I keep replaying the scene in my mind, with his words and his actions. The people were milling around, ignorant to the tense scene several seconds ago, something about him was off, and it was more than just the fact that he's a shifter like me, or that he's my age... maybe actually younger.
The chill hadn't left my spine since he had said the last sentence and made that creepy departure tactic of blending into the crowd.
I still had time left.... maybe just under three hours, until I could get a look at all those files that I took off their servers. I lean away from the table and keep watch at the crowds in my vision, his words had made me paranoid, just them knowing that I was alive was bad enough, but to know where I was and have someone like that keep watch? Damn nightmare was what it was.
I sigh and stand, no point in being here for now, but... I was going to go buy something before I left for "home" so that if certain issues arise they'll be taken care of. I advance up the levels of the mall until I find that one shop that had sported the EVO modified clothing, it looked like it was a combo store, it sold about half of what I was going to buy, but the other half had regular clothes that I had seen just about everybody in here wearing, The manager was sitting behind the counter with his IAP out, watching something on it.
There was already a few people in the store, maybe five, six? with only one of them in the EVO section, his hood pulled up over his head with his back turned to me... though I couldn't see his face, his wings gave away what he was, with maybe a peregrine falcon from the the coloring of the primary and secondary feathers, have to see his face to be sure... but I wasn't here to figure that out, I just need one shirt and a pair of pants.
I get a odd look when I step into the section from the EVO, but no one else noticed me. Ever conscious of his gaze... he was a hawk by the way, I work quick, luckily I had checked and know my size, and grab a set of black cargos with a black zipper set on the legs and one running up the back for a tail to fit through if it's opened, it blended in well enough to not be noticed on first glance, which was good enough for me, I forget about the shirt and realize that the jacket back at the house would do fine, considering I have no wings when I shift into draconic form. I had to go past the hawk EVO to get to the counter, and just when I thought he wasn't going to say anything...
"You have a stalker you know." his voice suffered badly from the beak, but his vocal cords worked fine enough for me to hear exactly what he said... and I know full well who the stalker was.
"Sleeveless black trenchcoat with armor underneath?" I ask to him, not turning toward the window where the guy obviously was lounging.
He makes a short nod his brown eyes not even making eye contact "Who did you piss off to have him sent after you?"
"Someone persistent and annoying." I say as I head for the counter again. I was sure the EVO was still wondering about me as the guy on the counter set the IAP down, it still projecting a movie. He makes a small motion with his hand, and I scan the tag on the counter, the price shows up and I pay, he wasn't even really paying attention, just did a quick glance and he okay's the purchase, I kept expecting him to say something about it or such... but no. I just grab the folded pants and keep them tucked under arm as I turn back and see the guy still there, leaning backwards against the railing, acting like he was engrossed by something going on his IAP.
I walk up to him, and look out over the railing "You know, you are really starting to grind on my nerves and making me paranoid."
He chuckles "I have that effect on people, except for the paranoid part, you're just getting paranoid because you thought you were free and clear... though we government experiments tend to be paranoid anyway." And I score a hit, he's an experiment too, though I wonder why he's helping them.
"Speaking of government experiments... what terrible horrors did they inflict on you?" I see something twitch in his cheek and know that he didn't exactly sign up for this.
"Ah, something must have happened, otherwise you would have just answered." his neck tenses like he wants to say something, and I notice the scar on the back of his neck, it was well healed, barely noticeable, but alas it was there and I take a mental picture, might come in handy later.
"Maybe, maybe not. But then again you wouldn't need to know... oh look, entertainment." I look at him, then around at the surroundings, I hear several people running and look toward the sound. I see someone in a black hoodie, which had the hood up, obscuring the kids face, must have been ten or so, the others chasing them however, were in their teens, maybe sixteen at most. The kids were shouting after the one kid, complete with hooting and the word EVO, I draw conclusions and know that the kid hadn't done a damn thing wrong, but the others were after him just the same. They were getting closer by the second, and the kid was losing ground quickly. I glance over to the guy and see he wasn't smiling at all, he was stone faced, punctuated by his mirrored sunglasses. They had only a few seconds before they passed, I make a quick decision that might have some serious consequences, and trip the lead teen with a casually outstretched foot.
He goes sprawling across the polished tile floor, tripping one of his buddies close behind him. It was funny to see them sliding across the ground, his friends leap over them and stop, turning to help them up, the leader waves them off, he gets up, pissed.
"Watch were you stick your feet next time!" The EVO had stopped too, he looked back and I could see the fear in his eyes... he was a EVO, cat species if I was right, he realizes that he should be running right now and takes off... I needed to keep their attention so I say...
"Watch were you're running next time." I note that the guy had mysteriously disappeared, need to find a name for him, because calling him guy all the time isn't going to work. I note the pissed of reaction from the kid, who get's up in my face, I resisted the urge to knock him out...
"Who the hell do you think you are? Can't you see we were trying to teach that EVO a lesson?" Hate suddenly boils into the back of my mind, this kid was seriously asking for a painful lesson himself. I realize that my hand was starting to crush the railing so I let go.
I lean up close, he takes a step back, slowly, my stone gaze meeting his suddenly nervous eyes. "Lesson? All I saw was a young kid running from a bunch of people who don't know what they're dealing with."
"And just what are we dealing with?" He says angrily, i could see his friends bristle, ready to back up the punk if tried to fight me, which case they would also get the living tar beaten out of them.
"Hey guys I found the..." I knew that voice, I turn and look, and it was the kid from McDonald’s, standing there holding the EVO by the collar at his side, the moment he say me, he immediately let go, but neither of the kids ran.
"You..." I start, let out a small and cold laugh "These are your friends? Didn't I give you advice to pick new ones?" I look back at the surprise on the leader of the groups face, good moment to remember.
"Abe, you know this guy?" He says over to him and I see "Abe" face start to go chalky white "Guys, you don't know who he is."
"He look back to me "Really? And just who would be stupid eno..." At that moment, the dog-tags around my neck decided to fall the rest of the way out of my shirt and dangle in-front of them. I see all the kids faces turn white, which is kind of odd considering the dark tan that some of them had.
The lead kid starts stumbling over his words "I ah, we... so sorry sir." Sir? The moment they find out I used to be in the military they get all respectful? What the hell, might as well use it to my advantage and get a point across.
"Oh, so it's sir now, a second ago you were about to try and take a swing at me, now you look like your going to run away screaming... know' what? Let me just make my point the you can do that." I take a slow breath to calm down and continue "Listen, leave EVO's alone, hurting them will always come back to bite you in the ass, metaphorically and possibly literally, the only EVOs you should be hateful of are the ones fighting in the middle of this war, they are the worst of the EVOs and would kill you in a second if they had the chance." I thought i had screwed up in the middle of it, but i think I did good enough.
"Now go, before I decide to break something... except you." I point a finger in Abe’s direction, and i could have sworn he died on the spot, the way his skin went pale, and how still he went. His friends were still scared but left past Abe, i could hear one of them say "Nice knowing you." before they left him alone, and the EVO, who was looking at me wide-eyed. The kid steps up nervously, and I decide to say something...
"Mind telling me why you hang out with that crowd? Wait, forget that, What the hell do you have against that EVO?"
Cut him off with "Nothing. That's what I thought, listen very closely to what I say next. You find new friends, leave EVOs alone unless you making fiends with them, and get rid of that straggly punk look, now get out of my sight." He all but runs in the opposite direction of his friends." I have to take another slow breath to keep the anger surge in check. I place the music back on and start hearing instrumental music play in the background, still able to hear all that's going on.
"Thanks." I look and see the EVO standing there, looked somewhat happy that I kept those kids away from him.
"No problem, we share a little plight it seems." I turn one of my eyes draconic when I make sure that no one but him was watching, the eye turns back as his widen "Also, did you actually do anything to them?"
"Um, when they cornered me i kind of made a few cuts on one of their arms and knocked one down before running."
"Self defense then, why are you around here alone?" He looks around "I'm not." I see someone come out of the crowd a few dozen meters off, his T-shirt and jeans letting everyone see that he was an EVO, though I could barely tell what kind. He was like a combo of an insect and a lizard, and I mean that in every sense, his snout was oddly split into four sections, and was hardened looking and such, dark green in color with scales running up his neck and arms, clawed hands, and what looked like dreadlocks of long, spines which I think were antennae, i think that's what caused people to edge away from him. Other details like his eyes were hidden behind modified sunglasses.
"Always finding trouble aren't we Mo?" He says with a small series of clicks, which somewhat annoyed and creeped me out.
"Not my fault." he says in his defense
"You're right, but specists are everywhere, you know that, that's why I tell you to stay with one of the others, every time you didn't, something like this happens, you're lucky enough to have someone stood up for you." He looks to me "Thanks for that, it's rare to find someone willing to go out of their way for us, especially if they're military."
"No problem." The kid gets the attention of the guy and whispers something to him, The most I hear is "EVO" out of the sentence, the his facial expression was hard to read, partly because of the mandibles, and because I couldn't see his eyes. He nods after "Mo" was finished, and straightens up before addressing me...
"Sorry to cut this short, but we have to go and get his sisters." I nod and they walk off... wonder what was going through his head? I leave the mall and enter the parking garage, I find my bike still there and i grab the helmet out, get an idea at the last second and put the pants in the compartment. I remember how i messed with the settings and deliver a swift kick to the side, and the kinetic force causes the mobius generator to come online.
Soon enough I arrive home, taking a mixed route to hopefully keep him from following me if he tried, and enter my floor. The door to the actual flat didn't take nearly as long to open this time, sliding open after barely a seconds contact. I toss the pants into the drawer and check the decryption progress... still a hour and a half to go. This is going to be agonizing waiting for it to finish. With nothing better to do... I sit on the couch and start the next journal that Shane had put in... placed several months after the one before.
"The acronym S.S.D.D takes a new meaning after a while, fight these people, take this city, fall back after city comes under attack, reclaim it... just a bunch of definitive bullshit, exactly zero progress on any side for winning this."
Several explosions and gunfire erupt in the distance, then Shane continues "And there it starts again, we've been shoved into a defensive position in Bangkok for a few days now, suffering attacks from the Alterists, each time they get closer and closer to getting here, tomorrow i'm going to talk sense into the CO, and hopefully save our lives, because no reinforcements are coming to save our ass." The gunfire and explosions, now accompanied by roars and screams start getting farther away.
"On another sad note, i found out my uncle died Monday, heart failure they say. He always worked hard in a demanding job, so it goes to figure, same thing happened to my grandfather. With my uncle gone the only family i have left are the people i barely know."
A snarl sounds over in the recording, before Shane curses and a gunshot rings out, followed by the thump of something big hitting the ground "My day just keeps getting worse, EVO's are starting to get past the lines, and this one ruined my reflective moment..." He sighs and continues "Seems like i've stepped into the worst situation a soldier can ask for... but i intend to survive this."
Personal Journal of Shane Smith entry four
END OF RECORDING.
That was interesting... yet sad, he's fighting in a war he obviously doesn't approve of, but circumstance does that to us. I turn on the TV with a mental thought and switch it through channels, until I come across a TV series involving aliens and some group of soldiers called Spartans. The show was really interesting, they obviously hated each other at points, but still managed to work together enough to stop a thermonuclear bomb from destroying a important interplanetary space station. After it was over I check the decryption... finally it was done. The moment I open up the files, there was way too much to fit on Aurora's projection, so I wipe the TV's projection and put it up there, barely a fourth of the file clusters showed up on it anyway.
"Let's see what they've been doing..." I select a file labeled [C-V-127] which was the first in the entire lineup. A series of logs and photos show up, I see a picture of a cell... the odd thing was that it had two nuclei... I listen to the audio log for it.
"The idea always existed for EVO cells to have a second nucleus, holding the DNA of the desired animal inside..." I realize Darwin is the one saying this.
"However whenever a cell is modified with the draconic genes and planted into a host, there is complete lack of control on the host, rapid multiplication of both forms of DNA caused horrific mutation and eventually expiration of the host. "The photo was actually a video, and I see a second slide pop up, showing what he described, it was like cancer, splitting into dozens into seconds, but that wasn't it, the cells were deformed looking, and some had problems dividing, leaving them like a tumor on the other cell...
"However, one of my colleagues gave the thought of giving time for the cells to adapt, or rather, let the cells grow into a host. We've decided to begin cloning and place the human DNA within these modified cells, along with sets of slightly altered dragon's DNA... hopefully this will produce the first ever dragon hybrids, or even possibly shifters."
The file ends and I have to go to the next, this one had a date, several months later, this time it shows nothing, but is just a audio recording...
"It is either luck or fate this project has made it so far, out of one-hundred and fifty clones, only twenty survived to this stage, and of those half are showing signs of exceptional adaptation to the cells, however mental stability is a big concern at this point. We have begun the finer points of cloning technology and are modifying the hosts to be a physically original to the cell donors, through muscle stimulation and more... even when put to a fingerprint or DNA scanner they show no signs of difference. I have begun monitoring one particular subject, subject 102-V is the most promising along with three others close behinds, whom are being monitored by other scientists, though their methods are extreme, they get results."
END OF LOG.
I sit there and look and the files with a stone expression... out of a hundred and fifty? And three others? Wonder what it will be next... the third log starts, labeled a month later.
"And now only five are left, when the tanks open they showed signs of insanity and the feral instincts dominant in all base dragon EVO's, and the two still showing promise are the V duo, and their dragon DNA, we've decided to crack 102's tank today and i handed the project to Bryer, I have doubts about him taking lead on this one, but i'm going to monitor the sole survivor of the VI batch, and see what can be done about him, today he
took out several guards in an attempt to escape."
It shows a video of a particular person, and he knew what he was doing, a guard get's chopped in the throat and another gets tossed into the ceiling, he picks up a gun and was about to take off when someone I knew ends his attempt, Locke clamps an arm around EVO's neck and does a prime choke-hold, he fights for a good minute before going still, and thrown into his... cell? They were using cells on him? I remember the look on the kid, because I saw him that one day a long time ago, back when the first ran tests on me.
END OF RECORDING
I look at the video again, it was him, only younger, and he was helping them now? I Keep looking through files, the one i was looking through held much of my life inside the facility, and most of it went through what I already knew or had guessed correctly at... then I got to subject 101-V's files, the first one was of him being brought from the tank, the moment he fell out the same scene from my time happened, only the guard happened to be an EVO, which promptly slung him over his shoulder and almost curb-stomped him before the scientist activates something and the EVO gets a powerful shock and drops to the floor beside him, then the tranq gas comes in, and the feed goes blank, the narrative follows, giving a basic mental assessment, this time given by somebody else.
"Basic defensive and predatory instincts, though subject shows no signs of the draconic savagery present in the others, i'm not going to take chances." And that was it, cut out. I lean back, When I saw the kid's face, because it belonged to the one EVO that had been sitting across from me not four hours ago.
I keep going through the files, he had it a lot, lot worse than I did. I saw videos of him being forced to fight several EVO's at once, shock floors, days without food, even having to recover from some serious wounds... what I saw made me shudder, but then I come across something interesting...
"Subjects shifting abilities are far better than we hoped for, the same as subject 102's system, he can control the mitosis of the dragon DNA embedded in the second nucleus, however we've found out that it can be pushed to the entirety of dragon." It shows him in a fight with three wolf EVOs but i see him, and about become rigid, he looked exactly like me, except for the eyes, which were red. he takes several blows and goes flying by a tag team attack from two that acted like they were twins or something, he gets pissed and let's out a roar... then something loud cracks and he falls to all fours, I could see something change drasticly, mainly his size, but then out came a pair of avian like wings just as black as his scales, they ripped from his back, fully formed, and he had a massive look of surprise on his face, the exact same goes on the faces of the EVOs he was fighting. He concentrates and his size grew drastically, becoming the giant in the room, needless to say, bad things happened to the EVOs... I listen to the rest of the recording.
"It is presumable that subject 102 can also perform this change, however Darwin has prevented the proper stimulus from being applied. We will continue to monitor the subject in hopes of finding the limits to his shifting ability."
Then came the last recording... done like all the others by the unknown person...
"As per request of the board, they have decided to start the use of subject 101 in enforcement, however he has proven to be resourceful, and so far has disabled seven con-collars, i've had the techs working on a solution, so far they have given a good failsaife, a neuro-capsule has been implanted into the back of his neck by the spinal column, if he tries to dig for it he will end up severing his spinal cord, and if he doesn't follow our orders the capsule can shock or even detonate, and that's that... we've even added a connection, we can see what he sees and hear what he hears, giving us a good control method."
END OF RECORDING
I flashback and remember the little scar on his neck, that must be where it was put in, and now I know he isn't doing this willingly, though he seemed to enjoy what he was doing... though it was going to take some though on how to solve this problems... I quickly scroll down to see the rest of the files "Subject cell control details" "losses tally" "EVO combat analysis" "Overview" Overview... that might have something good in it, I click on the file, and get a report...
OVERALL SUCCESS RATE: 1.5 PERCENT
SURVIVOR GENES 100% COMPATIBLE
Though the death rate was high the overall goal of the project has been achieved, a successful pairing has been achieved, all three subjects have been marked, and the pairs can be sent along to project Chimaera for further use. It is recommended using some form of control as the subjects are more than likely to exhibit the strong free-will of any human individual.
Surviving subjects have all been placed in desired testing scenarios, 101 is performing enforcement and termination duty, 102 is holding in the militarized command, and subject 70 has begun integration into an Alterist controlled city.
As per your request we have begun procedures to obtain more viable dragon DNA combinations.
END OF REPORT
The report had several holograms attached to it, each of our physical appearance both human and dragon, the third one was of a girl, dark skinned, light build, wearing street clothes with long black hair in a ponytail, she wasn't as scarred as we both were, but then I look at her draconic form, vibrant orange scales with a red edges on the scales running up the back, along with wings... bat like with a solid white membrane. Four claws on each hand and foot, the tail had spikes running from the tip pointing outward all the way up to the front of her head, ending like a small mohawk above her hair, which had remained.
And now there was a third one, only 101 had his quadruped picture up there. This was bringing more questions... what was project Chimaera? And what did it have to do with dragon/human DNA pairs? I sigh and shut off the display, I could get to figuring that out, after I've dealt with 101, but to do that, I was going to need a surgeon.
I get up off the couch and start pacing around the room, flicking through aurora's menus until I find search queries... surgeons... only one left, and he was out of practice, everything involving surgery was handled remotely or automatically by machines... let's see, a human could keep a secret, where's his address? I pull it up, he was living in the suburban district.
Just as i was about to leave my stomach decides to say "I'm hungry!" I sigh, better eat now, because I might not have a chance later once i start this. I raid the fridge and see what i could make, one thing i didn't know was how to cook, maybe if I tried recall might decide to pop in and help, but not risking trial and error right now, so a few devoured pizzas later I almost walk out into the garage, until I remember the pants, might be worth taking them if 101 guesses at what i'm about to do, I change into them and fit the jacket over my shirt and zip it up all the way, good thing it was November, otherwise it might be odd wearing it around.
I start the bike and get out onto the street, the GPS steering me to the suburbs... the area was much more extravagant looking than the apartment blocks, they actually had yards, filled with trimmed green grass... most of the time anyway, a few had foreclosed signs and others look like they had collapsed from a fire or explosion. I arrive at the house of the guy... halfway decent, though the grass is in need of a chainsaw. I stow the helmet and walk up to the door, I had a bad feeling but oh well. I hit the doorbell and find out it didn't work, because I didn't hear anything, so I knock on the door... and get a less than friendly greeting.
"What is it?" He says as he yanks open the door, mid-forties with graying hair and bad stubble, I could smell the alcohol, though he definitely didn't seem drunk right now.
"Terry Keys?" I ask, trying to act unfazed, don't think it worked.
"Of course I am, now again, what do you want?" I think he was on the verge of slamming the door in my face.
"Someone who can do surgery." He gets taken back by the blunt statement, then he recovers with a angry glint in his eye.
"Then go to the hospital." And he tries to shut the door, good thing to have steel-toed shoes.
"Not for what I want done." This get's his attention... he huffs and says "Fine then, come in." And that's when I’m surprised, just like that?
I step inside and see his house actually was in moderate shape, just like the yard, it wasn't spotless, but it wasn't exactly dirty either, he shuts the door behind me, three locks that I didn't notice before are solidly put into place and he asks...
"So where is the tracer located?" Ah, makes sense, can't work publicly so he does the private jobs, tracers are placed on certain people, mainly used by law enforcement to keep a hold on criminals should they decide to be around a particular crime scene at one point in time... kind of sad when advances in technology rob you of your job and force you to do things you'd rather not do.
"My job isn't a tracer, though it's close to that, well, how good are you when it comes to taking something out of a person's neck?"
"Not a tracer? What is it that's being taken out then? And I can take it out if it isn't in too deep."
"How about an explosive, small capsule lightly tuned to the nervous system, planted almost in-between the vertebrae?"
He gets a look on his face that clearly said "Who'd you piss off?" But he decides to say "I don't know about it, head into the living room." A TV, couple chairs and a coffee table with several bottles of vodka on it, I sit on the lone chair farthest from the other two. He keeps standing and fixes me with a glare.
"I ran a scan the moment you went through the door, you don't have what you're talking about on or in your person, so tell me what the hell you are doing before you drag me into it." And I think that this is going to be much harder than I thought.
“You want me to be blunt or should I sugar-coat it?”
“The former.” He says coldly, arms crossed.
“I'll probably end up bringing an unconscious EVO into your home to have the capsule surgically removed from his neck, possibly bringing the wrath of the government down upon you in the process.”
He doesn't even act surprised “That's it? I have people bringing in unconscious persons all the time, EVOs are just a little more iffy, because of all that anatomy changes that are present.”
“So this isn't a problem for you?” I ask
“Actually no, but you'd better be able to pay.”
“What would be the price?”
“All costs considered... maybe around a good fifty thousand creds, give or take a hundred or so.” I lean back in the chair, I expected it to cost a good deal more.
“Done. You want it now? Or-”
He shakes his head “You're new to this aren't you? Small payments will be withdrawn from your account over the course of several months, making sure it doesn't attract the wrong kind of attention.” New to it I was, but it figured, score one stupid question on my part.
“Well, how long will it take you to get set up?”
“Ten minutes, maybe less if I had incentive to work faster, but safety comes first, I take it you're going to use my services?” He had is arms uncrossed now, clasped behind his back like a businessman.
“That I am, will you take the payment after you get the capsule out?”
“Obviously not, though you can pay before the operation begins, also, no refunds, no exceptions.”
“Fine with me... you had better get set up, I’ll be coming in with the patient soon.”
“You're going to go and get him now? Forget I asked, i'll be ready.” He hits a slide hidden on the wall as a floor-to-ceiling mirror and it slides open to show a small room and a operating table and cabinets of supplies used in operations, morphine and such. “I'll leave the front door unlocked, bring him in here when you get inside... and try not to let anyone see you drag the guy into the house, have enough rumors going around as is.” He walks into the little operation room and the mirror slides shut behind him. I stand up and head outside, hopefully it won't be hard to find 101, since he's supposed to be monitoring me, I walk up to my bike and kick-start it, I was about to get on when I hear a click and feel the cold presence of a gun being pointed at my head... then the person speaks.
“And just what are you up to?” And I couldn't believe my luck, it was 101, I glance back and see the handgun and him, not a foot away, the gun aimed straight for my head... he continues speaking “Because, it's safe to say that you're up to no good, also by the way? The board want's you brought back... and i'm going to take you there alive... or mostly dead.”