Warning: LONGER chapter. I’m aiming to finish Volume 1 with 9.90 because round numbers are wonderful. That means that 87, 88, 89 and 90 are going to be larger chapters. Bigger chapters, lots of jumping around, lots of information (subtle mostly), so settle in and ennnjooyyyy
And well uh for those who want TOO MUCH INFO
9.87 & 9.88 = Day 1
9.89 = Day 2
9.90 = Day 3
I groaned and tried to bury my head in the pillows, only half hoping I suffocate from it as noise invaded my ears.
“Honestly, it took you way longer than I thought it would.” Nikolas’ voice drifted up through the huge holes in the floor. I gritted my teeth. The use of words like honestly and truthfully are used way too freely. What? Are you NOT truthful usually? The answer is yes.
“What does that mean?” That’s Zac’s voice this time. Oh great now Nato is barking. What time is it anyway? Way too early I’m sure.
I crawled out of bed, resigned to my fate. I made my way to the half-built bathroom and climbed into the shower half-awake.
I was on my way to falling asleep on the wall of the shower when Nato woke me up, bounding up the stairs.
“I’m just saying, I noticed a correlation between you breathing and subjects involving girls.” Nikolas continued the conversation I’d tuned out.
“What? No, no, I don’t talk about just girls.” Zac replied.
I stumbled out of the shower, grabbing a towel as Nikolas tapped on the wall. “Is that you Jesse?”
“Well I hope so!” I shot back. “Unless the robot is taking showers I don’t know WHO ELSE would be in here.”
“Could’ve been a girl. Niko’s been bringing those home lately. For someone who says I talk about girls too much, you’ve been seeing more of them than I have lately.”
“See? You had a great opportunity to move on, but you brought the girl subject right back again.” Nikolas said, and I could practically see him shaking his head in a patronizing way. “I think you have a problem.”
Nato jumped under the curtains happily shaking his tail with an annoying thunk thunk thunk against the bathroom sink legs. “No I don’t want to play right now. I’m NAKED Nato. Can’t I have a little bit of privacy?”
Nikolas suddenly pulled back the curtains, sticking his head in.
“I’m going to go see Masak at the hospital. Want to come with Jesse? You could get out of the house.”
“I LITERALLY just said I was naked!” I recoiled.
“No you’re not. See, you’ve got a towel.”
“That means nothing!”
“What are you doing leaving the warehouse?” Zac asked, peaking in as well. “Didn’t your girl say she was coming to visit you today?”
Nikolas narrowed his eyes at Zac. “Ashlynn is going to stop by in the afternoon. You should come with Zac.” Niko said slapping his arm. “We’ll be stopping by the Dragons too after.”
“Hey, isn’t that where we stopped to get your katanas? I spotted a girl there, with green-” Zac stopped himself as Niko gave him a smirk. “Look here, there’s no shame in-”
“Yeah, yeah, her name’s Ara.” Nikolas chuckled, finally leaving my bathroom.
I shook my head at Nato. “Jeez these two.”
“Ara? Three letter name. What a coincidence. I also have a three letter name.”
“I wouldn’t recommend using that as a pick up line. Especially since that’s just a nickname for Arahelel. ” Nikolas said as I exited the bathroom. I need clothing. Better clothing.
Nikolas turned on Zac suddenly. “Wait, is Zac short for Zachary?”
“Haha, Zachary is such a soft name too, it doesn’t fit you.” Nikolas continued to tease.
“It’s not Zachary, it’s just Zac.”
I opened the dresser, wondering if Tyzel had any shirts that could fit me. My old one still smells of smoke and explosions.
“Zachary!” Nikolas continued laughing as he went down the stairs.
“Your mom is a ROBOT.” Zac attempted to shout back.
“I heard THAT.” Oscar yelled from the kitchen. “That’s one less piece of bacon for YOU.”
Nikolas laughed harder. “Zachary’s in trouble!”
“Oh my god this is so immature.” Zac groaned.
“Tell me about it! It’s only 6 am.” I groaned.
“Do you want Zac’s extra bacon?” Oscar called, hearing me from downstairs.
I took a moment to consider it. “Yes please!”
“Get dressed fast Jesse!” Nikolas called from downstairs. “We’re leaving right after breakfast.”
“Yes we have to make sure we come back home in time.” Zac added. “For Niko’s date that is.”
“You’re trying to get to me, but it’s not going to work.”
“You haven’t denied it yet.”
You know, they’re all just assuming I’m coming with. I didn’t even give an answer. God these people.
By 7 am I was exiting my room, ready to start the day.
“You’re up early!” Crystal called from the kitchen. “I’m still making the pancakes.”
“They’re going to be delicious, I can feel it.” I grinned, sitting down at my stool.
“You’re preppy too! You have big plans for today?”
“Yes actually. I was hoping I could spend the day with my dad.” I said, trying to be casual about it. I cast a glance in her direction.
She halted for a few moments, before continuing to cook.
“I’m really looking forwards to it.” I added. “I could go to Ridgevalley and see where he works!”
“Sounds like fun.” Philip said from the living room.
“Right?” I beamed at my grandfather before going back to my drawing.
“Sounds a little dangerous.” Crystal said.
“Sebastien is a cop! It’ll be fine. It’s just one day. It’s fine with you, right grandma?”
“Well…” Crystal proceeded to cook in small deliberate movements. “Yes I am. I think it could be fun, but make sure it’s fine with your mother too, okay?”
I resisted groaning and contented myself with internally doing so. It wouldn’t be. It never is.
But I was determined to spend the day with my dad. Candice had tried to prevent this for too long.
I had time to eat breakfast and help do the dishes before Candice woke up. Papa Philip had been kind enough to take Dot on a walk this morning, so I was heading off to take my shower when she stopped me.
“Mom just told me you’re leaving for the entire day?” Candice snapped abruptly.
“Yup, I’m going to spend it with my dad.” I replied.
“The entire day?”
“You won’t notice, don’t you work today?”
“That’s beside the point. Is he taking you to Ridgevalley?” She snapped again.
“Yes, he’s going to show me where he works!” I said, trying to put on a smile.
Candice took a moment before she inhaled sharply. “No. Rejected.”
“Just like that?” My face fell into a bewildered stare.
“Just like that.” Candice affirmed her nose lifting up slightly.
I grimaced. She’s never given much care on what I did before Sebastien came into the picture. “That’s too bad because I already made plans.”
“Ashlynn Credant I’m telling you no.” She repeated with a lot more emotion then she usually shows.
“Why are you so against me spending time with my father? What did he ever do for you to hold such a huge grudge on him?”
“It’s not about me and him. Ridgevalley is super dangerous right now. I’m not letting him bring you into what’s almost a war zone!” She said, almost stumbling on her words.
“It’s not just Ridgevalley, you chase him out every time he comes here. Crystal and Philip are fine with him. So why aren’t you?”
“You wouldn’t understand, you’re just 15.” Candice eventually said and I could see this was going nowhere. She couldn’t give me a concrete reason or explanation.
“Yeah, I’m 15 and I’ll be spending the day with my dad. Have fun at work.” I said escaping into the bathroom. By the time I was done, she’d already be on her way to work.
Our rather large troupe managed to fit inside Masak’s hospital room. It’s the first time I met the guy, so I should be allowed a small stare. You don’t often see people with that kind of skin color.
He seemed quite happy to have his room invaded.
After some quick introductions between ‘Niko’s friend’ and ‘Niko’s friend’ we slipped into ‘casual hangout’ mode.
Watching everyone talk about things I didn’t really know – aka other people from the Dragons – I found myself thinking about my friends: Venkat and Maelig. I hadn’t really seen them since school finished. Then with everything that happened, I hardly even thought about them.
Shit, I bet they tried to call me, but I haven’t been home since the explosion. My phone got badly broken, so they would’ve tried to call at home…
I felt this weight on my chest as the apartment came to mind.
I sighed internally. I need to go home.
“I’m surprised Bianca isn’t here.” Nikolas brought up, a few moments after Masak had revealed he would never be able to walk again. He was taking the news rather well.
Masak chuckled. “It’s temporary. She just went home for a few hours.”
“Hey maybe Terrance can give you robotic legs.” Oscar chipped in.
“Cyborgs haven’t been proven to be safe yet.” Masak said. “But that’d be great. We could have our own robotic club!”
“It’d be the best club of course.” Oscar said with a whirr.
“Maybe a spell could work?” Nikolas asked.
“Nobody has the power to heal. Only my mom did and she wouldn’t have been to fix his legs.” Jesse cut in.
“It’s a spine problem. If we managed to get Oscar out of my tattoo and into a robotic body, we can get your spine communicating with your legs again. It’d be a complex spell, but I’m sure it’s doable.” Nikolas affirmed.
“Didn’t that spell take three people? Including your dad?” Masak asked.
“Yeah, but…what if we had Aleccas Keeper help us?” Nikolas grinned.
I frowned a bit. “That witch guy?”
“Yes! He helped out at the bomb site. He seems like a helper, maybe we could get him to help YOU.”
Masak looked overwhelmed from the idea. “Noooo, he wouldn’t waste time on me. He’s got bigger fish to fry.”
“We could technically say he owes me one. He did technically kidnap my father. I could call in a favor or something.” Nikolas continued.
“Aw no, don’t abuse him like that. It’s Aleccas Keeper. Skyla was telling me about the family again. She also said she might’ve found records of his name. You’ll have to ask her about it for me. She’s been busy a lot.”
“Yeah, because of the rescue mission right?” Niko inquired.
“Exactly. More specifically the meet-up.”
Right the big political meet-up, of people deciding what they should do with the supernaturals.
“Oh yeah.” Nikolas nodded. Definitely wasn’t as interesting to him as saving his grandfather.
“It’s a pretty big deal you know. My mom says the results of the meet-up could literally change everything.”
“This is why we’re off to save James. With him, it’s all going to be fixed and dealt with.” Nikolas said.
You know when sometimes you get that false hope vibe?
I’ve never met Nikolas’ grandfather though. Only heard rumors. Who knows, this might be well placed expectations.
We said our goodbyes, and just as the gang was ready to head off towards the Dragons like Nikolas had planned, I stopped them.
“You guys go on ahead. I just want to make a quick stop.” I said.
“Where?” Jesse demanded.
“Oh, you know.” I said, reluctant to admit it. That I hadn’t moved on yet. It’s only been a few days. I need to go back to my apartment and get that final piece of closure. So I can mourn, properly.
That robot is way too perceptive. “I’ll come with. Zac doesn’t know where the Dragons are. He’s going to need a guide.” Oscar said, moving to grip my shoulders.
“Well actually, I teleported there with Niko once-”
“Oh then I want to come too!” Jesse declared.
“I was actually going to teleport to my destinati-”
“Ah fine then. I don’t want to be left behind.” Nikolas agreed.
I gaped at them. “I can’t teleport all of you. And this was kind of a personal thing.”
“You never know till you try.” Niko grinned.
Oscar clinked behind me. “Personal things these days are really heavy, we can help you carry them.”
Jesse stared at me with a determined look. “We should buy marshmallows on the way.” He declared.
Accepting to live in the warehouse also meant accepting this little group here.
I’m not complaining. It’s not a bad thing to want to rely on people.
It feels like a sign of weakness, but….after all that’s happened we’re entitled to weakness I think.
“Okay, but we’re walking. I’m not teleporting all of you.”
“She’s being so ridiculous!” Ashlynn let out. “I wish I understood, but she hardly ever talks to me. I’m still just a child to her. There’s never been any conversation that was PG-Ashe.” She pouted. “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t want to spend the day complaining about Candice. I’m really excited for today!” She said, her mood instantly picking up again.
“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” I said.
“Would it be too much to ask what happened between you two? My mother can be childish, without a doubt, but I’ve never seen her this defensive. She really looks like she wants to fight this to the end.” She tentatively asked.
I stared straight ahead at the road. The history between Candice and I is as childish as the children we were back then. I put it all behind me over a decade ago, but clearly Candice hasn’t. Was it really my place to tell Ashe? I know Candice would most likely never tell her, but I’ve only been in her life for the last few months. Does it give me the right to tell the story?
Glancing at Ashlynn, I can see the same thing I do in Nikolas. There’s a curiosity there that’s going to be hard to quell. There’s also a wisdom to it? It’s a desire for knowledge and not an irrational one.
Or maybe I’m just trying to find excuses to tell this story.
“Candice and I met when we were both barely starting our careers. I was fresh out of the academy and she was finishing up her education. We were together for all of 7 months.”
“Not even a year? I’m not surprised.” Ashlynn chuckled. “What did she do? Did she track your phone? Did she turn into that psycho girlfriend? Or no, I bet she was the really neglectful kind of girlfriend.”
“Ha, it wasn’t that simple.” For the first three months Candice and I got along really well. They say that’s the average infatuation time anyway. From there it was a slow blind fall. “The problems started near the middle. I was making a small name for myself at the precinct and your mother had gotten an interview with the Hans.”
“You’ve been a cop for fifteen years? Wow that’s a long time.”
“Pretty impressive huh? I’ve been a detective for the last six.” I should’ve made detective ten years ago, but…Candice happened.
“What kind of problems?”
“Candice’s interview was peculiar. She wouldn’t tell me anything about it. The only thing she told me was that she’d been accepted, but that she had several ‘secret initiation trials’ ahead of her.” Apparently knowing that her boyfriend was a cop had been a huge factor in her being accepted. I should’ve clicked then, the moment she’d added that little fact.
I glanced at Ashe, who was looking at me with wide curious eyes.
“Those ‘trials’ were touchy when it came to the law, and Candice took advantage of my position to fulfill them. That struck both of us a blow on our careers. We split up afterwards. She probably blames me for the low standing she has within the Hans now.”
There was more to it than that. A lot more.
It’s hard to sum up that Candice used me to get into the precinct. That she used me to steal evidence from the police – claiming it was Hans property anyways. My ignorance nearly cost me my career. Her carelessness should have cost her a lot more than it did.
“Did Candice get jail time?” Ashe asked, and I glanced at her in surprise. “Crystal let it slip once that she might’ve.”
“Yes, she did. She spent a few weeks.” She was meant to spend longer, but a higher authority interfered. She blamed me for getting caught – or was it for not freeing her? I just couldn’t believe she didn’t realize the gravity of what she’d done.
Ashe sat back with a shake of her head. “Wow, I’m not even surprised. Is that weird? I learned that the Hans do kidnapping last night.”
“Yeah, Nikolas told me. So, doesn’t seem out there that they’d ask their employers to do illegal things. I’m also not surprised that she’d try and do them. She loves her job. It’s all she ever talks about. How her work is incredibly important, how what she does will one day change the world. I never really questioned her…or the people she works for, until today. There’s a lot of things that go on that I don’t question. I should really start.”
“Nobody tends to. The police have been looking into the Hans for several years now. There are hundreds of events like with Candice, or with the recent kidnapping you heard about, but we’ve never been able to tie the Hans down to any of them. They always wiggle out.” I said.
“Sounds dangerous. Don’t the Hans dabble in just about everything?”
“They dominate the medical and the scientific industry.”
“And now they’re participating in the summit happening after tomorrow. Are they going to try and gain a political hold?” She’s smart and she thinks fast. I smiled.
“They already have.”
“Oh, the trial. The trial for Nikolas’ father.”
“It was a trial under their supervision. They supplied the means to verify truth during the trial as well as keep Xavier Whitelight contained.”
“The summit is about supernaturals, isn’t it? What can the Hans gain from this?”
I kept myself from saying too much. As fun as it was to see her put the pieces together, I didn’t want to scare her. And the truth was, the summit had everyone at the station on edge. “A richer customer list mostly. If they decide to ban the use of magic, they’ll have to use the tools the Hans offer to enforce this.”
It was more than that. A lot more. It was-
“Wouldn’t the Hans gain complete control? They have authority over medicine and science, and now the judicial system. Wouldn’t that just give them the keys to everyone’s independence? If they decide supernaturals are a threat, then the company that kidnaps and disregards the law will become everyone’s savior.” She deducted.
Precisely. I could tell she already felt the gravity of the situation, but it was even heavier than that. If everything we suspected about the Hans were true, which I was certain it was, this was an organism that not only kidnapped, but murdered, tortured, experimented and toyed with as they pleased and had the means and the power to cover it all up.
“They aren’t the only ones at the summit. Not everyone is against the supernaturals. The police for one are against this law and our party is going to be there to voice that.” I affirmed.
“Is that going to be enough?”
I reached over and squeezed her hand. “Yes.”
It had to be.
Otherwise, I don’t know what to make of humanity anymore.
“Are these cookies still good?” I asked, staring at the jar on the counter. My stomach grumbled along with me.
“Yeah probably. Feel free.” Zac said and I dug in.
It’s kind of weird hanging out with Zac. The rumors at school pegged him for a Class A jerk. I looked at us as a group. A robot, a dog, a Class A jerk, a Class A troublemaker and then me. We’re a Class A weird ass group. I might be the only normal thing keeping this group together and I’m about as far from normal as it gets.
What with being a lie detector I mean. Mmmm, these cookies are delicious!
Zac slinked off into one of the rooms. I cast a glance at Nikolas.
“Hey Niko-” But he ignored me. His gaze was stuck on the room Zac had just disappeared into and it took all of 3 seconds for him to follow. I rolled my eyes and went to stand with Oscar, licking my fingers as I did.
“What’s up with them?”
“You know that Zac’s mom died right?” Oscar asked me.
I nodded. “Yeah. So did my mom and my dad. You don’t see me disappearing into rooms silently.”
Oscar put his arm around me. “Everyone processes things differently. This is where Zac lived with his mom. It’s all very recent for everyone. He misses her.”
“I miss my parents too, but I don’t want to go back home.” I added.
“This is how Zac is getting his closure.”
“Closure huh…” I looked at the door that Niko had left slightly open.
It was just a few inches, but it was enough to ignite my curiosity.
I grabbed another cookie from the jar on the way over.
I tiptoed carefully as I heard the whispers gradually get louder. When I finally reached proper hearing distance, Zac had just finished asking a question that I couldn’t decipher.
“You compare yourself to me a lot!” Nikolas replied with an attempt at humor.
I gently pushed the door fully open, seeing only their backs. Zac muttered something and I frowned. Why can’t he speak louder, I can’t hear anything if he mumbles.
Niko rubbed the back of his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be insensitive.”
The conversation seemed to tense off into silence. Well that’s awkward.
I rolled my eyes. “Maybe if you showed emotion you wouldn’t come off so insensitive.” I said.
Both of them turned to me. “Oh woops, did I say that outloud? Haha,” I went to back out, but my foot hit something metallic on the way out. Oscar’s hands came to rest on my shoulders.
Is this how it feels to be caught in a trap?
“I do show emotion.” Nikolas said. He glanced at our three unbelieving faces.
“This is usually where I say liar, but…” I leaned forwards. “I don’t think I need to.”
Nikolas narrowed his eyes.
Woah there, it’s not my job to be a psychologist. I looked up at Oscar as he picked up the conversation and held me in place.
“There’s a difference between being yourself and acting like you’re supposed to.”
Nikolas’ face seemed to harden slightly. He’s such a defensive person, can I leave now?
Zac sighed. “We all deal with what happened in our own ways. Yours is denial, mine is this.”
“Yours is sitting alone to brood?”
“No, mine is making peace with what happened. My mom died. I know she did, but…I just need it to sink in. And coming here, to this empty apartment, does that. It’s also an inspiration. She was left with nothing when my father left, but she still kept us afloat. She made it through and so can I.” Zac affirmed, and I felt his words come get me. And it seemed I wasn’t the only one. The defensive armor Nikolas had pulled up at my comment faltered away.
Nikolas seemed to want to speak again, but he also seemed to be having trouble. He played with his fingers and swallowed. Zac leaned back on his bed, looking out the window.
“Denial, huh?” Nikolas choked out in a half-laugh.
“It’s actually a little painful.” Zac said with a snort. But like that kind of sad snort you know. Like everyone knows there’s some emotional stuff going on, but they feel like laughing about it.
Look, I’m no poet.
Nikolas laughed, this quivering chuckle, as he looked up at the ceiling. “Just give me a second.” He managed to say.
Zac’s hand slowly came up to his face. “Fuck, come on Niko.” He said as if Nikolas was making some kind of crime.
I gaped as it dawned on me.
“Are you guys crying!?”
Nikolas let out a half-sob half-laugh, and Zac’s shoulders started to shake as he did the same.
Oscar’s hands moved from my shoulders to my waist, as he lifted me up and dropped me on the bed along with them.
Nikolas spoke, in between sniffles. “But we’re going to make it out right?”
Zac looked back at him and then at me.
He placed his hands on both our shoulders, his cheeks shiny with tears. “Fuck, we are SO going to make it through this.”
Like some kind of emotional hammer had just hit me, tears started to pool down my face as well. Some kind of pandemic. “Ah! What is this?” My voice started quivering as my vision blurred.
Both of them laughed, and Niko put his hand on my shoulder as well. Oscar came over to finish our circle.
“That’s the spirit!” Oscar laughed as we sobbed like the orphan kids we are.
We can make it through.
Such a simple concept, but it’s strangely so powerful.
Hans Laboratory, Cloverfield
No one’s POV
Consciousness came to him in muddy bits and pieces until eventually his vision, and his mind, slowly began to clear. He struggled to gain control of himself, his body beginning to pump adrenaline to help the process. He reached out, physically and mentally, and after some flailing he touched and recognized two minds with the same power as his own.
His mental search got interrupted as his physical reaching caused him to painfully roll off the surface he was on and hit the floor.
That attracted attention, a figure rapidly moved towards him, injecting something in the wall between them that seemed to connect to a tube attached to his arm. He tried following the tube to remove it, but he didn’t have enough physical coordination to accomplish even that.
He reached for the figure, the one he couldn’t sense mentally, in an attempt to increase his range. If only…
“You’re certainly getting used to the drugs easily.” A lady’s voice drifted to his ears and his brain muddily processed it. “Don’t worry it won’t be too long now. I’m working on converting artifacts resistant to your power into your own personal prison. Oh yes, you might notice I’ve taken the liberty of swallowing one of them. Which is why you can’t control me. Go on back to sleep, I still have work to do.”
She left as he fought to maintain his already fading consciousness. He reached out again-
A dart whizzed by the scientist’s head, dangerously close to hitting her.
James Whitelight had managed to control one of the guards, who’d immediately drawn his gun and shot at her. The control was short-lived as the guard put his weapon away.
Adrenaline now pumping through her system, she let out a nervous chuckle. “That’s…that was impressive.” She let out. The vampire’s body was filled with anesthetic drugs and the guard had one of their headgear on, yet James had still managed to control him. Even if it was only for a mere second, it was telling of the man’s power.
She straightened herself and walked back to her specimen, just in time to catch his last few remaining seconds awake.
“Unfortunately, you can try, but you’ll never get out of here intact.”