The headache faded slowly as the girl fiddled with a panel near the hood over his head. As it faded to nothing but a ghost of its former intensity, Andrew raised his head and looked around the room. There was no sign of Jayden Emms or Huldre, just a handful of technicians and guards.
â€œHe’s grabbing some more guards from the other camps,â€ she said softly. â€œHe thinks your father will get our location from that green dragon and come after us. He means to be ready.â€
Andrew glanced at her. He wanted to tell her to get out of his head but instead he just croaked, â€œthirsty!â€ That was an understatement. His mouth was parched and his throat was raw.
â€œAfter all that screaming I’m not surprised.â€ She waved to one of the guards, who hurried over and held a mug of water to Andrew’s lips. He sniffed at it, then sipped it cautiously. It was just water, so he gulped it down greedily before looking back at the young woman. â€œGet out of my head!â€
â€œI can’t, I’m sorry,â€ she said. â€œIf there was any way to calibrate this thing without invading your privacy, I’d do it.â€
Andrew growled at that and scratched Kimi’s ears. â€œWho are you and why are you helping Emms? You seem different from the rest of the dupes here.â€
She stared at him for a long moment and her eyes became haunted. â€œI am very different from the others here. We’ve known each other for a very long time.â€ She turned her head and gazed into space for several breaths. â€œAnd you can call me Laxmi, it’s what… my parents call me.â€
â€œLaxmi?â€ He frowned at her odd phrasing. â€œIsn’t it what you call yourself?â€
â€œIt’s…â€ she trailed off and shook her head. â€œNever mind. It’s complicated.
Andrew frowned at that. â€œHe’s using you, you know!â€
Her hands paused over the panel and her eyes became even more haunted. â€œYes, I know, but when I tried to leave he threatened to put me back. He could probably do it as well. He says it will work this time but I’m not so sure.â€
â€œPut you back where? What will work?â€ Andrew asked.
Laxmi shook her head again. â€œI’ve said too much.â€ She resumed stroking the panel. â€œI guess we’ll find out one way or another now. It’s hurting less, right? I think we’re nearly done, so the interference should be becoming tolerable.â€
Andrew just scowled at her.
â€œThat’s okay, you don’t have to answer,â€ she said. â€œI can feel the answer is yes and the readings confirm it.â€ She gave a heavy sigh and reached out and touched his cheek. â€œI really am sorry about this, kid.â€
Andrew flinched back from her touch. Her fingers were warm yet as they touched his skin he sensed something dark, cold and oddly familiar. He frowned up at her and saw that she looked just as puzzled.
â€œFamiliar?â€ she murmured. â€œI think you and I will have to have a proper conversation, and soo-â€ She broke off and Jayden Emms reappeared with around two dozen more guards, about half of whom were circleted speakers. He was also carrying a plate of sandwiches.
â€œWhy are you talking to him?â€ Emms snapped at her. â€œIs it done yet?â€
â€œIt helps distract him, which makes the tuning easier,â€ she said flatly. â€œAnd it’ll be ten minutes. Fifteen at the outside. Are the perimeter beacons ready? We’ll need to move as soon as the throne goes active if you’re right.â€
â€œOf course I’m right and yes, they’re ready. We can perform the switch as soon as you’re finished. So get on with it. I’ve brought backup but I’d rather be gone before Matthias arrives. He’s been keeping dangerous company.â€
Laxmi scowled at him but returned her attention to the panel. Emms perched himself on the arm of the throne and shoved a cheese sandwich into Andrew’s mouth making him gag and choke in surprise.
â€œSwallow! You need to eat and I’ll force feed you if I have to.â€
â€œYou know it’s hard to swallow when someone half-chokes you with a sandwich,â€ Laxmi said mildly. â€œEither break it into pieces or let him eat it himself. The chains should be loose enough to allow it.â€
Jayden scowled at her for a moment then pulled it from Andrew’s mouth and pushed it into his hand. â€œEat!â€
Andrew swore at him and threw it across the floor. Emms snarled, slapped Andrew hard across the face, then broke a piece off the other half of the sandwich, pushed it into Andrew’s mouth and held his mouth shut.
â€œSwallow!â€ He rubbed at Andrew’s throat like a dog owner trying to get their pet to swallow a tablet. â€œDo you want to be fed via tube?! Because it can be arranged.â€
Andrew was still stubbornly holding the piece of sandwich in his mouth when the large wooden doors to throne room exploded inwards.
Don’t forget that the first Haventon Chronicles Story starts serialising on Tuesday 4th October 2011.