Xavier gave a curious look to a city that looked like a complete other world to him. As he drove over the Great Carson Bridge, so called by the locals, he could only stare like a sheltered child out in the world for the first time. Water… it was everywhere. Under the bridge, on either side of it, he couldn’t escape it. Even ahead of them was a massive quantity of water that Xavier couldn’t even begin to number in gallons.
Driving in front of him the whole journey was Winter. Her bright, custom painted, purple car bounced with bass as she danced in her driver seat. Her hands were in the air instead of on the steering wheel as she did the air guitar, drums, and a variety of moves that looked completely spontaneous to Xavier. She seemed to pay little mind to the fact that they were driving on a materialized bridge that could fade away at any second.
Like a cat to water, Xavier had his claws digging deeply into his steering wheel. Even though a splash in the water couldn’t kill him, he’d never swam in an ocean before, and he never planned to. Ever.
He couldn’t even fathom the blasé reaction she was having to this behemoth blue-green world below her. This was a materializing bridge for crying out loud not to mention the first of its kind and probably had all kinds of malfunctions compared to the new and improved ones over the Crimson Canyon he’d awakened in.
Gripping the steering wheel even tighter, Xavier hurried up past Winter in her purple Halo Convoy Convertible then watched her flip him the bird. Her name appeared on his GPS, and he reluctantly answered her call. “You don’t even know where to go! My cousin’s rental complex is on the beach. You don’t even know how to get to the beach! Get your two ton, hairy ass back behind me or else I’ll shoot your tire with an IX bullet.” On the screen she appeared waving her gun in the air like a mad man.
Before Xavier could even get into the other lane to slow down, she’d already passed him, breezing by with the top down as her now cherry red hair flew behind her. Recklessly, she had to weave through oncoming traffic and honked her horn as if it was their fault she was in their lane. Cars bobbed off and switched lanes. It wasn’t long before had a cop hot on her trail. “Ah. Shit,” she cursed before sidling off the bridge and onto the blessed ground Xavier missed so badly. “Head on to my cousin’s place. I’ll send you the coordinates via GPS. If you can’t find her, just imagine a responsible version of me with black hair.” Just as the GPS switched her face off, Xavier saw the cop pulling Winter onto the shoulder of the main road.
With a scowl Xavier glanced in the rearview mirror. The cop had come out of his car and was quickly halted at the sight of Winter bare in an almost illegal bikini top and shorts that were little more than a napkin with a built in crotch. Great. Just great. They hadn’t been in the city for more than a half hour and Winter was already causing trouble with the cops. Real mature.
He shook his head. It couldn’t be helped. Getting Winter to behave was as easy as taming a tiger, so he drove on towards the growing cityscape. Penthouses, high rises, and condos engulfed him as he neared Carson City. Finding a single woman in this vast amount of land was as easy as finding the hay in a needle stack. The wrong turn would meet you at any end.
Grey eyes surveyed each inch of the land as Xavier memorized the way back to Augustine. They would have no helicopter support going back, and if the rebels unleashed Infected into any of the towns or cities that he had to go through on the way here, they would have to drive through nonetheless. There was no help except for Winter. Amar had all connections cut just in case the rebels caught them.
Pondering, Xavier rested his square jawline against his nimble fingers. Although he didn’t trust Amar as far as he could throw the bastard, he still wasn’t able to question the man. Cutting off connections had been a beautifully yet deadly scheme in the gist of things. If the Infected where unleashed upon them, the plan would give. Winter and Xavier would be forced to meet without any other form of communication between them and home base. Shayda and Gauge would catch on, and if Gauge was really a member of the rebels, he would do anything at all cost to get Shayda away from their grasp. On another angle though, it was a good plot seeing that both of the Field Research Soldiers were plenty strong enough to bring back the woman if things went according to plan.
As Xavier drove through the masses of vehicles hovering inches from the ground, he inspected all angles of that man’s scheme. Then he was taken off guard when the doctor herself appeared before him.
Just from the corner of his eye, Xavier could see his prey. She was with her guardian, and the two of them were headed towards a large hospital with a college attached. It was Carson City’s esteemed Rivera Hospital Academy. Shayda would have been going there to teach her medical class. According to Amar, the students were going to take a look at Infected DNA today and each student was going to see if they could decipher which traits came from animals.
Never taking her out of his peripheral vision, Xavier turned the corner to slide into the parking lot. It was buzzing with students rushing to class and ambulance sirens returning to their base. Again, he had to look in awe at the mundane actions of these people. Again, he knew that there was a war just going on miles away, but they didn’t seem to have a single care in the world.
All he could do was shake his head in surprise. Was there some kind of protective bubble that kept people from knowing about the chaos and destruction nearing their door? Perhaps, Roran was preventing the media from showing any kinds of details on the places demolished by the Infected. The man had the money to do so…
Still, Xavier had to get himself back into the game. There was a woman he needed to abduct, and abduct he would.
Pulling up a pair of binoculars set to look like sunglasses, Xavier pressed a discreet button on the side to zoom in closer on Shayda and Gauge. Her blonde hair swayed down her back, and Gauge kept a protective arm around her waist. She held a black messenger bag across her frame, causing Xavier to notice the teasing skin pressing against the fabric of her dress. Frowning at that accidental observation, Xavier looked at the brick wall wrapped around her.
Gauge was definitely built to be a bodyguard. He was tall like a Telios. He was built like a Telios. Still, Xavier couldn’t properly call him a Telios such as himself due to his lack of knowledge.
To be a Telios a man or woman had to have distinct features. He needed retractable claws and fangs. He needed to be immortal, death only coming in the form of a beheading or an obliterated brain. His mind needed to be over ten percent available to him, something no mortal could accomplish without temporary drugs.
Still, with Xavier’s lack of knowledge the word brother just seemed to call out to him from Gauge. Xavier had never met another Telios aside from Roran, Roran’s mysterious wife Amar, or Oktober. They were so rare in existence after the earth was demolished that only a reported four existed. Properly, Xavier should have already checked Telios out of his idea, but even he remembered the soldiers that had been placed into steel caskets to be sent to the new world. There had been him and a few others but he’d never known the names. Roran had kept that a secret from each one. His wife had even stolen a few of the caskets before the Revival had taken place. Xavier had to wonder if Gauge Bloodthorn had been one of the men stolen from the Crypt beneath debilitated Washington D.C.
Taking his eyes off of his prey, Xavier withdrew the glasses from his grey eyes. A knock sounded at his door, and Xavier glanced up towards a security guard motioning for him to exit the vehicle. In an attempt to be a civilian Xavier tapped his fingerprint against the sensor on the door to open it and stepped out.
“Is there a problem, sir?” he asked as the man gawked at Xavier’s six foot and five inch build of pure muscle. Politely, Xavier dipped his sunglasses into his breast pocket then looked curiously towards the shorter male looking up at him.
The guard gave a quick sneer and barked, “You have a suspicious vehicle on campus. I request an ID, license plate number, and proof of insurance.”
Nodding, Xavier handed the man an ID card Roran had assigned to him in case of such an occasion, and the man’s words rang out in his mind. “Xavier, if anyone questions you I would like for you to hand them this identification card. Whatever penalty they are trying to give you whether it from a DUI to murder, I want you to hand them this card, and if they try to question it, ask them to call me personally. You are the closest thing I have to a son, Xavier, and I’m not going to let some cop with little man syndrome attempt to ruin any of your missions.”
With a raised eyebrow the man scrutinized the government ID card. His fat fingers flipped it over in his meaty hand, and Xavier patiently waited as the man mumbled something beneath his breath. After a moment of inspection, the guard stated, “I’m going to need you to come with me to the Security Board. Even your ID is suspicious. No one carries cards anymore. Put your hands behind your back, and I’ll take you there.”
Shrugging, Xavier obliged then glanced over to see where a crowd was gathering. People were muttering about his sexy sports car, others were muttering about him, and Shayda Rivera in the flesh was walking towards them with Gauge looming behind her. She cast him a curious glance, and their eyes met in the distance. A faint, pink blush ran across her skin, so she quickly darted her frantic gaze towards his car.
Another man was walking towards a car, and just when Xavier was about to open his mouth to ask why, the security guard explained, “We’ll have to keep you vehicle in holding until deciding what to do with you.”
“Sir, I believe that you will have a more difficult time doing that than you suspect,” Xavier explained as soon as the want-to-be cop put the electric handcuffs on Xavier’s wrists.
“Are you threatening me, boy?” the overweight guard hissed with a breath reeking of onions, and Xavier tried not to roll his eyes. Not even the overbearing guards at Augustine were this dramatic.
Before Xavier could explain himself further, the other guard was fighting with his wrist band that was supposed to be able to unlock all vehicles in case of suspicion. “What kind of newfangled madness do you have on this thing? Not even my break in can open it,” the man snarled as he pulled at Xavier’s car door.
“Sir, it’s called personal security identification or PSI as most people call it. Only the richest tycoons in the entire world can own one of those systems,” an awed student acknowledged as he walked towards the man. “No matter what you do, that door will not open.” He turned to Xavier. “I bet he’s also got bullet proof glass on that thing. It’s as armored down as the tanks in New Kindred.”
The guard holding Xavier down by his wrists bit out, “Open that thing up, so that we can put it in confines!”
Xavier casually walked over towards his vehicle, slipped out of the supposedly unbreakable handcuffs, and tapped his fingerprint on the inconspicuous scanner. After that came a scanner that sent out a thin, blue stream of light that scanned across the expanding and constricting muscles in Xavier’s right eye. In an instant, his vehicle came on with a mechanical hiss then began to levitate in the air. “She’s even got the temperature set comfortably for you, sir,” Xavier stated then slipped his hands back into the handcuffs without getting electrocuted.
Mouth gaping, the guards gave Xavier a suspicious glance, but the intrigued student could only look at Xavier in pure awe. Xavier didn’t care about their looks. He was only interested in Shayda’s awestruck expression as she looked at his impressive machine.
After waking back up, the security guard slipped into Xavier’s car and snapped, “Boy, you come with me in case this crazy machine decides that it wants to self-destruct.” The intelligent young man gave the guard an eager expression before looking nervously towards Xavier who just shrugged, urging the child to go on.
“Humph. You may be rich, but you aren’t invincible. I bet you stole that car from some rich guy up in New Kindred. That’d explain a lot,” the guard walking him scoffed then led him towards a tall building. The man glowered at the circle that had formed around them and snapped, “All you kids get out of here! Scat! Everything’s under control! Get to class!” He gave Xavier a forceful push that didn’t have the tall male budging an inch, and all the college students gave out a quick snicker as they loosely scattered about the parking lot.
Xavier’s grey eyes looked towards Shayda who had started to follow them towards the Security Board’s building. Her wide, blue eyes held a concern for him, and he couldn’t help but notice the way her dress flowed against her thighs in the wind. She was so innocent…
Trying to get his mind out of the gutter, Xavier scowled at where his thoughts were drifting then continued his leisurely stroll towards the building. It seemed that even he was getting in trouble with the cops after an hour of being in the city. Winter would have been proud of him.
The black asphalt of the parking lot turned white as it became a sidewalk decorated by hydrangeas and other native plant species of the new world. A man watered a part of the garden as he attempted to refrain from looking at Xavier’s handcuffed state.
It was hard not to judging by the people all whispering and gawking. Then again, Xavier wasn’t used to civilians. Perhaps, this was the way they always were. He had no clue. He’d been living in a steel casket for the past hundred years. The few times that Xavier had even been out in the world were times where he was supposed to kill someone, steal something, or spy on someone. He had no clue how to act around civilians. All Xavier could do was try to act as much like Winter as possible since she was frequently scolded for acting too civilian.
Once they were in the Security Board’s office, Xavier was told to sit in a waiting room chair. The plump security guard left the soldier alone, and Xavier just propped his sneakered feet up on a coffee table. Well, might as well be comfortable before you’re free to go, he thought with an internal grin. Perhaps, being like Winter wasn’t as bad as one would think.
The spinning doorway opened up once more, and Xavier had to glance up at Shayda Rivera placing her bag behind a counter where a woman eagerly took it.
Intuitively, Xavier glanced around for Gauge, but the male was nowhere to be seen. Shayda and he were all alone minus the woman who kept eyeing Xavier with a lusty gaze.
His eyes flowed with Shayda’s form as she picked up a glass and walked over towards a coffee maker. After opening a drawer full of different flavors of coffee, she asked, “How do you like to drink coffee, sir?”
“Black,” he replied, mentally questioning her reasons for offering him coffee.
Snickering, she let his glass be filled then went to make her own cup filled with vanilla creamer and a few packets of sugar. Once the two of them were ready, she sat them down on the coffee table Xavier’s massive feet were on and watched as he withdrew them.
“I’m not as bold. The taste of black coffee is disgusting to me,” she explained before offering to take the manacles he’d already slipped off of his wrists.
“Then, you and my sister have something in common. She used to make fun of me for it.” He gave Shayda a heartbreakingly gorgeous snicker before placing the green cup to his full lips.
She flushed once more then put her glass down on the coffee table once more. “I am truly sorry for what Rodin did to you. He overreacts… a lot. Were you here to tour the campus?”
“Hmm?” He gave it a second’s thought then quickly added, “Yes. My younger sister would have loved to come here. When we have a chance to talk, she always talks about her interest in the medical field.” Well, it wasn’t a complete lie. In the brief moments that Xavier was allowed to spend with Oktober, she frequently talked about wishing there was a way for her to lose her immortality and strength. Always, the mundane appeals to the unique.
Shayda nodded. “Mmm. Sounds like you two don’t get to spend much time with each other. Oh! How rude. I completely forgot to tell you my name. I’m Shayda Rivera. A recent graduate from Carson’s esteemed Rivera Academy. I also work as a Bacterial Research Doctor in the Rivera hospital.”
Xavier took a hold on Shayda’s soft, extended palm and gaze her another one of those grins that had her heart stuttering. “Xavier Shadowheart. I’m here on vacation from my work up in the North East Medical Company.”
“The NE,” she recognized. “My father used a lot of their materials back when he was alive. I hear that they’re one of the few companies that survived the Revival. Quite the accomplishment in my opinion. Roran Crell almost lost them after they shipped ten steel caskets of military weaponry illegally from the homeland.”
Taking note of the number, Xavier nodded. “Some laws need to be broken.” He gauged her blushing reaction to that when his eyes accidentally slipped down to the low V of her dress.
Nibbling on her plump bottom lip, Shayda said, “After you’re free to go, would you like me to show you around the medical study facilities. It is what you came here to look at. Isn’t it?” She watched his eyes. The way he studied her… fascinating. Few men looked at her with such complete attention.
Xavier leaned slightly forward in his chair and stated, “I would love to, Ms. Rivera.” With that, the door to the office opened up for the security guard named Rodin to scowl at the sight of Ms. Rivera so close to Xavier.
The man snarled, “The dean said that you were free to go, but watch yourself, boy, else I’ll have you packing out of here. Rivera’s Academy is my turf. You’d better respect it.” The man grabbed a hold of his belt then waddled out the door to leave Shayda snickering.
Her laugh was endearing, a welcome balm to the many screams Xavier was used to hearing. Pulling herself up then brushing her dress down, the doctor reached out to Xavier once more. “Please, ignore Rodin. He’s more talk than action. He used to threaten me with that attitude of his back when I was a student here. Always said something about how valedictorians always got the special treatment around here.” Xavier took her soft palm, and mentally enjoyed the silken touch he was so unaccustomed to.
“I hear that you’ve been working on DNA with forty-eight chromosomes, part of which is animal. Have you figured out what’s been causing this mutation in people yet or have your students still been working on it?” he asked as Shayda led them towards a glass elevator that was much, much slower than the one in Augustine.
Her eyes grew impossibly wider, and she clutched her messenger bag tighter against her body. “I-I had no clue that my experiments had become so popular that the NE even knew,” she stuttered then glanced up at Xavier. “They didn’t pay me much mind when I had originally uncovered the DNA sample.”
“Just because someone doesn’t reply doesn’t mean that they aren’t listening,” he stated as she led him down a beige corridor decorated in dark brown stripes along the chair railing.
“But, no. We haven’t figured anything out aside from the fact that there are humans running around with animal DNA injected into their cells at early ages. We have the nursery at the hospital locked up tight to prevent that from happening to our children.” She opened up a door and showed Xavier a lab. “This is where we originally discovered the DNA.”
Xavier gave a nonchalant nod as he followed Shayda inside. She seemed proud as she tucked her messenger bag inside one of the drawers then locked it up tight with a fingerprint sensor. Another mental note for the soldier. Her eyes lit up with pride as she explained how many students she had in her classes. She even explained details about her most successful students, told Xavier some names that he’d have to check out once he got back to Augustine.
“Down here is our lecture hall where I teach my students about anatomy and biology.” She pointed up to a holographic projector board where a man was rotating on the screen. “This is our example of a man we call Telios. It’s the Greek word for perfect. We call him that because he is physically perfect. Each facet of him is perfect. Physique. Height. He is a perfect killing machine.” She pulled the screen to zoom in on the man’s hands then played a recording of claws extending and distending from his nails. “His nails are razor sharp and thick to prevent cracking when used in battle.” Zooming in on his face, she opened the holograms mouth. “He even has fangs. Also, the man has vampiric traits. If you would look here, you can see his fangs retracting from his canines. On a closer examination, we also realized that the DNA causes the man to develop two sets of canines, a retractable set of fangs and another set of permanent canines meant to eat meat in the case it needs to be torn straight from the flesh.”
“You seem to have a lot of information on a creature that you’ve never seen before. Can you find this all out by imagining the DNA or is there another way?” Xavier questioned, suddenly connecting the dots between Gauge and the man on the hologram.
She blushed. “That’s not something people normally ask…” Her manicured nail tapped on her lip stained lip. “Well, due to the DNA’s construction, we can imagine the man before you. It doesn’t entirely mean that we know how to reproduce it. The DNA is so complex. They continuously mutate in most of the samples that I’ve been given. We were only able to reconstruct this because of a recent sample that I was given. Honestly, the cells that do try to reproduce tend to fail because of how the DNA continuously separates itself. Each cell changes its mind then kills its daughter cell before it’s even born.”
Slowly, Xavier nodded. His mind was absorbing all of this information like a sponge, and by the sound of things it didn’t seem as if Shayda had discovered much more than Gwen. Was Roran wrong about this woman’s prowess or was Xavier missing a vital detail? Only time could tell, and he had to get Shayda back to Augustine whether he knew the truth of it all or not. He wasn’t a lab rat like Gwen. He was a FRS. All of this thinking was completely over his head.
“That’s about the gist of everything that I do here though. If you want a detailed tour, you should catch up with some other students or teachers. I’m sure that Vice would love to get his hands on you.” At Xavier’s blank look, she explained, “He was the boy that had to drive your car to holding.”
Xavier just shrugged. He wasn’t interested in whatever child had been smart enough to figure out how his car worked. If anything, Xavier was thinking about just how he was to seduce this brainy beauty away from her work. Amar hadn’t wanted them to use force to separate everyone from Shayda, but Xavier was more skilled with force than seduction.
He ran his fingers through his hair then cast his eyes to the door where he could hear footsteps coming. They were steps so light, predatory. He was positive that Shayda couldn’t hear them. Eyes narrowed, he awaited Gauge’s arrival.
The bodyguard stepped into the room cautiously and slowly closed the door behind him. “I’d thought that I’d heard voices, but I didn’t expect you to be in here with the trespasser,” Gauge muttered as he walked the distance between him and Shayda in mere seconds. His body moved protectively behind Shayda, and the man put two of his heavy palms on her slender shoulders. “Your class will be here soon. Would you like me to see this man out?” he whispered with a voice so low Xavier knew that he shouldn’t have been able to hear.
“Hmm? Well, only if he has better things to do. Relax, Gauge. Mr. Shadowheart here was just here to tour the campus for his sister. Due to certain circumstances, I don’t believe that he’s getting the kind of tour he wanted.” She looked to Xavier. “Would you like to be a spectator as I teach the class?”
Giving Shayda a polite grin, Xavier said, “No, Dr. Rivera. I should probably check up on my house. A couple of friends are probably there by now. Thank you for the tour. I’m sure that my sister would love to come here.” He gave the bodyguard a short nod then took his leave.