Kimaere. The name was freakishly similar to chimera. The boy standing opposite was also freakishly similar, namely because he looked almost exactly the same as her. His hair was the same black, and his eyes were the same grey. He was slightly taller than her, and his hair was cropped close to his head.
His eyes travelled over her, studying her, and she felt the urge to yell at him to stop. But she couldn't help studying him back. He was wearing black clothing, and it made him look like some sort of evil minion.
Sam took a step forward and extended his hand.
"Jamie, right?" he said.
Jamie stared at his hand. There was something about his tone. Condescending came to mind. She reached forward and shook hands, deciding not to say anything at all. He didn't seem to mind, in fact his lips moved into a smirk.
"Kimaere. That's an interesting last name," she said, glancing at Dr Parratt.
The blonde woman smiled. "I suppose it is, if you haven't been raised with a second name. Your last name is Kimaere too, Jamie."
"Kimaere Two," Sam muttered, his smirk growing wider.
Jamie stared at him, trying to figure out what he meant. Dr Parratt cleared her throat.
"Jamie, it's Sam's job to train you up to scratch."
"What?" Jamie frowned. "Train me for what?"
Dr Parratt didn't answer, but instead exited into the bathroom and closing the door behind her. Jamie turned her attention to Sam, who was grinning at her. But it wasn't even close to a nice grin.
"So, sis. Want to start learning?" he smirked.
"Learning what?" Jamie growled, losing patience with his expression.
"To fight, to do sneaky things, the type of stuff you need to be an assassin." His voice was matter-of-fact.
Jamie stared at him. This all felt so surreal. And she couldn't actually tell if he was joking or not.
"What?" Was all she could manage.
"Of course, you'll never be as near as good as me," Sam continued, ignoring her. "Because you spent all you life being tested so they would see what your limits were, and thus create the ultimate weapon." He pointed to himself. "Moi. Don't even know why they're bothering with you."
"Don't know why they'd think I'd let myself be bossed around." Jamie did and three-sixty to make sure that any cameras in the room could see her defiant speech.
Sam stopped and sat down on her bed, shaking his head. "Don't try that. I went through that phase once. But the company won't let you resist. They own you."
Atanaqui was the first one to the aerojeep, lugging her pack behind her. She checked her watch. It was just after six o'clock. Korr had wanted them to leave by six-thirty.
She heaved her stuff into the back of the jeep and then climbed into the passenger seat. She didn't actually know how to drive one of these things – yet – but she wasn't going to sit in the back either.
The jeep tilted to one side as Mello leaped into the back and carefully strapped his pack into one of the seats. He paused when he caught sight of hers lying discarded on the floor and then looked up at her.
"Hello," he said. "I'm glad to see you're excited about this."
"Way to run off without me." Ramn jumped up beside her brother and prodded him in the ribs.
He didn't respond, only grabbed her pack and strapped it in which as much care as his own. Ramn stood on a chair and peered at the building a few metres away.
"Where's that jaguar boy?" she growled.
The door slid open and Sylkon stepped out. His face was set in a scowl, but Atanaqui knew that he wouldn't have been able to hear Ramn. He came up to the aerojeep and chucked his pack in carelessly.
"I don't think we should be doing this. Or we should at least tell someone," he growled.
"Why? They'd only stop us. And they definitely wouldn't believe us."
Sylkon swivelled his head ever so slowly to meet Ramn's gaze.
"So what do you think they're going to do when we suddenly disappear off the face of the earth? Maybe the big, bad Teraysians kidnapped us."
"Well, maybe they will," Ramn shrugged. "But there's no point worrything them for no good reason. If we find any indication that there's something fishy happening near the Wall we can always come back."
"Yeah, if we come back," Sylkon muttered darkly.
"Well, if it makes you happy, here." Ramn jumped to the ground and scooped up a rock, placing it in Sylkon's hand. "Tell Rocky here all your dark secrets. He's a great listener."
Sylkon glared at her, and Atanaqui swore she heard him growling in the back of his throat. His fingers clenched the rock, and he drew his arm back to throw it, but at the last moment he stopped and pocketed the rock. Ramn stopped smirking and gave him a suspicious look as Mello spoke up.
He was wearing the sort of gleeful expression that Atanaqui was trying to hide as he climbed into the driver's seat next to her.
"Let's get going, guys. We only have ten minutes left here, so we might as well."
Ramn leapt back into the jeep and Sylkon followed a moment later. They both looked mortified as they realised that both front seats had been taken.
"Maybe you should have let your sister drive," Atanaqui whispered to Mello.
The hound-genic grinned and turned the key in the ignition. The engine roared into life and the aerojeep started to vibrate.
"Where's the fun in that?" he shouted as the jeep rose into the air.
Too bad it wasn't possible to have an awkward silence when the engine of an aerojeep was going. The throbbing of the engine drowned out everything – if it was even possible to drown out silence. Atanaqui eventually got bored of craning her neck around. It was giving her a cramp.
The last time she checked they had still been in the exact same position, sitting diagonally from each other and staring resolutely into the distance. So instead she just stared at the Wall gradually coming closer every time they could see over the trees. The last time she had seen the Wall was in a photograph – and they weren't near as good as the real thing.
Mello had a satisfied expression on his face, and Atanaqui got the impression that he was humming, though she couldn't be sure. He managed the jeep well, with no bumps at all.
Eventually the trees thinned out into a wide valley, which was cut off abruptly by the Wall. It stretched away in either direction as far as she could see, which was pretty damn far, and was more than twice the size of the wall that surround Kataniker back home, reaching up fifty metres. It was made out heavy slabs of stone that fitted together almost perfectly. And any gaps were filled with some sort of cement.
Mello parked the aerojeep on the slope leading into the valley and cut the engine, staring at it.
"It stretches around an area hundreds of kilometres wide," he told no one in particular.
"But it looks so straight. How can it meet up with anything?" Atanaqui stared at the Wall suspiciously.
Mello smiled. "Well, the Earth's a giant sphere." Atanaqui frowned. "A ball." Mello made a round shape with his hands. "But because it's so huge you can't tell that the ground is bending."
Atanaqui's eyes followed the ground. "Unless there's a hill," she grinned.
"Okay, can my darling brother please explain why we've stopped," Ramn's caustic voice came from the back of the jeep.
Mello turned in his seat and sent her a winning smile. "We're at the Wall, can you see anything suspicious?"
Ramn shaded her eyes even though the sun was barely up and looked around. "No, not in this treeless valley. But you can have a look around if you want."
Mello climbed out of the jeep and within a second Ramn had taken his place, a victory grin on her face. She started the engine and yelled over the rumbling.
"Come on, if there was anything shady around here Atanaqui would have spotted it! We'll keep driving along the Wall!"
Mello jumped gracefully into the back and strapped himself in, giving Sylkon a huge, grin, to which he responded with a raised eyebrow. The aerojeep lifted up again, but Ramn handled it rather more forcefully than Mello, and going much faster.
Suddenly something caught Atanaqui's eye and she tapped Ramn on the shoulder and jerked her head back. With a sharp turn than threw Atanaqui against her seatbelt the aerojeep was around and heading back the way they had come. After nearly half a kilometre – they must have been going fast – Atanaqui spotted the hole in the Wall again and pointed.
Ramn was squinting as she tried to see what Atanaqui's sharp eyes had. Eventually her brow smoothed out. Atanaqui stared at what she could now see was an archway, almost black against the rest of the Wall. Ramn landed the jeep next to the arch and leapt out, frowning.
"How come no one else has found this before?" she asked.
"Shhh!" Sylkon hissed, and Ramn turned on him, eyes flashing, but he wasn't even looking at her, his face set in a frown. "Voices," he growled.
Atanaqui heard the faintest noise before it cut off. She counted to ten, but nothing happened, so she unbuckled herself and climbed out. Mello followed suit, moving to stand next to his sister. His nose wrinkled up.
"Smells like…chimera," he said slowly.
There was an audible clicking sound from within the arch, and then a voice spoke.