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It stood for Government Undercover Endangered Species System. And wasn’t it a surprise I was trying to ignore the awful, bold lettering scrawled across the building.
Not because I liked the “down-to-earth” theory, but because I was the endangered species. If you could call me that. I was an elf, from a pure lineage.
And like the title, I was considered, “endangered”. With my hidden identity, I was transferred to places around the globe, the hunters trying to capture one of the last remains of magic beings.
I hated it.
I looked up to see Louis, my “health inspector”. He was waving his arms frantically.
“Come on, Emmal, you’re late!”
I walked on at my pace, not caring if I was late or not. Because that meant bending down to an inferior race, the mortals who controlled my life. My sui juris, meaning “master”. Well, I wasn’t about to start anytime soon calling somebody that.
Louis met my eyes, and took a step back. I marched past him, knowing how much I put fear into his heart. Elves may have a porcelain presence about them, but they were anything but that.
“Emmal Downs, you are late.”
I shrugged at the woman in front of me. She was one of the worst in the building—the scientist and brains of GUESS United States. Miss Ghadah Fawns, I called her—there was really no difference to me on the whole “Miss” and “Mrs.”.
“You know you cannot be late, as this is the most vital part of the GUESS experiment!” Fawns snapped. “Emmal, this is a billion-dollar project, and a few thousand dollars just went into waste!”
“I think she needs punishment,” said a quiet voice, filled with mirth. My eyes narrowed, but I didn’t dare look at the speaker. Fawns could be bad, but Gottham was worse.
Fawns looked up and smiled. “After, Gottham, after,” she said, sweetness and charm dripping like honey on her words. Even she didn’t like Gottham.
“Are we going to start?” I asked brusquely. “Or are we going to waste a few more thousand dollars talking?”
Both of them looked ready to kill. But Louis intercepted. “Take off your clothes, please, Emmal.”
I stripped, the usual process beginning. Fawns and Louis examined me, poking me here and there, asking questions about my usual athletics, my rehab skills.
“Emmal, have you ever socialized?” asked Louis. “Friends?”
I shook my head. “There is no point in making friends if they’re going to die early in my life,” I replied. “Like every other human, right?”
“You should try,” said Louis. “It would be a nice addition to your health.”
I bit the inside of my cheek to stop myself from a retort. What did he know about elves? Only the information given by me was his data.
“Hmph. More like cause trouble to us,” muttered Fawns.
My eyes flickered to Fawn’s back. She was writing in a small, blue notebook, scribbling down who-knows-what. I glared at her anyway.
The notebook suddenly gave way as the bindings fell apart. Fawns yelped and jerked backwards. I kept my expression blank, but inside I felt good. Power was Might in my world. And would always be.
“Emmal,” Louis said sharply.
I shot a venomous glance at him, but evidently said nothing in reply. There was no need.
Disgusting glop for breakfast at the GUESS building, and now this.
I poked at the thing lying on my tray, wondering what it was. It certainly wasn’t macaroni and cheese as the board said. Well, it was either this or have another bowl of outdated cereal.
I preferred the outdated cereal.
School lunches were outlandish these days, I thought. What, the school can’t pay for better meals than a stick of cardboard for pizza?
“Hey, Em, nice glop,” someone snickered. I didn’t need to even turn around to know who it was. Oraline, my co-partner at GUESS, was the school’s biggest girl punk. Actually, she was the only girl punk, as the school seemed divided into three parts: girly-girls; emos, punks, Goths, skater-boys, all in one; and of course, the nerds.
Unfortunately for me, I was neither of them.
“Ora, just shut up,” I replied, without looking behind me.
She snickered, but went back to the boys’ conversation.
I sighed, and looked around. No one was watching me, so I dumped the lunch into the trash. Even if it were real macaroni and cheese, I still wouldn’t be able to stomach it. Elves were solely vegetarians, and there was no way I was going to become one of these humans just to taste meat. Ora, on the other hand, was one of the ancient mer-people—she had no morals. If you get what I mean.
The library was the quickest place to get some quiet, but today, the student council was having a meeting. I sighed again, then slipped out the cafeteria doors.
I gritted my teeth, then faced the principal with the sweetest of smiles, the look of the innocent.
The principal looked suspiciously at my polite tone. He knew I stayed with Ora, who didn’t have the cleanest of reputations, but he had never met me, never told my behaviors were odd and out of place.
“Miss Downs, are you trying to play hooky?”
My head snapped back. “Yes. But you’re going to let me go.”
His eyes suddenly became blank. “I’m going to let you go.”
“And you’re not going to tell anyone about this conversation. In fact, you won’t even remember this.”
“I won’t tell anyone,” he promised. “I won’t even remember this.”
The principal walked away with a dazed expression.
I looked around to make sure no one saw. But although I saw nobody, something gave me the intuition that someone was watching discreetly.
A trickle of water, the smell of dirt and flowers.
All signs of spring, and the waning powers of Winter’s Aust. I breathed in the fresh air, enjoying the peace, away from everything, but an elves’ victor.
I was sitting at the edge of a stream, the Arbor river, I liked to call it. Trees scattered around the water, a beautiful scenery that I loved. It was all so…elfish.
Wind, I thought. Come unto me. Aquilo, amicitia.
Laughing, I let her swirl around me, daughter breezes floating toward the river. Ripples on the water joined the game, then the leaves, swaying gently. My orange hair that marked me an elf flew, wrapping around my face.
Slowly, Wind died, and I was left alone again. A sigh, and I stood to leave.
But, of course, something of a nightmare happened next.