“We will save you.” The Enhanced man’s dark hair is styled flawlessly, and not a hair has moved in the pursuit.
He’s not even sweating; his skin is the smooth surface of a lake, shimmering in the harsh sunlight. He looks perfect, like he’s stepped off a catwalk.
“You can join us, become a Chosen One too. Let us help you, and you need never feel negative emotions again.”
I flinch; the Luger also flinches. Its metal burns my fingers, just as the sunlight reflecting from their eyes burns my own.
“Put the gun down.” It is the dark-haired female who speaks.
She exchanges glances with the other man, and their eyes bounce light from each other. He is tall and also has the same coloring as me.
A scar falls from his right eye, down to the corner of his mouth in a jagged, fierce red line. I’m surprised he’s kept it, the Enhanced rarely do.
My Luger remains where it is.
Then they grab me. They’re strong. Of course they’d be strong! Arms snap around my waist and ankles, like bars of steel. I cry out as I fall, trying to turn.
Fingers pull my hair, my scalp burns. I hit the ground heavily. My Luger’s yanked away as I squeeze the trigger. My bullet hits the kind-eyed man in the foot.
His scream is blood-curdling, and, momentarily, I feel guilt.
Then I remember who they are. I can’t afford to feel guilt. Not with them involved.
I struggle, trying to get free. I can’t. The women lean over me, their hands force my back against the dry earth and loose rocks.
It feels rough, scratching my skin through the thin cotton of my shirt.
The sun flashes in my eyes. I blink rapidly. One of the women produces a vial of liquid. My skin burns, yet my fingers are shards of ice. My chest hardens. Rushing fills my ears. It’s too close.
The augmenter is too close.
**Lesson four: Never let yourself be Enhanced. Once it’s done, there’s no going back.**
My mouth dries. An addiction to the augmenters, and the Enhanced Ones’ lifestyle, is unbreakable. Everyone knows that. Oh Gods.
“No, please, no!” I try to roll over, try to escape, but my limbs won’t work. They’re too heavy, shaking too much. The vial containing the augmenter gets closer and closer.
The liquid is as blue as the clear, shimmering sky.
“You have violent intentions. There is no other way,” the first man says. His eyes flash, throwing light back at me. I squint, try to blink the sharp stings away. “You have to be saved.
The hunger and fear is controlling you. It is not healthy.”
“You must taste our way of life,” the blond female says. “Then you will understand, and you will wonder why you ever resisted. Why feel fear if you can choose not to?”
I roll over, taste blood at the back of my mouth, and scream as the dark-haired woman grabs me again. She forces me onto my back again as the other woman lunges for my hands.
The uninjured man is a heavy weight on my legs. The one I shot is still standing; who knows what augmenters he’s taken?
My heart pounds, I can hear it in my throat and my head, beating in time to my shaking, cold fingers. The vial’s less than an inch from my mouth.
The dark-haired woman flicks its lid off, while the other female crushes her nails into my shoulders. I try to break free, but she’s too strong.
I don’t have the strength; everything but the augmenter is dimming, swirling away.
The augmenter gets brighter, steals color until it’s too blue, too vibrant. My eyes burn.
“Not the augmenter! No!” I pull a hand through the air, trying to gouge chunks out of the nearest arm, but everything’s blurry. I move, but they’re too powerful. Sweat drips into my eyes.
I know I can’t escape, not without the Luger. Especially not once I’ve swallowed an augmenter. No, I need my gun. I have to fight them.
I turn my head as the dark-haired woman forces my mouth open, her fingers latching onto my lips like clamps. I struggle again. A few feet away, I see my Luger lying on the dusty ground.
It’s shimmering, smiling at me.
“Get it in her!”
Her grip on my jaw is tight, and she pulls at my lips roughly. I shriek and turn, try to strike out at the woman.
Adrenaline suddenly pounds through me, getting stronger and stronger, pulsing, coursing, forcing its way through my body. I kick out.
Air rushes through my ears. My stomach turns.
My mouth is forced open. The vial tips up. The blue color disappears. I choke, try to turn away, try to spit it out, but I can’t. Everything moves, blurs, spins.
Heat pours through my body, chased by blinding coldness. Pain shoots through my chest, holding me down like tiny stone arrows.
I gasp, my body stiffening, as the world around me drains of color, until even the skeletal images fade entirely, merging into a spectrum of grays, whites,
and blacks that won’t stop laughing at me as I’m crushed, choking and drowning.