Though it may sound strange, the first thing that passed through my mind when I regained consciousness was that I was not naked. I opened my eyes, but immediately had to shut them again when the light blinded me. I waited a few seconds and then opened them again, blinking until they adjusted, and sat up.
I was in a small, sparsely decorated room. The walls were painted hospital-white, and were completely bare. In fact, apart from my bed, the only other thing in the room with me was the door.
Where was I?
Like a flood of terror and confusion, the memory of what had happened began to return to me. My mother gone, the Octopus in her place, Hendricks threatening her, Edgar, Victor, and Dex all showing up out of nowhere... My heart began to beat faster as I remembered the bright yellow flash just before I'd passed out. Had Dex actually done it? He'd promised to take me with him, but until now I'd never believed he'd actually do it. The fact remained, though, that I still had no idea where he'd taken me.
"Good afternoon," a voice said behind me, and I spun around in surprise, toppling backwards off the bed in the process. There was a man standing there now, dressed in a brown robe, like monks wear. The hood was lowered, but bandages were wrapped around his face, covering his eyes. I'm 99.9% sure he hadn't been standing there before.
"Who are you?" I demanded, scrambling back to my feet, keeping the bed between us.
"Mordecai," he answered bluntly, nodding his head slightly in greeting.
"Where am I?" I asked.
"Here," Mordecai answered, gesturing around the room with on hand. I waited for him to elaborate on where "here" was, but he made to effort to do so.
"Can you be a little more specific?" I pressed him, my nerves already beginning to fray. After this morning's events, I was in no mood to deal with a smart aleck like him.
"No," he said, shaking his head.
I glared at him, wondering if he could even see it through those bandages.
"Then why are you here?" I asked.
"For security purposes. We couldn't just leave you here alone."
I narrowed my eyes at him, "My security, or yours?"
Mordecai's mouth stretched into a tight line, "I doubt either answer will make you feel any better, so I'll let you decide for yourself."
I was about to spit back a retort when the door on the other side of the room opened, and Dex stepped through it.
"Thank you, Morty," he said briskly. "That will be all."
Mordecai gave him an irritated glance, or as much of one as he could with his eyes covered up. I got the feeling that he wanted to tell Dex not to call him Morty- probably for the thousandth time. Instead, he kept his mouth shut and marched haughtily out of the room, closing the door behind him.
"Try not to hold it against him," Dex said, turning to me. He leaned casually against the wall, hands in his jacket pockets, as if he weren't doing anything of importance. "Morty hasn't been the same since he lost his eyes."
"Oh," I said, still trying to get my heart to settle down. "What was he like before?"
Dex shrugged, wrinkling his expensive looking suit in the process, "Eh, not quite as snappy, and he didn't wear those bandages on his face."
I took a few deep breaths, never taking my eyes off of him, before working up the nerve to ask what was on my mind.
"So, where am I?"
"Majestic's headquarters," he answered. "Don't ask me any more than that, because I can't tell you where the base located."
I nodded, accepting that that was the best answer I was going to get right now. At least it was more than Mordecai had told me.
"Why did you bring me here?" I asked.
Dex raised his eyebrows, "I'd have thought that would be obvious. Or have you forgotten the demon who tried to collapse your house on top of us?"
My breath caught in my throat.
"A demon?" I echoed. "Is that what he was?"
Dex pointed at me, "Bingo, Sugarsnout. We're not sure what kind, or even what his true name is, but Hendricks in 100% pure bred badness."
I took a moment to absorb this, and then asked the question that had been on my mind all along.
"Is he going to kill my mom?"
For the briefest of moments, I saw Dex pause, and a dark look came over his face. Then, as if it had never happened at all, he was back to normal.
"Hard to say," he answered, shrugging again. "If I were him, though, I'd keep her alive. He wants you, Amber, and he's got a better chance of getting you if he thinks he's got a bargaining chip."
I let out the breath I'd been holding in relief. It was far from a guarantee, but it made me feel better that Dex, at least, thought it was likely she was still alive.
"All right," I said, leaning towards him over the bed. "Now what?"
"I don't know," the sandy haired man admitted. "Your being here has caused quite a stir."
"Why?" I asked. "Weren't you supposed to bring me here?"
Dex made a strange face and began to gesture at nothing in particular, as if he were trying to think of an alibi after being caught doing something he wasn't supposed to do.
"Not... technically," he said at last.
"Then what were you doing hanging around me all this time?" I demanded, feeling anger turn my cheeks red.
"That's not to say you weren't supposed to be protected," he said quickly. "It was Victor's job, not mine."
"Victor?" I asked in confusion, images of the stony faced wizard appearing in my mind. "Why him?"
"Because he was the one assigned to your department, not me."
"My..." I threw my hands out in frustration, "What are you talking about?"
Dex sighed and leaned back against the wall. "It is very complicated," he said. "I know I promised you answers when you came with us, but I'm really not the right one to do it."
"Who, then?" I asked.
"Victor," Dex suggested. "Or perhaps Dr. Lacken himself."
"You'll find out soon enough," Dex said decisively. Pushing himself away from the wall, he snapped his fingers at me and made for the door. "Come on, I'll bring you to them now."
Without a backwards glance, he opened the door and left the room. I hesitated for a moment, but knowing I had no better options, went after him. Outside the room was a long, narrow hallway with door on both sides. I hurried to catch up to Dex, who was making his way down the hall at a quick walk. There were other people there with us, both men and women, bustling about in hospital scrubs and medical masks. I felt strangely out of place, realizing for the first time that I was still dressed in my pajamas.
"This is the hospital wing," Dex informed me, though I could have figured that out on my own. "We brought you here after you passed out to make sure you hadn't been injured."
He stopped at a pair of metal doors and pressed a button. With a ding, the doors slid open and he ushered me into an elevator. There were more buttons on the wall than I could count, making me wonder if we were in a skyscraper. Dex selected a floor and the doors shut. I felt us begin to rise.
"We're going to have to restrain you before taking you to see Dr. Lacken," Dex said.
"Why?" I asked. Being tied up by these people was not high on my to-do list. In fact, I'd say it warranted a place on my list of things to avoid.
"Because seeing Victor was what triggered your blood memories. We can't risk you going wolf inside headquarters."
Before I could protest, the doors dinged open again, and I found myself face to face with the strangest thing I'd ever laid eyes on.
"Amber, meet Lewis," Dex introduced me, motioning towards the blue skinned creature waiting for us. It was six feet tall, and looked vaguely human in shape, but it had four arms. Each of those arms branched out into two more arms at the elbows, leaving it with eight hands. Muscles rippled its frame, but it was misshapen- almost like looking at a real life Picasso painting.
If anybody else had been confronted by this... thing, they probably would have screamed, and then fainted. I just raised my hand on a meek hello as my eyes grew as wide as dinner plates.
"Hello, Lewis," I managed to say.
Lewis bowed its peanut shaped head to me, making a cooing sound like a pigeon.
"Don't be afraid of him," Dex said, stepping out of the elevator. Lewis backed away respectfully to make room. "He may look weird, but he's more likely to use those hands to hug you than strangle you."
Lewis made the cooing noise again, and his small, lipless mouth curved up in a smile. He reached up with one of his sets of hands and mussed Dex's hair. The other three smoothed out his jacket and straightened his tie.
"Okay, okay," Dex said, brushing the thing's hands away. His voice was playful, though, not angry. Whatever Lewis was, Dex clearly didn't feel threatened by it at all.
"So, what is Lewis?" I asked, taking a tentative step out of the elevator.
"No idea," Dex answered. "Now, Lewis, if you would."
At his order, Lewis turned to me and beckoned me forward with the forefingers on four hands. I followed, still not entirely at ease with being in such close proximity to it. Still, when I looked into Lewis' eyes, I had to admit that they looked extraordinarily gentle, like a whale's. Big, strong, and likely able to kill me without any effort, but not a single desire to do so. So, I didn't struggle as Lewis had me put my back against what looked like a giant dolly, the kind workers use to move stacks of boxes. It stretched five strips of strong material around me, securing me firmly in place.
"All comfy?" Dex asked once it was done, not bothering to hide his amused smile.
"I feel like Hannibal Lector," I answered.
"That is an excellent movie," he agreed, and then turned and began going down the hallway. Behind me, Lewis tilted my dolly back and wheeled me after him.
This floor was different from the hospital floor. The halls were lined with stainless steel, so I could look at myself being rolled along from both sides. There were people on this floor as well, but they all seemed busy.
"Get those entrails to chamber 17 before the subject starts to whither again!" one important looking worker ordered, pointing at another man who was carrying a box full of raw, bloody meat. My stomach growled, remembering how long it'd been since I'd last eaten. Still, I didn't hold out hope that it was for me.
"What was he talking about?" I asked as I was rolled further into down the corridor. "What's going to whither?"
"Trust me, Sugarsnout, you do not want to know."
I accepted this answer in silence. I didn't know where I was, or why exactly I was here, but I didn't doubt that there were things locked behind these doors that I would never want to lay eyes on. Things that would make Lewis look as threatening as a Care Bear.
Finally, Dex stopped at a door, and Lewis set me down on my feet. This door didn't look any different from the others. Slightly bigger than a normal door, and made of strong looking metal. There was no doorknob, but Dex slipped a card out of his pocket and inserted it into a slot. The door beeped, and unlocked. As he swung it open, he turned to look at me.
"Try not be scared, all right?" he suggested. "Nobody's going to want to hurt you... probably."
Coming from anyone else, I would have brushed the "probably" off as a bad joke. Knowing where I was, and who I was with, though, made his words sound almost like a threat. Dex swung the door open the rest of the way, and motioned for Lewis to roll me in. As he did, I caught sight of the plague that had been engraved on the door.
"Testing Room 31," it read. "Silverblood Development."
There was that word again. Silverblood. What the heck did that mean? Before I could ask, though, the door slammed shut behind me, locking itself. I tried to turn my head to look backwards, but my restraints wouldn't let me. Instead, I looked in front of me, taking in my new surroundings.
The room was filled with cages, the kinds dogs get locked in at the pound. They were all different sizes, but they were all big enough to fit a large dog, like a mastiff. All of them were empty, so my attention was quickly drawn to the ceiling, where IV hoses were strung all over the room, connected to a metal canister hanging in the center of the room.
"Ah, you're here," a voice said from the other side of the room. My head snapped in the direction it had come from, and I had to stifle a gasp. Victor stood there, his face as stony as ever, not a strand of his raven hair out of place. It took me a moment to realize what was different about him. He still wore his fine black suit, but now he wore a white lab coat over it, creating a startling contrast between the two garments.
"She wanted answers," Dex said from the back of the room where I couldn't see him. "I thought it'd be best to bring her to Dr. Lacken."
Victor frowned, his face creasing with disapproval. He turned and examined a control board beside him. I felt my body lurch, completely out of control for just a moment. If I hadn't been tied down, I would have lunged forward and sank my teeth into Victor's throat- assuming he didn't turn me into a pile of ash first.
"Dr. Lacken is not here at the moment," he informed us, "but you are welcome to stay until he returns." It sounded as if he were saying this because he had to, not because he actually wanted our company.
"Maybe you could try explaining it to her?" Dex suggested.
Victor gave him an annoyed glance, and then began pushing buttons on the control board. I was pretty sure they weren't doing anything, since the cages were all empty. Apparently, Dex was thinking the same thing. He stepped forward to stand beside me, and I saw the mischievous smile on his face.
"We don't have all day, Victor," he said, "so how about I make you a deal? Either you explain what's going on here to Amber, or I will."
Victor shot Dex an angry glare, probably the most emotion I'd ever seen on his face, but then went back to pounding away at his buttons without saying anything. I didn't know why, but I guessed that that threat was worse than it sounded.
"All right, fine," Dex sighed, shrugging, and turned to me. "Amber, this is the place where Victor and Dr. Lacken inject silver into werewolves."
My breath caught in my throat as I suddenly remembered the red vision I'd had when I first saw Victor.
"Pump another dose of silver into it." The shadowy figure had said, with Victor standing in the background. And then pain. Pain that made death seem like a blessing.
With a gasp, I suddenly recognized where I was.
"This is what I saw in my vision!" I shouted, struggling against my restraints. Suddenly, all of my instincts were shouting one word at me: ESCAPE! I still wasn't sure what this room was, or what Victor was doing here, but I knew it was bad. Bad things happened here. Pain happened.
Fortunately for everyone involved, my restraints held. I felt my wolf rise up inside of me, wanting to transform and take control, but even it knew that it wouldn't do any good if it wasn't able to move. It took several minutes, but I finally managed to get myself under control. I glared at Dex, standing in front of me with his hands in his pockets and a coy smile on his face. Behind him, Victor was standing stiff as a board, his right hand inching towards his coat. I guessed that his scepter was strapped to the inside of it.
"Feel better?" Dex asked, an infuriating twinkle of amusement in his eye. "Now, as I was saying..."
"Stop," Victor ordered, finally stepping away from his controls. "You are only going to make things worse. I will explain things to her."
"Oh, are you sure? Dex asked, feigning shock. "I wouldn't want to pull you away from something so important."
Victor gave him the iciest glare I'd ever seen, and even the normally carefree Dex paled a bit and backed away.
"All right," he agreed. "She's all yours."
Victor gave me a hard stare and said, "I am well aware of that."
Somehow, that didn't make me feel better at all.
"As you have probably guessed," he began, folding his arms importantly, "this is Majestic's headquarters."
"What is Majestic?" I asked.
"That is not something you need to know," Victor answered. "Do not interrupt me again. For now, all you need to know is that this room is the laboratory where Dr. Lacken breeds Silverblood werewolves."
I shivered at the word. There was something inside of me that did not like it.
"But what is a..." I began, but bit my tongue when Victor's mouth curved into a frown. "Sorry."
"A Silverblood," he continued, "is a werewolf that is immune to the effects of silver. Everyone knows the legend of silver being poisonous to werewolves. This legend is true. If one were to be stabbed by a silver stake, they would die. Even touching silver would cause a very painful rash to erupt on theie skin. The esteemed Dr. Lacken has taken it upon himself to breed a species of werewolf that is able to breed a species of werewolves that cannot be harmed in this way."
He turned slightly and gestured at the metal tank hanging from the ceiling, "The process is simple: we administer small doses of silver to our werewolf subjects of an extended period of time, and hope that they develop an immunity to it."
I sucked in a breath, an icy chill running down my spine.
"So that's what happened," I said quietly to myself.
Victor turned back to me, nodding curtly, "Yes, I had heard that you were suffering from blood memories. It makes sense that such an experience would carry over from one host's memory to the other's."
"Why, though?" I asked. "I felt what the silver did to that werewolf. There's no way one would volunteer."
Victor paused, and then replied, "Progress should not have to wait for someone to volunteer."
It felt like my stomach had dropped right out of my body, and I suddenly saw Victor in a new way.
"You kidnapped them," I said. "You brought them here against their will and forced them to be your subjects."
"Indeed," Victor confirmed, not a trace of remorse in his voice. To his side, I saw Dex leaning against a cage. When he saw me looking, he turned away before I could figure out what he thought of this revelation.
He works here too, I reminded myself. It probably wasn't a revelation for him.
"We have done experiments on roughly twenty three werewolves," Victor continued. "All of them died from the silver injections." He paused, and then took a step toward me. "All but one."
"I wasn't one of your experiments," I spat at him, feeling far less brave than I sounded. "I've never been here before in my life!"
Victor shook his head, "Of course not, you stupid girl. You were only turned six months ago. Our experiments began years ago."
"Then why am I..." I stopped talking as comprehension suddenly dawned on me. "The werewolf that attacked me. It was one of your Silverbloods."
"Indeed," Victor said again. "You're a slow one, aren't you?"
"And that's why I'm here, isn't it?" I asked, apprehension rising up inside of me. "Whatever you did to him got passed on to me when he bit me."
Victor nodded, as if I'd finally asked a question that was worth answering. "It's difficult to say. Nobody has ever been bitten by a Silverblood before. The lycanthropy that he transmitted to you might have been average lycanthropy, not a single thing out of the ordinary about it. On the other hand, yes, he could have turned you into a Silverblood as well."
He turned and made his way back to his control board, where he opened a filing cabinet and pulled something out. It was long and narrow, and it reflected the light in the room like a dull mirror.
"There is only one way to find out," he said.
"Hey, hold on now," Dex said, standing up straight. For once, his face showed traces of concern. "You don't have permission to do that. The board of directors will want to talk about this first."
"I have no intention of causing lasting damage," Victor promised, which didn't do much to ease my nerves. "I only want to see how it affects her."
He took a bold step forward, and I realized what it was he was holding. Silver. A foot long bar of solid silver.
"Wait, what are you doing?" I demanded, struggling against my restraints again. "Get that away from me!"
"Don't do it, Victor," Dex warned him, though he made no move to stop him. "You don't have the right!"
Victor stopped and turned back to face him, "If this girl is, indeed, a Silverblood, then I have the right to do whatever I wish. This is my department after all, Dexter, not yours."
"And if she's not?" Dex asked. His fists were clenched by his sides, as if he were restraining himself. Behind me, I heard Lewis coo worriedly.
"Then there's no harm done," Victor assured him. "Hendricks will have been wrong about her, which means that she will neither be our concern, nor his. He will no longer have a reason to come after her. Besides..."
He turned to face me again, clearing the rest of the distance between us with a single step.
"Just a light touch will not do much damage."
With that, he reached out and placed the silver bar on my cheek. I thrashed around in my restraints, trying to break free, but the material was too strong. All I could do was glare at him in terror and hatred as the poisonous metal kissed my face, burning my skin...
But wait... It wasn't burning me. There was an unpleasant tingle on my skin where the bar was touching me, but nothing that could be described as a burn. It was as if he'd spread Pop Rocks on my cheek. Strange, but not painful.
"Interesting," Victor crooned, keeping the silver firmly against my skin. I turned my eyes to look at him, and this time I saw a new emotion on his face. He looked greedy, like when dollar signs appear in cartoon characters' eyes.
"All right," Dex said, finally getting the courage to step forward, "that's enough."
"Indeed it is," Victor agreed, removing the metal bar and standing up straight again, the image of professionalism. "Help me put her into cage three."
My blood turned to ice, and I couldn't help but look at the dog kennels that lined the walls. I wouldn't be able to sit up in one of those, much less stand. Those cages had been built for dogs, not people.
"No," Dex said firmly, coming to stand behind my dolly. "This may not be my department, but I can safely say that you are going too far, Victor. The board must agree to this before you are given custody of her. Taking her now would be violating her rights."
"She is a Silverblood," Victor said, never once taking his eyes off of me. "We need her here."
"She got a rash where you touched her," Dex argued, "just like you said a normal werewolf would."
"But not nearly bad enough," Victor countered. "It looks like she's had an allergic reaction to perfume, not been touched with her kind's equivalent of acid."
I felt the tingling on my cheek again, and I realized he was right. It was itching, like a rash was forming on it.
"She is a Silverblood," he said, pointing towards me with his bar of silver. "Which means she belongs to me."
"You mean she belongs to Dr. Lacken," Dex corrected him. I shot him a glare, hardly able to believe he was taking sides on who I belonged too. He'd seemed to be friendly up until this point.
"Ah..." Victor faltered for a moment, and then composed himself again, "Yes, of course. She belongs to Dr. Lacken."
"And as his assistant, you don't have the authority to indenture Amber to be your servant. That is Dr. Lacken's responsibility."
Victor sucked a breath in through his mouth, looking as if he wanted to slap Dex. Finally, he relented, taking his eyes off of me and going back to his control board.
"Very well," he said, his voice ominously low. "I will be patient."
"Glad to hear it," Dex said, his sly grin rising onto his face again. He reached out and slapped Victor on the back. Victor shot him a glare, but did not retaliate. Instead, he began pushing buttons again.
"Well, that takes care of that," Dex said, smiling at me. "Let's get you to your guest quarters, shall we?"
After everything that had just happened, I was too stunned to do anything but give a weak nod. Dex motioned at Lewis, who leaned my dolly back again. Dex opened the door, and we all stepped back into the hallway. Before the door could close again, though, I heard Victor call out one last time.
"You were brought here for a reason, girl. Now that we now what you are, the board will approve my request to make you my new subject."
NEXT WEEK: AMBER IS BROUGHT TO SEE THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.