Part Three

Erin stumbled off the bus and wrapped her threadbare coat tighter around her shoulders. The wind whistled around her, coating her skin in a blanket of goosebumps.

She walked into the Station, a popular hangout for the Meridiana teens. Erin shivered as she made her way through the packed bodies to an empty table near the cashier.

She plopped down in the chair with a happy sigh.

“Hey Miss Jacobs…” David grinned and sat down opposite her.

“Aaacck, don’t call me that!” Erin moaned. “If I hear ‘Miss Jacobs’ one more time, I’m gonna pop.” She flopped her head on the table. “Who’da thunk sitting in on classes would be so tough?”

David grinned. “You forget, there are people who actually have to do the homework.” He studied Erin’s comatose look. “Maybe you should go home and rest. You look pretty pooped…”

Erin groaned. “Home...Ah, bed. For a comfy, dry rest...”

David stood up and offered her a hand up. “Come on, I’ll walk ya home.”

Erin was too tired to argue, so she shrugged and followed meekly. They stepped out into the freezing night, and David turned to her suddenly. “You’re not really in university, huh? I’ll bet you aren’t 20, either.”

She jerked her head up. “Huh? Oh yeah, whatever you said. No! I mean, no, I’m in university. What do you mean?” She tried to fight down the rising panic inside her.

“Yeah? How old are you?”

“17…” she answered sleepily. “I mean 20! Shoot…”

He laughed. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. It’s just kind of obvious that you’re 17. A 20 year old wouldn’t go tramping around in *this* school.”

“Murgh. And I thought I made up a good cover story, too…”


They walked up Main next to the Meridiana Bank.

“Is this where you live?” David asked.

Erin opened her mouth to respond.

A whole host of Fixed Ideas crashed out onto the street with Jose in the lead. He spun his head around. His eyes widened at the sight of Erin, and he smacked his head. "EeeeRRrrrRRgh!! Get them, you dolts! And kill the girl! She's S12! Von Reichter wants her HEAD!"

The Fixed Ideas snarled and headed toward them.

“Dangit.” Erin snatched David’s arm and dragged him away, running as she did.

“What the heck are THOSE?!” David gasped, mouth wide open.

“Fixed Ideas. Dumb, idiotic, and they pack one HECK of a punch,” Erin replied grimly. She dragged him into a small alley. “Shoot. A cul-de-sac.” She looked around wildly, looking for a way to escape.

“You know those guys?! And what did that pipsqueak call you? S12?! What the heck does THAT mean?!” he panted, out of breath.

“I owe them some money.” Erin ignored his second question and hooked her fingernails over the edge of the bricks. Too late, A Fixed Idea found them. “Dang.” Erin closed her eyes, knowing what she was going to do would affect them all.

David gulped. “I suppose it wouldn’t do much if we asked them to give themselves up?”

Erin didn’t reply. She sighed sadly, and clenched her fists. Her claws slid out of her hands, gleaming a deadly gold.

David blinked, then blinked again in amazement and fear. “That’s it. I’m in the Twilight Zone.”

Erin/Stryk opened her eyes. The normal soft gray was replaced by a hard, shining silver. Erin jumped above the Ideas and landed right on them. “He wants me dead, does he?”

Her claws sliced neatly through the Idea’s green flesh, and the first one evaporated in a puff of smoke. She looked around. “Who’s next?”

Erin felt all the old anger at Von Reichter well up inside her. He had no right to do this to her. None. Because of his twisted little experiments she’d lost her family, her friends, her life. After this she’d probably lose the only friend she made in that school. All her energy was pent up, waiting to be released.

She raised them and released. The claws hit three Fixed Ideas before landing, leaving behind three vials of sustenance. “Von Reichter, if you want me dead than come out here and kill me yourself! Do you hear me?!” she screamed angrily at the skies.

Another Idea rushed her. Erin lowered her head and ran her hardest, hitting the Idea so hard he evaporated instantly.

There were no more left. Erin swayed a bit. Her claws retracted back into her hands. She turned to see David up against the wall, eyes wide. “Holy -”

Erin tried to smile but couldn’t. She sighed, feeling all the will to fight seeping out of her.

“What are you?” he whispered.

There was no need to lie now. “A human. Half human, half cyborg.” Erin rolled up her sleeve and exposed the circutry.

“All right, that’s offical. I’m hallucinating.” He covered his eyes.

“No, you aren’t. I’m real. Believe it or not, I’m from a lab that an insane scientist made. He…”

“Stop. I don’t want to know. You’re a freak! And I thought you were actually a…”David stood up and started backing out of the alley. Erin reached out, eyes filled with pain.

“Ohmigosh, I’m…” He turned and ran.

Erin sank down, her entire body weak. She buried her head in her arms and stayed there. She didn’t cry, she didn’t move.


Erin woke with a start. It was now offically night, and snow slid down her neck as she stood up. “Time to go prowling again,” she thought. She sighed and started walking home. “What home?” she thought bitterly. “I have no home.”

She stared across the silent city, covered in a blanket of white. “The little kids’ll love all this when they wake up,” she grinned. Everything was so peaceful, so quiet.

She reached her apartment and hung up her soggy coat. As she passed the hallway mirror, she caught a glimpse of a ragged, bruised, cut face. That was her. “The ultimate revolting girl in the whole world,” she thought sadly.

She quickly stripped off her wet clothes and slipped into her suit. “This is MY life now,”she thought grimly. “All this because of one twisted madman.”

Stryk opened her window. “Maybe I can find Cybersix and Data 7.” She steadied herself, then was gone.


Stryk flitted though the night, her eyes searching through the dark for Cybersix and Data 7. “Strange,” she said aloud, “they’re usually up and around by now.”

Her mind wandered as she searched. “I wonder where they...Oof!!”

A growling, black-and-gold tiger tackled her and pinned her shoulders to the ground, snarling.

“Gleep. I suppose you’re a relative of Data 7?” Stryk relaxed her muscles. The tiger/panther released it’s hold slightly.

Stryk ripped herself free of the big cat’s grasp and flipped upright, landing in the ‘ready’ position. “Rule number one. Never do that to your enemy, kitty.” She studied her sparking shoulders. “Aw, man! Do you know how long it takes to repair myself?”

A Cyber landed next to the tiger/panther. “Who are you?” she demanded.

Stryk snorted. “Do *all* you Cybers ask that? Sheesh, get a new line!” She flicked her claws out and breathed on them, polishing them against her shirt.

Cyber9 clenched her fists. This girl had a nasty streak that she didn’t like. The cat next to her, F3, growled and advanced forward.

“Don’t even try it. Wanna resemble a porcupine? Go ahead.” Stryk’s keen eyes picked out the ’CYBER9’ tattoo on the girl’s arm. She smiled faintly. “Hello, C-9. As I recall, she - “ Stryk pointed towards the cat - “is your genetic twin. Fancy that! When I left, you were still locked up. Escaped, I see.”

F3 growled and took two steps forward.

Four shining claws buried themselves in front of F3’s nose. Stryk pulled her hand back in, and another pair flicked out. “Make one more step forward and these’ll land in your face!” she snarled. “You think I’m joking? Never mess with me when I’m in a bad mood.” Stryk’s eyes reflected the light, like two shards of hard crystal.

C-9 gently pulled the snarling F3 back. “Come on, F3, I don’t want you as a pincushion.”

Stryk crossed her arms. “Smart move.”

C-9 bent down next to her and whispered in F3’s ear.

Stryk pricked her ears up. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a appointment with Cybersix.” She smiled with all the grace of a charming hostess, bowed, and fell backward over the edge of the building. C-9 and F3 rushed over to the edge.

“Holy heck she’s fast,” muttered C-9. F3 growled in agreement. There was no sign of Stryk anywhere.

“At least we know where she’s heading to, F3…”


Stryk frowned. “Great. Now I got *more* problems to deal with.” She jumped from a old apartment complex and landed lightly on a cathedral spire.

Stryk narrowed her eyes and peered out into the silent city. She could barely make out the dim shapes of a woman wearing a hat and a black panther beside her. “Found ya…”


Cybersix stopped for a moment on a broad roof of a tall, half-finished building. “I wonder where Stryk is, Data 7? We haven’t seen any sign of her…” Data 7 growled and shifted his paws.

“So, what have *you* been up to, Cybersix?”

Cybersix swiveled her head around to see a grinning Stryk. She sighed and covered her eyes. “You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

Stryk shrugged. “Eh. Anyway,” she said, changing the subject, “have you seen these two ...uhm…*people* around…? They’re sort of…” She didn’t finish.

Cyber9 landed in front of Stryk’s face before she could react. F3 landed behind her, growling softly.

“Okay… this is *not* my day.” Stryk sighed and rubbed her temples. “I’m *not* in the mood for this. Do you WANT me to rip your pitiful excuse for a brain out?!”

Cyber9 tried to hold her temper in check. “Look, we don’t want to hurt you or anything, but if you could just - ”

Stryk heaved a tired, exasperated sigh. “I’m gonna count to three. If you and you ’pet cat’ (F3 growled at this) aren’t gone by then, I swear I’ll make you wish you’d never been born.”

Cyber9 rubbed her eyes. “Well,” she said, turning to F3, “we tried, right?” F3 gave her version of a nod, and her gold eyes slitted dangerously.

Stryk clenched her fists, eyes glowing with fury. C-9 stood casually, but she was as tense as a steel spring, ready to strike. F3 flexed her claws in, and out. In, and out. Just enough to make her point clear.

Stryk narrowed her eyes. “Get out of mah way, Cyber!” she spat.

“In your dreams.” Cyber9 didn’t budge, nor did F3.

Snarling, Stryk flicked out her claws and brought her arm down faster than the eye could follow. Cyber9 shut her eyes, knowing she couldn’t dodge away in time. Nothing happened.

She opened one eye cautiously, then the other. Cybersix held Stryk’s arm in a vice, her black eyes hard as ice.

“Enough.” Cybersix glanced around at the assorted females; Stryk glaring daggers at Cyber9 and F3, Cyber9 and F3 glaring daggers at Stryk.

Cybersix leveled her gaze at Stryk, who was trying, unsuccessfully, to wrench her arm from Cybersix’s grasp.

The tiger fidgeted a bit, then settled down and started to clean her fur. Cyber9 leaned against the edge of the roof, and waited to hear what would happen next. Data 7 sat down on his haunches and stared at Cybersix intelligently.

Cybersix finally let go, and Stryk started flinging her arm, trying to restore the circulation. Cybersix ignored her. “I think we have a little...misunderstanding here.”


One and a half hour worth of explanation later, all of them were flying around the rooftops, all trying to keep up with Stryk.

“She isn’t me or Cybersix...but...she’s fast! She’d make a good gymnast...” C-9 thought, watching Stryk leap from here to there faster than the eye could follow, sometimes looking more like a cat than a human.

The only ones who came *close* to catching up with her were Data 7 and F3, both having the feline agility and speed of their ancestors.

Stryk paused, perched on a windowsill of a high-rise office, and stared out across the inky night. “I know you’re out there, Von Reichter. And I swear: The day I find you, you’ll pay.”


Erin propped her head up on her hands, trying to pay attention to the teacher, while trying to catch David’s eye. No dice. “Ergh.”

“What’s that? Erin? Do you have something to share with the class?” The teacher looked at her inquiringly.

“ I mean, I was ...throat. Yeah.”

David snorted, then averted his gaze. Erin felt her heart sink. How long would one stupid decision ruin her life? “Doesn’t he get it?” she wondered. “I *had* to. Those Ideas could’ve killed us both!”


Erin rubbed her eyes tiredly. Watching slides in French class wasn’t her idea of *fun*. She yawned, hoping she’d get a good night’s rest tonight. “No more night time stalking for me,” she thought.

As the students were filing out, Lori passed by where Erin was sitting. With a barely perceptible motion, she slipped a folded note into Erin’s hand, then kept going without any indication that she had even slowed down.

Erin grinned at Lori’s retreating back. “She really does have the art of note-passing down!” she marveled. “Glad *someone* seems to like me in this school.” Erin unfolded the note.

“Meet me at the Station”


Erin walked nervously into the Station, searching the faces for the one familiar one. She caught Lori’s eye, who smiled and pointed to the left. Erin smiled her thanks then headed her way to the table.

“Hey…” she said cautiously.

“Hey.” he replied off-handedly. “So… think up a good explanation yet?”

Erin fidgeted in her seat. “Can we go discuss this somewhere *other* than here, where practically every teen in Meridiana can hear me?”

David shrugged. “Fine.”

Erin smiled tentatively, then got out of her seat and started towards the door. David followed, a wary look on his face. Erin caught Lori’s eye, who gave her an encouraging eye. As she passed, Lori bent over and whispered in her ear: “Tell me later, okay?”

Erin fought her way through the packed teens out into the fresh air. Taking a deep breath, she took in the sweet scent of pine and fir floating in from the park nearby. She shut her eyes, for a moment forgetting everything, except the fresh, clear scent from the trees. “There used to be a time when I could just sit and watch the stars every night,” she thought.

David tugged on her elbow, bringing her back to earth. “Let’s go in there.” He pointed towards the park. Erin followed him meekly, staring up at the skies the whole time.

David sat down on a bench, his posture stiff. Erin obeyed his unspoken command and sat down next to him. She tilted her head back and studied Orion.

“Well?” That one word shattered the night silence. Erin took a deep breath. “Here goes…”

Under the night sky, Erin told one person the whole truth; for the first time. She told him about being snatched from her home, about the years of agony, both mental and physical, about escaping, about being turned away, about being hunted every second of her lost life, about hating Von Reichter to the skies, about losing everything she held dear.

David said nothing during her story. When she stopped, pensive, he simply turned and stared up into the sky. Erin did so as well, watching the stars twinkle, like fireflies trapped in velvet.

No one said anything. Erin sighed, breaking the spell. “I can’t even sit and look at the sky anymore. Von Reichter’s hands stretch beyond land and sea. I have to earn the right to just sit out here! Do have any IDEA how many creatures I’ve eradicated just to live here?!” she burst out.

Silence met her outburst. “No one should have to earn this. Not with blood.”

Erin dropped her head, hiding the tears that suddenly escaped. Years of frustration came out as a long, drawn-out sigh. “You’re right, of course. How else am I supposed to live?”

A bright star flashed across the sky, leaving behind a sparkling tail. “That was a nice one. Come on, let’s go.” David stood up and offered her his hand.

Erin got up and stared up at the skies on last time. “See you tomorrow!” she called at his retreating back. David waved his hand in acknowledgement.

Erin ducked behind a tree for a minute. “Can’t risk VR see me jump over rooftops dressed like this,” she thought. She stepped out as Stryk, her outfit sweeping the ground. Her street clothes were bundled up in her pack, concealed and out of sight.

One leap carried her onto a apartment, and she could still see David’s lanky form walking home. “Friends.” she grinned. “Friends are what make the world go round for me!”

A quick movement, the swish of cloth, and only moonlight shone on the spot Stryk had been. Silence reigned, then…

Two round, shiny circles appeared. “Father will be glad to learn of this…” Two beady eyes fixed themselves on David’s back.

Three blocks ahead, David shivered and drew his coat tighter around him. He wondered why.

End of Part Three

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