Xander vol.1 Transmutation, Page 7Jaz Johnson
Nora sighed, but knew he was right. It was only fair to give him a fair warning of what was about to go on, and what she was planning on doing. She wouldn’t assume that he would go as far as to tag along on her mission. But as far as protecting until said mission took off, he was right in wanting to know just what he would be up against if the time should arise.
“You said ‘he’ called you Chimera. Who is ‘he’, exactly?” Xander asked, starting the first of many questions.
Nora hesitated, grimacing. She knew that she was about to give away information she had sworn not to. And she knew that giving the information would make her more of a target than she already was. And while she was fearful of her life, she no longer cared for the oath she took.
That was before the change. That was before the manipulation and the lies. That was before she found out what the doctor’s true intentions were. That was before the danger for the future. And most importantly – it was before Sarah. She took a deep breath, taking her first plunge.
There would be no turning back.
“He was our therapist. His name is James Lupin.”
“How did he do it?” Xander asked.
“He told us it was a new breakthrough in therapy,” she scoffed. “A new drug designed to cure you personally. And we believed him.”
“Was it a malfunction?”
“No. He knew it would mutate us. I don’t think he knew how, though. He was after a uniform mutation, wanting the same results every time. But that’s not what he got. He was after an ideal. But ended up with us.”
“What do you mean?”
“He told us it would cure whatever disorder or problem we were seeing him for. But instead, the mutation manifested them, and we became their embodiment.”
“What was yours?” Xander asked after some hesitation. “Why were you seeing him?”
“They called me a hippie. A tree hugger,” she scoffed, laughing harshly. “I felt a connection with nature that people called unnatural.” She turned her hand over, looking down at its palm as she allowed the beginnings of thin vines to merge from her wrist and crawl up into the palm of her hand. Her eyes were solemn, even as she handled the wines with care.
“Now the connection is more than emotional.”
Xander watched her movements, unable to help but feel for her. He easily got a sense of the hope she had for the treatment, in hopes that maybe she would be more accepted by her peers, only to find herself moving further and further away.
And now, being as she was, he could feel her sense of hopelessness, while at the same time, the determination to do something about it.
“Why did you leave?” Xander asked.
“Because I can’t let him keep doing this to people. Lying to them, and then making them pledge their loyalty – their lives to him. And for what? These … powers? That bring nothing but chaos –“
“Would it be so bad? If you could just break their alliance to him, perhaps. But Athena gets along perfectly well with a fairly large spectrum of power. Would it be so different here?”
“No,” Nora sighed. “This planet – humans aren’t ready for such a change. There are wars and death for such trivial things now. And far lesser forms of power. I fear to imagine an Earth of only this. And what’s more, the death that would follow when attempting.”
“Death?” Xander repeated. Nora had yet to mention Sarah, and the realization made her sulk.
“The treatment – serum. It’s not stable. Not everyone’s body can accept it. And if it doesn’t …” she trailed off, her eyes lowering.
“I’m sorry,” Xander spoke up. Their eyes met in the moment of mourning. He frowned. “You’ve lost someone to this.” Nora looked away again, though grateful for the compassion.
“She was seeing Lupin for anxiety, among other things.” Nora gave a soft laugh at her recollection. “We met in the lobby of his office.” She felt her eyes water and sting at the guilt and rage that welled up within her. “She was his sister. Richard’s. And he didn’t even bat an eye,” Nora said, her vocal cords straining. “He said he believed in Darwinism,” she spat, her eyes glaring at her balled fists, one reaching up to wipe her eye before the tears could spill over. Before Xander had a chance to comfort her, she continued with renewed animation.
“That’s why I’m going to stop this. I’m not going to let more people be victims just because he wants to continue this experiment. He wants to infect the globe,” she said with disgust, looking back up at Xander.
She could see his expression of discomfort and worry, and she sighed, forcing what she thought was a smile to stop the expression of disappointment from claiming her features.
He looked as though he regret saving her, hearing exactly what he was to expect from the other side. And Nora expected as much. Even she thought she was mad for even trying to escape the base.
“Well,” he sighed. Nora lowered her eyes, her hands tightening in their fists. She awaited the demand for her to leave, and to take her cloud of death with her. “As far as help goes, I think you’ve found the best you could possibly get,” he chuckled.
Nora stared at her paling knuckles, her brain struggling to accept the commentary. But when her brain finally pushed through the lag of denial, her head snapped up, and her eyes went wide. And then immediately after, narrowed.
She paced her thoughts. She hadn’t dared to assume that Xander would help her on her crazed mission to save the world. She felt her heart thud against her chest with hope, despite her better judgment and caution.
“What?” she asked before swallowing, her throat suddenly dry.
“My help,” Xander repeated. “As far as help goes, I think I can do a hell of a lot,” he bragged with a nod, almost optimistically.
“Helping …” Nora trailed off, with a slight shake of her head. “Me?”
“I’m certainly not talking about helping that man,” Xander scoffed. And despite Nora’s increasingly growing joy, she furrowed her brows, unable to help being skeptical as well.
“Why?” Now it was Xander whose eyes squinted in wonder. “Why do you question benefits to you? Because I do not dislike you. And it is not in my nature to turn away from someone in dire need. You are risking your life for the greater good of your home – you’re people. And being a prince, I am bound by the same morality. So,” Xander huffed. “I will help you, Nora of Earth. To avenge your friend, and save your planet.”
Nora stared with lazy eyes and disbelief. Her bottom lip quivered as her heart thudded against her chest. Almost immediately, she felt the sting of her eyes watering, and the beginnings of her chest heaving.
She’d been so hopeless. She’d thought that with the first mentioning of her crisis, that she’d be cast away. That no one would believe her. Or worse, that they would, and would refuse to help her instead. That they would capture her and drag her away. Experiment on her, and selfishly use her for science instead of heeding her words of the grim future.
But instead, in the first run at an explanation, she’d not only found help. But the help of another power-wielding being, accompanied by another. It was like God had personally heard her prayers and hopes, and sent Xander in the form of an answer.
Seeing Xander’s sudden stiffness in body language, Nora realized that the tears that had threatened to spill over had actually done so, and were now dripping down her face and into her hands. Hands that rose to wipe her eyes apologetically.
“Sorry,” she wept, leaning over her lap as she pointlessly wiped away tears that kept falling.
Xander’s jaw tightened as he was suddenly faced with a crying woman. He shook his head, not understanding the sudden overflow of emotion – especially not that of an apology.
“Why are you –“
“Thank you,” she sobbed, cutting his nervous questioning off. “Thank you,” she repeated, gripping onto his hands that were slowly reaching towards her in awkward hesitation. Xand
er flinched upon the contact, the corners of his mouth falling downwards as their eyes met.
“There’s hope,” she exhaled, letting go of one of his hands in order to wipe her eyes again. “There’s hope now.”
“I can’t believe Maverick just quit like that,” came the annoyed pitch of Liz, who was standing behind the checkout counter of the café with her arms crossed.
Jared was wiping down said counter, sighing when she mentioned the disappearance of his good friend – or so he thought. He’d been thinking the same thing for the past few weeks. There was no phone call, no passing of messages to the manager. Maverick had just up and vanished. Quitting without so much as a goodbye or a two-week notice.
He’d become increasingly more impatient to hear something from Maverick. A call, a text. Hell, he’s settle for an email if it explained what had been going on. Ever since he had started hanging out with Saphora, he’d been seeing less and less of him. Until finally, they arrived at the basis of Liz’s conversation of the afternoon.
“Yeah,” Jared said nonchalantly.
Or trying to sound as much, anyway. But Liz wasn’t about to drop the topic any time soon. She wanted answers, and she was convinced that Jared had them. She popped her gum, obviously not satisfied with his response.
“What happened to him?” She demanded, more than asked.
“How should I know?” Jared grumbled, whipping his rag from the now shining counter and stuffing it back into his uniform apron, sporting a steaming cup of what could have been tea or coffee in the center of it. Liz scoffed.
“Aren’t you guys friends?”
“And you should know why he quit,” she reasoned.
“Well, I don’t. Okay? I don’t have any idea why he quit – or where he is,” Jared admitted, taking the rag back from his apron and slapping it into the sink behind the counter against the wall.
Liz popped her gum again, studying Jared’s body language as he leaned up against the edge of the sink and crossed his arms. Her brows rose, seeing his apparent frustration. And her tone quickly went from that of annoyance to gossip.
“You mean you really don’t know where he is?”
“I haven’t talked to him in weeks. He won’t answer my calls, or anything,” Jared confessed.
“Oh my god …” Liz breathed, her hand raising to her chest. Jared scoffed, looking over her dramatized posture.
“Oh, don’t act like you actually give a shit,” he jeered.
“But Jared,” Liz said, her voice dropping considerably. “What if something happened to him?”
Jared’s mocking expression fell through to shocked realization within the instant. He stared blankly at Liz for a moment too long, before his brows furrowed.
“What?” he scowled.
He’d spent so much time angry with Maverick for not returning his calls of texts that he hadn’t stopped to think that maybe he was in some kind of trouble. That maybe something had happened to physically stop him from getting back to him. A wave of guilt washed over him, only to be made worse by Liz and her compassionless curiosity.
“What if he’s dead?” she went on.
Jared’s face paled at the possibility.
“What if that weird girl took him away and murdered him or something? You saw her on the news, right? Whatever the heck she was doing to that dragon thing. What if she –“
“Shut up, Liz,” Jared groaned.
“But what if she did?” Liz urged, leaning closer to Jared, whose conscious was now eating away at him. “Neither of them have been here since that dragon thing happened. And it escaped!” she shouted in a whisper. “What if she like summoned it, and she fed Maverick to it?”
Jared turned away from her, not wanting to listen to anymore of the absurd, but jarring possibilities. Liz pulled on the edge of his apron, egging him on.
“What if there are pieces of his body out in the woods somewhere and they just haven’t found him yet?”
Jared groaned in annoyance, swatting her hand away, almost in desperation.
“Will you shut up?” he nearly shouted. And to his surprise, she fell silent.
He closed his eyes, hoping for the silence to last. And when it did, he sighed with relief, slowly opening his eyes again. He stared up at the ceiling, as if to look through it to a God above, sending his silent prayers of denial. His shoulders slumped as he slowly turned back around to thank Liz, who was now staring ahead into the shop with somewhat wide eyes and parted lips.
Jared’s brows furrowed as he studied her expression, his words trailing off as he suddenly noticed the deathly silent atmosphere of the café. His head whipped around to look in the same direction with sudden paranoia, and his breath caught in his chest upon what he saw.
Waltzing into the store, on all fours, was Loni. The people of the silence-stricken café remained deathly still as the lioness made her way inside. She was quiet, her head lowered close to the ground and her nostrils flaring out. She was searching. But to the people of the café, she was hunting.
When Loni had gone a decent distance past the people towards the front of the store, they jumped from their seats and ran out of the cafe, hurrying as fast as they could to get as far away as they could.
Loni paid them no mind as she continued to roam around the café, more and more people scurrying from the building as she continued. In contrast, there were also people gathered around the entrance and front windows of the café with their phones and other devices out, recording the whole thing. And then of course, some had the sense to call the police and animal control.
Reaching for Liz’s arm with as little movement as the action would allow, he glanced down at her and her petrified posture.
“Panic … Panic button,” he urged, nudging her wrist.
Liz’s eyes snapped from the intimidating figure of the lioness, over to the counter in which she stood in front of. Her hand leapt for the underside of the counter, her fingers desperately feeling around for the shape of the little red button.
“I don’t know how he did it, but I swear. I had him, and then out of nowhere, I feel this voltage surging through me. And then the next thing I know, I’m waking up in the mall and they’re gone,” Richard explained, hoping that by some miracle he would be believed.
He stood in front of a large oak desk, which acted as separation between him and the doctor, who was facing away from him. He was sitting in a leather swivel chair, which was large enough to accommodate the most intimidating mafia lord.
One could argue that it was done on purpose, to make him seem more intimidating than he really was. And for whatever reason, it was working. Big bad Richard was standing a safe distance away from the desk, silent after having spilled his information on why Nora was able to get away.
“Electrocuted, you say,” came the grave voice of Dr. Lupin.
He refused to face him, as he was trying to keep his composure. This was the first of his Chimera that chose to rebel that was able to escape and make it into town. And that fact was seeping under his skin – fast.
He didn’t exactly know how to handle the situation, seeing as though it had never been a problem, and that he had never prepared for it. He didn’t think he’d have so much of a problem with rebellion with his subjects.
His project hadn’t fully come to its full potential yet, and having things constantly going south was slowly getting to him. But that didn’t mean he was anywhere near throwing in the theatrical towel. Every experiment had its back lashes, and his was no different.
“I swear,” Richard nodded.
“I –“ Richard huffed, reaching his hand back to scratch the back of his head nervously. “I don’t know. It’s like it came from his body. And I know how full of shit that sounds, but –“
“His body …” Lupin murmured to himself, before succumbing to one of the many memories of Saphora.
Particularly the day t
hey had all ventured up to the woods to view the fallen tree. He remembered that wave of energy that came off of Saphora’s body when he reached out to her. Could there be another? If there was, it was imperative he knew for his research.
“Did another Chimera escape? Maybe it’s one of the rebels trying to help her,” Richard wondered aloud.
That’s when Lupin turned around. With an expression just shy of livid. It was one thing to have Nora run off. But Lupin knew the reason behind it – the running off, anyway. Sarah. The loss had become personal. But would that be enough to drive Nora to try freeing the others? Launch a full-fledged rebellion? And with that man helping her …
“Pull the humans from the sites. I want trained Chimera taking their place,” Lupin ordered.
“The sites? You think that guy is going to show up at the sites?”
“Not by himself,” Lupin grunted as he stood from his chair and turned to look out one of the wall-scaled windows.
“With Nora? Wait – So is he a Chimera? Cause if he is, I think we’ve got the right to –“
“He’s not a Chimera,” Lupin asserted. “I want those Chimera switched in immediately,” he continued, staying on subject. “Halyn and the twins. I want them posted within the hour,” he ordered.
“And for the record,” Xander spoke up. “I don’t see anything wrong with having a respect for nature.”
Nora, having been toying with her vines, her facial expression shifting from disappointment, to disgust, to shame, and all over again, looked up at Xander, who had just taken his seat on the sofa behind her. Not quite following, Nora’s brows furrowed as her neck craned.
“What?” she finally uttered after some moments of confused silence.
Xander gestured towards her vines, which had slowly began retreating back into the underside of her wrist.
“Your mutation,” he explained. “I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, I think you’re very lucky to have such a connection with such an important part of every world.” Xander nodded with a bit of a chuckle. “You and Avani would make great friends.”