Nikto drove for a little while, until we’d reached a landing strip. There he parked the truck and got out.
“Unless you’re staying here, you might want to follow me,” he said coldly. I glared at him, then slipped out of the car. Staring out at the ocean, I wondered where he was taking me.
Sure, he’d said that he had a hideout on the bottom of the ocean floor, but that didn’t help me much. Besides, we were obviously going to be flying somewhere. A small plane sat on the runway and he climbed into it easily.
Hesitantly I climbed into it, feeling the metal with my hands. It annoyed and frustrated me that I wasn’t able to do anything with the metal. I felt deprived.
Nikto glanced over at me as I slid into the seat, belting myself in. I had not been on a plane since I had come to America, and it was weird to be on one again.
“So, where is your hideout again?” I asked, running a hand through my hair as I leaned back in my seat.
“Bottom of the Pacific Ocean,” he said, checking the plane. I didn’t know what he was doing, nor did I care, so long as I had a home and was alive to enjoy it. He glanced at me, and then went back to playing with the plane. “We’ll have to get you some different clothes, too.”
“Excuse me?” I said, not sure if I’d heard what I thought I’d heard, but ready to take offence at the slightest thing. He sighed, and the plane began to move.
“We can’t have you looking like you just escaped from the CAMMies, can we?” he said, his patient tone getting on my nerves.
“Right,” I said, tensely. “How did you find me?”
“That’s for me to know,” he said, focusing on flying the plane. I sighed and leaned back in my seat. “So, you know my name. We both know that the other is a mutant. But I don’t know much about you.” That surprised me. In the VI4C someone always did the background research before we went on a mission.
“I’m Danae,” I said, quietly. “That’s all you really need to know for now.”
“What’s your power?” he asked, not deterred.
“What’s it to you?” I snapped. “You want to use me and then throw me away, like Steppe did?”
“Look, I don’t know much about this Steppe guy, but I’m not like him,” Nikto said, glancing at me. “Besides, why would I save you without knowing anything about you if I just wanted to use you?” I ground my teeth, knowing that he said made perfect sense, but having no desire to admit that he was right about anything.
“So, what’s your power?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“Is that what it will take to convince you that I’m not going to betray or use you?” he asked. “Answering your questions? Fine. I can animate puppets and use them however I want to.”
“Hm,” I said, noncommittally.
“It’s your turn,” Nikto said. “What’s your power, Danae?”
“Metal control,” I said reluctantly. “Though I’ve been kept too weak and too drugged to use it.”
“Mmm,” Nikto said. “So, can you widen your range of power with practice?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess,” I said, glancing at him in shock. The only other person to have mentioned that to me, and that was at the VI4C school, where the elemental control teacher had encouraged me to try. I remembered spending long nights in high school at my little forge, set up in the back of that teacher’s classroom.
He had pushed me hard, trying to figure out my limits. It was with his encouragement that I had discovered that I could touch white hot metal, and that I could tolerate the hot metals up to my elbows. I smiled slightly as I remembered those nights, playing with the different metals and shaping it to my will.
Nikto glanced at me curiously, and I jerked back to the sad, scary present. I had no friends, no home, no goal. I owned nothing, and I had agreed to go with this strange, and quite possibly insane, man to God only knew where.
At least it is somewhere, and you know how to take care of yourself, I thought, conflicted about the whole thing.
“So, what’s this hideout like?” I asked, closing my eyes.
“Big, waterproof. It’s relatively lonely,” he said.
“I can imagine,” I muttered. “No other buildings on the ocean floor, after all.” He laughed slightly.
“You don’t get it,” he said. “I’m the only one there, right now.”
“What?” I asked, even more sure that he was a complete psychopath.
“I’ve been trying to start a group of mutants that are willing to change the world. My recruiting hasn’t been going so well, though,” he sounded a little disappointed, and I sighed.
“You know why that is, right?” I asked, closing my eyes as I remembered that last fight.
“No,” he said. “Why is that?”
“Steppe doesn’t like leaving any loose ends, so anyone that might possibly betray the VI4C was dealt with,” I said. “He’d have us kill the loners. It’s why I’m here now.”
“Oh?” Nikto asked, slightly interested.
“Not that it’s any of your business,” I said, trying to convince my body to sleep. It must have listened, because I don’t remember most of the rest of the plane ride. I know that we stopped in Tokyo, where Nikto woke me, gave me a little bit of cash and told me to get some food and some new clothes.
“I can’t speak their language,” I snapped. “As it is, I’m not even speaking my native language to talk to you.” He sighed, and took the cash back.
“Fine, but you need to pick out the clothes you’re getting,” he said. “Come on.”
Reluctantly I followed him through the crowded streets, letting him lead me to a department store. An attendant greeted us with a cheerful “konichiwa”, and then began jabbering in Japanese.
I can only assume that Nikto explained what we needed to the attendant, but I have no clue. All I know is the way the attendant looked at me, and then that she pointed us to the women’s clothing.
Nikto followed me, looking extremely unhappy about his role as translator. I wasn’t very happy about the arrangement either, but was grateful when he gave me a chance to look for underclothing in privacy. When we left the store, I had the beginnings of a wardrobe, and he seemed happy enough that we were on our way.
We stopped briefly at a small cafe, and Nikto ordered several things. That annoyed me- that he didn’t even tell me what he was buying, not that I would have known what most of it was, even if he had.
“You’re not allergic to anything, right?” he asked as an afterthought.
“Right,” I said, looking around me. Sure, we were in a big city, but everything was foreign to me. Nothing that was said made sense to me and the bustle of the crowds was a little overwhelming after my long and lonely stay in the hospital. I wanted to go somewhere quiet and dark and isolated, and stay there for a good long time.
“Here,” he said, as the waiter brought us each a cup of tea. “Try this. It should help you calm down a little.” I blushed, shocked that he could tell that much from my behavior.
“How will I know that it’s not drugged?” I asked quietly, not touching the tea. Nikto smiled slightly before sighing.
“What have you been through, that you don’t trust tea?” he asked. “Do you want to let me drink a little of your tea to prove that it’s not drugged?” I sat back, considering his offer.
“Yes,” I said finally. He sighed, and picked up my tea. I followed his every move with my eyes as he took a sip, and then set the cup down.
“Satisfied?” he asked, pushing the cup to my side of the table.
“Not completely, but it will have to do for now,” I said. Hesitantly, I took a sip of my tea.
“Will you tell me why you’re so on edge?” Nikto asked, trying to keep the conversation casual.
“Why should I?” I asked, tensing up even more.
“I’m not your enemy,” Nikto said, leaning back casually. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He’s lying, I thought. He must be.
“Knowledge can be a weapon,” I said tensely, sipping the tea for the sake of something to do.
“Look, I’m trying to help you,” he said. Silence fell for a couple of minutes. “So, where’re you from, originally?” I hesitated, and then decided that there was no harm in telling him. After all, according to the government’s records, I had dropped off the face of the earth at the age of ten.
“Greece,” I said. “But there’s no one left for me there, and I haven’t been back since I left almost ten years ago.”
“How old are you?” Nikto pondered aloud, and I gave him a filthy look.
“Haven’t you ever heard that it’s rude to ask a woman her age?” I snapped. He shrugged nonchalantly.
“I was just thinking. You look younger than I am, and I’ll admit, I’m twenty-four, going on twenty-five,” he watched me as our food arrived. “I hope you don’t mind, but I wasn’t sure if you could eat with chopsticks, so I ordered you soup.” Glancing up at the waiter he thanked him.
I guess there’s no reason to hide your age, I thought. And if he does any research on me and my past, he’ll find it out soon enough. But why should I? I have no reason that I shouldn’t. I shook my head, and focused on trying to figure out what was in my soup.
“You said that you were trying to start a group of mutants,” I said, trying to change the topic away from me. I didn’t like his attentions, I didn’t know if I could trust him, and I was otherwise alone. “So what are your goals, exactly?”
“I told you,” he said calmly. “I want to change the world and the structure of society as a whole.”
“Oh?” I said, not entirely sure of what he meant by that. “Like, world-domination?”
“No,” he said. “Radical change. Right now mutants are persecuted, correct?”
“Obviously,” I said, motioning to my all black outfit. I hadn’t bothered to change yet, and probably wouldn’t until we got to wherever he was taking us.
“I want to change that. I want to, hope to, place the mutants as the upper class. The protectors and heroes of the normal people. The elite, in a way.”
“And who’s going to lead this new society?” I asked. “You?” A prickly edge was back in my voice. I’m stuck with a radical, insane man, I thought. What have I gotten myself into?
“No,” he said quietly, interrupting my internal monologue. “I don’t think I could handle that kind of power. Someone of my choosing will lead. My general. I’ll just lay the foundations.” That shocked me into silence.
“You’re something else,” I said, leaning back. “So, where do I fall in this whole brilliant scheme of yours?”
“I’m not sure yet,” he said after a moment’s pause. “We’ll have to find out.”
“Sure,” I said, eyeing him with distrust. Hesitantly, I began to work on eating my meal. He’s a nut job, I decided. Completely and totally mental. What on earth have I gotten myself into?