Chapter 1 – The Long Sleep
Maya jerked awake, panic filling her. Everything was black. She felt like she was floating.
Is this what death feels like?
Fragments of memories filtered back. The ritual, the betrayal. Her foolishness.
Maybe it’s for the best. I screwed over the entire world.
Sensing some tightness, she stretched out one leg, and it hit something.
After more wiggling around she realized that she was enclosed within a box. The air wasn’t fresh, but it was being resupplied somehow.
If I’m not dead, I need to get out of here.
Maya tested the surrounding surfaces, pressing them with her limbs. Her arms and legs were stiff and slow to respond. But they moved with some effort. The more she worked, the easier it became.
I’m in some rectangular container. Maybe there’s a lid?
Maya pushed above her chest, feeling a bit of give to whatever was holding her in. She threw all her weight into it, and the top opened. But the whole structure itself shifted, and she plunged out onto the icy concrete floor, completely naked and lying face down.
Not an elegant start, but at least I’m free of that thing.
She angled her head somewhat, taking in the surroundings. There was a metal pod next to her, presumably what she had been resting in. The area was only minimally lit and looked like a laboratory because of the benches and diverse machinery. The only sound was the quiet hum of the equipment.
I didn’t die, but I’ve been a lab rat? This keeps getting better and better.
“Hello there,” a male voice said from above. Maya tried to move her head to see, but the man was out of view.
“Who are you?” Maya managed.
“I’m a friend. I’ve come to help. Let me fetch you a blanket.” Maya heard footsteps as he left the room and returned soon after. She felt the blanket covering her frame.
The man knelt and held her hand, giving her an opportunity to see him. His short black hair framed a face that was both kind and intriguing, his brown eyes twinkling with a hint of mystery that drew her in.
He’s good looking. Oh, why am I thinking about that? I can’t believe he found me naked and flopped on the floor like a fish.
“Take your time, Maya. I’ll wait for you in the next room.” He rose, but Maya grabbed his hand with more force, and he stopped.
“How’d you know my name?” she asked.
“I can explain everything. You can call me ET.”
“As in the alien?” Maya said automatically. ET chuckled.
“Not quite, but I am a bit out there. See you shortly.” ET walked away and soon Maya was alone again.
I hope I can start moving with more confidence soon.
She started by exercising each of her limbs and extremities, then tried rolling onto her back. It was tricky to begin with, but the muscles responded once she actually tried them. With more effort, she pulled herself into a seated position and wrapped the blanket around her body.
What has been going on? How did I get here? I can’t make the same mistakes again. I need to protect myself.
Maya sighed and tried leaning against the metal pod to stand upright. Her legs quivered but held. She almost lost her balance completely but stabilized at the last moment. From a standing position, she had a better view of the lab. It was rather compact, and all the machinery looked like it was just to monitor her.
With care, she moved through the room toward the door. Opening it, she discovered what looked like a lunchroom. There was a white plastic table circled by chairs and a kitchenette. One chair had some clothes spread over it.
“These should do the job, for now.” ET gestured to the clothes.
“Thanks, I’ll be back in a moment.” Maya steadied the blanket around herself with one hand and snatched the clothes with the other, withdrawing into the lab. They weren’t her clothes, but they were similar. Jeans and a shirt, and some sneakers. Dressing was awkward and tricky, but it felt marvelous to be dressed again.
How long was I asleep? Is this the same facility where I was kept before?
Maya spotted a reflective surface amongst the equipment and paused. She studied the reflection, her green eyes taking in the familiar sight of her shoulder-length brown hair, tousled from sleep, although her skin was a little paler than its usual sun-kissed color.
She strolled out of the lab with a little more poise.
“Feeling better?” ET asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Maya pulled up a chair and sat down across from him.
“I believe this is the part where you explain everything. Where am I?”
“New York. This is a secret research facility.”
“Right. How long was I asleep?”
“It depends. What was the date?” ET looked like he knew something more but wasn’t saying it.
“What’s the date now?” Maya countered. ET drew in a deep breath before responding.
“July 8th, 2039.”
“Twenty Thirty-Nine? As in two, zero, three, nine?” Maya said incredulously.
“Yes. I presume it’s been about twenty years?” ET said, watching her curiously.
“It can’t be.”
No way. I’ve been rip-van-winkled?
“I’m afraid it is. A lot has happened.” ET still stared at her, a more anxious expression on his face now. Maya suddenly reached up and touched her face.
“But I look the same, I feel the same.”
“You activated your power when you died. The LifeDeath power, that is.” ET spoke simply, without embellishing. Maya took a few moments to process the information.
“Like the bloodline?”
“Yes. They’re out there. They’re a part of everyday life now. Courtesy of the BloodStorm.” ET stood up and moved to the chair next to her.
“I know your story. I’m here to help you. But we only have limited time.” ET exhaled a breath.
“How can you? I’m sorry, but I can’t trust you. Not after what I’ve just been through.”
“Maya, what the Master Sage did to you was terrible. But it’s not your fault. It was out of your control. But what happens next is entirely up to you.”
“How can you know that?” Maya kept the tears at bay, just.
“I have bloodlines too. Many do. Here, I think you need to see this.” ET took a steak knife from the table and positioned it above his hand like he was about to cut it. But he seized her hand and drew the blade across.
“You’re crazy!” Maya wrenched her hand away and quickly stood up. Instinctively she checked her hand, and there was a fine cut along it. But before her eyes, the skin was reattaching, and within seconds there was no trace of the cut at all. Maya felt woozy and lost her balance for a moment. ET was there to support her and guide her into a chair.
“This is really happening, isn’t it?” Maya mumbled.
“It really is. If the power is frightening you, I can help dull it. It will only be temporary, but it may ease the transition.” ET gave her a sympathetic smile.
You can’t let someone trick you again. Don’t give in.
Maya gave ET a skeptical look. He sounded sincere in his desire to help, and she was gradually overcome with a feeling of warmth and trust for him. He was simply trying to help. She needed help. And if she really admitted it, the power did frighten her. Any delay would help.
“I think I would appreciate that. I’m not ready for this power.” Maya’s voice sounded tiny.
“This won’t take long. Stay seated in the chair and close your eyes.” ET stood behind the chair. Maya could sense his hands resting on the back of it.
“Now picture in your mind your greatest fear of what could happen in the future,” ET spoke the words gently and calmly. Maya fixed an image in her mind.
“How would you feel if that fear came to pass? Focus on the emotion.” ET hadn’t moved at all. He continued his words. Maya focused on the emotions. Shame. Inadequacy. Powerlessness. As she was drawn deeper and deeper, ET pulled the chair away.
For a split second Maya felt like she was free-falling toward her greatest fear and bringing it to life. But it was only for a moment and was fading. She felt normal again a second later and drew herself up.
“Are you playing games with me?”
“No, absolutely not. It’s a trick of the mind. Let’s do a smaller demonstration.” ET retrieved the knife again. He motioned toward Maya’s hand, the one he had cut last time. She reluctantly offered it back to him. This time he only made the slightest of scratches in a limited area. It still stung, but as Maya watched, the wound did not close the same way.
“See? Do you believe me now?” ET had a victorious smile.
“Fine. What’s going to happen?” Maya sighed.
“I expect over time your power will regain its strength. It might come in fits and spurts. But you could pass for a normal person, provided they don’t do a blood test. Speaking of which…” ET trailed off and disappeared into another room. He returned quickly with a white device that looked like a round-cornered square coaster.
“This one is custom-built; it checks for the seventh bloodline.” ET reached out for her other palm and let the device hover over it.
“Seventh bloodline? But there are only six,” Maya said.
“Hold on,” ET said, pointing to the device. It beeped a few seconds later and three lights flashed on the top.
“That’s a yes. Good, it’s all as expected.” ET put the device on the ground and stomped down, smashing it.
“What are you doing? And why are you talking about a seventh bloodline?” Maya felt her anger building. Another man was just stringing her along, manipulating her.
“Whoa, listen. I’m being upfront with you, but I understand it’s a lot to take in at once. We really don’t have the luxury of time. The second you opened your hibernation pod, the clock started ticking. They will be coming.” ET paused, letting those words sink in.
“At least explain the seventh bloodline comment.”
“It’s obvious, isn’t it? Seven symbols, seven altars. You really think the Master Sage would tell you the truth about it? Why do you think you’re in a secret research facility?” ET grinned at her and leaned back, letting her think.
Why would you hide the existence of a seventh bloodline?
It came to her in a flash.
“He doesn’t have it. That’s why he couldn’t undo the seal himself. That’s why he kept me here and ran this whole secret lab.” The words spilled out of Maya; she couldn’t stop them. ET was nodding along.
“Good, good. I think he probably has it now, seeing as how we’ve all been abandoned down here.”
“We? You have it too?”
“Yes, I do. But it’s better that nobody knows about this and about you having it. That’s why I destroyed that sensor. You can fly under the radar.”
“Can you tell me something about this mysterious extra bloodline? What is it?”
“That would be telling.” ET winked at her. “Seriously, I can’t discuss it. You will learn about it when the time is right.” “
Well, I’m not really in a rush to go exploring additional powers right now, anyway.” Maya looked around the room, and the reality of what was happening caught up with her.
I broke the world, and I’ve been asleep for twenty years. What do I do now?
Maya noticed ET checking a watch and starting to bustle around the room.
“We’re pretty much out of time.” ET stopped what he was doing and came straight over to Maya. He held her hands and looked her straight in the eyes.
“I know your pain. I’ve dealt with him too. His obsession with power is overwhelming. When you eventually confront him, when he’s standing over you and smirking like he’s already won, can you tell him something for me?”
“What’s that?” Maya said, confused.
“Tell him that subject two sends his regards. He’ll know what it means.” ET gave her an appreciative smile. He released her hands and opened a nearby cupboard, pulling something out.
“You wear this.” He handed Maya a white lab coat. There was an insignia on the shoulder, but before she could look at it properly, she was distracted by what he was doing next. ET was putting on different clothing. A protective helmet and other equipment.
“What are you doing?”
“I need to look the part. This is all going to happen pretty quickly, I’m afraid. I don’t think there’s anything more I can help you with. The rest will come with time.” ET looked distant and preoccupied with something.
“Are you all right?” Maya asked. She could sense something was wrong.
“Just remember, I had to kill the security guard who was wearing this uniform to free you. Don’t feel bad for me. It’s the way things need to be.” ET closed the visor on the helmet and walked into the next room. Maya heard the sounds of gunfire and an explosion, and she ran over to investigate.
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