New Story Idea- TO BE NAMED STILL- Introduction

For years I have struggled to believe in a loving god of any kind. If God cared about us, why would he let there be so much pain in the world? It can’t be good to hurt as badly as I have. And I, of all people, should know exactly what hurt is.

You see, I was born with a genetic flaw. I have an excess gene, one that normal people don’t have. This gene has caused instability to my genetic makeup, giving me what you might call a “super power.” What is this power? I can take or give hurt simply by touching someone.

I’m like a sponge. If you touch my skin, I will absorb your hurts, any and all of the pain you feel. I take it away from you and you feel it no more. The worst part is that I can’t stop it, though I have tried.

The reverse is also true. When I am angry, or full of other emotions, it will all pour out of me, onto whoever I touch. I can hurt you deeply without a weapons. I can destroy you, crush you completely, without even trying to.

You probably can’t imagine what it feels like to carry all of this brokenness inside. That’s why I’m writing this for you. That, and if I don’t get these feelings out of me somehow, I’m going to go crazy in a bad way. This is my record, my last bond to sanity.

Danae’s Story- Chapter 7

Once we had gotten back to the hideout and had helped the Mexican VI4C members get moved in and acquainted with their rooms, I made a point of hunting down Nikto. I was not entirely sure of what I’d say or do to him, but I was slightly upset.

When I had volunteered to fight Duarte, I had volunteered to fight Duarte alone. Nikto should have intervened when Casilde had attacked, but he didn’t.

I barged into his room to have two of his puppets, one of the a prototype for a design I called the “assassin”, try to attack me. With a wave of my hand, the went spinning backwards through the air.

“Nikto,” I growled, angry. He looked up from his work and sighed.

“Haven’t you ever heard of knocking?” he asked, closing the notebook and setting his pen down. “I would have answered.”

“Sure you would have,” I snapped, my exhaustion getting the better of my judgement. “Just like you intervened when the girl jumped me.”

“Tell me,” he said calmly, sitting still and studying me. “Did you or did you not manage to defeat her?”

“I did, but-”

“I would have intervened if you hadn’t had it under control,” he said calmly.

“When?” I demanded. “Once she killed me? Because, let me tell you something, that would have been too late.”

“Danae, would you calm down and stop being so unreasonable?” Nikto asked, sounding slightly frustrated. “You’d be mad even if I had intervened. Ah-” he cut off my arguments with a raised hand “-don’t deny it. You’d be fussing about how I didn’t let you prove yourself and how you had the situation under control.” I stared at him, seething.

He was right and I knew it. That didn’t mean that I had to like it though. I turned on my heal and stormed out of his room.

From there I went to take a shower and to make myself something small to eat, before I fell asleep. As I pulled my tunic off, I cringed at the marks the mirror showed me.

Fine red lines crossed all over my arms and sides, places where I had been scratched with the blade, but hadn’t bled badly if at all. Five livid lines that were tinged purple stood out on my belly , where Casilde had clawed me with her fingernails. I had a shallow gash along my breast bone, too, from her furious attacks.

Innumerable bruises covered my arms, chest, stomach and legs, and a jagged and slightly deeper cut ran from my left hip to just under my right shoulder blade. I grimaced as I cleaned my wounds, and then carefully bound my torso, trying to prevent the wounds from bleeding as I slept.

The next morning I awoke to an odd smell, and I rolled out of bed, worried that someone was trying to burn down the hideout. I hurried to the kitchen, following the scent without bothering to brush my hair,, which was standing every which way.

The scene that met my eyes as I stepped into the kitchen was a surprising one. All of the Mexican VI4C stood around the kitchen, laughing and chattering eagerly in Spanish.

Adelita and the second oldest girl, Maria, were standing by the stove, cooking. I heard a slight noise from behind me, and I glanced over to see Nikto surveying the scene with equal shock. His hair was still damp from the shower and I suspected that he had rushed through his morning routine to investigate the smell as well.

“Good morning,” Nikto said, crossing his arms and surveying the scene like it happened every morning. It probably would, but that was another matter all together.

Maria’s hand jerked as she jumped. Obviously she had been previously unaware of our presence. A bowl that she had been mixing something in slipped off the counter, and in the blink of an eye Adelita had caught it and replaced it on the counter, before returning to her place at the stove in mere moments.

I glanced at Nikto out of the corner of my eye, and saw that he had an extremely smug smile on his face. That annoyed me slightly. We hadn’t discussed who had what power with any of the new members, yet that had to have been what he was smirking about. It was almost like he expected Adelita to have a power like superspeed.

Why do I care so much if he tells me what he’s thinking, or not tell me for that matter? I wondered, surprised by the realization. Why does it bug me? I sighed, trying to get a hold of myself. It was too early in the morning to wing out over stupid things.

I couldn’t get so upset about him keeping secrets from me, particularly as I knew that he owed me nothing. If anything, I owed him, for the clothes, the food and the home.

Suddenly it all clicked, and I leaned against the table, which I had moved to without thinking. It was all about trust.

Steppe had kept secrets, and it was part of his control over the entirety of the USA branch of the VI4C. You could be loyal to the VI4C for years, and then he’d decide that you were an inconvenience, or that you knew too much. He ruled by fear, by keeping us dependent on him, on the chance that he would spare us the fate that we’d all meet sooner or later.

No one really trusted Steppe, and because we all knew that he would betray you as soon as look at you. I felt as though I had been betrayed by the whole of the VI4C when he had turned on me, even though I had said and done some things in my anger that had triggered it.

Even after Steppe’s betrayal, while I was at the hospital, one of the doctors had been extremely kind to me in my muddled state. They must have all known from the moment they took a blood sample from me that I was a mutant, so I would be handed over to the CAMM agents. They had betrayed me in that way, and I had been too stoned at the time for the full force to hit me.

I glanced at Nikto again. My head felt clearer than it had for days, and I almost felt relieved by my new understanding. Nikto met my stare, looking a little concerned.

“Danae, what’s wrong?” he asked, leaning over. “You’re all pale, and you’re trembling.” I raised a hand to wipe away a little bit of sweat from my neck, aware that he was right.

“Can I have a word with you?” I said, my voice uneven. “In private?”

“Sure,” he said, standing up. “Let’s go.” I followed him out of the room, and he led me to the gym-like training room. After he had closed the door securely, he turned to face me. “What’s up?”

“I- I don’t know how to say this,” I said. “For that matter, I don’t know where to start.”

“The beginning usually works well,” he said, studying me. I laughed harshly.

“It’s not that simple,” I said, running a hand through my hair. “Alright. How about this. Do you trust me?”

“What?” he said, obviously surprised. “Yes, of course I trust you. From what I’ve seen, you’re loyal and trustworthy.”

“Prove it,” I said, crossing my arms. “Be honest with me.”

“I am being honest, Danae. I’ve been freely honest about anything and everything you’ve asked me.” Nikto looked a little hurt, and I took a deep breath to steady myself. “Maybe even more honest than you.” I opened my eyes to glare at him.

“And how honest do you want me to be?” I asked coldly, my ever present temper getting the best of me yet again. “Is it my whole life story that you want? Do you want to know how many I’ve killed? How long I’ve been a monster?” Nikto blinked, shocked at my sudden anger. I bit my lip, feeling like I’d said too much.

“I don’t need to know everything, Danae,” he said, his tone soothing. “I trust that you have your reasons for keeping quiet, and that when the time is right, you’ll be able to tell.” I turned away, feeling like a huge idiot.

My pride wouldn’t let me apologize, but I couldn’t just walk away. I was confused, torn. I had no idea what to say. Nikto placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Look, we both ought to eat something,” he said. “Why don’t you go and get dressed, and I’ll make us some scrambled eggs. How’s that sound?”

“Fine,” I mumbled, feeling like a total toerag. Twice in the last twenty-four hours I had flown off my handle at him. Twice he had soothed me. My period must be coming, I thought glumly as he walked away. That’s got to be the reason I’m so on edge.

I went and got dressed, and then I shoveled down my scrambled eggs while avoiding Nikto’s worried and confused stares. From there, I escaped into the gym, when I contented myself with beating up a punching bag.

I had been in there for a half an hour when I heard them slip into the training room, and I chose to ignore them until after I had sent the punching bag  spinning in a spiral towards the ceiling. I didn’t bother to turn to face them when I spoke, so I didn’t know who it was.

“Yes?” my tone was brusque. I was still upset about my fight with Nikto, if you could call it that, and the training hadn’t helped matters any. The fact that I was starting to feel bloated was decidedly not helping matters either.

“We were wondering if you could, maybe, teach us to fight like you do.” It was Adelita’s voice, and I guessed that Maria was with her. Those two stuck together, and it was almost unnerving how close they seemed to be.

I turned, shocked. The two girls were standing by the door awkwardly, and Maria looked a little afraid of me. Just then the punching bag swung back down, the chain making ugly noises, and I ducked. It barely missed my head by two centimeters, and I threw out an arm to stop it, and I made a mental note to check on the chain later. I didn’t like the noises coming from it.

“You want me to teach you how to fight,” I repeated numbly. Adelita nodded.

“You are really brave, and very strong,” she said, her tone steady even though she looked like she was just as nervous as Maria. “You defeated Duarte and Casilde, and they were our best fighters.”

“So you want to be like me?” I asked, surprised. “You want to become a killing machine, a monster, like I am?”

“What you’ve done isn’t what you are,” Adelita said, meeting my challenging stare easily. I snorted, but I filed away what she’d said for me to think about later.

I wasn’t proud of the things I’d done, particularly the things I’d done on Steppe’s orders, but I had assumed that that was an unavoidable part of me. I had killed, so I became a killer, though murderess might be more accurate in a lot of cases. Now this girl, who knew very little about me, was telling me that I wasn’t necessarily a killer.

“I won’t be easy on you,” I warned. I was slightly reluctant to take on the role of trainer for anyone, but these girls needed to learn how to fight, and there was no one better for the job.

“I know,” Maria said, surprising me.

“Do you think that Duarte went easy on us?” Adelita asked at the same time, her tone incredulous.

“No,” I answered, smiling. This could be very interesting, I thought. “We’ll start tomorrow morning, before breakfast. Meet me here.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Adelita said, grinning as she and Maria left the room. I sighed and crossed the room to where I had set a cup of water, and took a sip, thinking about what Adelita had said.

I had been a killer since I was ten years old. I remembered the look on Dan’s face when he’d found out what I’d done vividly. He’d been so disappointed, and that had seared into my mind and conscious, leaving me feeling guilty over doing what I had.

He had only wanted the best for me, and he had tried to protect me. He had done everything for me, even dying for my choices, because I had refused to leave my chosen path of violence, and he didn’t want to leave me.

I wish you were here now, Dan, I thought. So you could tell me what I should do with my life. I wish that you were here, Dan. I wish that you knew what I’m thinking now. I wish I had chosen a different thing. I turned to face the gym, and I closed my eyes.

Questions overwhelmed me. What am I doing with my life? Should I stick with this? Who am I, in this world, even? Where should I go? What defines me, if actions don’t?

The door to the gym opened, and my eyes flew open. Nikto stood in the doorway, looking not at all surprised to see me. He smiled slightly and crossed the room to the keypad.

“I was expecting you here,” he said, typing in a combination. I didn’t answer, and he continued. “Would you like to train with me?”

“Sure,” I said, feeling listless. “Why not? That seems to be all I’m known for- my fighting skills.” He shot me a surprised look as the punching bag was pulled up into the ceiling by a levy and covered by a panel.

“Which kind of training do you want?” he asked, studying me. “Armed combat? Hand-to-hand? Powers only?”

“Let’s go with powers,” I said, my mood becoming far more negative the longer we talked. He nodded and stepped away from the keypad, raising a hand. Three of the puppets he used, Blasters and a lighter design that I had made recently, rose from the corner where we had left them, and the one he stored my weapons in approached me.

I took my weapons from it, and slid the sheaths on. Within moments I was ready, and he began.

The Blaster shot several rounds of bullets at me, and I blew them apart in mid-air. At the same time, one of the puppets that I had designed circled around to behind me. I heard a soft puff of air as it shot a dart loaded with a sedative at me, and I bet the tip of the dart back on itself.

Nikto suddenly jerked his hand back, hard. The puppets flew over to him, and I studied them, unsure of what would happen next. In all of our practices Nikto had never given me a chance to breath between his attacks.

What’s your problem? I thought, scolding myself. You can’t expect him to use the same routines in a fight. Make a plan, Danae. Think.

Suddenly I realized why he had done that. I heard the inner parts of a flash bomb engage, and I squeezed my eyes closed. The light still showed through my eyelids, and I saw spots against the red of my skin.

Blinded, I was forced to rely on my other senses to fight him. On the bright side, I didn’t have to worry about Nikto using the Blasters to attack me. If he couldn’t see through his own eyes, that limited his attack methods.

I knew that he’d still be able to use the other design, though. When we’d worked on it initially, he had asked for a slot where the eyes would be on a face, explaining that he could “see” what his puppets saw in the back of his mind.

Cautiously I stretched out my hands, ready to crush the puppet if need be. I knew that I would be able to sense it because of my power before it struck, but I really didn’t want to destroy it, not after how much work I had put into it.

A puppet dropped from above, and I caused the part that was nothing but blades to fall off. I caught the now harmless puppet and ran my hands over the slit, moving a thin layer of metal over the eye. I then threw it in the vague direction of the Blaster puppets, that were hanging back, on the edge of my range. I heard it connect with something, and they clattered to the floor out of my range.

By this point in time, my vision was beginning to come back, although it was admittedly splotchy. I glanced around the room, wondering why Nikto had let me trash the puppets so easily.

Nikto himself stood in the center of the room, his eyes still closed. His hands were at his sides, and he was paler than usual.

“You okay?” I asked awkwardly as he slowly opened his eyes, blinking furiously.

“Yeah,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “I just have a little headache. Do you want to keep going?”

“No,” I said, glancing at the puppets. “I  need to fix the puppets anyhow.” He nodded, and I couldn’t stifle the worry that was steadily growing. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine,” he said, turning to walk to the door. “And I need to talk to the Mexican VI4C. You coming with, General?” I froze.

“General?” It came out as a squeak. He stopped, chuckling at my shock.

“I told you that I trusted you. You’re the first of my recruits, and my second in command,” he said. “Coming?”

“Sure,” I said, following him out of the gym. I was beginning to feel better again. Maybe my doubts were just PMS after all.

Danae’s Story- Chapter 5

From our brief stopover in Tokyo, we took a submarine down to his hideout. After we had arrived there, he gave me a tour of the place, and showed me to a room that would be mine.

When he had finally left me alone, I sat down on the bed in my room, trying to figure out what I’d do with my life. I had no desire to try to make things work on my own. I couldn’t go back to my VI4C days- that was pretty obvious. The only choice that I felt I had was to stick with Nikto for a while. Who knew, maybe he wasn’t as crazy as I had thought he was.

I put the clothes he had bought me away, and then began to look around. I had a small dresser and a decently sized closet in the room, and there was a bathroom down the hall that would be for my use alone, at this point. There was a decent amount of space in the room, and a desk sat along the wall, beside the bed.

Curiously I approached it and began to look through the drawers. Most were empty, but in the top drawer on the left side I found a pad of paper and a couple of pens. A thin scrap of paper sat underneath the pad, and I picked it up, reading the words typed on it.

Greetings, my dear recruit! If you are reading this, you have probably had a tour of the hideout. If not, that will be remedied shortly. Beneath is a schedule of required practice and meal times. Lights out will be at eleven thirty each night, and you will be expected to be awake and present at breakfast. Sincerely, Nikto.

Quickly I scanned the schedule, and then set aside the scrap, flipping open the notepad. I began to write out a list of things that I’d need for a forge. If I was to stay here I’d need a place to work, a place that was all my own.

A knock on my door startled me, and I slipped off my bed, where I was still sitting, to unlock and open the door. Nikto stood there, with a couple of metal creatures hovering behind him.

“I wanted to make sure that you were settled in,” he said. “And also to introduce you to my puppets.” I leaned against the door frame, studying the metal things.

“Clumsy workmanship,” I observed. “What are they supposed to do?”

“This design is called the Blaster,” he said. “They are used both in battle and around the hideout. Each one is armed with heavy ammunition, making it an ideal weapon source in the middle of combat, but also a useful training tool for here in the hideout.”

“Right,” I said, not taking my eyes off of the puppets. “May I take a look at them?”

“Sure,” Nikto said, waving a hand to make the puppets float into the room. I took one of them from mid-air and ran my hands over it, a little frustrated that I was still powerless. The metal, cool to the touch, was familiar to me, like a long lost friend, but I could do nothing to respond until the drug had left my system.

“This could be made a little lighter,” I said, tracing the edge of the metal drawer that protected the ammunition. A small latch on the side permitted me to pull the drawer open.

Protesting loudly, it slid open, revealing a dented and uneven drawer, full of different kinds of explosives. The outer sides and bottom of the drawer were heavily coated with grease and WD-40, and my fingertips came away black.

I sighed as I picked up the prison garb that I had discarded, wiping my hand off before I dumped the explosives into it and passed them to Nikto, who was watching me closely. Then I wiped down the outside of the drawer.

“As soon as I get my powers back, this needs to be fixed,” I said, setting the drawer down on my desk and picking up my list of needs for the forge. “I’ll need to buy, or get, supplies, too.” He nodded.

“I was expecting you to,” he said. “So, what’s the damage?”

“I’m not sure yet,” I said tersely, skimming the list. “But these are the necessary things. I will require weapons, too, if you expect me to help you in combat.” He nodded again. I guess he needed to show that he understood.

“I have some weaponry already,” he said. “If you want to come and see what suits you, that might be helpful.”

“Right,” I said, picking the shirt back up and wiping down the cavity in the puppet, where the drawer had been. He watched me for a moment, and then turned and began to walk down the hall. I followed him, carrying the puppet.

“So, you’re going to fix up my puppets?” he asked me, a slight grin on his face. I looked down at the limp Blaster in my hands, so obviously made by an amateur, and grimaced.

“When I get my powers back, yes,” I said, thinking that it was almost physically painful to me to see such clumsy methods. I couldn’t stand to see something as useful as metal being wasted and abused like this had been. It had to be fixed, and my personal feelings about the creator and user of this puppet could be ignored.

Nikto unlocked and pushed a door open and stepped in, turning on a light. I stepped into the small room and sighed, remembering the larger weapons room in the VI4C hideout. I closed my eyes for a moment, fighting back the emotions that were coursing through my veins.

Anger, sadness and relief all vied for the position of strongest and most potent emotion. That room in the VI4C had been my workspace throughout the duration of my membership, and it held many fond memories for me.

My fingers tightened on the door frame as I forced the emotions down, opening my eyes to look at the room. Nikto was watching me with concern as I looked around, trying to act like nothing had happened.

“You alright?” he asked as I slid a throwing dagger from the shelf, checking the balance in my hand.

“If you call being trapped at the bottom of the sea with a complete lunatic and no where else to go alright, then yes, I’m absolutely fine,” I said sharply, returning the dagger to its position on the shelf and moving on to another style of blade. He shrugged, and I felt that it was time to change the conversation away from me again. “So, how do you happen to have enough money to buy everything down here?”

“I’m a freelance journalist,” he said. “I take jobs everywhere in the English speaking world, and on rare occasion I do one or two in Japan. I didn’t have much of a loan left after college, so I paid that off pretty quickly. Now I get to keep most of my paychecks, and  I use them to furnish this place.”

“I see,” I said, turning to face him. “How many people did you say this place could hold?”

“I don’t think I did,” Nikto said, taking a decently long metal pole from a rack. “Seven hundred and fifty could live here, though it would be rather crowded. At the moment, I only have twelve rooms furnished, excluding the public areas. Take a weapon, and let’s go. I want to see how well you can fight.” I studied him for a couple of seconds, and then shrugged, deciding that there was no ill intent behind this suggestion.

“Only if powers aren’t allowed,” I said, choosing a couple of blades and a smaller staff. Carefully I spun it, my muscles protesting at the odd turns that they hadn’t done for almost a year.

“That’s fair enough,” he said, watching me. “Find something?”

“These will do, for now,” I said, following him to the training room. Oddly enough, this didn’t cause me any problems. While the VI4C’s training room looked more like a training area from military movies, this one looked like a high school gym. The floor was wood. though I knew that there was some kind of metal beneath that.

“There’s far more here than it looks,” he said, a small grin on his face as he approached a keypad on the wall. “I have a bunch of neat little tricks for this place. Right now, though, I think that all we’ll need are some mats, to break any falls.” I said nothing as I made my way to the center of the gym. A slight grinding noise came from the walls as a panel slid open, revealing a stack of mats.

I watched as Nikto took them from the hidden cupboard. He spread them across the floor, and then he motioned to me.

“Let’s get to it,” he said. I smiled serenely, and fingered the daggers, which I had strapped around my hips. I held the metal pole in my right hand, ready to fight.

Nikto began circling around me, watching me like a vulture. I waited, not willing to make the first move. Suddenly Nikto lunged, striking at me from just out of my line of vision.

I spun, throwing up my defenses and blocking his blow. With a couple of minutes of pointless struggle as we each tried to disarm the other, we stood, arms shaking. I was just about to have to give in when he retreated. This time I circled with him, not willing to take my eyes off of him.

A feinted blow to his neck was quickly followed by a reversed blow. He must have been expecting me to do that, because he didn’t react to my feint, but he blocked the other blow. He struck out at my torso, and I staggered back, trying to bend in a way that I hadn’t needed to bend in for a year.

I felt the cool metal graze my skin as I fell back, dropping my staff in the process. I grabbed onto the end of his staff and twisted, so that I’d land on my front. Suddenly he released his staff and stumbled back.

My body met the floor hard, and I rolled onto my back, expecting him to be there, ready to end this duel. To my surprise, he wasn’t.

Quickly I forced myself to my feet, my footing unsteady as I picked up my own staff. My breath was coming in pants now, and I felt weak and my hands trembled slightly. Sweat had coated my body, and I watched Nikto with distrust.

If he’s going to attack me for real, now would be his chance, I thought, well aware of the physical state of my body. He’s still in good condition. He hasn’t even broken a sweat. I was determined to not lose, even though I knew that it was inevitable.

“Enough,” Nikto said, watching me from the other side of the room. “I’ve seen enough, and you won’t last too much longer. You’re a good enough fighter, but you’re not in good shape. You’re out of practice.” I lowered my defensive pose slowly, watching him.

I was humiliated by my weakness. It would take me a long time to regain the strength and abilities that I had lost during my rehab.

That was the beginning of my training. I forced myself to be better, to be stronger. I pushed myself to my limits on a daily basis, and would often fall into my bed at the end of the day, completely sore and exhausted.

Nikto oversaw and assisted me in some of my training, and after about two weeks of it, he made a comment about how hard I was on myself.

“It’s not too hard,” I said, taking a sip of water and leaning against the wall. He looked at me with concern. “The VI4C expected at least as much dedication and excellence. Or, rather, Steppe, expected that much.”

“What does VI4C stand for, anyway?” he asked, sitting down.

“Villains Incorporated in Four Countries,” I said, turning away so he couldn’t see the pain in my face.

“So it’s not just in the US?” he asked, surprised.

“No,” I said, getting my emotions back in check as I turned back to face him. “It’s also in Mexico, Cuba and Canada.” The look Nikto gave me was startling. He was grinning at me, looking like he was more insane than usual.

“Danae, you just gave me an idea,” he said. “From what I’ve gathered from talking and listening to you, and watching you, the VI4C is corrupt. We’ll destroy the corruption, and gain recruits at the same time.”

“What?” I asked, shocked. He’s actually lost it, I thought. I had been telling myself that since he had saved me from the CAMMies, but I was now convinced that he had finally gone mad.

“Danae, we are going to destroy the VI4C,” he said, looking at me steadily. “Those who are trying to stop us will die, and those who see the good we are trying to do for the world can join us.” My jaw dropped, and a tinge of persuasiveness slipped into his voice. “Just think- I can get my recruits, and you can get revenge on the people who threw you away.” I flinched, and turned away.

“Sure,” I said sarcastically. “When pigs fly.”

Septifiria; The Becoming: Chapter 28

The next morning Septi revealed her findings to the members of the VI4C, letting Ferinequell and Ryan read through the collection of lab reports that she had stolen. Everyone reacted differently, but Ferinequell took this news the hardest.

“This is so… so…” he stuttered, unable to find an appropriate word for CAMM’s activities.

“It’s illegal, isn’t it?” Gin asked, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. “How they’re treating the animals.”

“Yeah,” Septi said, leaning over the desk in the office. “Or it should be if it isn’t.”

“The animal rights people would be very interested in this I expect.” Ryan said slowly. “And government branch or not, this might be very valuable in getting CAMM off our backs.”

“Yeah,” Septi said, an idea forming. “Ferinequell, could this be used against CAMM in the California court system?”

“No,” he said, looking up at her. “Because of how we obtained it, it cannot be.”

“That’s what I thought. So we can’t be the ones to push the case. But what if the animal rights people got their hands on this?” Septi glanced around triumphantly, looking for reactions on her companions’ faces.

“But they’d still be able to trace it back to us,” Ferinequell said.

“Not if we didn’t leave any fingerprints,” Septi said, smiling smugly. “Because as far as any witnesses will be able to tell, it will be one of the officers of CAMM turning it in anonymously.”

“Septi, how do you think you’re going to be able to this?” Ferinequell asked. “For one thing, we don’t know anything about a single officer; besides a lot of their information is tightly locked down. For another, that drug is still blocking your powers.”

“The officer that I will impersonate is female,” Septi said, crossing her arms. “Mikey’s sister in law. There must be a report of the wedding in one of the newspapers.”

“But we don’t know when or where they got married,” Gin pointed out.

“They look for announcements about a Chuck Burlington getting married from within the last five years,” Septi said. “And if that doesn’t turn anything up try looking for Charles Burlington.”

“Yes, Septi,” Ferinequell said, turning to the computer and pulling up a search engine.

“And let’s hope that there’s a picture with it,” Septi said as she made her way to the door.

“Septi, wait,” Gin called, following her. She froze in the hall, fighting to keep her expression mask like as she turned to face him. She knew what he wanted to talk about and she wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Yes, Gin?” she asked politely. Septi had been up all night the night before thinking about her answer, but she was still uncertain and reluctant to give it.

“Have you thought any more about it?” he asked, seeming to be nervous.

“Yes, I have,” she said quietly.

“And?” he prompted, looking a little hopeful.

“And I don’t know,” Septi said, biting her lip. Gin’s face fell and Septi sighed. She knew that she had come to care for him more than she should, and she knew that that could be potentially dangerous. She had hoped that if she could ignore her feelings that they would go away sooner or later, but they hadn’t.

“Why not?” Gin asked. “If you didn’t like me you would’ve just said so. So why not?”

“I…” Septi hesitated, not wanting her charade of nonchalance to come crashing down. “I don’t want to risk the consequences.”

“If it doesn’t work out, we can still be friends and team members,” he said, trying to convince her to say yes.

“Those aren’t the consequences I’m afraid of,” she said with a sarcastic smile. “What if it does work? What if one of us is killed by CAMM? What if I had died last night, after giving you the answer you had wanted? I don’t want to be hurt. Not again.”

“Septi,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Do you ever do anything without thinking of all the bad things that could happen? I mean, if you think about it, almost everything you can do can result in some kind of pain. Do you not do those things? No. Take a chance, Septi. Be adventurous.”

“I don’t know, Gin,” Septi said uncertainly.

“What would one date hurt? Maybe bad things will happen down the road, but maybe the good stuff is more than worth it,” he said, looking at her searchingly, locking gazes with her.

“Alright,” Septi said, relenting. “But only after we turn in the information.”

“That’s the best answer I’m going to get, isn’t it?” he asked, letting his hand fall back to his side and grinning a little ruefully.

“Yes, it is,” she said with a small smile. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things I need to do.”

“Of course,” Gin said, taking a few steps back. “Will next Friday night work after you get back from your classes?”

“Yeah, sure,” Septi said with half a grin. “I’ll see you later.”

I hope that I didn’t just make a huge mistake, she thought as she walked away.

The next several days flew by as they got Septi ready to turn in the info, which had been burnt to a disc and slipped into a thin jewel case in Septi’s, or rather, Ivy’s bag. One a picture had been found, Septi began working on her impersonation. Ferinequell proved himself an invaluable help as he manipulated the animals around the CAMM base, making them watch Ivy as she went about her work.

Finally the drug wore off and Septi’s impersonation of Ivy was nearly flawless, and it was time for Septi to make her way to the nearest animal protection group office, disk in hand. As she approached the building she began to glance around as if she were afraid of being followed. Quickly she slipped into the building.

“How may I help you?” the secretary asked without looking up from a cheap romance book.

“I have some information that you might be interested in,” Septi said, miming Ivy’s American accent easily. “But I want to make sure it gets to the right people.”

“You can leave it here at the desk, and I’ll give it to my boss,” the secretary said, setting down her book. “If you’ll just give me your name…”

“I can’t,” Septi said, glancing around to see if there were any security cameras. Seeing one she leaned in close to the desk. “If anyone were to know that I’m here, it would cause huge trouble with my work. Please, I need to give my information to whoever is in charge here.”

“What would be me,” a sweet looking middle aged woman stood by the door. “I’m Samantha Jones, president of our local chapter. What is it that you need to give me?”

“This,” Septi said, turning to the woman and pulling out the jewel case. “It holds lab reports on experiments and the conditions of the test subjects CAMM has been using for their research on mutation.”

“Oh, darling, we can’t help you if it’s a mutant issue,” Samantha said, eyeing the disc like it was a bomb.

“But you to have to help,” Septi said, feigning desperation. “They’re testing on animals. I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. Please, you can do something about their cruelty to those poor things.”

“I’ll look into it, dear,” Samantha said, taking the disc, but she still looked wary.

“Oh, thank you,” Septi said. “I can’t stay, but thank you. It means so much for me that you would consider this.”

“Of course, darling,” Samantha said with a weak smile and Septi turned to leave.

As the door closed behind Septi, she allowed herself a self satisfied grin, but let no other sign of her excitement and relief show until she had gotten into her car. Ferinequell, who had some errands to run that day while in the city, took one look at her as she began to subtly change back. “I take it that went well,” he asked before pulling out into traffic.

“She seemed to be convinced by my performance,” Septi said, smiling. “But I guess that we won’t know for a while how well that worked.”

“No, I’m sure we won’t,” he said. “I’m sure we won’t.”

When Septi and Ferinquell returned to the VI4C, Gin was waiting for Septi. Ferinequell gave Septi  curious look, which she returned with a glare.

“I’ll be waiting for you when you get back tomorrow,” Gin said to her quietly as Ferinequell walked away. “We’ll go out for dinner, and then maybe take a walk of the beach. Maybe a swim if you want.”

“Right,” Septi said uncertainly, fiddling with her jacket. “Excuse me, I need to go-”

“Wait a moment,” Gin said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I was actually wondering if you would want to train with me.”

“Not right now,” Septi said, blushing.

“What, you don’t want to spend time with me?” Gin asked teasingly.

“It’s not that,” Septi said, her blush deepening. “I just don’t want to have any excess awkwardness in the VI4C.”

“Sure, that’s your reason,” Gin said with a smirk. “You’re just afraid that I’ll beat you is the problem.” Septi, who had been walking away, stopped and turned to face him.

“Is that a challenge?” she asked, her voice testy.

“Only if you want it to be,” he said, his smirk growing bigger.

“Meet me in the training room in ten minutes,” she snapped before storming off. You shouldn’t let him get to you, Septi, she thought, momentarily regretting her knee jerk reaction. Why do you care what he thinks? He’s just another member of the VI4C. No one special, right?

Tell your feelings that. You know good and well why you care. You don’t want to look weak, look less than perfect for him. You like him, no matter what you want to say or do about it.

                I know I’m a fool, Septi thought, letting herself into her room and changing into loose exercise clothes. I know how dangerous it is to care. Why am I doing this then? Tiredly she glanced in the mirror, pulling her hair back tightly.

I just hope that I’m not making a mistake, she thought, strapping her blunted weapons on.

Quickly she made her way to the training room, distracted and anxious. Gin was already there waiting for her.

“Ready?” she asked, stepping into the room.

“Sure,” he said. “Weapons and powers both permitted?”

“Sure,” Septi answered, watching him. “Let’s get to it.” Smoothly she flicked her wrists, catching her daggers.

“Ladies first,” he said with a mock bow. “I insist.” Septi laughed slightly and took a half a step to the side.

“If you say so,” she said. Quickly she threw her daggers, one on either side of him. Gin retreated several steps back as Septi lunged for him, claws forming on her hands.

She hit the ground hands first, and curled into a tight little ball, somersaulting neatly. As she rose to her feet, after retrieving one of her daggers, Gin struck out at her with his sword. Septi dropped, swinging a kick at Gin’s legs, but he jumped back a couple of steps.

She pivoted to face him, holding her dagger tightly ready to strike. Gin chuckled slightly as he lunged at her, aiming another blow to her torso. Septi stopped the blow with the dagger and her arm sheath, sweating slightly.

“Getting warm?” Gin asked, drawing the sweat to himself with his right hand while holding the blow with his left.

“You would know,” Septi snapped, twisting her arms and disarming Gin. Smoothly she placed the tip of the dagger against his neck. “I win,”

“If you say so,” Gin said, letting the little globe of sweat fall to the floor. Septi lowered her dagger after a moment, unsure as to whether he was serious or not.

They stood there for a couple of seconds, panting from the exertion of the rapid strikes. A flood of emotion hit Septi, and without thinking she stepped closer to Gin and kissed him on the cheek. As she turned to go, Gin caught her by the wrist and pulled her in close, kissing her on the lips. Septi stiffened up for a moment before giving into her emotions and senses.

How can something that feels so good be all bad? She wondered, her arms slipping around Gin’s neck as she kissed back. What could it hurt?

Danae’s Story; Chapter 4

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?