Xander vol.1 Transmutation, Page 9Jaz Johnson
“I didn’t see the men that moved the equipment. But I heard them speak to her on an intercom. She answered them, walked up to me, winked, and left.”
“What did she look like?” Glover asked, taking out his small notepad and pen.
“Tall, long black hair. She had fair skin, and blue eyes.”
“How old would you say she was?”
Hughes shook his head.
“She didn’t look a day over twenty.”
Glover nodded with some hesitation. Someone so young being able to pull something like this off. Was it possible? He patted Hughes’ shoulder, giving his best look of compassion.
“Thank you, Professor. Please, go home and be with your family.”
The Professor nodded, shakily pushing up his thinly framed glasses. He thanked Glover before walking away towards the lab’s exit, taking a last look at his colleagues before leaving with his head low. Glover sighed as he stuck his notepad into his back pocket, while making his way over to his partner, who was kneeling beside the bodies.
“Got anything we could use?” asked Roland.
Glover crossed his arms, giving a shrug.
“He gave me a decent description. We’ll have to call him in for further questioning. He’s still pretty shaken.”
“Yeah, well I don’t blame the guy. Get this. Cause of death?” Roland said, unzipping the body back he was knelt in front of to reveal Cynthia Brown.
Her once firm, mocha skin was now pale and wrinkled, riddled with moles and imperfections. Her once raven black hair was now grey, and slightly curling around her aged face. Her skin sagged, and her body looked frail. On her lab coat, her ID badge was clipped onto her left breast pocket. Her photo captured her in her youth, which was only hours ago. Her skin firm and glowing, her smile and eyes bright and inviting. Roland looked up at Glover’s shocked expression before standing up to join him.
Standing in the slowly rising elevator of Maverick’s apartment, Jared’s thoughts were beginning to race. After his conversation with Liz, he’d finally taken it upon himself to check in on Maverick at his apartment. He hadn’t returned any of his calls, and for him to just disappear like that had him spooked. He felt he was obligated to at least see if he was okay. Of course, there was no guarantee that Maverick would even be there, but Jared wanted to see if he was at least still a resident of the apartment.
The elevator dinged, and Jared stepped out into the artificially lit hallway, looking down into the end of the hall at Maverick’s front door. He wanted to get this over with. He wanted to hear what Maverick had to say for himself. But reaching the door, he found himself hesitant to knock.
What if Liz was right? What if Maverick was dead? What if Saphora had killed him? It would certainly explain Maverick’s disappearance. Would he be the one to discover Maverick’s body? Jared suddenly found himself tense and unsure of what to do next. But not knowing, he decided would be worse than finding a corpse.
“Maverick?” he called out, then waited a few moments. “Maverick!” he shouted again when he heard no response.
He listened intently, leaning towards the door in order to try and pick up on any movement from within. And to his relief, he heard it. It was very faint, but he could hear the footsteps on the other side. He smiled, waiting for the door to open, relief washing over him at the sign of life. But after over a minute of being left outside, Jared’s relief soon turned into anger.
“Come on, Maverick. Open the door,” he bellowed loud enough to be embarrassing.
But this time, he was met with silence. The footsteps had stopped, and so had his patience. He scoffed, stepping closer to the door.
“I know you’re in there. Open the door!” he said before raising his balled fist and banging it against the door.
And when he did, he was surprised to see it swing open. It hadn’t been locked. Hell, it hadn’t even been closed all the way. Jared’s face spiraled from confusion to embarrassment as he realized that maybe Maverick had been waiting for him to come in. He placed his hand on the edge of the door, opening it further as he stepped in before closing it behind him with a gentle click. But as he looked around, he didn’t see Maverick, and his understanding of the situation fell apart again.
“Maverick?” he called out unsure.
He stepped further into the mists of the messy living room, which was covered with scattered books and water jugs. Again, there was no answer, and again Jared felt his anger boiling.
“Come on, Maverick. Enough of this. Get out here,” Jared demanded, tilting his head to the side to peek into his empty bedroom. “What’s with you, anyway? It’s like you –“
Jared stopped in the middle of his sentence when hearing the hollow thud of a jug falling to the floor. Jared spun around, ready to catch Maverick in the act of sneaking. But what he saw made his blood run cold. There, on top of the island counter, was Loni, the overgrown lioness that had found her way into the café. She was perched low on the counter, her breathing slow and steady as she stared Jared down. His breathing went from angered to panicked in the instant as he took an uneasy step back. Immediately, his hands raised, offering the feline peace.
“W-Whoa there … Nice tiger,” he pleaded. Loni snarled, dipping her head forward. “Lion! Lion … So sorry,” he corrected in a plea. “Nice lion. Lovely lion.”
Loni gracefully leapt down from the counter, her eyes never leaving his. Jared shook his head taking another step back. His foot crushed a water jug, startling him with the sudden noise and making him fall back onto the floor, hitting the back of his head on the coffee table in the process and rendering him unconscious.
Loni paused, stared at the now limp body that laid on the floor before slowly going closer. She lowered her head, starting from his hand and making her way to the curve of his neck, sniffing along the way. She didn’t smell anything of Athena on him, rendering him useless. She did however, notice his face, as the human that gave her the powdered cake. She morphed, now kneeling beside him with a look of only slight disgust.
“Hmph. Stupid human,” she mumbled to herself.
“Will someone tell me just what the hell is going on in this town?!” Officer Johnson bellowed as she stormed into her office, where officers Glover and Roland were waiting.
Roland shot to his feet from the chair he was sitting in, wiping his face clean of what was left of the powered donut he was eating. Glover turned around to meet Johnson’s angry eyes. He smiled at her, his arms crossed.
“I take it you’re having just as lovely a day as we are,” Glover teased.
“I’ve got human wrecking balls taking down malls, I’ve got lions roaming the streets, and I’ve got twenty-four year old women dying of old age! I’m having a splendid day,” she spat. “I’m losing control of my town, and I want to know why,” she demanded.
That was when the calm and collective voice of Agent Elba filled the room, drawing Johnson’s attention behind her. He closed the door behind him, from which he had moved in front of as he sighed.
“You’re not the only one,” he agreed.
Johnson’s shoulders slumped upon seeing him. She groaned, exaggeratingly rolling her eyes as she perched her hands on her narrow hips.
“Oh, great,” Johnson exclaimed. “You, again. Are you here to tell me that more aliens are behind all of this? Because that would really make my day.”
“That’s exactly what I’m here to tell you,” Elba nodded, folding his hands behind his back and standing with a military swagger. Johnson groaned, turning back around towards her team and throwing her hand in the air.
“Great,” she huffed. “More un-file-able paperwork. Make my job harder, why don’t you. I still have Jones’ family up my rear end. And now I’ve got to explain to tax payers why they need to shove out money for the mall – and their community college. Only I can’t because there’s no paperwork!”
Elba waited patiently for Johnson to finish before he stepp
ed closer, her lips pursed in ill consideration.
“We’ll take care of all that,” he offered. Both Roland and Glover looked over at the Agent with raised brows, while Johnson took her time in turning back around to look at him. Her eyes showed her obvious skepticism.
“You’ll take care of it,” she repeated almost mockingly. Elba nodded. “For what price?” she questioned knowingly. Elba shrugged, stepping forward again.
Johnson scoffed, nodding somewhat.
“We need to make some house calls to our foreign friends.”
“This will have been my third outing for this, you know,” Xander pointed out as he followed Nora down the streets of Clemming towards a clothing store she wanted to take him to.
Xander was still in need of clothing, as it was made apparent by the turning heads of the people walking beside them. Mothers pulled their children away from him as he waved. He frowned, looking at Nora, who was looking straight.
“Your people fear me.”
Nora scoffed, shaking her head.
“Have you seen your outfit?” she countered. Xander looked down at himself, studying his own attire. He frowned again, arching his maroon brow.
“What’s wrong with my outfit? I’ll have you know that this is the finest fabrics on my side of –“
“It’s not about the fabric. It’s about the style. Which here – you don’t have. But don’t worry, I’ll help you.”
“I beg your pardon. And what training have you to dress a man of royalty?” he asked skeptically as they approached the door of the small shop.
Nora opened it, holding it open for him to walk through. She rolled her eyes, shaking her head as she looked around the quaint clothing store. She let the door close behind her as Xander stepped in, immediately overwhelmed with the mixture of culture in such a small area.
His mouth fell almost theatrically agape as he stepped further into the shop. He spun slowly around, taking in all the different types of clothing and people that suddenly surrounded him.
“More than you – trust me,” Nora assured under her breath as the door clicked.
She watched him with somewhat of a smirk as he continued looking around.
“How can you choose anything out of all of this?”
Nora gave a shrug and a slight sigh as she gently pushed Xander forward.
“Oh, will you just shop?”
“There are entirely too many choices,” Xander complained as he was lead towards the male area of the store, getting several looks of curiosity and wariness as he went.
“Find something you like,” Nora offered.
Xander grumbled as Nora’s hand left his back, allowing her to walk around and stand beside him. He glanced around at the small, but overwhelming selection before him. He picked up a random shirt, holding it to his chest and looking down at it. Nora raised a brow, watching him in admitted amusement.
“You look like a fish out of water. You think you can handle finding your size while I look around?” Nora teased, getting a look of defiance from Xander as he put the shirt back.
He shooed her away, making her giggle as she walked off towards the women’s section. She made her way to the small selection of wigs with a sigh. Scanning them over and their wacky colours – pink, blonde, orange, blue. She wondered what she would look like in any of them. Then frowned when she thought about the fact they she may need them moving forward.
She grimaced, crossing her arms and glancing to the side, catching the watchful eye of an employee. They shared eye contact for a brief moment, before Nora looked away, back at the wigs, and picked up the blonde one.
She gripped the blonde wig firmly, studying the artificial hair. The blonde locks reminded her of Sarah’s. Her eyes lowered to the crown of the piece as her thumb stroked against it. Her face contorted in reminiscence of her friend and her untimely demise. And she couldn’t help but feel some guilt towards it. Towards losing her. The memory of her transmutation failure flooded her thoughts, making her cringe. She threw the wig back onto the counter, sighing with distaste.
Glancing back towards the employee, she saw that she was no longer looking in her direction, but off to the side. Unable to help being curious, Nora followed the woman’s gaze, and was shocked at what she saw. Back in the men’s section of the shop, Xander was removing his clothing, in order to try on others. His torso, lean and muscular, was bare as he looked around once again at his selection from which to choose from.
Her eyes widened as her body spazzed, making a mad dash back over to him. Arms flailing, Nora nearly leapt into him, trying to get his attention. Xander stumbled to the side, looking back at Nora in question. Her face, flushed, was scrunched in disbelief as she smacked his bare arm.
“What are you doing?!” she scowled.
Xander raised his arm to defend himself, his brows pulling together in confusion and annoyance. He easily blocked her next hit, taking a step away from her. She frowned, taking her wrist and lowering it away from him.
“What? You told me to –“
“I didn’t tell you to strip!” Nora squawked, trying to avert her eyes from his body while covering him from the customers’. “Put your shirt back on!”
Xander gently swatted at Nora’s attempts to cover him again as he scoffed.
“And how do you expect me to see if anything fits? On top of my own clothing?”
“There are fitting rooms!”
“I waited an entire minute and no one has come to escort me. So I took liberty of my own.”
“Escort?” Nora groaned, her shoulders slumping in aggravation. “You’re not a prince here, Xander.”
Xander frowned, hearing his royalty in question.
“Wrong. Upon visiting Kiran, I am no less of a prince than I am in the walls of my own castle,” Xander pointed out, and then set the shirt he was holding down with a shake of his head. “And regardless of my status. What are the workers here being paid for, if not to escort and assist their patrons?”
Nora put her hands up frantically, hearing his tone rise in distress. She urged him to remain quiet with her body language.
“Okay, okay,” she shushed. “I’ll take you. Just get what you were going to try on and follow me.”
It had been nearly two hours since Jared had fallen unconscious in Maverick’s living room. Loni had since made three trips from the apartment to their ship, bringing back everything that belonged to either Saphora or Hydra in the process. She had stayed afterwards, despite her better judgment, to tend to the boy, and make sure he didn’t go blabbing about what he saw. She’d already been scolded once about wondering around as a lioness, and once was enough. She wanted to make sure it stayed that way.
She stood behind the island counter with her elbow perched, and her chin resting in the palm of her hand. She watched Jared’s slight movements with impatience, waiting for something to trigger his consciousness. Finally, growing tired of waiting, she reached over, grabbing one of the ceramic mugs that had been left on the counter, and threw it against the wall, as if it were nothing.
Jared sprang awake, his eyes immediately darting about and searching for the commotion that woke him. But his eyes stopped upon seeing Loni. As did his flailing. They stared each other down, Jared a bit more delicately as his eyes trailed lower, before being cut off by the horizon of the countertop, preventing him from going any further.
“Awake finally?” Loni asked, causing Jared’s blue eyes to snap back up at Loni’s golden ones.
Dumbfounded, he found himself at a loss for words for a moment, until his brain caught up with him. He glanced around, as the memory prior to his unconscious kicked in. He searched for the lion that had caused his fall, almost frantically. Loni frowned, recognizing the panic.
“Looking for something?” she interjected.
Again, Jared looked up
, noticing her presence. But before Jared could spazz about the sighting of the lioness, and urge her to call animal control and see what the security in the building had seen, he was once again caught up in the sight of her. This time, he was now fully aware and realizing that she was standing in Maverick’s apartment with him, and that he did not know who she was. Jared’s posture straightened as he adjusted his clothing, suddenly feeling the need to.
“Hi,” he breathed. Loni arched a brow. Not getting a response, Jared continued. “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” Loni countered, not at all feeling obligated to reveal her identity. But he answered right away, to her surprise.
“Jared. I’m a friend of Maverick’s. Are you?”
Loni scowled, her face scrunching up in distaste.
“Certainly not,” she spat, standing straight behind the counter and setting her hands down against it. Jared’s brows pinched together in confusion.
“Then …” he stood a little straighter. “Who are you? Are you robbing the apartment?” he asked with sudden skepticism, feeling defensive of Maverick even though he still felt angry with him. Loni frowned, rolling her eyes.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Then who are you?” Jared demanded. Loni’s eyes narrowed at his tone.
“You’d be wise not to raise your voice at a Guardian,” she warned. “I am Loni.”
“Guard – What? If you don’t know Maverick, then –“
“I’m an acquaintance of Saphora’s. And I’m here gathering things she’s left behind.”
Jared’s eyes widened at the mentioning. He took steps towards her, making her raise her level of awareness.
“That girl?” he exclaimed. “Where is she? Does she have Maverick? What has she done with him?”
With each question, he grew closer, and with each step, Loni grew more wary. She held back the urge to growl at him as she took a slight step back. She slammed her hand down on the counter, somewhat startling Jared enough to stop his advances. Her lips were in a firm line, warning him of his abrasive actions. There was a moment of silence among them.
Before Loni could tell him of his tone and approach, there were footsteps at the door. Unheard by Jared, but not to Loni’s supreme hearing. Her eyes glanced towards the door just as the suited officer kicked it in, startling Jared and making him trip backwards again. This time sparing the back of his head. His arm caught himself on the armrest of the sofa, helping him get back to his feet as officer after officer swarmed into the apartment.