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       Lost Girl, p.3

           Chanda Hahn
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  He looked over his shoulder at her and smiled wryly, even as his green eyes pleaded with her. “An island won’t stop me. It won’t stop us. We’ll leave here and do all of the things we planned. We’ll buy all the ice cream and build the largest tree house. I can take us away from here.”

  The shadow continued to float behind him. It flew closer and pulled on his pajama top. She wasn’t sure if the shadow was trying to steady him or push him over.

  “Get away from him!” She shouted and rushed forward as the boy began to topple, but he regained his balance, his arms spread to his sides.

  The shadow flew at her. She screamed and ducked.

  “Don’t you see it?” Wendy pointed at the being now flying around her, taunting her. She ducked as the shadow flew her way. Boy was oblivious to her hallucinations.

  “I lied to them. Failed my tests, so they sent me back. I did everything I could to be sent back here to get you. But I can do it. I’ll show them.” He spoke angrily into the wind.

  “Do what?” she asked fearfully.

  He fidgeted with the object in his hand, and she saw it was her silver thimble. He tucked it into his pajama pocket and smiled confidently at her.


  The roof door slammed open, and she heard the sound of rushing feet behind her. She knew what that meant. They’d be caught and taken to a containment unit.

  “Come with me?” he begged. He held his hand out to her, waiting for her to take it. His smile promised safety, security, and adventure. “I won’t let you fall.”

  “But…I can’t fly.” Her hand brushed across his palm, and it started to tremble as her fear quickly took over.

  “No, you’re wrong.” His voice became distant as he looked at the soldiers rushing toward them. He grabbed her hand and tried to pull her with him. “We can. If you just belie—”

  Strong arms wrapped around Wendy’s waist and yanked her from his grip. He tried to grab for her, to yank her from her attacker’s arms, but he lost his balance.

  He slipped, his arms pin wheeling as he fell backwards off the ledge of the roof and plummeted toward the rocks below.

  Chapter Four

  Her breath caught in her throat, and time seemed to freeze, but those three seconds caught up with the present, and her scream echoed into the night.

  She attempted to fight off her attacker, but he pushed her to the ground. The gravel scratched against her cheek and cut off her vision. Someone’s hand shoved her head down, and a knee pressed into her back.

  “Let me go!” Wendy struggled to move.

  Black army boots crunched on the rooftop in front of her and stopped at the ledge. At the edge of her vision she saw soldiers with black uniforms, black bandanas, and a red skull and crossbones patch on their arm.

  “Nooo,” she breathed out, feeling herself go faint as she struggled to keep her footing. This couldn’t be happening. The Red Skulls were here.

  Dr. Mee said they would be back any day. Wendy just hadn’t expected them to show up within hours of her meeting. When the Red Skulls came, fear and intimidation followed. They weren’t your daily variety hospital guards. They were the boogeymen, mentioned on whispered breaths in the facility. They had beaten a kid when he had refused to go with them for the next treatment.

  When Red Skulls arrived, it meant there’d be new faces to get to know—and a few less familiar ones walking around.

  “Did he fall?” From the man’s gruff tone of voice and posture, she assumed he was the one in charge. The skull patch on his uniform had a second set of crossbones beneath it, suggesting a higher rank. The soldier with the rifle strapped across his back leaned over the roof’s edge and looked down. He nodded in affirmation.

  “Scour the rocks below, find his body,” the leader ordered.

  Tears filled her eyes and Wendy trembled, her breathing ragged.

  “Let her go, Hook. I’ll take her.” A gentle hand helped her up. “Hold it together, Wendy.” The voice was deep, soft, and familiar. “Now would be a good time to keep your wits about you.” She tried to turn her face to see him, but he pressed her even tighter against his chest. All she saw was his gray hair, but she recognized him—one of the lead doctors who came in and examined them from time to time. He was kind, sweet, and smelled faintly of spices. And he knew all the children by their real names, not their subject numbers.

  He was the only father figure she could remember—Dr. Barrie.

  He pressed a cold injector gun to her throat, and she felt a prick and heard a release of air.

  The captain of the Red Skulls came over, grabbed her chin, and shined a flashlight in her eyes. “Was she one of the ones we came for?” His face was angular, unshaven, and his nose was slightly crooked.

  Wendy stared at the captain in terror, his face swimming in and out of focus. And then everything went black.

  “I don’t think you want her. Her results have been lackluster,” Dr. Barrie said as he handed off the unconscious girl to a waiting tech. He turned to stare down his arch nemesis, Captain Hook of the Red Skulls, Neverland’s private mercenary army. Dr. Barrie knew better than to duel with a man lacking a moral compass.

  Captain Hook sneered. “All the results have been less than appealing. This whole program has been an utter failure. We’ve wasted millions on this, and our corporate sponsors have had enough. The few successes we’ve had have been minor.”

  The captain’s gravelly voice raked across Dr. Barrie’s nerves. The man needed to be challenged. “Sir, we need more time. The PX-1 will develop as the kids age. It’s why we chose kids this young—their bodies can adapt to the treatments easier than an adult.”

  “It’s Captain Hook to you, Dr. Barrie, and it’s not fast enough. We have an enemy closing in on our ranks. We need our own weapons. We don’t have time to waste. Especially, the years it may take to change their DNA. We need it to work faster.”

  “I can’t give you microwaved results. The kids’ minds will burn out. And we already know it doesn’t work on adults.”

  “Then start over. Get rid of these PX-1 rejects. If we want D.U.S.T. to work, I need faster, stronger kids. You said the PX-2 was almost ready.”

  “Yes, it is, but it hasn’t been tested yet. Let us place these kids back into the foster system.” A chill ran over his body from the cold glare Captain Hook leveled at him.

  “Not an option,” Hook ordered. “They belong to Neverland, to the D.U.S.T. Program. We can’t let anyone else get their hands on them or learn what we’re doing here. We want no proof of this failure.”

  “This is ridiculous,” Dr. Barrie said. “I never agreed to mass homicide. I will not take this program any farther.”

  “Unfortunately, Dr. Barrie, this is above your pay grade now. My orders come from someone higher than you, and they want their army.”

  “I’ll shut down the lab. Send all of my technicians home,” Dr. Barrie roared like a lion.

  Captain Hook pulled his GLOCK and pressed the cold gun barrel under the doctor’s chin. “You do, and I’ll send you home the fast way. What do you think? Is your soul prepared? Are you going to go up,” he pointed with his chin before looking down toward the rocks below. “Or down? Your entire staff—they choose to work for me or die. What say you? I could just have them walk off the edge of the roof instead, meet their maker at the bottom of the rocks, and wash out to sea.”

  “You…you pirate,” Dr. Barrie spat out.

  The captain laughed. “I don’t need to be on a ship to start a mutiny. Maybe you need more incentive. You’re going to get me results …or I’m going to go say hello to your daughter, Isabelle. She’s the right age to be the first volunteer for the PX-2 trials.”

  Bile filled the doctor’s mouth. “No, please… I’ll do what you say,” Dr. Barrie murmured.

  “That’s a good follower. Neverland needs you, the Company needs you, I need you. And they demand results.”

  Dr. Barrie swallowed nervously and wet his lips before answering, “I’
ll get you your results.”

  The captain smiled, revealing uneven teeth. “That’s what I like to hear.”

  Chapter Five

  Dr. Barrie took the young girl back from the waiting technician. He was physically carrying her body weight and mentally shouldering the responsibility and lives of every child in Neverland. She looked to be coming in and out of consciousness—he hoped she stayed out.

  He slowed when he came to a locked door, and one of his techs entered in the code. The door buzzed and unlocked. They entered a monitored hallway, security cameras focusing on them. The tech held the door open as Dr. Barrie carried Wendy inside and gently placed her on the stiff white sheets of a hospital bed in the medical wing.

  He placed his warm hand over hers. “You should have jumped with the boy. Your fate would have been much better than what you’ll encounter here.” He looked up at the mirror and studied his face under the halogen light, taking in his white lab jacket and silver bifocals.

  He turned away, ran his hands through his prematurely gray hair, and sighed. “This is a mistake. I’ve taken it too far. It must be stopped…but how?” He paced back and forth in the room, shoulders slumped and his lips pressed into a thin line.

  The door opened and Dr. Mee entered. She looked disheveled, as if she’d awakened last minute. Without seeing him, she rushed to the girl in the bed. “Wendy? Not you. I had such high hopes for you.”

  “She’s alive,” Dr. Barrie said softly. “She’s unharmed.”

  “Doctor?” She stared at him in disbelief. “What’s going on? I wasn’t expecting you here for another week.” Dr. Mee hesitated and tried to smooth her loose curls.

  “I’ve been hearing rumors about Hook—what he was doing to the kids who advanced to Stage 2. Have you heard?”

  She shook her head.

  “They want us to start over,” he whispered, his voice hoarse. He sat on the edge of the hospital bed next to Wendy and placed his head in his hands. “And they want us to make them disappear.”

  Dr. Mee fisted her hands, her petite brows furrowed. “They’re just children.”

  “It’s either that, or they’ll kill us and do the same to our families.”

  Her cheeks flushed with anger. “Hook already took everything from me.”

  A regret-filled sigh escaped. He’d never meant to put anyone at risk, not Dr. Mee and especially not the children.

  “They may be our orders, but I don’t like them.” Her gaze fell on Wendy. “I can’t do this job anymore. No more death.”

  And that’s when he realized. He couldn’t do the job either.

  He stood and checked the hallway before he stepped closer. “Dr. Mee, this has gone on long enough. We have to act quickly. Get the kids out of here…tonight.”

  Her eyes glistened with pride and tears. “Tell me what you need me to do.”

  Chapter Six

  Wendy rolled over as she slept. Something tickled her nose, a harsh smell that reminded her of camping.

  Smoke! Not just smoke! Fire!

  A blaring alarm pierced the air, making her clasp her hands over her ears.

  Wendy jumped up disoriented and pounded on the door. Another buzz and click sounded as her door automatically unlocked. She rushed out into the smoke-filled hallway and got lost among the uniforms of soldiers running to investigate.

  She frantically made her way down the hall to the girls’ wing. Her heart plummeted when she saw the double doors secured with a chain. Girls crowded on the opposite side of the door, banging on the window. Lily was near the front. All the girls screamed at her, trapped in the hall.

  “Help us!” Lily shouted, her hand snaking through the opening to grab Wendy’s nightgown.

  Wendy shook the door and the heavy chain rattled against the handle. “I can’t! The door is chained. We have to find a different way out.” A few, clearly not in their right minds, stood idly in the middle of the halls, not moving. Just standing and staring.

  A door opened behind them, and Red Skulls came in with guns. Immediate fear flooded her. The soldiers weren’t there to help them. “The whole wing is compromised. We have to clear it. Follow us, girls.” They directed the mob of girls down a hallway.

  “Noo!” Wendy tried to reach through and pull on Lily’s arm, as if she could forcefully squeeze her through the six-inch opening between the chains.

  A Red Skull grabbed the girl from behind and dragged her away kicking and screaming. Her little hand gripped Wendy’s nightgown so hard, it ripped. The thickening smoke made breathing difficult, and she couldn’t focus. She had to find a way out. The Red Skulls were herding the girls down the halls to the farthest west wing, an area the children were forbidden to enter.

  She ran into the common area and even more smoke filled the air—but not the same as the smoke from before. This bitter smoke stung her eyes, making her cry.

  Tear gas?

  Wendy’s mouth started to burn as hacking coughs wracked her lungs. She pulled her shirt up over her mouth. The closer she came to the exit, the thicker the smoke grew. She could feel the heat on her bare arms.

  Shouldn’t the sprinklers have kicked on? Why weren’t there any water sprinklers? A sinking feeling came over her. They didn’t want any. This was a horrid facility, not government run. If they wanted to dispose of the place—and fast—this is how they’d do it.

  With fire.

  She passed a few frantic nurses in the corridor, but they were all running away from the closest exit, and she wasn’t sure why. She released a breath, covered her nose and mouth with her sleeve, and saw movement as a yellow siren light begin to flash on the other side of secured door. It was a large fire door dropping from the ceiling, about to close her in.

  Wendy looked over her shoulder and saw another one coming down behind her.

  She was out of time. Trapped between two closing fire doors.

  Trembling, Wendy spun to gauge the possibility of making it back the way she came before the door closed. She was about to give up when a dark body ran and slid in her direction under the fire door—just before it slammed into the ground.

  Gray. He rolled to his feet and continued running toward Wendy.


  She moved to the side. On his way by, Gray grabbed her hand and pulled her after him. This fire door was lowering more slowly, but she still didn’t think they’d make it. Wendy slowed her steps, fear making her freeze.

  But he tugged her hand, wouldn’t let her stop.

  At the door, she froze anyway. There was only a two-foot gap.

  “I can’t. I can’t do it,” Wendy screamed.

  “Do you want to die?” Gray shouted.


  “Then roll.” He grabbed her by the neck, forced her to her knees, and shoved Wendy under the fire door. And she rolled. It wasn’t the most graceful attempt, because she landed on her fist and knocked her head into the lowering wall. But she continued to roll, scared that if she stopped, she’d be crushed to death.

  She stopped and glanced over just as Gray tried to squeeze through the twelve-inch gap. He didn’t have room to roll, so he lay on his back and slid under, his face turned to the side. Both fear and determination were evident in his eyes as the wall started to pin his chest down.

  He cried out, pushing with his feet and scrambling backwards. He pulled his foot out just as…thud. The door closed.

  Gray dropped his head to the floor and lay there for a few seconds. But he quickly regained his composure and was up on his feet. Grabbing Wendy’s hand, he led her out the main doors and into the night through the forests.

  “This way,” he called and ran ahead of her.

  “How do you know where to go?”

  Gray wouldn’t meet her eyes, but kept escorting her through the woods until they were joined by others in lab coats who were also ushering kids into the night. Wendy recognized Dr. Barrie, whose flashlight moved to blind them for a second before he directed the light back down to the earth. A look of re
lief crossed his face. As he ran, the glow of the inferno from the building illuminated Dr. Barrie from behind.

  The mixture of the damp earthy forest and the acrid smoke lingered in the air, making Wendy’s stomach roll.

  Movement sounded from behind them, and Dr. Barrie turned with his flashlight on a group of scared kids and a tech who held up his hand to shield his eyes from the light.

  “How many?” Dr. Barrie yelled to a young technician who met up with him, leading kids hand-in-hand through the dark.

  “Not enough.” The technician said, his eyes blood shot. Black soot covered his jacket. “They knew. They cut off the group escaping through the west tunnel. They” his voice dropped to a whisper “didn’t make it.”

  “What about the lab?” Dr. Barrie asked.

  “Destroyed. We erased the computer data and burned all our research.”

  He hadn’t done enough. Each breath became harder to draw as guilt assailed him. So much lost, but at least they were able to save the kids. “Have you seen Dr. Mee? What about the girls? She was going to get the girls.”

  “Here,” Dr. Mee called out of the darkness. She ran toward them carrying a wrapped bundle. Her feet were bare and cut up, her heels abandoned somewhere in the forest behind her.

  Dr. Barrie looked behind her and waited. “Any more, Dr. Mee?” The fire glowed red above the tree line. He hoped that the fire would destroy Neverland, that no one else would ever trespass or learn of the sins they’d committed there.

  The glow made Dr. Mee’s tears glisten in the dark as they washed streaks through the soot that spattered her tan face. “No, I tried to get to the girls in time, but I didn’t make it. The Red Skulls had already taken them and cleared the floor.”

  An intense throbbing filled his chest and he gasped in agony. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of his pills, barely able to shake two into his palm. They hurt as he swallowed them, and he waited for the pain to subside, but a pill couldn’t quell the guilt. And he didn’t have enough to last him more than a few months once he made it safely home.

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