Chapter 1: The File, Part 1
VOLUME ONE: FLUX: Freedom
Alex crept down the stark white hallways lit with generic compact florescent lighting. The tile echoed every whisper of her careful, quick movement. A dark line beneath each office door gave away the emptiness of the building. She slowed her elegant stride as a corner approached and pressed her pointed ear to the wall. Alex heard no vibrations and carefully peeked one dark eye around the corner. An empty row of office doors stared back. She continued down three more vacant corridors, exact copies of the previous, as if hallways could be mass produced. Her mental map guided her through the winding maze until she finally faced the door number 1672.
Alex flicked a lock-pick set out of the sleeve of her maroon leather jacket and manipulated the lock. The lights wavered as the local magnetic pole fluctuated wildly. Her ears twitched as the tumblers clicked into place and she rotated the makeshift key until the dead bolt released. The door made a whooshing sound as it swung open into the darkened room. Her slight frame slipped through and she closed the door.
Her eyes adjusted to the dark, quickly taking in a large office desk and a few chairs. The heel of her boot tapped against the wooden floor with every step. Alex pulled a crowbar from a slender pocket on the inside of her coat. A strange thing to carry in a pocket, but it suited her purposes for this mission.
She pushed the large cherry wood desk aside and set to prying up the thick oak floorboards. Underneath lay a liner of green padding that Alex tore up easily. Below that, a few metal slats crisscrossed, leaving holes about as big as her leg. She set the crowbar between two slats and leaned into it, her weight barely enough to budge it. She looked around for something heavy and decided on the executive office desk. Alex yanked at it until the desk slid with an angry noise across the floor. She pushed on it from the other side, using the wall as leverage, until it was close enough to the hole. She lifted up the end of the desk with a grunt and set it down on the edge of the crowbar. The metal slat bent slightly. Frowning, Alex slammed her fist down on the desk. The metal slat groaned as it gave way, finally making the hole big enough for her to fit through.
The sudden noise made her pause, she listened for any movement on the building floor, but she heard none. Sitting at the edge of the hole, Alex dangled her feet inside, feeling for any other obstacles. A few wires and conduits blocked her path, which she pushed aside with one foot. Alex pulled herself back out of the hole, then crouched down low over it. She produced two large glowing vials of otherworldly liquid from her chest pocket, one green, one purple, each half full. After pouring the green into the purple and swirling it, the solution began to bubble. Alex leaned down into the hole and leaked the liquid in the vial in a complete circle on the ceiling of the room below. The liquid glinted off the conduit between the floors. She pulled back and waited. After thirty seconds, luminous pink smoke billowed from the hole. With one hand, she waved the smell away from her face. It reminded her of grapefruit. After the gas cleared, Alex lowered her slender body in. The acid ate its way through the ceiling below. She tested her weight on the metal ceiling circle, it detached and fell into the room hitting the tile with a clang.
Alex hung low with her feet down into the room, putting the least amount of space between her and the floor. She let go, keeping her knees bent and braced for impact. Alex dropped three meters and when she hit, she rolled down to her shoulder and off to the side, absorbing the impact.
Peering into the darkness, her elite eyes adjusted to the near blackness. File cabinets lined the room on all of its walls except one, which had a large metal door leading to the hall. She flipped her burgundy braided hair back over her shoulder, examining the labels of each drawer. She spotted her mark, drawer number 114058 listed on its label. Her hand clasped around the cold metal handle. Alex's ears twitched and she paused. Footsteps plodded from behind the door and down the hall. Probably just a guard.
She slowly opened the metal drawer, careful not to make a sound, and thumbed through the manila files. The plodding footfalls stopped outside her door. Alex swung a look back as the door handle wiggled. Her fingers twitched above the sonic pistol at her hip. It wouldn't work this close to the surface and with the magnetic pole interference. She forced her hand away from the useless weapon. She elected instead for a knife from her belt.
How could she have been followed? Maybe she wasn't. Maybe it's just a guard doing his rounds and making sure it was locked. Alex focused back on the drawer. She still had enough time to flee, since it took a while to open these vault doors. Even if time ran short, she could take him out quietly and still be out of the building before his body was found.
She found the file marked "114199 McCormac/Evans", pulled it, and shoved it into her inner coat pocket. The door behind her creaked slightly, as if the person on the other side was leaning against it. A faint orange glow shrouded the room. Alex looked back to see red hot spots forming next to the hinges of the metal door. Not a guard.
She scanned the file cabinet again, this time spotting one labeled "730000-810000". The drawer opened with a ping. She hoped it had not alerted the person outside the door. Her heart started to beat quicker as she checked her touch powered watch, which ran off the electronegativity of her skin and body heat. She realized her time was almost up. Alex flipped through each file with her index finger until she came across "731207 Athena".
The door behind her broke free of its melted hinges and clattered to the floor; the hallway behind echoed its demise. Florescent light filtered through the room behind the silhouette of a tall man with scruffy dark hair. His blue eyes betrayed little of his intent, but a smile touched his lips beneath his beard as he surveyed the broken door at his feet. He smacked his hands together as if finished with a handy job. Then, spotting her, his right hand quickly extended in her direction as if throwing a Frisbee, and the air lit up in front of him. A glowing ball of fire the size of a baseball launched in her direction. The sudden brightness reflected off her eyes like a cat. She dropped down into a crouch and the fireball just missed. It flew into a file cabinet behind her. She sprung up, grabbed the Athena file, and rolled to the side, dodging another fireball.
Alex hurled a knife as she recovered from the roll, it sailed with lightning speed and stuck true in his shoulder with a solid thunk. The man swore a curse as the momentum of the knife knocked him a step back into the hall.
The man's left hand caught the edge of the door. He launched himself back into the room towards her. The light from the burning files flickered off the blood trickling down his limp right arm.
"Whoa, whoa, wait up darlin'. I'm not a guard, and you obviously aren't. You're all dressed in black and such. Let's work together here," he said with a strange twang to his voice.
Alex stood slowly, analyzing his face, searching for any hint of hostility. There was none. "Fine, I'm finished here anyways, it's all yours."
His eyes flicked to the open burning file cabinet. "You haven't by chance got the "Athena" file do you?"
Her eyebrows raised in surprise. That was the word she had killed many to hear. How could he know and say it so easily? Alex quickly caught her expression and fixed it to be unreadable. She shrugged as if she didn't know what he was talking about.
The man took two quick large strides towards her and grabbed her arm before she could slip away. His blue eyes burned into her. "Give it here hybrid, you have no idea how important this is."
He had no idea how important this was to her. Her ears twitched as footsteps echoed off from down the hall.
He shook her arm. "Giv"
"Shh. Someone's coming."
"Great, give it to me and then get out of here. You won't even have to get in trouble," he whispered gruffly.
She stared hard back into his blue eyes. "No," she hissed.
"What do you need with it anyway, hybrid? Go back to the sea and leave the heavy lifting to the big boys."
Her face flushed angrily and with a fiery gaze. "No. Why don't you go back to the sea, human?"
The heat of her voice seemed to amuse him, but only for a moment. Alex saw his determined action, like a tidal wave over an island. He grabbed at her coat where the file was strapped securely to the inside. She quickly spun away and wacked the knife deeper into his shoulder with her elbow. The man grunted and shied away.
A glance up told her she was just beneath the hole in the ceiling.
"I will burn you alive and take it from your ashes if I have to," he whispered a little too loudly for her comfort.
"And the fact that the file is flammable doesn't bother you?"
"At least you won't have it, hybrid scum."
Alex glared back. "Stupid human." She crouched down low. "Hope you enjoy holding up the guards for me." Pushing as hard as she could on the ground, she sprung up straight in the air and caught hold of the jagged metal edges of the hole in the ceiling, the edge cutting into the palms of her fingerless leather gloves. Alex hauled herself up and looked back down into the hole. The light cast weird shadows across the scruffy man's face and his gaping mouth that quickly turned into an angry frown. A fireball followed and she ducked to the side. It hit the ceiling above her, which caught on fire and lit the room in a warm glow.
"Thanks for the light." She smiled then stepped up into the office, and with one arm, swiped all the stuff off the desk, including the lamp that cracked as it hit the floor. She laid out the many pages of each file across the desk and set to scanning them with her eyes, committing each to memory.
Each page held an important secret. At the top the letterhead of ELG, Elite Legacy Genetics, was printed across the top of the page.
Smoke lingered up from below as the fire went out of control. A fireball hit the hole, lighting it in flames. He was taking the ceiling out from below.
The fire in the hole now raged until the room was bright. From below, a guard shouted in surprise and called in for back up, then a loud thud and a crunch of bones. Alex heard footsteps running down the hall.
The air got smokier, inhibiting her ability to see and breathe. After finishing the quick scan of the files, Alex took all the pages up in both hands and threw them down the fiery hole. She watched the fire lick at the edges of each paper, the paper curling and blackening as it was consumed into ashes.