“Are you kidding me?!” exclaimed Nainika, her pale skin turning red, her sharp claws digging into the metal table. Her green eyes glowed with frustration as her black tail swished back and forth. Her slick black hair almost hid her small black panther ears.
“Calm down,” said Nina, her brown eyes wide in worry. Her caramel-colored skin almost blended in with her dark brown hair, except for a flesh-colored birthmark on her right eyebrow. She pushed her black glasses up the bridge of her nose, exposing the scaly skin on her arm. A small snake tongue flicked out of her mouth. “Azazel only wanted to speak with him. That’s a good sign, right?”
“No, it is not!” Nainika shouted, her whiskers twitching. “That was a stupid thing for him to do! Achlys never should have led his army straight into Adapter territory!”
“He did say that he saw some Adapter scouts nearby,” responded Treasure, laying down next to Nina. She was one of the few full-animal warriors in the facility, but her many scars proved she was not to be messed with. A particularly large one reaching from her left eye down to her muzzle often made others keep their distance from her, along with the absence of her hind leg. A sacrifice for her high rank in Azazel’s army. The only thing linking her to her siblings was her wolf origins and her deep blue eyes- of course, nobody really knew about it since her siblings were on the enemy side, the Adapters.
“Yeah, he saw some scouts and a harpy eagle!” shouted Nainika. “How do you think Azazel will react when Mother Heather’s daughter is possibly alive?”
An uneasy silence fell over the group. A moment later, someone burst into the room, his black spider legs stepping with careful precision on the wooden floor. Everyone immediately stood up and saluted him- except for Treasure, who simply sat at attention.
“You all know that harsh decisions lead to harsh consequences,” said Azazel. “Achlys showed a fair example of that. However, since he provided valuable information, I have decided to let him live- just this once. Take this as a warning. You are not permitted to lead unauthorized missions unless under dire circumstances.”
He stayed silent, shifting on his large, black legs.
“Sergeant,” commanded Azazel. Treasure puffed her chest and raised her head.
“See to it that Achlys makes it to the medical ward.”
He stepped back as several guards thrust a bloodied Achlys on the floor, his black, wavy hair plastered to his face with sweat. His eyepatch had slipped from its usual place, revealing his blind left eye. The rest of his face was hidden behind his hair, dripping with blood and sweat. The dark mane around his neck and chest was spotted with blood, his usually swarthy skin red and flushed.
The group resisted the urge to help him up. Azazel calmly left the room, taking the two guards with him. As soon as he was gone, Nina dropped to the ground, taking Achlys by the elbow.
“Get off of me!” he snapped, snatching his arm from Nina. As he lifted his head, Nina stifled a gasp. His entire face was swollen and bloody, previous scars on his face reopened.
“Get away!” shouted Achlys, his face flushed with anger and embarrassment.
“A lion’s weakness is getting kicked in the face,” muttered Treasure. “He should’ve seen it coming.”
“Oh yeah?!” shouted Achlys, painfully getting up. “Did you see your little brother getting killed, huh? Did you see that coming?!”
Treasure growled, her ears folded back, her tail low.
“You do not speak of that,” she seethed.
“Oh, why, because he was your weakness? ‘Oh please don’t hurt him, take me instead!’ Remember that, Treasure?”
A snarl escaped her lips as she lunged forward, knocking Achlys to the ground.
“Hey hey, break it up!” shouted Nainika, grabbing Treasure by the scruff of her neck.
“Let me go!” shouted a squirming Treasure. “You know I hate it when you do that.”
“Exactly,” responded Nainika, letting go of Treasure.
Treasure growled at Nainika, baring her teeth.
“What’s going on?”
The group turned to see Draco and Scarlett entering the room. Draco’s green eyes scanned the room, taking in the scene around him. He rubbed his hand through his red hair, revealing scales on his hands similar to Nina’s and a large scar running from his thumb to his wrist. A snake tongue flickered in and out of his mouth as the flaps on his neck spread out.
“Finally! Where were you?” shouted Nina.
“Out,” responded Draco, glancing at Scarlett, who had made her way to the corner of the room. Her platinum blonde hair laid flat on her head, her dark brown eyes almost seeming black. A small birthmark in the shape of a swan marked her wrist, and a variety of scars marked her arms and face. A bubble of water floated above her open hand.
Nina frowned, then stepped back, glaring at Scarlett. Scarlett caught her glare and snarled, turning her bubble of water into ice.
Treasure rolled her eyes. “Since we’re all here, might as well tell you the news.”
“Can we get Achlys to the medical ward first?” interrupted Nainika, helping him up from the floor.
Treasure growled before continuing. “Azazel has given us explicit instructions to scout the Adapter territory to see if we can find their base.”
“Haven’t we already tried that?” asked Draco, shifting his scales from a pale tan to a dark brown.
“Yes, but we have to try again, this time for a different purpose. Mother Heather’s daughter may still be alive.”
Draco fell silent.
“So here’s what’s gonna happen,” said Treasure. “Draco, you’ll take the south border.”
“I’ll go with him,” piped up Nina, raising a scaly hand.
“Scarlett will go with him,” said Treasure, ignoring Nina. Nina frowned before dropping her hand, once again glaring at Scarlett.
“Nainika, you take the east border.”
“But I can’t see well in the dark,” retorted Nainika, swishing her black tail in irritance.
“That’s why you’ll be taking the night shift. Report back to me at your usual times. If you find any signs of the Adapters or the harpy eagle girl, you are under direct orders from Azazel to capture every single one of them, dead or alive.”