As Stitch's men wrestled with me, I saw her. Audrey. I stopped struggling and froze, my eyes locked on hers. We passed by her as she stared in sadness at me. I forced my head back. I watched her look on, her green eyes shining in the dim light. A door closed behind us as we entered a room. Since the coliseum was so old, big steel beams were set up around the walls to prevent it from falling on anyone. In the large room Stitch dragged me to, there were a few guys in lab coats. These guys had white pants and white undershirts beneath their coats. Are they from Raven City? Why are they here? Stitch's guys forced me onto a table in the center of the room and strapped me down.
"Please tell me you're not gonna gang rape me," I said.
"Please, I'm not gay and you're not my type."
"Aw, you have a type? I thought that ugly face of your would drive everyone away. Good for you."
Stitch slashed my face with a pocketknife he pulled from his jacket. The stinging gash on my cheek brought tears to my eyes. I don't cry, just so we're clear on that. If you've been cut before, you know it hurts. Here I am complaining about a scratch. What Stitch's got planned for me is probably gonna hurt a lot worse than this. Admittedly, this is my first time getting caught. Usually, I con my clients and take off before they even know what hit them. If I hadn't seen Audrey and let my curiosity get the best of me, I'd be long gone by now. I had a lot of enemies in Drayton. Eventually, one of them would've caught me. Why'd it have to be Stitch? Couldn't it have been Rat? He's much dumber and slower than Stitch. I could've tricked him into letting me go. Stitch is more persistent and difficult to avoid. Still dumb, but persistent. As I wondered what Stitch was planning to do to me, one of the lab coat guys (scientists, I guess) spoke up.
"Sir, we are ready to proceed with the experiment."
Experiment? I've got to get out of here. I tried struggling against the restraints but they refused to budge.
"Good. Let's get started...You shouldn't have messed with me, Weasel," Stitch whispered to me.
One of the scientist guys injected me with a blue liquid. My veins grew hot as the liquid flowed through my body. I instantly began sweating. I felt the liquid as it reached my heart. It felt like someone kicked me in the ribs. My heartbeat sped up in an irregular pattern. My eyes changed. I could suddenly see so much clearer. They also burned. I'm on fire. What was that liquid? I feel...powerful. I feel like I can fly. The disease. Is that what they injected me with? I admit, I was terrified. The disease was the reason the Force was built. A lot of people died from it. Raven City was built to protect the people who weren't infected. I didn't buy that crap. I figured some narcissistic guy wanted an excuse to be a savior and play God. I did believe the stories about the disease. People went crazy from it. It's like they got stronger before getting sick and dying. I guess you could think about it like a high before you crash and commit suicide. Many people I loved died from it. Watching them lose it and go mad was the worst thing I've ever seen.
"What'd you inject me with?" I asked as I moved uncomfortably on the table.
It was very hot in here.
"It is an altered version of the disease. We are trying to—" one of the scientists began.
"It doesn't matter what it was. How does it feel? You regret conning me yet, Nick?" Stitch interjected.
"Regret conning you? Please, that was my best con yet. It took you months to figure it out," I retorted.
My muscles were started to feel sore. I could feel them stretching as my adrenaline pounded in my ears. I couldn't help but feel something click into place inside of me. I grinned.
"Have you tested it on anyone else?"
"Yes, we have had multiple individuals test it," a scientist responded.
"What happened to them?"
"They died a horrible, painful death, just like you," Stitch added.
My body temperature returned to normal.
"Really? From where I'm laying, it looks like you succeeded in whatever you were trying to do."
Stitch's grin faded instantly. I was just playing a hunch that Stitch didn't want me to survive this little experiment. As if breaking string, I tore the restraints that held me down. Wow, that was easy.
"It is a success. I hope you remember our deal, Mr. Stitch," another man said as he walked into the room.
Stitch and his boys looked at the man. I looked behind him. Audrey.
"So, what now? You gonna take the kid?" Stitch spat.
"That was the deal if he survived," the man responded calmly.
"This brat conned me out of a lot of money! Thousands of dollars, gone! I'm not just gonna let you—"
I grabbed Stitch's shirt, cutting off his argument. I lifted him high in the air with my newfound strength.
"What're you gonna do, Stitch? You shouldn't have underestimated me."
I slung Stitch into his bodyguards. I flexed my muscles. Looking down at my hands, I could see my veins. All of them. They flowed blue under my sharp vision. Everything about me was on steroids.
"I thought the disease killed its victims. Why do I feel like this?"
"It is a side effect. My colleagues told you that it had been modified. You'll feel like this for a few hours. It will fade and make you feel weak for a while. It should stabilize and, with practice, you should be able to turn it on and off at will."
"Who are you?"
"My name is Robert Corey. You've met my first-in-command, Audrey. I am in charge of the medical division in Raven City."
"Why are you here?"
"The people here are desperate for supplies such as food and clothes. We make deals with those who are willing to do what you were just forced to. Unfortunately, you are the only one who has survived so far. Come. I will explain everything as we walk."
"What do you mean? Where are we going?"
"Raven City, of course. Now that you are like us, you are allowed into the city."
"What makes you think I want to go to Raven City?"
"Once this powerful feeling fades, you will be weak as your muscles adapt to the serum that was injected into you. Mr. Stitch and his followers could easily kill you then. Even after the serum has balanced, being able to use your enhanced abilities will be difficult. We must teach you to use them properly. This way please."
Robert Corey turned around and began walking. Audrey stood in the doorway, waiting for me to follow him. I looked back at the unconscious Stitch and his guys before catching up to the scientist. I made a point to walk beside Audrey.
"So, um, can you do what I can?" I asked her.
"You don't find any of this shocking or impossible?" Audrey countered.
"Yeah, I guess. I'm still feeling the high. My brain's going at ninety miles an hour."
"...I knew on the train, when you saw me. When you jumped out the back, I thought 'this guy is reckless and insane.' I doubted that you would survive. I guess you're stronger than you look."
Audrey's comment shocked me. Suddenly, she went from being the shy girl on the train to a professional who despised having to train me. Honestly, I hoped she would be the one to train me. She intrigued me.
"What was that on the train? Was it all just an act?" I asked.
"...Not all of it. You caught me off guard. I didn't expect to see you there," she answered almost shyly.
She's trying not to blush. I'm gonna get her to like me. This might be my toughest con yet. I don't think it even fully registered that I was about to walk through the Force and into Raven City for the first time. Nervousness and anxiety creeped in front of the high I still felt. I had no idea what was waiting on the other side of the Force. I also didn't know why me—why did I survive? From what everyone was saying, I was the only subject who didn't volunteer for this. I was just fine before this happened. How is this going to change me? On second thought, I'm not sure I want to know. It was too late as I followed Robert Corey and Audrey to the only thing separating Drayton and Raven City. I walked through the Force's gates as the sun casted shadows on my home city of Drayton.