Devi darted through the buildings. She was panting, but there was no way she was going to stop. She was running again, and stopping meant she was giving up. She would never give up. She would never stop fighting. She would defy those that chased her with her dying breath. She would rather die than submit to the bastards, and she would enjoy every minute of their failure.
She heard the ring of a shot just as she ducked behind a corner. She kept running. Something moved ahead, and she knew it was one of them. She quickly changed course, and ran between two buildings. She was frantic as she danced around the clutter of the shadowed walk way. Then she leapt into the ally ahead as another shot rang out. She cried out as she collided with a car.
Her mind took a moment to register that there was a boy her age looking at her in astonishment from behind the wheel. She heard the shouts behind her, and her heart leapt into her throat.
There was no hesitation as she heeded the words and dived into the car. There was a squeal of tires, and they were speeding away. She looked behind her to see the men after her run into the alley, but it was only a moment before they turned a corner.
Devi sat back in the car, and allowed herself to breath for a moment. She had managed to escape yet again, but at what cost? She had placed her life in the will of a stranger, but somehow she felt anything he might do was not nearly as bad as being caught again. She would be free even at the price of running. There was no other choice for her.
She looked now to the guy that was driving. She could see his own emotions warring in his face at the choice he had just made. She felt bad for him. He unknowingly placed his life in danger for her. She would repay that by leaving him as soon as she could. It was the only way he would be safe from the bastards that hunted her.
She reviewed the car. It registered that she had jumped into a classic camero that was fully restored, and the workmanship was beautiful. She ran a finger along the seat, and then looked back to the driver. His facial features had smoothed out.
"You can let me out wherever," he glanced at her briefly. She saw a flicker of emotion cross his eyes, but it was gone too quick for her to place. "And thank you," she said softly.
He heard the sincerity in her voice, "Why are you running?"
"So they don't get me," her voice was hard and unyielding. Not many people actually saw her pursuers, so rarely was she questioned.
Chris couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Obviously; why are they chasing you?" he wanted to know what kind of situation he had just injected himself into.
Devi gazed out the window, "You wouldn't believe me." She was sick of lying. She was sick of running, but she would do what she had to do to remain free and alive. "Just let me out here."
"No," he didn't look when he knew she had whipped his gaze around to him, "just tell me."
"I'm their prized lab rat! Now let me out!" She struggled not to do anything rash. She had gotten a little breathing room, and didn't want to ruin that by giving them a way to track her.
"Lab rat?" that was the last thing he expected to hear. When it became apparent that she wasn't going to elaborate he said, "I'm Chris. What's your name?"
She took a long time to answer, but she did, "Devi."
"Devi? That's an unusual name."
"I'm an unusual person."
"Fair enough. Want to tell me why I just saved you from whatever?" he wanted answers, but either way he felt he couldn't just let her go.
"'Cuz you're an idiot."
Chris smiled. "Not the first time I've been told that. So Devi, don't want to tell me what I've gotten my idiot self into this time?"
Devi sighed. "Nothing if you just let me out here. When they find you just tell them where you dropped me, and they will leave you alone after that."
"And why would I do that?" Did she want to be caught?
"So they will leave you alone- which they will if you cooperate."
"What about you?"
Devi tried to ignore the hurt in her, the part that screamed for some sort of stability, "What about me?"
"Where will you go?"
"Away," she tried to keep the hurt and fear bottled up inside so it didn't touch her voice, but from the look of Chris' face she didn't do too well. "I am accustomed to running and surviving. I will keep doing it."
"Exactly. When will it end?"
She clenched her jaw and hands to force her voice out even, "When I die."
He fell silent. How do you respond to that? She was going to run until she died. He couldn't even begin to think what that would be like, or how he would even accept it. "You're just going to run until you die?"
"Yes." Why was she having this conversation with a complete stranger?
"Why?" He just couldn't grasp the concept.
"There's nothing else for me." She hated admitting it out loud, but it was the truth. Everything else had been taken from her. She had nothing left but her freedom.
"There's your life, and the chance of more. Isn't that worth something?" He was seeing how dejected and broken this girl was, and cared. He had never in his life seen someone as broken as her.
"What good is a life without freedom? Without friends, family?" She replied angrily. Why did he care? Why was he even trying to understand her plight? He never could; no one could. Softly so that he almost didn't hear she asked, "Without love?"
Chris swallowed hard. She had a point. "There must be somebody though…"
"My family is all dead; the only thing left from them I have is my name. My only friend is dead because of those bastards. I have nothing but myself to live for." She bit out coolly. These were just facts of her life, but they still hurt. It was a hurt she learned to live with long ago. She wouldn't let the sadistic bastards enjoy her pain.
She laughed a harsh humorless laugh. "They can do nothing. They don't believe me most the time, and when they do, they have no choice but comply when a government force intercedes." She had tried that route many times, but the outcome was always the same: her on the run again.
"The government is the one after you?" If it were true he had only one question: Why? But then she had called herself a lab rat? What would the government be doing?
"No, but the ones that after me are powerful people, and on several occasions have impersonated the law or government officials to get what they want, hell some of them are just that. They have no rules or bounds. They are without punishment or fear of retribution. So do as they want." Devi was looking out the window. They wanted her, and she knew eventually they would get what they wanted once more. It was only a matter of time.
"Who are they?" Chris asked incredulously.
Devi shrugged, "They are The Keepers." Chris laughed suddenly, and Devi shot him a glare.
"Honestly? The Keepers?" He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Everybody knows about The Keepers. One of the stupidest cults out there that still manages to boast millions of followers that worship aliens. It's ridiculous, and you're running from them?" Chris could help but laugh again, but his laughter died in his throat when he saw the look on Devi's face. She was furious, but the pain that was laid so bare now was impossible to refuse. He cleared his throat self-consciously.
"Ever wonder where all that money goes? How so many people could be convinced that it's all true? I mean one of the world's leading scientists suddenly converts. You find nothing strange in the least about that?" Devi fought to control her anger, and the tears that wanted to come.
"Well it is odd, but…" but what? She made valid points. Nothing seemed quite right. "Ok so say I find it plausible… Why are they after you?"
"I told you already," she murmured, and sat back again.
"How are you a lab rat for them?" She was being uncooperative.
Devi sighed. She had never told anybody, but then no one had ever given her the time or a second thought. Even if he didn't believe her maybe it would be good to get off her chest just once.
"They have… things, that aren't from this world. I think they found like a crashed alien ship or something, but they use the things to now to sway the masses, and make them believe and give money. They have various… projects where they experiment with all the technology. One of their favorites is a type of… gene splicer. It changes people. I've seen them make mutants, and try to make them human again. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does, and the people… they aren't ever the same," she paused thinking of Jodi. She missed her.
"My parents were followers until they died. The bastards screen everybody with this device and it like maps people's genes and DNA. It shows them the possible things they could do. Well I got screened, and shortly after my parents died. They left me to The Keepers." She didn't want to continue. She didn't want to tell him how they changed her. She wasn't even sure if she was human anymore.
Chris was silent. If what she said was true… His mind began to whirl with the possible things they had done to her, and what they might do if they got her again. He suppressed a shudder. "Why you?" He had to do anything to keep his mind from going into further more horrible possibilities.
"I'm special," she told him. "In X-men they talked about mutants like they were just humans that were further in evolution; they had taken the next step. We aren't like that yet, but there are some of us who have the potential, the beginning genes for it. Those people, say in another couple generations, might have descendants that are like the X-men."
"And those people could be gene spliced to be like the X-men now rather than later."
"There is no god in any of it," Devi replied softly; she had long given up on god saving her.
Devi stared out the window. He was now the only person outside of The Keepers that knew what she was. She wondered if he had made the leap to what she might be capable of. Her question was answered when he spoke.
"You… what did they make you able to do?"
"So you can move things with your mind?"
"Something like that."
Chris fell quiet. He wasn't sure if he was ready to know why it was only "something like that." He knew that he wasn't fully grasping everything, but he did understand the gravity of what situation she was in. She was a hunted animal. She was lusted after for her genes. God only knew what they might do if they ever got their hands on her again- that made Chris remember something.
"They were shooting at you."
"Where are you taking me?" Devi was watching the streets go by, and could tell they had made a large loop at this point. They were near where he had picked her up. She had a sick feeling that he was delivering her back to them in the only way he knew how. Has she been wrong to tell him? It was probably too much for him, and he now thought her some mad escaped medical patient.
"Some place safe. I can't take you home; I'm sure they'll look there first if they are as powerful as you say." He knew she probably never dealt with anyone will to stick their neck out for her.
Devi slowly turned to look at him, "Why?" She took a breath, but didn't let him answer when he began to. "If you just let me go they will question you, and then leave you alone. If you don't they will do horrible things to you!"
Chris smiled, "I think I know what I'm getting myself into here. Besides they can't do anything to me without retribution." He glanced to see her expression, and added. "I will just lie to them."
She scoffed at him. "You think they won't see through that? You think they don't have ways to know when someone is lying? These aren't just average people here. They are sick bastards willing to do anything to get what they want. Don't be even more of an idiot! Just let me go." Devi didn't want him hurt especially for trying to help her.
"Just come inside with me for a bit. Rest, and then if you want you can leave." When Devi didn't answer, and he could see her unwillingness he used something he knew she couldn't resist. "When was the last time you had a decent meal, and a real bed to sleep in?"
Devi glanced at him, but turned her face to the window. She didn't want to admit he was right. She was exhausted, and this could buy her some time for some real sleep, but she would leave after that.
Chris smiled to himself knowing that she would give in. He let the silence in the car hold even as he pulled to a stop in front of a dilapidated building. He turned off the car as Devi surveyed the place. Before she could ask he explained. "It's a small gym and garage. My friends and I own it. We come here to get away from our parents, and just hang out. There's a full security system, so you will be safe here."
Devi looked at him. "You and your friends own a place to get away from your parents?"
Chris chuckled, and got out of the car. He went to Devi's door, and opened it for her. Devi got out slowly. As Chris led her in he replied. "I told you that something can't happen to me without retribution. I wasn't joking." He sighed. "My parents are fairly well to do, as well as those of my friends."
"You're rich snob kids," Devi said flatly.
Chris laughed, "Yeah we are."
Chris opened the door, and pulled Devi through. She stayed close to him, but always stayed behind him as he pulled her down the hallway. She heard the voices ahead, and couldn't help but be afraid. She tried to reassure herself that if anything went wrong she could rip this place apart, and flee once more, but it did little.
Chris Pulled Devi into the large well lit room with him. "Hey guys!"
"I thought you ran off?"
"Well I was, but then I almost ran over something. Thought I'd bring her back."
There was a chorus of moans. "Not another dog!"
Chris chuckled, "Well not exactly." Then he pulled Devi from where she was hiding behind his slightly larger frame. He pushed her in front of himself, and then held her shoulders so that she couldn't hide back behind him. He smiled at the stunned expressions on everyone's faces. "This is Devi. Devi these are my friends." He listed of their names, but Devi was scarcely paying attention she was watching the way the one in the lead, Ryan, was looking at her.
Ryan was the first to recover. "You brought a homeless here?" The distain in his voice was obvious.
"She was being shot at, what was I supposed to do?"
Ryan's gaze jerked back to him from his examination of Devi, "What?"
Chris sighed, and forced Devi over to a couch. He made her sit, and then sat by her. "You see, she is more of a runaway."
"Who the hell would be shooting at a runaway?" demanded Ryan. He and the others were slowly trickling in to sit around them.
"She ran away from The Keepers." Chris told them. He ignored Devi's glares.
There was a long moment of silence.
"The Keepers? Those religious psychos? Why would they chase her, let alone shoot at her?" asked Jacob.
Chris shot a glance at Devi, "Do you trust me?"
Devi glared at him. Why the hell was he doing this to her? The look in his eyes threw her off. She wanted it to be real, but she looked away, feeling the beginnings of tears stinging her eyes. She nodded, and tried to stay calm and stead as he took her hand and squeezed it lightly.
Chris looked back to the others. "The truth? They have alien tech, and they use it to sway their followers. They have some of it that they use to experiment with, and Devi is one of their lab rats."
There was no hesitation in the laughter that broke out. Devi stood up, and stormed out, not caring that the laughter was dying already. She heard Ryan say, "Wait you were serious?" but then she was shoving the door open. She took a moment to evaluate where she was, and turned and headed away. She was halfway across the lot when Chris caught her. He grabbed her arm, and swung her around to look at him.
"Hey, ignore them ok? Remember rich snobs." He said softly.
Devi ignored the gentle tone of his voice, and shot him a scathing glare. "I didn't tell you, and let you bring me here so that I could be ridiculed! I came, and now I am going to be on my way." She pulled away from him, and continued to walk.
"Devi, come on-" Chris said as he walked next to her.
Devi ignored him, but she had to stop suddenly as another body moved in front of her. She clenched her teeth, and hissed, "Move aside." She refused to lift her head. She could feel her anger feeding and fueling her power. It wanted to be unleashed. It wanted to consumer her, but she held it in check.
The body in front of her didn't move aside, but moved a single step back, "Devi-"
"I don't want to hear it. Just leave me alone," she hissed.
Ryan's hand came up and lifted her face to look at him, and then jerked away. He stared at her in astonishment. "You weren't joking in there were you Chris?"
Chris looked at Devi, and had an inkling he knew what was going on. Devi's irises were glowing. He grabbed her, and turned her to face him. "Devi! Snap out of it!"
Devi's rage left her as she realized her power was twisting from her grasp, and it was aiming at Ryan and Chris. She shook her head with her eyes shut, and slammed the beast inside her back into its cage. She pulled away from Chris with wide normal eyes. "I'm sorry, so sorry." She said backing away from them. She was horrified with herself. She had nearly hurt the ones trying to help her. She turned to run, but the other guys had ringed around her.
Chris could tell Devi's fear was quickly escalading, and pulled her into a hug. She was frozen stiff not knowing how to respond. "Let's go back inside before someone sees us out here ok?" Devi shook her head in negation with her face buried in his shoulder. Chris let out a sigh, and looked at a still startled Ryan.
"I- I'm sorry Devi, that I laughed. I thought Chris was playing a joke. I- come inside." Ryan said slowly.
Devi hazarded a glance at him, and then let her head drop back to Chris' shoulder. She let out a sigh, and after a few tense moments nodded.
Chris chuckled, "Hey Devi?" he waited till she looked up at him. "Girl, you stink."
Devi shoved him away, "Jerk." She allowed him to take her hand and lead her inside.