tagNonHumanPawn Among Wolves Ch. 16

Pawn Among Wolves Ch. 16


Gemma's limbs gave out at the same time as the third grating.

The metal she was weakly wrestling with was rusty, corroded, the orange dust causing a paroxysm of coughing in her sluggish, frosted lungs. It didn't help that the steep angle of the last ten feet of the ventilation shaft meant that she had slithered down on the slippery metal and was pressed to the grating, back hunched and shoulders and head at an awkward angle, cheek jammed against the crumbling orange-tainted bars as she struggled with them.

Her limbs were trembling in exhausting and this horrible, pervasive sickness, her tears trickling across her temple. The dragging vacuum inside her was leaching what little strength she had, her fervour dwindling despite the faint, hopeful scent of fresher air in the gloomily lit rock passage below her.

Mac. The emptiness ached through her, sapping her last shreds of will.

A small whine escaped Gemma as she wrenched wretchedly with the makeshift lever bar she had brought, one of the slats she had broken from the last vent. A gasp escaped as the entire square metal fitting suddenly emitted a grating noise, shifted, then gave way under her weight.

The side of her face smashed into the rock floor and her eyes blacked out, head spinning in pain. The emptiness in her stomach heaved. She could do no more than retch helplessly as the giddy feeling from slamming to the ground sucked to the surface the icy, sullen feeling in her veins. Her sense of her surroundings faded as her body struggled feebly against the ice and the emptiness to stay afloat, stay alive.

Weak convulsions wracked through her as she lay, trembling and writhing on the cold stone, unaware of time passing as her mind swam in and out of the edge of consciousness.


In disorientated patches, Gemma gradually became aware of the scent now beside her, recognition filtering slowly through her swimming head. She couldn't open her eyes, her limbs heavy beyond her control, body still periodically convulsing in paroxysms of agony, cutting her mind blank with pain. Between the bouts, waves of awareness swept in to baffle her with new scents and sounds, retreated, leaving her empty, then swirled back in, teasing her with dimly recognised sensations.

Two women. Urgent whispers above her shivering, helpless form, the sound muffled, incomprehensible outside the steady crackle in her head, like a radio that had lost signal.

A dim sense of movement. Being lifted, carried.


The shivering increased, and Gemma's teeth chattered as she was lain on cold, smelly rock. A rubbery scent of tyres permeated the sand dusting on the floor, tyres and metal, rust: cars. She swam back towards dizzying, nauseous reality.

"All right," was hissed above her head, the woman's voice a low whisper. "You keep checking for somewhere."

Both women reeked of fear; their voices were trembling.

A hand grasped her hair, quite gently, but any movement hurt, and Gemma whined helplessly as her face was turned slightly to the left, to where she could smell one of the women crouched over her.

"Told you," hissed the other voice close by, the tone a low accusation, revulsion pulsing through the air.

"Where did you go to school?" whispered the first voice.

Gemma was fading again, being dragged back under despite the shivers that shook rattles of pain through her battered limbs, when a finger tapped her cheek, abruptly.

"You. Where did you go to school?"


"Answer. Or we just leave you here anyway," cut in the second voice harshly. The first made a little huff of disapproval.

Gemma shivered harder. Strained to open her mouth, eventually letting out an unrecognisable grunt. Tried again.

Once she had finally managed to whisper an answer, the woman asked a second question. Then a third. It was such an effort to talk, grinding out stupid answers to stupid questions. The grilling didn't stop. Who was her favourite Sesame Street character? Favourite movie? Who won the last Olympic 100 metre sprint? Russian president? Best flavour jello?

It made no sense. Gemma gave up at that point, and collapsed into a new set of coughing, feeling herself receding. She just didn't care, the whispers over her head sinking back into oblivion.

Mac. She couldn't get to him. Her body was too weak, poisoned. She was lost.

A tiny spark rose. No, she couldn't give up. Not on Mac.

She struggled again, reaching out a flopping, limp limb, straining to haul herself weakly across the rough, petroleum-soaked sand dusting the rock floor, towards that beckoning scent, her legs trailing uselessly. She was pulled by the scent of outside. Outside this horrible stifling rock prison.

As sigh above her head, and she was lifted again, carried jerkily and slid into a metal box. A thin carpet was under her bare skin, and she curled up, shivering more heavily, brain empty, losing her fight as the nausea swept up again, pulling her stomach up, up, tearing it into her raw throat. She lay and sobbed, only glad to be off the cold stone, fading out.

A gentle hand wiped away the tears running down her cheeks, and a soft material was tucked over her shoulders and breast. She couldn't interpret the whispers through the thunder in her pounding head, but she felt the gentle hands and more tears eased gently from her eyes.

A heavy clunk sounded, the slam of a car trunk above her, shaking her body.

Gemma curled in on herself and sank into a nightmare of shivering, lonely agony.


The days swam by in throbbing and fading gasps of semi-awareness. Her body was sweating, convulsing, fighting and fading in a constant, ceaseless cycle. It seemed interminable, and she longed at times to give in to the despair, the pain pulling at her.

But dimly, she was aware that there was something comforting about her small, dark hidey-hole. Something held her.

The humans came twice daily and fed her: the one who had questioned her, and one of two others. They brought her clothes. Water. A damp wash cloth stroked over her clammy, sweating skin.

Gemma surfaced once to find her shivering, wasted form being held crouched over a grate in the centre of the cold rock space. Her eyes blinked at the parked cars gleaming in the dull light around them. A finger prodded steadily at her distended bladder and she gasped, letting go, crying at the humiliation, the pain and sluggish sickness shaking her useless limbs.

"Shh," whispered the woman on her right soothingly, stroking a hand over her face. Helen. "Don't let it worry you. I used to be a nurse."

Back in the trunk of the car. They fed her spoonfuls of black, dusty granules.

Gemma choked, coughing on the dryness, but the gentle voice of the nurse admonished her like a small child refusing her medicine: "It'll do you good. And you can have a yoghurt if you swallow this."

Activated carbon, the name of the black granules swam into Gemma's mind. Charcoal.

She had been poisoned.

Struggling against her dry throat, she swallowed.


Gemma felt completely wrung out, boneless, when she finally swam into true consciousness, alone in the small, dark trunk of the car where they kept her hidden.

Dark. Pressing on her.

Inside her. Empty.

She opened her eyes to escape the ache, ignoring the weakness shivering through her at even that small movement.

Blackness. The sheer darkness sheltered her, except -. Faintly, her eyes made out the contour of a misshapen hole above her head, a patch of greyness in the dark. An opening in the lid of the trunk.

The hole looked a little like a hand.

There were four long rough-raked scrapes for fingers, with a fifth gash scored in from the left. Then a wide triangular hole at the base, cleanly cut away.

Almost undetectable, a tiny whisper of scent teased from the rough edges of those finger marks. Gemma saw her own hand lift, weakly trembling palm and fingers stretched open to meet the mark, touch palm to ghostly palm. So close. A little smile curved her mouth while tears ran down into her hair, her blurry eyes focusing on the gleam of gold just visible around her left wrist. Her heart beat fiercely, longing rising through her.

That scent. All this time, hidden in the trunk of this car, too sick to move. But it curled around her protectively, even here. Her Mac.

Stealthy footsteps approached in the semi-darkness outside, and Gemma dropped her hand, her heart freezing. A corner of her mind noted, slightly bemused, that her bracelet had disappeared.

Human, her nose told her, calming her pounding heart. Helen - the nurse.

Then a slender hand reached with careful, practised ease through the hole above her face, curved back on itself, and pulled an exposed cable over her head. The trunk chunked opened a crack, while Gemma smothered a laugh at the practical reason why the humans had hidden her in this car.

A second scent hit her, a taint colouring Helen's skin and hair, and Gemma clenched her teeth against the shot of anger that wrenched through her.

The scents of pain, fear, and lust burned in her nose - human mating scent and seed - wolf seed.

The rage burned through her, shaking her weak limbs exhaustingly: Helen was torn, and aching in pain.

That wolf needed a lesson in manners: this had to stop.

Gemma remembered now, what had been done to her. The poison.

She didn't know how long it had been after the show when she had come around. The show when she had publically humiliated Nicolas Grey. Mac had humiliated him. They had humiliated him, publically, together. It had felt like it had been a long time, she had been fully healed, lying on a hard board in a small chamber.

Her nose had wrinkled instantly at the scents of three other wolves in her nostrils. The female lying across the room had been in pain. The males had been enjoying it.

Almost instantly, Grey had noticed that she was awake, and had stridden over from tormenting the sjeste on the other side of the room, to her. His stride had been slightly off, his gait hunched to ease a lingering pain between his legs. Gemma had smiled, and Nick had erupted. The wolf had begun striding about, screaming about how he was going to subjugate her, make her crawl, display her cowed submission to the world and to the damn Mackeld.

Gemma's thoughts had fled to Mac, and she had felt her own anger rising. She had been pierced by the memory of the anguish she had sensed buried in her mate, that he'd been unable to hide, twinned as they had been in that fight: Mac loathed himself for not protecting her better, not protecting her from this damn wolf. He had been in such pain.

She didn't even remember going for Nick, the desire seamless with the action. No Argen collar then, no bounds between rage and reaction, she would have killed him almost instantly, moving past his startled evasion with ease, had the other damn Grey wolf not shot her from across the room.

The dart hadn't stopped her, but it had slowed her down, the needle seeming to punch ice into the veins of her right thigh. She had had to work a little harder to kill the cowardly cur who had so hurt her mate.

Grey's crashing fear had been thick in the room, making him react wildly, off balance, and he had been screaming orders at the other wolf while he had barely held her off, his flesh tearing under her claws.

She had felt so whole in that rage. Clean.

Another dart, the slug slamming into her, and she had slowed slightly further. Determination drove her on, but Nick's return blows had been landing then, and her own blood had begun to run, the scent mingling with Grey's as they had swirled around each other.

A third dart; fourth, spearing into her. Her veins had begun to spin out of control.

"She can't still be moving!" the other wolf had screamed then, in terror, still hovering at the opposite side of the room, flinging the now empty gun across to crack painfully across her temple before snatching something else up to throw to her adversary.

Gemma had been moving still. For Mac.

As she had strained to heave her limbs after her desire, Grey had swerved in underneath her attack, the desperate fear bright in his eyes, and had stabbed a finger-thick plastic syringe down her howling open throat, squeezing a slug of icy, viscous liquid down her gullet with a fist clenched convulsively around the bulb at the other end. A choked gargle, and Gemma's swimming awareness had lurched to the disturbing total absence of sensation from her legs as they had suddenly collapsed. Her ears had been ringing softly, the convulsions beginning to overtake her.

But she vividly recalled that last stark image of Grey's face, the last sight that had been in her fading vision.

Gemma returned to the present with a small, feral smile lighting her face when the trunk of the car lifted to the smooth whoosh of hinges. Nick had been terrified of her.

The smile snapped off as she looked up into the young, rounded yet gaunt face looking down at her.

The scent of Helen's pain, fear and misery was mingled with the wolf's mating scent and enjoyment.

These wolves needed an Alpha. A proper Alpha, who would teach them how a wolf should be.

She knew just where to find one.


If only life was that simple.

Almost two months had passed, Gemma's existence a mingling of unbearable, solitary endurance, and frantic, relentless necessity. During the weeks in which she had struggled towards enough health to escape, the mesh of her new friends had grown, until the weight of their whispered, mangled hopes now crushed her here, forcing her to think beyond her own, simple wishes. Wolves and humans both: she couldn't just leave them here.

Yet they couldn't get out. This prison had been built to keep wolves and humans in.

Gemma had mapped almost the entire subterranean hive since she had healed; recovering first under the care of her human friends, enough to simply to move again, then healing fully after learning which of the wolf lab-rat slaves she could trust, and teaching them to create her silver antidote.

There were three sets of people in the vast underground labyrinth. The Faulk overseers, the guards; the wolf prey, sex toys, slaves, or samples in the 'medical research' programmes; and the human slaves - also toys, and experimentees, but less difficult to contain and less valuable.

For this was Faulk territory, although only the hundred or so Faulk wolves who worked down here knew of the extent and purpose of the underground complex. The rest of the pack led perfectly normal wolf lives on the surface, proud of their homes and vast hunting range, the renown of their pack centred around the famous Faulk medical research centre.

None of the inmates were able to tell Gemma when the underground annex had been started. The oldest of her wolves had explained that this Alfamme's father had already been expanding it when he had been Faulk Alpha, working on secret plans with Nicolas Grey's grandfather, then father, both of whom had been frequent visitors. Upon the death of the old Alpha, only two Faulk warriors had challenged his daughter for the succession, and somehow she had defeated both.

When an Alfamme was loved and trusted by her pack, none of her warriors challenged her.

In this case, Gemma doubted that that was the reason why more warriors had not challenged Madam Faulk for the succession. Her stomach roiled. Madam Louise Faulk: The Louse.

Why on earth had the Faulk decided to bondmate with the Marsh? She couldn't imagine two more opposed characters - well, she knew why Jon Marsh had, his daughter had made that perfectly clear and it wasn't hard to guess, looking at the luscious Alfamme, but what had the Faulk gained from such an alliance?

What had the Louse been up to?

Whatever the plan had been, reputedly the Louse had been damn angry when she'd returned, after the mate-bond had been severed due to her treatment of the Marsh's human guest. Hopefully that had foiled whatever damned, nefarious plot she had been building. This place shouldn't be allowed to pollute further - it had already infected enough wolves.

For Grey's lair in Medway had just been a poor copy of this place; a weak seedling spawned by this central canker. The 'medical' research here at Faulk had yielded the wolf control drug, both elements: fix and key, yet the Louse guarded the secret formulae viciously. Here, Gemma had learned that neither Grey nor the Tzo could actually manufacture either half of the drug: they had to buy them. The Faulk complex reeked of the foul wealth it generated from two industries: 'health' and sex.

Consequently, Nicolas Grey's father had set up his own secret laboratories to try to identify and duplicate the drug. And his son had later inaugurated an illegal recruitment programme for skilled chemists.

It all led back to the Faulk. The Louse.

It was late evening, and the wereem was lying on her back in the ventilation duct just past the grill that opened down into the laboratory. She was listening with half an ear to a caustic argument between two of her pack as she waited; Alan, her second, was adamant that Ginger should not try to help his escape attempt later that night: he did not want anyone else involved.

Don't argue with him, Ginger, Gemma interjected on a growl. The stubborn bastard needs all of his strength right now, he has less than hour to heal his feet enough to be able to run.

The echo of anger in her conveyance silenced them both, although she could feel a tinge of amusement from her damn insubordinate second. She had told him that it would be enough of a distraction if he could just cause mayhem in the auditorium during tonight's show, but no, Alan had decided he needed to get above ground. For which he needed to escape from his cell. And therefore had needed to be damaged enough by his afternoon purchaser to be withdrawn from the menu for tonight - ugh. She felt so guilty. Already!

Oh stop whining, my titchy little Alfamme, Alan conveyed privately. I cleave to you - but if you won't accept my advice then I'll just have to make sure you get the help you need anyway.

Your advice is not always right, she grated.

Your reason for vetoing this was not sound, he returned dispassionately. You didn't want me hurt. I'm a warrior, Little Gem: I fight, I hurt, I heal. Tonight I am already almost healed - the pack bond is so much stronger with your key.

Gemma kept her eyes closed and breathed deeply, holding in her anger: What was it with fucking Alphas? That they were always so damn convinced of their infallibility.

I am not an Alpha, Alan grated in his turn.

Oops - touched a nerve. Despite never intruding on his thoughts, Gemma had picked up that Alan had once been a pack Alpha, many decades ago. Now he had been broken, drugged into a semi-stupor, used, and tormented both as Louise's toy and by his memories of what had brought him to where he was. A morsel on the Faulk menu, for the wealthy clients who visited this hell.

This underground complex had obviously started as a series of passages hewn roughly from existing rock caves, possibly store-rooms. Those were now the garages. The entrance hall, human and wolf cell blocks, kitchen, dining hall, exercise rooms, shower and toilets areas and relaxation quarters for the guards were also hewn out of the solid sandstone, but lined with beautiful, curving brickwork that arched overhead, the material and workmanship showing the age of the extensive network.

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