Freeing Luka: Chapter 5


Alice had been keeping track of her days the only way she could without a clock, by counting her visits with Luka. Assuming she’d been brought to him every day, she’d counted two weeks in this place.

She looked forward to those visits more than she could say. Luka not only offered her comfort, with his deep voice and familiar icy-blue eyes, but he also made her feel like she wasn’t alone. Whenever nightmares plagued her or when her anxiety rebounded out of nowhere, Alice knew she could wrap her arms around his neck the next day and he’d soothe her. She’d cried into his shoulder a handful of times now, becoming less and less embarrassed about it the more it happened. He’d nuzzle her neck as she wept and lightly purr, somehow knowing, even through his haze, how to make her feel better.

After her visits, Sal, Gishen, or Helas would bring her back to her cell, where food would be waiting. If Helas brought her back, as he had today, he’d speak to her about the day’s progress and occasionally, depending on his mood, answer some of her questions.

Today, Helas sat quietly in the corner, arms crossed, watching Alice as she ate. His normally unreadable mask of innocent charm was gone. Instead, his lips were thinned, and his brow was furrowed in thought. Something had happened to cause this change in his controlled demeanor, but she had no idea what.

Alice ate her food slowly, forcing herself to swallow the bland mush she’d been given every day. Either people on this planet only ate once per day, or they were only feeding her once per day.

“He doesn’t have his marks yet,” Helas said, more to the room at large than her.

Unsure what to say, she blinked.

“Do you have any thoughts on this?” he asked with narrowed eyes.

Taken aback, she sat up a little straighter. He’d never asked for her opinion about anything before. Asshole must really be at a loss.

The same question had run through her mind every night. Why hadn’t Luka’s marks appeared? The most logical conclusion was that she wasn’t his mate.

Anxiety took hold every time she pondered this. The possibility she could be Luka’s mate was the one valuable thing about her and was, consequently, the only thing protecting her right now. If Helas came to this conclusion as well, her visits with Luka would likely change dramatically.

Although she fought with herself constantly to not become attached to Luka, to not care for him, the simple truth was, she did. She was just too weak to keep her heart locked away from someone who’d done nothing wrong. He was her rock, and although they could barely speak to each other, she’d grown to feel a connection to him that she’d never felt with anybody else.

“Well,” she began, trying to think of a good answer, “maybe it would help if he could speak to me. He doesn’t seem to always understand me. Also, I’m always touching him, right? Maybe if his hands were free and he could touch me a little, it’d work.”

“You’d be fine with him touching you? The smell of your fear may be detrimental,” Helas replied, eyeing Alice.

The smell of my fear? She pondered his words but decided not to question them. “As long as I have space to get away if I need to.” She tried to make her voice casual, but the thought of Luka wrapping his strong arms around her and hugging her back made her heart pick up speed.

“He can’t understand you because we haven’t updated his translator. Your translator has been programmed with our language, but his has not been programmed with yours.”

“I have a translator?” Alice blurted. She’d wondered why she could converse with Helas, Gishen, and Sal, but she’d just assumed they’d learned English.

Helas cocked his head at her like she was child who’d said something funny. “What did you think? We all spoke your language on our planet?”

Alice flushed, feeling stupid for not coming to this conclusion earlier.

Helas waved a hand dismissively. “Mating is instinctual. There’s no need for you to speak with him, and while drugged, I doubt he’d be much of a conversationalist anyway.”

“Then maybe you should stop giving him drugs.” She could guess what his response to this idea would be. Helas’ main goal may be to gauge whether she and Luka could procreate, but his sick side project of purifying Luka’s genes seemed like something of an obsession.

“No, I think we can do better than that.” He leaned toward her. “He will be unclothed tomorrow. You will touch all of him.”

Alice jerked her head back as though slapped.

Her outrage at touching a drugged, chained man had weakened with each passing day. While it once had felt intrusive to run her hands over his chest, she now knew the contact helped them both stay grounded. Even so, she argued with herself endlessly that what she was doing was okay because of their circumstances and because he wanted her to. She remained unconvinced.

Now that he knew a few words, he would often string simple sentences together. “Alice hand arm.” But there were boundaries. It may seem like he wanted her, but unless they were out of this place and he was no longer intoxicated, she couldn’t assume anything.

Touching him…down there…would be wrong, and being told to do it by Helas turned her stomach. There had to be an alternative. “I think it might be better to sleep in there or in here with him.”

Instead of yelling at her and threatening Luka as he normally did when she openly disagreed, he considered her offer.

“You said proximity might do it. I’m only with him a few hours per day. If you brought him in here and let him stay, they might appear,” she quickly added, hoping he’d agree with her reasoning.

Helas nodded slowly, staring at the ceiling of her room. “We’ll need to make alterations to your room so chains can be attached.”

Alice let herself relax a fraction.

“Let me be honest with you, Alice.” He glared at her with unmasked impatience. “One of my colleagues messed up recently. The same ship you were transported on was carrying another female. She escaped six months ago and was found by citizens who don’t share our opinions. Luckily, she didn’t know who took her, but her sudden appearance caused quite a stir. The situation was resolved, and all personnel who had information about this location were killed, but we’re running out of time here. Powerful people are aware of our existence and every day my colleagues grow more nervous about using these facilities. I need for these experiments to work.”

Another female? Six months ago? Alice’s heartbeat picked up speed. That nagging feeling that she was missing time wasn’t just in her head. But how? If they’d been transported on the same ship, why couldn’t she remember whole months of time? She didn’t know how long she’d been down here for certain, but she knew it hadn’t been months. A ringing sounded in her ears.

“What happened to me during those six months?” The only thing that kept her narrowing vision from fading completely was the knowledge that her body had appeared untouched when she’d examined it upon arrival. Surely she’d know if something was done to her. Right?

As usual Helas ignored her question. “I’ll allow you to try out your idea for two days.” Helas’ stare hardened. “If they haven’t appeared by then, I’ll strip you bare, double his medication, and throw him in this room with you unchained.”

Fear sliced through her at his words. Luka had been mostly in control of himself, but there were still rare moments when his eyes turned black and his muscles bulged that frightened her. In those moments, she was reminded she didn’t really know him or how much control he had.

Oddly enough, she was almost thankful. Those glimpses of darkness allowed her to keep part of her heart locked away from Luka. Alice knew how it felt to be betrayed by someone you thought you could trust implicitly.

“If I were you, I’d do everything in my power to make his marks appear before then.” Helas held her terrified stare for long moments before finally rising. “You’ll need to come with me so they can alter your room,” he said casually, as if his previous threats weren’t hanging in the air.

Hate was something Alice didn’t have much experience with. She always tried to find the good in people, even those who were seemingly awful.

Everyone has a past. Something that’s shaped who they are, she’d tell herself whenever she met an unlikeable person. She even felt a twinge of sympathy for Sal and Gishen. What had happened in their lives to make them so heartless?

There was no excuse for Helas, however. He had a rotten, black soul, and Alice was able to say with certainty that she hated the man. She hated his small, cold eyes and his fake charming smile. She even hated the faint scent of rubbing alcohol that clung to him like a sterile mist.

“How many women have you taken from Earth? How many mixed Clecanians have you kept drugged down here? And why can’t I remember six months of my life?” she asked, simmering with indignant rage.

In an instant, Helas’ passive coolness transformed into anger. He’d crossed the room and roughly grabbed her by the nape before she had time to react. Her hands latched onto his, trying to pry them away.

Through gritted teeth, he said, “Why don’t we go see the other test subjects right now?”

He dragged her out of the room, his cold fingers gripping the back of her neck. She let out a pained cry as he pushed her down the hall ahead of him.

A roar erupted from Luka’s room.

Helas wrenched her head close to his own. “Looks like your friend can smell your fear.”

She tried to keep quiet, knowing Luka was likely struggling to break out of his cuffs.

Helas guided her through a network of identical-looking hallways until they finally reached a large brass door. He raised his palm and placed it on the metal surface. A buzz sounded, and then the heavy door swung open, revealing a control room of sorts.

Both Gishen and Sal turned in their chairs, but neither looked surprised. She noticed Sal’s fingers momentarily clench the arms of his chair.

In front of her were dozens of holographic screens displaying video from different parts of the facility. A wave of hopelessness ran through her. She’d done what she’d thought was solid recon a few days ago, counting all the cameras she’d seen between her room and Luka’s, but looking at the screens before her, she realized she’d underestimated the security of this place. Her stomach turned when she saw a group of video images showing women, all alone in rooms similar to hers.

“Sal, I need you to come with me.” He released his painful hold on her neck, and she scrambled away. “Gishen, stay here and watch her. We need to make some changes to her room.”

The winged man, Gishen, nodded solemnly and stood. After Sal and Helas departed, he grabbed her by the arm and plopped her into the vacant seat. “Stay here,” he rasped.

Too mesmerized by the multitude of images in front of her, she didn’t respond. At least five human women were visible. Some were meandering around their rooms. A couple of them were sitting quietly, and one was huddled on her bed, head in her hands, crying.

As she examined the small woman, Alice felt like she was having an out-of-body experience. It was as though she were watching herself on that screen. She ground her teeth together and balled her fists. She was tired of feeling like that woman. Vulnerable and scared. These monsters needed to be stopped.

Alice scanned the other displays, looking for Luka. Interestingly, most of the hallways and small rooms on the screens were vacant and bare. In fact, other than Sal, Helas, and the women, she didn’t see any other people. Were these three captors the only ones standing between her and freedom?

At last she found Luka, and a weight settled in her stomach. He was pulling at his wrists savagely, trying to break free. Blood trickled down his forearms from where the shackles cut into his flesh. She needed to get to him, to calm him down.

“Gishen, can I use the speaker to calm Luka down? He’s going to hurt himself,” she pleaded.

Gishen glanced at her with his ugly red eyes and sneered. “Sure.”

He reached for a button amid hundreds on a panel in front of him, and she leaned forward uncertainly, readying to speak. When he pressed on the button, she saw Luka’s body convulse as electricity zapped him. Gishen laughed cruelly. “Oops. Wrong button.”

Alice felt the tears she so hated beginning to well once again. “You’re an asshole.”

“I’ve never heard that term, but it didn’t sound like a compliment,” he said, shoving his thumb onto the button and holding it down.

Luka was already limp and hanging from his wrists when the electricity coursed through him again, causing him to seize violently. Alice dashed out of her seat and attempted to pull Gishen’s large form away from the panel.

Her efforts intensified his laughing, and he flung her to the floor, seeming to draw pleasure from her screams of protest.

Alice swung her gaze around, trying to find anything she could use to stop him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the glint of metal. Crawling quickly over to Sal’s chair, she found his abandoned prod.

Pressing the button at the base as she’d seen Helas and Sal do, she shoved the electrified poker into the juncture of Gishen’s wings.

He released a high-pitched shriek. His wings jerked as though trying to flap and dislodge the poker, but the electricity restricted his movements, allowing Alice’s firm hold on the weapon to stay in place until he finally fell limp.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

She needed to act quickly before he woke up. She searched the room, finding a pair of magnetic cuffs. She opened and closed them experimentally, but they wouldn’t latch closed.

They need a fingerprint. Her eyes darted to the still form of Gishen.

A metallic cabinet, which she prayed was as heavy as it looked, sat against a wall a few feet from Gishen, slumped and unmoving in his chair. From that position, his wrist wouldn’t quite reach the cabinet, and she needed to attach the cuff to metal.

Knowing she’d never be able to drag his heavy form, she inched toward him, holding the poker at the ready.

Using all her strength in one quick motion, she pushed on his chest, causing the chair he was sitting in to tip backward. Gishen tumbled to the floor near the wall and groaned.

Alice dashed to his sprawled form, wrapped one of his large palms around the cuff, and manipulated his limp hand into cuffing his wrist. She did the same with his opposite wrist, then raised both his arms to the metal cabinet behind him. An electronic buzz sounded.

When she stepped away, his cuffs stayed glued to the wall. She let out a triumphant laugh, and quickly stepped out of reach. Once he woke, he’d be very mad, and although he no longer had use of his hands, she was sure his legs and wings would be just as deadly.

Adrenaline still pumping through her, she stepped to the control area and searched for the screen showing Luka’s room. Her heart beat wildly in her chest when she saw his body was still limp.

A groan behind her told her Gishen was rousing.

Alice turned to face him, holding the zapping rod in her hand. I can do this. I can do this.

In order for her escape attempt to work, she needed Luka free. Somewhere on that control panel was a button that could free him, but she had no idea which one would do it. If she pressed the wrong one, she might end up electrocuting him again, and who knew how much more he could take before his heart gave out.

Alice needed Gishen to tell her what to do, and she knew he wouldn’t do it willingly. Her grip tightened on her weapon. He’d need some motivation. As Gishen slowly began to rouse, she fought back nausea.

Even after everything these beings had done to her, she still felt apprehension about causing them pain. When she’d electrocuted him before, she’d done it to stop him from hurting Luka. Now, he was tied up and helpless. What she did next wouldn’t be in self-defense or in immediate defense of another. It’d be straight-up torture, and she didn’t know if she could go through with it.

Gishen let out a sharp cry of pain while attempting to sit up, and her grip loosened. Her breaths grew erratic while she tried to contain her pathetic tears.

“You miserable piece of Earth trash!” Gishen barked, pulling at his restrained wrists and flaring his wings. The cabinet shook with his struggle but stayed in position.

“I’m sorry,” she squeaked, jumping back when he swept his long, talon-tipped wing across the floor, almost hitting her legs. “I n-n-need you to tell me how to release Luka and the other prisoners.”

Gishen stilled, then his whole body began to shake. A cackle erupted out of him. “Absolutely! Let me get right on that!”

Heat rose on her neck. She was standing over a chained man wielding an electric poker, and even he knew she was weak. “Don’t make me use this,” she said softly, holding up the poker to illustrate her point.

“Go ahead!” he challenged, leaning back against the cold metal casually. “I’ll never release that disgusting traitor or those Earth breeders.”

Breeders?

She stiffened and glanced back to the video of the small woman who was still crying silently on her bed. Alice felt a part of her being shift. Rage like she’d never known overpowered her.

Those women had been taken from their homes. They’d been taken from their partners, and possibly their children, and this asshole had the nerve to refer to them as breeders? She straightened and turned her cold stare to Gishen. To her delight, she noticed the smallest flash of concern cross his face.

All of the hesitation and worry she’d been feeling dissolved. The only thing standing in the way of those women’s freedom and enslavement was her, and she’d die before she failed them.

The strong, sure voice that poured out of her as she spoke was unfamiliar even to herself. “You’ll tell me how to free them, or I’ll shove this poker into your crotch so hard that you’ll never breed again.”

Gishen hesitated for a moment but paled when she gently placed the rod between his thighs and let her finger hover over the on button.

She made sure to enunciate each word as she said, “Which button releases his cuffs?”

***

The smell of burnt hair and flesh floated up to his nostrils, rousing him. Luka tried to rise on his knees to support his body. His shoulders ached from carrying the weight of his unconscious form.

Panic made him shoot upright, all of the pain suddenly a distant memory. Something was wrong, but his damned clouded mind couldn’t remember what it was. Dread knotted itself in his gut as he renewed his struggle against the immovable magnetic cuffs.

The memory of a sharp scream played in his mind.

My mate! Someone had hurt his female. He’d gone mad with fury when the bitter scent of her fear had reached him.

Although still feeling like he was wading through deep, murky water to sort his thoughts, his goals became clearer. He needed to get free, to get to her.

He glanced desperately at his cuffs. How long had he been unconscious? Where had she gone? He couldn’t scent her anymore.

Just as he reared back, readying to break his thumb by wrenching it through the metal, the cuffs opened and his arms dropped. He stared in bewilderment at his wrists for a moment. His skin was burned and blistered, but he could make out the faint outline of blue bands circling his wrists. Somewhere deep down he recognized the marks for what they were.

He stood, feeling his strength return to him tenfold.

Just then, a feminine voice echoed from the ceiling, making his shaft go hard. He couldn’t understand most of her words, but he recognized his mate’s voice. Two words she’d recited stood out: “Luka” and “door.”

He stumbled toward the door, staring fixedly at the ceiling, and felt his focus waver. Hearing her voice caused every nerve within him to tingle.

Once again, he tried to break through his blocked mind and find the rational, logical part of himself that’d allow him to find her.

An electric buzz at the door drew his attention. He tested the handle, finding it unlocked. When he stepped into the hallway, he could still scent the faint trace of her fear from earlier.

Possessiveness and fury roared through his senses, overtaking him until all he wanted to do was kill, fuck, and protect.

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