A/N: Okay please don't kill me! But...I rewrote the beginning. *ducks in corner* I thought this version would flow better and be slightly less confusing. It's some new info mixed with old...and the good news? There's a brand new chapter 3 coming soon! I know I've been gone for a long time. I've just relocated and the new job's keeping me busy, but I'll still try to squeeze in time to continue writing. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1

The Syndicate

"They? What do you mean they?" Rila inquired. The way her brother emphasized the word was odd.

"Another syndicate," Tommy uttered impatiently. He grabbed the box and demanded that she leave with him.

His silver car was parked on the side of the street, near the residential park. He didn't drive the sedan often, but Rila didn't ask why today was different. She got in on the passenger side and sat in silence as nostalgia crept upon her. Just four years ago, she sat in the exact same place, on the exact same street, wondering what the heck was going on.

"Are we running away again?" she blurted as Tommy started the engine.

He looked over with worry, not anger, in his eyes. "I'll explain when we get home."

Rila sat bleary eyed for the remainder of the drive, her mind filled with thoughts from the past. As the silhouette of New Haven sanctuary appeared in the misty horizon, she recalled her first year there.

(Four years ago)

"When are you going to explain things to me? Why did we have to move?" a fourteen year old Rila demanded, her eyes welling up with tears.

"It was necessary. You'll get why when the time is right," her older brother said calmly.

"So when the hell is that?"

"Rila watch your tone."

"You're not my mom! We're not even related!"

They both froze and stared at each other. Guilt, anger, grief and so many other emotions Rila couldn't quite understand seemed to pass through her brother's eyes. She regretted the words as soon as she had screamed them, and then she did what she did best. She ran away - out the front door, down the stairs, and north towards Halaton Park. Tommy didn't go after her as he usually did, so she actually made it all the way to the park this time.

The young brunette found an empty bench and sat with tears in her eyes. She knew her brother worked hard to support the two of them. The fact that they weren't even blood related made her feel worse.

Before the big move to New Haven, Rila always thought her life was ordinary. She was the daughter of a once renowned genetics researcher, but her father's fame never touched her. Actually, she never really knew her biological father. Only that he got involved with some bad people and disappeared before she was two.

Her mother never said much about him either. Not long afterwards, she remarried to a longtime family friend, the tall and handsome Ricky Avalon. Along with becoming an Avalon, Rila also gained an older brother, Tommy. They were technically her step-father and step-brother, but she never saw them as outsiders. To her, Tommy and Ricky made her family complete and perfect.

But now? Now, everything was just a mess. She couldn't go back to the apartment, not yet at least, not after what she had said. So Rila watched blankly as the crowd in the park dwindled and the sun began setting behind the sky-obstructing high-rises. And, that's when she saw him.

General Armand Vagh.

He stood among a trio of men in formal business suits, standing out more than the others. Rila recognized his face from one of the paintings she saw during her school orientation. His portrait was one of the larger ones that hung in the lobby of the administrative building, right next to that of his grandfather, the original founder of the academy. He once taught and ran administration as headmaster, but retired the previous year and took on a more indirect role with the school.

She couldn't help but stare.

Armand was older than the other two men, but seemed to stand taller. For a man nearly sixty, he was still easy on the eyes. One could tell he must have been rather handsome in his youth. His hair, perhaps jet black in his younger days, had grayed considerably into a silvery shade. Maybe it was the black eye patch over his left eye, but he always looked serious.

There was a system, as all the citizens called it, to New Haven. The system was not easy for Rila to wrap her head around. She knew only as much as any half attentive high school freshman from the outskirt cities would know. Seven sanctuaries were established in the former American continents as safe havens for the wealthy and also for research facilities for scientific and technological advancement. They were metropolitans that grew into individual principalities. Each of these sanctuaries were protected and governed by a different syndicate.

For the New Haven sanctuary, that syndicate was a group known as the City Wolves, headed by Armand. Under the system, he was the big fish - guardian and leader. He was fair, mostly, but what he and his council decided was often absolute. In return for their loyalty, the citizens were given immunity for life.

Rila liked to believe that underneath that cold glare was a man with a heart, because despite many things, the people adored him.

As long as he was around, New Haven was safe.