Isabella is an excellent assessor, and she can put the right human in the right job without hesitation. When one of her little file manipulations gets the attention of the overseer, she is summoned to his offices and faces a harsh sentence.
Bound to the overseer by cuffs that keep her at his beck and call, Isabella gives him the details on human interaction while changing plans for her people with miniscule nudges.
Iktabi has been in charge of Imrahl since it became a viable outpost. Waiting for his own mate has been an exercise in patience. When Isabella ends up in his office, he knows his match when he sees it, but the paperwork is a nightmare.
Isabella Thems pounded her fists on the inside of the column around her. She was encased in fluid and a breathing apparatus was on her face, but she wanted out.
She clawed her way to the top of the tank and groped around for an exit. A grate came to hand and she pushed and pulled on it. It swung free, hanging into the tank. With her fingers clawed, she hooked into the grating and pulled herself out and through the hole, ditching her mask when the tubes tangled and tugged.
The air around her was dry, but as she pulled herself out of the tank, it was a welcome relief. She flopped on the edge of the lid and looked around her.
“Oh. My. God.” The aircraft-sized building she was in was filled with tubes and each tube had a human body in it. Some were male, some were female, but they were as far as her eyes could see.
The railing around the top of her column was her only support as she gripped the metal and tried to come to grips with what was happening. She shivered as her skin dried. The substance she had been soaking in absorbed into her body without a trace.
There was no one around. It was like these people had been put into storage and simply left there.
Isabella shivered again and looked down to the floor. To her surprise, the clothing that she last remembered wearing was folded neatly on a table resting against her tank. If she could get down, she would no longer be quite as vulnerable.
She heaved a deep sigh and stepped over the railing, holding it tight as she reached down with her right foot. She crouched to lower herself as much as she could, applauding herself for every yoga class she had ever taken.
Her arms shook when they took her weight completely, and she dangled both legs in the air, three feet above the ground. Another steadying breath and she dropped down to the cold, hard floor.
The tube she had been in was now support until she was ready to grab her clothing and shoes. Her heart pounded, sure that someone or something was going to come charging at her, but nothing did.
She pulled on her underwear, jeans and the cotton shirt she had been wearing when she remembered everything going black. The only thing missing from the table was her phone and the music device she had been listening to. On a final inspection, even her watch was gone. Everything she had that connected to the internet was gone.
Isabella finished tying her shoes and looked around for anything that would show her the way out.
Three columns over, there was a wider lane. In most warehouses, the wide areas were for transport so it was probable that it would lead her out. She was willing to work with that theory.
She walked through the eerie forest of naked bodies in tanks. Every nationality was on display, every skin colour was accounted for. What struck Isabella as she walked through them was that all of the bodies were in perfect shape. There was no bruise, no scar, no discolouration on the skin aside from natural pigmentation. It was creepy.
With a sense of dread she crouched behind one of the tubes and pulled up her sleeve. She swallowed. Her surgical scar was missing from the back of her wrist. The four stitch marks that had seen a decade of fading were completely gone.
She rotated her wrist and didn’t feel the tell-tale crunch that her limb had previously had. She would have to get naked to check for the other scars and that wasn’t her highest priority.
She stood up and started to move again. Another twenty rows and she would be at the flat wall that had to contain the door. She had no idea what would be beyond that, but she was willing to find out.
Isabella counted down as she made her way on silent feet. She was four columns away when the wall opened. She hid behind the column and listened to the voices of the folk coming through the doorway.
If they were human, she would say they were male. The sound was rough with a lot of soft sounds mixed in. She got the feeling that if she listened to it just long enough, she would be able to understand it.
The footfalls that had come in with the voices faded as the men made their way into the storage facility.
Silence surrounded her and she moved into a crouching position, heading for the doorway. They had left it open and she could hear a whole other universe outside that door.
She would be exposed in the last three meters but she was going to have to chance it. She straightened and walked calmly through the doorway and out into the shadows beyond.