Chapter Two

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Ears ringing and throat raw, Kira blinked and tried to make sense of what she saw and felt.

Getting past the rancid smell took a little effort, but she could piece some details together. A lantern hung from a pole in front of them and cast an eerie glow over the cavern. She wasn't walking, and the men weren't carrying her. Just a gentle bobbing motion. A bench seat pressed into her cheek, but there was no vehicle ceiling. Her hands were zip-tied behind her back, her feet bound with a worn black belt. The crick in her neck told her she had been lying in this awkward position for quite a while.

The bobbing was gentle, rhythmic.

They must be in a boat.

The skiff, or what she could see of it, was a combination of hodge-podge materials and shoddy work. Numerous coats of paint—some fresh, some older and half-chipped—covered the metal siding. A can filled with dead fish sat by the bow. The source of the stench. Blowflies fluttered around the disgusting fish in their different stages of decomposition.

Kira held her breath and only moved her eyes to see who was in the skiff. She counted six feet—two in green boots, probably Vic's; two in sneakers, she bet they were Alpo's; and the other pair of boots belonged to someone new.

She tilted her head a bit and saw what looked like green-hued water beneath them. Too much effort. Easing her head back into its awkward resting position, she waited for the ringing in her ears to stop.

Faint conversation drifted her direction.

"What do you plan to do with this one?" the newcomer asked.

"Sell it of course," Alpo grunted. "Grater is still paying plenty of money for slaves."

"I don't think he would pay much for it. This one looks pretty weak. You know he likes fighters."

"It mighta been a bit of a fighter if Vic 'adn't choked the life near out of it." Alpo snickered.

Kira desperately wished she could see the new guy's face. His questions were finally giving her information she could use to her advantage.

"Well then, we sell it as feeder for a vamp or zeke," Vic spat out. He kicked Kira, and she slumped sideways falling on her back.

Kira grunted. She finally had a view of the speaker, but a long weathered hood covered his face. She could only see his pale hands.

"It's human! You brought a human down here. How dare you go against the ban from scavenging the surface world? The penalty is a month in lockup or worse—the games."

"Eh, what Grater doesn't know won't hurt him or the price none, if you keep quiet." Alpo stood up and the skiff rocked back and forth. "You don't plan on making trouble do you?" He cracked his knuckles threateningly.

The hooded cloak swerved Kira's way and then looked out over the river of sewage they were floating on. "No. I could get in trouble just by association. Risk your necks, not mine."

They were quiet, and only the occasional sound of an oar correcting their course interrupted the silence. Lights flickered across the cavern ceiling as they picked up speed. The skiff skimmed the water smoothly until something large knocked against the bottom of the boat.

Vic, his face twisted in worry, reached for the bucket of dead fish. She heard the knocking again, and something bulky slammed into the boat. It swayed and tilted, letting sewage spill over the side into the bottom. Kira lifted her feet to avoid the reeking water that ran towards her body, but she couldn't avoid it. Cold soaked into her clothes, and she gagged at the smell that now permeated her khaki pants and t-shirt.

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