(secretly this is a part 1/part 2 that I split into chapters 9.92 and 9.93 because it was TOO big)
Warning : PG-13 , excessive and unnecessary blood and bloodstains
One year later…
I took in a deep breath.
I can do this.
I’ve spent the last year recovering.
On cue my mind flashed with the memories of those first few months. Of the pain and the agony and the screaming. It’s a miracle I survived.
They hadn’t warned me of this consequence, when I got assigned as ‘babysitter’ to the Hans golden child. That going through that experiment – getting an additional tattoo – would nearly shut my system down.
I took a deep steady breath again.
I can do this. I’m fine now.
I walked into the doorway to my next assignment and instantly felt a tingling wash over my body. To my surprise, my tattoo showed up.
“Yes don’t worry about it. This room has an anti-magic field. It took off your disguise.” One of the men said, coming over to shake my hand.
It felt extremely uneasy to have my arm uncovered – felt vulnerable and naked – but I swallowed my discomfort.
“Hi, I’m Gloria. I’ve been told you needed stealth assistance.” I needed to be on my best behavior. My mother had made it clear that it was a miracle that they even had a job for me at all. The last year had made me look bad.
If only they’d warned me-!
Nathan Hans came jogging over. “Yes, finally! You know I’ve been filing for MONTHS now to get someone to help me? Took them long enough.”
“Well I was unavailable-” I started, but he interrupted me.
“You or anyone else, doesn’t matter. I just needed someone cleared to go out and find someone for me. I can’t do it, and the 4 guards I have on the project are about as unstealthy as it gets and I can only use them for a limited amount of time. Lack of resources or some stupid excuse. Come on, sit down.” He said sliding onto one of the chairs.
I cast a glance at the corner of the room, where a blue-haired girl was contained. I recognized her, but no one gave her a glance so I followed suit.
“You were there for the experiment over a year and more now. With the virtual game? Yes, so you’ll probably remember him which facilitates things.” He said.
I nodded along, already having in mind the three boys that were there – along with the blue-haired girl.
“His name is Nikolas Whitelight, here’s a younger picture in case you don’t remember. See here? Dark red hair, some kind of bandana, anyway you remember him right?”
I nodded again.
“Wonderful, he’s a Red Pass which is probably why they’ve finally given me someone to look for him.” He seemed to bore of standing up, as he started to lean on the counter. “Also means, if he’s smart, he won’t be out and about much. We need to bring him in to test on him the side effects of the experiment – and well because he’s Red. All you need to do is find him and slip him a beacon. My guards will do the rest. When he’s alone and there’s no commotion they’ll slide in and take him. Simple right?” Nathan concluded with a smile.
“And that’s really the only thing you have to do. So don’t get distracted with anything else. The quicker the better! He’s all that’s left before I can finally move on from this project. I’ve already seen and checked the other two boys, and well the gang here has already gotten as much as they’ll get from her. He’s the absolute last thing to check for this project. So do it quick and do it fast! And don’t be suspicious! They’re paranoid so they’ll run, but you’re a teenager so they should be more prone to listening to you. Any questions?”
I glanced at the girl in the corner. I’ve forgotten her name, but she’s looking at me now.
And it’s giving me shivers.
“Why is she here?”
He sighed. “God I know. She’s not all there, but there’s nowhere else to put her. We’re running out of space to hold people. Though I heard my parents talk of building a bigger facility in Longcrest or something.”
“I thought you said you were done with her. Why keep her at all?” I asked, unnerved by her stare.
“She got claimed by a sister project. She had her tattoo way longer than she should’ve and it was a lot more powerful than planned. So they want to see if she’s got an affinity for it or something. Maybe we can use her.” He shrugged.
I leaned forwards afraid, almost, that she would hear. “She blew up dozens of people, by choice. Family of a friend. And they want to hire her?”
“I wouldn’t either, but haven’t you heard? They’ve finally managed to make the golden-eyes usable. They had that lizard eyed creature eradicate a bunch of Stonebridge rebels. If you can control people, I wouldn’t be too concerned about their psychological tendencies.” He grabbed a package out of a drawer. “Anyway, here’s the bug to put on him. Start well, now, ideally. You can stop by here any time you want, there’s always someone. Or well, I’m told there is.” He quieted his voice as he placed the bug in my hand. “I come here as less often as I can.”
I reached the school near the end of classes.
I do remember Nikolas, quite clearly. I bet you a lot of people do. He was the boy who got in fights as much as he could and then the one who was on t.v. all the time for every tragedy.
I never interacted with him though, never wanted to, so I don’t know anything about him. I don’t know who he hangs out with, what he does, or what he likes. I didn’t know then and I most certainly don’t know now, a year later. But this job is a test to see if I’m really back on my feet.
I took residence on one of the benches and waited. This is his last year of school, so it’s not a dumb idea to think I’d spot him here.
I don’t know if I’d dare to go to school though, if I had a Red Pass. I’m lucky, even though I should technically have a Yellow Pass, the fact that I work for the Hans grants me a Green one.
Well if I don’t see him here, I still have the chance to spot someone who might know him.
I was right, I didn’t see him at all, but I spotted Jesse. As much as everyone knew Nikolas as the guy who got in fights, everyone knew Jesse as his bratty loud cousin.
“Jesse, hi!” I said, stepping in front of him and another boy.
“Do I know you?”
“No, we’ve never talked, but I know you as Nikolas’ cousin.” I said. The boy narrowed his eyes and I swallowed. He can tell when you’re lying so I have to be careful. “Speaking of, I’m looking for him. Do you know where he is?”
“Are you a friend of his? Does he even have friends?” He added as a snort to himself. “Well apart from the obvious best freaking friends he could have.”
“I’ve only had chemistry class with him, I think.”
“He’s not that hard to find. I mean for a Red Pass you’d think he’d hide more, but he’s cocky so…wait why are you looking for him?”
I tensed up. I can’t lie. I saw him at the trial call out his own father for vaguely bending the truth.
The truth, I have to tell the truth.
“Just to make sure he’s okay.” I said.
“You’re worried for him?” He pressed. Oh no, he can tell. He can tell!
His friend swooped in to my rescue then. “Will you stop yanking her chain? They close the arcade in an hour!”
Jesse groaned. “I apologize. If he’s ditching school sometimes it’s because he’s out in the park playing. The one over there or maybe that one. Or really whatever place he’s feeling up to, but that’s probably a good bet. Good luck!”
I let out a tense breath as I watched them leave.
How bad would it have been if I’d blown it, right then and there?
As I got closer to the park he’d vaguely gestured at, I realized what he meant by playing. I could hear the faint sound of a violin – one that stopped abruptly once I got close enough.
At first I thought he’d somehow sensed me coming and had already high tailed it out of there, but then I heard shouting.
“Yeah I fucking swear you are!” I heard a gruff voice shout. “You’re the brat who blew up his own family.”
“And you’re strolling up to spit in his face?”
That’s Nikolas yes, that’s him. I recognize his voice.
“Don’t try anything or I’ll report you.” The man warned.
I saw Nikolas land a punch across the man’s jaw. “Report me then!”
The man retaliated, but Nikolas ducked and grabbed his violin case on the way down.
“Tell them all about how a brat,” He continued, dodging another hit. “had mercy,”
His leg swerved up and hit the man’s chin so hard he fell onto his back. “and decided not to blow your brain up.”
I’d stayed back, hidden and just watching, but I snapped out of it once Nikolas hopped onto a bicycle.
“Wait!” I let out, jogging over, but he was already halfway out of the park.
The man on the ground groaned, and I offered him some help.
“Did you see what that kid did? We need to report him!” He said.
“It’s already done, he’s a Red Pass.” I explained to him as I helped dust him off.
His face went white. “Oh I hadn’t even realized. I could have died! A Red…”
“I wouldn’t recommend trying to provoke Reds. You should just call a task force next time okay?” I told him.
He grimaced. “I wouldn’t be so quick girl. The task force does take care of them, but they don’t really care much for bystanders if you get what I mean.” He gave me a sympathetic pat on the back. “Thank you for helping me up, have a good day.”
I walked backed towards my assignment’s designated room with the intention of reporting in. I hadn’t completed my mission, but I still obviously would need to report in. The fact that Greens were afraid of calling on the task force for help could still be an interesting piece of info.
I opened the door and felt the tingle wash across my body again, revealing my tattoo. I closed my eyes to wait for the tingles to stop and a large bang made me snap them back open.
The blue-haired girl had hit the glass with her fist and was pulling back her arm to strike again.
“Salandra!” The scientist shouted. The girl punched the glass again. “You’re being ridiculous!”
She punched it again so hard that I swear I heard something crack – and it wasn’t the window. The scientist heaved a huge sigh.
Salandra had time to punch once more, blood pooling out from between her knuckles to stain the glass. The scientist pressed a button and an electric shock sent the girl to her knees.
I finally got noticed as Salandra burst out laughing from her spot on the floor.
“Oh hello! Don’t mind her, this is a common occurrence.” I sat down, trying not to look at the girl as she kept laughing.
“It’s disturbing.” I said.
“This is pretty tame. I don’t think we can even call these breakdowns anymore. She always seems to take such joy in acting erratic. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason she has this behavior.” He explained.
“Is she…you know, clinically insane?”
“YOU’RE,” Her voice made me jump so hard I bumped my knee on the counter. “clinically insane, ice queen.” She’d sat up and was glued to the window. She laughed and pulled away. “That was a bad comeback, sorry I’ll try again.”
“Really just ignore.” The man said. “She thrives on attention, don’t give her any and she’ll fade away in her corner.”
“You guys are no fun.” She mumbled smearing the back of her hand on the plastic window.
“So, why are you here?” He asked me.
“I’ve come to report. I found him, but I didn’t catch him.” I said.
“Progress that’s good at least. You’ve only been at it for a day. Good job.” He said. I felt myself beam a bit.
“Also I found out that some people are afraid of the task force. Greens to be exact.” I stated.
Salandra snorted from her enclosure. “Greens. What about cucumbers? Reds are tomatoes. I love tomatoes you know.”
“That’s, um, great, but that wasn’t part of your mission.”
“I just thought it was something noteworthy. They’re supposed to be an inspirational task force. Meant to make everyone safe, not fearful.” I affirmed.
He scowled. “Um right, I’ll just go get the phone number of someone who will actually care about this. Just wait here.”
Before I could stop him, he’d left me alone – with her.
Her attitude changed again, from high to curious.
“So, you found Niko?” She asked, dragging her finger through the blood smears. “And then lost him?”
I avoided looking at her. I’m not going to indulge her.
“We were good friends. If anyone can help you find him again it’s me.” She said.
“You haven’t seen him for a year. What would you know?” I ended up replying. “Not to mention your last encounter wasn’t on good terms.”
Salandra slumped on the ground with a groan. “I know you don’t have to remind me. What does he look like? Has he changed a lot? Did you take a picture?”
“If I had time to take a picture I would have finished my mission.” I snapped.
“I don’t really care anyway.” She replied, staring at the ceiling. For a moment, she stopped looking like a crazy person. I got up and approached her cube, sitting down on the floor.
“What happened to you? You were a sweet girl back in school. You were nice and you liked doing favors for people.” I asked, peering at her.
“Nice? Liked doing favors?” Salandra repeated sharply.
She sat up and slapped the glass, making me jump back on reflex. “Who are you? Completely blind that’s what.” She eyed me with a look I couldn’t decipher. She motioned for me to come closer with her finger. “Tell you what,”
I shouldn’t have, but I was compelled to lean forwards.
She stared at me for a good few seconds. “You’re actually listening to me? You’re fucked up you know that?”
“You’re so aggressive. They were right, you guys really do make a pair.” I spat, remembering the rumors from back then.
Her eyes lit up out of nowhere. “He got in a fight didn’t he? That’s how you found him.”
I gaped. “How did you-”
“I told you I knew him stupid. Tell me more. Tell me more and I’ll be nicer when you’re there. It’s a good bargain isn’t it?” She said, flashing me a sly smile.
“Well…” It couldn’t hurt. I know I wouldn’t mind some distraction if I was in her place. “I found him in the park playing violin when-”
“He plays the violin?” Her slightly confused gaze seemed so abnormally genuine compared to her other expressions that I couldn’t recognize her for a moment.
The scientist chose that moment to come back. “Here the contact in – what, get away from there-”
She stood up abruptly and angrily. “Shut up and mind your own business! Go back in your hole! I’m having a conversation here asshole!”
The man headed straight for the button.
“Don’t even think about it – I will flay yo-” She got interrupted by the shock, sliding to the ground.
The scientist slammed the contact info in my hands. “Your mission is pretty straight forwards. We don’t need any more random information and you don’t need to be riling her up. She’s already enough of a handful as it is. Now please go and do your job.” He impatiently pushed me out the door.
“Bitch.” I heard Salandra mumble before the door closed.
The contact info he’d given me had wasted three hours of my time waiting on a call so they could eventually thank me for my input and hang up on me.
Anyway, next day, I parked out in front of the school again.
I didn’t expect to see Nikolas – though if I did that would make everything easier. I did however, expect Nikolas and Jesse to be living together or at least something of the sort.
I’d done a little research and confirmed it. Jesse’s parents were both killed in the explosion which made them both orphans and kin to each other. It was a natural assumption that they could possibly be living together.
Once the school day ended, I followed Jesse and his friend at a safe distance as they went off to the arcade again. Jesse eventually left his friend and was met with a robot and a dog.
I followed them to several stores until they were equipped with streamers and balloons, talking about Zac’s birthday.
This time, I followed them down a long walk to a lot covered in trees with a spot of denser shrubbery. I kept my distance, but I lost sight of them rapidly. After some snooping in the densely packed trees, I finally found a suspicious large slab of rock.
I checked it for a knob, anything, the wall looked like it was potentially a door. That’s when I realized there was a peephole. Someone had to open the door for me.
I backed away, knowing no one would open it.
I found the Dragon’s den didn’t I? I found it!
My feeling of success dissipated at the thought of having to wait another 3 hours to share the news.
Either way, the Dragons are Reds, the Hans must already know where they are. I wouldn’t be giving them anything new.
Well, I wouldn’t be going in today, but I’ve an idea on how I’ll be getting in tomorrow.
I slipped into the room to report, but was disappointed to see the place was empty. Salandra was sleeping as well.
I sat on one of the chairs, ready to wait. It’s not like I have anything else to do, or anyone waiting for me.
“He plays the violin?” Salandra hadn’t been sleeping.
I looked around, before scrambling off the chair. It was like we were picking up exactly where we’d left off. As if 24 hours hadn’t passed.
“Why are you surprised? I thought you knew him.”
She closed her eyes with a smile. “I didn’t know this.”
“You look tired.”
“You look friendless.”
“I thought you were going to be nice.”
“You haven’t given me anything. Our deal isn’t fair.” She said, keeping her eyes closed.
“He was playing the violin, but someone accused him of being the one to blow his family up.” I said.
Salandra suddenly got revived with a burst of energy. “What!? They’re giving HIM credit?”
“You’re mad that you don’t have credit?” I scowled. Did I forget that she’s a psychopath who blew up an entire family?
“Nikolas didn’t do anything. I’m the one who blew up, why do they think the opposite?” She gaped.
“Haven’t you heard?”
Sal leaned back to kick the window and make me jump. “Do you SEE a t.v. in this room?”
“You were born a natural and he was born a supernatural. Along with the stuff with the trial and well how close he was standing to you when it happened – a really popular theory went around that he’d cast a spell on you. It’s why he’s a Red. Also, officially you’re presumed dead, but there are theories about that too. Founded obviously, since you’re not dead.”
“That’s so dumb, they’re all so stupid. Dumb, dumb, DUMB.” She said, kicking the window again and again.
“Will you stop, I’m right here!” I said between flinches.
“Ok, so he beat up the guy with the accusations.” She said, motioning for me to continue.
“Well he threw a punch and a kick and got cocky and then left.” I summarized.
“And then? Today?”
“I didn’t see him today, I just found what I think is a place he might go often.” I responded sharply. She stopped prodding me for information and drew away from the window.
She crunched up. “Do you think….he remembers me?”
“I don’t think you’re that forgettable.” I said with weaker venom.
“So he’ll only remember me for that night?” She noted sadly.
I think I pity her. I was so scared of her before, but now…I just find her sad.
“I…I don’t know.” I’m not sure what she wants from me anyway.
She trailed her nails on the box they’d given her to sleep. “We weren’t meant to survive you know. Both of us, we were supposed to go down as well. Them dying wasn’t supposed to hurt. It wasn’t supposed to hurt him.”
“You were trying to suicide? Force him into one?” I stared, shocked.
“They were all dropping like flies. My mom. His dad.” She almost chanted. “So I thought – let’s show the world that we control when things happen. I’d been having dreams of explosions. I went to the funeral because I wanted to have my mind changed.”
“You didn’t want to kill all those people?” I can’t follow this thought process.
“I don’t care about them. I didn’t give a damn. I came for Niko. And then I saw his family. The pathetic lot. Pathetic, toxic, negligent, self-centered, air-taking, fake, so so so so painfully FAKE individuals that made up his family.” She vividly said. “I went there to say goodbye you know. It was just for me at first. Chase had pulled a dumb move and I…I just came to say goodbye.”
I placed my hand on the window, suddenly enticed, wanting to know more. “What happened? What did they do?”
“They showed off their wonderfully pathetic side. No respect to him, no REAL sympathy. Luke flashed his asshole side and everybody went against Nikolas. I just realized how selfish I’d been, to not even think of offering him this relief.”
“You were right in front of him and he survived.” I said with stupefaction.
“We both did. Death isn’t as easy as I assumed. Or it’s just not meant for us.” She turned to look at me. “I used to think our paired survival meant there was still a chance for us both to find happiness. At first.” She confessed.
“But it’s been months since then, and I know better.”
The scientist came in then, bottles in his hands and Nathan at his heels.
“Again? Will you stop talking to her!? Get away from her.” The man growled and I got up to sit down again.
“Oh I don’t know. Could be a good thing, the crazy bitch looks a lot more docile now.” Nathan noticed.
“She’s docile because she’s waiting on the drugs.” He said, prepping one of the bottles he’d brought back. I watched as Salandra tilted her head away with a deprecating smile.
“What are those for?” I asked against my better judgement.
“It’s to help her sleep.” The man answered as he injected the liquids into the box to be transformed into inhalable gases. I watched as she slowly drifted off on the floor.
“It’s good that they talk.” Nathan said. “If the project passes, she’ll probably be one of her coworkers.”
I cleared my throat, so I could report and head out.