Almost two months on the run. And a freaking raid got me caught?!
The figures were coming closer. They weren’t going to take me back, not a chance.
Three... two... one.
I lunged around the corner, slamming the nearest male into the store shelf.. Someone cussed and made a move for me from behind and I laid him one good blow with my elbow before the first was back on his feet.
“You’re not! Taking! Me! Back!” I roared as he mirrored my first attack, heaving my little body into the store shelf. It was vicious. His hand fisted in my hair and yanked my head back as I kneed him in the gut. I hardly got a groan before I was knocked to the floor and huge, steel-gripped hands wound tightly around my neck. Shouts were heard, flashlights bobbing in the distance.
I couldn’t breathe.
The Seeker inside me was clearly dissatisfied.
I fought against the weight bearing over me. My fingernails dug into his shoulders, a last attempt at a triumph.
Then, a sweet sort of peace was taking over me. I was dying -- and taking the parasite with me.
My attacker’s grip loosened as I came to term with this fact. Then again, maybe it was my imagination.
“You’re human..” The voice was utterly surprised; and the grip disappeared entirely. My lungs took in a greedy breath despite my perilous will to die.
“No,” I choked. My vision was spiraling into black. I had to tell them... they had to know. “It’s -- It’s inside me. Kill me, don’t let it --”
I’m still not sure if I finished my sentence.
Kyle stared down at the girl beneath him, confused through and through.
“What happened?” Ian repeated. Kyle wasn’t blind; he could see the plain disapproval and judgment etched into his little brother’s face. Wanda. She’d given him a damn soft spot.
“She attacked me. But she was human.”
Jamie frowned, the sole witness to the attack. “But she said --”
“But she said what?” Jared cut in, assessing the frame of the girl, lying unconscious beneath a very guilty-looking Kyle.
“She said she wasn’t. That something was inside,” the boy finished. Ian’s head shot up, and he and Jared exchanged a glance.
“Get off her, Kyle. We’re taking her in.”
The eldest O’Shea was in no place to argue, as much as he may have wanted to. If there was a parasite in that girl... well, it served to say that they got lucky with Wanda. This one could be a Seeker, for all they knew. Maybe worse.
The girl was human -- in control, if there even was something in her.
“I got her,” he challenged, raising up and scooping the unconscious body into his arms. Killing parasites was easy. Every last one of them deserved what they got. There was a fighting chance for this girl, and Kyle knew when he owed rightful responsibility for his mistakes. She attacked him, thought he was one of those monsters... that alone didn’t justify knocking her cold.
“Wait.” Jared pressed forward, pulling a few light strands of hair behind the girl’s ear. Sure enough, there was a soft glow at the base of her neck. Kyle shook his head.
“She had brown eyes, Jamie saw. Didn’t you kid?” They all turned to the boy, just bordering on adolescence. Jamie seemed... puzzled. Alight with curiosity.
“Maybe she was stronger than Melanie. Maybe it’s in there, but she’s in control.” It seemed a good explanation. Jared gave the O’Shea brothers a look of absolution.
“Take her to the truck, Kyle. We’ll see what Wanda has to say.”
It was the last and first thing on my mind, like an echo of the misconception that happened just seconds ago...
No. Not seconds.
My eyes fluttered open. For a terrifying moment, I felt the Seeker rise up, clawing her way to control. It took me a good few minutes of panic and heavy breathing to shut her back down.
Finally, I felt her retreating, like a growling bear backing slowly into her cave.
Great. Now that she was out of the way -- where was I? The first thing I noticed was the ceiling. It was stone, like that of a canyon. In fact, the entire room was that way. I was in a cave, lying on a cot and swaddled in blankets. They were warm. Nice. Sunlight filtered in through cracks in the stone and I couldn’t tell whether it was contributing to noticed warmth or not.
Could it be a hideout? Underground tunnels? I thought those were Seekers at the Store. Weren’t they?
My gaze flickered to a form I almost hadn’t noticed before.
He was sleeping, snoring softly -- something I hadn’t noticed through my inward struggle. He was strikingly handsome, much to my dismay. Gold strands of hair were brushed back, glowing in the soft haze of sunlight. His features were defined, marred only by a nose that looked as if it’d been broken on more than one occasion. The thought almost made me smile -- until my eyes fell on his hands, resting loosely in his lap. Large, capable hands. The ones I was near certain had wrung around my throat.
Was he... human?
I needed to get out of here. I couldn’t be around humans, not when the Seeker could take control at any moment. Moving as silently as possible over the dirt floor, I crept to the entrance of the cave-like room. If the coast was cl-
“You’re awake. It figures Kyle wouldn’t be able to stay awake through guard duty.” The guy standing just outside the door smiled a little -- dark hair, dark eyes. Kind, but obviously wary.
“I need to go. You don’t understand,” I whispered, well are of the sleeper just inside the door. The man scoffed, though it didn’t sound mocking.
“You’re right. I don’t. But I have people who want to talk to you. So get changed.” He tossed me a bundle of clothes. “I’m Jared, by the way. The sucker in there is--”
“Kyle,” I finished, recalling the name just recently used. He was treating me weird... almost like one of them. I didn’t like it.
Five minutes later, I was following Jared through twists and turns in the canyon-esque tunnels. The set of clothes given to me were surprisingly nice replacements for my filthy old ones. Ironically, all they had laying around was a pair of booty shorts that almost didn’t fit and a button-up flannel that was way too big. It was Kyle’s, Jared explained, and laughed when I asked if I’d offend him by wearing it. ‘I hardly doubt he’d mind,’ was all the response I got.
It wasn’t that hard to maneuver or recognize when he was taking detours with the deliberation to confuse me. Again, treating me like the monster stewing in the back of my mind.
It took a good few minutes of silently following before I was taken to a small room -- faced with a group of obvious interrogators. I looked at them all in the face. The most prominent presence was an older man with a kind, self-assured smile. A young man with a striking similarity to Kyle, a pale girl with freckles and dark hair, and finally a --
What the hell were they doing with one of them?
“Whoa hey,” Jared caught my elbow, careful not to set me off. My reaction probably looked bigger than it felt. “She’s with us.”
The old man’s eyebrow raised in inquisition.
“What’s your name, kid?”
Kid. I bristled at the the title.
“Andie,” I curtly replied, turning my stare on him. Just then, the Seeker was present, matching my distaste of the outcast for an entirely different reason.
I shoved her to the back of my mind, vowing to remain steadfast and myself.
“Sit down, Andie.” Still quite courteous, the man gestured to an empty seat. “M’name’s Jeb. I’m in charge of this place.”
I didn’t budge, narrowing my eyes at the parasite in the room. Jeb ignored my refusal entirely, though I felt tension from the human girl.
“So, my boy Kyle said some pretty interesting things about you.”
“Yeah? And what’d he say?” I hadn’t meant to keep the accusatory challenge in my voice. Luckily for me, it only seemed to amuse the old man more.
“Eh, nothing really. Said that you looked human, which is exactly what I see.”
A blue ring wasn’t hard to miss in brown eyes like mine, though the telltale glow seemed to disappear out of my eyes whenever the Seeker was deprived of control. If I screamed loud enough at it, I made it physically recoil -- I stood proud in that fact.
“But,” he countered, narrowing his eyes in a near-teasing manner. “The lil’ glow on the back a’ your neck says otherwise.” His words piqued the urgency that I’d nearly forgotten.
“I need to get out of here. I still don’t know where I am. You’re still safe.”
An involuntary rise of agitation tinted my cheeks with red. The Seeker’s reaction, not mine.
My answer made the situation clear.
The parasite they were harboring, almost in synchronization with the human girl, stepped forward.
“No, we can help y-”
“You? Help me?” I demanded, not bothering to disguise my incredulous reaction. Jared was there, palm cupping my elbow once more. A guard dog to their pet alien.
It became painstakingly obvious that they weren’t used to cases like me.
“Now Andie, calm down.” Jeb sighed. “That there’’s Wanda. She’s a Wanderer who’s found a family here. Used to share a noggin with my niece Melanie, found Ian along the way.” He gestured to the girl, then to the blonde beside them. It was insane. They still accepted her?! I would never forgive the leeching Seeker in my head, even if death was the only alternative. I didn’t have much time to consider it, however, because Jeb was asking another question.
“So... care to tell us what’s goin’ on in that pretty little head of yours?”
I took a deep breath. Was it worth it to tell them? What would they do? Try to extract it? Kill both me and Seeker? It was unlikely that I would be allowed to stay here with the constant threat that Seeker could take over and run. Yet it was plainly registered on every face in the room that I had no choice in the matter.
“Yeah. You’re right.” I crossed my arms, leaning against the nearest wall. It was the least I could do to rest. There was no way in hell I was going to sit down and relax around strangers that could wreck my entire system.
“I was taken about a month and a half ago. My father and I... we pretended not to know what was going on. Blended in. I’m surprised we lasted as long as we did.” I lowered my head, recalling the house he’d set aflame... after letting them take me away. “My father killed himself when they tried coming for me. Since they thought I didn’t know, they put a baby monster in my head, who’d only been to one more planet before this. It lasted a week before I got myself back.”
“Do you know her name?” Wanda’s inhuman eyes were set on me.
“It’s a seeker. Said her name was Seeker River's Flame. I don’t suspect you know her?” The bitterness in my tone seemed to motivate Ian, who stepped forward. Jeb grunted, a wordless warning. I knew he couldn’t hurt me, even if he tried.
“Y’say she’s in your head?” Jeb asked, cocking his head to the side. “But not in control?”
“This is its first rodeo. It’s pretty lenient...” I hesitated before pressing on. “That doesn’t mean it can’t take control. When I get... distracted...” There was no need to continue. They could figure out the rest for themselves.
Silence hung heavy in the air for a few moments -- until Wanda spoke up again.
“May I... May I speak to her?”
Seeker’s revulsion was strong. I nearly lost my bearings, slipping against the wall as she bombarded me with attacks. I knew this routine well; she was trying to take control. Jared caught my arm, stabilizing me as black dots blinked into my vision.
“I’ll take that as a no,” I heard Wanda continue. “Jeb, we need to keep her here, it’s not--” I wasn’t mentally around for much of the rest of conversation. Whether they minded me or not, I didn’t know.
There was no way I was staying here.