“Are you finally ready to go?” A very normal sentence, one might utter under their breath as their beloved applied their lipstick for the 18th time. However for Victoria, this held so much more meaning. So much more pain and effort than just reapplying one’s makeup or setting one’s shoes correctly.
“Let’s do the final check, one more time. Please Nala.” Though her voice held it’s normal regal tone, it was her shaking frame which showed her anxious deceit. Nala, the absolute angel that she was, took one look over her life time friend and nodded with an exasperated sigh. Indeed it was the 5th time they have checked everything, and that was not to account the failed attempt that was yesterday, but this was a life threatening situation for her friend.
Victoria, in her nature, was kind hearted. She sacrificed so much of herself in order to help the children. All of what she built, all that she worked her long, delicate fingers to the bone to develop, could come crashing down if she was discovered. This charade she must put on in order to leave their abode was critical to the survival for tens of Alius children. These children, rather reaching their age of development or surpassed it, if discovered, would be held captive by the overheads until their powers fully grew.
They would be made to fight one another, no matter the age, in order to weed out the weak ones and waste less resources on them. Victoria herself was one of the Alius. She stood in front of Nala, nearly 9 feet tall on legs which bent backward at the knee and then extended, similar to that of an animal. A long, furred tail extended down from under her dress, a dress which on a normal human would reach the ground, but on Victoria looked similar to a sundress that the privileged may wear on a hot day.
Victoria reached to her inverse knees, feeling the knee pads placed on them. Check, that is two things good. Her breath came out ragged as for a minute she felt she misplaced her bag- the very bag Nala held out with expectant eyes, challenging Victoria’s natural desire to burrow deep into their hidden cave system, and never show herself to the surface.
But it was needed. Their resources dwindled more everyday, the children who ate so excessively were limited against what their growing bodies needed. The last two sent out for a recourse run failed to return back. It had been a week since they last saw the two who risked their lives assisting them and their cause, in exchange for protection for their children.
It was nerve racking for all parents of the new world. As one’s child grows, they may start showing signs of Alius. Thicker skin, changing eyes, high temperatures, abnormalities in their joints and muscle developments. The list may go on, but at the very slightest sign, if seen under the public eye, they will be taken and turned over without hesitation, without a bit of remorse for the family who then could consider their child as good as dead.
The reward for turning over Alius’ stayed handsome, enough to support a family of 4 for an entire year. The amount of those who could be trusted with the knowledge of her ‘pack’ of Alius children was limited to those who had something to lose if exposed. It was far and few who were willing to remain in contact with their child after their signs started. Many of the normals find the sacrifice of a singular life worthwhile for the sustainability of 4 more. But not Victoria.
She knew first hand what these children would go through. She knew the pain, the tests, all of it- and she wanted no one to have to experience it ever again. Yet she knew if she got spotted as her true self she would be taken quicker then she could blink. Her body was built for agility, able to run and leap fast and far distances before one’s eye could process the movement. Her Aliusness is what made her close to royalty. What would, anyway, put her close to royalty if she were to ‘play kind’ to the overheads rules. The power in which she possessed, seen in kind not unlike the royal “family” which resided over the wastelands of the fallen city, has created herself a high bounty.
It’s why she is always the best to watch the children. As scuffles start, she harnesses the ability to temporarily absorb the powers of others and use them against them. Though it may last shortly, it was just enough to show the child in question that their actions hurt others. Like a child with the ability to harness fire, not knowing that it burns others. With that power withdrawn, Victoria can show them (gently) exactly how it feels to be burned.
But now the children were going to be left mainly alone, the next oldest taking responsibility until her expected return. Autumn walked in, the multitude of eyes on his face blinking in unison as he watched Victoria lower herself to the floor. As if on her knees.
“I dont think I’ve ever seen you so short.” Autumn said with a tease in his voice, his multiple arms crossed over his body. He offered to go in place of her, with such courage in his heart, yet she knew it would be incredibly risky for him. All it took was for one normal to bump into one of his excess shoulders and it would be all over.
The eyes were another thing. Something they had figured out earlier. Not only that but the raised temperature that the Alius’ tend to harness was a dead giveaway. That’s why one of the gifted children named Eloise created a human type mask for Victoria to wear, one which was rather appealing in human standards, but not enough to cause her to stand out. Any sign of being different could expose all shes been working for.
That reminded her to place it onto her face, allowing the intricate slots and mechanics to mold to her face. Though in terms of Alius her face was tame, her piercing yellow eyes and incredibly sharp teeth gave her away with a simple glance. This mask covered all of them and moved just like a normal face, matching as she opened and closed her mouth, blinking automatically on a regular interval to look normal. It allowed her to blend in almost perfectly.
Almost. When it reached her neck that is when she was primarily exposed to scrutiny. She had very soft red spots that went up the back of her neck down her back, all the way to the base of her tail. That’s why, even though she found long hair a nuance she would rather avoid, she grew her hair out nearly a foot and a half long, thick brown hair protecting those spots from view. She adorned a plain scarf, which protected the difference in her neck, in case of wind moving her locks.
Thankfully, the seasons were on their side. They were in the winter months, and it was rather chilly outside. The extra layer of clothing would blend in.
The cloak she placed over her gown was a thick grey wool, now reaching the floor to assist in covering her deceitful ‘feet’. Though cautious at practicing her walking, it very much could go incredibly wrong very quickly. Those who guarded the door to the resource bank could do as they ‘saw fit’ in order to identify and detain those who ‘posed risks’ to the everyday popular. That’s the kind of propaganda they had plastered all over the decrepit walls of crumbling buildings, littered next to signs for the resource banks direction. It was all in order to maintain high visibility, to always be on the minds of the remaining populace.
An absolute load of crock if you asked Victoria. Forcing children to fight in order to create your perfect war team seemed hardly like protecting the everyday ‘person’ for her. She had no ill will towards any of the normal. Even those who are led to believe they are doing a service turning in children. Her resentment remained with the royal family.
But as of now, all she could do was keep her small band of Alius safe.
“I never thought I’d see the day that I would let a pipsqueak like you care for the house. I guess we all have our anxieties today.” Victoria moved her mouth a few different ways, creating different vowels with her mouth, looking towards Nala as she did for confirmation that it looked okay. Nala gave her a light nod, a small kind smile on her face.
“I think we are set then. Autumn, please make sure Kent does NOT burn down the house. If we do not return by tomorrow’s sunrise, assume us good as dead.” Nala said, her voice light with her normal dry kind of humor. The lines next to her eyes showed the age and the life shes lived. Kent was her child, nearly 14 years old and still a fan of showing anyone with eyes that he could burn things. She sacrificed a great deal to promise his safety. When she showed up at the house 7 years prior, Kent clinged to her delicate frame, her thick and curly black hair protecting his face from the harsh outdoors. Kent had begun glowing orange, a very distinct sign of Aliusness. There was no way he would have lasted outside, soon the glow would grow to illuminate through clothing, to signal to everyone that he was, indeed, an Alius.
“Like they could ever catch Victoria. They would need to call the Army back, turning over every stone and every door to even get close to finding her.” Autumn gave a light hearted scoff, but Victoria grew solemn at the memory. Her escape caused the ‘collection’ of over 100 Alius children, after the Army came and tore through every pebble and stone looking for her. It’s when she vowed to protect as many as she can with every last breath of her person.
Even if it meant exposing herself to the outdoors for the first time in nearly 10 years.
“It would be unfortunate to say the least. However, if it is to appear that I am discovered, Nala will return to the secondary house. You are not to allow yourself or anyone near it until Nala herself gets you.” Victoria looked at Autumn in each of his eyes, a hand very gently going onto his thick skinned shoulder, making sure the originally discussed plan remained fresh in his head.
Their household connected 3 structures all to one with a system of intricate tunnels. Some as small as 2 feet by 2 feet, creating a system all of the children were taught early in their arrival here. Once they could toddle, of course. The main house was one designed and crafted by Victoria and her original normals in order to give the children a place to play and exist free from fear. It was nearly sound proof, the windows boarded up, (which was a common thing in the area) protecting them from the occasional search. The other two houses are more for escape and laying low then full living, lacking proper reinforcement and supplies for average existence. The previous occupants of those homes either being caught or leaving the cause, the stress of maintaining children too much. At least none of them have reported the children.
“Yes ma’am, of course I understand.” Autumn said with a crooked smile. Victoria leaned in, giving him a light kiss on the forehead. Within that she placed all of the confidence and care she had for him.
“Now or never Victoria.” Nala spoke even, knowing her friend would do anything within her power to cause a delay in their “outing”.
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