Seven

Warren walked through the dense forest behind the park, pushing a low hanging branch of his way. It's been four weeks since the school cancelled classes as repairs were made and every day since Warren had walked to Alaura's house to provide her with the online homework the school posted through the internet since Alaura didn't have the expediency of a computer in her little hut.

After Warren passed the "No Trespassing" sign, he quickly located the small paved road that made a way for him. He had memorized the way to Alaura's house quickly. Every muscle and nerve in his body felt compelled to do so after what had happened at the school. It was obvious that the people who attacked took an interest in Alaura and had threatened to take her away from him.

He had to protect her from them and anyone else that would harm her. It was what he felt he was born to do, to guard this girl who was the his antithesis. She was kind in all ways, gentle, understanding and patient, while he portrayed brute force and power in all its might.

He remembered again. He was someone that never went along with someone else, always had his own way of doing thing. Yeah, he can call Will Stronghold his friend, but did they really get along? Not much. He and Warren had stopped talking long ago.

A long wolf, that's what he was. He was a loner who even the biggest bullies would be afraid of; a lion with unquenchable fire and no one dared to get close to him.

Alaura on the other hand was different. She was willing to speak to him. She could stand against his anger and power and render him useless without even lifting a finger.

"Warren!" Alaura greeted with her usual smile as she squat over some melons she was harvesting in her small vegetable garden. "You're here early today," she said standing up and patting the dirt off her clothes.

"It's my day off," he said. "So I go the homework. We can start whenever you want."

"In that case, let's start after I harvest the cucumbers. Later we can have it as a treat if you'd like."

"Vegetables as a snack?"Warren asked as he took a seat at her picnic table. "That's a first for me."

He watched her set the basket of fresh cool fruits and veggies on the table in front of him and took a cucumber for herself. He grabbed a carrot for himself and bit off the tip. He watched her and wondered if it was okay now to ask the question he's been itching to ask since school closed down.

Warren had thought about approaching Alaura about her powers and the strange people that infiltrated their school, but she was so shaken up about it several days later he held back asking.

Alaura has shown to have a low constitution to anything to do with her past. It was hard enough for her to tell Warren about her days as a little girl living alone in her cabin. These people that seemed to share a similar and cruel past frightened her. But what devastated her more was that her past wasn't at all a happy one she had dreamed. It made her wonder what was done to her body, what kinds of experiments were executed on her. She has woken up every single night since with nightmares and Warren knew that. He figured from the dark circles that have formed under her eyes and her lifeless movements usually entwined with grace.

Four weeks, he figured, should be enough time. And it wasn't like they can keep stalling for an explanation. Sooner or later the mystery had to be addressed and Warren would rather choose to go through with it with her than have it forced on her. Either way, he would stay with her every step of the way.

Warren swallowed the piece of carrot and hesitated just a little.

"Um," he started, his voice awkward and raspy. "So, can we talk about it now? That day at school, I mean."

He expected for the worse. He imagined Alaura breaking down in shivers and tears again, and he would be there for her, to put his arms around her. But she remained calm, like she always was, but he could tell she wasn't fine with it. She held her breath and her posture was stiff. He saw her gently bit the corner of her bottom lip and her hands were curled up in a white-knuckled fist, frustrated and nervous. He was ready to let the topic drop when she finally sighed and said, "I suppose its unavoidable. And you are right. I'd rather have this suppressing shadow lifted."

She paused, thinking of how to have this conversation with as small amount of pain as possible. Warren waited more patiently than he had ever waited before. They would take this easily, going at a pace comfortable for her. And if she wasn't ready, that was fine by him. They would pick up the subject whenever she was ready, and he knew she would. Alaura Decem was no coward.

"I have a secret," she said quietly as if she didn't want him to hear, but unconsciously she channeled the voice waves to his ears like she did everyday in the noisy cafeteria. "Unlike most Heroes and Sidekicks and even Villains, I posses two different powers."

"But that woman said you have at least twenty," Warren said a bit too hastily. Alaura's head slumped as if she didn't want to be seen by him.

After a dry gulp, Alaura continued. "My main power is acoustic location. I have complete control of that one, but other power is quite unstable." She hesitated. "My second power is the ability to copy other powers. It's like I'm a power magnet. I possess the power even if I don't know what it is. I only need to be close to a person with a power to learn it. Of course the copied powers are unstable. Most of the time I don't have control over it and sometimes I can only manifest it a little. Too much and it can cease to work or rebound against me. You can see it's very dangerous."

Warren contemplated what she had just said. He rubbed his fingers against his chin out of habit and nodded as he understood. Alaura just became even more amazing than he had thought her to be. He looked over at her with warm amber eyes and grinned handsomely. She looked so worried about him finding all this out. How would she react if he told her he would never leave her, which he would never think about doing. But he wasn't going to tell her, it was way too embarrassing and not to mention, cheesy.

"So have you been working on any new powers lately?" he asked, nonchalantly, hoping that it would help sooth her. It worked. She finally relaxed.

"Yes, I've been working on Victoria's powers," she answered. "She's the woman that was at the school. Her power is mind reading and I find mental powers are easier for me to master than physical ones. The risk of backfire is incredibly slimmer. So far though, I've only been able to work out emotions instead of actual thoughts, but its good progress," she said enthusiastically.

"That's good," an all too familiar voice said as Darien emerged from the woods with the rest of his team.

Warren leaped up from his seat defensively, keeping Alaura well hidden behind his broad back. His hands burst into flames and smoke sizzled from him.

Victoria stood defensively next to Darien with a large dagger ready to slice Warren into bits. All Darien did though was hold both his hands up, palms facing Warren, as a sign of surrender.

"Woah, there, calm down flame boy," he said, strolling lazily toward Warren. "We're not here to do any harm. We just want to talk with Alaura there. She's still one of us, though she did betray us. But that doesn't matter. She didn't know."

"What the hell are you doing here?" Warren hissed angrily through his clenched teeth.

Darien chuckled. "Now, just calm down, Warren, like I said, we just want to talk. I promise none of us will lay a hand on her or hurt a hair on her head. If we do you have the right to throw as many fire balls at us as you want. Deal?" Darien held out right hand, his left still in the air.

"What he says is true," Alaura said. She felt his sincerity with her newly acquired power. "They're not here to hurt."

Warren hesitantly simmered down the fire in his hands and clamped his fingers around Darien's while they were still as hot as coals.

"Deal," he said strictly. "Now sit," he commanded as he shoved Darien at the table.

Victoria leapt up to throw a punch at him, her fist clenched and her red hair burning with fury, but all Darien did was hold a hand up at her and she stopped in her tracks.

"Right," Darien groaned as he pulled himself up to the wooden bench. "You've got quite an arm there kid. Why don't you sit too?"

Warren didn't budge.

"Fine by me," Darien commented Warren's stubbornness. "We're here to talk to Alura about that experiment thing we didn't finish last time. Is that alright with you, sister?" he asked Alaura, gesturing to her with his hand.

"She isn't your sister," Warren growled.

"She might not be to you, but we see it that way. I'll explain. You see about ten or fifteen years ago these scientists decided to do an experiment with the human brain. None of us are sure exactly what kinds of experiments were performed. When we were in the lab we were drugged most of the time and it seems as if part of our memories were wiped away."

"From the time I first remembered, I had amnesia," Alaura added.

Darien nodded to her comment. It was possible that someone had intentionally brainwashed her to forget what happened at the lab.

"These scientists picked people off the streets, the homeless, run away teenagers, orphans, junkies, anybody and tricked them into allowing them to be experimented upon. They drugged us, injecting alien substances in us, and if we didn't give them the result they wanted they threw us away back into the streets.

"There were many more of us. Children, teenagers, middle aged people, and the elderly. They either died from all the sick minded games they made us play or thrown out and we never see them again. They perverted our bodies and treated us like junk afterwards. Fortunately, one day someone decided to break into the lab and destroy everything. Four of us stayed together, and Alonzo joined us quickly afterwards. We tried to track the others and find out what exactly those scientists were trying to do.

"After years of searching, we found only one clue," he said.

"Sky High," Alaura whispered. She felt the dark hatred that grew in their hearts and she understood, but that didn't ease her nightmares from becoming reality. Instinctively, she clung onto Warren's shirt from behind, feeling his assuring warmth.

"Exactly. Sky High is the school of superheroes and super villains, its obvious it's more than just a school. It's an icon. It's where important things are held. We want that. We want the answer. Why us? What did they do to us? What will happen to us? We should have the right to know," he said, showing anger for the first time. Darien's fist was clenched so tightly, his knuckles became white.

"I understand how you feel, Darien," Alaura said softly.

Darien looked up at her, protected by Warren. A striking smiled tugged at the corner of his lips. He stood up, ignored Warren's warning glares and took Alaura's hand. "I knew you would," he said. "You are one of us after all. Come with us. We'll figure it out together."

Alaura seemed to peer right through him. She shook her head. "No. I understand how you all feel, but I can't do things the you do. I'm afraid. I'm still a student at Sky High. I can't go with you." she paused as a wave of guilt passed through her. "Please don't think that I don't care," she whispered ghostly. "I want to know what was done to me also. I'll try to help in my own way. You don't need to be afraid of Warren telling anyways.

Both Darien and Warren heard the distress in her voice and Darien backed off. "I believe you, Alaura. We're in the same boat. I'll respect your decision, but the time to act is coming soon. Here," he said and handed Alaura a cell phone. "If you need to contact us use that. Alonzo made it. The only other receiver is with us."

"Thank you." She clutched the black phone tightly.

"It's nothing," he said as he turned around and headed for the forest where he emerged from. "I consider us family. Call us whenever. Toodles."

The others followed suit quietly and disappeared after him. Victoria took a long sharp look at Alaura until Alonzo took her by the shoulders.

"Let's go, caro," he said in his heavy Italian accent as he put a possessive hand behind the small of Victoria's back.

"See ya'round," Casper said and tipped his hat down. And large burly Leon left without a word.

After Alaura confirmed they've left, Warren finally relaxed and sat down on the table. He felt like a gigantic weight was just lifted off of him. He turned around and gently wrapped his long fingers around the hand she placed on his back. They were cold a trembled.

"Are you okay," he asked softly, his voice thick with concern.

All Alaura could manage was a slight nod.

"Thank you for worrying," she said softly, almost like she was weeping quietly.

"Come here and sit down," he whispered.

He led her to the picnic table and ushered her to sit on the table top while he remained standing. Gently, he took the phone from her and set it down. His hand came back to hers. He smoothed his thumb over her soft hand and whispered assuring words to her. He promised her everything was going to be alright and that she wasn't alone, that he was with her. She started to sob quietly, allowing only whimpers to escape every once and awhile.

The truth was too devastating. Darien had come to offer help and sanctuary only to prove that her nightmares had been reality. Somewhere in the back of Alaura's mind she remembered and inkling of the horrifying feeling of needles piercing into her body. She reached behind her neck and felt the small circular scar she had always wondered how she got. Now it was clear.

Tears began to fall and Warren felt so guilty for not being able to do anything more than hold her hand. He wished he brought some kind of handkerchief, tissue, or napkin so he could offer it to her to wipe the tears away, but all he continued to do was rub his thumb in circles on her hand. He leaned into her, letting her head rest again his shoulder as his continued his litany of comforting words. He stood with her until sunset when she had fallen asleep with her cheeks still wet from tears.

Warren carried her into her cabin and set her on her bed and covered her up with her quilts and wool blankets. Before he left he heard her crying again and with a heavy heart he closed the door behind him and walked back home. Today was the worst day ever.


The tension's on! Review! :D

I hope a good midterm cramming session to you all!

RueLin