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       Lost Boy, p.22

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Well, did he recently pan?” Jax asked.

  Her voice lowered, “Yes, I think so. A morphling in the woods took him down, and then Hook took him—I didn’t know if he was dead, but he must have died. He must have panned. It’s the only explanation.”

  Tink waved her hands in the air, her voice rising with excitement. “That explains it. His mind is in a vulnerable state. It’s just like Hook to try and play Peter against us, but they must have had help.”

  Slightly rubbed his eyes, which were still red and puffy from the funeral. “It was Curly. I think I saw him steal files from Dr. Mee’s place when we went to get her. Also, he wasn’t on-site when the skirmish occurred. I checked his band. It was turned off.”

  “But why would he betray you like that?” Wendy asked before sneaking a side glance at Jax, wondering the same thing.

  Slightly shrugged his shoulders, his gaze meeting hers, then settling on Jax. “Why would anyone after what Neverland did to us?”

  “But they have Peter. We need to do something,” Wendy said, pounding her fist into her palm.

  “Yes.” Jax flung his hand in the air. “They have others as well. Are you going to save them because it’s the right thing to do, or is it only because they have your boyfriend that you’re interested?”

  “What is wrong with you?” Wendy snapped. “You have no feelings whatsoever.”

  “You’re wrong; I feel too much.” Jax let out a slow breath and turned his back, walking away from the school and back into the woods.

  Tink gave her a sad look. “Let him go.” She gave Wendy’s shoulders a squeeze. “I need to get my computers and pack. You should too.”

  The group skirted around the debris and scattered. Ditto disappeared into the medical wing with Slightly. Tink went up to the control room. Even Tootles helped out and ran to the kitchen and began to pack up food.

  In the living room, Wendy sat down on the couch and looked around at the pool table and video game system. It was one of the few places that had remained untouched after the attack. John sat on the edge of the pool table and crossed his arms.

  “What do we do now?” John asked. “It’s not like we have a family to go back to.”

  “I don’t know,” Wendy answered. “I guess we go with them.”

  “What about me?” Michael asked, his hands clasping and unclasping nervously in front of him. He was so quiet and had hung back so far from the group that Wendy had forgotten he was there.

  John laughed. “Well, you’re our brother, you’d come with us.” Michael looked confused, but John didn’t miss a beat. “Wendy is my sister in name but yours by blood. I see no reason why I can’t be your brother in name.”

  “Are you sure?” Wendy asked.

  “It’s what Mom and Dad would have wanted,” John answered. “You know them—if they had known you had a brother, they would have stopped at nothing to bring him into the family as well. I’d make sure of it. We just have one thing stopping us at the moment, and that is—”

  “Neverland,” Wendy sighed and leaned back into the chair.

  “You mean it?” Michael looked up at John. “That you’d want me as your brother too?”

  “Sure, why not?”

  “Because you don’t know all the horrible things I’ve done.” Michael’s head hung low as he scuffed his foot across the floor. “I wouldn’t want me as a brother.”

  “Well, it’s not like you murdered someone?” John laughed. Wendy fake-coughed to get his attention. “Oh, I see.” John cleared his throat uncomfortably.

  “Of course that doesn’t matter,” Wendy said, flashing Michael a smile.

  An awkward silence filled the air between the trio, and she looked to John for help. He looked around the room for inspiration, and his eyes lit up at the sight of the game console.

  “Have you ever played Warfare 8?” John asked.

  Michael shook his head “no”.

  “What about Tanknation?” Michael shook his head again.

  “I don’t think he played many games in . . . that place,” Wendy said softly.

  The laughter died from John’s eyes when he realized his mistake. But he forced a smile to his lips. “Then, I’ve got a lot to teach you, small fry.” He flicked his hand across Michael’s hair.

  Michael batted his hand away, and John dodged and came back around to bop him on the head.

  “Hey, you!” Michael laughed and tentatively took a step forward, unsure what to do. John ran around the couch and bopped him on the shoulder. “Come and get me. If you can beat me up to the control room, I’ll let you pick the first video game when we get somewhere safe.”

  John waved him off to give him a head start.

  Michael grinned and took him up on the challenge, his running awkward at first but gaining confidence with each stride, until both disappeared out the door.

  Tootles giggled and gave Wendy a wink before teleporting out of the room. She could only guess his sudden disappearance meant that he was going to beat both of them.

  She sat in the empty room and tried to imagine it filled with all the boys. She could almost hear Fox bickering over the game controllers with Ditto. Tink yelling at them to keep it down. Her favorite room, once filled with so much laughter and life, felt dead.

  She didn’t want to be there.

  Chapter Forty

  Jeremy, strapped to a bed in an unfamiliar room, had gone hoarse from yelling. At that point, he would do anything for a sip of water. Anything for real food, something other than the slop they would force-feed him.

  People came and went. Nameless faces that spoke little but appeared three times a day, to give him his injections and the slop food. Injections that gave him a rush and made him feel invincible—injections that he didn’t want to admit he was beginning to look forward to. He was moving from one addiction to another. His skin was itching, and he couldn’t scratch the itch.

  He concentrated on breathing, in and out, and he felt a surge of power as his arm ripped through the leather cuff imprisoning his wrist. He was free! He quickly freed his other arm, then the straps around his chest and legs. Wobbly and unstable, he made it to the door that opened outward. Why wouldn’t they lock it?

  He wanted more of whatever they were shooting him up with and figured that they would probably have more of the drugs pretty close by. The door opened, and he pushed past a hall lined with white lab coats, hanging on hooks. He grabbed a white jacket hanging by the door and slid into it, using it to blend into the surroundings. He picked up a clipboard off the nearest table and walked quickly with purpose down the lit, sterile hall.

  A door next to him buzzed, and he heard a lock click. Pressing against the wall, he pretended to read the clipboard as a female tech in a wheelchair wheeled out of what looked like a controlled laboratory. That was probably where they kept the drugs. Jeremy lowered his hand, catching the door before it locked. He slipped inside before anyone noticed.

  It wasn’t what he’d expected. There were no drugs. Instead, tall circular pods lined the walls, and inside them were . . . young people. People like him. Floating, suspended in the liquid. Breathing tubes covered their mouths, a device wrapping around their heads. Jeremy took the other line of pods and walked down, looking at each of the kids carefully, reading the results or at least trying to make sense of the words on the digital screen.

  Subject 1-78

  Stable

  Subject 2-12

  Unstable

  He lowered his head and tried not to stare directly at the other pods . . . or the kids inside them.

  Some of them had wings; others had extra appendages. He shuddered in fear. His stomach rolled, and he swallowed the bile that rose in his throat.

  He looked up at the one marked unstable and saw nothing different about the young girl floating in the unit. Her hair was brown, she had a pert nose and looked at peace floating. He put his hand on the glass and she awoke.

  The pupils of her eyes dilated as she focused on him. Bubble
s streamed from her breathing tube as she struggled to communicate. Her hand pounded on the glass, and her feet kicked. Jeremy was so surprised that he fell to the ground.

  He had never seen eyes that dead and dark. A tapping on a pod made Jeremy spin.

  A young man with unruly auburn hair and the greenest eyes was in the water, motioning with his hand to the side of the unit.

  Jeremy leaned in close, studying the frantic inhabitant. “I know you,” he laughed, a feeling of exuberance going through him. “You ruined my date.” Jeremy felt a thrill at seeing the boy who’d interrupted his time with Wendy inside the tube. “Looks like you messed with the wrong person.”

  Peter thrashed about inside the tube, his fist hitting the glass. He was becoming agitated. Jeremy finally looked at the panel that Peter had been motioning to and saw the release button for the pod, but he shook his head.

  “No, you deserve this.” He stepped back, away from the pod. He loved seeing Peter beg and continued to wave and motion to him. “You’re gonna get what’s coming to you,” he taunted and began to laugh.

  “Is he now?” a deep voice echoed in the room, cutting Jeremy’s laughter short.

  “Who’s there?” Jeremy asked, feeling jumpy, though he didn’t feel afraid. He felt more power running through his veins than ever before. He wasn’t scared of the spectator.

  “I’m the one who brought you here,” the man said, stepping from behind a pod with a young blonde woman floating inside. “I see you’ve taken an interest in my newest acquisition. Do you know him?”

  “Know him, despise him, all of the above.” Jeremy flicked his chin at Peter and squared off to confront the man who seemed to be in charge. He couldn’t help but scratch at his skin, and the man noticed.

  “You seem to be in need? I have what you’re looking for.” He held out an injector gun filled with clear liquid.

  Jeremy’s quick intake of breath gave him away. He wanted it, desperately. His body yearned for it.

  “What would you do to get this?” the man asked.

  “Anything,” Jeremy said, not feeling proud of his desperation.

  “Even if it could cost this one his life?” The man motioned to Peter.

  Jeremy noticed how Peter had gone completely still at the man’s sudden arrival. But surely, there was no way he could hear or understand what they were saying.

  “Revenge would taste just as sweet as a fix,” Jeremy smirked.

  “I like you. I think you will do well here.” He handed Jeremy the injector gun.

  His fingers couldn’t grasp it fast enough, and he struggled to inject himself in the left arm. He inhaled and waited for the thrill of the drug passing through his veins. “Yesss,” he sighed, feeling the euphoria hit.

  “You have one more thing to do before you are officially part of our D.U.S.T. program.”

  “What is it?” Jeremy asked eagerly.

  “You have to make a choice,” he said and gestured to the two of them. “One of you must die. You or him.” He pointed to the black button on Peter’s pod. “Push this button, and you will end his life. Tick Tock. What’s it going to be?”

  Jeremy launched himself at the pod, his hand slapping the button without a second’s hesitation. Peter’s body went into shock, his back arched, and bubbles flew from his breathing apparatus. He struggled, an alarm went off, and then Peter went completely still.

  The clear tubes attached to Peter’s body filled with a liquid that traveled out of his body to a test tube attached to the outside of the pod. It wasn’t red like blood but rather clear like the serum Jeremy had just injected himself with. He wondered what it was.

  “Is he dead?” Jeremy asked, more out of curiosity than remorse.

  “For the moment,” the man said, staring at Peter and the test tube that was filling. When it was full, he eagerly plucked the full test tube and held it up to the light to study it. An evil grin formed on his lips. He tucked the tube into his vest pocket and turned to offer a hand to Jeremy. “Welcome to the D.U.S.T. program. I’m your captain, Captain Hook.”

  Jeremy grinned and saluted, glad that he could succeed at something, to belong and have access to the drug that he desired. “Yes, sir.”

  Chapter Forty-One

  The empty halls of Neverwood were driving Wendy insane with guilt. She continually second-guessed her decision of halting Jax from shooting down the helicopters. She couldn’t think of packing and heading to a safe house when they were still alive at Neverwood.

  Wendy stormed to the academy gym, where she grabbed a light brace before heading into the woods. She refused to believe that Jax was right—that the boys were better off dead than taken captive by Neverland. She knew of only one way to help the boys. She was going to have to rescue them, and to do that, she needed more information about Neverland.

  When she was a fair distance away from Neverwood, standing in an open field, she held out her hands and called out to the shadows. They were never far off, and one came to her eagerly and grasped her hand. She watched as a shadow travelled from her palm and up her arm where it got absorbed through her tattoo.

  As she became one with the shadow, images began flickering in her mind. There was a white room filled with hospital beds, patients strapped to them. She thought she recognized a few of the patients from news reports—the missing teenagers. She was sure of it. Her heart raced at the sight of those kids, so helpless. Though she didn’t know exactly what Neverland was doing to them, she could feel their helplessness, and she knew first hand what Neverland was capable of. But maybe, the vision was from the past—maybe those kids were already dead. The vision blurred and then flashed to another, hazy at first and undefined.

  Another room filled with lights and what she assumed were the pods Jax mentioned. She could see people floating inside them. Wires and cables and breathing tubes covered their mouths.

  The vision shifted, and then, she was inside one of the pods. The shadow’s memories were from the viewpoint of one of the floating victim.

  It finally hit her. The shadows weren’t sentient or mystical beings as she had originally thought. They were souls.

  Wendy cried out in horror as she shoved the shadow out of her body. She tumbled into the grass, where she began to cry. “No, no. It can’t be.” She crawled to her knees, her hands covering her mouth as the horror of what she had learned sunk in. “You died at Neverland.”

  The shadow hung back and another appeared next to it, then another. In a few moments, the field was full of shadows. All of them lost, all of them looking to her for help. She was the only one who could communicate with them, feel their fear, their hopelessness. She realized why they plagued her. They wanted her help.

  “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help you,” Wendy cried out, rising to her feet, and looked at the hundreds of shadows. “What do you want me to do?”

  The thought of another shadow touching her and transferring thoughts and feelings to her made her want to throw up.

  A larger shadow appeared before her and held out his hand and waited patiently. Maybe, she could stand to touch one more. Tears fell from her eyes, and she took a deep breathe to steel herself. The shadow gently laid its hand on top of hers and passed through her skin, and she felt the shock of warmth permeate her body.

  She gasped and pulled her hand away from the shadow and its unexpected warmth. Typically, she’d always felt cold at their touch.

  “No,” she said and moved backward, but the shadow pressed forward again, more adamant. It held out its hand and patiently waited for her to touch it. Wendy was curious but scared. That shadow was different, and she knew that her reaction would be different. Biting her lip, she steeled herself and reached out again, pressing her hand willingly into the shadow.

  “Okay, I’m ready,” she whispered. Her head fell back and her eyes closed as visions came slowly—the shadow’s memories, it seemed, featuring young versions of Ditto, Slightly, and Tink.

  “You’re a lost boy!” Wendy gasped
but didn’t pull away.

  She saw a younger version of herself on the rooftop years ago in Neverland, saw herself flying in the air wrapped in strong arms. She didn’t feel scared; she felt warmth and love pouring into her from the shadow.

  Wendy’s eyes flew open, her hand going to her mouth in shock.

  “Peter.” He pulled away and she stepped back, taking in the dark soul gazing intently at her. It was her Peter, and if he was there in front of her, it meant he was dead.

  His shadowy touch left a residue of feelings with her. She could feel his love pour over her, and also his pain at losing her once again. But they were swallowed up by a fleeting feeling—his cry for justice.

  “I will help you. I promise,” Wendy vowed to Peter and the other shadows as they came around her like an army gathering before a general. “They will pay for what they’ve done.”

  A growl Wendy had been waiting for came from woods, drawn by the large congregation of shadows. She had expected it, prepared for it. Wendy flicked out her wrist, the light brace charging with a hum. She turned to face the shadow-hungry morphling, her eyes filled with hatred.

  “Starting with you,” she yelled at the morphling. She leveled the light brace, aiming for the spot between his eyes, and fired.

  Also by Chanda Hahn

  THE NEVERWOOD CHRONICLES

  Lost Girl

  Lost Boy

  Lost Shadow (Coming soon)

  * * *

  THE UNDERLAND CHRONICLES

  Underland

  Underlord (Coming soon)

  * * *

  THE UNFORTUNATE FAIRY TALES

  UnEnchanted

  Fairest

  Fable

  Reign

  Forever

  THE IRON BUTTERFLY SERIES

  Iron Butterfly

  Steele Wolf

  Silver Siren

 
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