BORDERLAND.

Part One: ENIGMA

Penny's foot slipped again in the sand and she fell to her knees for perhaps the fifth time in as many minutes. Catching her arm, Jacob Fox hauled her to her feet, looking completely at ease in the harsh desert conditions.

Penny frowned in distaste and dusted herself off.

"How much further do you think it'll be?" she asked. "The guy said that she was only five minutes from the com, and its been almost fifteen."

The sun was already high in the sky and the girl wasn't prepared to be stranded out in the White when sun-break hit.

Fox cocked an eyebrow and continued to walk. "Walk faster and we'll get there faster" he replied. "If we don't find this girl by sun-break she'll probably die."

Fox was spending the summer working out at Silverford, a small commune situated a few miles south of Bluesmith, one of the five cities of Borderland. Currently, he and Penny were searching for a young woman, injured and abandoned. Her presence had been brought to the com's attention by an anonymous male caller.

Fox was very suspicious of the whole situation. Still, he wasn't about to abandon this girl, if she truly existed… he wasn't going to be responsible for anyone's demise.

Sun-break was creeping minute by minute towards them and in the harsh four hour space, the chances of any living thing surviving were diminished drastically. The young man strode on, leaving Penny stumbling behind him.

"I don't know why Norm couldn't have done this, he's such a lazy piece of…"

She talked so much.

Fox ignored her and climbed up onto a rocky outcrop, and cast about. He didn't have to look far to see her. Lying in the shade of the very rock that he stood on lay a pale and beaten girl. He could smell her from where he stood, like strong chemicals, and bitter vomit. Formaldehyde.

"Penny!" he shouted, gesturing that he had found her. He jumped off the rock and knelt at her side.

There was something about her that prompted a deep melancholy feeling in Fox's gut. She was about his age, he guessed, with long dark brown hair. She hadn't seen much sun, by the looks of it. Her whole body was covered in small abrasions and bruises. He examined the more substantial ones, but found them to be healing well, and more surprisingly, he discovered that they weren't fresh. These bruises and cuts were well on their way to being gone.

"I don't get it." He frowned.

Penny huffed around the corner of the large rock and stood behind Fox.

"Wow, she looks terrible." She commented. "Ugh, and she smells worse! Is she rotting?" She held a hand over her nose.

Fox pulled a face and checked for vitals. Her pulse was faint, but steady.

"She's alive." He verified.

"Very pale, can't be from around here." Penny commented, still holding her hand over her face.

Fox checked a bandage that was tied around the girl's elbow and found a large puncture wound. From a blood letting needle.

"She's been bled?" Penny asked.

"By the looks of it." Fox replied.

"What code is she? She must have something special in her red if someone is stealing it."

Fox sighed and checked the girl's eyes. With a thumb he pushed up her eyelid, and then jumped.

"Holy…" he whispered after the initial shock. "She's a dragon."

Penny's attention perked when she heard the word dragon and she leant over Fox to see. He held an eye open for the dark girl to examine the unusual pupils.

"And clear eyed!" Penny nodded, referring to the whites around the girl's eyes. "A female cleared eyed dragon class… who'd have frickin' thought it!"

"We need to get her back to the commune so your Mam can examine her." Fox told his companion.

"Well pick her up then!" Penny waved at him. "Cos I'm not touching her."

Fox grumbled, sliding his arms underneath the pale girl. "You're a real sweet heart you know that?"

Penny poked out her tongue. "Save it."

Fox heaved the girl up as Penny clambered up onto the rock. She jammed a small communications piece into her ear and pressed a button on the side of it.

Fox took a closer look at the girl, now in his arms. She was heavier than he had thought she would be. She was very tall, but not large, obviously she was made up of more muscle than he had anticipated. The smell was overwhelming. Where had she been to be exposed to such intense chemicals?

"Marm?" Penny shouted.

"Marm! Yeah we found her. She's alive, not in the best shape, she smells disgusting. Looks like someone beat her, and bled her. She's comatose."

Penny nodded as her mother responded. "Fox, is there any id on her?"

The boy looked at the girl. She wore only a very short pair of running shorts and a torn tank top, nowhere to keep id. Around her neck was a leather choker, with a metal plate reading 'ice'. That, with the tribal tattoo on her left shoulder was the only identifying mark on her form.

He pointed them out to the girl and after relaying these things to her mother on the end of the line Penny hung up.

"Let's go." She said, jumping awkwardly from the rock, "half an hour till sun-break, we need to get undercover."