Kasper felt all the air in his lungs get pushed out as something squeezed around his gut. He gasped for air, not having time to realize that his fall to the ground had been stopped by mere inches.
Once his struggle to breath stopped, he turned around and saw Maya with her right arm around him and her other arm grabbing a rail in the elevator. Her face showed displeasure at the situation though it took her little effort to hold Kasper up. Normally she would have been amused at the ridiculous sight of him being held up like a sack of flour. As it was, she was not in a laughing mood.
Embarrassed, Kasper struggled to his feet. He stood up with his back to Maya, but she kept her arm around him.
“You can stop doing that now,” he said.
“Not even a thank you,” she said, shaking her head.
“You should have just let me hit the ground. My spine could have been injured doing that.”
“Does your spine hurt at all?”
Kasper arched his back anyway, testing his spinal health. T o his surprise, he felt nothing.
Maya motioned to her legs. They were spread far apart with the knees bent.
“Do you see what I’m doing?” she asked.
“I don’t really want to comment.”
“Don’t be gross. It’s a technique I learned to absorb the greatest amount of impact from a fall. I know it just looks like I’m bracing myself like normal, but it’s actually an elaborate position. It allows me to brace your fall as well.”
“Why not just obtain a transformation that can be used to protect against falls?”
“There’s no point in messing wasting a transformation on something I can just train my body to do.”
There was a lesson somewhere in there, but Kasper refused to learn it. Transforming still sounded appealing to him and could not understand why Maya was so hesitant to do so.
Kasper looked at the top of the elevator. The number “2” was lit.
“They didn’t drop us to the first floor,” he commented.
“I don’t think they want us crashing down into the basement. Given how old this building is, it would probably cause too much damage.”
The elevator hummed and started to slowly rise back up. The number three lit. Four soon followed.
“You think you can survive several more drops?” Maya asked.
The number "6" shone bright above them.
“I hope you’re wrong.”
What the elevator did next was predictable, but very effective.
On the top floor, Crow giggled with delight each time the elevator rose and fell. He and Aaron had switched places and he was now on the computer while his cohort lounged on the couch. With a few simple keyboard commands, the elevator would begin an automated ascent to the sixth floor and then fall, stopping right before it hit the bottom of the shaft.
“Do you have to laugh each time?” Aaron asked after the elevator finished its fourth drop.
“Don’t be a killjoy,” Crow said, looking at Aaron. “Admit it, you’ve never seen something as cool as an rigged elevator in real life.”
“I’ve seen it all, kid.”
“Unlikely. At any rate, hiring a team of engineers to set this up was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made.”
“I’ve seen our budget and I’m surprised you didn’t cut corners.”
Crow turned back to the computer. “Whatever. Let it be known I spared no expense.”
Crow input the keyboard command and he heard the elevator rising. After a few seconds, a loud screech was heard and Crow jumped in his seat. He looked at the elevator door and listened intently. Nothing.
“I question your hiring choices,” Aaron said.
“Shut up. You don’t think they got up to this floor, do you?”
“That would be bad since the elevator could drop at any moment and destroy the building, right?”
A cold sweat began to run down Crow’s back.
“And it would definitely kill the two people inside, making you liable,” Aaron continued. “Especially since there are a few engineers who could point the finger at you.”
Crow’s hands started to get clammy.
“I guess the only important question now is: how well would you do in prison?”
“Enough!” Crow yelled. “I’ve made an executive decision.” He jumped up and pointed a finger at Aaron. “Go in the elevator shaft and fetch the intruders.”
“Because you’re the most calm one here. Your stupid comments got me too riled up and now I’m in no condition to scale an elevator shaft. Normally it wouldn’t be a problem…”
Aaron tuned out whatever lie Crow was about to tell. It was true that he still kept a calm demeanor. He had seen enough in his life that little fazed him. It also meant that there were not many situations that could entertain him. His peaceful lifestyle bred boredom. Venturing into the elevator would grant him a slight reprieve from his monotonous life. It was for that reason alone that he followed Crow’s orders for the first time ever.
Aaron slowly pulled himself off the couch and walked towards the elevator.
He stood in front of it and stuck his right hand between the sliding doors.
“Make sure you knock them out before bringing them in here,” Crow said.
“Why would I attack them and then save them?”
“I don’t want them to hit me once they’re up here and recognize my voice.”
Aaron had also heard enough in his lifetime to make a man wish he did not have ears. He muttered something rather vulgar, yet creative, and forced the elevator open.
Maya looked up at the ceiling, towards where the screeching sound had come from. Her arm was still wrapped around Kasper who was slumped over.
“What do you think that was?” she asked.
“Maya, I’m so nauseous right now, I don’t care.”
Maya looked at the elevator counter and the number three was illuminated.
“They usually take us up to the sixth floor before dropping us,” she said. “Meaning…”
“The elevator’s stuck,” Kasper said, gulping back whatever his body was trying to reject.
“Isn’t sweet how we’re starting to finish each other’s sentences?” Maya said as she released her cousin. He caught himself and stumbled over to the railing and clutched it with both arms. The quiet hum of the elevator helped distract him from the storm brewing in his stomach.
She looked up and saw a small square etched on the ceiling.
“Well, there’s our emergency exit. Kasper, give me your cell phone. I’m going to use it as a light and climb up the shaft. If we’re lucky, we’ll be near a door and we can get out through it.”
“Just use your phone,” Kasper said regaining his composure a bit.
“I don’t have it on me. It doesn’t fit in my pockets and I don’t like lugging a purse around.”
“How do you call people when you need find them?”
“I’m a pretty girl. People find me.”
Kasper had no desire to extrapolate on her statement. He dug his phone out of his pocket and tossed it to her. She swiftly caught it and smiled.
“Hey, you are trusting me a bit more, Kasper.”
“Just because I gave you my phone?”
“No. You wouldn’t have tossed it to me if you didn’t think I could catch it.”
Kasper rolled his eyes and squeezed the railing tighter.
With Kasper’s phone in hand, Maya jumped on the other end of the railing and balanced herself. With the palm of her free hand up, she leapt forward and pushed the ceiling hatch open. Back on the ground, she climbed back on to the railing and made a final leap, grabbing the edge of the escape hatch. She hauled herself up and stood on the roof of the elevator.
Kasper called up to her. “My phone has a built in flashlight in the back. Just flick the switch on the right side and it should turn on.”
Maya followed his instructions and turned the light on. She pointed it up. Two stories above her head was the illuminated and annoyed face of Aaron who was climbing down the set of cables that held the elevator.
Kasper let out a small yelp at the sight of a person descending towards them.
Maya grinned up at Aaron. “See, Kasper? I told you: people find me.”
Aaron stopped his descent and remained still. He locked eyes with the chimera below him.
Aaron called out to them. “I’m here to save you.”
“That’s unexpected,” Maya said.
“But I need to render you unconscious first.”
“That’s more like it.” Maya squinted and started waving the light rapidly over Aaron, who shielded his eyes. To Kasper, it looked like she was just trying to be an annoyance. However, face in her memory was what compelled her to perform further investigation on their savior.
She finished her analysis and stopped moving the light. Her eyebrows raised high. “I thought I recognized you from somewhere. Wow, it looks like this school isn’t short on subspecies.”
“A subspecies?” Kasper asked.
“Yeah,” Maya replied. “I’ve never met him personally until now, but he’s pretty well known. He…”
For an instant, Aaron lost his composure. His body twitched in agitation. The hairs on the back of his neck raised up and his hands tightened around the elevator cables as if he were trying to strangle them. He was pretty enraged for someone who had not even met Robin yet.
The moment was over in a flash and Aaron’s command flowed through his mouth like a gentle stream. “Not another word.”
Maya was not a people pleaser like her cousin, but the malice in those words caused her to freeze for a second. However, she got over his maliciousness quickly. After all, her first instinct against any opposition was to antagonize them.
"Sorry Kasper, but our friend here is a little sensitive about his ability, mainly its drawbacks. I think spilling his secret would send him into a fit.”
Although he saw Aaron was becoming irate, Kasper was at ease. His cousin stood between him and the mysterious subspecies. Based on past experience, she was more than enough protection.
“One warning though,” Maya continued. “This is one subspecies you don’t ever want to copy.”
“Why not?” Kasper asked.
“Let’s just say you’ll regret it for a very long time.”
Kasper thought for a second and then grinned. “Well considering his life has led him into a situation where he’s feebly climbing down a dark elevator shaft, I don’t think I’d want to imitate any part of him anyway.”
Aaron growled. Undeterred by the revelation that they were chimera, he slowly began to approach them.
“Nice one Kasper.” Maya said. “However, rumor has it he’s ridiculously strong. I might not be able to stop him if he decides to obliterate you for that comment.”
Kasper’s face lost a shade of color as he looked up and realized Aaron was getting closer. His stomach tightened.
“So you’re just going to let him come down here?”
Maya sighed dramatically. “I suppose, I’ll do what I can.” She scanned her very narrow surroundings. “This should be a really interesting fight though. A small, dark area with lots of vertical space… now that I think about it, this will be pretty awesome. Not trying to exaggerate, but you might want to find the record function on this phone.”
“There is none.”
“Well then pay close attention because this battle might just make it into the history books.”
“What were you saying about exaggerating?”
Aaron climbed down the cables faster, eager to silence their inane banter. He was only one story above the two when he heard a SNAP. Something rushed past his face and collided with the wall of the elevator.
He inspected the area below him. The small amount of light from Kasper’s phone barely allowed him to realize what happened. A cable had snapped and nearly tore off his face. This would have fazed Aaron, but he had long ago decided that any major injury would have made life more interesting or at least more challenging. His boredom knew no bounds.
Kasper and Maya looked up.
“What was that?” Kasper asked.
“Elevator cable broke off,” Aaron replied.
“What! Are we in danger?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. These cables are thick and there are several of them. They take so many safety precautions when designing these things. It’s why stairs are statistically more…”
Another cable below him snapped, this time nearly severing Aaron’s right arm. He tried to regard the event with as much indifference as possible, but even he was starting to worry.
“Err, give me a second,” said Aaron as he climbed up the remaining cables as fast as he could. Once he reached the sixth floor he leapt through the open elevator door and landed in front of Crow who had been listening from a distance.
“What’s a subspecies?” Crow asked.
“Yeah…not answering that. What kind of second-rate engineers did you hire to rig this elevator?” Aaron asked.
“I found the greatest civil and mechanical engineers Los Angeles has to offer.”
They heard another cable snap.
“Well, ok, they were just some senior mechanical engineering students from this school,” Crow clarified.
Another one pinged against the sides of the elevator shaft.
“They may have been freshman mechanical engineers.”
“Freshman environmental engineers.”
Kasper’s voice echoed out from the elevator. “I think I caught the tail end of that and I feel as if some poor choices were made. Just an observation.”
Aaron and Crow looked at the shaft and then looked at each other. Crow cleared his throat and pointed towards the elevator. It did not take a deep bond of camaraderie for Aaron to understand Crow’s silent command. His general dislike sufficed.
If Aaron could have his way, he would have thrown Crow down the elevator, ordered him to save the two chimera, crossed his fingers and hoped for the best. However, he put more value in human life than his fellow Guild member. No part of his preferred scenario would have helped him sleep better at night and he was not much of a morning person to begin with.
He dragged his feet back towards the shaft, grabbed what remained of the cables and slid down. Feeling the cables as he came down, he determined that there were only about three more left. Time was running short.
Back in the elevator car, Maya was in the process of pulling Kasper up through the escape hatch. He eventually managed to scramble through and stood up.
“Is it a good idea for me to be up here with all these cords flying around?” Kasper asked.
“I’m trying to think long-term here,” Maya replied, handing him his cell phone. “Ever heard of gravity?”
A loud thud echoed as Aaron landed on the elevator next to the chimera. The sound of a cable snapping soon followed. Two were left.
Aaron raised his voice. “You kids. Climb. Now!”
"Are you strong enough to help me throw a human up a few flights?” Maya asked. She pointed to her cousin. “This one isn’t exactly an Olympic qualifier.”
Kasper’s self-preservation instinct prevented him from taking offense. Through the darkness, he stared at Aaron with hopeful eyes.
“Fine,” Aaron conceded. He had enough confidence in his physical strength. “But we have to move now. This building is old and mostly wood. I doubt it was designed with an elevator in mind. A huge impact at its base could send the whole thing crumbling down. We need to time to climb up and escape the building. We can’t afford any distractions.”
A sharp crack rang out near the sixth floor at the back wall of the shaft. Streams of light trickled in and illuminated a clenched fist. The fist retracted and a few seconds later it was replaced with Robin’s face and a mess of red hair.
“The dragon!” Maya muttered through gritted teeth.
“A dragon?” Aaron asked. “Why would a dragon approach two chimera?”
Robin looked around her new surroundings and groaned. “This is embarrassing. I forgot that there was an elevator between this side of the building and the rooms.”
The young dragon brought her feet through the opening she created and jumped down on to the car. This had the unfortunate result of relieving another cable from its duties.
“Idiot!” Maya yelled.
“So, I think I was able to hear you guys through the wall and I’m pretty up to speed on…” Robin began.
“We’re out of time!” Kasper interrupted, trying to keep everyone on track. He realized that he was the only one who needed assistance in escaping and was not keen on the idea of infighting.
The thought of Maya and Robin’s physical abilities suddenly brought back a horrible memory: the memory of several Guild members being knocked out in the basement.
"Wait,” said Kasper.
“No!” Aaron yelled.
“But the other members of your guild are still down there!”
Maya and Robin both became stone-faced. Aaron looked taken aback as well. For a brief moment, they were all silent.
Crow called down to them. “Just leave them.”
“Shut up, kid!” Aaron yelled back. He turned back to Kasper. “I hate to say it, but he may be right. There’s no guarantee we’ll survive if we try to go down there. That cable could snap any second.”
Robin gripped the wall around her and scrambled up.
Maya looked at her. “The dragon’s made her choice. Your turn Kasper.”
“But the people down there!” Kasper yelled.
Maya avoided looking Kasper in the eye and grabbed his shoulders. Aaron grasped his legs and lifted him up.
Before he knew what was happening, Kasper sailed upwards and towards the sixth floor. As he reached the apex of his flight, he quickly came to his wits to and grabbed the edge of the entrance. With his adrenaline pumping, Kasper pulled himself into the room. He then came face to face with Crow.
Crow backed away. “You’re not going to hit me, are you?”
Kasper scowled and said nothing.
The force Maya and Aaron used to toss Kasper was too much for the remaining cable. A slight whine was heard as the tension started to take its toll.
Maya and Aaron each grabbed a wall and darted towards the sixth floor. Aaron reached it first and sailed through the entrance. Maya followed close behind and just as she made it through the last cable snapped.
No one had time to brace for the inevitable impact. They did not even have time to commence with the usual bickering to which they had all grown accustomed. All four of them raced for the door, only stopping when they heard a strained voice behind them.
“I got it!” Robin yelled.
Maya and Kasper turned and ran to the elevator entrance and looked down. The small amount of light allowed them to see Robin hanging between the two broken ends of the cable, holding the elevator up. Neither had noticed that she had stayed behind.
Kasper was amazed and whispered towards Maya. “Just how strong is she?”
Back at Robin’s level, she breathed heavily and grunted. She had been born with amazing abilities, but not supernatural ones. Holding up an entire elevator was testing her limits. For one of the most talented people on the entire campus, she was running on borrowed time. Life was funny that way.
Despite her pain and intense effort, she was able to croak out a few words. “Go help them!”
Kasper looked to Maya for guidance, but she was already gone.
She slid down the wall and muttered. “Is she trying to get herself killed?”
Once she reached Robin’s level she jumped and grabbed the portion of the cable above Robin’s right hand. Reaching down, she then held the part of the cable below Robin’s left. It required her to stretch her arms far wider than the dragon and their awkward position caused their bodies to nearly get tangled as they swung around, but neither of them cared.
“You don’t think, do you?” Maya asked.
Robin grinned, some relief coming to her face now that she had help holding the elevator up. However, both women knew they could not keep up the feat forever.
“You have two minutes, Kasper!” Maya called up. “Don’t let her effort go to waste!”
He understood and looked towards Aaron and Crow.
“I’ll leave this to you,” Aaron said, eyeing an open window. He was already thinking about his own escape.
Crow smiled. “And now we have two full minutes to salvage anything valuable in here!”
“Have fun,” Aaron said and started towards the window.
Realizing they would be no help, Kasper ran to the door leading the stairs. He closed it behind him and looked at the palm of his hand. With little fanfare and even less thought, he licked his left pointer finger and placed it on his forehead.
Skin slowly sloughed off from his body. Upon seeing this happen, his heart rate increased and he inadvertently caused his skin to peel even faster. After a few seconds, the top of the stairs was flecked with his outer layer. Cleanup was not an issue since the building was about to meet a convenient demise.
Once the process ceased, Kasper looked at his arms. They definitely looked different. He was happy that there were no mirrors around because he knew the sight of himself would be too disorienting. However, even without looking at his face, he knew who he now was. He was Stephen, the school’s track star.
It had only made sense to Kasper to copy someone with high athletic abilities, especially when one had been lying unconscious in front of him. And he had done it without Maya’s permission, which was a small victory. With the clock ticking down to their demise, there was no perfect moment to try out his new ability. With Stephen’s well-toned body and speed, he would have just enough time to run downstairs wake up and escort the Guild members out of the building.
Kasper took two steps forward. The first step went well. The other left a lot to be desired.
He tumbled down the stairs only stopping when he reached the fifth floor. Trying to ignore the pain, he tried to get to his feet. This only succeeded in launching himself down another set of stairs until he hit the next floor.
The sad display went on until finally Kasper crashed into the door leading to the basement. His bruised hand reached up, undid the bolt that had kept the door locked, grabbed the knob and fell into the room.
He estimated about a minute had passed. Pain rushed all over him. He was not sure he could get the job done in a minute and prayed Maya had more physical strength than faith in his abilities. If she dropped the elevator at two minutes on the dot, he might not make it.
He looked up to survey the almost futile task that lay before him. There was not a single soul in the room.
Kasper was not sure whether to be elated or enraged. He had spent the last minute in agony for no reason. For the life of him, he could not figure out where everywhere in the basement had gone. On the other hand, now all he had to do was escape.
He picked himself up and tried to climb the stairs. Although the pain made it difficult, it was not the only force working against him. He felt Stephen’s body completely doing the exact opposite of what he intended. He fell back on to the basement floor. Taking the stairs and escaping through the front door was not an option.
Thirty seconds left. He looked at the small window in the basement. Slowly he managed to trudge towards it, barely controlling Stephen’s body. Finally he reached the bottom of the window. He now had about ten seconds to jump and pull himself through the window. He took solace in knowing that if he died the building replacing the Guild would probably be named after him.
A minute earlier, Crow scrambled to unhook the computer and figure out a way to get it out of the building safely. Right before he unhooked the monitor, he saw an image of the basement and realized no one was there. He considered running to tell Kasper, but thought better of it. He had worked long to establish his persona as the Guild’s heartless treasurer and playing the hero would have been dishonest. Besides, it had always seemed to him that other people’s troubles had a tendency to work out without his interference.
Personal problems were a different matter. Those required a bit of effort.
He turned the computer off and grabbed the desktop. He ran to the window and looked down the six stories. Aaron was already gone, but he saw his emergency escape device that he had placed in the backyard several months ago: a tall, large trampoline.
In retrospect, his plan was shortsighted.
The desktop would make a decent practice run. His weak arms lifted it up. Luckily, the trampoline sat right below the window and Crow was able to toss the desktop squarely in the center of it.
The black rectangle sunk into the trampoline before rebounding and sailing six feet across the small backyard and over the wooden fence that bordered the area. This was a promising result.
Crow heard one of the women shout from inside the elevator. On pure instinct, he scrambled on to the window frame and jumped feet first towards the trampoline.
As he sailed towards the earth, he made a quick calculation of his chances of clearing the fence. He was not heavy, but nowhere near as light as a computer’s desktop. He could either make the safe bet of landing somewhere in the backyard or try and get over the fence. The latter would save him precious seconds for his escape.
He made contact with the trampoline, bent his knees and made his decision. If his calculations were correct, he would have a seventy-percent chance of making it out of the backyard in a single leap.
Crow was almost right. Seventy-percent of his body managed to avoid contact with the fence.
The elevator fell and made contact with the bottom of the basement. The wooden structure began to break and fall apart. Its destruction was not instantaneous though fast enough that anyone close knew to get out of the way.
Kasper had managed to pull himself through the windows just a few seconds before impact. His muscles still failed to work properly. Unable to pull his body off the ground, there was little he could do but roll away. He tumbled across several yards belonging to houses on the street.
The moist grass and cool air felt refreshing as it they smothered his body. They almost made him forget that bits of debris were falling all around him. A small plank embedded itself in the grass next to his head and prompted him to continue his graceful escape.
After he felt he was clear out of range of the splinters raining from the sky, Kasper stopped in a yard several houses down and lay on his back.
There was not have much time to reflect on the state of his life. He could already hear sound of Maya and Robin’s footsteps quickly approaching. He did not even bother to turn his head: it had to be them. Peace and quiet was too much to ask for.
“Stephen!’ Maya yelled as she ran up to him. “Have you seen Kasper?”
Kasper looked at his left pointer finger. He brought it up to his mouth, licked it and touched his forehead. The skin on his face began to peel off and his own mug was revealed.
Maya let out a sigh of relief. Then, she scooped up a pile of dirt from the yard, molded it into a ball and dropped on Kasper’s face.
“Hey!” he cried out trying to avoid a mouthful of dirt.
“You idiot,” Maya said. “When did you acquire a transformation for that Stephen guy?”
“When he was passed out in front of me. When you two were checking out the elevator.”
“He’s athletic. Much more than me. I thought that maybe…”
Kasper was beginning to read the tone on Maya’s face. It was unpleasant.
“So let me get this straight, Kasper. Not only did you acquire a transformation without my permission...”
“You never said I needed your permission.”
“… you got it without my permission and even after I told you there were dozens of subspecies out there with better abilities?”
“Is there a rule stating I can’t copy regular humans?”
“No, but why would you? Now you just completely wasted an entire transformation. Happy?”
Kasper jumped up and glared at her face to face.
“No, I’m not happy,” he replied. “I almost got killed trying to save the other guild members. They weren’t even down there.”
Robin’s face turned red. “Yeah…about that…” she began. “When I was knocking them out, I made sure to only hit them so that they would be down for less than a minute. Any longer can cause brain damage.”
Maya nodded her head. “I made the same consideration.”
“I guess in the heat of the moment I just forgot to mention it,” Robin continued. “They probably were playing possum until we left the basement. Apparently they found the courage to escape once we they realized we were distracting their superiors.” She smiled weakly.
Kasper clenched his fists and groaned. He looked down and realized that he was on his feet.
“Hey, I can stand,” he said.
“And I’m guessing that’s another reason why you almost died,” Maya said. “After walking around in the same body for about twenty years, you can’t expect to walk around in another one that has a completely different weight, height, center of balance and so on.”
“Yep,” said Robin. “Dragons are lucky enough that we only have to focus on mastering our own body.”
“Of course,” said Maya, “I’m guessing you were too panicked to realize that and transform back into yourself.”
Kasper bit his lip and looked down at the ground. “Well, I did make it out five or so seconds before the elevator dropped.”
Maya pointed at Robin. “Then you’re lucky she insisted that we hold the elevator up for a few extra seconds.”
Kasper looked up at Robin. “I guess you were right to not have too much faith in me.”
“That’s not it at all,” said Robin. “I thought you were out long before we dropped it. Guess I was wrong though.”
“Then why did you two hold it up longer?”
“Well, while we were hanging there, I thought about how Maya basically saved me. Otherwise, I would have lost an arm holding that thing for everyone. So, I needed the extra time.”
Maya groaned. She knew what was coming.
“To say ‘thank you.’” Robin responded.
Maya cringed. “Alright, alright…I told you to stop acting weird,” she said. “You’re way too polite in situations like that. Besides, you were the one who grabbed the elevator cables in the first place. Just consider us even, Robin.”
Robin grinned. “The two of you are both way too impersonal. I can see how you’re related.”
Kasper looked away from both of them.
“You’re still being weird,” Maya sighed.
Sirens were heard in the distance. All three of them perked up at the sound.
“Let’s go,” Maya said. “Those guild idiots have probably fled and I’d rather the three of us not be the only ones on the scene.” She stuck her finger in Kasper’s face. “Don’t even thing about transforming again.”
Kasper scoffed. “As if I would now.”
They took off as fast as they could. Well, Maya slowed down a bit for the sake of not embarrassing her cousin too much. She hoped that holding herself back would not be a permanent arrangement.
After several blocks they stopped. Kasper leaned forward with his hands on knees and took heavy breaths. He looked about as disheveled than the crumbling remains of the guild’s former abode.
Maya looked back and could barely see anything among all the dirt and dust that the collapsing building had kicked up. She turned around and was surprised to see someone missing.
“Where did Robin go?” she asked.
Kasper shook his head, laboring to get any words out.
“Well, I’m sure she’ll turn up again.” She let out a small groan. “But we never even found out if that kraken was sent by that guild. However, I’m starting to suspect that wasn’t the case.”
“What makes you so sure?” Kasper asked, finally getting enough air back in his lungs.
“The subspecies we met in the elevator wanted nothing to do with us. I doubt he would allow a member of his guild to confront us if he knew we were chimera. And that other guy didn’t even seem to know we were chimera.” Maya shrugged. “I guess we’ll resolve the situation if ever get another lead.”
Heart thumping and his senses heightened, Kasper sniffed the air. The musty smell of dust and wood wafted from the destroyed building to his nose. The only thing counter-balancing the odor was his clothes, soggy and damp from rolling on the grass. They were ordinary scents, yet everything around him felt unnatural and foreign, as if his life was starting to take a completely unexpected direction. At the same time, his experience of transforming into Stephen afforded him an uncommon sensation: excitement.
Suffice to say, Kasper had mixed feelings about the past week. However, no one seemed to care about his feelings and he figured trying to change that was futile at best, hazardous at worst.
“Well, that’s that,” Maya said, pulling Kasper out of his thoughts. “I’ll forgive you for wasting one of your fingers on a useless transformation. We are family after all. Now, let’s stop wasting time dealing with random college students and professors and begin some real chimera training! The day’s still early, after all.”
Kasper looked down at his left pointer finger and smiled. Strictly speaking, a smile is not always indicative of happiness, but it does a good job of tricking the body into thinking that is the case. Kasper could not figure out if his emotion was real or fake, but considering it was only a matter of time before Maya’s next plan went awry, he’d take whatever happiness he could get.
As the two chimera walked back towards the campus, another conversation was going on several blocks away from them. Robin leaned against a street sign with a cell phone to her ear.
“You know those chimera I told you about?” she said into the phone. “False alarm, turns out they weren’t subspecies at all. They were just some regular people causing trouble. What? Yes, I followed them around quite thoroughly. What? No, why would I lie? You know I was raised better than that.”
She looked around the corner and saw the figures of Kasper and Maya fading into the distance.
“Of course I’m telling the truth. It’s not like I would find following around two chimera irresistibly fun… Ok. Sure. Alright, bye.”
Robin shut the phone off and stuffed it in her pocket. She looked at the campus, chuckled to herself and pursued her new friends with a completely unnecessary degree of stealth. It was more amusing that way.