This is Artificial, the revised version. My computer bugged down and I lost all of my data, which totally sucked by the way. So I decided to redo this fic. Hopefully, this is better than the first one.


Artificial

By: Kelly Garcia

Chapter One: The Exodus

Lauren Carly Maverick's pigtails bounced up and down as she half-walked half-skipped her way home. She took a deep breath and recognized the scent of pork barbecue in the air. She smiled. It was approaching summer, and it was the perfect weather to have family picnics.

Her grin widened some more when she remembered what had happened a mere half hour before: She had dominated the soccer field. No one managed to steal the ball from her. She was too fast, too strong, too skilled. Almost impossibly too much that the adults present had wondered whether the star player really is only eight years old and not a twelve year old in disguise. And their suspicions were well justified because of Carly's looks. She stood at five feet, a nearly impossible height for someone her age. She had begun growing breasts, and already her hips started widening and her waist narrowing. The angry parents of the opponent team's players went on a hushed tirade about how the Mt. Lore were cheating.

Lauren Carly couldn't blame them. She had already admitted to herself that she is too tall and too mature-looking. But she really is only eight years old. Her mom had told her that she was just advanced, that it happened to some people. But Carly had often wondered, and sometimes even convinced herself, that there was something else involved, an external factor. She didn't know what, but it was there.

She also blamed it for her intelligence, not that it was a disadvantage, it just set her apart from everyone else. She had learned basic algorithm way before her classmates had even started comprehending it. Her language skills were unbelievable. By watching Korean and Spanish soap operas and Japanese anime, she was able to pick up words and phrases and figure out what they mean. Science was also no big deal. She had grasped the concepts almost immediately. She wasn't like her classmates who get distracted easily. Her level of concentration were superior to theirs. In fact, she was superior to them in every way. She learned too fast. She memorized too fast. She retained the things she learned too well. Her physical coordination is flawless. She excelled at everything she did.

She was the golden girl of Mt. Lore Elementary School. Most admired her. Several were jealous of her. All were in awe of her. But there were a few who questioned her being. The way she talked, the way she walked, the way she carried herself it seemed, was not that of a kid, but that of a teenager's and sometimes even an adult's. It was impossible.

She never threw tantrums. She was understanding of situations. She was unbiased when problems arose. She was too responsible and too mature to be an eight year old. Even her own mother, as much as she loved her daughter, would find herself wondering why. She couldn't think of any possible reason why her only child is the way she is.

There was also the matter of Carly's health. Carly was too healthy. Not once in her life did she ever get sick. No colds, no flu, no fever. Nothing. Babies are commonly plagued with illnesses such as that, but not Carly. Never Carly. And when she would get cuts or bruises from soccer, they would heal quickly; sometimes they'd be even gone by the next day.

Carly is, and everyone agreed, abnormal. Few wanted to know why, but her mother did. Katia Maverick wanted to know why her beloved daughter is too different. Little did she know that she was about to find out, and the price to be paid was too much.


The rain had unexpectedly arrived in the early afternoon of that fateful day. It came without warning, without hesitation, coming in full force in all its glory, bringing an atmosphere of gloom, disrupting the plans of many who had decided to spend the day in the beach basking in the warmth of the sun. Justin Lodge didn't know that his thoughts of the rain would stay with him until the day he died.

"Justin." It was his father. A man of medium stature with graying hair, once a Vietnam War hero, awarded with the Medal of Honor.

The eight year old stood up and raised his head to meet the eyes of his father. "Yes dad?" And that's when he started to notice things. His dad always had a ready smile for him. His warm brown eyes much like his own would light up. At that moment, there was no smile, and the warm brown eyes had hardened with determination and...regret.

And at that moment, he knew. Justin knew what was going to happen next. All of his father's warnings from his early childhood echoed in his head as if it were being said to him at that moment. As if on cue, an unmarked black SUV appeared in front of their three-storey home and a man in the signature fatigue of the military stepped out of it and opened a plain black umbrella. The man that appeared from the vehicle next was obviously the man in charge. He had that commanding aura about him that was unmistakable. He was obviously someone of high rank.

Justin looked back at his father and was surprised to see a thin sheen of unshed tears in his eyes. "It's all right Dad. I'll be fine," he said, reassuring his father.

Instead of his dad reassuring him, it was Justin who did the comforting. Retired Captain Lodge was not surprised by his son's maturity and uncommon understanding that was rare in someone his age. He had long gotten used to it. Ever since Justin was a year and a half, he had watched while his son grew into something only other parents and people would dream of. Ever since that visit to Frozen Peak seven years ago—

His thoughts were interrupted by the bold series of knocks on the door. Without a moment's hesitation, he walked to the front door and opened it wide.

Two men who were unbelievably muscled entered first. They looked like MPs. Each took a side by the door and positioned. They were followed by the man who was undoubtedly the highest in rank amongst them.

"Captain," the man said, scanning the room with an alert eye before letting it land on Justin's father. "I'm Captain Banner, here on official business. The time has come for your son to serve the country."

How can an eight year old possible serve the country? Captain Lodge asked himself as he looked at Captain Banner. But deep down inside, he knew the answer to that. His son was destined by a higher power to serve, and in time, save his country and fellowmen, like he once had done during the era of the VC. On some level, he was proud of Justin but it deeply distressed him that he was going to be separated from him.

Not only him, but Justin's mother and little sister would also mourn for the lack of his presence in their day-to-day activities.

The Captain transferred his attention to the unusually tall kid beside the Captain. "You must be Justin." It was a statement laced with undeniable authority; Justin's father correctly assumed that the Captain had spent hours poring over his son's files and those that were just like him.

"Are you ready?" It was a question that just dared Justin to say no, and in the underlying tones of his voice, there was a promise of punishment if he did.

"Yes." The word rolled of the boy's tongue before he could think clearly. This incredibly huge man intrigued and frightened him. It showed in his eyes. The Captain mentally took note of this.

"Good." He looked to the father, who was desperately trying to hide the mounting emotions of anguish that were slowly overpowering him. "Are his things packed?"

A moment of silence passed. A moment of hesitation on Captain Lodge's part. Thoughts of refusing to give his son away raced through his mind, followed by different strategies of escape. But it lasted for a mere three seconds. He had sworn allegiance to the country, and he had volunteered his son for this special program. Captain Lodge was not a man who broke his word.

He looked down at his son and said, "Justin, go get your backpack." The black backpack they had both prepared on the night of Justin's birthday. They had filled it with Justin's favorite things: a pocket knife, a family photo album, some books, and a few pair of clothes. That was six months ago. Ever since that night, he had waited on tenterhooks for this day to come. And now it was finally here.

Justin walked to his bedroom and from his closet, grabbed the backpack, and took his time surveying his room. He didn't know what was in store for him. Although they had discussed countless of times the reasons for his leaving, his father had been very vague on what was going to happen to him after the actual leaving. He sensed that it wasn't because his dad was holding out information from him, but because he himself, a man well-recognized in the military, didn't know. This led Justin to assume that this 'program' was highly confidential.

When he returned to the living room, his dad was snapping his mobile phone shut, indicating he had been talking to someone over the phone. Justin knew that his mom had been on the other line. She and his little sister had visited his mom's sister in the hospital, after having fallen down twenty two steps and had acquired a fracture in the leg.

As it turned out, his mom with his sister couldn't arrive until after an hour or so, caught in the heavy traffic of the city.

"I'm sorry to say but we don't have that time Captain. We're behind schedule as it is due to some unforeseen circumstances and we'd hate to waste precious time."

A heartless statement tied with fraudulent sympathy. But Captain Lodge didn't have enough consequence to disobey someone of higher rank. Captain Lodge prided himself in his military discipline and obedience, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Slowly, he nodded and five minutes later, his son was carried away by one of the two unmarked vans. He didn't know when he would be able to see his son again. Only the pounding rain heard his anguished sobs in the empty house.


Carly indulged herself in chocolate chip cookies and the Fox and the Hound when the doorbell rang. She looked up from the TV screen and saw her mom heading for the door. She resumed on watching the movie. She liked it because despite after all they've been through, their friendship pulled through.

She immediately forgot the movie when her mom said in a rather loud voice, "This is some sick joke you're playing."

Carly's curiosity made her turn her head and found a man towering over her mom's petite frame, wearing what appeared to be a full military outfit, with two heavily muscled men one either side of him. They looked like bodyguards, she thought.

"I'm afraid it isn't ma'am. Your husband would know. We'd like to talk to him," the man said with a polite voice.

"I don't think so. You'd better leave before I call the police."

"Mom? What's wrong?" Carly called out.

She had caused attention to herself and the man's gaze went past her mom's shoulders and intently bore into her, quickly assessing her, as if figuring her out.

"Nothing Mommy can't handle," Katia said. She scrutinized the three men in front of her. They looked intimidating, but she never was a fearful type of person. For these men to come knocking at her door, say they were from the military, and tell her that they had come to take her daughter away, she considered them insane. She looked at each of them squarely in the eye, undaunted by their huge size. She was in the act of telling them off again when the man easily brushed past her and entered the house.

Katia screamed a protest but was held back by a gentle but firm hand on her arm. She whipped her head around and immediately kicked the well-muscled six-foot-four man in the shin, and as she had hoped, he instantly let go of her.

Her mind screamed in victory as she quickly approached the man who had trespassed into her home. She quickly remembered that he had introduced himself as Captain Bouvier.

"Captain Bouvier, last warning!" She was desperate to get these men out of her house and her life. She didn't know how or why, but when they told her that they had come to take Carly away, a feeling of fear beyond comprehension ran deep inside her. Call it mother's intuition but she couldn't let them have her only daughter, her only child.

Captain Bouvier ignored the frantic woman behind him and concentrated on the supposedly eight-year-old child who looked more like a preteen, who would someday become one of the best soldiers the world has ever seen. He approached her and his steely gray eyes leveled on her. "Are you Lauren Maverick?"

For the first time, Carly felt fear as she looked up into the very tall man, towering over her, making her feel small and insignificant. But she had pride, and with great effort, managed to make her face look impassive. She didn't answer him, merely looked up at him, meeting his stare head-on.

They were interrupted when her dad appeared from the basement door, where he spent most of his time. He had gone up to check on who their visitor could be, and when he looked to see who it was, he froze in mid-step and his blue eyes widened.

Katia took advantage of this moment and approached him with a speed born of raw desperation, clinging to his arm with a mighty grip, forcing him to come to his senses. "Dillon. Dillon. Thank God you're here. These men are trespassing and they say that they're going to—What did you say?"

"Bouvier" was what Dillon had said and Katie clearly heard him the first time, causing the panic and the fear to escalate. She watched as Captain Bouvier gave a small smile to her husband and said, "Maverick. It's been a long time."

"Yes it has. Why are you here?"

The Captain didn't answer. He shifted a little bit. "I'd like to speak to you. In private."

And just like that, they disappeared into the study, leaving Katia and Carly with the two heavily muscled men. Katia rushed over to her daughter and hugged her ferociously.

"Mom, what's wrong?" Carly asked, turning her big blue eyes to her mom.

Everything, Katia wanted to say, but she didn't want to raise alarm on her daughter. She smiled down at her. "Nothing. Your dad will fix everything."

Carly nodded and gazed at the TV screen, the movie forgotten. "I wonder," she whispered, "what that Bouvier man could possibly want to say. It seemed pretty serious, don't you think so Mommy?"

Katia nodded.

"I wonder if he has a family."

"Why do you say that hon?"

"Because he doesn't look happy," Carly said. "Men with families, I observe are happier than single men, like Daddy."

Katia laughed.


Ten minutes. It was exactly ten minutes since her dad entered the study with that military man and they still hadn't come out. The movie had finished, but nobody noticed. Carly sat patiently in her mother's arms in the sofa as they waited. She hadn't seen her mom so worried before. This was very serious, that she had concluded. She wondered what it was about.

Her mom ran her hands up and down Carly's arm, as if to comfort her. Minutes ago, her mom had hugged her from out of nowhere with such ferocity that she felt her mom was never going to let her go. She had found that very strange.

Some silent excruciating moments later, the distinct sound of footsteps were heard, and predictably enough, the door opened. It was her dad. He looked so grave and serious that Carly could have mistaken him for a stranger that was in their house.

He motioned for Katia to join them in the study.

Carly frowned. She was being left alone in the living room with two very tall bodyguards? She grumbled in protest, but she had no choice. It was adult talk. She wasn't an adult.

She doodled instead on a piece of paper to pass the time. She had noticed that even though she excelled in almost everything, she could never draw as beautifully as her other classmates. They could make colorful beautiful pictures while hers were just stick figures in black and white. She always laughed at herself about this. And she was doing so now as she made a stick figure of Bouvier in the back pages of her notebook.

She cocked her head up to find her mom. She always showed her drawings to her mom. All she saw in the room were the two bodyguards that came with that Bouvier guy.

She stood up and approached them. They regarded her with an alert eye.

"Hi."

No answer.

"I'm Carly. What are your names?"

Still no answer.

"Do you want to see my picture of Captain Bouvier?" she asked as she held up her notebook for them to see.

One of them glanced at her notebook, and she saw the faint beginnings of a smile appear in his face. She pointed to the head. "I think his head is a little bit squarer than this. But I really can't draw. It's not one of my talents." She peered curiously at the man. "Can you draw?"

The man looked at her, hesitating, then said, "I can't."

Carly congratulated herself for getting him to talk. "That's good! I wouldn't have liked you if you did. I find that I'm insanely jealous of people who can, especially my classmates when they show off their drawings to me knowing that it's the only thing I'm not good at. I kick their butts at soccer though. Do you play soccer?"

He hesitated again for several moments. He looked to the other man for support. He turned to look at her again, not knowing what to make of her. "I can't."

Carly looked considerably bummed.

The man cleared his throat. "But he can," he said as he gestured to the other man.

"Yay! Thanks!" She walked over to the other man. "Do you want to play soccer with me outside?"

The man couldn't say no to those huge blue eyes and the cute little smile, knowing that within minutes, because of their arrival, her world would be torn into little pieces and that she may have no reason to smile in the next several months.


Captain Bouvier, Professor Maverick and his wife found Carly in the backyard playing one-on-one soccer with one of the MPs. The sight was incredibly unexpected that neither one of them moved for awhile. It was the captain who recovered first. He cleared his throat and the MPs immediately stopped what they were doing, caught in the act of doing something they shouldn't have been doing. One was playing soccer with the tall little girl, while the other was in the sidelines, watching, cheering the little girl on.

After having received their attention, the captain motioned them inside, and Carly followed them. She had noticed that her mom's eyes were red and puffy, signifying that she had been crying. When they were all seated in the living room, Carly rushed to sit beside her mom, but her mom shook her head.

Confused, Carly sat instead in the one-seater living chair that was facing the loveseat where the Captain was. She noticed that everyone was looking at her.

She wanted to scream.

"Carly." It was her mom. "Y-Your dad and I are s-sending you to m-m-military school." She started crying again. Her dad moved to comfort her, but she rejected him and moved away from him. In her eyes, it was his fault this was happening. And he knew that it's true. It is his fault.

"W-What? Why?!"

"Carly." It was her dad this time. "I'm sorry but we have no choice in this. The government needs you."

Her dad was a man of few words, she had always known that, but in a matter as important as this and that's all that he could say?! Carly couldn't believe her own ears. That's it?! That's why they're sending her away?! Because the government needs her?! Something just didn't add up. Something was missing in the picture, but it was the cause of all this.

"It's because of my almost-abnormal physical abilities, isn't it? I always knew I wasn't ordinary…"

"Carly…" her mother said brokenly.

"I had always wondered why I'm like this. So different. So weird. So strange…" she looked to the captain. "Will there be kids my age with the same capabilities as mine?"

He nodded. Carly saw the beginnings of hope.

"Will I be able to understand why I am I am?"

Resolutely, he nodded again. Carly believed him.

"I guess I could go…"

"NO!"

All heads turned to Katia. "No… Carly, my baby, don't go… Don't go…"

"You don't understand Mom," Carly said. "I'm different don't you see? And I want to be in a place where I seem ordinary! Why? Why am I like this? My whole life I've wanted to know, and now, I have the chance to, and it may never come again."

"Honey…"

"No Mom. I'm a grown girl now. I don't look like it, but I am, and you know it. You know it. Don't you want me to be everything I can be? Do you want me to always regret this decision in my life?"

Katia turned away and sobbed.

Dillon Maverick was stunned beyond belief. "Has it really affected you this much?"

Calry looked at him suspiciously. "Has what affected me?"

Dillon blinked and looked away. "Nothing."

Carly was still suspicious. Her dad was keeping something from them, but she temporarily ignored it. For now, she had to comfort her mom. She sat beside her and this time she wasn't rejected. "Mom, it's okay. I really want to do this. I want to go with Captain Bouvier and find out why I am. Mom?"

She stared into the pale freckled skin of her Mom, and her dark lush brown hair that was identical to her own. She gazed at the warm chocolate brown eyes and the beauty mark just under the corner of her right eye. She faintly smelled the kitchen spices from her mom's hair and the soft soap from her skin. She would miss her.

Captain Bouvier like a man who was about to jump off his seat of sheer happiness at the outcome but was too proud to do it. Instead, he said, "Miss Maverick, if you would just prepare a bag of the things you might wanna bring with you, we can be on our way."

"Mom, it's not like we have a choice in this. I have to go whether we want to or not, but this way, I take advantage of the situation; my questions will get to be answered." Carly gave one last lingering glance at her mother before she walked to her room. Five minutes later, she was ready and changed. But the scene in the living room was the same as she had left it: gloomy.

"I'm ready," she announced softly. Everyone looked at her, each with a different expression on their faces. She felt like this was going to be the decision that would change her life forever. There was no turning back now.

Captain Bouvier stood up. So far, the effort to hold back a happy grin was successful. This little girl would be the hardest to pull out of her home because she had no idea what she was in for. What made it more difficult is that the parents didn't know either. Well, one parent. Prof Dillon Maverick knew this was going to happen ever since she was a baby. But to keep it from his wife… She obviously didn't know what happened at Frozen Peak ten years ago. But he did his mission. He accomplished it. The hardest part had been explaining to the mother. She was really distraught.

Katia had started sobbing wildly and Dillon moved to comfort her. Instead of saying soothing words, he placed an arm around her rubbed his flat palm over back up and down, her immense grief seeping from her body into his, making them both feel the incredible loss that was to happen in their lives. Slowly, they both stood up to send their only child off. She left them with almost bone-crushing hugs, wet kisses, promises of return, and painful memories.


The eight year old rubbed her eyes, sat up, and wondered what had caused her to awaken. The black unmarked van that had carried her away from her home and her life had stopped. She yawned, and then looked outside, surprised to see only a barren wasteland with nothing but sand, sun, and desert plants. When had they gotten into the desert?

She looked around for the driver, but was nowhere to be found. She wondered where he was, but her silent question was answered when the door opened, letting in the desert heat and dust into the spotless interior of the vehicle. She gave a tentative smile to the driver and stepped out, taking with her the pale yellow Jansport backpack she had used to pack her things in. She saw the same thing that she had seen from the car window earlier: desert and sun. But this time, she also saw that they were in a wide property surrounded by a ten foot metal fence. Right beside where the vans had parked was a runway, a helipad, a hangar, and a rundown two-storey building.

Wait, five vans? She could distinctly remember that there were only two vans: one for her and one for Captain Bouvier. She went around the van and saw that there were more people: five drivers, six bodyguards, three uniformed, important-looking men including Captain Bouvier, and two teenage boys. Maybe thirteen or fourteen. She felt her blood quicken. They were both exceptionally handsome. One with the All American good looks and the other looking very much like a dark angel. She couldn't believe they were going to be her classmates. She looked around some more, wondering where all the other children are. If they were going to a military school, shouldn't there be many kids? Maybe the three of them were just transferees.

She was noticed and was called. She walked over to Captain Bouvier who had called her. He motioned for her to stand with the two teenage boys. She felt so small compared to them. They were probably five-foot-five, a somewhat normal height for thirteen year olds like them. She gave a hesitant smile to them both. One of them, the blonde one, returned it with a wide grin. Her own smile widened. At least he was friendly. The other one was gazing at her with impenetrable unreadable eyes.

A throat was cleared and a deep, commanding voice followed accompanied by a sneer. "Welcome...Pagans."