PART I – Darkness
The near future…
She was thin. Too thin. Barely nourished.
First order of business would be stuffing some food down her narrow throat. It wouldn’t be nearly enough to put some much-needed meat on her frail bones; it would, however, pack her stomach with enough calories to give her a big energy boost – the right way – no doping…not on his watch. Even if he had to force-feed her, he would make sure she had enough body fat to survive the long road trip. If she’s half-starved now, there was no way she would survive one night outside the ward. No way. Before they walked twenty meters outside the gates, without a good meal first, she would probably crumple to her knees. Then he’d be stuck hauling her over his shoulder for the next week. Nope. Not gonna’ happen that way, not if he could help it.
Rubbing his jaw, he took a second to rethink his plan. She looked like a good wind might knock her down, but she must be in better condition than she appeared. That was a very good thing. He had to admit, despite having barely a hundred pounds on her frame, she was quick. Even with that tracker at her back, she had made it into the club in record time. If she hadn’t been so fast, he might have had to blow his cover to save her skinny ass. Thankfully, it didn’t go down like that.
He managed to lift the crease of his lips into a tight smile. If she’s healthy enough to run, then they wouldn’t need to wait an extra day before jumping the gate. Getting a big head-start increased their odds on the score card. This might not be such a bad mission after all.
Shit. Clothes. He had to get her some decent clothes to wear. Even if she didn’t die from starvation on the first night, he was certain she might freeze to death. Her blood was chilly, but she was still partially human. The deep arctic dip that hit the flatlands after midnight could freeze her solid if she was only wearing those scraps of cloth. She was wearing well below the bare minimum to survive a single frigid night outside of Rat City. Then again, she had more covering her ass than any other lady here. The word bounced around his head again. Lady – huh, definitely not the right term to describe any female in this joint.
As he watched her push her way through the undulating throng of people, he tried to think of how he could get what he needed before day break.
Whoa. Did she just slug that guy who tried to grab her cheeks? The bone-thin figure of a pallid male dropped below his line of sight, confirming what his eyes couldn’t believe. Okay, she was strong, too.
Healthy. Hardcore. Two big pluses in her column. She was going to need both survival skills to live through this escape. This assignment was definitely looking much better than it had when it was first dropped in his lap. Must return with target alive and alert. He silently replayed his commander’s final orders. When he first left the camp, he had serious doubts about his ability to make this new mission into a success . Now, with the way things were starting to look, he just might be able to carry out that last directive without too many complications. If not, oh well. She would only be another casualty of war, nothing more.
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