Fog thickened the air. She could almost feel dewy beads clinging to the ends of her hair, moistening the skin of her cheeks.
Clad in cameo, she lay on her belly on the moss covered forest floor and looked at the ominous building.
Suddenly she could feel a hand in hers, pulling her lightly towards the front doors of this place. Even at the young and impressionable age she was, she looked up at it knowing in her heart that no good could come from living here. It was dark, and she felt like the boogeyman lived here, collecting children.
She hadn’t been far off.
Her small fingers clasped the woman’s with a desperation she didn’t fully understand. All she knew was she would have given anything to hold on. She kept looking up at her, this beautiful woman with a forced smile who refused to meet her gaze.
Why wouldn’t she look at her? She wondered.
Squeezing her hand, she attempted to get her attention. The smile this woman was wearing like a mask wavered for a single moment before a tear ran slowly down her cheek.
Blinking away the memory, she looked at the large doors.
There was no one standing there, that would have been conspicuous. There was no reason to keep guard, the dangers were on the inside. From the outside, this place looked abandoned. Like the world had forgotten it and it had only the forestry that ravished many of the buildings to remember what once was.
At a time, it had been a hospital for tuberculosis. A military hospital after that. Now, it was Aleksandr’s.
From the outside, you would easily believe no renovation have been done to this place since the 20s. Aleksandr cared little about the exterior cosmetics. Inside, however, was a different story.
There were so many different buildings and structures on the property, a lot of them crumbling into ruins. In certain lights, when the moon was high, it looked as though some of the rubble was being dragged into the forest by the shadows of the trees. She remembered having that unnerving thought once as a child, staring out into the night, wishing for rescue or escape.
Swallowing hard, she clasped her eyes tightly closed and let her head fall onto her hands as she lay on her belly. She breathed slow, and deep. The smell of moss, mud, and leaves filled her lungs before she slowly breathed it all out.
This was just a place, she told herself.
Aleksandr was just a man.
Couldn’t the same be said of Hunter? Wasn’t Hunter just a man? Was he worth all the effort? Was he worth her capture, or her life? Could she risk the scales being tipped once again in the favour of the guilty if something happened to her? The thought banged around in her head for a couple moments before she lifted her head.
Pulling the scope from her pocket that had become so familiar to her she thought of it as her dearest friend, she clicked it onto the top of her gun. Screwing the suppressor onto the nozzle, she held the scope before her eye and looked through it.
Night was closing in around her. She didn’t have a lot of time.
Rolling onto her back, she got to her feet and quickly ran around the main building. Back pressed against the brick, she followed the building until she came to a familiar tree that had grown right into an upper window. Throwing her gun over her shoulder, she quickly climbed the tree and ducked through the broken window.
Her feet hit the floor in silence. She held her breath as she looked around the dimly lit foyer. Crouching, she pressed a hand to the floor and just listened.
There were three people, pacing around the long corridor. Pulling her gun off her shoulder, she moved towards the noise.
Her plan was simple; in and out. Executing her plan would be so far from simple, she didn’t dare plan the particulars. All she knew were two things. One, that she would get Hunter out and away from here no matter the cost. Two, that she would kill whomever got in her way… so long as they were over the age of 16.
It seemed cold. Even 16 was so young. But she knew better than anyone that someone at the age of 16 who had been clay in the hands of Aleksandr was now beyond repair. She could do nothing for them, offer them nothing that would appease their bloodlust and convince them to live their lives any other way.
Overthinking this could cost her life, or worse, his.
Moving quickly and quietly, she stayed close to the walls using the shadows to hide her. Pausing before turning the corner, she listened. There was no conversation, any soldiers of Aleksandr knew better that to converse while on watch. She didn’t need their voices to tell her where they were.
Timing was everything. Reaching out, she wrapped her fingerless gloved hands over the stranger’s mouth and pulled them back into the darkness with her. They were taller, muscular, female. She would put them at late teens, early twenties. Wanting to be different than the little girl who escaped from Refuge, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a roll of tape, forcefully wrapping it all the way around their head several times to be sure getting free to alert anyone would be no easy task, she shoved them away.
Her eyes had already adjusted to the darkness, and she could see the scowl on the girl’s face as she felt the tape tangled in her hair. Knowing full well trying to get the tape off would be a frivolous waste of time, she instead pulled a knife out of the sheath on her belt and held it out, waving Een to come forward.
Studying her face, she noted the scar on her chin. She was older than 16, of that Een was sure.
She needn’t hold back.
Footsteps in the hall told her she didn’t need to waste time either.
Rushing forward, she pushed the girl’s arm up by her wrist. Bringing her leg around the back of her knees, she let her fall slightly before wrapping her arm around her shoulders and swinging her back around against her. Pulling the girl’s arm down, she felt the blade push forcefully through the flesh of the girl’s chest, heard her whimper before falling back against her.
Dragging her back into the shadows, she set her body down lightly on the floor before moving back to the corner to look for the others.
These new recruits were barely worth her time. It made her wonder just what Aleksandr had been dedicating his time to since she had left. When she had been an orphan here, she barely had time to sleep without being thrown into another fight, another chance to survive. The ones in the halls seemed like they had only been fighting a few months at most.
And they were too old to be orphans dropped off here. They were old enough to be out on their own. Had they been in Refuge this whole time, they should be better, they should fight harder.
Pausing at the door, she listened to a familiar voice bark at someone. “Make sure you are making rounds every ten minutes. It won’t be long now until she is here, and Aleksandr will want to know the moment she arrives. Look alive people! A lot of you may not have known her or her talents, but you can take my word for it, she is someone to be feared, especially by all of you.”
She waited until footsteps scurried away and then walked into the room. Pointing the gun at Twee’s shoulder, she fired a single shot. “Where is Malcolm Hunter II?” She asked him.
The force from the shot sent him back slightly. Pushing off the wooden crate he had fallen back onto, he covered the bullet hole with his hand and looked at her with a malicious grin on his face. “Welcome back to Refuge, Een.”