Xander vol.1 Transmutation, Page 5Jaz Johnson
“Look at what he’s doing, Richard!” Nora pleaded. “What you’re doing. What you’re becoming … Richard please, we can’t let him do this,” she wheezed.
“It is the future.”
“It’s human extinction!”
“It’s human evolution!” Richard corrected in a bellow. Nora let out a breathy sob.
“Evolution,” she wheezed. “And Sarah? Was death her evolution? Have you forgotten your own sister?” Nora shouted at him. Richard’s lips fell into a hard line at the mention. He was silent for a moment too long before saying,
“I’m a strong believer in Darwinism.” Nora’s eyes widened at the statement, her shock slowly morphing into fear and disgust. “I’m offering you your life because you were friends. Come back with me, Nora,” Richard offered once again.
Richard felt the wet slap of saliva on his cheek.
“You really are a monster,” Nora spat.
His closed eyes slowly opened to see Nora’s defiant face, almost immediately shifting into that of pain as the metal arm squeezed harshly. She cried out as she felt the strain on both her bones and organs. Her breathing became short as she desperately clawed at the metal. Her eyes watered at the intensifying pain as it became increasingly harder to breathe. Their eyes met, and she knew that she had been given her last offer.
Her eyes darted about, her brain racing to find a way out with what oxygen it had left. She focused on the ground below them, wincing as the tentacle harshened its grip.
“Don’t make me do this,” she coughed.
But he didn’t grant her a response. His gaze remained cold as he waited for Nora’s final breath. Seeing that she had no choice, Nora said a silent goodbye to Richard as she called forth a summoning. Within the instant, two halves of a hollow sphere shaped themselves from the ground and came to hover on either side of Richard. He looked around skeptically, but before he had a proper chance to react, Nora slapped the two halves together around him, crushing the tentacle that held Nora and allowing her to fall to the ground.
She sent vines to wrap around the sphere as she sealed it, before slapping her hands against the ground and launching the sphere into the earth. When the dirt and dust had settled, the sphere was beneath the now smooth surface, trapping Richard within it.
Nora panted as she laid on the ground, the sting from Richard’s relentless squeezing still very much present. Overwhelmed, she exhaled several sobs as she stared guiltily at the ground and whom now lay beneath it.
That is, before it shook.
Nora’s body flinched as she felt the tremor below her. She rushed to her knees as her hands felt around on the rugged surface of the forest floor. A crack ripped through the space between her hands, making her gasp and scramble to her feet. She swore under her breath, making a b-line for the town.
“Has he gotten anything yet?” the clothing store manager asked optimistically.
But his employee shook her head no. Her arms crossed, and her expression, as she watched Xander, turned more and more into that of resentment. The manager had been on her case for the past day, making sure that she was the epitome of sale associates.
“No,” she grumbled with a sigh, her fingers drumming on her arm.
“What happened yesterday?” he asked, watching as Xander picked up and put down different shirts.
“I don’t know. He got some call from some women and booked it.”
The manager gave a nod of understanding, glancing at his wedding ring.
“I know how that is. Well, get over there and see if he needs help. He looks like a fish out of water,” he urged, nudging her forward.
She sighed, reluctantly making her way over. Xander was holding up a navy collared shirt to his chest, and looking down at it considerably, as he had done to many others before setting them back down.
“Finding everything okay, sir?” she asked with trying politeness.
He spun around to see her, the shirt still being held up to his chest. He straightened his posture a bit and nodded.
“Ah, human, there you are. What do you say to this?” he asked her, flattening out the shirt against him.
“Nani,” she corrected with just a hint of annoyance.
“Nani?” Xander asked with some confusion. “What is that?”
“Oh. I don’t think that answers my question.”
Nani’s regrettable slew of insults were interrupted just in time by the collective screaming of several people outside the store. Both Xander and Nani, as well as everyone else inside the store, turned towards the glass walls of the store’s entrance to see the slowly forming crowds of people running to the right. The small crowds soon became swarms, causing the floor to tremble and the people inside to panic.
“What’s going on?” Nani breathed, taking a few steps away from the front of the store, while a few people rushed to join the crowd.
The lighting in the store flickered, as did the lighting in the rest of the mall, which drew Xander’s attention – as well as his curiosity. The people continued in large numbers for several minutes before finally they began to trickle down into a small mob. Xander placed the shirt he had been holding in Nani’s hands as he walked towards the open doors of the store, which some people were still running out of.
He looked in the direction the people had been running from, listening intently for anything out of the ordinary. And when he heard a thud, his eyes sparked with curiosity, encouraging his body to move towards the area of panic. Nani looked on in disbelief, taking an instinctive step forward out of shock.
“H-Hey!” Nani called out to him as he walked in the opposite direction and reasoning. “Hey!” she shouted again when he fell out of view.
Walking towards the area of panic, the structure of the mall seemed to get worse and worse, like a bad horror movie. The lighting had gotten dim, there were wires hanging from lighting fixtures, and there were what looked like pieces of the stone walls, as well as glass, scattered about the floor. Xander’s eyes couldn’t look around fast enough there were so many disturbances to analyze.
But his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a woman screaming. He lazily looked in her direction, waiting for what he thought to be another citizen come running in the opposite direction. But instead, he heard the cutting of air – of something being passed through it. With furrowed brows, he looked up towards the scream, and was shocked to see a body being thrown his way.
Immediately he ran back, arms open in preparation to catch her. Which he did, just barely, as she fell towards the floor. He grunted as they made contact, his feet skidding against the floor to a stop. He bent over her, his strained eyes looked down at her scuffed and bruised body. Or what he could see, anyway, from between her green t-shirt and sage brown pants.
Slowly, her eyes fluttered, before popping wide open, looking up a Xander in shock, mostly from the fact that she was not unconscious on the floor. Her hand rushed up to grip at Xander’s clothing, as if to be sure that he was real.
“You … caught me?” she asked, stunned.
“Are you alright?” asked Xander as he nodded to her question.
He set her down, making sure that she could stand alone before letting go of her completely. Nora stared at him for a moment longer, almost in a daze before vigorously shaking her head in realization. Her hand gripped at his clothing again, this time trying to push him away.
“You have to get out of here,” she urged.
Xander frowned as he swatted her hand away. But before he could question her behavior, or why she had been tossed through the air, the answer presented himself. Richard sighed as he stepped on what was left of one of the halved statues that decorated the fountain in the middle of the mall, whose water was slowly flooding the floor from the now cracked and damaged rim.
“You shouldn’t have come to town, Nora,” Richard sighed as he hopped down into the now shallow water of the fountain.
inted at the man in silver, before his eyes glanced to the now cowering woman, who was taking small, but noticeable steps behind him. Two and two clicked, and Xander frowned.
“Are you the one who threw this woman?” Xander asked bluntly. Richard raised a brow in amusement.
“That’s right, Romeo,” Richard answered honestly. “And I plan on doing a lot more. So I’d hightail it, if I were you.”
“I was going to say the same to you,” Xander countered, getting a scoff of laughter from Richard.
Nora pulled on Xander’s clothing in disbelief as he took a step towards Richard.
“No!” she yelled in a whisper. Xander looked back at her with a slight frown. “He’ll kill you,” she warned. Xander gave a reassuring smile, but to her, it seemed as if he’d gone mad, seeing him so calm.
“A human cannot kill me,” Xander assured. But Nora shook her head frantically.
“You don’t understand,” she started.
“I’d listen to her if I were you,” Richard advised, hopping down from the fountain’s bowl with a splat. “Cause I ain’t no human. Not anymore,” he said with a smile as his metal tentacles started sprouting from his back.
Xander looked on in admitted shock, his brows arching as he watched. Nora pulled on his sleeve again, again gaining his attention momentarily.
“Please,” she pleaded. “Please, you have to run and get help!”
Xander tugged his arm away from her, turning around again and stepping towards Richard with a gaze of defiance.
“I am help,” he indicated.
Nora looked on with her mouth agape as Richard laughed, taking a step forward to accept the challenge.
“Richard, don’t,” she begged.
“Can it,” he scowled. “He walked into this and decided to stay. Let the man fight. His blood will be on his own hands.”
And in that moment, two metal tentacles sprang from Richard’s back, shooting towards Xander with the intent to kill, while another snaked towards Nora. Seeing them all, Xander reached back and hurriedly took Nora into his arms, making her scream as he tossed her up into the air.
While Richard’s attention drifted momentarily to Nora’s body, Xander hopped up on the first tentacle as it dug into the ground. Then the second, and finally the third, grabbing Nora as she fell and landing a ways away from the tentacles, placing the shaken Nora back on the floor.
Xander’s violet eyes were still locked on Richard’s steel ones as they crinkled above a smile. Slowly, he turned to face the two. Nora was now gazing up at Xander in amazement, though her fear for his life was still prominent.
“Alright, Hercules. Not bad,” Richard chuckled, giving his kudos.
“Leave while you can,” Xander warned, getting another laugh from Richard.
“You’ve got some balls. What do you think this is? Comic Con? This ain’t some reenactment, buddy,” Richard toyed.
“And I’m not your buddy,” Xander responded. Richard sighed, rolled his eyes. At least he could say he tried.
“Whatever,” he mumbled as he sent another wave of tentacles streaming their way.
Xander readied himself, ready to take another stance, when a compact wall of dirt and concrete came shoving up through the floor in front of them, blocking the attack. Xander took a step back, startled as he heard a growl of anger come from Richard.
“Stay out of this, Nora!” he bellowed from the other side.
Xander blinked repeatedly as he looked back at Nora, whose hands were slightly raised, and covered in small vines. He stared at her in awe as she pleaded.
“Please,” she whispered. “You have to get – ah!” she cried as a tentacle wrapped around her waist.
Xander reached out to grab her, his eyes widening before she was forcibly flung out from behind the wall and into one of the cement pillars of the mall.
Her body fell limp to the floor as another tentacle crashed through the compact wall, ripping it apart. Xander quickly ducked out of the way of the tentacle, jogging a few paces towards Nora’s body before he was stopped by another. Xander frowned as he turned to face Richard, who held a smug grin across his face.
“She never listens,” Richard sighed.
“That’s enough,” Xander said firmly, stepping towards Richard again. “Leave her alone.”
“Can’t do that, lover boy. But you can join Juliet in death, if you’d like,” Richard taunted as he readied his assets.
At once, two metal arms came charging at Xander. Holding his stance, he latched his hands onto them, letting them coil tightly around his arms with a grunt. Richard laughed.
“Got you now,” he breathed.
But it was Xander who had Richard. He glared, his violent eyes narrowing as a spark was seen within them. A spark that traveled through his body and into his hands. Richard’s expression wavered just slightly as he noticed the spark, and then dramatically as he felt it.
All at once he felt the high voltage Xander shot through his from his own tentacles, the water beneath them acting as a magnifier for its power. Richard’s body spazzed for a few moments before falling limp with a splat onto the damp floor. His tentacles slumped from their vice-like grip and joined him on the floor beside Xander.
Xander let his arms fall to his side as he watched Richard’s still body, waiting for any movement or signs of striking back. When he found none, he turned back to Nora, who still laid motionless on the floor behind him where the water had yet to reach. He made his way to her, kneeling down to scoop her up into his arms.
At the old abandoned house, Loni was beginning her job of analyzing each and every place that Saphora, Hydra, or Arol had spent any significant amount of time in. And with the house being the point of impact for Saphora, it was no surprise that it was on the top of her list.
Most of the house had been covered in yellow police tape. Not wanting to brush up against anything, Loni had done most of her snooping as a lioness, providing her with a much higher level of agile movement.
Reaching the kitchen of the house, she ducked under a couple of haphazardly placed lines of tape before leaping up onto the dusty marble countertop. She sniffed about its surface, her nostrils flaring periodically as she exhaled.
She craned her neck up towards the hole that ripped through the kitchen ceiling and through the deteriorating roof. Again, she sniffed, but again she did not catch the scent that she was hoping for.
At this point, she had searched the entire area, along with its surrounding area, and there was still no sign of the escape pod that Saphora had been riding in. There was the possibility of course that they had landed in separate areas. But Loni was skeptical, even though Saphora was an Ekechi, that she would have survived such a fall from such a distance if the escape pod was not nearby. Which left the other option.
That it was taken.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of her communicator in the pouch she had left by the front door. Or doorway, rather. The door had long been kicked in. Loni leapt down from the countertop and stealthily made her way over to the pouch before morphing, reaching in, and answering.
“Loni,” she answered officially.
“Loni,” Xander repeated, always being one to call out the name he wished to speak to. Loni’s head nodded exaggeratingly slowly, never understanding why he had to repeat her name when she had just said it, in addition to the fact that they could see one another.
“Yes, Xander,” she somewhat sighed in mild annoyance. “What is it? I’m busy.”
“We may have a problem,” he started, dragging out his words. Loni pinched her brows together with a slight groan. She’d left him alone for under 48 hours, and already there was a problem.
“What kind of problem?”
“I think I may have found something.”
“Something like what?”
“Well … Someone. Two of them, actually. But where they’re two, I’m sure there are more.”
e you talking about?”
Xander hesitated before moving the communicator to the side, capturing the view of Nora, who laid unconsciously on one of the sofas in Fran’s house. Loni’s eyes squinted as she leaned forward, trying to get a better look of the woman unknown to her.
“Who is that?” asked Loni.
“I rescued her. I don’t know who she is.”
“Rescued her from what?”
“Who,” Xander corrected, adjusting the communicator to face him. “He wasn’t human, and neither is she. It looked like he was trying to kill her. I don’t know why.”
“Where was this?”
Xander hesitated, not wanting to give away where he had been visiting for the past two days.
“At … one of the human’s local communing buildings.”
“What were you doing there?” Loni scolded. “We’re supposed to be –“
“Don’t worry about why I was there. Worry about what I found, and what’s laying on – urgh!” Xander grunted as a thick vine suddenly latched around his neck.
He dropped the communicator and immediately reached his hands up to tug at the thick plant. Loni’s eyes widened as she suddenly viewed Xander from beneath him, where the communicator had fallen.
“Xander?” Loni screamed, waiting for him to break free from the ambush. “Xander!” she screamed again when she was not answered.
Stuffing the communicator back into the pouch, she zipped it back up before morphing, taking the small bag into her mouth and taking off, using her exceptional speed to hightail it to the house.
At said house, Xander had been turned around to face the now awake, alert and disarrayed Nora. She had her honey eyes locked on Xander, her body curled up at the far end of the sofa in what almost looked like paranoia. The vine that was wrapped around Xander’s neck was coming from her wrist, as he could now see. He patted it, almost lovingly as he coughed.
“It’s okay. You’re okay,” he wheezed. “It’s me – the one that came to help you.”
It took a few seconds for his words to sink through the jumbled mess that was Nora’s mind. But once they did, her eyes widened, and the vine retreated, letting Xander fall to the floor. Nora rushed off the sofa to his side as he rubbed his red neck with his hand. Her hands hovered apologetically over his body.