Book VI Chapter 5: Underdog
Eva lit a cigarette, holding it shakily to her lips to take a slow drag, her eyes closed to block out the intense light of midday as much as to avoid Gabriel's gaze.
Not that it did much good; she felt his cold gray eyes boring into her, and it made her want to curl up upon herself within her winter coat.
She couldn't decide whether she was happy to see him again or not. She had been rather hard on him since their first meeting, and yet he had been nothing but patient and understanding with her in kind, even going so far as to risk his life and job to attempt to find a cure for--
"I didn't know you smoked," he said with a hint of curiosity in his voice, thin and reedy as it was.
"I didn't," she admitted. "Not until now."
"Eva..." he lowered his voice, glancing carefully over his shoulder.
He saw thesurvaranicreeping through the tree branches nearby, not looking at them, but likely listening anyhow.
He decided to press his luck. "What have they been doing to you? They sent you here, and suddenly no one wanted to so much as discuss you with me anymore. You look like you've been through hell."
Eva smirked, carefully pushing her ink-black hair over a shoulder before taking another pull of her cigarette.
"Then I look perfect.
You, on the other hand... Aensdoun, huh? Congratulations on getting home alive. How'd a guy like you ever manage?"
"You're evading the question. Is it that bad?
The Organizationtakes care of its own... doesn't it?"
Eva fell silent and glanced away. "The Organization does, yes.
But there are those who, pardon my old tongue, don't give a fraction of a paco's shit about anything but their own sick ambitions.
"They're able to report their 'findings' and pass it off as research, but I'm not stupid."
Gabe chewed his lip. "Can't you report--"
"Report it to whom?" She lowered her voice, leaning in closer; her breath was too hot against his ear.
"This... this thing. You knowHouse Sagarthay? The Organization's big shot anthro-archie branch... their Houselord is 'handling' me.
"Who am I supposed to report to about a Greater Houselord, theLord-Doctor?" Eva laughed bitterly.
"I might've had a chance at that, once... butNa'thanis torn up badly, and we won't know if he sustained any brain damage until he wakes up.
"I don't have his help or shelter anymore, and that just meansAnomwill enjoy his 'research' with me that much more."
Sullenly, she crushed her spent cigarette into the bench, leaving a smoking black smear against the pale wood.
"What's he doing to you?" Gabe asked softly.
"Shit, Gabe," Eva breathed, incredulous. "You'll find out firsthand if you keep this up. You know the survaras--"
"I'm untouchable," he announced grimly, "and I may be able to vouch for you. Tell me what's going on."
Eva gave him an odd, uncertain look.
"He has some kind of artifact-- the "Scepter of Voghn" or something like that.
He uses it on me, and he can force me to ch-change," she began, biting her lip and glancing down at her feet.
"It fucking hurts, Gabe. It hurts like nothing I've ever felt before.
And he uses it, again and again, and takes notes as I change, and takes samples of anything he can think to, and handles me like I was a fucking dog, someone's housepet.
"I can't fight back against him; he's too strong for me during the day, and he chains me to a wall before the sun sets every night.
"I want him," she growled. "I want him dead, but he knows, and he knows I can't do it alone, and he mocks me..."
She swore loudly, slamming a clenched fist against the bench before getting to her feet.
"I can't do this. Not now, not with Na'th hurt..."
Gabe watched her gather her coat around herself as she strode briskly across the soft blue grass, and wondered if he really was important enough to the Organization that they wouldn't detain them both for punishment.
Nearby, the little survaranius watched him from the tree branch, its camera-lens eyes adjusting to focus.
Next Chapter: Book VI Chapter VI
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