It happened a long time ago, when I was young and stupid and arrogant. I wanted to change the world, but more than anything, I wanted to be powerful. Along with two of my coworkers, I decided to test out one of my new drugs to see what the effects would be. I was a chemist, born and raised, following in the footsteps of my parents.
I gathered together a group of young, naive college students looking to get high. They signed a contract giving permission for us to dose them once a week for two years.
The drug we administered, what I called 'Myoendotoxin' because I could, came in the form of a liquid that we injected into the blood system intravenously. The chemicals were pumped through the blood, infecting muscle tissues, specifically in the brain.
The results, at first, were beyond exemplary. Each individual was affected differently; one developed impossible muscle extensibility; another could hear things no one else could, such as sound waves projected by radios. We deemed the experiment successful, and I set to work trying to find a way to manipulate the drug into reacting the same way to different chemicals, hoping to control the abilities that were developed.
Unfortunately, a few years after the initial experiment, one of my coworkers received an SOS from the spouse of our first volunteer. He had become erratic and violent, and she blamed us for what he did. We came to her rescue, too late. He had murdered his wife and committed suicide before we arrived. We took their child into custody and hunted down all of the other volunteers, walking into similar situations each time. After some investigating, it turned out that the experiment was not as successful as we had first thought. Myoendotoxin had some similar effects as dementia, including: memory loss, hallucinations, agitation, paranoia, and changes in behavior.
Rescuing as many of the children as we could, we decided to take them to a lab to study them. One of those delightful children, however, admonished us for our intentions. It was very unpleasant, the way she seemed to know everything about everyone and had the ability to command people around her with nothing more than a look. Harris, the self-appointed leader of our little team, decided we should transplant them somewhere safe and secluded to allow them to live their lives instead of study them. I do not believe it was really his idea.
I suggested they be relocated to Africa. I had business with a number of tribes in the Northern area so I spent a lot of my time there. By creating their own tribe, the children would be together, safe, and I would be close to them.
We stayed with them at regular intervals until they were old enough to take care of themselves. Harris and Sarah (our long standing medic) then moved back to London while I willingly stayed behind for my business.
After being influenced by Kari, Harris grew increasingly uncomfortable with being around her. He spent three years trying to find a way to block Kari from his mind. Finally succeeding, Harris offered the same solution to me - a little chip surgically inserted into his brain that projected a sheild around his thoughts - but I declined. I did not spend much time with the children, and Kari always seemed sweet and charming to me.
The children were loved even though they were something to be feared.
Chapter One: Kari
“Mae!” I yelled from atop a scraggly tree marking the border of the Sahel Desert. It was an endless sea of dry, red-yellow sand that danced and swirled along the ground in time with the wind. It was hot, very hot, and my sweaty hands were making it difficult for me to hold on to the thin branch. As deadly as the vast, waterless desert was, it still held a surreal beauty, like a masterpiece painted onto the earth by the graceful, talented hands of God. This was the edge of our territory and no one was aloud to enter the desert. But oh, how badly I did want to.
“Mae!” I hollered again when I received no answer the first time. “Come on. I want to check it out!”
“Kari…” Her voice was soft, like wind buffeting the tall grasses that covered our land. “I’m not sure we should. We won’t be back in time for Jezz’s story time. Did you know that there is another war going on? I forget between whom though,” she rambled, raising a long tan arm to help me down. I looked into her sagacious emerald green eyes that were now staring up at me intensely.
“Mae, you are so in love with chaos it’s not even funny. And yet you refuse to break the rules.” I smiled at her, hoping to bait her. Instead, she backed away and shook her head.
“But why?!” I complained, reaching out to tuck a long strand of bright auburn hair behind her ear.
“Because, Kari, I see this desert every day. There's nothing new there. And besides, I miss Jezz all ready.” Mae turned around and began to stalk towards camp, only to stop and return when she had a sudden, unexpected change of mind.
Before we had the chance to explore, however, a high-pitched scream echoed in the distance.
“Kari! Kari!” The panicked shouts pierced the air. Something was extremely wrong.
“That sounds like Ami.” Mae whispered.
“She sounds terrified.” I whispered back.
Turning around, I peered past the scraggly vegetation to see Ami running towards us as fast as she could while fighting to see through the dust swirling in the breeze. After stumbling a few times, she finally crossed the boundary line and took rest against my tree, gasping for breath and wiping tears from her eyes.
“Ami? What’s happened?” Mae cooed soothingly, stretching out her hand and placing it gently on Ami’s back.
“It’s… It’s… Bella. She.. She’s…” Ami broke down, sobbing into her hands, the mop of strawberry blonde curls on her head shaking with grief. I suddenly wished Ricky was with me. Ricky, or Allarick, was my boyfriend and Ami's older brother. His ability was empathy, and he was able to feel and control the emotions of those around him.
Mae and I exchanged a glance.
“Kari?” Ami whispered between hiccups. She looked up at me, blinking through the cataract of tears, her sky blue eyes so full of horror and grief and helplessness that my blood ran cold. I braced myself for the tragic news as she opened her full pink lips to speak. “I need you to save her from the lions.” And she began to sob once more.
Immediately, I took off running through the desert, heading in the direction Ami had come from. As quietly as a lioness herself, Mae appeared beside me, barely able to keep up. She was slightly shorter than me, and was a cute kind of plump, which I think helped slow her down a bit. I was the fastest runner in the tribe, an attribute that I admired, and came in handy at times like this.
My tribe is a disbanded group of psychic teenagers who were raised together after the unfortunate death of our parents. Not all of us had powers, but out of the ones who did, I was by far the most powerful. My ability was telepathy. I could read minds, control thoughts, and thereby take control of an individual, an ability I decidedly kept to myself.
“Kari!” Mae whispered suddenly, putting her arm out in front of me. As I came to a halt, I pricked my ears for any foreboding, perturbing sounds.
In front of me was a large rock cliff, the same color as the sand, making it blend in. On my left was nothing but vast desert. In the distance to my right, a resounding roar echoed through the trees and off of the cliff wall, making it seem even louder and closer. A scream followed.
The noise was so full of agony and terror that I froze for a moment. Mae keened at my side until I finally pushed myself forward.
Turning to the right, I began to run again through the scattered vegetation until it became thicker and thicker, eventually turning into a dense jungle. The vines that hung low slapped at me. Fallen leaves and branches tried tripping me, considerably slowing my progress.
Nika, I thought. Only she had the power of manipulation over the plants. If only she were here to lighten my path.
When I finally reached the source of the tremulous sounds, I found Bella hanging from a tree, tied to a branch with a thick rope while lions ripped apart her flesh. The air smelled like blood and wild, undiluted fear.