Woe. The shriek should vibrate the walls and tingle my limbs, but it doesn't. There's something competitive in the air. . . something undetectable, yet I know it's there.

Pera, the one who screamed my name, appears in the doorframe, her beady black eyes penetrating and wide form taking up my view of the room behind her. Her face is flushed, her hair astray. It's as if a thousand pounds of gel has been smeared and styled (horribly) into each strand of her hair. I can't wipe off the smug look on my face as she heaves, large chest rising with every intake of air.

"I know it was you!" she accuses, tiny eyes squinting so I can barely see them. One hand shakily reaches up to touch one of the thick, hard strands of her hair. "Who else would hate me enough to do this?"

I reflectively touch my own hair, glad for its softness. From out of the corner of my eye, I can see blonde locks falling to my shoulders. "Well," I respond, sophisticatedly, "I could name a few. For instance, Simmer. . . you know that boy who always prays? He probably prays that you get mowed down by the enemy." I can't help but smirk as her face gets even more colour—literally turning red.

"You will pay, you little whore," she hisses through her teeth, and I merely lean back on the bench and make a show of looking up at the ceiling, as if in exasperation. She disappears from the doorframe, and my lips tug into a full-out smile, and then I grin and look down at my nails.

Quite out of nowhere, Simmer sits down beside me, folding his hands in his lap. Apparently, he's heard everything, for he gracefully says, "I don't hate her."

"You make fun of her."

"She's a kiss-ass."

"Yes, well," I lower my voice, not in the least ashamed by the hardness in my tone, "that kiss-assing has gotten her a promotion over me."

Simmer smiles a little and averts his gaze to his hands. He's a calm person most of the time, but he has his enthusiastic moments. Around girls that he's taken by, he becomes an entirely different person than the one sitting beside me. It's like "hot girls" have some kind of chemical in them that reacts with his hormones and he goes into hyper overdrive. It's unique. . . and yeah, that's my theory for his bizarre behavior.

He looks back at me, his light brown hair shifting due to the movement. "So, what did you put in her hair?"

I shrug.

"Come on, it's obvious that it was you."

I make a disgusted sound in the back of my throat and give off a simplistic sideways glimpse aimed at him. "Well, you know how she's got her new promotion?"

"Sure do."

"Instead of checking people in the halls, like me, she checks weapons to see if they're rigged or made improperly. I can do that, right? I don't have to stick to scanning humans and the like—I could check weapons."

His smile is widening as I speak. "Of course you can."

"I like weapons," I add. "People are boring, and they're always clean, because Sarin at the front desk always gets them. He's like a hawk."

He nods in agreement. There's an impatience to his lips and I know he wants me to answer his question of what I had mixed into Pera's hair. I talk a lot, and tend to get off topic and ramble, and he's used to it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't irk him.

"Right," I cautiously say. "They're developing a new type of fuel, right? For ships?"

"You put a mixture of unidentified liquid into her hair?" he drones, unimpressed. Scratch that, judging by the glint in his eye, he is impressed, probably by my extreme measures.

I put a finger to my lips, indicating secrecy. "She keeps going into the shower room, but it won't wash out."

He shakes his head. "I'll pray for her."

"You do that," I encourage. Speaking of which. . . . I turn to him and furrow my eyebrows. "Worship is on. Why aren't you in the ease?"

The ease is where the worship of Phase takes place. There's one in almost every major building, and one of every few blocks in the city. As for what Phase is? Our God. Unlike the deities of old, Phase has presented himself in a physical view. A select few of lucky people have seen him, heard him, touched him, and he's done magnificent and otherwise impossible tasks, like shifting land, lifting seas, controlling weather, rebuilding ruin.

"He is true, He is pure, He is the Savior," Simmer whispers, eyes closed, and then opens them to look at me. "I heard Pera screaming your name and thought maybe I was needed elsewhere."

It wasn't like Simmer to bail on an ease session.

"You should be there," he reprimands me, and then gets to his feet and holds out a gloved hand. His green eyes are searching with plead, but they're sharp because I know he doesn't want me rejecting his offer to worship Phase today. "You work too much, and you know you can take this off to pray."

"I take this off to sit around and piss people off," I shrug, but despite my words, I take his hand and allow him to pull me up. He leads me down the white hall, and our boots echo off the floor. I glance out the window beside us that spans along the length of this hall and witness a projectile being launched in the far, far distance.

"Accuracy testing," I say out loud, and Simmer glances at the missile in the sky, also.

"It's going to hit the waters near Breachfield," he says.

"Where's Breachfield?"

His smile is full as he looks at me. "In the sky."

By the time I look back at the projectile, it's already too far up and I can't see it. I can see a faint trail, and that's it. "I've never been there," I admit. I've never left Nzat. . . the city in which I live. I work a few miles out of the city, but that's as far as I've gone. Simmer is part rekki, and he's lived all over.

I suppose that deserves an explanation.

The rekkis are a fellow race. There's three that we know of: humans, rekkis, and jags. The rekkis like to chew on things. . . frequently. If I were to look over during a class, I can bet at least half of the rekkis are chewing on something like the corners of their computers. They look like humans, except they have freakish jumping and running abilities and have different habits than humans. They come from a planet called Rekkiri; some live here on Earth. We've intermixed. I have twenty-percent rekki in me. Unfortunately, I'm as slow as erosion and can't jump to save my life. I mean, I'm capable of doing the act, just not well. Not high.

The jags are fags. Everyone says that, and I can't help it, either. Call me a follower. The jags are very animalistic, very savage. . . their courtesy seriously suffers. From the stories I've heard of how they treat prisoners, they disgust and terrify me. We're at war with them. . . the humans and rekkis versus the jags.

They reproduce like nobodies business with their own species. It's not common for them to reproduce with humans or rekkis, but they do sometimes to create what they call "dirt hitters", which they use as front-liners in battle, pilots of suicide-ships, or else as slaves. Dirt hitters are considered, well, dirt to them, and the only reason they make them is to kill them when they're old enough to do some damage to the enemy.

So, yeah, peachy specie.

They are the enemy. Currently, I'm at work, and where I work is a top-military base a little ways out of Nzat (named after the first rekki to come to Earth). This is one of the largest cities up to date, and I've never left it once in the eighteen years I've been alive. I'm not responsible for anything weapons-wise, I simply work the security system—not at the front desk, but around the halls, in case the front desk misses someone or someone slips by them. It doesn't happen often, but it happens.

In the halls, my job is to casually scan people, while making sure they don't recognize my identity as a security worker. My official name is a scanner, and I don't really like my job, mainly because it is very boring. I'd rather check out weapons because I'm interested in how they work, and I like fixing things.

I guess, though, with my current job, I won't be partially responsible for any deaths, right?

"Here," Simmer says, stopping. I stop beside him and finger my belt absently as I gaze at the boy passing us with his head down. I've got a chip in the side of my head that starts beeping if an unauthorized person, whether human, rekki, or jag, walks within ten metres of me. Still, the chip is sometimes fooled, so I watch the boy casually, and when he looks up at me, I smile flirtatiously. He's taken aback and looks away as he passes.

My cover for staring is acting like a flirt.

Simmer and I have stopped beside the ease. I lean a shoulder against the long arch of a doorway and view the praying crowd. Descendant Ror is leading a hymn at the moment. Technically, Ror is not a descendant of Phase, but that's what they call themselves. . . . It isn't particularly related to the word.

"Bores me to tears," I contribute.

Simmer leans on the other side of the long arch, creating some distance between us, and still, he smiles. He's always smiling. "See that girl in the bright yellow? She sticks out. . ."

I travel my gaze along the crowd. I pick her out. "Brown hair done up?"

He nods.

"What about her?" I ask, looking back at him. Uh-oh. . . he has that strange feel to him now. He likes her. She has the ability to make him act crazy. He pushes off the arch even though he just got comfortable and strides up to me.

"She's great," he enthuses. "I mean, she can talk and talk until the Earth melts, and she's always confused as to what's going on."

"You like that?"

He grins. "Yeah. It's funny. She makes me laugh."

"She'd make me want to ram my head against a wall repetitively," I retaliate coolly.

He leans beside me and bites his lip, but it's not a nervous action. It's the opposite. "Oh, Meera," he glances at me, eyebrow lifting, "you sound jealous."

I laugh so loudly that a few of the prayers glance back at me in irritation and curiosity. I even throw my head back and slap my knee, and at that, he knows I'm making a show of laughing like this to piss him off. He stays silent beside me until I get bored with my act, and I move away from the wall and stand in front of him. We are both silent, waiting for the other to speak.

"I have to get back to work," I say with a smirk.

"Of course," he nods.

I move away from him and the hall seems different now. I don't know what it is, because I doubt the actual hall has changed. I move to the elevator and step inside, but still, that feeling follows me. I regret not taking the shift pad, which moves ten times faster than this old hunk of crap I'm standing in, but it's too late now, I conclude, as the doors slide shut.

I touch the 48th floor button and lean back against the wall and wait. Floor 48 is where I'll find the communicator to talk to Sarin, who works the front desk. I am to check with him every two hours. The consistent whirr of the elevator isn't soothing in the least, and I get an image of the cables breaking and—

I shake my head with a simper. I think to pray to Phase, but what would I say? I'm perfectly fine.

The doors flash open, and I tilt my head in curiosity. There's blood on the floor near a plant. I step out of the elevator and peer around, nervous and alarmed. I touch the gun on my hip and swallow as I follow the blood. I look away from the red trail, because I'm sensing that other things around me aren't right. As I gaze around, my throat tightens and my body starts to feel weak.

Everyone's dead.

Everyone's a bloody mess. A girl I recognize but don't quite know is laying across her desk, neck gouged out. Beside her, a boy is completely decapitated.

"Oh my fucking—" I cut myself off as I run to the communicator. I press "connect" with a shaking finger and then try to punch in the code, but I'm trembling too badly and I mess it up. The small screen turns red to deny me. I pause, closing my eyes to try to control myself so I can put the code in. As soon as I close my eyes, however, I hear a scream. It's so faint that it could have been in my head, but nonetheless, I look up. It came from either floor 49 or 50.

I try the communicator again, and this time I'm confident in the number. The light flashes green, and I sigh in relief. However, no alarms go off. I hesitate and look back at the screen. . . which is now red. It's been manipulated.

Instead of alarms, I hear a strange tune come from the speakers above. It's a tune I don't recognize, and it's so unique and strange that it's eerie. I glance over to the stairs that lead up and a cold chill sweeps across my body, and an involuntary shudder results. There is more blood on the stairs. I wonder how many floors the massacre has reached.

There's alert systems on every floor. Maybe the other ones aren't broken. I head up, because there's less floors to check than if I head down, and so if a good alert system is up here, I won't have to go all the way back up.

I ascend the stairs at a set pace and stop when I reach the top. This floor is worse, as far as I can see. Blood is stretched across the otherwise white walls, and there are bodies everywhere. Why? Why are they all dead? Why is it all their blood? How come, whoever did this, isn't already dead, going against all these people?

You can't surprise attack every single person here. It's impossible. I jump when I hear another scream, and I clutch the railing of the stairs and think to turn back. I even make the movement, but I don't follow through. Instead, I sprint to the alert system, try the code, and when it's granted, it's denied two seconds after. Again, that creepy song plays, and I put a hand to my head and try not to back down.

The chip in my head begins to beep, and I reach up and tap the side of my head to turn it off. Unidentified threat is near. . . upstairs, most likely.

I pull out my gun and head for the stairs. I have to see what's going on. . . I have to help. People are still alive up there. I take the first step, tighten my hold on my gun, and then take the second. I'm sweating and shaking and I know I should have more control, but I've never actually been in a situation where I'm surrounded by dead bloody bodies left and right. I've never had to kill anyone.

I make it to the top few stairs and hear another scream. It's so loud that I nearly scream myself, out of being startled, but I keep quiet and try to control the tremors in my body. I press myself to the wall, arching the small of my back over the railing, and slide up the last step. I peek around the wall.

A jag.

Just one.

How could one jag do this? There has to be more; they have to have split up.

"Now that I've got your attention," he speaks, unexpectedly, and turns to face me. I duck behind the wall, hoping to hell he never saw me. "Oh, no," he continues, "don't hide. I won't hurt you." His voice is low and rough, and his tone is taunting. He's speaking directly to me. He knows I'm up here—but why was he trying to catch my attention? "I need your help, scanner."

Scanner. So he doesn't know my name.

"Come on," he whispers. "Come on out or—" A harsh scream sounds, and I almost jump out with my gun, shooting wildly, but his next words cause me to stop, "I'll kill every fucking one of them until you cooperate, human!"

I swallow. That's it, then. He has me. I slowly step out from the shelter of the wall, and he smiles, showing off his sharp teeth. He resembles a human, like the rekkis do, but his skin has a faint white tint to it, making him look like glass or ice. His hair is a fiery red, eyes black and endless, and he's wearing a satisfied smirk. He would look like the basic jag, except he has a few quirks—his fiery hair is spiked up and there's something black—charcoal?—under his eyes, giving him an eerie appearance. His canines are also longer than I remember seeing on any jag. Something about his features tells me that he likes to play games.

I look around for a quick moment. Only two are left alive. One is the president of this military base, tied to his desk with wires I've never seen before. The other is his secretary, Fan, who I've spoken to on numerous occasions.

The jag clears his throat and arches both of his eyebrows. "I need your help," he repeats, smoothly and delicately. He raises his hand, and I see a bloody, oddly shaped knife, held in it. Blood drips off it in thickly layers, draining in clumps to the white floor by his brown boots. Without hesitating, he jumps at the secretary with startling speed, and I lift my gun and pull the trigger, not even flinching as my finger adds pressure.

The moment is quick, but the result is useless to me.

He gets up, touching the area I shot, and he smiles coolly. My bullets are useless, as he's most likely wearing a cream that acts as a shield against mild bullets; that must be the reason for the glossy tint to his skin. The secretary, on the other hand, didn't even have time to scream before she was impaled straight through the face.

The sight makes me retch. I try to hold it in as to not let myself be subject to an easy attack on the jag's part, but it comes so fast and so unexpectedly that I don't even know I'm on my knees until I'm finished. I gasp in against the residue and burn of my throat and then force myself back onto my feet, immediately.

He clicks his tongue and taps his chin. In response, I wipe my chin off and shudder. I stare right at him, and then he unexpectedly pulls something out of his pocket. I have a second to process that it is a tiny aiming-dart before he throws it at the light above us. That light goes out, and then the rest begin to flicker, and darkness consumes the whole room. I've never heard of any dart that can suck the power out of a room.

"Weak stomach?" he inquires, voice carrying leisurely in the dark. I kneel and then hiss when my knee touches my vomit. I shift away, trying not to act disgusted because I need to focus on the important thing: the jag.

"What do you want?" I ask, and I am honestly surprised by the hollow strength of my voice. I don't want to talk because then he knows exactly where I am—plus, his eyesight is much better than a humans. However, I want to get out of this peacefully. . . it's doubtful, but not impossible. I feel around with my hands, trying to make my way to the desk; to the president of the company.

"I want to kill every single sad fuck in this building," he states, but he doesn't sound angry or venomous. No, he sounds like he doesn't even believe what he's saying; he doesn't even care. "You're going to help me breach the security system, so I can get in and retrieve the whereabouts of your fellow bases."

I don't say anything and merely continue shifting towards the desk. I feel the corner and put a hand to my chest, relieved. My knees inch me closer to the chair, and I touch the president's leg. He jumps, and just as he does, I hear him scream. My shoulder brushes against something—clothing, but it's not the presidents. Then, something warm and sticky drops on my hand, tickling and startling. Blood! The president's blood.

The jag kneels next to me; it was his leg I felt. His breath is next to my ear; I swirl around and shoot off my gun. His breath hits my ear, followed by a grunt, and then his hand clamps around my wrist and he squeezes until I'm forced to drop the weapon. He pulls me up into a standing position, jerking me around so that my back is to him. The bloodied knife is pressed to my throat; I can feel the ooze of blood touching the sensitive skin of my neck.

"I could kill you," he says, conversationally, "or you could punch in the code to access the computer." The computer holds the information he's looking for.

His arms are holding me firmly; the one that is wrapped around my waist, holding me back to him, is crushing my ribs and making it difficult to breathe. Swallowing, I inch forward, and he follows willingly.

"What's your name?" I ask, tense against the stained knife.

I feel him laugh, but don't hear it. "Why would you like to know? You're going to be dead real soon, anyways." His voice is boyish, now that he's talking in my ear; boyish and teasing, as if this is all some big sick joke. At last, I'm able to reach the computer on the president's desk.

My fingers dance on the panel, punching in the code. I don't reply as I do this, as I'm concentrating very hard. I frown and pause. Shit. I can't remember the next digit.

"Jazler," the jag responds, absently.

"I can't. . ." I whisper.


"Six. . ." I talk to myself, "or nine. . .?"

"Oh, please," the jag—Jazler?—scoffs against my cheek. "You'll remember. . . or do I have to bleed it out of you?"

I don't respond, and a few moments later, something pinches my hip. Involuntarily, a yelp emits from my lips, and the pinch increases until I begin to thrash my lower body, not wanting to cut my neck on the knife he still has held against my throat. The pinch resides, and I pant, biting my lip in pain. I can feel a cold trail of blood sliding down to my pants, collecting on my belt and seeping under. I don't know what he's used on me; something that took a hold of a small area of my skin and twisted it until it bled.

My fingers race across the digits of the panel. I press 'enter' and the security flashes.

"Warning! Warning! Please evacuate immediately!"

I whisper along with the words. Jazler is thrown by the alarm, and I drive my elbow back at the same time I push the knife away from my throat. I duck as he's stunned and bolt for the stairs, blind in the dark but my memory proves to be perfect. Jazler knows where I'm going because it's obvious, and he can hear my boots. As I run, I feel things whizz by me; bullets, narrowly missing. Something enters my shoulder and I cry out, nearly falling down the stairs as I reach them. I keep my balance and run down them, and then towards the shift pad and I slam my palm down on 'floor 1'.

I clutch my shoulder and lean back against the glass. The whole shift pad is glass, and I can see the city lights of Nzat in the distance. They are a comforting sight, but from up here, they look untouchable.

"Mom," I whisper, pressing my forehead against the glass, "I'll come home tonight. Don't be afraid of the news." I put my hand against the glass and hold back tears of pain—I can feel pain now that I'm somewhat safe and the fear has gone down—and when my hand drops, a red print is left behind.

The shift pad activates and I shoot down the forty-nine floors until I reach floor one. I'm dizzy from the ride and wound of my shoulder, but I manage to stumble out. Everyone is running out, confused and alarmed. Someone has activated the back up lights, so the room is a dull red.

"A jag," I scream as I pass a few people. "He's upstairs; he's massacred the top three floors, and that's all I know."

"What?" a man stops me, grabbing me firmly by the shoulders, until he realizes I'm in pain and that my blood in soaking his hand. "Oh my God, someone get an ambulance! She's been shot!"

I stagger away from him. "Just get out!" I scream at the spectators who aren't running. The elevators and shift pads are working like crazy. It's pure chaos. Police and safety are pouring in, ushering the workers out the various exits. One grabs me and leads me to the ambulance that they always have on hand. A miniature hospital.

When I'm laying on my back, they sedate me, and the sedative knocks me out.