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    Author Eon_Team's Avatar
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    Default The Altered Universe: The Guardian's Saga: Stealth

    If you'd like to just go straight to the story, skip down to the story's title a few paragraphs down. This first part is just my rambling.

    The Altered Universe is a series of small stories I have written over time with the intention of them becoming full novels I might publish someday. Alas, that so far has not come to be a reality and the Altered Universe has taken the back-burner to my current story Avita. However, after four days of writing nothing but an essay for college, I had a hankering to write some fiction but did not feel like working on Avita or the Eon Team. So I went back to the Altered Universe with a whole new approach to the background and characters, as well as a whole new main character to tell the story from the perspective of.

    BTW, the name of this thread is in three parts for this reason: the first part is the name of the series. The second part identifies which part of the series, and the third is the actual name of the story, Stealth.

    This story is a much different style than the happy and not-so-serious mood of the Eon Team. The Altered Universe is set in a dark and not-so-far future, and the characters are facing more than worries about how to escape a gang unscathed. But, I'll let the story explain the circumstances better. Here is Stealth.

    The Altered Universe: The Guardian’s Saga
    Stealth
    J. G. Parrott

    December 25, 2044

    Journal of Avery Hawk, codename Stealth

    Day 4


    Christmas has never been a major holiday in the Progressive Union. The government frowns on its ceremony, claiming it is a tradition pioneered by religious nuts and eventually capitalist greed. But here, in the new atmosphere of the Guardians sanctuary, there is a different air on Christmas day. I’ve only been in this sanctuary for four days now, but the last three days have been nothing like this.

    I suppose this journal might end up in the hands of someone else someday. If this sanctuary is ever discovered, it might be a Progressive Union official reading this entry. If not, it could be someone else entirely whom I have no idea of that has happened up my journal. Either way, I suppose it would suffice to explain what is happening here.

    I am Avery Hawk. I’m seventeen years old, and in the last week I have become an escaped convict according to my government. You see, the Progressive Union is at war with its neighbor, the LNA. The war began thirty years ago, and it has not ceased even slightly. But the LNA used to have a powerful advantage over the Union, because their economy was more stable, more powerful, and the soldiers fought with a ferocity and fervor unimaginable. They still do today, but now the Union has a secret weapon, or rather, several secret weapons. I am one of them.

    The Union began a project only a few years into the war, known as the Altered project. The LNA knows entirely about this program, but they would not dare to touch it with a five thousand mile long pole. The project is simple: make humans into weapons. I am an Altered, a person whose genetics were changed before I was even born to give me incredible abilities. As I said before, I’m not the only one. Hundreds of people are Altered, and some of them possess powers that could have ended this war years ago. I still don’t know why they haven’t. I guess the Guardians are a good example why; many people don’t want to be mindless tools for the Union.

    The Altered program has given the Progressive Union a new edge in the war. They aren’t losing anymore. But they aren’t winning either. The program has brought the war into an endless stalemate, which means the LNA still has the upper hand. They can survive a stalemate longer than the Union can.

    But, anyways, that’s what got me into the situation I am in. Two weeks ago, I was a normal seventeen year old kid. I had half a year left of school, and then I would be under the overpowering thumb of the Union, a servant to be employed wherever they saw fit. Considering that bleak future, I’m almost glad they changed me. You see, an Altered does not know he or she is an Altered until their changes appear. The Union uses their genetic manipulation to cause the alterations to hide until sometime in our teen years, sometimes a bit earlier. They don’t know precisely when our alterations are going to surface, so they keep a trained eye on us until the day we discover our changes. And when I say changes, I’m not talking about superior strength, speed, or intelligence. No, the changes an Altered undergo are far more than that, sometimes to monstrous proportions.

    Take me for instance. I discovered I was an Altered when a schoolyard bully chucked a rock the size of my head at my chest six days ago. But the rock never hit me, because an instant after the kid threw the rock, I was a hundred feet away. I never moved, and yet at the same time I did. My alterations made me a teleporter, and that was only the beginning. Of course, the Union was all over me within fifteen minutes, and I tried to escape. And I did, because not only could I teleport, but I could practically disappear. I wasn’t truly invisible, but my body—and strangely my clothes—changed colors to blend into the background. I also discovered I had incredible reflexes, speed to react with, and a new, much greater sense of balance. The Union sent ten soldiers after me, and I evaded them all.

    The Guardians picked me up four days ago. I guess I should tell you about them. The Guardians are made of mostly escaped Altered as well. However, it wasn’t started by an Altered. The grand mastermind behind the whole group is a man everyone knows as the Black Guard. We don’t know if he’s black or not. We don’t know what he looks like either, because he never removes his armor, a suit of pitch black, and as far as I can tell impenetrable, armor. He kind of looks like a black knight from the old medieval times, but his armor is a lot smoother, lighter, quieter, and cooler. He also wears a mask, did I mention that? It completely covers his face. There aren’t even eye holes, just two black lenses where his eyes should be. Nobody knows who the guy is, and for good reason. He still has a life outside of the Guardians, and he does something big too, because he has enough money and resources to take care of everyone the Guardians take in.

    You see, the Guardians are a group that provides safety to anyone trying to escape the Union. That includes both escaped Altered and regular people. Some people are trying to reach the safety of the LNA, while others are merely looking for a place to hide. The Guardians itself is really a small group. Besides Black Guard, there are seven other people part of its ranks, and all of them are Altered.

    There’s Coyote, the youngest of the group. He’s fifteen, but he joined when he was twelve. He’s got the greatest strength of the whole group, as well as incredible speed, reflexes, and senses. He got his codename as Coyote because his brother, Cougar (who is not a part of the Guardians, and I’ll explain why later) referred to him as being dog-like when their alterations first surfaced. Coyote has a sister here in the sanctuary of the Guardians. She is not a part of the Guardians either, and again I’ll explain why later.

    Next up is Wrath, probably the most powerful of all of the Guardians. She controls electricity in whatever form it comes in. Not only can she create lightning, but she can control electronics and fly by creating an electromagnetic field in her body and around her. The exact mechanics are not clear to me, so I won’t babble on about them. She also can control people by manipulating the electrical impulses in their nerves and brains. She refrains from this as much as she can though, as she sees it as an abuse of her power.

    Then there is Wormhole. She has a fascinating power; the ability to generate interspatial portals. She can create these portals on any surface, though she prefers smooth, and then she can just pass through one and come out of the other instantly.

    Decibel is the loner of the Guardians. As obvious by his name, he controls sound and vibrations. He also has a rocket pack he stole from the Union training labs where he was kept and later escaped from. Talking is not his specialty, and he stays away from people as much as he can.

    If Wrath is not the most powerful of the Guardians, then it’s Wisp. He controls darkness, and I don’t just mean the absence of light. His powers come straight from Hell. Apparently, the Union had intended to just make him generate antimatter beams, which would have been incredibly powerful by themselves. Instead, they somehow opened him up to a power reserved for the devil’s servants. Not only can he fire antimatter beams, but he can generate and manipulate black fire, create tendrils of darkness that move to his will, greatly increase his strength and speed at will, disappear wherever there is no direct light, and open portals directly into Hell itself. He is a quiet person, but he is more friendly than Decibel. However, he fears his power because of where it comes from. He constantly fears that his powers link him to the devil, and that therefore he might be someday made to betray the Guardians. However, Black Guard has somehow convinced him to stay with the group.

    After him is Luminous, Wisp’s stark opposite. Luminous doesn’t get his powers from Heaven, but he does control light, and light seems to be the one thing Wisp has trouble fighting. Luminous can also become completely invisible wherever he wants. He is also a mute, because when he was trying to escape the Union he was attacked by another Altered that was loyal to the Union. Luminous won the fight, but was so badly injured that he almost didn’t survive. He did, however, lose his ability to speak, so he communicates either through sign-language, writing, or Wrath. As she can read people’s minds with her powers.

    Finally there is Graviton. As his name suggests, he control gravity and graviton particles. He can intensify or negate gravity at will, or he can fire beams of gravitons which just push away whatever he is firing at. Since he can negate gravity he is capable of allowing himself and others to fly.

    I guess I can explain a little about the backgrounds of each of the Guardians. I said I would tell you about Coyote’s siblings, after all. Coyote has a sister and a brother. His real name is Jamie, his sister’s is Sarah, and his brother is John, also known as Cougar. All three of them are Altered. Sarah got it the worst out of all of them. Rather than special powers, she got a monstrous transformation. In a sense, she has become a gargoyle. She still looks human. Her face and most of her body never changed, but she grew wings, claws, and a tail. And actually, she did get some powers, but nothing to attack with if she wanted to. She can pretty much change into stone when she wants, and something about her hands and feet, besides the claws, allows her to climb walls and roofs. John is more like Coyote. He is extremely strong, extremely fast, and has powerful senses. However, he also has retractable claws. Big ones too. He is also certifiably insane. For some reason, he got the idea that, because he was an Altered, he was superior to everyone else. But he was also angry at the Union for what they had done to him. When he was discovered, he blamed Jamie and attempted to kill him and Sarah. They escaped with their lives, but Cougar has never stopped hunting them. The Guardians encounter him frequently, and every time he does a lot of damage while escaping their wrath.

    Wrath does not have another name as far as I know. She abandoned it when she found out she was an Altered. She came from a family of politicians, so when she realized what she was she hoped that they, with their political influence, would keep her from the training camps and becoming a brainwashed soldier for the Union. Instead, they turned her in. She escaped and lived on her own for a year before Black Guard found her. Despite her rough betrayals from her family, she is usually pretty friendly, probably because she can tell what sort of person you are before you even get introduced to her.

    Wormhole spent the most time in a training camp than any of the other Guardians. Her name is Carrie Latrop She escaped with a friend named Jerry, who is known around here as Warp because of his ability to turn back time itself. I don’t know much about her story besides that. She insists it was because she was a boring person.

    Decibel, Daniel Reagan, is standoffish for a reason. He came from a family of dissidents who openly protested and spoke out against the Union. As a result, they were constantly on the move to avoid being arrested or harassed by the Union, so he never got to make any relationships beyond those he had with his parents and his sister. When he found out he was an Altered, he was captured quickly. He escaped a couple of months later and attempted to find his family again. But, instead, when he went to where they had last been, he found a mask his sister had sewn, along with a note explaining they had run to the LNA. The mask was so he could hide from the Union, but in case the note should be found by the Union before him she had not said where in the LNA they were running. Decibel went on a long search to find them, but he eventually came back to the Union to fight. Black Guard found him, however, and convinced him to join the Guardians with the promise that someday he would get his chance at revenge.

    Wisp has a long story. His name is Wesley Reynolds. He says he was quiet and a coward before his alterations set in, but he had always been harassed by a mysterious man. When his alterations appeared, the man provided an escape for him through a portal. The man turned out to be the devil’s servant, and he had the same powers as Wisp. He attempted to convince Wisp to join him, but Wisp refused and ran. He escaped into the deepest dungeon of Hell, a pitch black world where all of the lost souls wander aimlessly for the rest of eternity, suffering from illusions of starvation, thirst, and pain. There, Wisp met an ex-servant of the devil, who taught him how to use his powers and then escape from Hell. Wisp travelled for a long time just trying to survive, and as he did he became angrier and angrier at the plight he had been given. In time, he came to want nothing more than to be normal and for his life to return to normal. He became so desperate, that eventually he met with the devil’s servant that had haunted him in the past and asked what could be done. The servant said the devil could help, if Wisp did something first. Wisp accepted and was sent on a mission to find Black Guard and kill him, along with the other Guardians at that time, which was Coyote, Decibel, and Luminous. He nearly succeeded, but when he realized the Guardians presented a new option, he refused the deal and joined the group.

    Luminous, Carl Tranis, had a troubled life before he joined the Guardians. He says he was a spoiled, horrible person. Apparently, he had the idea that he was the greatest thing in the world. When his alterations appeared, he was captured quickly. He spent a while learning his powers and then attempted to escape. The Union sent another Altered after him. After the fight, Luminous was able to escape, but his throat and tongue had been so mangled in the fight that it destroyed his ability to speak. He collapsed on a street not long after and passed out. In the last moment before blacking out completely, he had thought he was about to die. When he woke up, however, he was in the Guardians sanctuary. When Wrath became a part of the group, he found a good friend in her, not only because she could communicate with him so easily but because she knew of the change his personality had gone through after his capture.

    Finally Graviton came from a large family. His name is Kenneth Julianis, He had a twin brother and two sisters, and all of them were Altered. When their alterations appeared, they could not have been more happy, because they used to love the Progressive Union. They gladly went into the training programs to learn how to fight for their country. Graviton, however, eventually changed his views, because he began seeing what the Union was doing to convince others how great they were. He recognized the propaganda, and as he began thinking about what else the Union did, he realized how tyrannical and controlling they really were. He tried to convince his siblings, but they refused to listen. So, when he escaped, he escaped alone. Broken and depressed with being severed from his siblings, he tried to drown himself. Black Guard found him and convinced him death was not the answer and brought him into the sanctuary. After he recomposed himself a few weeks later, he became a part of the Guardians.

    So that’s where I am, in a series of interconnected abandoned subway tunnels that the Guardians call home. I’m surrounded by escapees and all sorts of people running from an oppressive government, and I’m one of them. The Guardians look out for us and keep us safe. There are several other Altered here, but so far, with everyone that is here, I’ve kept mainly to myself. I’m not sure about this, being in the midst of a bunch of costumed freaks (the Guardians do wear uniforms by the way. They are supposed to be strong and able to withstand the strains of battle, so they are not a fashion statement) and scared people, hoping that they won’t wake up to find themselves in the custody of the Progressive Union. I’ve only been here for four days, but I know that’s what they fear. Because I fear it too.

  2. #2
    Author Eon_Team's Avatar
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    December 26, 2044
    Journal of Avery Hawk, codename Stealth
    Day 5


    I never got around to explaining how different the atmosphere was yesterday. I only said it was. Outside of the Guardians’ sanctuary, Christmas is something to simply mark the date with. The only celebration anyone does of it is to occasionally wish someone a Merry Christmas. In the sanctuary it’s different.

    I woke up yesterday after the new pathetic excuse that I have for sleep expecting the mood to be the same as before. Instead of quiet and scared, everyone seemed happy. The phrase, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy holidays!” was to be heard everywhere I went. And then there were the gifts. I saw it every now and then, people giving gifts to the people who needed them. Many people did not receive gifts, but most of them were the ones providing the small presents. They weren’t much. A pair of shoes, maybe a book, or a scarf. It was all stuff people needed. You see, even though we’re all convicts and runaways in here, there are some people better off than others. Some people managed to salvage a little money before they were declared criminals by the Union. For others, the declaration came so fast that they barely had time to escape, let alone grab as much money as they could. The unfortunate ones have ragged clothes and horrible hygiene, since we still have to go out of the sanctuary to use the bathroom or a public bath. There is no plumbing in the sanctuary.

    As I walked around the sanctuary yesterday, I saw many of the people who have that extra sum stashed away handing out extra clothes to those who needed them. For others, gifts might not have been clothes but something to pass the time like a book. Others just got money, for which they were incredibly grateful. The mood in the sanctuary was one of happiness, and for once fear was not the dominant emotion. I actually felt a bit of that happiness myself, because despite being forced into unsavory conditions with their lives destroyed, people still had enough in them to give and help.

    Dinner was also different yesterday. The portions for every person were not only much bigger, but consisted of new foods like turkey and potatoes, rather than bread and soup. The dining area was lively during dinner, and for once people seemed to have the weight of the world lifted off of their shoulders.

    I was an observer of the whole Christmas ceremony enjoyed by everyone else. For the most part I kept my distance, not sure what to do or how to act. I did not receive any gifts nor did I give any. But I think, next year, I’ll find something to give.

    So now you know of Christmas. Today saw the return of the old mood, though a bit of the festive atmosphere did remain among some people. It was like the holiday had given them hope, which it is taking time for reality to slowly crush. But today was also an important day for the Guardians, because today was Escape.

    Why did I capitalize the word Escape? I was a bit confused at how people referred to it as well when I first heard the term today. But Escape is a biweekly event in the sanctuary, in which all escapees hoping to reach the safety of the LNA are taken out of the sanctuary by three of the Guardians. For the next week, those three Guardians (today it was Wrath, Coyote, and Luminous who went) escort and protect the escapees all the way to the LNA. Once the people have been seen past the no-man’s-land between the Progressive Union and the LNA, they are set on their way and given final instructions on where to go and what to do from there on. The three guardians then return to the sanctuary, and a week later there is another Escape.

    All of this was explained to me by another Altered, codenamed Haunter. I don’t know his real name, and he never offered it. But he is one of the Altered who underwent a monstrous transformation. His skin became pitch black, with the exception of his face, which turned a dark, dirty orange. His fingernails became retractable razor-sharp claws, his teeth became fangs, his eyes became tall, black and red slits, his nose shrunk into just two snake-like nostrils, and the skin on his face grew vertical creases. It’s sad to say it, but he kind of resembles a jack-o-lantern. Of course, he also resembles a jack-o-lantern that would gladly dig your eyes out and use them as olives in a martini.

    I did a bit of exploring around the sanctuary today. I mentioned before that it was a series of old abandoned subway tunnels all interconnected. Well, there’s more to the sanctuary than just dark tunnels, which aren’t dark by the way. The entire system, with the exception of tunnels that have not been expanded into, is lit by a chain of lights on the roof. I started at the entrance. The entrance to the tunnels is a hatchway that leads out into the world above. Where exactly I don’t know, because when the Guardians picked me up I was only semiconscious due to fatigue. The entrance splits into five tunnels. Three of them go down to dorms, which are just small rooms bored into the walls. The fourth tunnel leads to the eating area, the cafeteria so-to-speak, and connected to it is the kitchen. The fifth goes to a widened out area of the tunnels where there are a few recreational courts there. As far as I could tell, the only sports available are basketball, tennis, and volleyball. There was a door I noticed beyond the recreational area, but when I tried to open it, it was locked tight, even though the lights went past it. I asked someone about it, but the person said nobody seems to know what’s behind it.

    So yeah, that’s what the place is like. Not a whole lot to it, but I figure there are fifty, maybe sixty people living down here at any one time. It drops down considerably after an Escape, but at the rate new people are coming down the population will be back up quickly.

    __ __ __


    I looked up from my journal at the sound of someone knocking. I glanced at my watch, which said it was eleven. Who’s knocking this late? I thought. I put my electronic journal down and pressed the power button. The screen went blank and I got up and went to the door.

    I opened the door a crack and nearly jumped out of my skin.

    “I get that reaction a lot,” Haunter said, a hint of amusement in his voice.

    “Uh, hi,” I said. My eyes scanned across Haunter’s creased face and the dark red eyes glaring at me. The black pigment around them made it seem like he was staring at me from the depths of his skull. “Is something wrong?” I asked finally, forcing myself not to dwell on Haunter’s features.

    “Come with me,” Haunter said. Without another word he turned around and started walking down the tunnel, his tattered cloak flowing out behind him. Even though he had become mutated beyond recognition as a human, he still wore clothing. It was pitch black like his skin, and all it was were a shirt, pants, and that cloak, the end of which was tattered and torn.

    Following someone with the appearance of Haunter through dark tunnels (the lights dimmed considerably after nine o’clock) was not exactly high on my to-do list. However, I left my room anyways and shut it behind me, jogging to catch up to Haunter. He was a tall person, and he walked fast, so I was speed walking even when I caught up to him.

    “What’s going on? Did I do something wrong?” I asked.

    “Your name’s Avery, right?” Haunter asked.

    “Yeah,” I said.

    “Okay.” He did not answer my question, and after a bit I repeated it. He responded by saying, “I don’t know. Did you?”

    “Not as far as I know,” I said.

    “Then I don’t know either,” Haunter said. “But you must have done something, because Black Guard wants to speak to you.”

    I gulped. “Did he seem angry?”

    “No. Of course, with his voice modifier, it’s hard to tell.”

    I frowned. Had I done something? So far all I’ve done since I got here is eat, drink, and sleep. I’ve barely spoken to anyone and I didn’t go exploring until today. I hoped I wasn’t in trouble for two reasons: one, I would rather not have a bunch of powerful Altered angry at me, and two, I don’t want to be thrown out of the sanctuary.

    We reached the entrance and Haunter led me down one of the other dorm tunnels. He stopped at the first door and knocked. “It’s Haunter,” he said. The door opened automatically, but Haunter did not go in. Instead, he beckoned for me to do so. I nodded and crept cautiously into the room. The door shut behind me.

    Black Guard was in the room, but he wasn’t the only one. I recognized Wisp instantly as the one leaning against the wall.

    “Hello, Avery,” Black Guard said in his mechanical voice. “Or do you prefer Stealth?”

    “Avery is fine, sir,” I responded.

    “Okay,” Black Guard said. He looked at Wisp. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Wesley.”
    “Yes, sir,” Wisp said.

    Black Guard walked towards the door and beckoned for me to follow. I did so and we exited Wisp’s room. Haunter was already gone. Black Guard led me to the entrance and then down the tunnel towards the cafeteria.

    “You’re our newest Altered here, you know,” Black Guard said.

    “No one else has come since I got here?” I asked.

    “Besides you and the Guardians, there are eleven Altered here. Since I started this, there have been a grand total of thirty-two Altered to stay here. We do not get a whole lot of Altered here. The Union has been keeping them under ever tighter watch lately.”

    “I see,” I said.

    “So I must ask you, what are you planning to do?” Black Guard asked.

    “Do, sir?” I asked.

    “Are you planning to take the next Escape out of the Union, or do you plan on staying here for a while?” he asked. We reached the cafeteria and he stopped outside of the doors.

    “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t really have anywhere to go in the LNA. No family, no friends. My whole life has been here in the Union. But, do I have to do anything if I’m going to stay here?”

    “Actually, yes,” Black Guard said. “You see, there may only be eleven other Altered here, seventeen if you count the Guardians, but there are a lot more regular people as well. Even on my salary I can’t support everyone for long. So, anyone who stays needs to get a job.”

    I widened my eyes. A job meant not only leaving the sanctuary, but registering with the Union. Which seemed bizarre. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of this sanctuary to escape the Union? If we registered for a job, they’d come after us immediately.

    Black Guard must have guessed what I was thinking. “There are ways to get jobs outside of the Union’s radar, believe it or not. They are not omniscient as they would have you believe.”

    “You mean a black market job?” I asked, images of slave-like conditions and piss-poor pay coming to mind.

    “Yes,” Black Guard said. “You have not totally shaken off the propaganda of the government, I see. Your face has horror all over it at the thought of working in the black market. Believe it or not, working in the black market is also not as bad as you think.”

    I nodded slowly, still unsure. Granted, I didn’t have any reason to not trust him, but seventeen years of being told the horrors of people who work in the black market are not exactly something I could repress at a whim. “What would I be doing?”

    “Reconnaissance,” Black Guard said. “For LNA intelligence.”

    “What?!” I exclaimed.

    “You don’t like it?” he asked.

    “No, it’s just… I was thinking I might be doing something like drug trafficking, or selling weapons,” I said.

    “Interesting how much more there is to something the Union doesn’t want you to know about,” Black Guard said. “The black market is more than drugs and guns. It smuggles food, toys, equipment, and about anything else a person needs, whether it be illegal or just too expensive with the Union’s price controls. But the LNA also uses it for smuggling troops, weapons, and employing spies. I decided on spying for you because you’re made to spy. Camouflage and teleportation are exactly what you’ll need to be effective. And of course, stay alive.”

    I leaned against the wall with my head down, thinking. He was right that my powers would give me an edge, but I had never thought I might be turning fugitive and then traitor to the Union in the same two weeks. A month ago, I was a supporter of the Progressive Union. I argued with and even became violent against anyone who spoke out against the Union’s policies. I believed anything the government said, because I had been raised for seventeen years to believe I was living in the best possible society that was possible for people. My alterations changed that though, because when the Union soldiers tried to capture me, I saw exactly how little they cared for regular people. Since then, I’ve been trying to toss away everything I believed about the Union. It isn’t easy, and I’m still trying to do so now.

    “Is there anything else I could do, maybe?” I asked.

    Black Guard nodded. “Yes. There’s plenty. There is a small group that employs a lot of people here, which smuggles fresh foods into the country. They also smuggle drugs, just so you know. However, I would ask you take the spying request. I won’t force you, but I try to keep the ordinary jobs open for non-Altered.”

    I nodded. “Okay. How long do I have to think about it?” I asked.

    “I would like your decision by Thursday. That’s three days, okay?” he said.

    “Okay,” I said. “Thank you, sir.”

    “You’re welcome,” Black Guard said. “Oh, and one more thing. If you take the spying position, you won’t be working alone. You’ll be working with two other Altered; Haunter and Ms. Robin.”

    “Who?” I asked.

    “Jane Robin. Her codename is Banshee,” Black Guard said.

    “Okay,” I said. “I don’t know her.”

    “You will, whether it be on the job or just around here,” Black Guard said. He yawned, which was a strange sound after coming through his voice disguiser. “Well, Avery, I hope you have a good night. I’ll be back here around five in the evening tomorrow, if you’ve made your decision by then.”

    “Good night, sir,” I said.

    “You too,” Black Guard said. Instead of going towards the entrance, he went in the other direction down the tunnel. I watched him before turning around and heading back to my room.

  3. #3
    Author Eon_Team's Avatar
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    December 27, 2044
    Journal of Avery Hawk, codename Stealth
    Day 6

    I’m glad he gave me till Thursday. I’m going to need that time.
    __ __ __


    I stared at the food in front of me, feeling very little hunger. Did I want to spy on the Union? Part of me did, if only to get revenge. But that was only a small part of me. The rest of me wanted to stay out of the war. War meant death, and spying would mean I would be going to places that put me in extreme danger. I could get killed, injured, or even captured. Yes, it was selfishness that kept me from accepting the job. The part of me that wanted to accept the offer was the part that had grown out of shame for my selfishness.

    I tried to think of something else. I looked up from my food for something to grab my attention. The cafeteria was beginning to empty out by now, so I could see just about everyone who was still in the room. All of the Altered who were not Guardians were here, I saw. There was Sarah, Coyote’s sister, sitting at a table with three other Altered who had undergone monstrous transformations. Of course, one of them was Haunter. The other guy there was known as Reptilian, though I knew his real name was Mark. His transformation had left him with yellow, snake-like scales covering his skin. His face had become malformed as well, with reptile-like nostrils, solid-amber eyes, no ears, and a forked tongue. He had also grown short but dangerously sharp claws on his fingers. The third Altered was a girl, who I assumed was Banshee, or Jane, the one Black Guard has said would be working with me and Haunter if I accepted the offer. Her transformation had left her skin dark blue and her hair a dull silver. The skin under her eyes was dark grey, and her eyes themselves had no visible iris. While she had the least ‘monstrous’ of the transformations at the table, hers still left her looking like a video game ghoul.

    Besides those four, there were seven other Altered in the cafeteria. One of them, a girl codenamed Psychesear, though her real name was Shelly, was not actually in the cafeteria but in the kitchen. Her powers gave her control of fire, as well as telekinetic abilities. As such, she was the main cook for the cafeteria. She put on a heck of show while she cooked. Because of her powers, she could handle twenty-five pans at the same time, and no all of them were kept on the stove. The kitchen only had four stoves, each with only four places to cook on them, and many of them had to be used by the other cooks. So Psychesear used her telekinesis and pyrokinesis to cook twenty-one pans in the air, with floating plumes of fire underneath them. Some people came to kitchen early before mealtime just to watch her in action as she cooked.

    The other six Altered were staggered throughout the cafeteria. Of the six, three were in one group, two in another, and the sixth was by himself. The three together was a guy called Warp, his real name was Denver, a girl named Rime, or Kelly, and another guy named called Spectrum, whose real name was Jame. Warp was a friend of Wormhole’s, as he had been in the training camps with her. He could turn back time by mentally saving a specific point in time and then jumping back to it at will. Everything returned to how it was at that time, the only difference being he remembers what had happened. Rime controls temperatures by drawing thermal energy out of the air and other objects to freeze them. Spectrum was a friend of Wisp’s, though I have a feeling that ever since Wisp started becoming reclusive because of his powers, they have not hung out much. His powers were similar to Luminous’ powers, except that he could only generate light and heat.

    The two Altered sitting together was a young girl called Magna, or Lisa, and an older girl codenamed Maelstrom. I did not know her real name. Magna could control magnetism, as well as meld her body with metals. Maelstrom controlled water, and could melt into a liquid form at will.

    The boy who was sitting alone was another Altered I did not his real name, and apparently nobody else did either. Everyone just went by his codename, Cyber. He was always on his own, usually looking like he was depressed. He could teleport, control electronics, and sense electricity and radio signals.
    I looked between all the Altered. They had kept my mind occupied while I remembered their names and such, but now that I had recounted them all, my mind wanted to turn back to Black Guard’s offer.

    I sighed. Screw this, I thought. If I’m going to think about it, I’m going over to them. I guessed that, if I wanted to make a good decision, I might as well get to know who I would be working with. I picked up my plate and walked over to the table.

    I had barely come within a few feet of the table when Reptillian looked up and said, “Sssomething I can help you with?” I hesitated for a moment in surprise at his voice. Apparently, it had changed as well, because now it was hissy and his S’s were drawn out like in some cartoon.

    “It’s alright if I join you guys?” I asked.

    Reptillian beckoned to the seat next to him in response. I thanked him and sat down.

    “Not too often we see a hider join us,” Haunter commented.

    “What?” I asked. Hider?

    “You can hide your alteration,” Banshee said. Her voice was shrill, hinting at the power it contained, but right now it was also calm. “Around here, that classifies you as a hider, unlike us.”

    “Oh,” I said.

    “I wish you guys wouldn’t do that,” Sarah said.

    “I have to agree with her,” Reptillian said. “Classssifying our own kind only sssplitsss usss up.”

    “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not denying he can sit here with us,” Haunter retorted. As he said this his eyes flashed to the side for a brief moment. When I glanced in the direction he had looked, I saw he had looked at the group of three Altered, Spectrum, Rime, and Warp.

    “I remember reading of a time before Altered where the sssame thing would happen among normal people,” Reptillian said. “Ssstill doesss, and that ssstill createsss problemsss.”

    “Thanks for the history lesson,” Haunter said.

    “We’re getting them every day already,” Banshee added. “Don’t you feel lucky to get to relive the past? It’s so much more effective than reading about it.”

    Sarah sighed. “Could we talk about something else?” she asked. She looked at me. “Is there something you wanted to talk about or did you just come over because you were alone?”

    I nodded. “Yeah, actually I wanted to talk to you two,” I said, looking at Haunter and Banshee. “No offense, guys,” I added, looking at Reptillian and Sarah.

    “None taken,” Reptillian said. “It’sss busssinessss. Familiar territory for me.”

    “Is this about the job?” Banshee asked. “Black Guard said he’d be offering to have you join us.”

    “Yeah, I wanted-” I began, but Haunter’s eyes suddenly locked onto mine and lit up. An instant later I froze as an uncontrollable sense of terror overwhelmed me. It lasted only for a brief second, but in that moment the world seemed to become dark and Haunter’s face suddenly became even more monstrous; his skin seemed to peel, his teeth all became enormous fangs, and- and then it stopped.

    “Don’t talk about it,” Haunter said. “That’s part of the job. You never speak of it to anyone except us, and only when there is nobody around.”

    “That wasss mean, Haunter,” Reptillian said, chuckling somewhat. “You could have jussst covered hisss mouth.”

    “This is more permanent,” Haunter replied. “He won’t be forgetting that rule anytime soon, am I right?” He glared at me, a hint of amusement in his voice.

    I regained myself and then shook my head. “No, I won’t forget.”

    “Good,” Haunter said. “We can discuss the job later.”

    “You really don’t trust us enough even to know what job Black Guard has you doing?” Sarah asked.

    “I don’t trust anyone with that knowledge,” Haunter replied.

    “I do, but I don’t trust him enough to not scare the shit out of me if I say anything,” Banshee added. She looked at me. “Are you okay? You’re still awfully pale.”

    “I’m fine,” I said. “Just… jeez. What the hell was that?”

    “Terror glance,” Banshee explained. “And believe me, what you got wasn’t even a taste of what he can do. I’ve seen people fall into comas from that glare. And that’s after they’ve shit their pants and lost their liquid.”

    “That’s what he does? Create terror?” I asked.

    “Couldn’t you tell?” Haunter asked, grinning. With his transformation, his grin was enormous. The phrase ‘grinning from ear-to-ear’ nearly became true with him.

    “I- I just never thought you’d need more than your grin,” I said. I grimaced, realizing what I had said could easily be insulting.

    Instead, Haunter just chuckled. “My face alone doesn’t stop a gun. The stare does.”

    “I’ll remember that,” I said.

    “We can talk about the job after lunch here,” Banshee said. “Until then, let’s just talk normally. Where are you from?”

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