FUSION

In the near future Britain will face Armageddon and one girl will fight to save its rebirth from epic destruction.

In a Network of failing wealth, high school graduates compete to avoid becoming Outcasts: a revolt of failed Recruits being extracted to die in apocalyptic ruins.

When seventeen-year-old Serena Knight is targeted by demons and thrust into a government intent on supremacy, her future disappears. She meets Kit, a slayer from an unseen realm, continually haunted by his past of sins whose aim is to keep her alive. But when her father is kidnapped and secrets exposed, surviving not only matters for Serena's sake, but her entire family’s.

Now Serena must learn mortal combat, finding support from Kit in their hunt for clues behind an android army, a prophesied bloodline and the story of Recruitment. But the government has been lying about their plans for domination, and Kit has secrets of his own that could affect everything.

*Could be considered Divergent/TMI fan-fic*

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4. Chapter Three

 

Serena woke in a soft double bed. The room was lit by a lamp on a side table; the walls were decorated with a mixture of wooden panels. The flooring was laminate and cold to her feet. Her body ached from endurance it wasn’t used to and screamed against crusade. She should have been surprised not to have slept in her own bed, but instead she was angry.

Her boots were in the corner; she tugged them on as she wondered who’d taken them off, who’d put her to bed. Jet would have been adamant in his opposition to let the Guardians take her but compared to their fierce temperance and weapons, he would have failed miserably.

And her parent’s would be furious to find she wasn’t home.

In the hall was an unoccupied chair, a hallway that stretched both ways and countless doors on either side. Blue lights bled from the ceiling. The sound of grunts and clashing metal resonated from the left. Serena followed it.

Some doors were steel with unusual scanners beside them. There was no response when she pressed her thumb to one, and a red cross rejected entry when her eyes were scanned.

She walked by open bedrooms, storage cupboards, and a few classrooms fitted with American-styled desks and interactive displays on the art of crystal use.
                Shadows pirouetted combat over the carpeted entrance ahead. Kit and Xav fought with swords, slamming the blades together and jabbing powerful blows. Sweat beaded their bare chests. Xav was slightly darker than his opponent but Kit was lithe and speedy, discerning each of Xav’s movements before he’d even made them. His bottoms rode low on his hips, accented by the V of his pelvis. He swung at Xav, and the blade cut a sharp line toward his left shoulder; Xav knocked it back just in time and executed a back flip. Serena gasped at his ease, but they didn’t seem to hear.
                Kit tilted his head, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. He was in good shape but refused to let his tire show.
                “We can call it a truce,” he offered as he studied his weapon with bored eyes.
                “No way.” Xav took a deep breath and shifted to an attack stance. “It’s about time I managed to beat you.”
                “If you say so.”
                “Don’t get cocky.”
                “It would be against my nature.”
                Xav leered forward but Kit leapt over him and landed gracefully on his other side. Xav jabbed his elbow back but Kit moved in a blur of speed, suddenly on the other side of the room.
                Xav scowled. “That’s an unfair advantage.”
                “It’s also an advantage many demons have.” Kit’s voice echoed across the room as he bent to snatch a bottle of water from the floor. “You need to be able to assess their moves, their skills, to be able to regain a fast response and catch them out.”
                “But we don’t hunt solo, we’re always in groups, we’ll corner them.”
                “Yes, but there’s always the possibility of getting separated. Do you really want to be confronted alone and have a low chance of surviving? Because that’s what’s going to happen if you don’t learn the Faction’s ways.”
                Xav nodded and closed the distance between them. His face was flushed but he’d caught his breath and now his shoulders didn’t sag as much. “It really takes it out of you, this training.”
                Kit shrugged. “I wouldn’t know anymore.”
                The door slammed into the wall, caught by a gust from the open window.

Xav grinned when he saw Serena. “You’re up,” he said. “Glad to see you have some colour in your cheeks. How’re you feeling?”
                “Confused,” she told him. “Worried. Tired. Hungry.”

It was difficult not to snipe. She didn’t know whether to call her situation a kidnapping because logically the Manor was in MC1. But if no one knew of their existence, if the Guardians were an independent group, maybe they didn’t have to comply. That thought was worrying. They could do whatever they wanted. And what with the Outcasts disappearing, would her absence even be cared for?

Xav mounted his sword on the wall. Kit disappeared into an adjoining room without a word. A shower turned on. He hadn’t even looked at Serena, perhaps he was feeling guilty for her presence, but his cold exterior said otherwise. And that made her furious.

Judging by the grey sky, Serena guessed it was early Saturday morning. And that meant residents were preparing for Recruitment. She looked down at her muddy jeans, she’d need to go home and change. By no means could she miss the sign-up. Being an Outcast was not an option.

Xav pulled a shirt over his head. Serena envied that he needn’t worry about homelessness or job security, it seemed the Manor gave a pretty decent shelter. But what he did, killing malevolent beings, was something she could never do. Something the people of the Network would certainly avoid all together if they knew about. But Xav looked no older than Serena and it made her wonder how much his life differed from hers.

“Sorry you didn’t beat him,” she said to avoid that route. “He was really fast.”

Xav turned round. “Excuse me?”

“Kit,” Serena said. “You didn’t manage to beat him.”

“Oh right, yeah. He’s got the upper hand when it comes to speed.”

“With more training, I’m sure you’ll be as quick.” But something about Kit seemed extraordinary and made her question how that kind of speed was possible. Even sentries couldn’t move that fast and they trained all the time.

“I seriously doubt that,” Xav said. “He’s different to the rest of us.”

“How do you mean?”

“You’ll have to ask him.”

“Like that will happen.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think we’re very compatible. You saw the way he just walked out. I don’t think he likes me much.”

Xav nodded, leant against the wall with folded arms. Steam billowed out from beneath the door behind him. Serena pushed her imagination from wondering at the sight inside. Being out of the Network was messing with her head.

“Do you know when I’ll get to go home?” she asked. “I really need to be somewhere soon.”

“It shouldn’t be long. Cornelia’s been up all night deciding what to do with you. As soon as you’ve met with her, you should be free to go. I’ll see if she’s ready when Kit’s out.”

Heavy red curtains stretched across the longest wall. Below the window on the right-hand side, tree tops stretched their arms. A bird landed on a branch, tending to its feathers. Serena peered out then startled.

The trees just barely met Wall height. For the first time ever, she could see the view. It was right in front of her.

But she never got to see.

Xav pushed her out the way, locking a metal blind in place.

“It’s best you don’t,” he apologised. “There are things out there better left unknown. Not everything’s as . . . reserved as what you saw tonight.”

She bit her tongue from asking what he meant. She needed to remain calm, needed to remember her place. If Xav said no, that was fine. It was his wish to be respected, but that still didn’t stop her fists from clenching.

The shower stopped a moment later and Kit entered the room. He had towel round his waist and another in hand which he used to dry his hair.

“Oh,” he said when he noticed Serena. “You’re still here.”

It was the kind of thing she expected to hear from a thug in LC1. His hostility would fit in there. She brushed it off, unwilling to show just how out of place she felt.

Serena shot Xav a knowing glance, but he just shrugged and made to leave. “I’ll leave you two to it,” he said, and then disappeared down the hall.
                Kit shook his head and muttered something under his breath. It didn’t sound pleasant. He pressed a button on the wall and the curtains pulled back. They hid a very long mirror like the ones in ballet studios. Kit collected Xav’s sword and pressed his thumb to the mirrors edge. The entire length slid away to reveal a large assortment of weapons.. It looked like a warehouse of armoury.
                “Whoa. What’s all that for?”
                Kit looked at her like she was insane for asking. She couldn’t imagine how silly she must seem among killer munitions that were as normal to him as a knife and fork.

“Slaying,” he finally answered, placing the sword on a bracket. “Protection.”
                “Why are there so many?”
                “Because a lot of people live here—we need to be prepared for anything.”
                But what she really meant was why were there so many different types. She’d only ever known of guns and knives to exist. All these other spikey objects were a mystery.
                “So, how many people actually live here?”

“Around a hundred or so, but before the apocalypse it used to be much more.”

“And do you?” she asked, “live here?”

He tensed, stared at the artillery. “I suppose now I do.”

She watched him with keen eyes, waited for him to explain, but he never did, he stood tall and motionless, a statue of history in a room prepared for war.

She covered her face when she realised he was still in his towel. Water dripped from his chin and down his chest in a slow tease.

“Oh God. I’m sorry.”
                “For what?” She heard that smug purr in his voice.  “Am I making you feel uncomfortable?”
                “No, not at all, I just love to stand around half naked strangers. Please, go ahead, drop the towel. Be at one with nature.”

“If you say so.”

“No. Don’t!”

He sighed. “Make up your mind.”

 “Just go get dressed before things get worse.”
                “How could that possibly happen?”
                “Don’t play games.”
                “It’s hurtful to insult ones manhood.”
                “Kit!”
                “Alright, I’m going. But don’t touch any of those.” She peered between her fingers to see him point at the garage of mass destruction. “Looking only, okay? I don’t want to come back and find you’ve impaled yourself.”
                “Right now that seems like a pretty good idea.”
                “Not to me.”
                Blades, daggers, knives and swords were all bejewelled with different coloured crystals. There were Taser ropes, pumpkin bombs, gold laced whips and stakes recommended for use against vampires.

There was also a collection of silver powder and bullets for use against the Loup Garou (werewolves), and something bottled called Fairy Light. The selection was endless, and Serena was only half way through looking when something caught her eye: a pair of fingerless gloves.

They had pointed gold studs engraved with crosses on the knuckles and a flat crystal fitted in the palm. Serena studied it, touched it. The four studs fired into the far wall, tearing the air apart in their trajectory like turbo jets.
                Xav leapt out of the way just in time. “Nice work. Now I know you do the complete opposite of what you’re told, I’ll be sure to bear that in mind.”
                Serena placed the gloves back on the shelf, head bowed in shame.
                “Let’s go.” He held the door open. “Cornelia wants to see you and she doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

 

Cornelia McDermott was not an angry woman though it was true to say she was short-fused when it came to the little things. She sat behind a desk that held her name on a plaque, setting pieces of paper on fire, and throwing them into the air before they disintegrated. The act seemed crazy, but Xav informed Serena the paper would reform when it reached its receiver (it avoided loss and tampering through this method).
                Cornelia wore a smart suit with shiny shoes and possessed a stern face with many worry lines. She reprimanded Xav for not being more prompt.
                “Apologies,” he said, “Serena only just woke up and Kit and I were in the training room.”
                Cornelia gave a flick of her wrist, dismissing the excuse. Luna stood by a very large bookcase, hands behind her back, eyes on the ground. Her behaviour made Serena anxious.

The office was well organised, but held its fair share of unusual articles. In some ways it appeared more like a gallery with ancient artefacts and antiques preserved in glass cabinets. Candelabras lit the room and there was an old text open on a stand by the window. A pile of maps littered a rectangular table and on the far side of the room, by the door, was a crystal ball.
                Cornelia set down her quill and burned another sheet of paper before finally standing. “Serena Knight, I presume?”

Cornelia seemed the type of woman who always liked to be right. “You look so much like your mother.” She considered Serena’s face with deep curiosity. “Not so much like old Henry, though.”
                Serena’s eyes widened. “You knew my parents?”
                “Of course, we were in the same Guardian group, though that was a long time ago now. It’s been nearly thirty years since we graduated.”
                Serena stood motionless. Cornelia was serious.

“Judging by the look on your face, I assume you didn’t know.”

Serena thought about all the stories her parents had told, of how they’d been close like she and Jet, grown up together and faced Recruitment as a team. Their jobs were quite admired within the Network; it didn’t make sense that they could have earned them without recruiting. There was no way that was possible.

They had relics of their youth stored away, they couldn’t be faked. And what of their house? It wasn’t huge but it was bigger than most. They weren’t just handed out to people unworthy.

Someone was lying.

“So my mum and dad, used to be like you, killing demons?”

Cornelia bobbed her head.

“How is that possible?”

“The Colony allows its potential Guardians the chance of resigning at sixteen, those who choose to leave live with a Host—that’s a retired Guardian who lives within the Network—until they’re eighteen. Hosts are Guardians who fulfilled their service and retired to live the life of humans. They take care of the young leavers until they’re ready to do the same. If they pass, they essentially become a resident; if they fail it’s up to the Host to decide whether they wish to support the Outcast.”

“But every person in the Network is logged into a computer that checks authenticity. How could a Guardian get past that?”

“My dear, you underestimate us.” A smile tugged at Cornelia’s thin lips. “Our ex-Guardians who have accomplished authority in the Network add their identities to the database.”

“So they did Recruit,” Serena whispered to herself, relieved that her parent’s hadn’t lied on that account. That was until Cornelia spoke again.

“Your parents didn’t leave us until the age of twenty-eight. Many Guardians don’t resign nowadays because Recruitment is a hard feat for someone who isn’t accustomed to that lifestyle. Many become Outcasts with no Host to support them. Your parents made the choice to graduate with us. They spent two years in our realm refining their skills. After graduation, Guardians give ten full years of service, with the privilege of moving to and from all Districts—something your mother indulged in frequently. It wasn’t until your parents reconvened at the end of their tenth year that they made the decision to retire. Our people in the Network organised everything for them. I think it was Roe who helped them.”

“My godfather.”

“You have to understand that they were under an oath never to divulge their prior lives with anyone. It’s not so much of a problem in today’s society, but in the Old World revealing ones identity was a big mistake. It’s hard to stop using invisibility and crystals cold turkey.”

“So my mother travelled,” Serena rubbed her temples, collapsed into the velvet chair opposite the desk. “Why did she go without my dad?”

“I assume they weren’t close at the time.”

“But they grew up together, right? They were best friends.”

The Regent hesitated.  “There’ve been thousands of Guardians crowding these halls throughout the years. It’s hard to keep up.”

“So where did she go?”

“Everywhere. Your mother was a very special Guardian. She travelled to nearly every Manor across the country, learning techniques, skills and building alliances with others. A lot happened in her life and toward the end it wasn’t too good. I think that was what brought her back here, back home: the turmoil.”

“What happened to her?”

“Something no woman should ever have to endure.”
                At some point Luna must have left because now she returned with water and a selection of biscuits. “Cooks gone to bed,” she said, setting the crockery down.  Serena looked to Cornelia but she’d turned away, done with the conversation for now. “I hope you don’t mind but we cleanse our water with crystals; it’s a better remedy.”

“Why?”
                “Crystals have a very high vibrational frequency. They bring anything within a certain range up to their equal vibrations.”

The water looked normal enough, even if it seemed to have a slight shimmer. Serena sipped it apprehensively; it tasted pure, filtered.
                “We have crystals in all the rooms, on our clothes, in our weapons; they share their power to aid us.”
                “They also make your mind more alert,” Xav said. “So drink up.”
                “You see, Serena,” said Cornelia, “crystals respond to ones thoughts and emotions, they interact with the mind—a kind of understanding is made between them and the bearer. For example, this crystal here may not work for you in the same way it does for me.” She picked up a piece of aquamarine and turned it between her wrinkled palms. “For me it might reduce stress and heighten my intuition, whereas with you, one of its benefits could be . . . dealing with fears.” She put it down when Serena shrank away. “They boost the energy of thought, emotional power, and are very good for reducing stress and pain. All members of the Colony carry them for this reason, so they don’t become too vulnerable in slayings.”
                Serena noted the collection of crystals around the desk; they didn’t seem that special. “How do they work?”

“Ancient peoples believed that rocks and stones were inhabited by spirits and were therefore sacred beings. In sixteen-oh-nine, a court physician wrote of good and bad angels who ‘by the special grace of God and the preservation of man were able to enter precious stones—to guard them from danger.’”
                Serena examined a red crystal.

“They give a temporary power or ability,” Cornelia continued. “For instance the one you’re holding will accelerate healing.  It can reduce its time by inhuman standards—a small scratch that takes days to heal can take mere seconds.”

There was a minute’s silence before Serena asked, “So what happens next? When can I go home?”
                Cornelia arranged some documents. “I’m looking into your situation but little can be done in terms of hiding you away. Luna tells me you have your Recruitment this morning. Have you chosen your Class?”
                “M-C-One.”

“Ah.” Cornelia rubbed her neck.
                “Is there a problem?”
                “You live there already; it’ll be the main searching ground for the Faction over the next few days. It won’t be safe if you stay.”
                Serena felt her stomach drop. “So you want me to choose another Class?”
                “It’s better that way.”
                She couldn’t survive in another Class. What if she had to cross a road? What if Jet wasn’t there to console her? Her parents could come and visit now and then but they could never transfer over. Somehow she knew that the application process would be overlooked. “Can’t you just deal with the demons now so we can avoid all this?”
                “I wish it were that simple, but this particular Faction have their quarters built on a ley line. Ley lines mask vitality through an imbalance of energy, so we don’t know where they are.”
                So staying in MC1 not only put herself in danger, but also Jet and her parents, if they got harmed because of her, she didn’t know how she’d cope. At least her mum and dad had some ideas on how to handle themselves, being ex-Guardians they had to.
                MC2 was the most similar Class; perhaps going there wouldn’t be so bad.
                “The best place for you to go is L-C-One,” said Cornelia in a low and sombre voice. “It’s right out of the way, there’s countryside and urbanity around, you’ll be able to defend yourself and fight with them—traits that will come in handy if you ever have to tackle a demon. You’ll become braver and tougher. Your chances of survival are highest there. You did submit with them, I assume?”
                Serena shook her head no.

“I’ll get in touch with Rome in a moment and make sure you can Recruit there.”
                “If I go to L-C-One, I won’t survive. I know I won’t.”
                “Don’t bring yourself down. You’re strong. You can be brave. It’s our beliefs that affect our structure and behaviour. The ways in which we think dictate all of our perceptions. It’s your thought of not being able that tells your body so, and thus you have come to believe it.” Cornelia rose to her feet and faced the window, pulled a string so the heavy drapes drew back to reveal the view of the forest. “Have you ever heard of the Placebo Effect?”
                “No.”
                “The best known example is of a patient with an allergy to roses. This man pays a visit to his doctor and comes across an arrangement of artificial roses. The man is instantly befallen by the allergic reaction and so the doctor gives him an injection of water—this the patient does not know, believing it’s the antidote—and recuperates. His whole reaction to the roses was based upon his beliefs.” She turned to Serena. “So you can see how the mind plays tricks on you. You can do anything. It’s just a matter of changing the ways in which you think.”
                Serena understood what she was saying, but didn’t want to take it on board. The whole thing just made her panic. She sipped the crystal soaked water again. Calm washed through her.
                “I can’t make you choose what I think is right, the option is entirely up to you. Take it or leave it.”

“What if people in M-C-One get hurt because they know me?”

“They won’t. There’ll be Guardians on patrol every night.”

It wasn’t reassuring. Serena hadn’t seen them in brawls to trust the assertion. All it took was one robust demon to knock them down. She just had to trust the Guardians were capable. After all, they’d been hunting for years and Serena had never even heard of demonic existence.

“I just don’t understand why these demons think I’m an ex-Guardian,” Serena said. “It seems too coincidental what with my parents and all.”

Cornelia tilted her head to one side. “Did Kit not tell you about energies and tracker demons?”

“I guess not.”

“Every living being has its own energy, an aura. Some Guardians have innate abilities like the way some humans can communicate with spirits or predict the future. Some demons have the ability to see auras, it’s how they’ve targeted you. Your energy isn’t quite human. It’s Nephilim.”

“Neph—what?”

“Nephilim. It’s the term given to those with a mixture of mortal and angelic blood.”

“Angels?” Serena repeated. There was so much to take in. “How do you even exist?”

They were interrupted by a knock at the door. Soleil stepped in. “Sorry to interrupt but Recruitment starts in just over an hour. Serena needs to get home to collect her things.”
                Cornelia pulled her blazer together. “Very well.”
                Soleil bowed and left the room.

“Another time.” Cornelia’s hand hovered over Serena’s back as they departed the office. “Kit will accompany you home to collect your belongings. Please don’t say anything to your parents of this, its best they don’t know. It will only get them in a state and they’ll try and convince me to allow them back. Unfortunately, the laws won’t allow it.”

“But they’ll wonder why I’ve left M-C-One. They’ll be upset.”

“In life it’s the hardships that help us grow. I understand they’ll be saddened but they’ll respect your choice.” She led the way down the corridor. “And I know you’ll make the right one.”
                Sadly, so did Serena. It was her perception of right and wrong that pushed her to do a lot of things. She trailed Cornelia down the halls, walked a flight of stairs, passed bedrooms and bathrooms. The image of being condemned came to mind: the way she slouched in her walk, shuffled her feet, it was all too impending.
                Today was the day she’d waited for all her life, and now everything was about to change.
                Whether for better or worse, was all a matter of time.
                “What if Recruiting into L-C-One doesn’t work out?” she asked before they reached the others. “What if the Fallen find me?”           
                “I don’t know yet,” Cornelia admitted. “But if that happens we’ll just have to pray that we can get you out alive, before anyone gets killed.”

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