Author's notes will be in bold, and I will sign with "-RoR" underneath them, minus this one. Anyway, this is the only 4-in-one chapter- the other ones will vary from 1,000-4,600 words in length, not including chapter 14-5. Take your time in reading and let me know if there's any mistakes I made, or if you have any suggestions!

Chapter 1

I was tumbling through the air, my arms and legs painfully stretched behind me. The wind and g-force ripped at any exposed skin, though thankfully there wasn't much. However, I was completely unable to control my descent, and the constant flipping and spinning was making it hard to focus. Somewhere in the back of my mind my subconscious was screaming something. Closing my eyes, (with difficulty, as the ground was only getting closer), I focused. Immediately I spread out in a star shape, which seemed to stabilize me slightly.

With the problem of stability mostly under control, I once again opened my eyes and looked at the ground. I immediately wished I hadn't. I glanced around and saw to my shock that the HUD on my visor was still partially legible. I stared at the rapidly decreasing numbers in the upper left-hand corner, and promptly realized I couldn't have more than a minute until impact.

What a stupid way to die, I thought. Waking up to realize you were falling thousands of feet to land on rock-hard ground.

Speaking of the ground, I noticed that I was not landing on a nice, empty, free-of-people field. Rather, it looked to be a crowded city.

"Son of a b-" I started to say, but then I crashed into what might have been a parking lot, and everything went dark.

"-awake? No, I don't think she is..." the voices faded in and out, and vision was minimal- just blurry spots, though those might have been the sun on the backs of my eyelids.

"-ut Grandpa, we can't just leave her-"

"We don't know what she is..."

"-an innocent girl..."

"Carter, go-" The voices faded and I sank once more into a dark abyss.

I slowly came to, my body full of aches and pains. I moaned and rolled over as light registered with my eyes.

I tensed as a flurry of sudden movement came from beside me. There was a clatter, then the sound of a door opening and closing. I could distantly hear a boy shouting.

"Grandpa! Grandpa! She's awake! She's not dead!" I smiled wryly. I doubted a dead person would roll over and moan. Before I could do much else, I heard the door open and close once more.

"See? She changed position!" said the boy who had apparently been watching me. I sensed a person close to me.

"Hmm..." Judging from the depth and timbre of the voice, I would guess that there was a man of at least fifty bending over me. I felt a large, yet gentle, hand on my shoulder.

"Miss, please wake up." I debated whether to answer or not. My pause seemed to dishearten the man somewhat, as the hand was removed from my shoulder and I sensed that he had turned away from me, presumably to talk to someone.

I opened my eyes.

Chapter 2

The effect was instantaneous. I heard a gasp, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a boy rush over to me, going around an older looking man. The boy looked at me, his eyes open, allowing me to see into his emotions. I saw elation, curiosity, a bit of fear, and... was that awe? I must have moved slightly, because the emotional doors shut as quickly as I had seen them.

"What is your name?" asked the older man, who had moved into my view. I studied him.

He had an honest look about his lined face, with sparkling brown eyes and gray-brown hair, and though he wasn't smiling now, there were laugh lines around his eyes. I blinked and said,

"My name is..." and hit a wall. They looked at me expectantly, the boy's eyebrow raised slightly in question, but as much as I tried, I couldn't remember it. How sad, I thought to myself in disgust. You can't even remember your own name. I concentrated, tried to breach the wall, and failed. I knew they would get suspicious if I didn't tell them something, so I coughed- that hurt- and said,

"Sky. My name is Sky." The two people exchanged a look. "What?" I said, then was wracked by a huge coughing fit. Each cough felt like a knife slicing up my throat, and the fit woke up my hunger, allowing my empty stomach to make its presence known. The boy, worried at the pause in my speech, became thoroughly alarmed.

"Grandpa..." he began, but the man was already handing me a glass of water. I took it gladly, and allowed the soothing liquid to cool the fire in my throat. After gulping down more than two-thirds of it, I began to feel a bit better. I blinked a few more times, then said,

"I'm very sorry, but-" I was going to ask 'do you have some food?' but the man had already handed me a plate with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My mouth began to salivate at the sight of it. "Thank you so much." I said, already stuffing the sandwich in my mouth, letting the taste of the pb&j slide over my tongue. I instantly felt energy flow through my body, clearing my still-slightly-blurry vision and getting rid of my fatigue.

After polishing off the sandwich and licking my fingers clean, I carefully set the plate aside and really looked at the two people next to me for the first time. As I did, a faint memory surfaced- not clear, just sensations, but the boy reminded me of someone I knew- someone I cared about. And the man, well, he just seemed like a kind old grandpa who had taken the boy in.

I gulped, cleared my throat a couple of times, then said,

"You guys seemed amused by my name. Why?" They seemed a bit shocked by my sudden question, but it was the boy who replied by saying,

"Well, seeing that you fell out of the sky, it seemed..."

"Appropriate?" suggested the old man.

"Ironic?" I said.

"Yeah. The second one. Ironic."

The grandpa looked at the boy, to me, then back to the boy.

"Carter, could you leave the room for a minute?" he said.

"But-"

"Don't argue with me, Carter." warned the man. The boy named Carter humphed and walked out of the room. "Close the door behind you, please!" the man said. The door was slammed shut. The man sighed and shook his head, then turned to look at me.

"I'm sorry about Carter." he said, sighing. "He is a bit more... emotional now than normal."

"It's fine." I said. "Was he the person who... found... me?"

"Yes. He was walking to the supermarket when you 'fell from the sky', as he said."

"I fell from the sky?" I said. "That seems a bit... I don't know... impossible?"

"I would think so." said the old man. "Considering you had no parachute or way of surviving the fall."

"You mean, I wasn't wearing anything besides these clothes? Anything at all?" I said.

"No."

"So what did he do?" I asked.

"Who?"

"What's his face... Carter. What did he do when he found me?"

"Oh, yes. Carter said he saw something falling, and then it- you- landed in the parking lot next to our house. He immediately ran inside, and starting gibbering at me, saying something about a comet landing next door. Now, I didn't really believe him, as Carter has said stuff like this before."

"Before? This has happened more than once?" I said, disbelieving. The man smiled.

"No. It was just Carter's imagination at work."

"So what made you believe him this time?" I asked. The man smiled again, and got a faraway look in his eyes.

"I always humored Carter." he said. "It was the least I could do, considering-" he stopped himself.

"Considering what?" I said, my curiosity piqued. The man sighed.

"Anyway, I followed Carter to the parking lot- it was always the parking lot- and there you were, in a small crater, lying there without any noticeable injury." I noticed that he was studiously ignoring my question and inquisitive looks. "We carried you back inside- you weren't that heavy- and put you in this bed, where you've been for the past week."

"I've been out for a whole week?" I said, my voice a little higher than I would have liked. The man gave me a long look.

"You fell out of the sky." he said. I nodded.

"I know. But a whole week?"

"You fell out of the sky." He repeated.

"I know. You said that already. It's just-"

"A normal human being would not survive falling out of the sky without a parachute or some other device. You had none of these things." he said, a serious tone entering his voice. "You were on the ground, yes. You were in a small crater that was appropriate for your size and the velocity you would gain while falling. However, there was no parachute, no injury, and no sign this was a stunt." The statement was delivered quietly, but forcefully, making me feel a bit uncomfortable. Instead of replying to his statement, I stared at him mutely. I honestly had no idea what to say.

"How did you survive?"

"I'm sorry, what?" I said.

"I said, how did you survive a fall thousands of feet tall without serious injury or death. It isn't possible."

"I-"

"And don't lie to me. I'm an old man. I know when a teenager is lying to me." The man wasn't kidding, I could tell. I decided to give it to him straight up, and let him decide whether I was kidding or not. I was pretty sure I could deal with an old man who thought I was crazy. But that boy... I snapped my thoughts back to the present, and I leaned towards the man, resting my arms on my knees.

"Fine. I'll give you what I can remember. Don't ask questions, and don't interrupt. I'm not joking, and if you think I am I will walk out of this room right now and never come back." I saw him draw breath, and I held up my hand. He closed his mouth. "I remember vague images and sensations. Chief among them is the feeling that Carter closely resembles someone I had grown to care deeply for before I landed here. The feeling has only grown stronger the more I see him.

"The thing that is bugging me- you might have noticed how I was anxious when you said I was only wearing these clothes when you found me- is that I remember when I was falling through the sky. I recall looking at a HUD- a heads-up display- in the corner of my vision. There were numbers there. They were going down very quickly and I think I assumed they meant the altitude. Then I looked down, saw the parking lot, and after that we return to the present.

"The most confusing part is I remember remembering something about armor. I know, armor. That's why I was surprised and confused when you told me there was none. Everytime I try to remember something before the fall, I hit a big wall. I keep trying to get around it, but I can't. So don't waste your breath asking me a ton of questions, because I don't know any more than you do." I stopped talking, and looked at the old man. He was nodding, as if this made all the sense in the world. "Does this make me sound delusional?" I said.

"No." I blinked.

"It doesn't?" I said, disbelieving.

"I lied when I said Carter's imagination was all that happened around here. There have been other stories on the news of people finding empty people-sized craters. They never found anyone, but the evidence was there. The whole shebang started just after you crash-landed right next to our house. So, no, I don't think that you are crazy, I just think you aren't entirely what you seem."

Chapter 3

Two Weeks After the Crash

"I'm not sure this is a good idea." I said nervously. Carter gave me a funny look.

"C'mon, Sky. Every kid does it eventually." He said. I sighed.

"I know... but, school? That seems a bit too normal." Carter smiled at me. He really was handsome, I thought, then quickly banished the thought. I shifted the backpack strap on my shoulder, wincing as it dug in.

"Here," said Carter, "the strap is twisted." His hands skillfully adjusted the offending strap, while my face heated up faster than I would have thought possible, which was very annoying. I snuck a glance at him.

His black hair fell around his startlingly blue eyes, flowing into curls that begged to be smoothed down. His mouth was set into a beautiful smile, his teeth a pristine white. His jaw was strong yet smooth, his neck supporting a silver necklace carrying an egyptian ankh, which only accented his looks. His chest and arms were lined with hard muscle, though he didn't seem to flaunt it. His hands looked rugged and capable, though as he had just demonstrated, they could be surprisingly gentle. He had the build of an athlete, and looked more than qualified for about any sport.

"We should hurry, we don't want to be late." said Carter, snapping me out of my studying.

"Umm...y- yeah, right. Let's go." I stuttered, and I desperately wished that the heat in my face would fade before Carter noticed. The feeling was oddly alien to me and it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. He gave me a small smile, then gently tugged on my arm, pulling me towards the high school.

The school was an imposing sight. Brick walls formed a very squarish shape, though the front doors were covered by a light red awning. The words over the door spelled out the name of the school:

Lecridge High School

"This place is called 'Lecridge'?" I asked, a bit surprised. Carter gave me a superior look, the kind that said; 'I know this and you don't'. I nudged him, none too gently.

"Ow!" he said jokingly, rubbing his arm. "Fine, fine. Some explorer a while ago decided to call the bluff over yonder-" he pointed east; "Lec Ridge. Eventually people started calling the small settlement near the ridge 'Lecridge'. Don't ask me why, they just did." I smiled.

"Is that world history according to Carter?" I asked. He laughed. He had the most amazing laugh, I thought.

"Don't quote me on it." Carter replied. It was then that a group of girls walked by us, chatting non stop.

"Who are they?" I asked. Carter frowned.

"I don't really like them." He said.

"Why not?" Then I noticed that Carter had tensed. I followed his gaze and saw that the group of girls had turned around and was headed right towards us. Carter muttered something I couldn't understand, it sounded something like 'sit'.

"What was that?" I asked, but the girls had already arrived.

"Hello, Carter." said the girl in front, her voice dripping with poorly disguised venom.

"Hello, Anna." replied Carter, his voice carefully neutral. Anna proceeded to ignore Carter, focusing her (unwanted) attention on me.

"And who is this?" she said to the two girls flanking her. They immediately perked up.

"She's obviously a new kid." said one of them.

"Another one of Carter's charity cases, probably." said the other one. Carter flushed, which made him look even better. I looked at Carter, but when it was obvious that he wasn't going to say anything, I took charge.

"Look," I said, "I don't know who you are or what you're trying to do, but seriously, picking on the new kid? That's just pathetic. I mean, walking around like you own the place is fine, but did it ever occur to you that you act like a vicious pit bull? Get a grip."

They were looking at me like I had slapped them, while Carter was still staring into space. I was a little surprised at my own anger, mainly because I hadn't met these girls for more than thirty seconds. Before I could ponder this further, one of them, the one who had called me a charity case, took a breath to speak.

"I don't think you underst-"

"I think I understand perfectly." I interrupted. "Now, pardon my French, but fuck. Off." The leader, Anna, was looking at me with her mouth slightly open. I raised an eyebrow, and she promptly, (with her friends in tow), spun on her heel and walked away, towards the entrance to the school. I nodded, then turned to Carter.

"Carter? Earth to Carter? Are you there?" When he didn't respond, I dragged him over to the shade of the nearest tree and sat him down. He slumped against the tree, and I became really worried. "Carter? I'm going to slap you in three seconds if you don't respond." I waited, but he only blinked. I sighed, then slapped him.

"Ow!" he said, rubbing his face. He shot me a reproachful look. "What was that for?" I was about to respond when I heard a shrill ringing sound. Carter immediately shot to his feet. This was an impressive feat, considering he was still wearing his backpack.

"Crap!" he said, beginning to run to the school. "We're going to be late! Hurry up, Sky!" I sprinted after him, easily catching up.

"Wait, Carter." I said.

"What?" he gasped.

"Where do I go?" we were past the front doors, past the lobby, and running through a hallway.

"There's... the office... up there. See it?" he said, still running, his backpack thumping in rhythm to his strides.

"Yeah." I replied.

"Go in... there and say... you're the new kid... Sky... and that you didn't get your schedule or tour of the... building... yet. Ok?" He said.

"Yeah, I got it." I peeled away and slowed to a casual walk as I went into the office.

Chapter 4

"Hello there." said the kind-faced lady behind the desk.

"Um... hi." I responded. "I'm Sky. I was told to go here to get a schedule and a tour of the school."

"Oh, yes. You are Sky Attondale, right?" She asked. "Of course you are," she continued, before I could say anything. "Your schedule is right here," she handed me a piece of paper. "It has your locker number and combo for your regular locker and your gym locker. Don't lose it."

"Of course not." I muttered quietly.

"Your guide should be in the hallway when you walk out- her name is Amber Hale, I believe." With that, the secretary (her name tag read 'Mrs. Hipek') turned from me and continued typing on the computer. I waited for a moment, then, deciding I was dismissed, walked out, closing the door behind me.

After shutting the door, I turned around and saw a small (smaller than me, at least, though I wasn't short by any means) girl with auburn colored hair, big hazel eyes, and a smattering of freckles staring at me.

"Hi." she said. "You must be Sky. I'm Amber. I'm supposed to be your guide." She stuck her hand out. I smiled and shook it.

"Hi, Amber. How're you doing?" I asked.

"I'm doing fine. Should we get to it?" I nodded, and fell in step beside her.

"Up ahead are the main locker sections. Here is the freshman section, where we are." She gestured to a line of beat-up, probably rusting lockers. On closer inspection I realized that the dials were barely legible, and some of them you had to play detective to find out what numbers were where.

"Uh... those are our lockers?" I said. "They look a bit... old. Actually, scratch that. They look a bit like they should have been replaced... I dunno... a decade ago?" Amber laughed.

"Everyone who sees them says that. Don't worry, next year they'll be much better. Now, to the right up there is Mr. Crue's room. We call him 'Mr. Cruel', because he's strict, mean, and deals out huge punishment for even the smallest mistake. He's also a bit..." her voice trailed away. I looked up and saw a small, balding, sweaty, fat man in a suit hustling past us. When he was past, Amber continued.

"That was our principal, Mr. Beige. He's always kind of... busy. Even when you are unlucky enough to talk to him, he always seems like he's thinking of other, more important things."

"Like losing weight?" I asked, smiling at the thought of the fat man on a treadmill. Amber smiled at me, then continued on about Mr. Crue.

"Mr. Crue has a dog that he brings in on Fridays. It's a chihuahua, with a biting temper. I never worked up the courage to pet it, as the last kid who did got sent to the nurse's office with a nasty looking bite mark."

"That is a vicious dog." I commented.

"Tell me about it. As I was saying before, Mr. Crue is a bit..." Her voice trailed off into a murmur again.

"A bit what?" I questioned.

"A bit eccentric. He teaches history, which is bad luck for all the students."

"How so?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"He has the worst voice for lectures- a flat monotone. It puts even the most focused student to sleep within five minutes. But pity any student that does fall asleep, 'cause that's a write-up and a tenth hour, along with an email home." Amber shook her head in disgust, causing her auburn hair to swirl about her face.

"How are you supposed to stay awake in a class like that?" I queried.

"Honestly, I don't think you are. Here, I'll show you what I mean. It looks like he's in the middle of a lecture- we can listen from next to the door." We (casually) walked over to his door and pretended to be busy fixing the sign for the cafeteria lunch- meatloaf with peas and your choice of a salad or fruit. Yuck, I thought. Meatloaf.

Then I heard a voice from inside the classroom- a bored sounding, flat, uninteresting tone that was wearisome in the extreme. With a start, I realized that I was yawning, and quickly stopped. I snuck a glance at Amber. She was looking at me, her hand over her mouth. I realized she was yawning as well. Meanwhile, the voice droned on about the second world war. Amber removed her hand from her mouth and gestured for me to move away from the door. When I did, I heaved a sigh of relief.

"Man," I said, "I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm in that classroom."

"Believe me," said Amber, "you figure it out. We have a system in there. Once every minute, everyone will pinch the people around them, within a one-desk radius."

"Doesn't that mean that some people will get pinched more than once?"

"Yeah, and that's much appreciated. You'll see why when you have that class." Amber said, smiling slightly. It was then that I realized that I still had my schedule in my hand. I quickly skimmed it and found what I was looking for.

"I have history third hour." I said, looking at Amber. Her face brightened.

"Cool!" She exclaimed. "That's when I have it."

"Really? That's neat. Maybe you can help me catch up on some stuff then- after all, it is pretty late in the school year." Amber nodded, still smiling. She smiles a lot, I thought.

"What other classes do you have?" Amber asked. I looked at my schedule once more.

"Umm... let's see... I have English first period-"

"That stinks. I have Spanish that hour."

"Spanish second hour-"

"Of course. That's when I have reading/lit."

"History third-"

"That's a given."

"Reading/lit fourth period-"

"That's good. That's when Mrs. Greve is at her best."

"Art fifth-"

"Hmm... I have music this semester."

"Lunch/recess sixth-"

"That's to be expected."

"Science seventh-"

"Same here."

"Phy Ed eighth hour-"

"Ditto."

"And math ninth."

"That's the lowest group. Probably the only one with space for you." I frowned.

"That stinks. I always considered myself smart." I said. Amber merely shrugged. "What about you?" I inquired. "What's your schedule like?"

"I have Spanish first hour, reading/lit second, history third, math fourth, music fifth, lunch and recess sixth, science seventh, gym eighth- it's the same as phy ed- and English ninth." Amber had rattled off the list from memory, without even a pause. I tried to remember mine but couldn't get past third hour, but then something clicked and I could picture the schedule as it had been when I'd been holding it in my hand. Weird, I thought.

"Who's your homeroom?" I asked, curious.

"Mr. Dorono. He's the gym teacher, and also one of the nicest teachers in the school." She replied. However, I detected an undertone in her voice and said,

"Is there another gym teacher?" Amber nodded with mock solemnity.

"Yup. Ms. Larais. We just call her Ms. L." I opened my mouth to ask a question, but Amber was already talking again. "She's mean, a bit pudgy (though not fat), thinks all teenagers are devils sent to punish adults, and is totally obsessed with keeping fit. The problem is, she doesn't know the difference between hockey and soccer!" The last part was delivered with only thinly veiled disgust. I raised my eyebrows.

"How did she become a teacher?" I asked. "Don't you need more experience than that?"

Amber sighed.

"She isn't necessarily a teacher- more like an assistant. She's got a homeroom, so I feel kind of bad for the people who have her first thing in the morning- that's when she's crankiest. I think they're juniors." she twisted her face into a grimace. "I hope that I never have her- I've heard rumors that next year, they're going to give her her own class."

"That sounds like it would be awful." I said, feeling like I had to fill the silence.

"I know, right? But anyway, maybe we should go to your first class."

"English?" I asked.

"Yup. C'mon, it's right down this hallway." As we walked, I gently prodded Amber for information about the English teacher, whose name was Mrs. Nayver. Apparently everyone just called her Mrs. N, because nobody was absolutely sure how to pronounce her name and she gave you a detention for mispronouncing it.

According to Amber, her husband was on a business trip until the end of the month, and that made her very unpleasant. The kids had never really heard her talk about him much. She had about five cats, who were all bad-tempered to visitors.

When I walked into the room, I saw her organizing papers at her wooden desk to the left of the door, in the back corner of the room. Mrs. N was middle-aged, with dark brown hair that was slightly curly and went just above the shoulder. She had brown eyes, a thin mouth, and an expression that told you that she was not the type you mess around with. When she stood up, I saw (to my surprise) she wasn't big at all. In fact, she was shorter than I was. Amber must have known what I was thinking, because she elbowed me and hissed,

"Don't even think about it." I shut my mouth. Mrs. N looked at me with confusion at first, then checked her seating chart.

"Aha!" she said after looking through multiple sheets of paper. "You, Sky, sit in the desk third from the door in the front row." I felt Amber stiffen next to me. I made a mental note to question her after class, but I had the suspicion that the seat I had been assigned was not a good spot. I shrugged mentally, and resigned myself to whatever would await me. I turned to Mrs. N.

"What do I need for the class today?" I asked, conscious of the fact that the bell would ring in less than two minutes. Mrs. N, who had gone back to shifting papers around, glanced up once more.

"You'll need a three-ring binder, loose leaf paper for the binder, pencils, correcting pens, and a notebook, as well as something to record your assignments in. I believe you got a notebook of some sort for that? Good." she turned away, and I suppressed a bad comment and walked out of the room to find my locker. Amber helped, pointing out that all the freshman lockers were 1-175, though quite a few weren't used. I found mine (locker 101) without much difficulty, and entered the combination (1-11-22). My locker popped open, and about two-thirds of the contents spilled onto the floor (some student helper must've put it in there). I groaned and Amber winced in sympathy, then helped me get organized again. When we were finished, I was carrying my backpack stuffed with my materials for the next three classes, thanks to Amber, who knew the materials I would need. Since reading/lit was right next to my locker, stopping to exchange materials would be easy.

I winced at the weight of my history textbook.

"How much of this do we actually look at?" I wondered aloud.

"Less than half." was Amber's good-humored answer.

Chapter 5

I staggered out of history, my eyes bleary, legs wobbly. Half the lecture was gone from my memory and the all-too-graphic video wouldn't leave. My arm throbbed slightly from where it had gotten pinched about fifteen times, if not more. Carter came out behind me, Amber leaning against him, her eyelids drooping slightly. When they looked at me, I realized that it was like this all the time. I shook my head, then headed over to my locker to get my stuff for reading/lit and art.

I was grabbing a red binder when the hairs on the back of my neck prickled, and I realized that there was someone behind me. I turned and saw a large boy with tattoos on his neck behind me. He had large muscles, a buzz cut, and an ugly looking face. He had two other boys flanking him, both similar in build and radiating an aura of 'stay away'. I took all this in in less than a second, and knew what was happening. Anger rose up from my core. The boy must have seen it in my eyes, because he backed off, tripping Amber as he did. I helped Amber up, asking her if she was okay. She was, but at that moment the bell rang.

"Shit!" I said, and jogged through the hallway and into class. I saw Amber head towards the math classroom. Then I stopped in English classroom, realizing I had nowhere to sit. I stopped my cheeks from flaming with little effort, and calmly looked for a place to sit. There were multiple places to sit, but they were all next to the boy I'd encountered in the hallway, and something told me I didn't want to sit next to him. Unfortunately, no tables or other desks were available. Shaking my head, I sat behind and to the left of the boy's friend who was sitting to the left of the boy. I noticed a collective intake of breath from the class, but the boy ignored me.

"Okay, class," began Mrs. Greve began, "today we will be looking at conjunctions and gerunds..."

Throughout class, the boy gave me looks, which I ignored or returned with a glare. I got the sense something was going to happen during recess or lunch.

Art went quickly, with the teacher going through instructions quickly and, later, me working on a small clay sculpture of a bald eagle in flight. I was finished by the time the bell rang, and I realized that I really liked the sculpture. The delicate yet detailed wings were expanded, the feathers on the body, wings, and head visible but not dominant. The eyes were perfect, expressing cold determination with knowledge in a piercing gaze. The talons were sculpted in a way that made them look wickedly sharp but not too much so. I put the clay eagle in the oven thing, then (I don't know why) adjusted the temperature by six degrees. I stood up and looked to see some of the other people looking at me with something ugly in their eyes. They looked away hurriedly, but I didn't like what I had seen at all.

I slammed my locker, making sure the soft, warm, dark blue sweatshirt I had gotten while shopping for shoes with Carter didn't get caught in the door part. I turned, but didn't see Amber or Carter. Since we had recess after lunch, I headed to the cafeteria, throwing the sweatshirt over my shoulder as I went, and gripping my paper bag lunch in my right hand. I was bumped and jostled by the crowd, but never too badly. When I entered the cafeteria, I searched out Carter and saw him waving from a table near the back corner of the room. I also noticed the bully-looking boy, but decided to ignore him. I walked towards Carter and Amber.

Another student was walking in front of me, and when the mean-looking boy saw him, he stuck out his foot into the alley between the two tables I was walking through. The boy in front of me had no time to react, and tripped over the foot, sending his lunch tray of meatloaf, peas, and milk sailing through the air. With reflexes I didn't know I had, I reached out with my left hand and grabbed the tray when it was a few inches from crashing to the ground. I reached out with my right, dropping my lunch (which didn't have anything breakable in it) as I did so, and grabbed the other boy's arm before he could lose his balance completely. Then, I handed him his now-a-tad-scattered-on-the-tray lunch, patted him on the back, picked up my lunch, and walked over to Carter, who was looking at me with amazement.

"How did you do that?" he asked when I sat down. I looked at him.

"Do what?"

"You know, help that kid."

"Oh." I actually had no definitive answer. "I guess I just... reacted. I saw him get tripped and reached out to help, 'cause I got the feeling nobody else would." Carter shook his head in wonder, and I got the feeling that he was thinking, alien. I smiled at the thought, then looked through my lunch; pb&j, juice box, some chips, and some strawberries that had been picked from Carter's grandpa's small garden a day before. Carter's lunch was no different, but Amber's was from Jimmy John's. It looked like a BLT, but I wasn't sure.

After I had polished off all my food, thrown the bag away, and returned to the table, Carter and Amber were ready to go outside- apparently, this was one of the few high schools that actually had recess. As we walked through the hallways leading to the playground (which was a blacktop with four square courts and tetherball court next to a fairly well-maintained soccer field), Amber told me about the mean boy that had tripped that kid.

"His name is Thomas, but everyone who doesn't want to get beat up calls him 'Big T". He got held back twice, I think." She said. "His friends are Jerome and Alec, who are both dumb and strong. They're the ones who take the money from us and deliver any beatings, even though Thomas isn't small." She shook her head in disgust. "Nobody in our grade is strong or brave enough to confront him, and the other classes don't care. Even the teachers leave them largely alone! It's such a cliché bully example!" I shrugged, all the while thinking about how I would deal with this classic example of a bully, because I got the feeling that my personality didn't fit with Thomas's.

When we stepped outside, I noticed a soccer ball sitting next to the door.

"Sweet!" I said, picking it up and bouncing it. "Let's play some soccer!" Carter and Amber started sprinting towards the not-in-use net (the other one was being used by other people in the freshman class), with Carter calling out, "Last one there is goalie!" I sprinted after them, and, to my surprise, caught up with them easily, even overhauling Amber. By the time we made it to the net, I was in the lead by at least twelve yards. I did a little victory dance, then dropped the ball and started to dribble around the goal.

Carter arrived next, with Amber trailing behind him, who was already heading towards the goal. I had lined up to take a shot when I realized that it had gone dead quiet. I couldn't hear the shouts from the other end of the field anymore, and the blacktop was just as silent. I slowly turned (for drama's sake) and saw a crowd of people behind me, with the boy named Thomas in the front. I kept a calm expression on my face, but behind my back I signaled for Carter and Amber to back away. I sensed them do so, although reluctantly. Then Thomas (I refuse to refer to him as 'Big T') cleared his throat and stepped forward menacingly.

"I think you owe me something." He said, holding out his hand.

"And what would that be?" I asked, my tone innocent, disguising my rising anger. I saw his two bullyboys step forward.

"You know, the money that's your free pass for the day. Everyone pays it, including new freshmen like you." He said, and his 'friends' came even closer. I watched them out of the corner of my eye, assessing how much time I had.

"I don't need a free pass, thank you very much." I replied sarcastically. Carter began to step forward when he saw the boys named Jerome and Alec reaching for me, but then he stopped, dumbstruck.

I had seen the signal Thomas had given, had also seen Jerome attempt to sneak behind me. I reacted instantly, dropping to the ground, scything my leg out behind me, sweeping Jerome's legs out from under him. I didn't watch Jerome crash back onto the grass, as I was busy dodging a wild kick delivered by Alec. I used minimum movement, simply swaying back out of his range. I waited, then got my opportunity. Alec had over-kicked, causing him to lose his balance slightly. I lashed out with my fist, catching him in the stomach. Alec doubled over, groaning, but I sensed danger from behind and ducked once more. Jerome's punch went over my head and straight into Alec's nose, as Alec had reared back to attack again. I heard a faint crunching noise, and blood began to pour over Alec's face. I knew that Alec was out of the fight, so I turned to Jerome. He swung his fist in a roundhouse that I easily avoided, then I hammered his nose with two lightning fast punches that left him reeling with pain and blinded by tears. Thomas started forward, then I heard whistles blowing and shouting, and I realized that the recess monitors had finally come over to investigate why there were fifty-odd students standing around three others.

I felt rough hands grab me by the shoulders and drag me away, saw Jerome and Alec being walked to the nurse's office. I saw no sign of Thomas as the crowd of students dispersed.

"Do you feel any guilt about what you did?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"..."

"Fine. What do you think you should be feeling?"

"Guilt."

"Do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Feel any guilt."

"No."

"Do you feel sorry for those two boys?"

"No."

"Do you know that one of them has a broken nose?"

"No. I thought both of them did."

"... I think you'd best go home. Your guardian will be notified."

"..."

"This is not a good way to start your year, Sky."

"Not at all, guidance councilor."

Chapter 6

I sat at the small desk in my room, restlessly tapping a pencil against the sheet of paper that was laying there. I had originally planned to finish the math homework, as I knew I could easily, but for some reason the letters and numbers weren't coming together. I tried to focus on the page to the point where my eyes watered, but to no avail. I put my head down on the old wooden desk and groaned.

Carter wasn't there to comfort me, and his grandpa was away at a town meeting- something to do with a forest nearby, apparently. I really wanted to be with Carter, because he always seemed to know exactly what to say. Suddenly, I felt an odd sensation on the back of my head. I didn't move, wondering what it was. Realizing that it was getting stronger, I whipped my head up and looked out the one window.

There was a young woman staring at me through the window. She was gone almost immediately, but my photographic memory played back the image. She'd been wearing dark sunglasses, a white and blue baseball cap, sneakers, what looked like sweat pants, and a dark blue and black jacket. Something about the clothing- other than the fact that it was around seventy degrees out- struck me as odd. I wanted to investigate, but a headache had sprung up out of nowhere, and from what I could tell, it was the beginning of a migraine. I quickly grabbed a post-it note and wrote a note to Carter and his grandpa, then walked over to my bed and fell onto it. I lay there for five minutes or so before I finally fell asleep.

Darkness. And fog. I can't see anything- wait. Was that Carter? I can't-

"Help!" What was that? Hello? Can anyone hear me? Carter, is that you? Amber?

"Make it stop!" Make what stop? Hello? I can't see anything. If you just-

"Oh God please!" Who-?

"Lord save me!" No... that isn't...

"Mother of God no!"

I sat bolt upright, my body covered in sweat and all my covers on the floor. I realized I was gasping, and sucked in a huge gulp of air. My head was pounding, my heart feeling like it was bursting through my ribs. My whole body ached, and I my throat was on fire. My stomach cramped and I curled into a ball, unable to think or breathe, and fell to the floor. My world condensed to the wooden floorboards, a few inches of rough wood that reminded me that I was still there. Then I was assailed by images, pictures that flitted by so fast I had no time to understand them. There were things I didn't recognize, people I didn't remember.

I became lost in the images, losing contact with the world around me. A roaring sound filled my ears, then something in my brain snapped. I floated out and away from myself, saw what I was doing- curled into a ball on the floor, making small whimpering sounds, convulsing every now and then. The feeling was disorienting, but I felt distant and removed. I would have floated away then, perhaps through the roof, when I saw the door slowly creep open. Expecting Carter, I paused. The person who came in was not Carter. It was the woman from across the street. She came in slowly, looking at me- my body, at least. Seeing the state I was in, she stopped, then reached into her jacket and pulled out a small syringe. I tried to move closer, but it was all I could do to stay where I was. A detached curiosity poked through me.

The woman moved over to me, being careful to not make any contact. Then, she moved so fast I couldn't follow what she did in my weakened state. Before I could understand, she was injecting the contents of the syringe into a group of veins in my wrist. The liquid in the syringe glowed slightly- a white color. I could faintly see the glowing liquid spreading in my bloodstream, could picture it flowing through my body. My body relaxed, my muscles losing some of their tension. I began to feel a faint tug, as if I was being pulled back towards my body. Before my sight faded, I saw the woman return the syringe to her jacket, then quickly move out the door. She took my post-it as she went. My vision faded to black as the tug became a pull.

"Sky? Hello?" The concerned voice of Carter woke me from a deep sleep. I realized I was back in bed. My limbs were weak, my muscles loose and wobbly. "Tiger? You okay?" I smiled inwardly. Carter had started calling me "Tiger" ever since I had taken down Thomas's 'friends'. My inward smile died. I hadn't been to school in three days. I was good at the homework- all the information came naturally- but it was still annoying and time-consuming to do. "Tiger? Come on, wake up." Carter began to shake me gently, slowly rocking me back and forth. When I remained unresponsive, he sat on the bed and tentatively stroked my soft black hair, making me believe he thought something was terribly wrong. I contained a warm feeling of happiness, then shifted so that my head rested in Carter's lap. He stiffened slightly, then said softly, "How are you doing?"

"Better." was my mumbled reply. I thought he might have been nodding to himself, and that- for some odd reason- brought a ridiculous image of Carter as an old man smoking a pipe in a dusty library. Unable to contain myself, I snorted, causing my whole body to shake. I opened my eyes, and Carter was looking down at me with the funniest expression of surprise. I laughed, then he laughed, and then we were both laughing together.

It was fantastic.

I grabbed my fluffy blue pillow and whacked Carter over the head, causing him to tumble off the bed. We were still laughing, though harder now, and Carter reached over and tried to snatch the pillow away. I pulled it out of reach, but then I lost my balance and tumbled onto Carter, so that my back was on his stomach. I was about to say something when Carter let out a huge sneeze, and I tumbled off of him. I heard the door open, and saw Carter's grandpa come in. I remembered that a while ago, he had told me to call him Mr. White, Gramps, or Grandpa.

"Hey, Grandpa." Carter said casually, climbing to his feet.

"Carter, what were you doing in here?" asked Gramps. Carter's cheeks flared red, and so did mine. Gramps shook his head. "I'm sure you two were just having fun, but I really need to talk to Sky about something- right now." I immediately understood. Giving Carter a small wave, I got up and walked out the door, down the short hallway, and into the tiny living room that was directly next to the kitchen. I plonked down onto the comfy leather armchair that Carter loved and looked up at Gramps. He was pacing nervously in front of the small coffee table that Carter commonly used as a footrest.

"What is it?" I asked, concerned and curious at the same time. I was worried because after Gramps and I had talked, he had told me that he would let me know the second he saw something suspicious anywhere. Gramps stopped pacing, and fingered his beard.

"I was watching the news today." he said, his gruff voice lined with something I couldn't identify. I waited, and when he didn't continue, I asked,

"Well...?"

"The anchor cut to a reporter who was on the scene of something that is very, very rare, apparently." his tone indicated he didn't believe the 'rare' part for a second. "According to the reporter, an asteroid had crashed in Klownston, you know, the town about an hour's drive from here." I nodded. "For some reason, the scientists who examined this asteroid were confused."

"Why?"

"I'm not sure myself. I believe they thought that someone- or something- got to the asteroid first and removed a substance from the inside."

"That's ridiculous. How would you take something from the inside of an asteroid without somehow damaging the asteroid in the process?"

Gramps merely shrugged.

Just then, Carter knocked on the door.

"Hey, Sky? I know you just woke up, but it's time to go to bed. It's, like, eleven thirty." I glanced at Gramps and he nodded for me to leave. Shrugging, I pulled myself out of the armchair and walked over to my bathroom. I got my own bathroom- it was awesome.

I finished brushing my perfect teeth, then flossed. I debated combing my wavy blonde hair but decided against it. One more thing to do in the morning. Once I was done, I pulled on some comfy pajamas and crawled into bed, shutting off the light as I went.

The nightmare was still there.

"Please! Stop!" how am I still...? Never mind. Hello? Person?

"Ahh! No!" Maybe... nah.

Suddenly, I was aware of a white glow, coming from my left. At that moment, I realized I could make out figures through the darkness and fog. I moved closer, trying to stay as quiet as possible. The figures moved busily, not even paying attention to their surroundings. Just then, I noticed a figure strapped to a table, on his or her back. He (or she?) was struggling, but his (or her?) wrists, legs, chest, and head were firmly strapped down.

I moved closer, still sticking to the ever-present shadows.

One of the figures was at what might have been a cabinet of some sort. He (definitely a guy) turned towards the person on the table, and I could make out something in his hand. It was... a syringe. I felt the stirrings of memories in the back of my brain, but the fog kept them at bay. The syringe wasn't big, but the contents glowed a soft white color. The man approached the figure on the table, and as he did, another attached a tube to a mask I could see on the person's mouth. The tube must have had a sedative of some sort, because the person on the table's movements stopped. Moving with swift purpose, the man with the syringe grabbed the limp figure's wrist and injected the glowing liquid into the person's bloodstream.

I saw the person's wrist glow, saw the white move up his or her arm and through his or her body. It was mesmerizing, in a sick sort of way. I moved slightly closer, then stopped with horror. The person on the table... was me. I turned and ran, stumbling through the darkness and the fog, not caring where I was any more. Then I felt rough hands wrap around me, enveloping me, choking me. I gasped and struggled, calling out, out of the corner of my eye the table was getting closer...

BEEP BEEP BEEP-BEE-BEEP

I groaned and slammed my hand down on my alarm clock, the one Carter had given me two days before. I blinked, clearing the fog of sleep from my vision. I still felt weak and uncoordinated- that act with Carter had taken a lot of effort. I pulled myself out of bed, but when I stood up I became dizzy, and I staggered, only keeping myself off the floor by hitting the wall and leaning against it. I stood there for a minute, catching my breath. I was confused- this had never happened before, I was sure of it. Just then, I heard a knocking at the door.

"What's up?" I called.

"You've got ten minutes 'till we're leaving!" called Carter.

"Ok!" I called back. I head Carter's steps retreat back down the hallway. Taking a deep breath, I slowly walked over to my closet where my pre-picked outfit was. Each step was difficult, but the dizziness wasn't as bad and I could keep my head together. I made it over and grabbed the red shirt, blue ripped-everywhere too-small jean shorts, and threw them on. The clothes were small and I didn't like them, but I hadn't washed my other ones yet. I staggered over to the door and pulled it open. I then made my way across the hall and to the bathroom. Once done, I washed my face and hands, as well as brushed my teeth. I felt better then, but an odd tingly feeling in my limbs persisted. Ignoring it, I headed downstairs to eat my frozen waffle and apple juice breakfast.

"You feeling okay?" asked Carter, his tone worried. We were halfway to the school building and I wasn't doing so well. My breathing was off, my heart a bit fluttery, my muscles unresponsive and uncoordinated. I felt like I was burning up inside.

"I'm fine." I said, managing a smile. Carter shook his head, a frown forming on his face.

"No, you're not. Your face is really, really pale and you've been walking like you're drunk. That, to me, does not make you seem 'fine'."

"I'm fine!" I insisted, knowing it was futile. Carter reached out and spun me around, so that I was facing him.

"Sky-" he started to say. Then he stopped and his mouth opened wider.

"What? What's wrong?" I asked, worried.

"Your- your eyes..." said Carter, fumbling in his backpack for his phone.

"My eyes?" Carter was pulling up the camera app and he shoved the phone into my hands. I looked at the screen. "Shit!" I said, nearly dropping the device. But as I looked closer, I realized it was no trick. My image stared back at me, the same perfect skin, strong features, stubborn set of the mouth... but my eyes. They weren't hazel anymore. They were white. Not completely, but the irises were straight-up white, and glowing softly. I looked up at Carter.

"How...?" I started to ask, but at that time, an emergency alarm on Carter's phone began to buzz. It was in case we forgot about school. Seeing Carter's look, I made a quick decision. "I can make my way back to the apartment, trust me. You need to get to school. I know, you want to be a man and help me, but you can't have a single tardy if you want to get into Lecridge College! Now go!" Carter, after one last look at me, took off sprinting down the street, then turned a corner and was lost from sight. I looked down and belatedly realized I was still holding the phone. I debated going after Carter, but he was too far away and I was in no condition to go running. "Oh, hell." I said with a sigh, and turned to walk home, slipping Carter's phone into my backpack. I started staggering back, cursing under my breath with every step.

My vision was getting fuzzy, with random spots in my peripheral vision- it was getting really annoying. However, my vision was still good enough to realize I wasn't alone. Three forms had detached themselves from a tree and were heading my way. I stopped, the alarm bells going into overtime in my head. As the people got closer, I realized it was Alec, Jerome, and, sure enough, Thomas.

"Shit." I said, not bothering to censor myself. Alec and Jerome had bandages on their faces, though Alec had more, so that he looked to be wearing a mask. I began to back away, but Thomas had circled around so that he was behind me. He shoved me forwards, into the waiting arms of Jerome. Jerome wrapped me in a rib-bending bear hug, and I was so weak I couldn't even struggle. Jerome was crushing the air out of me, and my already bad vision was blurring even more at the edges. Then Jerome dropped me, and I flopped to the hard pavement, unable to break my fall. I lay there, helpless, but all the while shielding my eyes from view.

"You haven't made a good impression, Sky." Sneered Thomas. "That little stunt at recess really pissed us off." Through my pain, I thought, please. I can't believe I'm about to get beat up by this cliché example of a bully. Self-esteem just went down the tubes.

"Leave me.. alone." I gasped. The boys circled closer, and I noticed a bat in Thomas's hands. Crap. The bat swung, and I was in no position to shield myself from the impact. The metal thing crashed into my temple, and everything blurred into pain. I faded in and out, shielded from the pain, but feeling every bone break, every impact of bat and foot. I shuddered, and my delicate wall from the pain shattered. I might have screamed then, my vision flaring white, and the world exploded around me.

Then, silence.

My body was aching and in pain, but I knew that if I stayed on the sidewalk, somebody would come to investigate, and that couldn't happen. I slowly and painfully crawled into the bushes on the side of the road, fighting back a tide of pain with every movement. I didn't look behind me at the boys, I couldn't. Eventually, I made it, and slowly maneuvered myself into a more comfortable position, with my back up against the center of a bush. There, I let out a breath, but winced when a sharp pain in my chest made its presence known. I closed my eyes and let out a deep (but careful) groan. My eyes fluttered and I fell unconscious.

I was on the floor of a stadium. I looked up. There weren't many people there, just my superiors and the head of the program. I turned and saw a few others. They looked big and important. I turned back around. A voice boomed over a hidden speaker system, introducing me to the people- who were apparently military personnel- and began explaining all the things that made me different from other things. I ignored this and studied the arena as the voice droned on.

The floor was loose and shifty sand- not good for complex fighting styles- and in an area similar to a roman coliseum that I had been shown at one point. I frowned at the big space. Obviously, this was a test of some sort. I examined the weapons and armor I had been given: an experimental suit that had been built from materials salvaged from an asteroid. It was shielded from all radars and scopes, invulnerable to radiation, had automatic filters for underwater, magnetic clips for weapons, ammo, and grenades, as well as stealth capabilities and many other features. I smiled, then checked the suit diagnostics using the HUD on the visor that covered my entire face, hiding it from view.

Suit power: 100%

Stealth capability: 3 hours

Shields: 100%

Energy conversion from sources; sun, earth: 100%

Weapons: 4598 model GY "hot knife"; class-c energy weapon

Elevation: i9s b23ein8g jam4m3e0d b3y unk09ow8n 98so3ur3c0e

Coordinates:i2s b34ein5g jam6m1e0d b3y unk10ow8n 58so9ur7c0e

I ignored the coordinates and elevation- they wouldn't help me in a fight- and they were jammed anyway. But when I checked my knife sheath, sure enough, there was a knife strapped on my forearm, made of a peculiar metal that would burn someone alive if not wielded while wearing the armor.

I flipped the knife out of its sheath, letting the unusual white metal catch the sun. The grip fit easily into my palm, and the magnets in my hand would make it almost impossible to drop. I looked back up at the people staring down at me, knowing all they could see was a small, female figure in a form-fitting black suit, with the armor plates outlined with glowing blue lines. I decided to try stealth mode.

Triggering it with a simple glance thought, since I had a chip implanted in my head, I faded out of sight. The glowing blue lines went dark, the reflective silver-blue part of my helmet that covered my face switching to an opaque black. Then the whole suit matched my surroundings exactly, rendering me invisible. I began to walk around, noting that my footprints were still slightly visible in the sand. I looked back up at my observers. They were looking around the arena, unable to see my footprints from that distance.

A warning light on my HUD flashed red as a gate leading into the arena slowly opened. I stood there and watched as eleven armored men poured out, moving into defensive positions. I stared at their weapons and the suit immediately informed me on their armor and armaments.

Armor: Model 6 "Body Glove" Class-e body armor, high grade, lightweight, high mobility, no shields

Weapons: 6754 Model S3 "Sturdy Death" Rifle, class-d energy weapon

I raised my eyebrows at their armor. Quite a bit for people destined to die.

A blue light flashed in the corner, and when I looked at it, a message was relayed. I smiled.

Business as usual. Kill them. Make it look flashy, but be efficient.

I stretched the fingers holding the knife, and began to circle around the men, looking for a weakness in their line. Seeing that one of the men was about to sneeze, I sprinted forward. I leaped into the air, doing a flip, letting my stealth vanish, and landed on the man's chest, driving him to the ground and breaking several of his ribs in the process. He went unconscious, out of the fight. The other men were shouting orders, and I tuned into their radio channel.

"Surround and fire! No warnings! Move, move, move!" I smiled, and leaped into the air again, doing a complete back flip and slashing a man's chest to ribbons with the knife as I landed. His scream never made it out of his mouth.

The warning light flashed again and I ducked, letting bullets go flying over my head. I spun and raised my hand, and an energy pulse- enough to kill- blasted from my hand and sent the man shooting at me flying. I felt a few impacts on my back and watched my shield go down less than one percent. I could probably let them shoot me all day before my shields were depleted. I sprinted away from the men and let them regroup. They'd lost three men in less than a minute, and I wasn't even trying. I let out an inhuman laugh, and launched myself at the men again, covering the thirty yards in less than two seconds.

I was on them before they could react, kicking one man's chest in and stabbing another in the heart. I grabbed one of their rifles as they fell and gunned down three more of them, then threw the gun at another and watched his head cave in under the impact. I whirled and punched the man behind me in the throat, then rolled away as another lashed out with a knife at my exposed side. I threw my knife as I rolled, and smiled with satisfaction as it took that man in the heart. He collapsed to the ground, and the arena was suddenly still again.

I turned to the stands and gave a long, sarcastic bow, and walked over to the dead man I'd just killed and yanked my knife out of his chest. Then I walked over to the unconscious man and kneeled next to his head. I traced his mouth with my finger, then in one motion, pulled out my knife and drove it into his throat. I left it there, its heat making the flesh around it bubble and steam. A door in the side opened, and I walked through it.

Another blue icon flashed.

Nice job.

I smiled, then with a thought, I allowed the suit to retract into a sporty-looking wristwatch. Given the dimensions, it should've been impossible, but I didn't feel the need to question it. A final message displayed itself on the tiny screen, but it wasn't from my superiors:

Time to meet the real world.

The smile slipped from my face as a tiny pinching sensation registered with my brain, coming from between my shoulder blades, and then everything shut down.

I woke up, confused and disoriented. I tried to move my arm but something held it down. With a start, I realized I was strapped down on a table. Remembering my nightmare, I began to panic, thrashing and pulling on the restraints.

"Stop."

The voice was chilling, masculine, and I automatically went still, as if frozen.

"Remember me, soldier 27? It's certainly been a while."

I couldn't reply, couldn't protest my innocence- his words, no his order- held me firmly in place. I couldn't even speak. The man laughed, finding my inability to move entertaining.

"Ah, I see you're still programmed as well as anything. My bad, I suppose, though I doubt that it will be a hindrance here. After all, you weren't supposed to leave. Naughty naughty."

The terror in me was slowly building, and I wanted to scream that this guy had the wrong girl, that I was innocent, that I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about, but something in the back of my mind whispered otherwise.

"You may have escaped once, and built a personality, but that won't last." The man lowered into my field of vision, his ice-blue eyes cutting through me.

"I'm going to re-make you into a killer in just seven hours."

I screamed without moving, without making a noise.

He laughed.

Chapter 7

"Sky? Oh, thank God you're finally awake."

I blinked, opened my eyes, saw the teenage boy leaning over me.

Carter. Objective priority alpha.

"She's awake?"

Gramps. Objective priority zulu.

"Hello? You gonna say something or keep staring at me?" It was that boy- Carter, I reminded myself- speaking again. I closed my eyes for a second, thinking.

I'd been dropped back where I'd been found, near the blast site created by a buildup of energies in my system.

I'd been given explicit orders to regain Carter's trust and lead him back towards the facility.

I'd been given other explicit orders to eliminate seven targets located around Lecridge, without leaving any evidence.

That all checked out, but I needed to review my cover persona.

My name was Sky Attondale, "adopted" by Carter and his grandpa.

I had no memory before I crash landed here.

I liked Carter.

I was friends with his grandpa.

I was a freshman at Lecridge High School.

Easy enough. I let my soldier personality slip away and allowed the old Sky to come back, at least until I could eliminate my targets.

"Carter?" I asked, confused and a bit scared. "What happened?"

"You were beat up by Thomas and friends," Carter said angrily, "you were unconscious and bleeding when I found you after school. Do you remember what happened? Like at all?" He was looking into my eyes so intently that, for a second, I didn't know what to say.

"N-no, I don't."

Carter cursed with impressive venom. Then when he turned to me, he was calm again.

"Sky, something really weird is going on and I need to know if you have anything- anything at all- to say about it."

"What do you mean, 'weird'?" I asked, conscious of the watch on my wrist that hadn't been there before the... incident.

"...eople are like saying- well, not people, it's just Thomas and friends- but they're saying that you blew them up or some shit like that."

For new readers, I hope you enjoyed the way this story began. If you feel like you want to keep reading, I think I'm being truthful when I say the story gets better the further you read.

For older readers, I redid this chapter and I think I caught most of the errors I made. If not, feel free to let me know.

-RoR