Skins: Part IV

Sasha Vasiliev, Vucari

The next morning, I woke up feeling Karee’s gentle breath on my neck, her powerful armored arms wrapped around my torso. It didn’t take long for my heart to start beating out of my chest.

“Karee?” I whispered.

She didn’t answer and I whispered her name again.

She stirred a little a moment later and I saw her eyes open. She yawned, giving me a close up view of Tzari denture. In addition to the tusks protruding from their mouth, they had twice the amount canines humans had and looked like she could tear flesh straight from a carcass. Having studied Tzaries I knew their ancestors and closest living relative species were a mix between a boar and an armadillo.

“Karee?”

“Gar?” She mumbled and she shook her head. “English…” She then muttered to herself. “Yes?”

“You can let me go now.”

She removed her arms from around my body and I quickly got up.

“Thank you…” I answered, still feeling a little flustered.

“Is something wrong?”

“No, I’m just surprised you didn’t wake me.”

“You were very tired. I do not know earth culture, but for Tzari it is normal for friends to share bed.”

“You think of me as your friend?”

“Why would I not?” She said, with a frown.

“No reason, I guess I’m just a little surprised. You were the first alien I’ve ever met, I never really thought I’d be friend with one.”

“You are my first human friend.” She confessed. “I have met many humans. But many not be good, call me Cerdo espacio or Cara ósea.” She let out a low growl at the memory. “Even not bad ones, not good. Fear Tzari, see us different from humans; as interesting thing but not person. But you are different from them.”

“I guess I just try to judge people for who they are rather than what they are.” I said with a shrug. “And I know what it’s like to be different…” I bit my lip at the memories.

“You look sad.” She said, putting an armored finger on my chin and raising my head ever so slightly. “Is that my fault?”

“No, just bad memories.” I sighed. “Many people on earth don’t like Rashkru like me, think we are sick and wrong.”

She let out a snarl in answer, exposing her rather sharp teeth. “That is why I stay away from humans; I do not mean to hurt you, but they are primitive.”

“It’s alright, I kind of agree with you. We have a long way to go.”

She put her arms around me and hugged me. Evidently that was a gesture both our species shared. Once she let go of me we prepared ourselves for our second day of school, which thankfully went smoothly, even if I had to help Karee understand some of the more complicated ideas of ethics class. As soon as we all arrived back at the house, Abigail called a meeting in the living room.

“Alright, I thought we should organize tasks around here.” She proposed.

We all agreed and she got a white board and placed it so we could view it. She quickly outlined all the things that needed done in terms of cleaning and people started negotiation what they were okay to do and what they preferred not to.  I took a few dishes chore, trading away vacuum and lawn mower duties. I couldn’t stand the noise.

“As much as I like cooking, I think we should do a rotation because cooking for so many people is way too much.” Abigail then said, people once more agreeing. “Since there’s fourteen of us and seven days a week, we should pair up and claim a day. How does that sound?”

“Uh… There’s sixteen of us.” Harley pointed out.

“Fredrika and Ruth don’t eat our food. It wouldn’t be fair to make them cook for us.”

I looked at the two of them. Ruth’s large lizard like form was apparently vegetarian, eating mostly raw greens, fruits and roots, while Fredrika with her more humanoid but very catlike body was the opposite; being an obligate carnivore that could only stand minimally cooked meat.

“What about Kylie?”

My eyes turned to her. Unlike Ruth and Fredrika who were mutant paramorphs, Kylie wasn’t human to begin with, being Avian. Avians had been the result of a less than ethical american experiment to create chimeric bodies and transplant the consciousness of humans.

“She’s Avian, they can eat just about anything.” I explained, drawing all eyes on me. “I studied them before…” I sheepishly added.

Explanations over, we all got into teams. Karee immediately found me.

“Do you want to be cooking mates?” She asked.

“Sure, although I’m not too great, I’m warning you.”

“And I am from other world.”

“Another world.” I corrected her, making her smile.

By the luck of the draw, it was our turn to cook the next day. After class we made a quick detour to the library, Karee wanting to get Tzari books to help me learn her language, having become dedicated for the task. As I looked around for a specific book, she browsed the next aisles for stuff. After a solid ten minutes and a half dozen search in the section, I didn’t find it. Someone had checked it out or misplaced it. So I went back to Karee’s side.

“The book isn’t here Karee, someone else must have gotten it out already. I’ll need to ask the librarian if there’s an electronic copy so—” I began speaking but as I turned the corner I found Karee with a black guy, looking at her a little weirdly. “Hi, are you new here too?”

“Yeah, my name’s Allen.”

“I’m Sasha.” I said with a smile and they looked me a little weirdly, I could imagine the gears in his head wondering if I was a lesbian or something. “First time meeting a Tzari?”

“Y-yeah.” He answered sheepishly.

“That’s the beauty of Ravenhold. Everyone’s welcome regardless of species, sex, gender and everything so long as they want to help people.” I checked my phone and saw the time. “We better go back if we don’t want Harley to be all melodramatic about dinner being late like last night.”

“I hope you settle well.” Karee declared as we left the library, bookless.

We went back to the house and into the kitchen where I checked the state of the pantry. Cooking wasn’t exactly my forte. My mum and dad were both restaurant owners and operated a Mongolian-Russian fusion kitchen but their passion hadn’t passed down to me. But I could handle myself if I had to.

“So I was wondering about something.” I began, drawing Karee’s attention as she looked through the fridge, seeming as if she was lost. “What do Tzaries eat? I mean, I’ve seen you eat our food, but what is your food like at home?”

“It is different, but not very so… Different part, but similar foods. Does that explain?”

“We have similar dishes but different ingredients?”

“Yes. But Tzari ingredients. But not eggs, eggs not common on Resh.” She said with a smile. “Breakfast is heavy meal, often stew cooked in evening and through the night for strength for the day. The middle of day meal is light and cold, Resh is very warm then; bread, fruits and…” She picked a piece of bread made a spreading motion.

“Spreads.”

“And spreads.” She confirmed. “Late day meal is also light, very quick before work continue. Evening meal is largest and longest, many dishes so family can spend time together. Resh has long days, thirty earth hours.”

I nodded and kept asking her about Tzari meals, thinking about how we could adapt them in the future. In the meantime, I opted to prepare Budaatai Khuurga, a mongolian rice dish my father would often make and taught Karee how to slice earth vegetables. Although she wasn’t familiar with the produce, she seemed to know the cooking technique well. About forty minutes later, we found ourself with a completed dish to serve.

So, are you hungry Karee? I feel like I could eat a buffalo.” I said once everyone else had taken their bowl. I filled two bowls for us and was about to join the others at the table when she spoke.

“No, wait.” She put down her bowl.

“Okay?” I blinked but put mine down too.

“Shekaree.” She said putting a hand on her chest. “You call me Shekaree now.”

Origins: Jaime 5

Into Darkness: Part Five

Three Years ago

Once I played ball, the pain stopped. All I had to do was hurt whoever the organization asked me to without asking questions. The first one had been hard, left me unable to sleep for weeks… The second one, not so much. The one after that even less so. After a while, I’d stopped counting, stopped remembering their faces. I was just a weapon, it was best not to think… it was easier not to care…

Roxanne was the only thing that brought a shred of humanity in my life. We had to survive she said, and that meant holding onto the tiniest fragment of ourselves. Every hobby, every thing we loved was important. And one of Roxanne’s was old school arcades.

But as we played a few rounds of an obscure tournament fighter, people massing around to watch Roxanne — apparently she was really good and known around the usual customers — I could hear them whispering, grimacing and pointing whenever they thought I wouldn’t notice; “look at her face!” “What’s wrong with her?”

“You win this round.” I muttered. I clenched my fists and made a run for the bathrooms, which much to my irritation couldn’t be locked. Roxanne walked in just a moment after me.

“Are you okay?”

“People, they’re staring at me. I can hear them saying shit.” I muttered, my hand instinctively rising to touch the right side of my face, feeling the scars. Although they’d healed, they hadn’t completely faded in four years.

I took out the comb I carried and redid my hair, trying to hide the scars further than they normally did. However Roxanne pushed the strands gently off my face.

“You shouldn’t have to hide your face. You’re beautiful just as you are.”

“Yeah, right.” I rolled my eyes.

“I’m serious.” She pushed my hair away from my eye and behind my ear. “You are beautiful.” She whispered. There was a quiet moment and her hand brushed mine… “I like you Jaime… I mean as more than friends…”

“You’re…”

“I’m gay. Jaime, do you like me?”

“I don’t know.” I muttered. “I never wanted to think about those things…” After what my father had done, the idea of letting someone touch me the way he had had become terrifying.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to give me an answer now.” She said, her tone a little sadder than she’d intended it to be. “How about we ditch these guys and get you a little pick me up?” She then added, forcing herself to be more upbeat.

“That sounds nice.”

“To the pancake house we go!”

“You know me too well.” I snickered.

She took my hand and I didn’t push her away. We walked out together, ignoring the stares and hushed whispers.

***

Four months later

In the end, I said yes so Roxanne and I became a thing. I had no clue if I was even into girls but I didn’t really want to think about it too much. I just needed her by my side to keep me sane, if that meant being her girlfriend than it was a fair trade. Maybe because I’d told her about my father, she hadn’t tried to push things any further, which suited me.

On a chilly summer night, I was just coming out of the shower when I heard the front door open, I peeked down the stairs and saw Roxanne standing in the entrance. She was shaking, blood splattered all over her clothes.

“Roxanne?” I rushed to her side. “Are you hurt?”

“It’s not mine… Jonas…” She mumbled, still in shock. Jonas was one of the other like us, one who could manipulate fire. “He… He…” She couldn’t finish her sentence.

“It’s alright, come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

She didn’t resist as I guided her to the bathroom, helped her undress (but keeping her underwear on) and then helped her to climb into the bath combo. She just sat at the bottom as I used the handheld showerhead and a clean cloth to wiped the blood away.

When she was clean, I helped her out and practically carried her our bedroom, setting her down in her bed while I sat next to her. She rested her head on my laps, wearing nothing but a towel and her soaked underwear, crying gently until she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Just like the first night after I’d been freed from the basement dungeon but that time the roles had been reversed.

As she’d slept I’d gotten the chance to ask Mr. Neville about what had happened and to my surprise he had answered. At least in the vague details, about how an operation had been botched and Jonas was dead or captured.

When Roxanne finally woke up in the morning, she’d slept almost twelve hours and yet looked like she’d only been asleep for two.

“How are you?” I asked, coming to her side.

“Okay…” She muttered.

“Let me get you some tea.”

She nodded and I went into the kitchen, preparing some green tea just as she liked it and some toasts. When I came back upstairs, Roxanne was still sitting on the bed, half naked and rocking gently, her expression blank. I set the plate and cup on the dresser next to her bed and she barely reacted.

“Do you want to talk?”

She shook her head and reluctantly dove into her breakfast in silence.

“The Nevilles are out so how about we go out and catch some bugs today?” I proposed once she was finished.

“You want to catch bugs with me?”

“I hate bugs, but you you like them and I think I should do something for you. I mean you tolerate my pancake addiction. And right now, doing something silly sounds like what you need.” To be fair, it wasn’t really bugs I hated so much as any kind of nature.

She reluctantly followed me after we grabbed her gear and headed off into a nearby clearing. Thankfully after a few minutes, her passion took over, quickly coming to teach me what I was doing wrong; namely everything, but the fact I wasn’t dousing the field in gasoline and throwing a lit match was a good start.

When she decided it was time to head home, she had a sizable bounty of catches she’d captured and killed even if she refused to use her power, citing ‘fair play’ against the bugs. Mostly it was some beetles, a few butterflies and a really shiny dragonfly.

“I am beyond tired!” She declared flopping on her bed. “But we got some great catches.”

“If you say so, they all look ugly and weird to me.”

“Oh come on, look at that Calligrapha beetle.” She said, showing me a bright green beetle with black wiggly lines.

“Still gross. I’ll stick with actually cute animals, thank you very much.”

“If you could get a pet, what would it be?” She asked, still lying down.

“I dunno, probably a dog.” I said with a shrug before lying down next to her.

“What kind?”

“Probably an american pit bull terrier. People give ‘em a bad rap but I had a friend who had one and she was super sweet.”

I spent a few minutes talking about dogs, people around me had often owned them but my father had always been strictly anti-pet, so I’d had to content myself befriending them during our visits or those times I’d meet them in the neighborhood. As I talked, Roxanne head rested on my shoulder.

“Are you alright?”

“I am.” She gently twisted my head and kissed me. “Jaime… I want you…” She whispered in my ear.

“Want me?” I hadn’t realized I’d stopped breathing at the words.

“You know?”

She didn’t have to specify further… I shivered at the thought. In four months we’d avoided it. But now the time had come. A million thoughts raced through my head, I wanted to run, but I didn’t have the strength. I didn’t want to risk losing her if I did…

“You don’t have to…”

“It’s alright.” I muttered.

She unbuttoned my jeans. I didn’t protest and stopped myself from flinching, biting back any memories. Maybe with her, it was going to be different… I removed her shirt and she pushed me onto her bed, taking my pants off.

***

We laid together in bed, Roxanne holding my naked, sweat covered body with her arms. I could feel her breath on my neck as I laid aware. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop thinking…

“Are you alright?” She asked, whispering to my ear.

“I just thought it would hurt…” I answered. “That it would send me back to those days…” Her grip around me tightened and she pressed her head against my shoulder.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know…” I went quiet for a moment. “It was different… Maybe because you’re a girl.”

She gave me a hug. “I’m here for you Jaime.”

I nodded. “It started after my mom was taken away…” I muttered after a moment.

“Was taken away?”

“They put her in a mental hospital after she…” I gulped at the memory. “She tried to drown me…”

“Oh my god…”

“I was in the bathtub playing, she was watching over me and then it just happened…” I could feel my hands shaking. I wrapped my arms around my body. “My dad came in just in time… She kept saying it was to save me from the darkness…”

“Jesus Christ!” She screamed before wrapping her arms around me.

“It was a long time ago.” I said, but it wasn’t right. Seven years later and I still couldn’t swim or take a bath, even showers risked my mind wandering back… “I’m fine.”

There was a moment of silence.

“There’s something I need to say… I lied to you.” Roxanne said breaking it.

“About?”

“My parents dying.” She said and I frowned. “Well, not entirely. My dad died in that accident, but my mom survived.”

“How did you get here then?”

“After my dad died, my mom decided to start over with a clean slate, no baggage…” She muttered. “She dumped me in the foster care system and just left. She never saw me again. I tracked her down a few months ago. She’s living in Atlantic city with a new husband and two new kids, changed her name even.”

“Did you talk to her?”

“No, I snuck in with my power. There wasn’t anything of me, no pictures, no nothing… She took care of me for seven years and then just erased me from her life.”

I hugged her. As terrible as my parents had been, as much as they had hurt me they had cared for me, they’d wanted me. Roxanne had just been thrown away like garbage.

“Want me to wreck her shit?”

She let out a sad snicker. “That sounds really tempting… But we shouldn’t get in trouble, she’s not worth it.”

She wrapped her arms around my belly and dragged my closer, resting our bodies against one another.

“I love you.” She muttered.

I couldn’t find it in me to answer her…

Marked for Death: Part VII

Marked for Death

Part VII: Coming Out

Just a little before dinner, everyone came back from classes, Emma included. She came and found me right in the sunroom where she’d left me in the morning.

“Haven’t moved an inch, have you?”

“Why would I? It’s so comfy.”

“Well, lucky for you, I wrote down notes for all those classes you’ve missed.” She said holding up a note pad.

“Thank you.” She gave it to me and I kissed her cheek. “So, how was your day of masquerading as a Ravenhold student?”

“Cool I guess. The teachers didn’t mind my presence, I said I’d take notes. Although your gym teacher made me run the training regiment.”

“Not too hard?”

“I’ve hard worse.” She said with a smirk.

“Tyler, possibly Amber and I are going to see a movie tomorrow. Are you in?”

“Sure, I guess.” She said sitting down next to me. “Are you sure you didn’t want me by your side?”

“It’s alright, I was just reading all day.”

“Well your friends are pretty interesting. Especially the little Itharii.” She said with a smirk. “Kept calling me your clutchmate and being super excited to talk to me, even invited me to play boardgames with them.”

“That’s Ahti for you.”

I got up and Emma helped me get all my things back to my room before we joined Ahti’s boardgaming run along with Rowan. The two of them had formed an odd pair. In the last few weeks, they’d gotten a lot closer, even having become sleeping buddy. Which suited me, as much as I liked Ahti, sleeping with someone other than my girlfriend felt wrong…

We were halfway into a game when everyone’s ID badges let out a beep and recalled us to the dorm where I already was. I joined the others assembling in the common room and we all looked at each other, not knowing what was up.

A few minutes later Mr. Martin came in for a surprise inspection, doing a quick tour of the rooms, noting only a handful of infractions of the housing rules, including Imugi whom I wasn’t technically allowed to have.  He quickly told me how to register Imugi. Since she was living in an aquarium, it was just a matter of getting an ‘all-clear’ from a vet that she wasn’t dangerous and confirming it with administration.

“Now to the other reason I came here.”

He walked over to the door and opened it, letting a flood of people walk into the houses. By the time my brain had processed what was happening, my parents were by my side.

“Mom? Dad?” I mumbled, my brain still processing everything.

“It’s us darling.” My mom said coming closer and hugging me.

“I’ve missed you so much.” I returned the hug tightly.

“We’ve missed you too.” My dad said, doubling the hug on me.

“You left in such a hurry, we never had time to properly talk about what happened and then your doctor called us, said you were having heart surgery…”

“It’s been kind of crazy, running away, getting to stay here, adjusting to my new powers, then the surgery. I haven’t really had the spoons to keep in touch.”

“That’s alright.” Mom answered.

They let me go and I guided them to the upstairs living room which had yet to be claimed by one of the visiting families.

“How have you been?”

“I’ve been dealing with everything alright…” I sighed. “It’s been stressful, wondering every moment how you are all doing.”

“What happened back home?”

“Kind of a long story… I hope you don’t mind but I’ve got to go to the bathroom first.” I lied.

“Of course.”

I practically ran to the bathroom, my thoughts simultaneously at a standstill and going a hundred miles an hour. What was I supposed to even say? It wasn’t like I could tell anything resembling the truth without them freaking out…

I splashed my face with cold water, hoping it’d help clear my thoughts but it didn’t. Only a moment later the door opened and via the mirror I saw Amber come in. I turned around and she came forward, gently slipping her hands over my hip, she dropped a quick kiss on my lips before pressing her forehead against mine.

“Are you okay?” She whispered.

“I don’t know…” I sighed. “As much as I’m glad to see my parents, I don’t feel like I can tell them anything…”

“About me?”

“Partly, I don’t know what they’d think… But also about the whole magic thing, I’m schizophrenic, there’s no way they’ll believe me…”

“Are you? Not to sound weird, but couldn’t your schizophrenia just be another magical thingy?”

“I kind of doubt it.” I said with a chuckle. “Unless you know the magical or spiritual significance of hearing the voice of a nagging middle age woman annoying me about anything, hearing my sister remind me of stuff or that one voice that just spouts random words.” When it came to hallucinating, those three voices were around ninety percent of it, with my meds I was pretty darned stable. 

“Okay, touché.” She said with a smirk.

“But what about you?”

“What about me?”

“I noticed nobody’s there for you.”

She bit her lip. “It’s alright. I didn’t really expect my parents to come. They’re probably busy with something more important than me… Just like usual, all because I wasn’t born perfect like June…”

“Nobody’s born perfect, Amber.”

She let out a dry laugh at my comment.

“You don’t understand.” She sighed in frustration.

“What is it then?”

“I wasn’t born like most kids.” She said, pausing briefly. “And I don’t mean that in the ‘Special way’ I mean I wasn’t given birth to… June and I were made in a lab, our parents wanted the perfect children; stronger, healthier, smarter than normal. They removed all the bad bits of DNA and added what they wanted, including the VNG genes so we’d be mutant. Out of a dozen embryos, only June and I survived the treatments. They got two daughters worth over three million dollars a head. They paid for perfection and all they got was me…”

I couldn’t find the words to answer. I knew these designer babies technically existed for the filthy rich, but knowing Amber had been the result of one of those programs shocked me… And all it had brought her was pain…

“June was everything they wanted… Successful at everything she tried; academically, socially and physically. She was one of the top students here, she fought in the Tzari war and survived. And then she died like an idiot for me…” She clenched her fists and jaw. “She pushed me away from the car, letting it and the drunken asshole hit her instead… I would’ve lived, I’m tougher than she was…” Tears poured down her face at full volume, her words interrupted by the periodical sob.

I wrapped my arms around her, squeezing as tightly as I could.

“It’s my fault she’s dead…”

“Don’t say that, it’s not true.”

“Well they sure as hell see it that way!” She shouted back before driving her nails into her skin, right where the scars ran down her wrists. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have shouted.”

“It’s fine, I know you’re not angry at me. You have every right to be upset at how your parents treated you.”

She just leaned into me, burying her face in my shirt for a moment. I held her, the two of us quietly embracing until she calmed down.

“You go first, I’ll leave in a minute, that way nobody will notice.”

“You know what? No.”

“No?”

“I don’t want to push you away and hide you. I’m going to tell my parents about you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Hell no… But I have to. I can’t keep hiding from everything and I don’t want to spend the next few hours or days away from you when I need you by my side.”

We shared one long passionate deep kiss, the type we only shared during those rare moments when we were away from everyone’s sight.

“I’m right behind you, just give me a sign and I’ll come over?”

“That works.” I nodded.

I took a minute to pump myself before going out the bathroom and climbing the stairs back up. Amber came up with me but stayed in the stairwell, waiting for me to call her over.

“Sorry I’m back.” I said sitting down.

“So, what happened?” Emma asked, undermining my confidence and plan to tell them about Amber…

“It’s complicated…” I sighed. “I got caught in a robbery during lunch, a hero showed up and one of the Yakuza took me hostage, which caused my powers to manifest. I got away but the Yakuza tracked me down, they took what happened very personally to say the least…”

It wasn’t the whole truth. The Shigeo-kai wouldn’t have been too bothered if I’d just been a mutant, but they were very serious about maintaining their grasp on the magical community of San Francisco… On top of that, I had the guts to have been born from a Korean family. They still had very imperialistic attitude and weren’t too kind of non-Japanese Asian people… especially Koreans.

“So I’m here at least until things have had the time to cool down.” Another big fat lie. With the stunt Síthmaith had pulled the chances they’d forget was about zero. If anything they were probably even more determined to get me… “I’m still not sure if I really want to be a hero.” That one was true, even after nearly a month I hadn’t really had the time or energy to ponder the question.

“Whatever you choose, we’re right behind you.” My dad said.

There was a moment of silence and I refocused myself.

I took a deep breath. “Mom, dad… There’s something else I want to talk about… Or rather someone I’d like you to meet…” I looked at Amber and she walked toward us.

“This…” I paused, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Is my girlfriend, Amber.”

“Your girlfriend?” My dad echoed, it wasn’t really a question.

It took a second for the words to come out of my throat. “I’m gay.”

My father got up, all quiet, and stepped toward me. I could feel my power stirring in my guts, awakened by the anxiety…

And then he wrapped his arms around me.

“I’m so proud of you.” He whispered, squeezing me even stronger.

“You are?”

“I takes courage to live your life the way you are.”

“And I still love you.” My mom said, kissing my forehead. “Emma?”

“Way ahead of you both on the news.” She said with a grin. “About time you finally told them.” She gave me a quick hug. “Welcome to the family Amber.” She then added, hugging Amber who froze.

“Thanks…” She said with a melancholic smile.

We talked about everything and nothing for a few minutes, my parents drilling Amber on a thousand different subjects until the call for dinner was rung. All the while Amber looked a little overwhelmed…

“Are you okay?” I whispered, taking her apart from the group.

“Just a little overwhelmed… I’m not used to seeing a family actually being a family.”

I gave her a hug.

“Well, you’ve heard them. You’re always welcome at our home, I know it’s a little far and we’re kind of stuck here, but I guess it’s the thought that count. And hey, maybe one day we’ll actually be free from all the drama and bullcrap.”

“I’ll have something to look forward to for once.”

“That’s the right attitude.”

Mending: Part I

Charlie Arc II: Mending

Part I: Routine Break

Three weeks later

Things slowed down a little over the next few weeks. Stanko had even gone back on his meds with only one minor incident the result of which now rested in a cage in the science lab.

“Who’s a good little robo-crab?” Yougen said in a cutesy voice, wiggling an AAA battery in front of the bot in the cage. “Do you want the battery? Yes you do.” Out of everyone she seemed to like the thing.

The robot had been made by Stanko during one of his manic phase and promptly forgotten about. As a result it had spent a week raiding the house for batteries, which it apparently ate… Yougen dropped the battery inside only for the robot to jump on it, remove the top and drink the acid inside. Once that was done, the little robot approached her hand and let itself be pet, letting out a musical series of beeps.

“You need a better name than robo-crab.” Yougen said after a pause. She took a moment more to think about it. “How about Zhan? In my home language it means cog. That’s a good name for you, isn’t it?”

“Yougen, we’ll be late for History class if we don’t go soon.” Sanjay called out to her. After hanging out the day before, the two had seemed to have gotten a bit closer.

With Yougen in now following us we went to Dr. Chrononaut’s world history class which passed by in a hurry, freeing us from school for the day. We all made our way to the house where Caroline jumped into the kitchen.

“Well, I better get to making dinner.” She said. “Allen, are you up for helping me?” She turned around to face him. In the past few weeks he’d become her official cooking partner. I was a little relieved she was cooking, the night prior Sanjay had taken over and subjected us to the inhumane torture known as vegetarian cooking, which Caroline had even forced me to eat…

“Yeah sure.” He said.

“Alright, guess I’ll go hangout with Nibbles, see how his cardboard condo is doing.”

She gave forward and gave me a few kisses. Although she still hadn’t figured out her identity completely, she sure as heck liked getting that PDA action on. When we parted ways, I noticed Allen was staring at the floor, desperately trying not to acknowledge us. By some kind of miracle he’d yet to earn himself a beating from offending someone, but he was still a narrow minded jerk.

I went into our room where Nibbles was busy renovating his cardboard box, adding a brand new door to one side by chewing through. After managing to convince him to step out of the bedroom and into the common room, I set him up with some nice arugula before playing a game of bunny bowling with him; with him as the ball knocking over the pins and Ahti watching us like it was the strangest thing they had ever seen.

A few minutes later, there was a massive scream echoing through the house, quickly followed by Jaeger running downstairs and dunking his head in the sink, rinsing his tongue. I couldn’t help but grin and laugh.

“You! You did this” He said spinning around and pointing at me. I didn’t bother to even try to deny it. “This is war!”

“Bring it on batface. I can take you.”

He stormed off, leaving everyone to stare at me.

“What exactly did you do?” Caroline asked.

“I put habanero extract in his jam cookies.”

“Not the ones I made?” She said with a frown.

“Yeah…”

“I worked really hard on those.” She said a hand on her hips. “And you ruined them.”

“I just spiked a few of those in his room, most are still fine. So it’ll be like playing roulette for him.”

“That’s still really crappy of you to ruin something I put a lot of work into. And now he’s going to get back at you.”

“I didn’t think it’d be that big a deal.” I said and she sighed in answer.

“I swear, if I get caught in one of your stupid pranks, I’m going to kick both of your asses.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

She gave me a look in return before quietly returning to her pots and pans. Okay, she was pretty mad. Mad enough to make me eat tofu… You sleep in your own bed kind of mad too… 

***

She kind of kept her distance through most of the next day, even working all alone in homeroom. I’d definitely messed up and I knew it… Once classes ended she walked right past me and joined Allen to chat. 

“Caroline?” She turned around. ““Are you still mad at me?” I asked.

She stopped and crossed her arms. “A little.”

“I’m sorry… I just wanted to get back at Jaeger for teasing me. I didn’t think about how you were the one who made those cookies. I promise I won’t do it again.” She turned around and looked at me, scrutinizing my expression. “If I’d known it would’ve hurt your feelings, I would’ve never done it.”

“Alright.” She sighed. “But you’re also going to apologize to Sanjay for being grumpy and difficult the other night.”

“Yes Ma’am.” I mumbled to which she rolled her eyes. “Alright, I’ll go talk to him. I still think vegetarian food is yucky, but you’re right, he worked hard on it and I was a brat about it…” 

She seemed satisfied, her stance getting a little more relaxed. “Since there’s plenty of time before dinner, how about we get some fresh air and sun before the weather gets colder?” She offered. 

It might have been late in September, but the summer warmth had decided to do one last comeback before giving in to fall properly.

“Sure, we could hang out in the Ravenhold park. Do some skateboarding or something?”

“After last time, I am so not jumping on one of these things ever again.” 

Out of all the amazing gifts Caroline had, balance was seemingly not one of them. After convincing her to try skateboarding one afternoon all she’d gotten from it was a lot of frustration and some scraped knees.

“You don’t have to, I’ve got roller skates or—”

“I’ll be fine walking.” She said with a smile.

“Alright, whatever works for you.”

We took a quick detour to the house to get our things before going to the park behind the administration. A few people were hanging about; playing frisbee and soccer, one girl was walking her service dog while others were just hanging around on a blanket, talking and eating. I’d always liked the park, it wasn’t quite a real skatepark level great but the different levels from the hilly terrains, mix of paved areas and decorations made for a good place to practice when Ian would drag me over. Caroline found a spot to sit by a fountain and took out her tablet, browsing idly as I skated around.

“What are you looking at?” I asked, coming back toward her.

“Nothing!” She said flattening the screen against her belly.

“Woah, okay… Nevermind then.”

“Wait…” She let out a sigh. “You just startled me. If I show you, do you promise you won’t tell anyone, especially not your dad or the teachers?”

“Yeah, sure.” I cautiously sat next to her. “You’re not going to tell me you’re really a serial killer, are you?”

“Haha. Very funny.”

She showed me the tablet, visibly tensing as I read. It was a database entry on Chat Noir, leader of a goofy group of animal themed supervillains; the Menagerie.

“Chat Noir, eh? I didn’t know you were into furries. Maybe I should put a pair of cat’s ears on too.” I teased her but she didn’t find it funny. “But in all seriousness, why are you interested in him? He’s just a low-tier burglar.”

“Because he’s my dad.”

“He’s your dad?”

“I only learned about it recently. He and my mom had a thing when she was in college, she knew he was a villain but they broke up before he even knew I was born, so I’ve never met him.”

“Oh.”

“Ravenhold doesn’t know, nobody but my mom and I do, actually, and I’m kind of scared people would treatment differently if they did. Like they’d think there’s something suspicious about why I came here, but I didn’t even know before I came here. My mom told me while we were waiting for the ferry…” As she talked, her voice became shakier, her body language upset. I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her.

“Hey, relax. You don’t have to get upset.” She tensed a bit. “I get it and I swear I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s no biggie, but you’re welcome.”

She put a hand on my cheek and pulled us closer, our lips meeting halfway between us. After last night’s mini-argument, I didn’t hold back, going all in. The people watching not mattering.

“So, do you want to go to my house this weekend?” I asked, taking a moment to catch my breath.

“Eh, we’ve been there the last three times, I think it’d be nice to spend one with the rest of the class. And beside, there’s never anything good in the kitchen at your place.”

“My dad orders the best food you can get.”

“Yeah, but it lacks the most important ingredient; homemade-infused love.” She said.

I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. If there was one thing I didn’t really understand it was her attitude toward food, to me food was just fuel but to her it was like art.

“Not my fault you can’t see the value of a home cooked meal over catering or deliveries. Which reminds me, I need to take the brisket out of the oven soon if Allen hasn’t. Consider yourself lucky he wanted to make barbecue, otherwise it’d be more veggie food tonight.” In retribution for my brattiest, Caroline had continued to subject me to the horrors of veggies even at breakfast, but thankfully Allen had come to my rescue by making some smoked brisket. 

We went back to the dorm only for an alert calling us back there to play on our ID. I wasn’t surprised when Mr. Martin showed up a few minutes later, allegedly to inspect the house. After a quick tour he opened the door and a flood of people came in, my dad and Jason included.

“Oh hi dad.” I said with a wave.

“You don’t look very surprised to see what’s going on.”

“Dad, I’ve been coming here since I was six. I know exactly how everything works, including the ‘surprise’ parents visit you organize every year. And yes I made sure to keep it a secret.”

“That’s nice of you.”

“Since we saw each other like four days ago, how about I show you Caroline’s folks?”

“That’d be fun.”

I scouted the crowd, quickly finding Caroline, her giant mom, two elderly people I assumed to be her grandparents and a girl Caroline’s age. That one I hadn’t met or heard of before.

Gadgets & People: Part II

Gadgets & People

Part II: Culinary Exchanges

When the three of us came back into the house we quickly noticed that unlike most days, Caroline hadn’t prepared food, the kitchen uncharacteristically empty.

“Caroline’s not cooking tonight?” I asked Allen who was just hanging around with his tablet.

“She had to go see the mechanic for her leg.” Allen said.

“Ah.” I looked around and saw most of the others were just pigging out on junk food. “I better get cooking then.” I said, going behind the counter and inspecting the fridge and pantry and quickly making a simple menu.

“You can cook too?”

“A bit. I sometimes babysit my three years old sister Vani so I made sure she would eat alright.” I said. “Picked up most of what I know from my other sister, Sana.”

“Are you all vegetarians?”

“All except Vani. My step mum, my dad and I for religious reasons. Sana’s not very religious but her clique is made of vegan granola girl types.”

“They let Vani go against your faith?”

“Of course… My father and step-mum didn’t force anything on us. They introduced us to their faith but they never made us go to temple or pray if we didn’t want to. Vani might only be three years old but we respect her love for fish.”

By Allen’s silent reaction, I had a feeling it hadn’t been the same for him.

“If you don’t eat fish how did she come to like it?”

“Her best friend at daycare is a little Itharii named Uta. They have lots of playdates together.”

The All-Worlds daycare center was specialized in alien juvenile care but they still accepted some humans. My step-mum had fought tooth and nail to make sure Vani could attend, believing a diverse environment was best for the little terror. Of course she wasn’t a terror there, only at home. Outside our house she was an angel according to her educators.

“So, want to lend a hand? I heard you were Caroline’s right hand.”

“Yeah sure. Although I don’t know much about Indian food.” He said. “I mean I assume you’re making that since you’re Indian and all.”

“You assumed right about the food, although I’m British with Tamil ancestry. Not Indian.” I corrected him.

“Tamil?”

“Indian’s a nationality, not an ethnicity. And India’s really big, saying ‘Indian is about as accurate as saying someone’s European or north american. My grandparents were from the Tamil Nadu province and from the Tamil ethnic group.” He just nodded quietly, probably afraid to put his foot up his mouth any further.

Rather than make a big deal out of it, I just jumped on the stove, teaching him how to make chole masala and biryani. He went along with my instructions and knew how to handle ingredients well.

Thankfully he didn’t do the ‘but what about bacon’ spiel some people would make when they learned I was vegetarian, ignoring the fact I had actually eaten meat in the past. I knew what I was ‘missing’ and didn’t really care.  Instead Allen opted to fill the silence talking about food, even mentioning vegetarian dishes such as an eggplant lasagna recipe his mother would make or chipotle barbecue corn that did sound appetizing. Dinner was almost ready when Caroline showed up, holding hands with Charlie, the two of whom had become a thing.

“Oooh, what’s this?” Caroline said, looking at the stove.

“Hey Caroline. Dinner should be ready in about four or five minutes.”

“You made dinner? Gosh darn it.” She said crossing her arms.

“Yes… what’s wrong?” I asked with a frown.

“I totally would’ve loved to cook with you and learn your recipes. But I missed the chance!” She said purposefully layering the melodrama thick, making me smirk. “How will I ever live with myself now?” By the end of it, she couldn’t stop herself from grinning.

“I can teach you another time.”

“That’d be great.” She said, clearly excited. She went over to the stove and inspected the content. “Looks and smell amazing.”

“Thanks, it’s a family recipe.” I did a last check up on the rice and found it just right, meaning everything was ready. I rang the little bell Caroline kept on the counter to announce meal times. Everyone who was there —Annabelle and Amber having left the island for the former’s medical treatment— seemed grateful enough, Ahti maybe a little too happy, until it came Charlie’s turn to be served. I scooped a portion onto a plate for her only for her to stare at it weirdly.

“What’s that?” She asked looking at me like I’d given her some unidentifiable slop fit for pigs.

“Chole Masala and biryani; it’s a type of chickpea curry and a vegetable pilaf-like rice.”

“I think you got me mistaken. Nibbles is the rabbit, this is like rabbit food.”

I just glared at her.

“I’m a growing girl.” She said. “I need like actual food.”

“There’s only one person in the world I cook meat for and it’s a tiny mischievous Tamil girl who loves fish. While you might have got the tiny part right, you’re not her.” While I normally wouldn’t sink so low, Charlie’s attitude was rotten. So much for gratitude… “If you’re not happy then don’t eat it.”

“Damn it, not you too.” She grumbled.

“Oh my god…” Caroline sighed, putting the plate in Charlie’s hand before dragging her by the ear away to the kitchen table. “Be a big girl, just eat it and be thankful he did something.” As she dragged her away, she continued scolding her girlfriend. I couldn’t help but snicker at the gesture.

I served myself last, right after Allen whom I thanked again.

“Have you seen Jaeger? He didn’t get his meal.” I asked but he shrugged.

“He went out, said he needed some air after all that homework.” Yougen said with a shrug.

“Oh okay.”

I dug into my dinner and once I was done, I started working on the dishes only for Caroline to come over.

“Sorry about Charlie.” She said. “She can be really bratty. I swear she eats nothing but meat, sweets, bread, pasta and rice. She ‘hates vegetables’ she says.” Caroline made sure to put Charlie’s words in air quotes.

“It’s fine.” I sighed.

“It’s really not. I’ll kick her butt if she does it again next time.”

“I’ll hold you to that promise.”

“I’ll do it. Cross my heart.” She said, making the cross sign. “Heck, we’re all going vegetarian for the next few days, until she change her mind, that’ll teach her to be a brat.”

“You’re a scary girl Caroline, I wouldn’t want to cross you.” I answered with a smirk. The Rook and now Charlie, she had a way of getting to people who annoyed her.

Origins: Jaime 4

Into Darkness: Part Four

Four Years Ago

I woke up late that night. I was still in Roxanne’s bed. Roxanne was lying beside me, still fully clothed, having let me drag all the covers in my sleep.

“Roxanne? Are you asleep?”

“Jaime?” She said, rising up.

“I must have fallen asleep…” I said, stupidly pointing out the obvious.

“How are you feeling?”

“I don’t know…” I muttered. Even though the memory of that morning was still fresh on my mind, the pain and horror had given way to emptiness.

There was a long moment of silence as we both tried to think of something to say. It was Roxanne that broke the silence first.

“You missed dinner,” She began, “so why don’t we go out and get you something to eat or drink, anything. It’s my treat.”

“Are we allowed to go outside?”

“They don’t mind, we get some slack in what we do since they know we can’t go anywhere.” She said with a shrug. “But if they call, drop anything and run back, don’t make them wait.”

I nodded and we went outside into the snow covered town. It had been late in September when Mr. Neville had taken me in. Somewhere around two months had passed, trapped in a cell.

“Has nobody come to check up on me, noticed I was gone?” I asked. I knew there wasn’t really anyone. Although my mother was alive, she wasn’t allowed anywhere near me…

“The foster system sent someone but they were prepared, they have a doppelganger on call.”

“A what?”

“Someone who can look like you. It was hard to listen to, seeing it talk about how well you’d adjusted there. And how sorry you were they had to wait because you were ‘hanging out with your new friends’”

I nodded.

“What are you in the mood for? There’s a strip mall a few blocks ahead they have a decent fast food, a late night grocery and a twenty-four hour pancake house”

“Pancakes sounds amazing right now”

“Again?” She said, raising a brow. “I’m starting to think you’re an addict, it’s like eighty percent of your diet girl.”

For the first time in forever, I actually laughed. Which brought a smile to her lips.

“I just like them.”

“Pancakes it is.”

We went to a local pancake house in the strip mall she’d told me about, taking a quiet corner and letting me order whatever I wanted; gorging on pancakes and bacon. When we were done, the server came to pick up the check. When Roxanne opened her wallet I saw a few hundred bills in there.

“Where did you get all that money?” I whispered, making sure nobody would overhear.

“The organization gave it to me.”

“They pay you?”

She nodded. “And it’s not bad, money’s not a problem with the organization that’s for sure. Carrot and the stick y’know. They hurt us if we don’t comply and give us whatever we want if we do.”

“What do we do exactly?”

“There’s a park we passed on the way here, there’s never anyone in it. We can talk safely there if you’d like.” She answered back.

I nodded, she finished paying the bill and we walked halfway back to the house only to stop in a small park filled with invasive blackberry bushes.

“What do they want from us?”

“Whatever we can accomplish. With my power, they typically want me to steal things, hurt people discretely or spy on them. I got it easier than most I guess.”

“What can you do?”

Rather than tell me, she showed me; disappearing before my eyes.

“Woah…”

“I can’t be seen, not even by infravision.” She said, still invisible “I can’t be heard unless I want to be, I have no scent either. Only thing that can detect me is touch. It wasn’t always like that. At first it was just sight, but when I came here they changed it.” Her explanation over she became visible again.

“They did they experiment on you too?”

“Yes, although. It was probably different from you. From what I’ve gathered Alcastiel, that’s the local director is trying to improve the formula. While it made my powers stronger, if I use them for more than a few minutes, I get terrible migraines. I know someone else who bleeds the eye and nose since his treatment.”

“I thought the director was Circe, they called her that.”

“You saw Circe? Are you sure?”

“Yes, why? Isn’t that normal?”

“Heck no, she’s an urban legend. A mysterious figure who gives powers to those who seek them, offering them in exchange for whatever she needs. It’s very faustian.”

“Faustian?”

“It’s from a fairy tale, nevermind. If you really saw her then they must have sought outside help…”

“The drug, they gave us. Is it real? I’ve felt withdrawal, but how do we know it’ll be fatal.”

“I’ve seen one of the others who decided to try to get off. Fuckers even rounded us up to watch. He made it to the fourth day after he was due before his heart gave up, even begged them to dose him again…”

“Jesus mio…” I muttered, echoing my father and how he’d always slip back into his native Spanish whenever he’d be upset or surprised… “Wait, you said someone else? There are more of us?”

“From the people I’ve met, I think there are at least a half dozen places like ours. They take in superpowered kids from the system, make them disappear. I think the treatment works best with young people, it explains why they are using us as more than test subjects. But that last part just speculation on my parts.”

“Who are they?”

“I don’t know. They’re always on the move, always changing. From what I understand, whenever the authorities get anywhere close they shut down everything, burn the evidence and take on a new name.” She sighed. “I don’t know much else, only what little I could piece together and overhear. They’re preparing for a war, like humans versus mutants they believe is coming…”

“I see.”  

There was a moment of silence as I processed everything she’d said.

“Can I ask something personal?” I asked.

“I guess you can.”

“How did you get here?”

“My parents died years ago in a car crash.” She said with a sigh. “I was so young that I don’t remember them much at all, but not young enough to be adopted I guess.” She said. “I did the circuit of shitty foster parents but every time I kept running so eventually they put me in a cell. The universe must have had a weird sense of humor and wanted me to get away because it’s there I developed my powers. What about you, do you feel like sharing?”

“Dad’s dead, mom’s not allowed to be near me. Did the abusive fosters too until my power bashed my foster dad’s head in. That got me to juvie, then the Nevilles got me.

“How did you father die?”

“Same fire I got my burns from… I never thought I’d miss him, but here I am…”

“Bad relationship?”

I bit my lips hard, bringing my knees to my chin. “He… did things to me…” Was all I could make myself say. She didn’t need to hear anymore to understand… Why the hell was I even telling her that? I’d never told anyone, not the dozens of shrinks they’d made me see… Then again they were always more interested in what my mom had tried to do to me…

“Oh crap, shit man, I’m sorry.”

“At least he didn’t lock me up in a dungeon and torture me, right?” I joked.

She didn’t laugh at that, instead putting her arms around me but I jerked her away.

“I don’t like being touched.”

“Oh of course, sorry.”

“Let’s just go back.” I said.

“Alright.”

She reached out to give me another hug but stopped herself before she did, instead just getting up and taking the lead.

Past Scars: Part II

Past Scars

Part II: Old Flames

“What are you doing here Roxanne?”

“I wanted to see you.” She said, her voice almost pleading. 

“The organization—”

“Doesn’t know I’m here. You know that they give me some leeway, after all it’s not like I can run away. Plus it’s hard to keep track of a girl with my powers.” I lowered my knife and let her go from my telekinetic grasp.

“What do you want?”I asked.

“For one to see you, it’s been so long…” She came a step forward and put her hands on my hips but I brushed them off. She seemed disappointed by that. “I guess we’re not that close anymore.” She sighed.

“You didn’t just come here to fuck did you?”

“Of course not.”

“What is it then?”

“Isn’t it obvious? You got away Jaime, shook off the drugs. How did you do that?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I had help, but I was half unconscious. I don’t fucking remember what happened, okay?”

“What kind of help? Who was it?”

“I don’t know what he did… and I sure as hell don’t know if I should tell you.” I sighed. She grabbed one of my hand and squeezed it. “Fuck it.” I sighed. “His name’s Mace, he does shit I don’t understand, some of it got me off the drugs.”

“Where is he?”

“He’s here too. I know, fucking coincidence.”

“Maybe it’s fate.”

I rolled my eyes. If fate was real she had some shit to explain about how my life had turned out.

“Let me get him.”

I went back into the house. I called Mace out and he came over from hanging out with Tyler and Yougen, both of whom also hadn’t had any visitors either. I grabbed his hand and dragged him to the corner of the garden where Roxanne was still waiting.

“I need you to do something.” I said.

“Sure, what is it?” He asked, like there was nothing weird happening. 

“Repeat that shit you did to get me off drugs.”

“What drugs?”

“When we first met?”

“When was that again?”

“Last summer”

“Are you sure about that? I have a blank.”

“Great, as always you’re so fucking useful.” I sighed. Despite my comment, Mace didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes the guy was a real doormat, letting people step all over him. His eyes fell on Roxanne.

“Hi. Do I know you?” He asked with a smile before looking at me. “Do I know her too?”

“You don’t.” Roxanne said rolling her eyes. “Are you sure its him? You’re not fucking with me, are you?”

“No, his brain’s just fried from whatever mojo he’s got, I’m surprised he can remember how to tie his shoes most days… Right now he’s useless to you. Probably take a day or two for his brain to get better.”

“Great.” Roxanne said. “I’m due tomorrow afternoon and it’s a ten hour travel back. No way I can wait that long.”

We didn’t get to brainstorm any more as Caroline came toward us, gave them the signal to shush.

“Hey guys.” She said jovially. “Dinner’s served if you’re hungry.”

Roxanne introduced herself as my cousin under a fake name before shaking Caroline’s hand and quickly jumping onto small talks about the meal ahead. We all went into the kitchen and sat at the absurdly massive table, which didn’t see a whole lot of use. We mostly ate at the kitchen’s breakfast counter or scattered about doing other stuff. Nobody questioned Roxanne’s presence.

“I should go.” Roxanne said once dinner was over. “Walk me out?”

I nodded we left the house together, walking toward the gate.

“What we had… Was it ever real for you?” She asked after a moment of silence.

“I don’t know.” I said with a shrug. Despite everything that had happened between us, I still didn’t know what if anything I felt about girls…

“Really?”

“I was lonely and hurt, you were there. You helped with that and you got what you wanted. I don’t know what else you want me to say…”

“Is that really how you think of me? That I was just using you, that it was just sex?”

“It’s what everyone does.”

“I’m sorry.” She said, coming up to me and wrapping her arms around my shoulders.

“What for? It was a fair trade I guess…”

“I’m sorry that’s how you feel. And while I doubt you’ll really believe me, for what it’s worth, I genuinely do— did love you.”

I just nodded. She was right, I wasn’t sure I believed her. She probably was just trying to score some more points hoping I could help. And really she was the one who’d taught me how survival was the most important thing, no matter the cost…

“I guess this trip was for nothing.” She sighed as the main gate came in sight. “I’ll have to find another way.”

“Wait. I think I know someone else who might help.”

“You do?”

“It’s not going to be magical miracle cure, might not work and even if it does it’ll take a while.”

I took her hand and guided her to the doctor’s clinic. Thankfully Ravenhold grounds were distinctive enough and filled with enough landmarks I’d become easily able to find my way around using my sixth sense.

“Jaime, you know I can see a doctor.” She said, seeing the clinic.

“She’s different. We can trust her.”

She didn’t protest any further and we came into the clinic, signing up. We had to wait a few minutes before the doc called us into her exam room.

“Hello, Jaime, how can I help you?” She asked, looking at Roxanne.

“I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor might that be?”

“Something you need to keep secret. My friend here needs help and if anyone learn you did help, she’ll be in trouble. If the Legion or anyone but us knows the people she’s trying to get away from will probably know too.”

I’d been with the organization long enough to know what happened to those of us who had thought themselves smart enough to get help. The organization had eyes everywhere. Dead parahumans and missing doctors was typically the result of trying to get help… She inspected me for a moment, then spent a moment focused on Roxanne.

“Tell me everything.”

So I did, told her about the organization, about the drug, about its effect and what little we knew of the organization. To my surprise, she agreed to help Roxanne and keep it a secret. She took quite a lot of blood, leaving Roxanne feeling woozy when we left.

“You really think she can do it?” She asked, crashing more than sitting on a bench outside before putting the meal bar doc venus had given her into her mouth.

“She collects medical diplomas like you collect bugs.” I said. “If anyone can, it’s her.”

“Thank you.”

“I shouldn’t have left you behind. If I hadn’t maybe Mace could’ve fixed you too.”

“You had no way of knowing that.”

“But—”

I didn’t get to finish my thought as she pressed her lips on mine. I didn’t return the kiss and she took a step back awkwardly.

“You don’t have to defend what you did.” She said. “All that matters is that you’re alive and you keep fighting on. That’s what I’ll do. I just hope we’ll get to meet again when we’re both free.”

I nodded.

“Thank you for your help.”

With that she vanished, leaving me there alone. Her power was more than just invisibility, she faded from my sixth sense as well.