They say that change is inevitable. Nothing—and no one—stays the same forever. For some people, these changes are small, natural, and expected. Their lives are somewhat mediocre, normal, forgettable. Boys grow into men. Girls into women. They fall in love, get married, change careers, buy bigger homes, eventually retire and plan for that ultimate final change: death. But for others, for those rare few, they aspire for something more.
Some to make changes for the greater good.
And some, on the other hand, to make changes—big changes—solely for their own benefit and sinister designs.
Some—like this man here, tonight.
He adjusted his suit and tie. He wanted to look good for this important, albeit sketchy, back alley meeting. He stood in one of the darkest, dingiest, dirtiest alleyways in Riverside City, down by the docks.
It was the kind of place haunted only the seediest, scummiest underbellies of society. One of the few sections of town the police feared to tread on a night like tonight. Even the homeless generally avoided this place.
And this man obviously didn’t belong here. He wore a $50,000 suit. A $10,000 Rolex. Spotless, flawless shoes. He carried a gold trimmed briefcase, handcuffed to his wrist.
He checked his watch. 2 A.M. This alley was unusually dark. The outdate street lamp had been broken—and judging by the shattered glass on the ground, recently too. An eerie fog rolled in off the slow moving river, filling the air with an ominous haze.
The man then reached into his suit jacket pocket and pulled out a seemingly ordinary pair of glasses. They were sharp and stylish, fitting a man of his appear wealth and stature. He carefully placed them over his eyes.
It was quiet. Too quiet.
He tapped the side of his glasses, and suddenly, a colorful holographic interface appeared in his view inside the lenses. He looked around and scanned the area. His high-tech glasses illuminated and identified everything for him – he glanced at the trash can, and the lens displayed its dimensions, estimated weight, and apparent age based on design, materials, and amount of rust. He looked at a back alley door. His glasses identified the material of wood, type of lock, and degree of difficulty to bash through it. These were not Google Glasses. This was one of his own inventions. Then, suddenly, through the haze and fog in the distance, at the dark far end of the alleyway, a mysterious figure appeared.
His glasses immediately scanned and identified the person.
Female. Age: early 30s. Height: 5’6”. Average Body Temperature: 13ºC.
He quickly did the math in his head. That was about 55ºF—way below any normal human’s body temperature.
She stepped closer.
The glasses immediately calculated her walking speed and distance.
2.8 miles per hour. A nice slow, perhaps cautious, walking speed. About 30 yards away.
“Clara,” he said, knowingly.
She paused for a second. Then, swiftly, moving through the night haze like a phantom ghost with superhuman speed, miraculously and suddenly appeared mere inches in front of him.
The glasses reported an error.
Her skin was pale. Her eyes, hollow.
“Did you bring it?” he asked her.
She didn’t answer at first. She silently looked to the side, sniffing at the air. She looked around curiously, but didn’t see anyone else there. She turned back at him. “Yes,” she finally said. “Do you have what I need?”
He held up the gold-trimmed briefcase. “Right here.”
“Let me see it!”
“Me first,” he demanded.
She sighed. For a second, she looked as if she were contemplating killing him. But then she decided against it. She reached into her back pocket. What she pulled out was like nothing on Earth.
Because it didn’t originally come from Earth.
She showed to him a small smooth crystal orb, not much larger than a marble, semi-transparent, glowing pink from the inside out. And in its heart, in the very center of this mysterious gem, a golden symbol suspended itself in perpetual stasis. It was shaped like an ancient Greek letter—“Beta”—to be exact. And no matter how she moved the marble-shaped orb, whether she lifted it up or down, turned it side to side, or rolled it around in the palm of her pale, slender hand – the golden “Beta” symbol inside remained perfectly in place and unmoving. Always upright. Always visible directly and specifically to the observer.
For Clara, it appeared to be facing her. But to this wealthy man, it faced and read correctly to him instead—at exactly the same time. Without moving or changing.
It was eerie. Unnatural. Even… supernatural.
And it glowed constantly. Pink. But there was something more. Something unseen. An unholy aura. An otherworldly essence. Whatever this thing was, it wasn’t like anything anyone had ever seen before.
“Satisfied?” she asked him.
He nodded. He then entered his ten-digit code to unlock the briefcase. Inside, he revealed what she was looking for. Three vials of a red liquid. Blood.
But not just any blood.
“You don’t want to betray me,” she reminded him.
“Don’t worry. They’ll work exactly as planned.”
She leaned closer to examine them.
“This one,” he said, pointing to the vial on the left, “will transform you into a humanoid panther form. This one,” he said of the middle one, “will make you a human-spider hybrid—black widow, as you requested—and finally,” he pointed at the third one on the right, “this one is my favorite. It’ll transform you into a part scorpion, part Gila monster, part viper, part falcon human. My own special ‘dragon-form’ blend I’ve been working on.”
She looked intrigued.
“Of course,” he continued, “these are all meant to enhance, not completely replace what you are.”
“Good. I don’t want it to conflict with my… special abilities,” she said.
He shook his head. “It shouldn’t. Although, can’t say I’ve had the opportunity to test it on one of your kind yet. You’ll be the first. But with my human subjects, they… let’s just say they won’t be winning any beauty contests anytime soon.”
She eyed him with distrust.
“I spent a lot of time and resources developing this for you,” he said, holding up one of the vials. “We agreed that I’d provide you and your bloodline a competitive advantage over your kindred enemies. You only need a few drops to infect yourselves and—”
“Infect?” she remarked.
“It uses a viral pathogen to mutate and enhance your body forms,” he calmly explained. “My point is, one of these vials—”
“Goes a long way, I get it,” she snapped.
“All I want is that little gem you found. Do we still have a deal?”
She snatched the vial out of his hand and the other two out of his case with unnatural speed. “Consider our trade satisfied,” she said. “You have done my family a great service tonight.” She placed the glowing pink orb into his hand. “Here’s your pretty gem. Pray we do not meet again.”
He rolled his eyes, but tried to hide it. “Yes, right, of course.”
She paused like she was about to say something, or perhaps double-cross him and kill him right where he stood, but no… not tonight. She carefully clutched the three vials of special blood and fled away, moving as one with the shadows. His glasses tracked her as long as they could. Suddenly, she was gone. In the blink of an eye.
He shook his head. “Vampires.”
Then he held the small glowing orb up to his eyes.
His glasses scanned it. The screen returned back: “Error. Unable to identify.” He smiled.
The golden Beta symbol reflected in his eye.
He clutched the orb in his hand. “Now… someone to test this on…”
The man looked back to his BMW, parked at the end of the alleyway. Satisfied all was going to plan, he started walking back to his car.
But above him, quietly watching from the rooftop, hiding among the shadows, was a girl.
Barely twenty years old, by appearance. Beautiful, feminine, attractive in every way. Dressed in a loose-fitting blue jumpsuit, but barefoot, wearing a San Diego Chargers cap over her long red hair. She watched him walk away. She took a breath, silently, and braced herself. She didn’t feel ready. And she couldn’t forget everything he did to her. But she knew she was the only one who could stop him before it was too late for everyone else.
It was now or never.