Los Angeles, California - 5:55pm
"G'night Sherry! Take care!"
"Good night Sher! Tell Lilly not to party too hard!"
"Good night guys! If the boss calls just let her know where I'll be!"
"Hollywood Bowl, right? Should we tell her to send flowers?"
"You guys are crazy! I'm ouuuuut!"
The twenty-something blonde skipped down the marble steps two at a time, finally releasing her hair from the tight bun she'd had it confined to for the day's lab work. As her hair collapsed to her shoulders in a cascade of golden light, catching the last remaining flashes of a setting sun, she smiled her best grin over to Lucas, the security guard who she knew was secretly crushing super hard on her. "Night Luke! I'm off to the most hardcore high school graduation party this coast will ever know!" Confused and befuddled, he only managed to mumble something about "having a good time" before he awkwardly scanned his ID card to let her out of the building. As she walked away, she pulled her compact from her purse and watched as Lucas cradled his face in his hands, beet red from embarrassment. She grinned her trademark grin and walked out.
She skipped to her car, cradling the thin white box against her chest. Inside, wrapped in a deep blue ribbon carrying the logo of the Alaric Foundation's East Los Angeles Biochemical Labs, was their lab-born miracle, the cure for unwelcome mutation. Her mind wandered off to how Lilly might react when she knew she didn't have to put up with the painful spines that adorned her body every morning, wouldn't have to take clippers all over her body just to shear them down to little buds that wouldn't poke through her clothes or stab her friends when she hugged them, how she would react when she realized that she'd be going to college a new person—No! going to college as herselfagain.
Sherry hugged the box tighter to herself, her free hand clearing the tears budding up in her eyes, the ones fogging up her glasses.
Maybe that was why she didn't notice him. The man in the coat too large and too heavy for the last remaining days of summer, the one without a car, or keys, going nowhere in particular. Or it could have been the daydreams she'd been indulging in, imagining a better life for her little sister, one far away from the girls who'd tormented her for the past year.
But in the end the "why" did not matter. As soon as she withdrew the remote from her purse, unlocked the doors to the ladybug patterned 2009 Volkswagen Beetle, she heard him. The *SCHLINK* of claws emerging from tightly drawn skin. A wild man, a beast, a wild dog looming over her, opening her rear passenger door, forcing her in, covering her mouth when she tried to scream. Still she cradled that little white box to herself, keeping it far from him when, if she had only thought a bit more clearly, she might have opened it, used its contents.
She might have lived.
Metal claws tore into her flesh, painting the worn interior of her Beetle a grisly red. She cried, but not for long. There was little joy for even him in torturing one he held no ire to. He ended her suffering quick, but the body would not suffer as little as she.
A message, writ in blood and spelled succinctly, decorated the inside of her car.
THERE IS NO DISEASE
THERE IS NO CURE
Diaz then prepared himself, knowing the body would soon be found, knowing the security tapes would show them exactly what had happened, and exactly who had done it.
He pushed the ridge of his nose to the left an extra sixteenth of an inch, sharpened the edges of his cheekbones, exaggerated them. All steps toward perfecting the facade before he showed his face to the world.
"Hope ya like yer newfound fame, pal."
He smiled a wry grin, one he made sure they caught in full, before leaving the garage and exiting onto the street. A street he knew would carry none of the surveillance equipment he had exploited moments before. An empty street. Here he withdrew the bloody latex back into himself, withdrawing another sheet of differently colored material, restructured himself into a new person, a wholly different person, before carrying on down the road.
Gotta strike while tha iron's hot, right? Well, 's about ta get a whole lot hotter.
He chortled to himself, a squelching squeak escaping before he could muster the right tone, the right voice. It was strange, trying to be human again.
Dover City, Delaware - 9:18pm
"So it's done, then."
"'s right boss. One 'er ya more prominent muties too. Notoriously violent. Shouldn' surprise nobody that he'd slice up tha lil lady."
"Very good, Diaz. As always, your 'bonus' will be waiting for you when you get back. I believe you've earned yourself some time off, Diaz. Go ahead, take a personal day or two. Find your girlfriend if you like. I'll call if we need you."
"Y'know it ain't like that boss. She's a friend's--"
"I don't care what she is Diaz. She's a failure, and failures don't interest me. Just keep your phone on."
He hung up, irritated by his executioner's uncharacteristic devotion to pursuing his useless acquaintance. Annoyed, he motioned for Mitchell to approach. His associate slunk down to meet him, still wary of the bandaged and bloody hand he waved him over with.
"Wait a few days, let the reports come in, and then schedule an appointment with the Alaric Foundation. I want to meet this Elsa Beremud, offer her my condolences on this most recent tragedy. Maybe make her see reason with regards to this cure of hers."
"I'll get on it right away, Don."
"Oh, and Herric? Send her a fruit basket. Something tasteful." He propped his elbows against the desk, cracking his knuckles against his palm, hiding a grin behind his hands. Events were finally moving in the right direction. With any luck at all it wouldn't be long before tensions finally came to a head, with humanity emerging victorious atop the piled bodies of their enemies.