Arc 1: The Chitinous Teens
Chapter 1: Devoid of Skin
-Definition: a fibrous substance consisting of polysaccharides and forming the major constituent in the exoskeletons of insects or crustaceans and the cell walls of fungi.
Natasha Xander was restless.
Her eyelids were shut, but her mind wasn’t as she tossed and turned under the sheets like she had during many nights of her life.
Not because of the sounds of the Manhattan that could be heard all night long.
From sirens and car horns, to neighbors yelling and dogs barking.
This constant barrage of noises wasn’t what kept her up.
Having grown up in the big apple, Natasha was used to such a nightly choir.
It was a combination of several things, keeping her up.
First off, she was a teenager. Sleep deprivation was no stranger to her.
But more than that, Natasha wasn’t a sound sleeper.
She didn’t sleep because she felt tired, or because she had to.
It was the fact that her mother and father had raised her on the idea that it was important for her to spend a whole 8 hours of everyday, with her eyes closed and not moving.
Natasha didn’t feel the need to do it, but it was engrained into her mind by her parents.
One could say that it was an instinct. Even if Natasha didn’t see it that way.
What kept her up most, was the fact that her father, Terrence Xander, had recently passed on.
It was bound to happen.
Working as a Cab Driver wasn’t the safest of professions.
About 5 days ago, her Dad had been making his rounds, doing his daily route until a pedestrian would hail him. Natasha was hanging out with her friends at the time.
But her father was hailed by a man who then, once inside his cab, tried to rob him at gunpoint.
Terrence handed the man all the money he had collected that day.
Which, since the day was still early, wasn’t a whole lot.
The robber demanded to have her father’s wallet to make sure her Dad wasn’t holding out on him.
He pulled the piece of folded leather out, and opened it the pull something out.
The robber assumed Terrence was trying to hide his money from him, and got fed up, pointing his pistol squarely at his head and squeezing the trigger.
Natasha’s Dad never realized the gun was fired or was even pointed at him before he died.
The robber managed to stop the taxi and quickly got out and grabbed Terrence’s wallet, only to find that there was no money left in it.
What Natasha’s father had tried to remove, was a picture of himself with Natasha when she was little.
The news came to Natasha when her mother, Julia Xander, called her.
Since her mother was a Deputy of the NYPD, she had learned of what had occurred swiftly.
Natasha didn’t know how to take the news.
The way that it was delivered to her over the phone… Natasha didn’t want to believe it.
She left her friends at the mall as a sobbing mess, trying to tell herself that it was a joke.
Natasha didn’t want to see the body. She didn’t want to know the truth. She didn’t want to let her hope be crushed by the truth.
But no matter what, she couldn’t run from it. And eventually, she found up in the room with her mother and her weeping younger brother, Peter, staring the truth as it laid on the metal table with a bullet sized hole in its head.
That moment, was another reminder of the fact that Natasha and her family were living in a dangerous city, one polluted with crime and nasty, heartless people.
For the next few days, all she did was grieve over the loss.
And it hurt. Every memory she had of him when he was alive was needle jabbed into her skin.
Natasha wanted to forget about him.
By the time the funeral came around, Natasha had more or less gotten over it.
She’d accepted that he was now gone.
It had been 2 days since then, and now she would have to go back to school.
Principal Ripley had been kind enough to give her extra time away from school.
But now it had all run out, and Natasha had to go back to Nostromo High again.
She hadn’t spoken to any of her friends since the day her father was shot, and she intentionally ignored their texts that tried to give her advice on recovering.
Natasha wanted to do it herself.
And so, there she was. Tired and yet restless in her sleep.
The teen’s bedroom was mostly dark. All of her lights were off and her windows were shut. Yet some light managed to shine through her window from the street lamps of Manhattan outside penetrating the all-encompassing dark. But she didn't notice it. As she had only recently fallen asleep.
Finally, as her alarm clock blared to life at 6 AM playing the song “Creeping in my Soul”.
Natasha’s emerald eyes snapped open and she quickly rolled onto her belly, pulling her arms out from under the sheets.
Her mouth let out a yawn as she stretched her arms and pulled the covers off.
Natasha was a young woman of 17 years old.
She had short spiky red hair, beautiful green eyes, light skin, and stood at an approximate height of five feet, eleven inches. Which was fairly tall for a teenage girl.
She had a very slim, yet athletic frame
But those physical characteristics would tell nothing to someone about who she really was.
After silencing her clock, Natasha kicked her legs over her bedside and sat for a moment, rubbing her face and brushing her hair out of her face with her long fingers.
She kept brushing it, until it felt like it was no longer in the state of messy bed head that it usually was in when she got up.
When she was ready, she suddenly flipped off of her bed and landed on the floor of her room with a thud. Natasha swiftly started getting dressed and ready for school.
Being one of the best at gymnastics in the state, she was acrobatic enough, to the point that this flip was as easy as snapping her fingers.
With her outfit for today chosen, Natasha let loose another yawn, and stretched her limbs out, reaching to the ceiling and standing on her toes until her nails just scraped against it.
She then made the trek from her bedroom into the bathroom down the hall, flicking on the lights. Her eyes swiftly adjusted, and she began removing her pajamas before getting into the shower.
After 15 minutes under the running water, Natasha shut it off, stepped out, and began drying herself off.
Once she was at the state of dryness that she considered “good enough”, even though her hair was still fairly damp, she threw on a dark blue tank top and some black jeans.
After brushing her teeth and hair, Natasha checked her phone for the time.
Just enough time for her to grab breakfast and make it to the bus.
Natasha threw her bookbag over her shoulder and made her way downstairs.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the kitchen, pouring herself some coffee, was Julia Xander.
She was already dressed in her Police Uniform and was waiting to see her lovely daughter's face before leaving. She was going to be working a very late shift tonight as a favor, and needed the heart-warming image of her child's face to get her through it.
Julia was a little concerned about the state of her kids, and how they were coping with the loss of their father.
It had definitely hit her hard when she learned Terrence had been killed. But she was an adult, she had lost family and friends in her life before. She knew how to cope with it.
But Natasha and Peter were young. They had never lost anyone before.
As sad as they’d been after losing pets before, Julia didn’t feel like that was the same thing.
She tried talking to both of her kids’ schools, insisting that they give them more time off. But her attempts were unsuccessful.
As she took a sip of her morning brew, Julia realized that today she would have to let them adapt and evolve to cope with their feelings without her help.
It was time for them to move past their father’s death, and get on with their lives.
And no matter how much emotional support she might give them, it was something that they would need to learn themselves.
As she heard footsteps coming down the stairs, Ms. Xander set down her mug of coffee and stood up from her seat.
Natasha reached the bottom of the stairs with a thud and headed into the kitchen to grab a muffin.
When she entered the kitchen, she saw her mother standing up from the table.
"Good morning Natasha." her mother said.
"Morning Mom. How are you today." she replied with a smile, not looking Julia in the face and grabbing a poppyseed muffin out of the cabinet.
"Oh, I'm fine hon."
"Well good." Natasha said as she started unwrapping her muffin.
But she was still focusing her attention more on the task of unwrapping it, then looking at her only parent.
“Natasha?” Julia asked slowly.
“Yeah?” her daughter replied.
“Natasha!” she exclaimed.
The red haired teen flinched at the sudden loud voice and finally glanced up, to see her mother standing right in front of her, wearing a stern face.
“Are you alright?” Julia asked firmly.
“Of course Mom! I’m fine. Believe me.” Natasha told her mother.
“Are you sure? If you think you aren’t ready to go back to school, I can call and tell them that you’re sick or something.”
“No Mom. Honest, I’m alright. It’s only school. What’s the worst that could happen.”
“Well… what if you get in a fight with Quinn again?” Julia pointed out, remembering the many fights that Natasha had been through with that girl.
“I won’t let that happen today Mom. I promise. If she starts bothering me, I will simply ignore her.” Natasha insisted, before taking a bite of her poppyseed muffin.
"Okay okay. I was just making sure you were alright. But please, if anything goes wrong, go to the office, and give me a call. I will take you home.” her Mother said.
“I will.” she replied. Though Natasha was inside vowing that she was a big girl, and would be able to make it through the day without Mommy.
“Okay then, I’ll be heading out. Your brother is going to stay the night at a friend's house today. I won't be home until around 11 PM, so please be safe. And again, call me if anything goes wrong. Or even if you just need someone to talk to." Julia told her daughter, as she finished off her coffee and started pacing out of the kitchen and towards the front door.
Julia kissed her daughter on the forehead.
"Have a good day Natasha." she smiled.
"You too Mom.”
She then grabbed her things and walked out the door to go to work.
Natasha breathed a sigh of relief and looked at her phone.
Time to go to the bus stop.
Natasha went out the door, starting to bite further into her muffin. Her bus stop was only at the corner of the block. Not too far.
She waved goodbye to her Mom as she pulled out of the driveway in her Police Cruiser.
As she got closer to the bus stop, she noticed her best friend, Samantha Oliver, waiting for her.
The girl had medium, raven black hair that was so messy and curly, that Natasha once called her Medusa for a month. Samantha’s dark blue eyes were the perfect contrast to Natasha’s bright green ones.
She wore skinny jeans, a dark grey shirt, and a dark green leather jacket.
Natasha met the half British girl at the age of eleven.
For a while since, they were really just acquaintances.
But as they moved further through middle school they gradually grew closer and closer.
Until they were practically sisters.
Their relationship was built upon by their three years they’d been going to Nostromo High-School together.
As she got to the bus stop, she saw that Samantha had an expression on her face that in her mind, spoke 2 things.
One, “It’s great to see you!”
And two, “Are you alright? You didn’t return any of my calls or texts… You’ve never seemed that emotionally crushed before.”
But the first sentence out of Natasha’s best friend’s mouth, was a mixture of the two.
"Oh my god! Natasha! I’m so glad to see you again. Are you okay? I’m sorry if my calls and messages hurt your feelings…"
Still chewing the muffin in her mouth, Natasha raised a finger as she finished chewing it.
“Oh, come here.” Samantha weakly smiled, opening her arms wide for a hug.
Crumpling the muffin’s wrapper up in her hand, she walked forward and allowed her friend to embrace her, before returning the hug.
Natasha squeaked as she felt like Samantha was squeezing her so hard, she might cough out her chewed up muffin.
But she managed to swallow the last bite, before patting her friend on the back.
Samantha really had missed her.
Natasha couldn’t even pry Samantha off her. Instead, she waited for her to reach satisfaction, and the tight hug finally ended.
“I’m alright Sam. Sorry about ignoring your messages. It won’t happen again. Ugh… god!”
Natasha clutched her sore chest.
“I feel like you could have killed me with that hug though…” she chuckled.
Samantha smiled weakly.
“Oops… sorry Nat.”
“I’ll be fine. Just give a heads up, and an oxygen tank next time.”
The 2 friends laughed together, seemingly recovered from the several days apart.
The bus drove around the corner and slowed to a halt before the girls’ stop.
The doors squeaked open, and Natasha stepped aboard after Samantha, throwing her wrapper into the trash.
They took their seats and sat down in their usual spots, about four seats from the back on the right side.
The bus driver shut the door and drove towards the next stop on his route.
"So how are the others?" Natasha inquired, wondering how her other friends were doing.
"They’ve been pretty good. They were all concerned about you. Bastian in particular." Samantha explained.
"Yeah, I noticed." she added with a weak smile.
Natasha’s friend saw that face and instantly recognized its meaning.
"Oh? Is your old crush on Bastian Charleston still in there Nat?."
Natasha’s face turned red
“Maybe?” she answered.
“Whatever happened between you two anyway?” Samantha asked.
“Nothing.” Natasha told her.
“I had a crush on him. We ended up becoming good friends. And nothing else really happened. You know how shy I am. I could never ask him out. I’m good with just being friends.”
Samantha wore a surprised face.
“Really? For two years you’ve known eachother, and that’s it?”
“Hey! You’re one to talk missy! When did you ever get a boyfriend?” Natasha snapped.
“I uh…” Samantha trailed off.
“Nothing.” the raven haired girl sighed.
Natasha glanced out the window as the bus slowed to its next stop. She saw who was getting on.
"Oh boy..." she said.
"We’re at the Bitch Queen’s stop. Aren’t we?" Samantha guessed without looking out the window.
The bus door opened and a single girl stepped on board.
Her name was Quinn Weyland.
And to Natasha and Sam, she was perhaps the most spoiled teen that hell could spit up.
She had long. silver hair, and wore a tight, long sleeved black shirt that had a somewhat revealing V neck collar. Quinn also wore a black skirt and had violet eyes.
At a height of 6’3”, she was taller than few. But that wasn’t her actual height.
She was only that tall because of the knee high black leather boots she wore.
Quinn was spoiled brat, thanks to her father, Charles Weyland. The CEO of Weyland Industries.
There were few people at school who liked her. But none would admit that.
She had earned the nickname “Queen Bitch” as she had a gargantuan ego, and a tyrannical attitude.
Quinn would use family’s wealth and power to lash out at anyone who got in her way.
Anyone except for Natasha.
Natasha had challenged her power constantly from the first day they met.
Quinn never could understand what it was.
But the moment she met Natasha, she felt like a sword had struck a shield.
That the pair of them were pure opposites.
A positive charge meeting a negative charge.
A bucket of water becoming acquainted with a fire.
From day one in, Natasha and Quinn were enemies.
And she was always finding excuses to bully her and single her out.
The school district almost forced them to go to different schools in an effort to break up their constant fights.
But Quinn’s father wouldn’t allow it.
Rumor had it, that these bullyings were probably because Quinn’s incredibly busy father was never there to care for her after her mother died.
Quinn grew up longing for a friend or any parental figure to hold onto.
Instead she had no one to grow up with.
And because of this she was rude and awful to everyone in an effort to keep them away.
Whether this rumor was true or not, Natasha was unsure.
But for six years, she had endured all the insults from Quinn, because deep down, she felt sorry for her. But she always had a breaking point. And unfortunately, it was often surpassed.
Both Quinn and Natasha had scars to prove it.
But one of these days, Natasha knew that Quinn’s attitude was gonna push her beyond the point of no return.
Hopefully not today though.
Quinn strutted down the aisle before sitting in the seat behind Natasha and Samantha, her two friends, Call and Ferro, sat in the seat across from hers.
The bus driver shut the doors with a hiss and continued to school, his pick-up route finished.
"Hello, Natasha and Samantha." Quinn said, digging her sharp nails into the top of their seat.
"What do you want Quinn?" moaned Natasha as Samantha futilely attempted to pry Quinn's nails out of the seat.
"Me? What do I want? Nothing. I’m just checking up on you guys."
The way she said it, almost felt sincere to Natasha’s ears. But she wouldn’t fall for it.
“I don’t believe you.”
"No really! Honest! I’m curious, how was your mourning?" Quinn asked.
“It’s been great so far. Now would you please leave me alone Quinn?”
Quinn smiled at her response.
“It’s been great? Boy, you must have really hated your daddy’s guts then, huh?”
Natasha’s eyes widened, before narrowing tightly.
She realized Quinn had meant “mourning”, not “morning”.
The red haired teen felt anger bubbling within her over what had just been said, but she tried to keep calm, biting deep into her lip with her sharp canines and looking away from Quinn.
Blood dripped out of her lip, and down the side of her face, feeling hot.
Almost like it was burning her skin…
“Oh c’mon, Nattie. Admit it, you were overjoyed to hear the news of your pop’s death.” she pushed, twisting a mental dagger around in Natasha’s head to set her off.
“Leave her alone you bitch!” Samantha growled, smacking Quinn’s hand off the seat.
“Oh come on now Sammy! I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m merely asking her to admit her true feelings. Hell, I shouldn’t have to! Her earlier response should be telling enough!” she laughed, earning a chuckle from her friends across the aisle.
Natasha couldn’t hold it back anymore. In a move so swift and sudden, that it was over before anyone could flinch, she whipped around and shot her hands out to grab Quinn’s collar before yanking her face close.
“If you ever insult my father’s memory like that again, I don’t give a shit how much trouble I get in, I will gouge out your eyes and make you choke on them!” she hissed under her breath.
Quinn was frozen in fear as Natasha slowly released her grip and sat back down in her seat.
The black wearing teen rubbed her shirt collar, smoothing out where it had been grabbed.
A sinister grin slithered onto her face as a plan assembled in her demented mind.
Natasha didn't say anything the rest of the bus ride. She knew Quinn wouldn’t bother her again for long. But she also noticed that Samantha was looking at her in an odd way. Almost as if she were scared of her. Which Natasha realized may have been the correct reaction. Thinking back on what she actually said… it almost scared her.
Eventually the Bus pulled up to Nostromo High.
It wasn’t a bad High-School. It had a lot of good teachers and a great principal heading the school. The place was certainly cleaner than most schools in the big apple. And it made the students there feel safe.
The bus stopped and the driver opened the doors.
Natasha quickly got up and poured out of the vehicle, wanting to get as far away from Quinn as possible.
Samantha hurried after her.
“Natasha! Wait up!”
They went through the school doors and made their way to the library.
"Natasha? Are you alright? You scared me back there." asked Samantha as they entered the library.
"Huh? Oh, yeah I'm fine. I was just thinking." she replied, her hand noticeably gripping her bag strap. "About what?" Samantha persisted.
"I was thinking that maybe one day, Quinn will get what she deserves." Natasha said with a smirk. Samantha chuckled, putting a hand on Natasha’s Shoulder.
"I'm sure she will. And I know that we'll be there to see it happen. But try not to let her get to you. She wants to make you angry. She wants to get you in trouble. Don’t let her."
The two put their arms around eachother's shoulders as they walked to the comic aisle of the school library.
"So? What shall we check out today?" smiled Samantha.
The two girls were sort of tomboys, that had a love for comics that couldn't be matched.
"Maybe a little Batgirl, some Runaways? What do you think Natasha?"
"Nah, I’m good." Natasha replied.
“Not really in the mood for comics right now.”
“Oh, come on… Not even a little Venom or Witchblade to cheer you up.” Samantha offered as she browsed the spines of the library’s long comic shelf.
“Mmm… alright. Maybe just one issue of Runaways…” Natasha relented, not wanting to ruin her best friend’s enthusiastic attitude.
“That’s my girl!” Samantha laughed, giving her friend a high-five.
The girls walked out with their chosen comics and checked them out.
As the pair exited the library, they decided to meet up with the rest of their friends.
Those friends being Bastian, David, and Bishop. All of whom were standing together and gossiping, when they walked over.
Glancing up from their discussion, Bastian spotted them and quickly went to greet the two.
“Hey girls! How’s it going?” he welcomed, with a natural smile.
“Hi Bastian! We’ve been good so far.” Samantha said.
“Aside from the Bitch Queen’s bus attack…” Natasha sighed.
The dirty blonde haired boy walked straight up to Natasha instead, wrapping his arms around her in a friendly hug.
Natasha was somewhat startled by the gesture, and didn’t know what to do.
But as the warmth of Bastian’s embrace flowed through her, she hugged him back with a smile.
“I missed you too.” Natasha told him.
The two of them let go of eachother, and Samantha let out a snicker. She also heard David and Bishop chuckling as they watched the display.
“If you ever need someone to talk to, you know my number.” Bastian said.
“Thanks Bastian… and I will.”
“Oh get a room you two!” Samantha giggled, causing Natasha to turn red.
But Bastian didn’t blush. He simply gave a small laugh at her remark and invited the girls to join the discussion he and the others had been having.
Not long after, the school's bell rang and it was time for class.
Natasha and Samantha shared their first class, Algebra.
They made it to Ms. Lambert's classroom and, as per usual, were the first ones there.
"Good morning you two." said Lambert, as she stood up from her desk.
"Hi Ms. Lambert." said Natasha as she placed her made up work from her absences into the turn in basket.
The other students flooded into the class shortly after and took their seats as the lesson began. As the class went on, Natasha started to think back to her sudden outburst on the bus earlier. What was up with that? what had compelled her to say something so vile and creepy?
Sure, Quinn was being a bitch and saying horrible things. When wasn’t she?
But did she really deserve to be threatened in such a way?
Maybe she did. Natasha couldn’t be sure.
Her thoughts were halted however, when a loud BANG erupted from under the teacher's desk. The bang followed by some whistles, sparks, and a giggle from Drake, the pyromaniac of the class.
"Score!" he snickered. Ms. Lambert was not amused.
"Drake! Move your ass out of my class and into the Principal's office. Now!" she ordered.
"Aww man, Principal Ripley's gonna be pissed!" he moped and he got up and left the classroom.
The lesson ended soon after and everyone just socialized until the bell rang.
"So are you gonna ask Bastian out or not?" asked Samantha as they went through the door into the hallway crowded with other students, since neither of them had the same lunch as him.
"What?! No way! I already told you. I’m too shy." Natasha replied, hoisting her bookbag over her shoulder.
“Besides, if he was into me, he would have already asked me by now. We’re just friends.”
“Really? Maybe he’s just as shy as you. I remember the way he was back in middle school. He had a tough time making friends. I know that he cares for you. He displays it every day you guys are in the same room together. And if you can’t see it, then you’re blind.” Samantha told her.
“Perhaps you’re right… I don’t know. But still. I’m not ready for that right now.”
“You’re only as ready as you want to be.”
“Whatever…” Natasha replied.
“I’ll see you at lunch.”
The two friends separated for their next 2 classes.
Natasha went to her usual Gymnastics class taught by Ms. Vasquez. This was her third year of gymnastics, so it was a real breeze for her. As usual, she was quite the show off to her classmates. who rolled their eyes as she did cartwheels across the balance beam.
After that she had Biology and was learning about parasitic and symbiotic relationships with Mr. Holloway. Natasha did her best to stay awake, and took notes on anything that sounded important.
Until finally, the bell rang and she was able to head to the cafeteria for lunch.
Natasha and Samantha walked over to their usual table and were the only ones there. Since their other friends didn’t share the same lunch as them.
They started talking about something they could do that weekend for fun.
“We could go see a scary movie!” Samantha grinned.
Natasha rolled her eyes and snorted.
“Name one that’s playing in theaters. The state of horror films has really gone down the crapper. Anything that comes out today, is either boring non-scary stuff like Paranormal Activity and Conjuring, or it’s torture porn like Saw and Hostel.”
The conversation continued, until Natasha was interrupted by a sudden tap on the shoulder.
“Hey Natasha?” asked a young freshman named Dietrich.
“Yes? What is it?” she replied to the girl.
“I uh… I think Quinn is spreading rumors about you…”
Natasha shot of her seat, causing it to scrape noisily along the floor.
“She’s saying that you were glad your father died. I heard her, and I figured she was making crap up.”
Natasha turned her head to face the table where Quinn and her entourage of bitchy teens sat.
Quinn had a wicked grin on her face as she talked, and the girls and guys around her seemed to be laughing and applauding.
The fiery red head was past her breaking point.
She started marching over to their table with so much anger, that she couldn’t even hear Samantha’s pleas as her friend tried to stop her.
Quinn saw her walking up and her grin spread wider.
“Oh? What’s this? Come to restate what you admitted to me on the bus in front of everyone? No need. We all know how great your mourning was. Tell us about your afternoon Natty.”
Natasha answered the silver haired bitch with a startling punch in the jaw, that knocked her out of her seat.
“My afternoon? Oh its been ‘meh’ so far. But it’s gonna be freaking great, now that I get to give you what you’ve always deserved.”
Quinn rubbed her jaw, and touched the inside of her cheek, to find her fingers returning with blood on them.
“And what might that be?” she smiled, rising to her feet and clenching her fists.
“I’ll show you.” Natasha said.
Natasha and Quinn were now sitting patiently outside the principal’s office.
They each sat in a chair on the opposite sides of the doorway, shooting glares at eachother every once in a while.
Quinn’s face was bruised, and her once nice hair was now a mess with a bit of blood in it.
She rubbed her bandaged hand gently.
The bite Natasha gave her there had been pretty deep. But the school nurse told her that it’s be fine in a week or two. Provided she didn’t pick at it.
Natasha’s face wasn’t as bruised. But she had several small cuts on it.
Courtesy of Quinn’s long nails.
But despite these minor cuts, she hadn’t suffered anything major like Quinn.
Which angered her rival, as Quinn was sure she’d hurt Natasha a lot more than that during the fight.
But it mattered not. As both of their parents were now in Principal Ripley’s office, discussing the incident, and what was to be done.
Natasha was nervous. Knowing how rich the Weyland family was, they could be sued severely.
Quinn was also nervous, knowing since there were student witnesses, that she’d be receiving a severe punishment and a lecture from her father. And those were things she could live without.
Natasha could hear them raising their voices in there every once in a while.
But she still couldn’t make out what they were saying.
Finally, the door opened, and Principal Ripley told them to come in.
As the girls walked in, they both wore similar ashamed expressions and looked at the carpet, not their parents’ stern faces.
“Natasha, Quinn… face eachother.” Ripley ordered.
They turned towards eachother, still keeping their eyes “interested” in the patterns of the carpet.
“Now look eachother in the eyes.”
Natasha locked her eyes with Quinn’s violet eyes almost immediately.
While Quinn waited, letting out a sigh before finally looking into Natasha’s emerald eyes.
“Okay. Now I want both of you to apologize. Right now.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t actually gouge your eyes out, Quinn.”
Natasha wanted to say that. But with her mother in the room, she didn’t want to let her down.
“I’m sorry for attacking you, Quinn.” she said, being as sincere as possible, while wanting to bite her tongue as the words bounced out of her mouth.
“I’m sorry for bullying you and using your father’s death as a way to hurt you, Natasha.”
The way that Quinn said it…
Natasha was amazed by how honest she sounded.
She wanted to reply. She wanted to say, “I forgive you.”
But the red head held those words back, knowing that Quinn wouldn’t didn’t feel the same way.
“Alright. Now that that’s out of the way. Both of you are receiving a two day suspension. After that, I will be happy to welcome you two back to Nostromo High. But I want you both to spend your ‘four day weekend’ thinking about what you did today. I know you girls don’t get along. I think everyone in this school district does. But that doesn’t mean you have to fight eachother every other week. I’m not asking you two to become friends. I’m just asking that you both lay off eachother. I don’t want to see you both in here, with cuts and bruises again. Is that understood?”
“Yes Principal Ripley…” they said in reply.
“Alright then. You’re all free to go.”
The walk to the car with her mother wasn’t awkward to Natasha.
This scenario was all too familiar. So she wasn’t afraid of what would be said, or rather yelled, in the car on the way home anymore.
They got into the Police cruiser, and Julia started the engine.
The vehicle then pulled out of the Nostromo High parking lot and began its journey home.
As the drive went on, the mother and daughter were silent.
Until Natasha was fed up with the suspense.
“Am I grounded?”
Julia gave her a wide eyed look before smiling as she turned a corner.
“I thought you were giving me the silent treatment or something.” she chuckled.
“I might’ve… if I were still twelve years old.” Natasha replied.
“No, you’re not grounded hon. I was pretty much waiting around for the call from school. I knew that despite your assurances, something would go wrong.”
Her daughter frowned.
“Am I really that untrustworthy?”
Julia laughed, and reached her hand over, running her finger through Natasha’s red hair.
“No, Natasha. I trust you fine. It’s just… you’re a really bad liar when you do.”
Soon, they pulled into their home’s driveway, and Natasha grabbed her backpack as she opened her door.
“Try to do something productive while you’re suspended.” Julia requested.
Julia waved goodbye as she reversed out of the driveway and sped off yet again.
Natasha sighed, rubbing her eyes.
“Something productive…” she muttered to herself.
The teen walked up to the front door and unlocked it before stepping inside and shrugging her heavy backpack off of her shoulders.
She walked upstairs to her room, all the while thinking of something she could do.
There hadn’t been any homework assigned in the few periods she was at school. But even if there was, she wasn’t in the mood to complete it.
Maybe she could watch some TV. But that didn’t seem productive enough, nor would there
probably be anything to watch she mused.
Sighing, Natasha sat at her desk, lazily spinning around in her swivel chair. She looked in her desk drawer out of curiosity, as she rarely kept track of what she put in there.
It didn’t seem to be anything of value. Some assorted papers, pens, cards, and some other knick-knacks. But upon shifting some of the papers aside, Natasha saw something that made her heart skip a beat.
Underneath the papers was a small rectangular object, that was crimson in color.
It was the last gift her father had given her.
Natasha pulled it out and placed it in the center of her desk, switching on her lamp and shutting the drawer.
The item was a small book, bound in red leather.
It didn’t have anything written on the cover to distinguish it or give it a title because, well, it was a journal.
Natasha wasn’t really the writing type, and never cared for writing in a diary or something like that. But the idea of keeping a journal of events that she could go back and read in detail about enticed her. She had asked her Dad to get her one. And he did.
But she just never got around to writing in it.
Though she didn’t feel like writing to herself. Or even her future self.
There was someone else she wanted to speak to through this journal, should she start writing in it. Her Father.
Without even hesitating, Natasha grabbed the nearest pen, clicked it open, and turned to the journal’s first blank page.
And with a deep breath, she put the pen to the paper and started to write from her heart.
I’m sorry I haven’t been using the journal you gave me until now. I hope wherever you are, that you’re doing fine. I really miss you Dad. I could really use some advice from you now.
You remember Quinn Weyland? She was insulting your memory. I doubt you agree with action I committed against her after the fact. The Nurse claims that I almost dislocated Quinn’s jaw. And I’ve been feeling weird lately Dad. I don’t know what it is. But I just feel this gaping hole in my body where my person used to be.
I don’t think that I feel this way because of what happened to you Dad. I can’t explain it. I just don’t feel like myself for some reason. Something inside me, feels like it has changed.
Whether this change is positive or negative, I cannot tell.
All I know is that I’m scared Dad.
Natasha broke down at her desk. She buried her head under her forearms and sobbed into the paper as the full effect of everything that she was going through came crushing down on her.
And it hurt.
When Natasha finally calmed down, she closed the Journal for now and headed downstairs, feeling hungry for dinner. As she made her way down the steps, she had to hold onto the railing, as she felt exhausted, and like she was having one of the biggest headaches of her life. Once she reached the bottom of the steps, the redhead stumbled into the kitchen and yanked open the fridge.
Natasha grabbed the leftover mashed potatoes and fried chicken.
She put a satisfying amount of both meals onto a plate before jamming it into the microwave and heating it up.
Sitting down to eat, Natasha couldn’t stop rubbing her eyes.
As soon as she finished eating, she would make sure to lie down for a nap.
Natasha turned her attention back to the present, to realize that she had a whole chicken leg in her mouth!
The teen had never really been a messy eater. At least not since her single digit years.
But as she pulled the drumstick out of her mouth, her eyes widened.
Every last strip of meat, had been cleanly chewed off!
All that was left on the chicken leg was some skin, and Natasha’s saliva.
Natasha dropped the bone onto her plate and gulped, feeling the last few shreds of meat going down her throat.
Did she really just eat a whole chicken leg in one bite?
For some reason her mouth felt weird.
She poked her fingers inside it to feel around.
Nothing seemed to be out of place.
Her teeth were all there.
Her tongue felt normal.
As did the roof and bottom of her mouth.
Natasha wore a confused look on her face as she removed her fingers from her mouth, wiping the saliva off them with a napkin.
Unable to find a reasonable explanation, Natasha shrugged it off as her imagination and started forking the potatoes into her mouth.
Once she was finished, the girl threw away the napkin, and washed her plate off, before walking into the living room.
She plopped herself onto the sofa and lazily turned on the TV, planning to watch it until she fell asleep.
It was only 5 minutes of reality TV before Natasha drifted into a warm sleep.
The Xander family was strolling happily through Central Park one night.
Julia cradled the sleeping form of her two year old son, Peter, in her arms as they walked.
Terrence held the hand of a young seven year old Natasha, who clutched it tightly.
“Natasha? What’s wrong?” he asked his daughter.
“Daddy… I don’t like the dark.” she whimpered.
Her father smiled at her response.
“Why? What’s so scary about it? It’s not going to hurt you.”
“I know… But it’s so dark Dad. What if there’s something scary that we can’t see?” Natasha asked.
Terrence knelt down and lifted her onto his shoulders.
“Well if we can’t see it, then it probably can’t see us either.” he reassured her.
Natasha’s worried face seemed to soften, but she still held onto his head for support, not taking her eyes of the bushes around them.
Terrence turned to see Julia smiling at him, likely proud of the way he comforted their daughter.
He returned the smile and leaned over to his wife, locking his lips with hers.
“Dad!!!” Natasha whined, trying to look away from her parents’ display of affection.
“I’m sorry Natasha.” her father chuckled.
They walked through Central Park a little more, passing a few people.
But it was getting late. And the lack of other people around them was a sign that they should head home.
“Shall we head back to the car?” Terrence asked his family.
“Yes please! I wanna go home.” Natasha answered.
“I agree with her hon. But I gotta use the restroom first. Will you wait here?”
“Of course!” her husband replied.
“Do you want me to take Peter for you?”
She shook her head.
“No. I’ll be fine. Besides, you look like you got your hands full with just one of our kids.” Julia winked as she started walking away to find the restrooms.
As they waited, Terrence quietly whistled.
The sound wasn’t loud, but it helped keep Natasha from feeling anxious if they were surrounded by complete silence.
But the two were both startled by the loud “KAW!” of a crow that wasn’t far away.
Terrence lifted the shaking seven year old off of his shoulders and set her on the ground.
“Don’t be frightened Natasha. It was just a bird.” he said.
“Yeah, I know Dad. Duh!” his daughter giggled in reply.
He simply rubbed her head and held her hand with a smile.
Natasha jumped again though, when she heard a loud rustling coming from the bushes on her left.
“It’s okay baby girl. It’s probably just a squirrel or something.”
“But it sounded… big.”
Squinting into the darkness, Natasha saw what she thought were a pair of big legs.
But following them up with her eyes, she was speechless.
It was a dark figure. Incredibly tall, and with long arms at its sides.
They both gasped as the massive figure stepped out from the bushes and trees.
The being’s size loomed high over them.
“D-daddy…” she whispered in fear.
“Natasha. RUN!” her father screamed
Before either of them could move though, the hulking figure wordlessly shot out its long arm, smacking Terrence to the side.
He was sent flying across the path, his head colliding with a tree.
“Daddy!!!” Natasha shrieked.
She ran in the direction he flew, her concern for her father overriding her instinct to flee.
The little girl found him lying on the ground in front of the tree he hit.
Tears trickled down Natasha’s face as she thought he was dead.
But because it was dark, she couldn’t see the fact that he was still breathing.
“Dad? Daddy wake up.” she whimpered, shaking his arm.
But she failed to notice the massive being stalking up behind her.
Without a warning, it snatched the little girl up in its large hand, before lumbering away.
Natasha banged on it futilely, reaching her hand towards her father as she was carried away.
Natasha fell off the couch in a spasm as she awoke with a start.
She breaths became quick and she held her chest in pain.
Her skin was now glistening with sweat she’d released during that nightmare.
Or was it a nightmare?
She clutched her head and groaned, rubbing it as she tried to focus.
It was all becoming fuzzy again. Natasha couldn’t tell.
It felt like it was just a nightmare. Like it couldn’t have been real.
But something inside of her kept telling her that wasn’t the case.
How could it be real? Wouldn’t she remember it better?
Shaken by the experience, whether a nightmare or suppressed memory, Natasha wanted closure. She needed to know.
The teen hastily tugged on her boots and threw on her black trenchcoat before dashing out of the house and into the downpour.
Natasha pulled up her collar as a police cruiser drove slowly past her, being stopped by typical Manhattan traffic.
She didn’t want her Mom to catch her out this late. Though she didn’t know what time it was.
All she knew was that she needed to get to Central Park.
Her whole body felt like it was being drawn there.
As if by instinct. Or perhaps something more.
Almost like there was a mental magnet in her head.
Her speedy walk soon turned into a jog.
And soon her urge to go there became so urgent she started sprinting down the sidewalk, shoving people out of her way.
They would shout four and five letter words at her.
But she didn’t bother to respond to them with words of her own.
Instead she kept running.
After a few more blocks, she entered Central Park.
That wasn’t enough though.
Natasha kept on running.
Her boots started to get muddy, and in turn began kicking the mud into her coat.
But she still didn’t care.
The conditions or cleanliness of her attire was not her concern at this time.
Soon she reached the point in the park that she’d seen in her dream.
Natasha skidded to a halt, splashing mud everywhere.
She leaned over and put her hands on her knees, gasping to catch her breath.
When she did, she looked around.
The teen concentrated. Trying to remember anything.
Did the location ring any bells that she couldn’t already hear?
It didn’t seem to be.
But she kept trying.
She looked through the bushes. She went up to the tree her father hit in the dream and touched it, hoping to recall something. Anything.
After several minutes, Natasha knew nothing was coming back to her.
With a sigh, she brushed her sopping wet hair out of her face.
“Maybe it really was just a nightmare…” she muttered.
Glancing over the area once more, Natasha shook her head and put her hands in her coat pockets, turning towards home.
She was about to leave, when she heard an ominous rumbling sound from high above.
Natasha snapped her head up to see… something.
It wasn’t easy to describe.
Above the city, in the clouds, was something large, with a seemingly round shape.
But it was hidden by the clouds so well, Natasha couldn’t tell what it looked like.
The sounds of distant cars screeching to a halt and people shouting, told her that she wasn’t the only one seeing it.
Natasha tried to get a better look, shielding her eyes from the rain. But it didn’t help.
Suddenly, a bright, steady beam of light shot down through the clouds, striking Natasha in the chest.
“Gahh!!” she gasped, falling backward onto the dirt path.
“KkK-kkcK-“ Natasha coughed, staring wide eyed at the beam going from the ship into her chest. It burned!
The beam was like fire scorching through her body.
She wanted to move out of the way, but she couldn’t.
The force of the beam and the pain kept her trapped underneath it.
Slowly, the beam began to widen.
Natasha looked down and saw that everywhere the beam touched, her clothes were being burned away. And as the beam widened, more of her coat and shirt were seemingly disintegrated.
But most importantly, there was something in the middle of her chest now. Right where the beam first hit her.
It looked at first like a droplet of paint. Dark purple paint.
Except it seemed to be alive, and was spreading across her chest with a will of its own.
Natasha grunted and tried to move.
She didn’t want to end her life this way. Being eaten alive by an alien purple blob.
But there wasn’t anything she could do to stop it as it consumed her torso, and started spreading down her arms and legs.
All of a sudden, the beam from above stopped.
And a rumbling sound was heard from above again.
Natasha assumed that whatever was above the clouds was leaving, but she didn’t bother looking to check.
With her ability to move restored, Natasha immediately tried to grab the purple slime that was wrapping itself around her body and pull it off.
But the stuff wouldn’t budge!
It felt as if Natasha was tugging at her own skin.
“What the hell is this?!” she screamed, continuing to claw at it desperately with her nails.
She started to notice it growing thicker in certain areas of her body.
“Get off!” Natasha yelled, trying to slow the spread of the ooze.
But it was no use. Soon it had encased her from the neck down.
It had grown so thick and solid, that Natasha could not move.
The substance started to climb her neck, hoping to claim the only thing it hadn’t taken.
“HELP!!” Natasha screamed.
“SOMEONE?! ANYBODY! HELP ME!”
The ooze climbed up her chin and over the back of her head, coating her scalp.
“DAD…” she cried through tear filled eyes as the ooze covered her face completely, leaving her blind and deaf.
Natasha was scared and didn’t know what would become of her.
It wasn’t long before pedestrians began curiously walking over to where the strange beam from the sky had hit.
A group of them got there and saw what was left.
Lying down on the path, was a strange creature.
It was humanoid, and clearly female from its dimensions.
But it wasn’t human.
Its skin was dark purple and seemed to be thick like an exoskeleton.
It had a long bony tail with ridges and a spike at the end.
The creature had an elongated head that was topped with a somewhat transparent dome.
Its finger tipped with claws, and its toes ended with talons.
And a pair of jagged spines rose from its back.
The first people to see it were silent in fear.
But another person saw it and exclaimed loudly.
This was loud enough to wake the creature, and it rose to its feet.
The humans were frozen in fear as the alien seemed to look them all over curiously.
They were practically surrounding it, and so the creature felt threatened.
It spread its claws and crouched, twitching its tail.
Its lips pulled back, revealing a mouth full of fangs as it hissed, opening its mouth and sticking out its tongue. Which happened to have jaws of its own.
The gesture caused the fearful humans to back up.
And with a snarl, the creature sprinted toward them and leaped clear over their heads and into the rainy night.