “I'm sorry, Amber. I was hoping things would go better than that."
I gave him an icy glare. “You didn't even try to help in there!"
“Yes, I did," he argued, sounding as if he didn't have the energy to argue. “But my hands are tied here. There's only so much I can say to the directors before they run out of patience with me."
“Oh yeah?" I snapped, brushing his hand off my shoulder. “What are they gonna do, fire you? Make you go back to work at McDonald's?"
For just a moment, I saw a flash of anger in Dex's eyes, and I took a step back. Then it was gone, as if it had never been there.
“No," he said, taking me by the shoulder again. “They'll do something much worse."
With that, he led me out of the hallway, through the massive door, and back to elevator again. Dex didn't say another word until we were on board, and the doors had shut behind us.
“You're taking me to the lab floor again," I said numbly. After that one fit of anger, it felt like all my emotions had leaked out, leaving me feeling hollow inside.
“No," he answered briskly just as the doors slid open again. “You're going back to your room."
To my surprise, we were back on the guest floor.
“But…" I stammered, “I thought they were going to experiment on me!"
“They were," he answered, leading me back to the room I had been in before, “but something else has come up. You'll be staying in here until they've made their final decision."
He opened the door, and waved me inside.
“What came up?" I asked. “How long is this going to take?"
“Just wait in here," he answered. “Try to relax."
And then, without so much as a goodbye, he shut the door, locking me inside again.
NEXT TIME: Amber is going to be set free from Majestic- but what happens next? Dex shows up in the middle of the night, asking for Amber's help.