Chapter 1: Not Human

Kai was content to eat his hospital fare and slip back off to sleep. But, as his team often did, they sought him out and then convened for a discussion, using him as a sort of marker for a meeting place. It often worked this way rather than they try to bring him out to them. He must really be imposing, he thought with a wry smile.

Tyson and Max had already dressed into their everyday clothes, having finished the last of their tests and just waiting to be checked out by a guardian. Ray had dressed as well, though he still wore the bandage about his head. It didn’t affect his hearing, though he did request that they keep it quiet as his ears were still sensitive. The only one who had to be reminded of this was Tyson. Kenny had also come to the circle lounging about Kai’s bed, opening Dizzy by Kai’s foot. And, for some unknown reason, Hilary had come as well, probably with the excuse of visiting him as Ray was also dressed and ready to leave with Tyson, whose grandfather served as Ray’s temporary guardian whenever he was over in Japan.

“The hospital doesn’t have a clue who she is, and she either is hiding it or doesn’t seem to know herself,” said Kenny in a low voice, as though afraid of being heard. “I couldn’t find any missing person reports on her either. She’s in a very precarious situation. With her care adding up on the bill, the hospital might just hand her off to anyone willing to pay it.”

“That’s horrible!” said Hillary.

“You mean those creeps could come and take her back to that—that—” Tyson had never been very eloquent with words, and he couldn’t seem to find one now. Apparently Ray had told him about what Kai had found about her, though none of them had yet to ask him how he knew. They would ask eventually.

Ray didn’t seem to have forgiven Kai yet, for he stood next to the window rather than in a chair about Kai’s bed.

Kai just took another scoop of his potatoes. They tasted dry. That was okay. He planned on checking himself out after he finished. He could pick up his pain meds and head somewhere that had proper nutrition.

“Maybe that’s why she tried to run away,” said Ray, watching something out the window. “I ran into her coming out of Kai’s room. She looked…desperate.”

“I think there’s more to it than that.”

Everyone’s attention turned to Kenny, except Tyson, who had been eyeballing Kai’s cup of pudding since he had come in and chose now to say something about it.

“Hey, Kai, can I have your pudding?”

Kai shrugged and the pudding was gone.

Kenny went on as though Tyson’s shameless devouring of the pudding cup didn’t occur. “Now you guys can’t say a word or I can be in some major—and I mean major trouble with the state, but I…I took a peek into her hospital file and read the doctor’s notes hoping I could find something like, I don’t know, a tattoo or something that could help me narrow down my search and I found some very odd figures. For one, she’s only 85 pounds and she’s the same height as Hillary! By any cases, that’s dangerously skinny, we’re talking organ failure and tremors and hair all over you—nothing but bone. But I dropped by to take a look at her and she doesn’t look anorexic at all.” Pink had flushed up to his face at this point, which Max didn’t miss.

“Kenny, you perv, just how close of a look did you take?”

“I have morals!” Kenny snapped. “My point is, it’s extremely odd, but I think I know why it is.” He twisted his laptop around to show the screen, where some x-rays of a neck and skull were shown. “These are the x-rays they took to make sure her neck and skull weren’t damaged—basic procedure to electrocution accidents. Usually bones display on an x-ray are completely white, but here they’re mostly grey with a white outline—at least in the thicker bones. In the doctor’s notes he mentioned that she may have a severe case of osteoporosis, though he had his doubts as she couldn’t have gotten through all that without breaking something. But after I googled a bit, I found that her bones have similarities to a bird’s in the fact that they, well…they’re hollow—which, if they were, would also explain how she is so light.”

Kai snorted. “You ever thought it was all that hair? Stopping her from breaking her bones, that is.”

Now they were staring at him, but Ray downright glared.

“Not now, Kai.”

Tyson stopped his struggles to stretch his tongue to the end of the pudding cup to look between Ray and Kai in confusion. “Alright, what’s going on between you two?”

“Nothing,” said Ray, looking back to the window with something almost like a pout. “So you think she might have hollow bones, Chief? How is that different from osteoporosis?”

Kenny didn’t need any encouragement to continue his lecture. He’d make a good professor one day. “Birds bones are made out of a helix design which makes bones lighter for flight without having to sacrifice strength or support.”

“Then, jee, why don’t we all have hollow bones?” asked Max.

“Just because they’re just as strong as our bones doesn’t mean they’re as durable,” said Kenny.

Right,” buzzed in Dizzy. “You land bound creatures put a lot of impact on your bones and joints through walking and running and jumping. Birds don’t run or bang around on their bones nearly as much, as they shouldn’t. Their design of bones wouldn’t put up with it, and they’d end up riddling their bones with stress factors.”

“That being said,” said Kenny, turning back his laptop. “If my theory is correct, Ayah might not be the best long-distance runner. It’s probably painful for her. Though that brings me back as to why I have this theory at all…”

When Kenny didn’t respond right away, just clicked here and there on his laptop, the team began to fidget.

“Come on, Chief,” said Tyson, chucking the empty pudding cup into the trash and now eyeing Kai’s jello. “What kind of person has hollow bones but doesn’t have osteo-whatsits? Isn’t that what osteo-whatsists is?”

“Well…I found this other note from her doctor…” Kenny bit his lip and looked up. “It says she has three vocal chords, and that he double checked the machine to make sure it was working properly.”

“That would explain how she’s able to make all those weird noises,” said Hillary with a shrug.

“But they haven’t even taken a look at her ears,” said Kenny softly, twisting the laptop around again to show a zoom in on the top of the previous x-rays. He circled about the middle of the skull, where her ears would be. “There was only a side note to look into it later as a possible birth defect, but her ear cavities are…well, here, I pulled up a picture from the web of a normal person’s ear cavity.”

The difference made Tyson and Hillary cry out, while Max just gave a low whistle.

“Guess that can explain why she can hear so well, right?” he said with his usual joviality.

“How can you be so light about this?” Kenny asked, no longer red but pale. “Can’t you see? This is why she really tried to get out of here after releasing Tyson and Max’s souls. If the doctor’s catch on to how…how…”

“Inhuman,” said Kai, handing out his jello to Tyson, who was instantly distracted from the screen.

Ray turned from the window sharply, a fang flashing as he spoke. “We don’t know that. Didn’t you say there was some sort of giant test tube thing down there? Maybe they made her this way.”

Kai snorted. “I doubt it. You forget, I’m acquainted with human modification, and the tools they had on hand were mere desk toys.”

Now everyone was giving him half alarmed, half bemused looks.

“You’re—you’re modified?” asked Tyson stupidly through a square of jello.

Kai rolled his eyes. “Tala. He wasn’t the first. And for the record, I’m one hundred percent natural.”

Kenny adjusted his glasses. “Well, we can never be sure they don’t just have advances in their technology that makes it more space conservative—”

Hillary threw up her arms. “Hold on a second, is no one going to ask how Kai knows this? How did he even get those ball thingies back from them in the first place, let alone get shot?”

“Shot?” yelped Tyson and Max. Ray cringed and made a weak plea for lower voices.

Kai only needed a few seconds to debate on his answer. “I went to their place, picked up the orbs, and one of them didn’t like that, so they shot me on the way out.”

Tyson and Max looked rightly impressed, though Hillary folded her arms and gave him a little disbelieving frown. Ray didn’t seem to care either way, and Kenny kept his eyes to the screen.

“It doesn’t matter how he got them,” Kenny said quietly. “The point is, he got them, and because of that Tyson and Max aren’t soulless vegetables—”

“What were you thinking?” asked Hillary. “You could have died! Didn’t you care how dangerous it was? Why couldn’t you ask the police to help?”

That amused him. It amused him so much he decided to settle with a smirk and finished the last bites of his sandwich. It didn’t taste too bad despite the bad introduction the mashed potatoes made.

“Back on topic, guys,” Ray leaned against the window in a very Kai-like pose, arms crossed and expression grim. “She stays sedated here, she’ll be wide open to the people who did this to her. We have to figure out how to get her out.”

“She can stay with me!” piped up Tyson instantly, though even Kai didn’t miss the little gleam to his eye.

“No way, you pervert!” Hillary slapped him on the back of the head. “Besides, there’re laws. Do we know if she’s a minor or not?”

Kenny shook his head. “There might be ways to determine her age, but I wouldn’t know. But they put her down as somewhere between fifteen and twenty. And you’re right, Hillary, there are laws, though I think the hospital would be willing to overlook it if we’re willing to pay her bill.”

“Alright, then,” piped up Max. “How much? It shouldn’t be that bad.”

“Um…”

“Come on, Chief, lay it on us.”

“…fifty thousand yen…or so.”

There was a brief, stunned quiet before Tyson made a theatrical fall off of Kai’s bed. Kai inwardly snickered. Tyson did have his funny moments. Not that he would ever let him know that Kai found him amusing, though he suspected the other boy already did.

“There’s no way I could ask my parents for that much!” cried Max.

“Fifty what?” squeaked Hillary.

“And that’s just the base charge,” muttered Kenny. “For the, uh, room and…stuff.”

“You got to be joking!”

“Well, there goes my lemonade stand idea,” muttered Tyson.

And then they were all looking at Kai again. Kai didn’t much care for attention, especially since he had never wanted to be a part of this little powwow in the first place. Why’d they all choose his bed to talk about this anyways?

But he wasn’t stupid.

“No.”

The others blanched.

“Oh, come on, Kai, you’re the only one who has the money!” said Tyson.

“Yeah, and you saw how they were treating her!” cried Hillary. “No one can be that heartless!”

Kai felt a tick above his eyebrow. This lot really was a bunch of children. They really didn’t know how the real world worked.

“For your information,” he said little above a growl. “I’m not made out of money. Just because I’m set to inherit a lot doesn’t mean that I have already, or that it’s going to be given to me in pretty bundles of cash. Most of my grandfather’s wealth is in the form of real estate and stocks, and those take time to sell, if they sell at all. Also, if you recall, his biggest investment went down the drain with the rest of Biovolt.” Not to mention taxes and the effort it would take to transfer money from the Russian bank (which never liked revenue leaving the country) to the Japanese equivalent would take weeks, and by then Ayah would have already been reclaimed.

Tyson looked the most let down out of the rest of them. Kai wondered if he had been hoping to persuade him to fly them to his mansion and let Tyson have reign over the place.

Ray had turned red again, and not in a good way.

“Then why can’t you just sell something?” he asked, fist clenching. “Or do you hate her that much?”

“Whoa, hang on,” said Kenny, acting just as startled as the others by the sudden tension between the tiger and the phoenix. “I have other ideas! Money would have just been the easiest.”

“Then get talking, Kenny, before Ray starts clawing at things!” said Tyson, half laughing.

Hillary groaned and put her fingers to her brow as Ray tipped Tyson off of Kai’s bed for the second time. “Really, Tyson?”

“A-anyways,” Kenny gulped at the pained groans of the other boy. A fight was sure to ensue. “If one of our parents is willing to sign as her temporary guardian before someone else does, we could get her out of here before those people can. There’d be a lot to take responsibility for, such as the cost of her medication and making sure she is taken care of, also food and a roof over her head—and I don’t know how the State reimburses for that—”

Tyson jumped up, aggression towards Ray forgotten. “Then back to me! Come on, I got loads of room! And the moment grandpa sees her,” he grinned. “He’ll be all down for having her stay.”

Ray and Hillary gaped in aghast.

Max laughed. “Relax, guys, I can ask my dad. We got plenty of room too.”

“And I’ll ask my mom,” Hillary said with a distinct glare towards Tyson. “No way am I letting that poor thing get in the hands of that old creep.”

“Hey! That’s my Gramps you’re talking about! And I didn’t mean that at all, he’s just always wanted a granddaughter.”

“Then why’d you have to say it like that?”

“Like what? You just decided that on your own because you think all men are perverts.”

“That’s because all men are perverts, pervert! How else was I supposed to read that dirty smirk?”

“Guys, please,” whined Ray, his hands over the gauze on his ears.

But it was Kai who broke. After all, he hadn’t invited them here in the first place, and he never did well in groups.

“Out.”

Tyson and Hillary stopped mid shout to stare at him. “What was that, buddy?”

Get out.


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