Xander vol.1 Transmutation, Page 4Jaz Johnson
“Xander,” Aredelle grumbled.
“Just listen to why I –“
“I know why you want to go to Earth,” Aredelle argued, turning to face him once again, and setting down her brush that she had picked back up. “Have you forgotten who I am? I raised you, Xander.” Aredelle stood up, making Xander take a step back. “You want to go exploring. Adventuring. Conquering, even. I won’t have it.”
“Mother, I –“
“Kiran is in the face of war, and you want to go exploring.” She scoffed, shaking her head in motherly disappointment. “They are our allies, Xander. Our family. We will fight beside them. Whether you are to be married or not.”
“I know that we are fighting with them. I’m not trying to avoid fighting. When the final days of preparation are upon them, we will return.”
“Just …” he sighed, frowning some before immediately shifting it to an optimistic and honest smile. “During our visit. I spoke to one of the humans. You saw him – Maverick. He said that in the rush to leave Earth, Hydra had left things in his now unattended living area. She left them there – on Earth, Mother.” Aredelle continued to frown, not seeing why that was of any importance.
“What if they’re found? What about the escape pods Saphora and Arol were sent in? They were not returned. What about Tebias’ weaponry? His ship? Vasuki’s ship. What about Vasuki? With Tebias dead, there’s no way that she would have been able to leave Earth, and I doubt Ares would care enough about her to send for her.”
Still, Aredelle frowned.
“What if the humans find them? Like they found Saphora? What if they were to somehow find Athena?”
Aredelle’s face paled, finally breaking her expression – or rather, enhancing it.
“What if they were to somehow track our planet … our atmosphere by using our technology left behind? Those ships have return coordinates.”
“They aren’t that intelligent,” Aredelle asked, more than commented.
“They were able to contain Arol for the amount of time that they did. Imagine what they’d do with our technology.”
“This isn’t a joking matter, Xander,” she warned.
“Would I be bringing it up to you if it were?”
Aredelle turned from him to face the mirror, her hand clutching her necklace’s sapphire stone that rested on her collarbone. Her mind was changing. Xander could see it. In what direction, he wasn’t sure.
“Where is your father?” she asked him, glancing at the chamber’s doors.
“What are you going to do?”
“We’ve got to tell Vida,” Aredelle insisted, facing Xander again. “Have Saphora go back.”
“Go back?” Xander scoffed. “You really think Vida is going to let Saphora go back to Earth after only finally getting her back?”
“Hydra, then,” Aredelle countered, the growing panic evident in her voice.
“And then what? How is Hydra going to bring back all of their ships? If she lands on that planet with a ship bigger than our smallest, she’ll raise alarm. And she can only fly one back at a time,” Xander reasoned.
“We’ll send others with her.”
“If you send a fleet, do you not think it will cause the same thing?” Aredelle frowned at the problem that had presented itself. “Let me go. I can hold the ships to ours with my magnetic pull. And if I can’t, I can rip them apart. Store them in the cargo of the ship, and reassemble them upon our return.”
Aredelle grumbled, turning away from him with a shake of her head. Her hands squeezed at her biceps as she crossed her arms.
“Loni can trace the scent of where they’ve been and find our tech.”
Aredelle’s eyes darted about the room as her mind raced. She stepped to one side, then to another, all the while holding her arms close to her. Xander was patient, letting her brain work out the needed kinks. He watched with a held breath, hoping that his reason proved to be good enough, and that she would allow him to go. Because while his reason was a very valid one – Xander indeed wanted to explore. Finally, Aredelle turned to face him again, her frown even more prominent.
“Go get your father.”
“This is where she lived,” Loni groaned with an obvious layer of disgust as she carefully trekked through Fran’s house, closely behind Xander who was exploring without a care in the world. She tiptoed around the wood floor while Xander stepped freely.
Xander chuckled, giving a nod as he looked around the living room of the house, his eyes catching each and every picture and every piece of décor. He was consumed by the indulgence of his curiosity as he ventured future, his excitement getting the best of him.
He was finally on another planet. He was finally seeing more of the galaxy as his father had told him he would. And even though he was merely in Fran’s living room, it was almost too overwhelming for him to take. He found himself wanting to touch and feel everything. Wanting to go out and explore the area around him. See the humans in their natural habitat.
“I know. Just look at it,” Xander mused, not bothered by the appearance in the slightest. Loni scoffed.
“To think the princess was living in such a place,” Loni said in disapproval.
Xander gave the room another once over before heading towards the kitchen.
“It’s small,” he agreed. “But I’m almost positive that the woman that raised her was not royalty, Loni.”
“Regardless,” Loni argued. “You couldn’t possibly raise an Athenian, let alone an Ekechi in a home such as this.”
Xander rolled his eyes.
“She wasn’t an Ekechi while she was here. Heck, she wasn’t even an Athenian. She was a human with extraordinary gifts.”
Just then, there was a rattling coming from a corner of the kitchen. Both their heads snapped in its direction. Xander’s brows were raised in wonder, while Loni’s were furrowed in what almost looked like fear.
“What was that?” she asked, scuffling over to huddle against Xander, peaking from behind his arm in the direction that the noise had come from.
Xander gave a light shrug as he took a step forward. But was stopped from taking another by Loni’s death grip on his shoulder.
“Don’t,” she insisted, pulling him back by his shoulder and stepping in front of him. She reached into the pouch that was attached to her hip and pulled out a small, but powerful gun. “I’ll go,” she reluctantly offered, not wanting to let her fear and disgust get in the way of her protective nature as a Guardian. Seeing the weapon, Xander hurriedly reached forward and pressed his hand on top of hers, preventing her from firing.
“Loni, wait,” he urged more than ordered, not wanting to destroy the house with less than five minutes of being in it.
As Xander lowered Loni’s gun, a small white cat crept out from the shadows of the kitchen’s corner. With a brown spot in the middle of its forehead, the cat peered up at them with its large blue eyes, its tail slowly flickering about.
Xander’s body eased its tension, seeing the size of the creature. While Loni’s noticeably grew more wary. Her hand snatched the gun from Xander’s re-aiming at the cat’s head.
“Out of the way,” she hissed, taking a step towards it and making it crouch low defensively. Xander rushed to push down her gun again, frowning at her lack of compassion for the creature.
“Loni,” he asserted. “Honestly. What could it possibly do to hurt you?”
“You don’t know what it’s capable of. What if it’s a Guardian? It could morph in the blink of an eye,” Loni argued.
“Into what? An infant? Look at its size.”
The cat mewled, its posture beginning to relax as it crept forward towards them. Loni’s eyes widened as she stumbled backwards, abandoning her gun in Xander’s hands and heading back for the living room. Xander rolled his eyes, his hands, one holding the weapon, falling to his waist as he turned to see her flee.
“Loni,” he chu
ckled. “Powerless planet. Remember?” Xander looked over at the cat that had waltzed over to sniff at his boot. “Look at it,” he insisted, reaching down and scooping up its small body in his large hand and holding it up in front of his chest. “It’s downright adorable.”
Loni watched from what she considered to be a safe distance inside the living room. Her features held a permanent scowl as she glanced over the cat’s features. The cat wriggled in Xander’s grip, its claws latching onto the fabric of his shirt. Loni’s eyes widened as she hesitated to move forward.
“It’s got you,” she warned, glaring at the cat as it mewled.
“Honestly,” Xander sighed, as he titled his head to look into its eyes as it mewled. “I think it kind of looks like you, actually,” he suggested, looking more closely at its feline features. “It may even been a relative of your species.”
“Don’t insult me so blatantly,” Loni disputed. The cat turned to look back at Loni, making her stiffen and take another step back. “Hurry up and dispose of it,” she pressured, waving her hand at it dismissively.
“What? No way,” Xander protested. “That’d be like killing a tinier you. And I made it clear – or rather, Saphora made it clear that we’re not to harm anyone or anything unless it is of self-defense.”
“How would she know its dead?”
“Are you going to lie to the future queen?” Xander pressed with an arched brow.
Loni frowned, rolling her eyes and turning away from them both, making her way back towards the front door, which they had carelessly left open.
“I don’t care what you do with it. I’m going to go secure the ship and calculate the locations they’ve been. You’d be wise to start your research as well,” Loni advised, not giving Xander a chance to respond before she left the house, closing the door behind her.
Xander sighed, prying the cat from his shirt and setting it back down on the floor. It mewled again before darting off back towards the shadowed corner of the kitchen.
“You go on to live another day.”
Xander spent the next several hours searching the house. Not for anything in particular, but instead, exploring. He took his time walking through every room, every hallway, looking at all the décor and furnishings. Most of which were very new to him, while others seemed almost familiar. He took in as much as he could, feeding his curiosity with everything the house had to offer.
He collected a few pictures that had been framed of Fran and Saphora, thinking that it would be a nice gesture of thanks to bring back something of value to Saphora.
After having explored Saphora’s room, he walked into Fran’s, which was only slightly bigger, but much more formal-feeling. Everything was in its place, unlike Saphora’s room, which had been left in the state following Saphora’s levitation practices.
He stepped up to the wardrobe that was against the right wall of the room. Opening it, he was greeted by the clothing that was inhabited by the average woman, as well as the average man. Fran had kept sparse clothing from her late husband. Most of which were now out of date.
Xander took out a couple of things that looked as though they would fit him and held them to his chest. He used the full-sized mirror that was attached to the inside of the wardrobe’s left door to view himself. First viewing himself with the clothing, and then without, in his own attire.
He grumbled at the significant difference. But the thought of being able to go out into the local community to fix the problem excited him. He smiled, setting the clothing back inside the wardrobe, closing the door soon after.
“Time to start my research.”
Heads turned, photos were taken, and mothers held their children a little closer as Xander roamed the wide, populated hallways of the local mall. Xander’s chin was high, ignoring most of the stares, as his eyes were on other things.
Everything, to be exact. His eyes passed the people, yes. But they were also on the floors, the high ceilings, the stores – of all types, and the décor. He took in the various scents of food. Spicy, sweet, organic, all fusing together, and yet all distinct. He was watching their fashion, as well. Some things catching his eye almost immediately, while others darn near startled him.
Nora panted, her lungs struggling to catch up with her as she ran through the woods on the outside of Clemming. Constantly, she’d look back behind her, seeing how close Richard had gotten to catching up to her. And to her dismay, she now saw a glimpse of him running behind her, his eyes locked on her swiftly moving figure.
Nora whimpered as she pushed her body to go faster, fearing capture. She pivoted and looped around the trees she ran past, hoping the dense forest would be enough to slow Richard down, or even discourage him from continuing his pursuit. But to her dismay, Richard was anything but ready to give up. He’d volunteered to go after her himself. And he’d be damned if he was going to give up because of a little nature.
Nora looked back again in the mists of her running, and when she did, her foot caught beneath an uprooted root, causing her to fall forward into the ground. She landed with a thud and a loud grunt, her hands digging into the ground to try and stop her skidding.
When she finally did stop, she did everything she could to hurry to her feet and keep moving. But when she looked up to run, her honey eyes met the crisp steel ones of Richard, who was now standing in front of her – a smug grin smearing his features.
Her body tensed as they stared each other down, each expressing silent words. Of pleading. Of power. Richard’s grin cracked into one of his infamous smiles as he raised his hand slightly, as if to gesture.
“You shouldn’t have left, Nora,” he said condescendingly, with a slow shake of his head. Nora frowned, her eyes darting around him before returning to his cold eyes.
“Richard, please,” she begged.
“You know I don’t make the rules,” Richard reasoned, crossing his arms.
“But you don’t have to follow them,” Nora insisted. Richard scoffed.
“And then I’d be in your situation. Which doesn’t look too good, might I add.” Nora grimaced as he took a step forward. “Why don’t you just come back with me? Maybe the doc can arrange a desk job for you. You wouldn’t have to be in the field,” Richard seemingly sincerely offered. But Nora took a step back, making him frown.
“And watch him make more monsters? Kill more people? I’m not going back, Richard,” Nora protested. Richard’s eyes narrowed as he took two more steps towards Nora.
“Is that what you think you are? What we are? A monster? Monsters?” Richard scowled, taking another few steps, and making Nora take another wary one backwards.
Richard shook his head, a grin appearing once again as he raised his arms. And as he did, metal tentacles, along with some wires protruded from his back, swaying and curling like serpents.
“We are superior. We are the future,” he insisted.
“A future I no longer want any stake in.”
Richard glowered, stopping his advance towards her. There was a moment of tense silence as they stared one another down, each realizing the other’s decision in their motives. And finally, Richard broke the silence.
“What a waste. Suit yourself. Allow me to remove you from it,” he cruelly offered. And as he did, two tentacles went whipping towards Nora with the intention to strike.
Nora swayed and bent to the side, avoiding the first slash of the tentacle, then swayed to the other side, narrowly avoiding the second. She grunted as she bent back, her back arching dramatically as her hands flattened against the forest floor. Her legs flipped back, dodging the grasp of another tentacle as her feet met the ground, allowing her to stand back up. Richard chuckled as she exhaled, her body in a ready stance, preparing for more evasive action.
“I see you took the training courses seriously,” Richard commented. “I wonder if it was to escape.” Nora secured her footing, her eyes saying that she was prepared to put up a fight. Richard shook his head. �
�You were never much of a fighter. Last chance.”
“I’m not going back.”
Suddenly, almost cutting her off, two more tentacles came charging at Nora. Reacting two late to physically dodge, she stomped her foot into the ground, summoning a wall of compact dirt to spring up, colliding with the metal and stopping them from reaching their target.
Nora grit her teeth as she gave a rough push against the dirt wall, charging it at Richard while summoning another compact wall behind him. Richard glared between the walls, his tentacles shooting out in both directions to keep them from crushing him while Nora made a run for it.
The town was in her sights now, and she had a spark of hope that she might actually succeed in reaching the people. The police. But that hope shattered, almost audibly when she heard her dirt walls crumble, followed by the enraged groan of Richard, who was now racing to catch up with her.
She decided not to look back at him, seeing how that ended up before. Instead, she poured her energy into running faster. Concentrating as best she could, she lifted roots from the trees behind her, hoping that one might succeed in tripping, or at the very least, delaying Richard.
But he was ruthless. He was using his tentacles to latch onto the trees and catapult himself forward, closing the distance between then quicker than Nora would have liked. And before she could use the same technique to speed her escape, she felt the crisp, cold, hard metal of Richard’s tentacle come clasping around her midsection.
She felt the air be knocked from her as her momentum was suddenly cut short. Her body curled around the tentacle at the abrupt stop, her chestnut hair swaying forward to frame her face. Her lips parted in a breathless exhale of shock as she was dragged back towards her captor.
Her hands clawed at the cold metal that was continuously squeezing her midsection. Her feet desperately tried to reach the ground and provide some sort of anchor against Richard’s force, but she was only brought higher as she was turned around to face him.
“Richard,” she wheezed, her face scrunching in pain as the metal coiled tighter.
“You cannot stop the future, Nora,” Richard cooed.