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Xander vol.1 Transmutation, Page 12

Jaz Johnson


  “Yes,” she groaned.

  “Nora –“

  “I’m not lying!”

  “– just because you put on some contacts, doesn’t mean that you can pass as a mutant.”

  “I am!” Nora insisted.

  “Just tell me where you were, Nora. Was it rehab? I know you were in therapy –“

  “Nani, stop it. What reason would I have to lie to you about being a mutant? Huh? What possible reason?”

  “How about your disappearance for nearly a month?” Nani bluntly offered. “I mean, it’s one hell of an excuse, but –“

  “And what about Xander? How else do you explain him?”

  “You’ve been to comic con! Nora, honestly. I’ve gone with you! Stop this bull and just tell me where you were.”

  Nora gave a groaning sigh as she gripped the sides of her temple, thrusting her neck back to look up at the ceiling. She stepped away from Nani again, trying to compose herself, holding back the tears of frustration and rejection.

  “Ugh! Nani!” Nora groaned. Nani shook her head in disapproval.

  “Why are you egging this on so much? You’re wasting time. Where is he, anyway?”

  “I’m wasting time?” Nora scoffed, rushing back over to Nani and shoving her wrists in her face. Vines immediately starting sprouting from them, bending back and latching onto her arms, crawling their way up towards her shoulders. Startled, Nani started crawling backwards up the steps, trying to get away from her.

  “What the –“

  “Do you believe me now? We could be saving them! Is this enough? Huh? Do I have turn into a giant tree for you to –“

  Nora’s rant was cut off by the sound of the front door opening. She spun around, her eyes wide and her mouth agape as the door opened, revealing Xander on the other side. He looked down at Nora, before looking over at Nani with a raised brow. And after several moments of what seemed like disbelief, Nora exhaled, her hands slowly reaching towards Xander as her eyes watered.

  “Xander,” Nora breathed. Her breathing quickly turned into sobbing as she moved closer to him. “You’re alive,” she cried. “I thought … I – I was coming to help you. B -But she wouldn’t … She –“

  Xander sighed, placing the palm of his hand onto Nora’s forehead, stunning her long enough to get her to stop crying.

  “You’re crying again,” he mumbled. Nora’s bottom lip quivered.

  “B -But –“

  Again, Nora’s whines were interrupted, this time by Loni’s low growl as she walked in beside Xander, her head, level with Nora’s thigh, wedged its way between them. Xander rolled his eyes, nudging his guardian’s neck with his own outer thigh. Nora breathed a laugh as she knelt down, now eyelevel with Loni, who took a slight step back in surprise, her nostrils flaring. Her fangs made an appearance when Nora’s arms suddenly came wrapping around her neck.

  “I’m even happy to see you, Loni,” Nora admitted as she nuzzled her head against Loni’s fur. Loni noticeably stiffened, her jaw closing and her eyes snapping up to Xander with concern. He couldn’t help but let out a laugh as he crossed his arms.

  “You thought we were dead?” he laughed, reveling in the sight of Loni’s discomfort. Nora pushed herself back onto her feet, wiping her eyes.

  “I saw blood when you left. I thought –“

  Again, Nora was interrupted by the clearing of Elba’s throat as he stepped around the lioness.

  “Yes, I believe that was our fault,” Elba apologized, stepping around Loni and straightening his suit before looking up. His eyes found Nora’s vine-covered arms before they found her honey eyes. His movements slowed considerably as his face scrunched in confusion. “What in the hell …” he mumbled under his breath.

  Realizing, Nora quickly hid her arms behind her back, her vines immediately retreating as she stood alert. Elba held a slight frown as he glanced over at Nani, who had fainted in the mists of all the commotion. What with the revealing of her mutant ex-girlfriend, the alien prince, his pet lion, and a government agent, she couldn’t really be held at fault. Elba sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with a slight shake of his head.

  “I’m getting too old for this crap.”

  “Chimera,” Elba repeated.

  Nora nodded hesitantly, her hands shifting nervously in her lap. She was finally doing what she needed to – informing the authorities about what was on the horizon. And she was doing it without the feared gun to her head. Xander stood beside her to make sure of that, while Loni roamed the premises with agent Borges keeping a close eye.

  “How many of you are there?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “What do you mean what do I mean?” Elba grumbled. “Chimera. How many are there?”

  “There are victims and there are recruitments, agent Elba,” Nora clarified with a stiff upper lip. “It’s crucial to know the difference.”

  Elba paused only briefly as he exhaled, his lips forming a frown.

  “I asked how many there are, not whose side they’re on.”

  “Well I don’t know an exact number. I left. I don’t get newsletters.”

  Elba crossed his arms.

  “That you know of.”

  “Eight,” Nora sighed. “Including myself.”

  “And the ‘victims’?”

  “Three.”

  “Including yourself.”

  “Yes.”

  “And just how many more Chimera do you think this guy plans on making?”

  Nora grimaced.

  “He won’t stop.”

  Elba expression hardened, silently keeping track of the military force that could possibly be needed if the numbers got too great.

  “He plans on taking this nationally?”

  “Globally,” Nora grimly corrected.

  “And what for? What’s the motive? World domination?”

  “He wants a revolution,” she explained. “An evolution. Mankind’s next evolution.”

  “What, he thinks he’s helping?” Elba turned to his left in his seat, turning on the confiscated security footage of the lab at the community college.

  It featured the Chimera known as Stephanie with her hand wrapped around the late Cynthia Brown’s neck, visibly draining the life from her. Her colleague was already dead on the floor. Elba stopped the video just as soon as he had stared it, his eyes narrowed in aversion as he looked back at the slightly cringing Nora.

  “He calls this helping?” Elba re-uttered. “I call it murder. And so does the majority of the population.”

  Nora frowned, staring at the frozen footage.

  “They call it Darwinism.”

  “Victims. Where are they and what are their abilities?”

  “He’s got them in volts in the far ends of the forest – heavily guarded. There’s Eleanor – she can see truth. Sense it. A human lie detector. Or – well, not anymore. And Theodore – the mechanical shapeshifter. He can transform any or all parts of his body into any weapon he knows the ins and outs of.”

  Elba gave a slow nod, re-crossing his arms in consideration.

  “I can see why they’ve got him locked up. But you? Eleanor? A tree hugger and a woman that can’t lie.”

  “It doesn’t matter what we can do,” Nora argued. “it’s the fact that we’re against him.”

  “And I wouldn’t underestimate the power of nature – nor truth,” Xander spoke up. “I’ve heard of your ‘natural disasters’, and it seems you do that quite often.”

  “Touché,” Elba complied. “I’m assuming you were locked up as well,” he said, directed towards Nora.

  “Yes.”

  “How did you escape?”

  Nora paused. “They confined me in a place of nature and expected it to contain me.”

  “Right … Well, do you think you could lead a team to these locations to recruit the other Chimera?”

  “Why do you want them?”

  “Don’t you? If we’re going to stop this guy, I’m guessing using his creations agai
nst him will do some damage.”

  Nora hesitated, glancing up at Xander who seemed to be agreeing with him. Her hands tightened in her lap.

  “I need your word that you won’t hurt them. If they’re any level of afraid as I was, any sense of a threat will only –“

  Elba raised his hand to stop her, giving a nod and a slight grin of understanding.

  “Yeah, we’ve learned the hard way about that. With now two Athenians.”

  “And two Guardians,” Xander added.

  “We won’t make the same mistake with Chimera.”

  Nora gave a slow nod of easing relief.

  “That’s why you and spark plug here are going to go get them,” Elba continued.

  Nora’s face fell, while Xander’s perked up.

  Chapter 16

  “Are you sure this is it?” Xander asked, blindly following Nora through the shockingly dense forest, far on the outside of town.

  Nora grimaced, keeping her pace. She actually wasn’t sure. But it was her best bet of direction in where the vault was.

  Nora was to be stationed at the South end, furthest away from Clemming because of her outspoken protest against the project, and her verbal threats to expose it.

  Theodore was stationed at the west end, which was where they were headed now. And Eleanor was stationed at the east end, which was their next stop.

  “I know it’s somewhere in the west of the forest,” Nora stated, glancing back at Xander. “We can’t be too far.”

  “Why don’t you climb a tree and see over head?”

  Nora’s neck craned upwards as she looked at the sky. A chill ran through her as she gave her head a shake, and picked up her pace. Nature-woman or not, heights were not her thing.

  “It’s not far, now. Any minute we should see some sort of –“

  Nora was cut off by the sound of a distant, but warning growl. Far bigger, and far louder than anything that was normally found in the wooded areas. They both froze in their steps, Nora’s eyes far wider than Xander’s. Nora looked back, slowly, cautiously, at Xander, who was curious of the sound more than anything.

  “Is … Loni joining us?” Nora asked, hopeful that the frightful noise had at least come from a source that could be controlled. But seeing Xander scoff in laughter made Nora’s blood run cold.

  “She’s with your authorities.”

  Nora sighed, her eyes closing momentarily as that glimpse of hope fell away. She had stopped walking, while Xander slowed to a stop beside her, wondering why.

  “What was that?” he questioned, looking out into the distance, which with the appearance of the low growl, seemed to be that much closer.

  “Not Loni.”

  “What?” Xander’s brows furrowed. “I’ve just said that it’s not –“

  A rustling in the near distance interrupted Xander’s miniature rant. They both looked its direction, Nora taking a step back upon seeing the figure of Halyn. She smirked, her head tilting some as she stepped away from and in front of the tree beside her.

  “Well, I’ll be damned,” she said in amusement as she took a few more steps towards the two. She glanced between them, slowly nodding. “You’re really trying to go through with this,” she scoffed. “And you brought help. Where’d you find this poor fool?”

  Xander’s brows rose in offense, followed by his challenging step forward. Nora grabbed onto his sleeve warningly, not wanting to prematurely underestimate the situation. Halyn snickered.

  “And he’s eager to die.” She crossed her arms, shaking her head. “Lupin’s got a bounty on you, Nora.”

  Nora was silent as her gaze shifted between Xander and Halyn. Xander was still glancing about, as well as studying her, in search for the source of the noise. She stepped back, closer to Xander, making Halyn snicker.

  “You’re in over your head. You should have gone back with Richard. Or at least let him finish you off. At least he would have made it quick. I won’t be so nice.”

  The blunt threat drew Xander from his nonchalant posture, his eyes hardening into a glower. He stepped forward, and as a reflex of wanting protection, so did Nora. She gripped his sleeve as she saw his lips straighten into a hard line.

  “Xander …” came the sheepish voice of Nora. She knew enough to know that threats were not taken lightly by Xander.

  “Richard mentioned you,” Halyn commented as she stepped forward, matching Xander. “The walking sparkplug. Are you one of the doctor’s?”

  “Like hell I am,” Xander practically spat. Halyn’s head rested on a tilt.

  “Hm. Regardless. This is where your rescue mission ends,” she said, inching forward towards them.

  Xander matched her steps, while Nora continued tugging on his sleeve, desperately wanting to avoid the confrontation.

  “We’ll see.”

  “Xander,” Nora complained, standing back as he stepped forward to accept the challenge. “What are you going to do, kill her?”

  Xander paused, looking back at Nora with an arched brow.

  “Would you prefer her alive?”

  “Well – if we could get her to –“

  “To change my mind?” Halyn laughed. “Let me be the one to suggest the ladder.”

  “Halyn, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to side with him,” Nora pleaded.

  “You’re ungrateful, Nora,” Halyn argued. “You’ve been given a gift.”

  “Not everyone will be so lucky.”

  Halyn shrugged.

  “We’ve all got to go sometime.”

  Nora grimaced as Xander continued his slow pace forward, the two closing the distance between each other. Xander stopped a couple of yards from Nora, slightly turning back to look at her for her decision, which he would respect, regardless of what it was. Still she was hesitant, not wanting it to have to come to her death. Xander gave a soft sigh, understanding.

  “Prisoners, then,” Xander concluded. Halyn laughed.

  “You’re pretty confident.”

  “While I’m dealing with her, you continue to the vault,” Xander instructed.

  Nora straightened her posture, becoming alert at the command. She gave a tense nod as Xander and Halyn began to circle one another. Halyn didn’t bother to give a response, her mocha skin darkening, highly contrasting her lightening hazel eyes. Opening her mouth to grin, her slightly extended canines were revealed.

  Her changing appearance perplexed Xander, causing him to slow down in their standoff. His eyes narrowed, and then widened as her body began to shift. Nora took several wary steps back as she saw the appearance of the black jaguar, the golden nose ring she had been sporting now in her left ear. Xander eventually slowed to a stop to watch the feline prowl around him, admittedly amazed.

  The connection between the sound and Halyn dawned on him as she snarled, her fangs barring as her head ducked below her shoulders. And he couldn’t help but smile, the comparison of the black feline to his tan one almost uncanny. Loni had Halyn beat in size. But that expression of ‘I’m going to kick your ass’ was anyone’s call.

  “Fascinating,” Xander breathed, watching her every move as she circled him in agile steps. Nora frowned.

  “Focus, Xander,” Nora warned. “I highly doubt your curiosity is going to kill the cat.”

  Xander’s brows scrunched at the phrase, his literal comprehension failing him. He turned towards her, frowning at, what to him, was stupidity.

  “What?”

  But before Nora could explain or dismiss the saying, they were both alerted by the much louder growl of Halyn as she charged at Xander, leaping when she felt she had closed enough distance. Xander pivoted his body back and to the left, narrowly escaping a clawed blow to the face.

  He laughed, backing away from Halyn as she landed, hurriedly turning around and growling as she began stalking towards him again. Xander bounced from foot to foot, his hands raising in slightly curled fists, imitating a boxer.

  “Too slow,” chimed Xander. “My cat�
��s faster than you.”

  Halyn snarled and charged again, this time sticking to the ground. She lunged forward with an open jaw, wanting to bite down on Xander’s calf. Nora whined at how close she got before Xander jumped over her, kicking off her back and landing back on the ground, bouncing again.

  Halyn spun around and charged without pause, but let out a howling whine when she was struck with a volt of electricity. She tumbled to the ground, her body spazzing momentarily. Nora watched with wide eyes, unable to look away from the anxiety-building scuffle. But Xander snapped her back into focus.

  “Nora!” he shouted as Halyn struggled to get back to her feet.

  Nora’s eyes snapped to his, before she took off in the direction of the vault. Halyn growled in response, violently shaking her head to rid her of the aftershock of the voltage. Her eyes narrowed at the cocky Xander as Nora was seen running off into the distance.

  “They’re going to be picking you out of my teeth,” Halyn snarled.

  Xander’s eyes widened in amusement, his lips spreading to house his smile.

  “You can talk!” he shouted in marvel, before spinning out the way of another attempt to charge at him.

  She swung her forearm out when he moved, this time successful in nicking him in the side. Xander winced as pivoted again to avoid another blow. He frowned at the sting he felt along his ribs, shooting another volt into her body. Again, she howled as her body spazzed against the ground, her pupils dilating.

  Meanwhile, Nora as steadily approaching the vault containing her friend – the human war-tank, Theodore Rossey. Periodically, she’d look back over her shoulder, making sure that Halyn wasn’t closing in behind her, thereby signifying Xander’s defeat, an most likely her own. But each time, she saw nothing. And even still, each time she looked, she felt the need to push herself further – faster.

  Until finally, she came across a large metal vault – cube-like in design. It looked as though someone had dropped a giant safe in the middle of the woods. Down to the tumbler on the door – which was now unguarded. Nora exhaled a breath of relief as she came upon the clearing. She ran right up to the door, practically colliding with it. Her hands came slapping against it as she panted.