Rachel Sexton felt like she was being burned alive.
Its raining fire!
She tried to open her eyes, but all she could make out were foggy shapes and blinding lights. It was raining all around her. Scalding hot rain. Pounding down on her bare skin. She was lying on her side and could feel hot tiles beneath her body. She curled more tightly into the fetal position, trying to protect herself from the scalding liquid falling from above. She smelled chemicals. Chlorine, maybe. She tried to crawl away, but she could not. Powerful hands pressed down on her shoulders, holding her down.
Let me go! Im burning!
Instinctively, she again fought to escape, and again she was rebuffed, the strong hands clamping down. Stay where you are, a mans voice said. The accent was American. Professional. It will be over soon.
What will be over? Rachel wondered. The pain? My life? She tried to focus her vision. The lights in this place were harsh. She sensed the room was small. Cramped. Low ceilings.
Im burning! Rachels scream was a whisper.
Youre fine, the voice said. This water is lukewarm. Trust me.
Rachel realized she was mostly undressed, wearing only her soaked underwear. No embarrassment registered; her mind was filled with too many other questions.
The memories were coming back now in a torrent. The ice shelf. The GPR. The attack. Who? Where am I? She tried to put the pieces together, but her mind felt torpid, like a set of clogged gears. From out of the muddled confusion came a single thought: Michael and Corky . . . where are they?
Rachel tried to focus her bleary vision but saw only the men standing over her. They were all dressed in the same blue jumpsuits. She wanted to speak, but her mouth refused to formulate a single word. The burning sensation in her skin was now giving way to sudden deep waves of aching that rolled through the muscles like seismic tremors.
Let it happen, the man over her said. The blood needs to flow back into your musculature. He spoke like a doctor. Try to move your limbs as much as you can.
The pain racking Rachels body felt as if every muscle was being beaten with a hammer. She lay there on the tile, her chest contracting, and she could barely breathe.
Move your legs and arms, the man insisted. No matter what it feels like.
Rachel tried. Each movement felt like a knife being thrust into her joints. The jets of water grew hotter again. The scalding was back. The crushing pain went on. At the precise instant she thought she could not withstand another moment, Rachel felt someone giving her an injection. The pain seemed to subside quickly, less and less violent, releasing. The tremors slowed. She felt herself breathing again.
A new sensation was spreading through her body now, the eerie bite of pins and needles. Everywhere‑stabbing‑sharper and sharper. Millions of tiny needle‑point jabs, intensifying whenever she moved. She tried to hold motionless, but the water jets continued to buffet her. The man above her was holding her arms, moving them.
God that hurts! Rachel was too weak to fight. Tears of exhaustion and pain poured down her face. She shut her eyes hard, blocking out the world.
Finally, the pins and needles began to dissipate. The rain from above stopped. When Rachel opened her eyes, her vision was clearer.
It was then that she saw them.
Corky and Tolland lay nearby, quivering, half‑naked and soaked. From the looks of anguish on their faces, Rachel sensed that they had just endured similar experiences. Michael Tollands brown eyes were bloodshot and glassy. When he saw Rachel, he managed a weak smile, his blue lips trembling.
Rachel tried to sit up, to take in their bizarre surroundings. The three of them were lying in a trembling twist of half‑naked limbs on the floor of a tiny shower room.