Danica crouched alone on the bare mat in her small two and three quarter meter by one meter cell and watched the light panel above her brighten for another daily cycle. 749. 749 cycles since she was brought here. Wherever here was? Memories of how she got there were disjointed in her mind: a moonlit wheat field, a flash of light, a frosted room, and then this cell. Each cycle was etched in her mind as she forced herself to count them. It kept her sane, in a compulsive sort of way. The routine was like clockwork. Soon, her keepers would arrive, but this time it wouldn’t be for her regular weapons training and simulator practice. No. She lightly brushed her fingertips against the angry bruise on her cheek and winced.
Her eyes darted to the door at the sound of distant footfalls on metal floor plates. One, no, two guards approached.
She fingered the tough stiff fabric of the faded blue overalls she had worn since she had arrived. There were blocky yellow angular symbols that repeated across the front and back, but she couldn’t read them. Her keepers had neglected to teach her their sing-song language. She rocked slightly on the heels of her poorly fitted, calf-high black boots. It didn’t matter. All the prisoners here were kept separated. No one to talk with, no reason to talk. Silence had become her defense. From a distance, she had watched how they had treated the others, the ones that had tried to speak. The handsome golden tanned features of her wardens’ faces would curl in disdain as if they were being forced to endure the chorus of grunts from a sty. She had felt their self-assumed superior contempt when she first woke up and found herself here. But where was here, and what did they really want? These two questions had echoed in her brain every day since she had arrived.
The sound of footsteps grew louder. Danica tensed when the small plate in the panel slid to one side. No, they weren’t here to take me to more training. She scowled at the tawny pair of eyes that studied her. Golden ones, she snarled in her mind. The golden lion eyes moved aside while a second set took their place. Her empathic ability told her they were afraid. Good! she thought as the memory of the other day made her eager to confront them again. She had snapped and injured three guards before they brought her down with a stun rifle. When she woke up she was back in her cell.
It was their own damn fault! They made me what I am...barely human. The last thought made her stomach turn. No, wait and see. She reined herself in. Not yet, no place to run or hide. Their physical and mental manipulations had driven her to the edge, several times. They had come to put her down, she had become too uncooperative, too unpredictable, but they wouldn’t do it here in her cell. She knew. She remembered. They would take her back to the lab like they had done seven times before and perform that insane procedure. She’d rather die forever then have them try it again!
The door opened. Two of them entered; sun-bleached blond, males with bronzed tans in red and black uniforms. Their movements were fluid, their eyes like lions. One of them leveled a rifle-like weapon at her and signaled her to go out the door.
Not yet, patience, she thought as she went where they pointed. Comforted by her compliance, they began to chatter in their sing-song tongue. She knew the way. She’d done it seven times before. Death was welcome; it was the resurrection that she dreaded. 18...19...20...21, she silently counted before they turned down the corridor and entered a large two story room through the 22nd door. Inside there was another door that lead to the training corridor to her right, a set of double doors directly across, and three doors at the left end. Each door had red symbols neatly printed on them that meant nothing to her, nothing except the middle door at the end of the room represented pain. She glanced up at the laser turret above the door they had just come through. There was an observation window on the second floor with a guard posted looking down at them. Not yet, she warned herself. When they reached the lab, the door slid open. Inside was a table with straps and walls with shelves filled with boxes, assorted equipment, and glassware. Another table stood to one side covered with medical equipment. She knew. They had used it on her before. Danica hesitated.
Impatient, one of them shoved her forward. Suddenly Danica’s mind unraveled. No! Better to take her chances with the laser turret outside! She turned to confront him, but the other hit her in the side of the face with the butt of his weapon. They both uttered a cruel laugh as she fell to her knees, stunned by the blow to her head. As the door closed, she blinked back the blood that blurred her vision in one eye. You’re not going to do this to me again, she vowed in cold silence. I will escape or die trying! Her enhanced muscles tensed without a second thought. She lunged at her assailant and slammed his large frame into the door. His weapon flew from his hands as he slipped to the floor, stunned. She dove for the weapon, but suddenly felt herself lifted by a violent kick. Her ribs gave with a brutal crack. She rolled away in agony while the fallen attacker picked himself up. Anger rose inside as she lunged towards the one that had kicked her. Glassware sprayed upward in a shower of splinters as he sprawled into a shelf against the wall.