A ringing resounded through my ears, and I clutched my head in pain as I played with the lock trapping in the occupants of our bus. For some reason, I knew the ringing came from my sister. I turned in fear.

I was just in time to see her get knocked out by the horrible reptilian girl. Genesis flew to the ground as if she were no more than a rag doll. This was not right. Not right at all. After four years of kickboxing, there was no way that girl could have knocked out Genesis. No.

The unthinkable had happened. I swallowed the bit of saliva that was edging down my throat. My sister, my twin, had just been trashed as if her attacks were merely nothing but bees' stings. This meant war.

I stood up and with one swift kick, opened up the doorway on the back of the bus. My tampering had weakened it enough, anyways. The people stood in shock at the open door, not knowing how to react. I had to keep myself calm as not to frighten them.

"Get out of here- now!"

It was as if a light bulb suddenly turned on within their minds. People scrambled to jump over their seats and exit the bus the back way, the reptillian female still hovering over my unconscious sister's form.

"You idiot. You obviously don't know who you're dealing with." The red-eyed teen sprung into action, jumping up to land in front of me. I stared back with resolution in my heart. She put her face only inches away from mine.

Then, she laughed. "You are a weakling and a coward, do you know that? Letting your sister do all the fighting over there." She tossed her head towards Genesis. "And all you could do was try to open a doorway for these doomed normals." She looked me up and down, inspecting me as a general might his troops.

As she was doing this, a small child was trying to get away from the evil presence, her mother already knocked out. She sidestepped towards the doorway, nearly able to get out.

In that moment, a tail whipped her back into the bus. The scale-covered girl sneered. She shook her webbed finger at the girl. "Oh, now, I wouldn't be doing that if I were you. Too many bad things outside there." The small child was smart enough, it seemed, to realize that one of them had her. Tears streamed down her small cheeks in fear.

"Let. Her. Go." I couldn't believe my own daring. A surge of adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and I felt rock solid in my strength. I readied myself to attack the girl, but for some reason, my body wouldn't move.
She dropped the child as if she were nothing more than a rucksack. Her eyes turned to slits. "What did you just say?"

My throat seemed hoarse, and nothing would come out of it. My heart beat faster than the pounding of a snare drum, nearly so hard that I felt it would rip itself out of my chest and pounce upon her.

She sidled up to me and ran her finger down the front of my chest. "Such a shame I have to kill you." She played her disgusting appendage downward, then ran it up the side of my face. "You're pretty handsome for a coward."

I stood silently, taking the torture with silence. I kept my eyes shut, telling myself to avoid this temptation disguised in her hideous flesh. This girl was not one whom I should give my heart to. This one had hurt my sister.

Black hair rustled beneath me as she stood in front of me, eye to eye. She winked at me and let the child lay on the ground. All the trinkets she'd gathered from the people on the bus had been thrown at a small bit of rag, and she now gathered it up and loaded it onto her shoulder.

She turned as she calmly made her way to the stairwell of the bus. Again she winked. "The name's Nyoko. See you around some time, handsome." A single jump was all it took her to exit the bus. I watched out a window as she bounded into the forest and disappeared.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I then noticed that the little girl was clinging onto my leg. I cast my eyes downward at her, and she looked up at me with no fear in her eyes. How innocent were the children. They could accept a gamma, while their parents could not.

My hands reached to detach the girl from my leg, then I headed over to where my sister laid. Her breathing was coming in shallow. I felt her forehead, as it was brimming with sweat. A fever. I swallowed.

Shavit. Who would help a gamma? I turned around to face the remaining passengers on the bus.

"Anyone here a doctor? My sister- she's sick."

Scarred from the neck down, a man spat on the ground as he stood up and readied himself to go out the back door.

"So what if she's sick. What's another dead gamma?" He walked out of the doorway, and I saw the scar that continued down his neck. He'd been burned terribly- probably a gamma. I hung my head.

This stupid world was against us. We had no refuge, no sanctuary to call our own. No one would take us in. And while my sister had unfailing courage, her strength was failing her, letting her fall into a great sickness.

I picked her up, letting her into my arms. My poor sister. If I didn't get her to a doctor fast.. I tried not to think of the consequences. I laid her onto a seat while I grabbed our backpacks, and shouldered them both. The small girl came up towards me, a blanket in her small hands.

"Maybe my blankie will make her feel better," she said, handing it to me as though it were made of gold. I noticed that her mother had begun to stir, the woman's eyes blinking. I smiled.

"Thanks. It might help at that," I said, and draped it onto my sister. I'd read somewhere that blankets sometimes could help bring fevers under control. But that was for normals. Oh well- couldn't hurt to try.

"Thank you for saving me," she smiled and gave me another hug. I felt tears in my eyes. Her mother stirred, sitting up, and hearing her daughter's words, smiled at me. She looked a lot like my mother, her eyes soft and kind. She couldn't speak, blood draining down the side of her face. But she understood.

"I've got to get going now," I said, gently picking up my sister, gathering her into my arms. "The phone in the driver's seat is still working. You should be able to get help," I said, my mind cursing the fact that no one would help my sister.

Not looking back, I started my way out of the bus, and back onto the road. I looked about me. There were no signs to indicate how far we'd come, or even what state we were in.

What am I going to do?

Looking up and down the roadway, I saw a small sign a few meters away. Walking up to it, it read "Angelport- 5 miles."

Sighing, I rearranged my sister in my arms. It was going to be a very long trek. I shuffled one foot in front of the other. I only hoped I would get there in time before my sister got worse. I submerged the thought into the back of my brain. No. She could not get worse.

Finally, I came upon an old house on the side of the road. I looked up, my throat parched with thirst and my stomach growling with hunger. We were still nowhere near Angelport, but at least someone might be able to help us- maybe even give us a ride to the town.

I put my sister down, her eyes twitching a bit. Was she awakening? I looked downwards at her. Her eyes were definitely fluttering. They suddenly jutted open, her eyes moving up and down as if in panic. I felt disoriented for a second, and kneeled beside her.

"Ver.. Verdell?" She blinked. "I.. I feel really sick. Do you maybe have some water?"

I blinked. Not only had she affirmed that she was sick, but she was asking for help. I blotted her forehead with a rag I had handy. She had to be really sick to be showing any signs of weakness.

"Don't worry, Genesis. I'll get you some help. I don't have any water, but I'll be getting some soon. Just go back to sleep."

"Ok.." She closed her eyes again, and the feeling of dizziness subsided. I gathered her up once again into my awaiting arms, and headed towards the doorway of the house. The rucksacks attached to my back were quite heavy, but I didn't care. My sister needed help, badly.

Setting her on the front porch, gently as I could, I straightened and rang the doorbell. My eyes searched for someone to come and answer my plea. Genesis moaned in her sleep. She needed medical attention soon.

Finally, after what seemed like decades, a man answered the door. His eyes were slits and there were gaunt wrinkles around them. His blondish hair was streaked with bits of gray that fell in front of his eyes. A gray sweater with a pair of simple khaki's was all he wore, his feet bare and smooth.

"What do you want?" he asked without looking directly at me, then his eyes narrowed. "Stupid gamma- didn't you read the sign-" he said, pointing at some strip of wood next to his door.

I obligingly read it- 'Any neucleotide gamma found on this property will be shot.' My eyes became serious, my expression fused into one of utter certainty. This man had to help us, prejudice or not. No matter if we were gammas, we would die soon if he didn't have the manliness to swallow his pride.

"I. Don't. Care. My sister is ill- have you no heart, man?" I took a threatening step forward, then stopped when I saw the slice of fear in his eyes. I backed up a bit, realizing I'd come off the wrong way. I looked at her face, then at him.

"She's going to die if she doesn't get care soon. Genesis.." I brushed her cheek with my hand. Her skin was as cold as ice. "She's all I have left- my parents are gone. If I lose her, I don't know what I'll do."

He grumbled a bit. "So? Why would I save her? A gamma killed my sibling, all I had left. Why should I have mercy on her?"

I clutched the symbol of sacrifice that was worn around my neck. "I was taught that one should forgive others. Always. And we aren't those gammas."

Aged hands threw themselves up in dismay. "I have a code- an oath that I swore to my brother- one that I would never treat a gamma in my life. And it was the only oath I could offer him as his life slipped away in my hands!" He ran his fingers through his graying hair.

"If I treat your sister- that would be a disservice to my brother's memory." He looked up at the sky, his eyes slightly glassed over with pain.

My hands trembled, holding my sister. "It would be a disservice for him to know that you didn't help a dying child that appeared before your door." I looked up at him, tears slightly edging near the ends of my eyes. "If you don't help her.." My heart was nearing the breaking point.

He looked beyond me, towards the skyline. His eyes returned to my sister, his breathing shallow.

"Wait- If you help her- wouldn't it be like saving your brother in a way?" I searched his face, staring up at him. "He was your twin, wasn't he?"

A foot stepped back. The man looked as though he'd been struck. "How did you know that-" He grasped his head with a hand, then glanced at me in anger. "Stay out of my head, gamma.."

"No. It was no mind trick. I saw it in your eyes. Genesis- she's my twin. If you help her- it might be like saving your brother." Then I saw a familiar pin attached to his collar. "That's why you became a doctor, isn't it? You felt guilty about his death.."

Genesis stirred within my arms. He looked at her, her eyes opening to reveal their cobalt hue. His heart seemed to melt at the sight of them, for some odd reason.

"Bring her in. I'll- I'll see what I can do for her." He turned his back towards me, gently striding into the house. I followed him, my heart lighter, praying a thankful grace to the one who ruled all.

Indoors, the house seemed very little the threatening force that the man's personality had projected. Soft light graced the table that sat in the middle of a small living room. Flowers sat in a corner, their leaves slightly wilted from lack of water. One look at them, and a small twitch of pain wreathed my left arm. I made a note.

He momentarily would glance back at my sister every few minutes, almost as if something from his memory stirred from the sight of her. Finally, we reached a door of metal, seemingly that would lead to the downstairs of this humble abode.

"Follow me."

Steps unveiled themselves from beneath us, and I gasped as I saw for the first time what the man's house hid.

A laboratory of sorts revealed itself to me, its silver lining glistening. A few beakers lay haphazardly against the wall, the shelf they rested on also supplying an electric stove. Wiring and glass tubes lined the walls, their designs reflecting onto the crystalline ceiling.

Cages held animals captive, the wire bars enclosing them in geometric patterns that seemed unreasonable to the eye. Plants swam in a waterbed, looking for walls to attach themselves to. My heart beat nervously within my chest, all the sights about me setting it aflutter.

The gentleman's hand gestured towards a lab table of sorts. Nervous, my hand gripped Genesis's shoulder. He nodded once, his gaze penetrating mine. I laid my twin upon the horrid bed of steel, then stepped away, carefully monitoring the man's every move.

He grasped her hand, feeling her fingers meticulously, as if afraid they'd fall off. He touched her shoulders, and she still lay still. The man then took off her shoes, and examined her feet. I was shocked to see small claws revealing themselves upon her toes, instead of nails.

"Hmm.." he stated, shaking his head slightly. I saw the slight feeling of distaste in his eyes. It was the same as someone who is disgusted with a platter of food they've been presented. My eyes twitched in agitation.

Feeling with slight gentleness, the good doctor finally stopped his exam mid-way when examining her back. His eyes grew large, and then he lifted her up from the metal bed she laid upon. I put an arm on his shoulder.

"What are you doing?"

Hardly batting an eyelid, he snorted at me as he slightly cocked his head to the side. "Do you want my help or not?"

I stood down, my heart beating a little faster in my chest as I watched him place some sort of breathing apparatus on Genesis's face. Her eyes were still shut, twitching now and again with spasms of pain and discomfort. The doctor then opened up a large cylinder with his one hand, balancing my twin in the other.

Bluish goo was encased within the glass cylinder. In silence, he shifted my sister into the tube. My eyes narrowed, suspicious once more. He'd better know what he was doing.

The opening sealed itself quietly, and the tube became vertical, electronic equipment suddenly popping up on all sides of the elevating platform. His long strides toward the equipment prodded me to do the same.

Deftly he input commands into the computer, his fingers becoming a blur as charts of Genesis's physical structures revealed themselves on screen. Never before had I seen such a massing of technological genius.

Electric charges flew up and down the tube as the doctor input the final commands. My twin's hair stood on end, and her body underwent a spasm.

"What are you doing to her?" my voice became low as he continued monitoring her progress on the screen. Her body started to throb and shiver inside its confined quarters, her head jerking like a doll's. The doctor gave no reply.

Finally, the electric currents stopped running through the tube, and he advanced to let her out. Surprisingly, all the goo directed itself away from her body as she exited the cylinder. She came out with beads of sweat pouring down her already sodden face. I put my hand experimentally to her face and found it, shockingly, to be as cold as ice.

"Get a towel," was all he said as he laid her once again on a table. I noticed a rack of linens sitting by the tube, and snatched one. Genesis's breathing was becoming shallow. The doctor took out a scalpel from a nearby closet, and started to slice some of her clothing away from her lower back.

Amazed, I threw the towel at him as he drew the cloth back to reveal..

"A tail? She was sick because she had a tail?" The doctor removed the appendage slowly, letting it slide out from its containment within her clothing. It was colored gold with dark maroon stripes, matching her hair with disturbing accuracy.

He did not speak, but continued until he had pulled the full length of it out, the end revealing a large tuft of hair. The doctor then removed her breathing apparatus, and wrapped her in the towel. Finally, he rested, and stood beside her, monitoring her breathing.

All this time she was sick from getting a tail? The thought alone seemed preposterous. Why would she, a physically strong girl, my twin, no less, collapse at the growth of a tail? I had to wonder. Standing beside her, I quickly reached for her hand, and held it in mine, willing warmth to spread throughout her body once more.

"She'll be fine in a few days," the man said quietly. His face still held lines of contempt, having broken an oath not easily forgotten for her sake. "Then, you can be on your way." He stepped away from her, and started to motion towards leaving, the ramp leading down to this place seemingly his destination.

"Wait-" I said to him as he sidled away. My eyes connected with his. "Thank you. You saved my sister's life." No words were spoken for a moment. "I- I didn't mean to be so fresh with you earlier. I apologize."

He turned back. "What's your name, son?" he asked quietly.

My expression turned from one of gratitude to one of puzzlement. Why was he being so kind all of a sudden? I decided not to trust him, for the present. He still might turn us into the police.

"Paul. My sister's Mary." Leave it to me to come up with the religious names first. Oh well. My mother would've been proud.

A small smile crept onto the corners of his mouth, and then he made a motion to me, motioning to come with him. His features were somewhat kindly, although he made it a point not to physically touch me.

"She'll be all right. Your sister just needs some rest now. Why don't you come upstairs so I can hear the full story of everything?" His eyes didn't quite follow mine as he turned towards the stairs.

Nodding quickly, I kept my face serious. "Certainly." I followed him upstairs, then stopped and sat at a table he motioned to after exiting the scientific maze of his laboratory.

He sat down, looking older and tired again, as he'd been when we'd first spoken at his doorway. I let out a sigh, even though I was still anxious about my sister. Her health came first to me. However, although I worried, I felt a small warmth of reassurance, as if someone were telling me that all was well.

"Kid!" I snapped my head up, realizing for the first time that my head had been dropping. I must be exhausted from everything I'd done so far. His face became slightly irritated. "An explanation, please?"

I sighed, still overwhelmed from all that'd happened. "My sister and I.. we woke up this morning, and some dude was in the kitchen. He had our mom at gunpoint. We hit him.." I looked up at him for reaction, but he gave no indication of his thoughts. "And when we came to, we looked like this." I held up my hands and flexed them into fists. They felt so stiff, as if the bones had taken over my muscles.

Tears were choking to come to my eyes. "Our mother was dead, and so was her attacker. We ran away, but were attacked on a bus by some gamma. Ge-Mary got hurt pretty bad, and I've been looking for days for someone to help her." I gasped in how close I'd come to blowing our cover.

He nodded once, then closed his eyes. His eyebrows furrowed in concentration. "You know, son… this world must be pretty bad for you. I never really thought until now about how gammas were people too- the media makes you out to be animals, less than human. And here you are, just trying to survive."

He leaned back in his chair, opening his eyes just enough so that his irises were visible, but nothing else gave away his emotions. I could have played poker with the man, and not have guessed his hand.

"We don't mean to be trouble. And I do thank you very much for helping – my sister. Although, once she recovers, there won't have been anything wrong with her." I shook my head. "Her and her stupid pride.."

With eyes that seemed older than the rest of him, the gentleman sat back in his chair. He looked up at me, then gave me a slight grin.

"Women can be like that. Tell me, how old are you and your sister?"

I smiled, then replied, "Thirteen."

"Huh. She'll more than likely get worse as she gets further into her teenagehood. I once knew a woman.." he sat upright in his chair, and smiled, "much like your sister. We even got married, had a couple of kids. We were so happy. Until that one day.."

I leaned forward. "What happened?"

His eyes seemed glazed over. "The children- they were playing in the yard. It was summer.." he closed his eyes, deep in his memories. "We were watching the kids awful hard because there were reports of a mad dog in the area. Cheryl and I weren't really worried, though.. the kids were safe as long as we were around.."

"Then the inevitable happened. The dog entered our yard. It was a horrible sight, foaming at the mouth and snarling. We tried to get the kids away, but my daughter- she didn't seem to understand. She loved animals, and she.." he paused, and put his hand over his face. "She went after the dog. Then, it happened. Just when my little Genesis was within a foot of the animal, it just.. lifted clear off the ground."

"I looked over at my wife. She had her hand up in the air, seemingly controlling where the animal would go. Her eyes had turned from their normal blue to a shocking white. I grabbed my son and held him, scared of my own wife.."

The man broke down and cradled his head in his hands. He then looked up. "I left her and the children the next day, after the authorities had come and taken the dog away. I couldn't believe I'd let myself fall in love with such an abomination. Years upon years I've wondered if I made the right decision…"

I gasped, as if I'd been underwater for hours. My vision was fuzzy. Pictures and connections started to form in my mind. A mad dog. Genesis going after it.. A woman named Cheryl.. A strange hypothesis was starting to form in my mind. If this man shared my last name, Talon.. No. It could not be. This man, this doctor, could not be..

"Tell me," I asked him, my heart beating a mile a minute. "What is your.. your full name?" It could not be. There was no way possible that he… That he…

The man's eyes were distant for a minute, then he spoke, almost sadly, "Dr. Karrde Talon."