Anomaly - n. (pl. anomalies)

Something that deviates from what is standard or what is normal.

Racing through the dark sewers beneath a metropolis with a bag full of irreplaceable jewelry in her hand.

The clatter of her shoes against the hard cement while she ran; water splashing as she strode across shallow puddles.

It was dark, yet she could see. Escaping her pursuers and baffling them with her precise movements and wicked speed advantage over them… this was truly a rush for the girl cloaked in darkness that was escaping with her latest claim in a series of thefts.

"Get back here, you damn thief!!" a guy's voice cried out after her. She, of course, wasn't going to listen. The two guys trailing her weren't regular cops, they were something above and beyond: a special task force designed to deal with unique criminals like her.

If they caught her, it would be all over... permanently. She was in her element however, surrounded by rushing water that - to her - was as in tune with her body as the air she breathed. Alexis-Lynn Carlyle was no ordinary human, no, she was…

"An Anomaly, just as we thought," the task force member on the pathway to the left of the rushing water down the center spoke both to his partner and into his communicator, "it's probably the same one who hit the museum three nights ago."

"You can't be sure of that, Collin," a voice spoke back to him and his partner through an earpiece, "the effects on the surroundings of each of the crime scenes have been different: different elements."

"This one was Vapor for sure," the boy racing along the right side of the sewers spoke into his communicator as he looked ahead and began to pick up his pace, "I can hear her footsteps. I'm rushing forward to get her!"

"Roy, wait!" Collin cried out as his partner ran as fast as he could, increasing his speed beyond what a normal human could attain. Collin wasn't sure if this was a good idea; they had no idea what their enemy was capable of and in this dark setting their flashlights only gave them so much light to work with.

He noticed however, that their perpetrator didn't even need a flashlight to navigate the sewers. She was using her Affinity, her elemental power she had been gifted with, in a special way that gave her knowledge of her surroundings. He wasn't sure how she was doing it but that put them at a huge disadvantage!

Roy dashed down the tunnel, his dirty blond hair tied up in a ponytail whipping out behind him as he ran, chasing down the girl he sought to capture. He was running with ease in his large army boots, losing no traction even on this slippery path. He was also wearing black jeans and a heavy green vest that seemed to be part of his military attire. As part of APS - the Anomaly Police Squad - his job was simple: to capture any and all Anomalies before they could use their powers to upset the natural balance and expose the existence of these mysteriously powered beings to the world.

Anomalies were to be kept a strict secret; the government was trying to make sure of that.

"Here I come!" Roy yelled out as he bounded forward through the air at top speed, reaching both of his hands over his head and brightening up the whole sewer as he did. Collin watched from behind as Roy had literally formed a sword out of pure light with his Light Affinity. The wide sword extended upward from his right wrist as he gripped that wrist with his left hand; trying to keep it steady.

As Roy lit up the area with his shining weapon, the girl they were in pursuit of stopped running and turned to look up at what was causing such an effect. Collin narrowed his eyes at her, homing in right on her face to try and get a good look at their thief.

"Curses… she's wearing a mask! I can't identify her!"

Suddenly Alexis cast out her right hand and materialized a weapon of her own within it! Collin knew that every Anomaly was able to form a weapon of choice to aid them in battle but he didn't expect her to be wielding such a dangerous one! Roy's eyes widened in alarm as he flew toward Alexis, unable to stop himself now!


Alexis thrust her long trident up toward Roy and blocked his sword with the three-pronged tip of her extended weapon! Roy was surprised she didn't simply skewer him with her longer reach as his sword slid downward and locked into the base part of the trident where the three blades were extending from. He pulled back and took a leap to get some distance from her; just in time to notice her wearing a smirk on her face.

"Haah!" she cried out as she slashed the trident in front of herself. the blue pearl that was protruding from the shaft glowing a serene blue color, and unleashed a massive wave of water from the center of the sewers at him! Roy was alarmed as this water rose up out of the pipeline in the center and began to freeze; becoming multiple spikes of ice bearing down on him with malicious intent!

Roy immediately disassembled his light sword and fell backward, hitting his back against the floor of the pathway before one of the ice spears rammed right into his chest!! Alexis stared from the other side at the wall of ice she'd created, taking a few stunned steps back, before she turned and continued to flee.

"Whew…" Roy gasped as lay sweating on the ground, surprisingly unharmed, "if I hadn't armored up I'd be quite dead right now."

In addition to shattered ice lying across the ground, Roy was also laying there with his body now coated in a black and silver armor that was similarly designed as Alexis's trident. He was glad for the strong chest plate he wore as one of the massive ice spears was pressed right against it, having shattered upon impacting the stronger material.

"Now…" he muttered as he tried to get up but was subsequently pressed against the ground by the ice pillar, "… I'm a little stuck. Yo Collin, you mind--"

Collin leapt right over him, ignoring him, as he smashed through the ice with his own weapon in hand. Roy wasn't freed by this though and simply glared after his squad leader.

"Yeah, thanks."

"If we don't catch her now we might not get another chance!" Collin yelled back at his partner. The more slender boy with short brown hair was hot on her trail now after Roy had delayed her, especially now that he was on the same side she was on. He was dressed similarly to Roy with the green vest and was gripping his weapon: a rather thick knife whose blade flipped out from the grip.

Collin scanned his eyes along the wall, hoping that as they dashed, he'd see what he was looking for. He could hear her running ahead of him, so he knew he was close to her, but he wasn't going to leap in recklessly like Roy. Finally he saw what he desired: a fuse box!

"Hey thief, time for you to see what the Plasma affinity can do!" Collin yelled out at her as he slammed his palm against the metal box attached to the wall. Sparks flew everywhere as he sent an electrical current through the wiring and caused the ceiling before her to explode! Alexis slid to a halt as debris and electrified wires fell before her, barring her path.

"Nowhere to run now!"

"You think so, huh?" Alexis responded in a rather arrogant tone, speaking to them for the first time, "you're so naïve, no wonder APS is useless."

"What!?" an annoyed Collin yelled out at her.

"Ciao," she said, waving at him before diving straight into the waterway! Collin ran over to the side of the pathway, quite befuddled by her swift escape. With her Vapor affinity, she could probably breathe underwater and swim fast even with the current… they'd never catch her now.

"Ahh… damn it," he muttered, falling backward and sitting down to catch his breath, "she got away again. Who IS that girl…?"

"Why didn't you just fry the water?" Roy asked, approaching his partner after he'd finally freed himself. He was still wearing his heavy armor, which was the form of his materialized weapon, so it took him a little bit to catch up.

"We aren't trying to kill her. That's not how APS works."

"She sure tried to kill ME."

"You know, if she wanted to kill you, she'd have skewered you the first time she had you with her trident," Collin noted, quite confused with their mystery girl, "… yet she gave you a moment to back off and even protect yourself."

"What are you getting at?" Roy wondered, staring down at his exhausted ally. Collin shook his head, de-materializing his knife as he didn't need it anymore and wiping the sweat from his forehead.

"I want pizza is what I'm getting at."

"Well I want tacos."

Collin stood up and began to search for the nearest ladder out of this smelly underground hell, "Well you're getting pizza if you want me to pay for it."

Roy hesitated for a moment before following his leader, "… yeah, I'm down with that."

As the two APS officers made their way out of the sewers, Alexis emerged from the water at the same point she'd dove in from. As her soaking wet body crept back up onto land, it dried almost instantaneously thanks to her manipulating the water molecules. She looked down in her right hand, she still had the jewelry; she'd won.

"Men. So pathetic."

Alexis turned and disappeared into the darkness, leaving behind a battlefield beyond what any normal human could comprehend. As children, the three of them could never have imagined they'd eventually possess these amazing powers. Now they were caught up in the power struggle that reigned over this city; between two forces seeking these mysterious Anomalies. One side to contain them and the other to use them; and thus the stage for our story is set. Now begins...

ANOMALY; Vol. 1: Rebirth

Chapter I

"My name is Leena Booker. I'm age twenty and I was born on December 16th. My interests tend to roam around cooking and sports, though that's only a small portion of what my brain forces me to enjoy. My dislikes… hmm… driving, I am not a good driver. My measurements are secret … I just felt I'd let you know that."

"Is that all, Leena?"

"Yes ma'am, I'm done."

"Good, then I'm moving onto the next name on the list… er, where did I put it…?"

Leena hopped off of the stage and headed back toward her seat in the sparsely populated auditorium she and her classmates inhabited. The girl whom immediately came off as strange to her new peers was fiddling casually with her light teal hair, which came down as far as her shoulders; though it was more merciful in front, her bangs only extending to her brow. She was wearing quite an eye-catching getup, composed of a black t-shirt with a sleeveless button-up shirt overtop, accompanied by a dark red plaid skirt and black dress shoes.

Around her neck she wore a choker that bore an emblem of a cross and wore a single ring on her right ring finger. With her slender figure and provocative get-up, she was already attracting attention from male eyes in the audience of her Drama 1700 class that she didn't quite care for.

"So dumb how we gotta introduce ourselves even though it's the second semester," a boy, her friend Chris, whispered over her shoulder as she sat down in her front-row seat. Chris was a somewhat heavily-built boy around her age with short brown hair and a slight beard. He continued to complain to the teal-haired maiden, "this class is going to suck, dude."

Leena turned her head over her shoulder and gave her friend a sarcastic smirk, "Name one person in here aside from me."

"That's easy. Am--"

"Aside from Amy and Carrie," she interrupted him quickly, disqualifying the use of their other two friends' names.

Chris glared at her from behind his small-framed glasses.

"I got nothing, dude."

"You see?" a very triumphant-sounding Leena asked him, "in a university this ridiculously large, it's impossible to know everyone. I mean, this is THE CIU: Colonia Imperial University… where only the top graduates or hardest working kids from around the world come to study."

"Thank you for telling me something I already know," Chris muttered in disinterest, leaning back in his seat and directing his attention back toward the female teacher sitting up on the stage, finally with her list of students' names back in her hands. She cleared her throat and ran her finger down to the next name after Leena's, calling it out to summon the student.

"Sophie Briante, are you present?"

Leena's attention turned, her eyes scanning down the row to her right, darting to seat after seat, student after student, until her gaze finally settled on the girl whom responded to the teacher's call and stood upright. Leena narrowed her eyes at this Sophie girl, judging her immediately as was her female instinct to.

She was a slender girl, more so than Leena herself, and was also sporting a slight tan. She had messy yet stylishly short, layered brown hair and clearly wasn't that tall. Her outfit consisted of a red denim miniskirt, black leggings, and a corset-esque top that tied up from top to bottom in the middle of her chest. There was also a small hood attached to it, though why she had a hood on a sleeveless shirt was beyond Leena's comprehension.

"You hear about that girl?" Leena's other brunette friend Amy whispered into her ear from her left, "she's only sixteen and yet she's attending CIU… she's not normal."

"Sixteen?!" Leena exclaimed while still managing to keep her voice down to a whisper as she looked at her bespectacled friend. Amy was quite slim and wearing a pink t-shirt, not dressed anywhere near as fancy as herself or Sophie. Amy nodded in response to Leena's exclamation.

"Yeah, I used to think I was really smart, well compared to Chris and you I am, but this girl scares me. I had her in one of my classes last semester… she's so weird."

"Hey, I'm smart…!" Chris whined from behind them, though he was ignored by the ladies. Leena glanced over at Sophie again as she made her way up to the stage, wondering if she should even worry about this so-called genius girl. The chances of her ever interacting with someone so clearly different from her in both age and appearance seemed to make paying any special attention to her compared to the other students seem like a ridiculous notion.

But something about how different this Sophie girl was from the rest intrigued Leena.

"Weird how?" Leena asked.

"You'll see for yourself over the course of this course," Amy told her, before stopping and thinking about how weird that sounded, "err…"

"I see what you did there," Chris said to her.

"Hi, I'm Sophie Briante," the younger girl greeted the class, keeping a bright smile on her face despite the fact that her tone was of disinterest, "I'm sixteen and probably mentally ten years older than some people in here. I don't dislike certain things and I prefer to not sit on the floor. I look forward to seeing if I'm the only real actress in this class."

A few murmurs traveled through the group of students after Sophie finished her outright strange introduction. Leena leaned on the armrest of her seat, gazing up at the girl whom seemed moot to all the reactions she was getting. She shook her head and awaited the next introduction, deciding to pay no further attention to this supposed little genius.

After the introductions were over, however, Leena found herself exclaiming in alarm after their instructor made a few announcements about their partners for their first project.

"Ehhh?!" the teal-haired girl exclaimed as she looked down at the paper each student was given a copy of. Right next to her name was clearly written: Sophie Briante. If memory served, that was the weird girl who intimidated everyone!

"You've got to be kidding me…" Leena muttered as she fixated her gaze intensely on the paper, hoping reality would somehow shift and pair her with someone else. Unfortunately she knew she'd eventually have to give into reality and face the music.

"Why can't we pick our own partners?" a boy's voice called out from a row behind Leena. Leena looked up at the instructor standing before them on the stage, agreeing with his outburst. This was a very good point, she demanded an explanation as well!

"Do actors pick their co-stars?" the teacher responded in a catty tone, shutting that guy up right away with her clever retort, "Unless they're Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson, usually they don't. Acting isn't about getting together with your chums and goofing off, it's about experiencing new realities with new people! To become someone you aren't and launch forward into your new persona, taking everyone with you to meet and admire your new identity, including strangers!"

Leena stared up at the instructor's almost fanatical speech, not very impressed.

"Why did I take this class…?"

"Credits, right?" Leena's third and final friend in that classroom asked from her right. Carrie was a short blonde girl whom wore a blue bandanna over her head and a tight white t-shirt with an insignia of a yellow crescent moon displayed upon it. Along with Chris and Amy, she and Leena had decided to take this class together… for easy credits. Leena was beginning to regret this decision, as she had never aspired to act once in her whole life.

"You always talk me into these things…" Leena muttered spitefully, "you made this class sound fun."

"I was acting," Carrie told her, holding up her finger inquisitively and plastering a fake smile on her face, "see? I'm going to get an A since I was convincing enough to have you believe me!"

"I hate you."

"Well we'd better go meet our partners," Amy said, standing up and grabbing her binder off the floor, "good luck with yours Leena, too bad we can't work together."

"Perhaps next time," Chris said from behind her, "but I'll see you at work so you can tell me how it goes, dude."

Leena grabbed her book bag as well and slung it over her shoulder. She squeezed through the now bustling and chattering group of students to the other end of the row, where Sophie was still sitting properly and quietly, staring down at the project outline. Leena walked up to her but she didn't even look up.

"Uhm… hi," Leena finally tried to break the ice.

"Hi," Sophie responded, without taking her eyes off the paper. Leena already felt herself growing tired of this; Sophie wasn't going to consider her an equal at all. Sophie must've been taking this class seriously and realized that Leena didn't have as much interest in it like she did. Perhaps she was over thinking things, however…

"So, uh," Leena began, sitting down next to her new partner, "what's the project about?"

"You have the outline in your hands. Read it yourself."

Leena grumbled and gave the project outline a quick glance. Basically it said they had to come up with a three-minute skit and perform it in tomorrow's class. Three minutes was awfully long, Leena thought, that meant they only had one night to practice and write it.

"So come to my dorm room tonight," Sophie instructed her, "I want to do well in this class, so we're going to practice until you feel like you want to die."

"Could you please not say that while smirking?" Leena asked meekly.

"Was I smirking? Oh, I didn't even notice…"

"This girl is so weird!" Leena thought, raising her eyebrow as she studied her junior more, "the day after tomorrow could not come sooner…!"

As Sophie studied and Leena grumbled, a girl three rows behind them was staring at them from her comfortable spot in the amphitheater seat. This girl had a smirk on her face similar to Sophie, though there was an air of mysteriousness about her that the younger girl lacked. Her hair was straight and white, coming down to her shoulders. She had her hands folded in her lap over a pair of pants that sported many belts and was also wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt as she listened in on Leena and Sophie's conversation.

"Interesting…" she whispered to herself under her breath as she closed her eyes and seemed to focus even more intensely on them with her eyes closed, "those two must be the ones…"

"Uhm," Chris mumbled as he sat next to her, apparently her partner, "what are you whispering to yourself about, Yoshino?"

"Quiet," she ordered him harshly, pointing her finger down the row, "know your place. Go sit over there."

Chris got up from his seat and moved away from her, muttering to himself, "Geez… why do I get paired up with the blind girl with an attitude problem? How is a blind girl going to read a script anyway…?"

"Tonight is going to be interesting…" Yoshino muttered to herself, sounding as if she were becoming excited, "… it's interesting every time they make new selections..."

Elsewhere in the university, a familiar figure was strolling down a hallway as she had just exited from her Biology class. Her long dark red hair draped down over her shoulders, just reaching her breasts, as she toyed with one of the curly strands that hung from either side of her head. Her clothing consisted of black fitted pants and a lacey top with a belt that clenched around her stomach, while generously revealing quite a bit of her chest.

She strode down the hallway, her books under her left arm, her platform heels clattering against the hard floor with every step she took, giving out a sharp impact noise each time. Her name was Alexis-Lynn Carlyle and she always had a sophisticated strut accompanied by stunning beauty that made her stand out from the rest of the girls around her.

Her cell phone suddenly went off, playing a ringtone that sounded like 80's rock music. She kept walking and methodically fished it from her pocket, flipping it open and speaking into it.

"Yes?" she asked simply, letting whomever was calling her know to get straight to the point.

"Eclipse IV, you are on again tonight."

Alexis's casual-looking expression was tainted a bit as she narrowed her eyebrows upon receiving this information.

"Two nights in a row, seriously? I have homework."

"Orders are not to be ignored, you know that as well as I do. I am on with you so don't worry… it will be simpler than choking a baby to death."

"I don't like that analogy, Eclipse I," she told him, though speaking to a superior numeral like that was asking for punishment so she decided to change her tone, "… fine, what time?"

"Eight-thirty. Meet at the usual spot."

"Whatever," Alexis muttered; closing her phone and sliding it back into her pocket. She shook her head as she crossed her arms in front of her, pressing her books tightly against her full chest as she sighed deeply and kept walking.

Leena let out a deep sigh of agony as she knocked on Sophie's dorm room door, located on the same floor that hers was. The thought of how dreadful this was going to be wasn't escaping her mind, making her nervous to be working on this project. She hoped Sophie would write their script out and she'd just have to act it… to the best of her ability, anyway.

"Yo," Sophie said, cracking open the door and peering out at her with her brown eyes before fully unlocking it and welcoming her in, "enter my realm."

Leena stared at the surprisingly clean room. The bed was made, the TV was on but muted, and the only blemish was the project papers laid out in the middle of the floor. Leena figured that was their workspace, so she set her backpack down on the floor and gazed around. The room was pretty bare, she didn't seem to have brought too many possessions.

"You play video games?" Leena asked, eyeing the X-Box 360 on Sophie's dresser next to her TV.

"No, that's my DVD player."

Leena stared at her.

"… I'm serious."

"Why would you buy a FIVE-HUNDRED dollar DVD player?"

"Maybe it was bought FOR me," she hinted bluntly, as she took a seat across from Leena on the floor. Leena slanted her eyes and gave up on that conversation, sitting down across from Sophie and smoothing out her plaid skirt over her legs. She noticed Sophie wore a skirt also, a miniskirt.

"So you like skirts too, huh?"

"Not ones like yours."

"Err… I thought you didn't like sitting on the floor."

"My floor is clean. End of discussion."

Leena's eye twitched. Trying to start conversations with this girl was incredibly frustrating! She wasn't even being rude, she was just being… so nonchalant about everything she said. Leena hadn't felt so irked by anyone since she started coming to this school four months ago!

But she wasn't ready to give up yet!

"So… uhm… what's your favorite color?"

"Apple," Sophie responded methodically.

Leena rolled onto her back and smacked her head against the floor. NOW she gave up. Clearly this Sophie girl wanted nothing to do with her.

"Is there a problem?" Sophie asked.

"No… no problems," Leena responded, though it was clearly a falsified statement.

"Good. So I wrote out a basic outline of what our skit should be like," Sophie began, handing Leena a paper so she could look at it, "basically it's going to be about two people shopping in the grocery store who meet each other after years by chance. Then they reminisce about old times and other idle banter."

"Doesn't look very exciting…" Leena mumbled as she ran her eyes down along the page.

"It's only supposed to be two minutes and we don't have the resources to pull off some Matrix effects in our skit," Sophie defended herself to her new partner, "do you have any problems with the script?"

Leena noticed Sophie liked to ask if she had problems with stuff as stared at it for a moment, not responding. Sophie raised her eyebrow, thinking the same thing about Leena as she did about her whilst shaking her head.

"This girl is out there…"

"Can we change some of my character's lines…?" Leena finally asked, sounding rather serious about the manner, which made Sophie curious, "… it reminds me a little too much of my own family."


"Like this girl in the script… my father has also disappeared with no trace or explanation… and I hate him for it," Leena told Sophie, glaring up at her from behind the piece of paper. Sophie stared back at her, trying to figure out how to respond to that and deciding to go her usual apathetic path.

"That should concern me?"

"No… but it concerns me. He left my mother with my brother and I… but then my mother passed away a few years later," Leena told her, her voice sounding shaky with rage, "I… I never found out why she died or why he left… but my brother knew."

Sophie was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by the intensity of their topic, trying to find the quickest route to escape in her response, "So… ask him then."

"If there's anyone I hate more than my dad, it's my brother," Leena told Sophie very sternly, "… he abandoned me too four years ago… left me on my own. I had to work insanely hard to manage to get into this university… in this city…"

"Why… this university…?" Sophie wondered, drawn in by Leena's story. There was more to Leena than she'd initially suspected; she'd had Leena pegged at the ditzy pretty-girl type. It seemed she was wrong about her.

"Tempest City… the place my brother always spoke of going to, the place he said that the world would experience its next evolution that he wanted to be part of. I know he's here somewhere… and I intend to find him and learn the truth."

Sophie stared skeptically at Leena, whom was clenching her skirt with both of her fists as she spoke about the painful memories.

"The world's next evolution…? I'd say this girl has been misled by too much science fiction but the way she sounds so regretful when talking about it… she sounds really sincere. I can't believe she's carrying such a heavy burden around on her shoulders… it really isn't easy to get into this school."

"Alright then," Sophie said after moment, smiling and standing up, smoothing her skirt as she did, "I think it's time we took a break. Let's go grab some snacks at the corner store, my treat."

"Huh?" Leena asked, a little bewildered by Sophie's sudden announcement, "really?"

Sophie nodded, "I think we can get along after all, Leena Booker. We have one thing, at least, in common."

"What's that?"

Sophie looked down at her, wearing as pleasant a smile as ever as she spoke again but finally with a sincere tone that Leena had honestly never expected to hear.

"Both of our fathers abandoned us."

"November 15th, Scorpio; my powers have once again ascended beyond a level of which I can contain them. As such, I am now eligible to select another vessel through which I may share the affinity of Magma. In doing so, I prevent my own self-destruction and retain the balance of the Eight Seats of Excalibur."

"Is it really necessary to have two selections on the same night? I feel that giving off our power so frequently may be causing unnecessary friction in their realm."

"It's impossible to avoid, Lord of Light. With the recent damages, every element has become unstable and our powers have come to the point where our bodies cannot handle them unless we extract them into vessels."

"I know that, Lord of Plasma. But with too many supernatural beings in the human realm, great chaos could ensue... especially if they learned the true nature of their abilities."

"Bah, must you protest at every meeting!? Those pathetic beings we left behind could use some toughening up!"

"Our powers are not to be used for war, you insufferable cretin."

"Enough, both of you; this is not a matter open for discussion. In order to keep the balance of the eight affinities, our Lady of Magma shall join our Lord of Solid in selecting new vessels. I grant both of you permission to find suitable host bodies within the next 24-hours before your bodies begin to deteriorate."

"Thank you, Lord of Flora."


"If you are so concerned, Lord of Light, then make one of your Observers keep an eye on the reborn humans. This meeting of the Eight Seats of Excalibur is adjourned with no further room for debate. We shall meet again in one full cycle of days in order to assess the next problem."

"Yes… sir."

The sun had already set by the time Leena and Sophie strolled out of the dormitories and headed down the street toward the nearest corner store that was located at an intersection two blocks down. Sophie checked the time on her cell phone, grumbling as she glanced down the street ahead of them; which was lit only by the light of the lampposts and a few windows of stores that were still open.

"Almost 10:30… I wonder if it's still open," Sophie noted as she took her brown eyes' gaze away from her cell before moving them down to Leena's plaid skirt, "ack. Leena, your skirt is kind of wrinkly."

Leena grabbed the end of her skirt and held it out so she could see. Then she returned Sophie's gaze with a confused look of her own, "Uhh… so?"

"I can't stand wrinkly clothes," Sophie said, smoothing out her shirt with her hands instinctively as she stared at Leena, "it just bugs me. You should iron more."

"… I'll get right on that."

"Glad to hear it."

Leena blinked a few times before allowing her mind to get back on track and addressed Sophie with a question that she was curious about, "So, uhm, earlier when you talked about your fa--"

"I don't like to discuss things about myself," Sophie told her strictly, "that was a freebie because I felt sorry for you. You were starting to sound pretty pathetic."

"… you're mean," Leena pouted, crossing her arms over her chest and glancing away from the shorter girl. Sophie raised an eyebrow of suspicion toward her.

"You think? I'm one of the nicest people I know," Sophie responded in what sounded like a genuine tone but Leena was sure she was being sarcastic. At least, she sure hoped so. Suddenly she heard Sophie release a drawn out and frustrated sigh.

"What is it now?"

"The stupid corner store is closed!" Sophie exclaimed in annoyance, extending out her palm to direct Leena's attention to the store across the street from them that had all of its' lights turned off.

"Wow, you actually react to things?" Leena joked.

"Shut up. I wanted candy. What kind of corner store closes before 10:30?!"

Leena stared off in the direction Sophie was indicating, "The smart kind. In a city this big, I wouldn't want my store open this late since it'd likely get--"

Leena's remark was cut off as suddenly, they heard glass shatter across the street to the left from them, followed by heavy slamming and crashing sounds! Both girls turned, looking at the corner of the intersection diagonally across from the corner store and to their left to see the front side of a bank's wall completely destroyed with the debris littering the sidewalk before it!

"… robbed," Leena finished after a moment of pause, in a very meek and startled tone. Neither of them could shift their gaze from the shocking sight.

Two figures came out of the bank: one male and one female. The female with the lavish, long red hair was Alexis. The man next to her was much taller and seemed older than her, not to mention much scarier. His attire struck them as quite odd as he was wearing almost all white. White pants, a white jacket over a white shirt, and even white shoes that completely contrasted with his long and smooth black hair. They couldn't quite tell from where they were standing but it seemed that he had black irises as well.

"What is with that guy…?" Sophie wondered, her gaze fixated across the street upon the man standing amongst the destruction, unable to take her eyes off of him due to either fascination or fear; or both. Leena grabbed Sophie's arm, tugging gently on it as she was even more visibly frightened than her junior.

"Sophie, let's run. They could kill us!"

"I'm not scared of them."

"Look at that guy! He's clearly capable of killing someone! I'm really freaked out… we should go… call the cops or something! Whatever it is you're supposed to do in this situation!"

"Hmmm…" Alexis mused from the top of the bank steps, glancing over at Leena and Sophie whom were standing across the street, "somehow two girls got into your Dark Shroud, Eclipse I."

"So they did…" the man with her realized, a little baffled by the sight, "… odd. That means they've seen our faces; I didn't think we'd need our masks. I'll take the money back and you dispose of them, Eclipse IV."

Alexis shot her superior a dirty look, "Why do I have to do it? I didn't even want to come here in the first pla--AAGH!"

Eclipse I slammed his hand around Alexis's throat and lifted her off the ground and pressed her hard against the wall of the bank. Leena and Sophie both flinched in reaction to the sight, wondering just what was going on and confirming Leena's fears that he was dangerous. Alexis winced in pain as he leaned in close to her and spoke in a very threatening tone.

"Certain things will be forfeit if you don't continue to serve Eclipse diligently. They're a pair of stringy teenagers; you can wipe them out without a second thought, my lovely water maiden. Don't let things like morals cloud your eyes from the goal, that's the fastest way to get permanently 'exiled' from Eclipse if you know what I mean."

He dropped her to the ground and she grasped her neck, which stung with pain thanks to his tight grip on it. Kneeling on the cement and grasping for breath, she felt very low and pathetic and hated herself right at this moment. Eclipse I picked up the stolen money again and simply faded away into the darkness that overpowered the light during the cloudy night.

"O-okay…" Sophie stammered, beginning to move in Leena's direction, intimidated by the violent treatment Alexis received, "you were right, let's get out of here."

They noticed Alexis stand up and leap off of the stairs onto the sidewalk across from them. She cracked her neck and made herself as if she were a robot, planning to simply carry out this task without any conscience whatsoever. The two frightened girls stepped away, knowing they were in for it now. They saw something they shouldn't have… and now they had to pay for it.

"So this is how it's going down, huh…?" Yoshino wondered aloud, standing on top of a roof about a block away. The white-haired girl had her hand over her eyes as she seemed to simply be absorbing the knowledge of what was going on so far away from her. She was enjoying the light breeze on this brisk November night blowing against her back and bare arms but the unusual conflict going on a ways away was even more enjoyable.

"I hope you're getting all of this…"

Alexis glared intensely at Leena and Sophie, both of whom were once again dumbstruck with awe. Alexis stepped forward, placing her right high-heeled shoe on the street as she addressed the two girls whom she was unaware she was classmates with.

"How did you two manage to enter the Dark Shroud?" Alexis wondered of them, cocking her head to the side as she studied the two girls, "you two must be very skilled… or very stupid."

"Dark… what…?" Leena repeated after her, feeling her body start to tremble as she answered shakily, "what are you talking about…?"

Alexis raised an eyebrow at them, "You two aren't Anomalies?"

Sophie stepped forward, becoming irritated with Alexis's questions that neither of them could comprehend, "No, we aren't! We have no idea what you're talking about, so leave us alone!"

"They aren't Anomalies… yet they could get into Seth's Dark Shroud…? That is one of the highest class Affinity techniques I've ever seen and these two dumb girls are acting like they've never heard of it. Are they with APS…? Or are they really just innocent girls? Either way, I have my orders unfortunately…"

"Well, I guess it doesn't matter," Alexis sighed, holding her fists out in front of herself, pressed against each other, "you're going to die, anyway."

Alexis spread her fists apart as she began to shine with a light blue aura, conjuring up a weapon out of thin air before Sophie and Leena's shocked eyes! When her arms were spread out as far as they could reach, she was holding a long black staff. At the higher end of the staff in her right hand, a huge three-pronged blade appeared, revealing the staff as a very vicious-looking trident. Alexis smirked proudly, slamming the bottom end of the weapon into the street beside her voluptuous body with her right hand. Cracks sprouted outward through the cement from where she rested the weapon, showing that it was much heavier than it looked.

"This is my weapon, girls. You two must have very bad luck to have come across our path."

"She… she summoned it from nowhere…" Sophie gasped, staring wide-eyed at the trident, "… that's not physically possible."

"Come on, Sophie!" Leena yelled, grabbing Sophie's arm and dragging her as she started to run, "she said she's going to kill us!"

"She can't be serious…" Sophie muttered, glaring over her shoulder at Alexis as they indeed began to make tracks, "people don't just go around killing each other in the middle of the street. This is all too… unreal."

"Looks real enough to me!" Leena cried out while running as fast as she could. She had trouble believing this too, though the thought wasn't escaping her mind that maybe this was what her brother was talking about. The next step in evolution - she had no idea what he meant before - maybe it was something like this. No matter the cause, it was real and that was more than enough reason for her to be frightened unlike the skeptical Sophie.

"Split up!" Sophie suddenly told Leena from behind, trying to remain rational, "she can't follow both of us! Call for help or something!"

Leena nodded and dodged to the right, heading down the next street they were coming up to. Sophie, in turn, ran left. Alexis narrowed her eyes as she ran after them, gazing from left to right as she tried to decide on a direction.

"Tch… last night I was being chased and this night I have to do the chasing…?" she thought to herself, "this is really starting to piss me off."

"Why are there no people around?!" Leena thought in a panic as she gazed at every empty car and unlit store with dismay as she ran down the normally busy street. "what did that girl say before…?"

"How did you two manage to enter the Dark Shroud?" Alexis wondered of them, cocking her head to the side as she studied the two girls, "you two must be very skilled… or very stupid."

"Whatever this Dark Shroud is, it seems we're not in the same world anymore! It's the only possible explanation since Tempest City would never be barren at this time of night!"

Leena ran up to a payphone on the sidewalk, quickly snatching the receiver and holding it to the side of her teal-colored hair, pressing it against her ear. After a second she swore to her self and threw the phone down, letting it clatter against the glass walls of the phone booth.

"Phones don't work either!? That means I'm--!"

Leena glanced to her right down the street anxiously… but then paused and managed to catch her breath after witnessing what she did.

She wasn't being followed.

Alexis was furious as she dropped down through a manhole into the sewers for the second time in a 24-hour span. The girl she was chasing of course had to try and make an escape through the sewers, a smart move, but ultimately wasted on her.

"That short girl with the tacky shirt came down here. She's not too far ahead," Alexis thought as she began to walk forward, "her perspiration is increasing. She won't be able to run much longer."

Alexis was correct as Sophie, ahead, stopped and leaned forward to catch her breath, resting her hands on her knees. She shook her head rapidly, trying to shake off the feeling of disorientation that was overcoming her overworked body.

"I would really like to know what is going on around here! For the moment, however, I'm willing to cast aside the part of me that wants to think logically and focus solely on my own survival. I'm lucky that this area is under construction or I wouldn't have been able to get down here to hide!"

Sophie panted some more as she wiped some saliva from her mouth and began to slowly walk forward, thinking she had lost her pursuer by entering the catacombs beneath the city. She'd never been down here before and she hated the smell but anything beat getting skewered by a trident.

"I have to find the next ladder and then climb up and call for help. Hopefully Leena has also figured out some way to escape that woman. Why is she trying to kill us anyway!? We didn't do any--"

Sophie turned immediately, reacting the second she heard a noise behind her. It sounded like a sharp crackling noise, something she couldn't identify just by hearing. She stared suspiciously down the sewer behind her, gripped with paranoia, only the sound of rushing water accompanying her thoughts.

"I'm going crazy…"

Suddenly, she saw Alexis's figure in the darkness. What was more shocking was where she saw the girl's figure walking briskly toward her… standing on the water! Sophie narrowed her eyes, trying to ascertain if she was actually seeing things right.

"She's… walking… on the water. I'm not imagining this. She's walking on water! What is she!? She made that trident appear from thin air and now she's walking on water! There is a major problem with this… but I can't stand here like an idiot and stare; gotta run!"

Sophie turned and sped away again, leaving Alexis behind. Alexis sighed as she continued to walk forward, the water freezing in place under her feet and creating a convenient pathway for her. She wasn't exactly rushing into this with all her might, she hated killing. In fact, she'd never actually killed anyone before.

This was the first time she'd been ordered to.

"Just how did these two enter the Dark Shroud that Seth created? If they aren't Anomalies themselves… then someone must have let them in; someone skilled. But who… and why?"

"You getting all this?" Yoshino's voice asked aloud as she walked above them on the street, somehow able to still follow was going on below. The white-haired woman paused for a moment before responding to someone, "yeah, it's almost time."

Alexis came to a stop at the end of the path she was walking down. The road forked now, going either left or right. She glanced down both ways, focusing hard on using her Vapor affinity to pinpoint Sophie's location by sensing her bountiful amount of perspiration.

Meanwhile, Sophie had tucked into a small round tunnel not far down the right pathway. She crouched down as she slowly crept through it, doing her best not to think about what was happening to her poor shoes in this gross water; which ran about ankle deep down the tunnel she was climbing down. She didn't make it more than a few meters in, however, when she bumped into a grate.

"Agh, blocked. Oh well, there's no way she'll think I came down here… I should be able to hide for now."

Sophie's wishful thinking was not reality however, as she noticed the entrance way beginning to seal itself up. Sophie flinched and fell backward onto her butt as she stared down at the way she'd come in, which was freezing over into a solid wall of ice!

"H-hey!" Sophie screamed nervously as she rushed forward toward the exit, "what are you doing?! Let me out!"

"Let me think about that for a second… oh, alright, no," Alexis said from the other side of the ice wall, "you're just going to stay there… indefinitely."

"What!?" Sophie yelled, slamming her fist on the ice only to discover how incredibly thick it was and that she was completely trapped. She slammed her fist against it again but stopped due to the pain it was causing her. She bit her lip furiously, she was completely helpless.

"Sorry, little girl. It's nothing personal."

That was the last thing Sophie heard from her assailant. Sophie pounded her fist lightly against the ice, before unclenching it and pressing her palm against the cold surface as she leaned her head forward and rested it there. This was a nightmare. She couldn't believe she was going to die down here when she'd just barely started to accomplish her goal in Tempest City…


Alexis walked away from the frozen-over tunnel, glad she didn't have to do anything too hands-on for that. She set her trident down and closed her eyes, focusing and searching for the other one. She sensed her above ground still, though she would have to get closer to pinpoint her exact location. She hadn't overexerted herself like Sophie, so she wasn't perspiring enough to be a literal beacon to her.

Still, she would find her. Quickly.

"Oh man…" Leena groaned, pressing her back up against the wall in an alleyway as she'd hoped to stay out of plain sight, "nothing works. There's no way to get ahold of anyone. Just what is going to happen to me…?"

She folded her arms over her chest; she was cold. She stared down at her shoes, her feet trembling nervously. She'd felt like this a few times before, this feeling of complete despair. She clutched the cross on her choker with her left hand, praying for some kind of good luck to come her way.

"I'll never find anything out if I can't escape from this weird place. I really don't want to die. I really don't want to die. This isn't fair! I've worked too hard…"

"Leena Booker, do you want to be saved?" a man's voice spoke to her out of nowhere. Leena blinked and glanced both ways down the alleyway, she didn't see anyone standing there yet the voice was booming loud in her head.

"Huh?" Leena wondered as she looked around suspiciously, "great, now I'm going crazy too."

"You're not going crazy. I'm really speaking to you, directly inside your mind."

"Waaagh!" Leena screamed, leaping forward in alarm and tripping over her own foot. She stumbled forward into the wall on the other side of the alley, pressing her hands against it to stop herself from wiping out completely. She looked over her shoulder with terrified eyes, pleading in a very terrified tone.

"P-please don't kill me…"

"I would never dream of harming such a beautiful young girl! You seem to have my intentions a little confused. You see, I've chosen you to accept my gift, Leena."

Leena paused for a moment as she tried to interpret those words, before pressing her body even tighter to the wall in fear and clutching her skirt tightly around her legs with her right hand.

"Please don't rape me either!"

"I'M NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING TO YOU!" he yelled at her, hoping she would finally get the picture, "I'm what's called an Elemental God. That strange girl chasing you displayed some talents you don't normally see in humans, correct?"

"… one way of putting it," a still distrustful Leena muttered, glaring around suspiciously.

"When our powers grow beyond the level we can control them, we pick what we consider to be acceptable human containers to share in some of our wealth of power. Now, not every god is going to bother giving their containers a precursor like I am with you, but the fact remains that you have been chosen."

"So… I'm going to get the power to fight back against that girl…?"

"That's right, Sophie Briante," a female's voice spoke to the shocked Sophie, whom was still trapped in the wet tunnel, "you've been chosen to obtain powers similar to that girl. Are you ready?"

"This is… weird," Sophie muttered, "I just still can't wrap my brain around these weird voices and… powers. It sounds too much like a cartoon."

"This is reality."

"Sadly so. I guess I'm trapped if you don't give me these powers or whatever, so bring it on."

"Do not expect a quick learning curve."

"I'm giving you my gift because I'm such a nice guy! In fact, you could consider me the 'nice guy' out of all the Elemental Gods!"

"… are you trying to ask me out?" Leena wondered, still very creeped out by this mysterious male voice that was speaking to her. He sounded like a pervert in her mind.

"Quit misinterpreting my intentions!!"

Leena pushed herself away from the wall and sighed deeply. She had no idea what she was getting herself into but she knew that this was the right path to take. The next step in evolution, this must've been what her brother was talking about. This would bring her one step closer to tracking him down; she was sure of it. She was almost psyched about this; it was starting to sound interesting.

She was quite athletic, so she was sure it wouldn't be problematic to handle these powers. The only problem she was finding with this whole situation was that these powers seemed to be used for combat… and she didn't like fighting.

"So there's no other motive behind this...?" Leena finally asked.

"We have to share our powers they grow to the point that our bodies cannot handle them anymore. If we don't, we will die… and then the elemental balance will be thrown out of order and the entire world into chaos."

"Elemental balance, huh? Sounds like something complicated. But that's the only reason? There won't be any side effects or you're not planning to use me as a weapon of mass destruction?"

"That's all I can tell you. So please brace yourself… you're about to undergo a huge change. From this moment on, you can no longer be considered a human."

Leena raised her eyebrow, hoping the 'god' noticed her gesture.

"Then what the heck would you call me?"

"Well," the male god's voice responded to her, "your world would call you… an Anomaly."