Skylar's Story

"So tell me, what kind of trouble are you in?"

Skylar pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath, still struggling to process all that had happened within the past few minutes. A man had pointed a gun at her, and she was now hiding out with a near-stranger in a place she had never been before.

She opened her amber eyes and examined Tom. He didn't seem like a bad guy, but then again, Charles hadn't either, not initially. It wasn't even that she didn't trust him, but... okay, maybe she didn't. She wasn't sure she could trust any man, after what had happened, how she had been used...

"Breath, it will be okay," he reassured her.

Skylar hadn't even noticed that she had started hyperventilating. Doctor Appleton would've been disappointed. Taking control of her breathing, Skyler felt herself beginning to calm down.

"Will it?" she whispered.

"I'm here to protect you," Tom confirmed, "but I need to know what is going on."

Skylar nodded. Perhaps it was alright to be cautious around men, but even if she couldn't just trust Tom, she did trust Annalisse and Annalisse trusted Tom, so he couldn't be all that bad. Reaching out with her power, she could feel that he was telling the truth.

"I-, I don't really know what is going on, nor who that man was..." she mumbled. Tom continued to gaze at her, clearly waiting for her to continue. "But, er, I have felt him before. I guess that doesn't make any sense."

"What is SK-427?" he prodded.

Skylar sighed, "It's a long story."

"I have time."

"You won't judge, will you?"

"I won't," Tom promised.

"I don't even know if you will believe this," Skylar moaned.

"You'd be surprised at what I'd believe," he assured her.

Skylar gulped. "Alright, well, you know I've been at the Hope House..." he nodded, "I-, I've been receiving treatment for, er, for... because of, em, experiences that I had..."

Tom wordlessly leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands together over his stomach. It was obvious he wasn't going anywhere, and he knew she wasn't going anywhere either.

"It's not easy for me to open up about this," Skylar whimpered.

"You can do it, Skylar."

She took a few more deep breaths. "Are you sure you won't judge?"

"I still promise."

"Alright..." Skylar took yet another deep breath. "I-, I was a sex worker. There, I said it. I met a guy when I was a senior in high school, who, er, I thought he was my boyfriend, but he was a trafficker, and he, well, he took advantage of me. He got me addicted to drugs, and I, well, I started doing him favors, and then his friends favors, and then a lot of people favors. Mostly guys... er, yeah. I couldn't stop, I couldn't get out of it. I was so dirty, I had nowhere to go."

She swallowed. "It was bad. But then there was a ray of hope. I was selected to become part of something that would make me better, or so they said. They hooked me up to machines, injected stuff into me, made me drink bad tasting liquids and take weird pills." Skylar winced as the memories spilled forth into her mind. "I don't know if words can adequately describe the pain I experienced. It was like, my gut felt like it would burst, claws were raking and stabbing my brain, and most of my body ached. At the time it felt like it lasted for months, but in hindsight, I think it was only a few weeks. Whatever the case was, it was the scariest experience in my life, even scarier than when Charles kidnapped me and forced me to live with him, or when I first serviced that one guy who had a penchant for killing us when we displeased him, or even when that agent guy pointed that gun at me just now. I felt like I was gonna die so many times, and I can't say it wasn't a tempting notion. To escape from the hell I'd been through, the worse hell I was experiencing, and the probable hell I'd be returning too, oblivion would've been a sweet release from that."

Skylar inhaled. "I guess I should clarify, I wasn't the only person who was selected for this experiment, or whatever it was. There were originally ten of us, I just ended up being the only one to survive. We were all given serial numbers, which I thought was weird, but then again, the whole thing was weird. The people doing the experiments weren't pimps or the like, they were legit scientists, or so I thought. It didn't occur to me that they might have been government agents until tonight. Anyway, my number was SK-427. So yeah."

"That's not quite the entire story," Tom noted. "How did you survive?"

"I don't honestly know how, I just, I just wanted to survive. I wanted true freedom, not freedom from my pain and suffering, but freedom to hope, freedom to love, not that artificial love that I had been having with every other guy, but actual, heartfelt love, and freedom to have joy. Maybe the others gave up, found death to be a better alternative to living, or maybe I just got lucky.

"What was the point?" Tom asked, although Skylar sensed that he already knew the answer, or at least some of it, which was odd. Or maybe he just thought he knew...

"I, well, by the end of the treatment, or whatever it had been, I could, I can... feel people. Or feel their feelings if that makes sense. Although it's not like I sense their feelings as Doctor Appleton does, rather, I, well it's almost like I have a higher level of consciousness that feels the sensations and emotions of everyone around me. I can feel the chair beneath your butt, the sweat on your brow, the rough texture of your fingers rubbing against each other, the dull pain in your chest, and your... surprising, lack of disbelief at what I'm saying."

Skylar frowned, then continued. "It took me a good while to figure out what was happening to me, but my handlers took little time finding ways to profit off of me. With my new ability, if you can call it that, I was a queen in bed. I could figure out all of the buttons to push, often before my partners did. I was popular. In a way, it was fun, but I had smelled the first waft of hope and freedom in those dark cells of the lab I had been in. Even as my fame of sorts grew, I plotted my escape. As I learned more about the changes that had happened to me, I discovered additional abilities. I can cause people to see things, hear things, smell things..." As she said this, Skylar held her hand out and caused a rose to seemingly grow out of her palm. Tom leaned forward and sniffed it, his eyebrows rising as he caught its fragrance. Then Skylar blew on the flower and it vanished into dust. "...things that aren't really there. They do feel real though, don't they? I used this later power to create a scene, and in the ensuing chaos, I escaped."

Smiling, Skylar concluded her tale. "Free at last, I eventually found myself at the Hope House, where I received treatment for a lot of my ailments, where Doctor Appleton has been helping me learn to cope with my experiences. I was free, and I'd like to remain that way if possible. I want to use my freedom to rescue the thousands of other women and men still being held captive, give them the opportunity I have to live life to the fullest. I absolutely don't want to go back into bondage under the people who knew me in my old life. I have so much I want to do with my gifts, they shouldn't be used to line somebody's pockets, or whatever that guy wanted."

Skylar swallowed and locked eyes with the aging man, "Don't you agree?"

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