Holding my breath, hoping that I will not puke, I insert my lock pick into the industrial strength lock on the tight fitting door.
There is some sort of glass in the front, but I cannot see through it. I daresay a visitor could see out of it, from inside, but not from outside. Clever. One-way glass. Does that mean that Mai can see me? If so, she must be terrified. She cannot know that I am here to help; she cannot know that I am not going to harm her. I picture in my mind’s eye, but it has been months since I saw her. And then she was just a child, in effect.
Oh, I know what she has done. Olivia told me that. I know what has been done to her, too. From what I know of Mai most of what has happened to her has been brought upon herself. That sounds harsh, but it is true. Getting in with Them is always a bad idea.
This is a tough lock. It resists my expert wiggles of the lock pick, stubbornly refusing to open. I curse, loudly. A few of Sunny’s people turn, looking scandalised. I guess they’ve never heard a human swear before.
The lock clicks open, at last. I push the door gently, the metal cool under my skin. I peer cautiously inside, dreading what I am about to see.
She is lying on the floor, covered in a blanket. I am glad of this, because I do not want to see her body as it is in this state; I do not want the evidence of what they have done to her. Her body – what is visible of it – is painfully thin. It looks like she has not eaten for weeks, but a plate lies beside her. That must be all she has eaten, though. No one could get that thin otherwise.
The floor is covered in blood. I stifle a scream, the sight of the red droplets seeming to burn into my mind. Mai looks up at me, frightened.
“Who are you?” she tries to say, but she is too weak. The effort seems to exhaust her, although only a whisper is produced from her starved, dry throat.
“It’s okay, Mai,” I say, soothingly, although I am in turmoil at the sight before me. “I’m here to help you. I’m a friend of Olivia and Sunny – they told me you were here.”
She visibly relaxes.
“Can you get me some food, please?” she whispers, and almost collapses from the effort. I go over to her broken frame and lift her gently to her feet. She can’t stand without my help – she’s like a child.
Weeks of starvation have left her weighing very little, and I lift her into my arms without effort. The metal door has swung shut but I can just about push it open without jostling her.
Mai’s people turn to stare curiously at us. One of them - fortunately humanoid - comes over to us.
“What has happened to her?” they say in horror as they see her face. “Who are you?”