Despite it being the middle of the night, I could see as well as if it were the brightest part of the day. I was still wearing my school uniform, but the small amounts of skin that were exposed were telling me the air was chilly. Somehow, I didn’t feel the cold. I just new that it was cold.
I began to wander, trying to figure out where I was. It was definitely somewhere near the city centre, but just far enough out to not be considered part of the CBD. Everything was eerily quiet, as if the entire suburb had been abandoned.
I walked slowly, enjoying the cool air I was sucking into my lungs. I could feel my body begin to relax, and as it did, the cold began to seep in. I shivered, rubbing my arms and shrugging my shoulders upwards. The world seemed to get darker.
“Some superhuman,” I muttered. “Can’t even handle a little bit of chill.”
Further ahead, I could just make out a light. Whatever it was, it was moving, and kind of wobbling around a little. It almost looked like someone carrying a torch.
Forgetting momentarily how dangerous it was to be out at night alone, I began to walk towards the light. At the same time, the light seemed to change direction, heading towards me.
As it got closer, I realised it was a small group, about seven or eight people. They got closer still, and I could tell they were all wearing army fatigues. Even closer, and I gathered they were all men. Finally, they were close enough for me to tell they were all armed, and staring intently at me.
“Hey, you there!” one of them barked, pointing a silver rifle at me.
“Huh?” I said, taken by surprise. What were they aiming at me for?
The soldiers advanced on me, more than one of them keeping their weapons pointed in my general direction. Before long, they’d surrounded me.
“What are you doing outside after curfew?” one of them demanded, the same one who had spoken before.
“What curfew?” I asked, turning slowly so I could take them all in. There seemed to be genuine tension on their faces. What were they so afraid of?
“Nice try,” the soldier who I was now assuming was the leader scoffed. “What are you doing outside?”
“Going for a walk,” I said, more irritated than concerned. That surprised me. “Seriously, since when do we have a curfew?”
The lead soldier frowned, as if weighing up whether to take me at face value or not.
“It’s been over a month now,” he said.
I shook my head, refusing to believe it. Over a month? How long was I out for?
“I’m going to ask one more time, the lead soldier said, his tone severe. “What are you doing out after curfew?”
Weird as the situation was, I realised I didn’t have any reason not to be honest.
“I’m just trying to go home,” I told him.
The soldier sighed, and lowered his weapon. The others did not follow his lead.
“We’re going to need to test you,” he said.
For a second, I wondered if maybe I hadn’t heard him right. Then I wondered what strange dystopian hell I had wondered into.
“Test me? For what?”
“For infection,” he practically barked. “What do you think?”
“What infection?” I demanded. “What the hell is going on here?”
The soldier sighed again, his gun completely forgotten, hanging at his side.
“Look, it’s just a little prick on the finger, and a twenty second wait. If you’re clean, we can escort you home safely.”
Something about the way he said that bothered me.
Another soldier stepped forward. Another rugged Caucasian man with short dark hair. I could scarcely tell them apart.
“Hold out your finger please, sir.”
That last word felt like a slap in the face. Not to mention, a complete surprise. I’d seen my reflection. I didn’t look the least bit masculine.
“Sir- fine, here,” I said, thrusting my finger towards him.
There was a slight prick as the needle broke the skin, not even painful. I was too busy noticing that my nails had lost that silver sheen I’d noticed just minutes earlier, and my skin looked like it’s usual darker shade.
“Alright, we’ll have the results shortly,” the second soldier said.
“So are you going to tell me what’s going on here?” I asked, practically growling.
“Do you really not know?” the lead soldier asked, shooting an unreadable look at the second soldier.
“Do you think I’m playing clueless for the fun of it?” I shot back, surprising myself with my own gall. That definitely wasn’t like me.
“After the alien impact-” he began, but I cut him off.
“Where have you been?” he asked, incredulous.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” I told him.
The second soldier tensed up, and raised his rifle, pointing it directly at me. The other soldiers followed suit.
“Uh, we have a problem,” he said.
“Infected?” the lead soldier asked, raising his own gun.
“Not exactly,” the second soldier said, holding the little testing device he was holding towards the leader. “Here, take a look.”
“Uh, what’s going on?” I asked, again surprising myself with the amount of attitude I was able to muster, especially with several guns trained on me.
“Fuck,” the lead soldier muttered. “He’s one of them.”
“One of what?” I demanded, but they were already ignoring me.
“Do we engage?” the second soldier asked, and I detected a genuine note of panic in his voice. Was he afraid of me?
“Call for backup,” the lead soldier said. “Now.” Then he turned his focus onto me. “Sir, you’re going to need to come with us.”
“Please stop calling me sir,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Don’t make this harder than it needs to be,” he said, his grip tightening on the trigger of his rifle.
“I don’t even know what’s going on,” I said, rolling my eyes. I still wasn’t scared. Why wasn’t I scared? “Where are you taking me?”
“Somewhere safe,” he said, his voice icy.
“Safe from what?” I demanded.
“Safe from you,” he replied, and for a second I honestly thought he was joking. Did he really just say that?
“Drop the act,” he said. “We know what you are.”
“Well, I don’t,” I said, a little petulantly.
“This is your last chance,” he said, and I could hear the fear in his voice. “Surrender now, or we’ll be forced to treat you as hostile.”
From the darkness, another voice emerged.
“You really don’t need to listen to them,” it said, as the owner stepped into the light.
He was tall, somewhere between slender and athletic, with intense amber eyes, a perfectly lopsided smirk and short, dark hair. He seemed to be European, but in the relative darkness it was difficult to tell.
A shirt that was somehow simultaneously loose fighting and perfectly tight hung off his shoulders, and his hands rested casually in his trouser pockets. Despite the casual pose, he was emanating danger.
“Shit, another one,” the lead soldier said, training his weapon on the newcomer, whose eyes were focussed firmly on mine. I could feel my cheeks turning a little red.
“Wh-who are you?” I asked, thankful to have lost the attention of the soldiers, at least a little. The fact that I had traded it for the attention of an incredibly attractive man didn’t hurt either.
“Gabriel,” he said, all but ignoring the soldiers. He sniffed the air, somehow managing to pull it off without seeming like a complete weirdo. “And you, I believe, are acquainted with my sister. You smell like her.”
“Sister?” I asked, then realised what he was talking about. “Zoe?”
Like her, he had a strong British accent, elegant and almost theatrical. Somehow, I found that to be a little unnerving.
“That’s the one,” he said. “I’ve been looking for her.”
The weight of that revelation hit me immediately. If he was her brother, that meant he was like her. A genetic experiment. A supersoldier.
“Both of you, surrender now,” the lead soldier said, clearly on the verge of panic. I realised he must have known what Gabriel was, at least partially. “We have backup on the way.”
“That’s nice,” he said, barely even glancing at the soldier before focussing back on me. “Anyway, I don’t believe I caught your name.”
“S-Sabrina,” I said, unable to keep myself from blushing.
“A lovely name. Now, Sabrina, I don’t suppose I could convince you to tell me where my sister is?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but before any words could come out, I was cut off.
“Open fire,” the lead soldier said.
“Oh, for-” Gabriel began, but the sound of gunfire drowned him out immediately..
I felt dozens, maybe hundreds of bullets tear through me. At the exact same moment, I felt a surge of energy race down my spine, down my arms and legs, all the way to my fingers and toes. The world seemed to slow down, to grow brighter, more clear.
I threw my hands up in a vain attempt to protect myself from the hail of bullets, and noticed that my skin had grown paler again, and my nails were silver. I felt the bullets slice through me, but it wasn’t pain I felt so much as irritation.
“Ow!” I said, more from habit than any actual sensation of pain.
“Gentlemen, I really don’t want to kill you,” Gabriel said, and without so much as raising his voice, I knew they all heard him. “Please, stop.”
A rush of anger flared in the back of my mind.
“Kill them? They’re just doing their jobs,” I snapped, not even knowing if it was true.
“Do you have a better way to stop them from shooting at us?” he asked, flinching against the rain of bullets as though it was little more than actual water.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” I said, as an idea burst forth.
Acting entirely on instinct, I rushed at the lead soldier. His movements were so slow, it was like he wasn’t reacting at all. I grabbed the gun and effortlessly tore it from his hands. The flimsy plastic and metal were easy to crumple, and I tossed it aside, my feet already carrying me to the next soldier.
Within seconds, the soldiers were all disarmed, and backing away, looking more than a little terrified. Adrenaline surged through my body.
“I suppose you could do it that way,” Gabriel said dismissively, the lopsided smirk returning to his face.
“You were really going to just… kill them?” I asked, shocked.
“I was considering it,” he said, shrugging.
“Why, because you can?”
“The simplest solutions are often the best,” he said.
I literally snarled at him.
“Killing people is not a solution.”
He blinked, a look of surprise crossing his face momentarily.
“You’re right. I suppose I’m too used to my own world. Thank you.”
He smiled graciously, and I found myself caught off guard. Already, I was doubting that I’d even had a reason to be angry at him.
“Where are you from, anyway?” I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.
“I haven’t quite worked that out yet,” he said, sounding a little disappointed.
“You haven’t worked out where you’re from?” I asked, surprised.
“I haven’t worked out where, or what, home is in relation to here,” he said.
We both turned at the exact same moment, as we heard the lead soldier whisper, “Backup’s here.”
“And that’s my cue,” Gabriel said, bowing with an exaggerated flourish. “Take care, Sabrina.”
He took off just as a fresh batch of soldiers, more than two dozen of them, poured out of a pair of trucks, opening fire. With Gabriel gone in a matter of seconds, all of that gunfire was directed at me.
“Argh, leave me alone!” I shouted, taking off in another direction.