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The Sanchez Chronicles: Volume One

By Dorian_of_Nothing All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Fantasy

Chapter 1- The New Blood

           Present Day: June 15th, 20X4, Present Time: 12:42 pm, Present Location- X: 148.3, Y: 449, Z: 901. Contact received and carried out; mission: SUCCESS.

   "Are you comfortable, Katherine?" A young ginger girl with bright red hair and a light dusting of freckles across her face stirred a bit, revealing her big brilliant green eyes as she looked around the room. She was wearing the same acid-washed denim jeans and pale long-sleeved cream-colored shirt with pink, baby blue, and very faint green stripes along the sleeves ending in lace at the cuffs that she'd had that very morning. When she came to, she had a throbbing pain in the back of her head and looked to a dark haired man in the far right corner. As far as she could tell, he was the only other person in the room, which was plenty barren and almost completely white. "Are you okay, Katie?"

   The man had short dark hair and a deep tan, a black scriptural S mark tattooed on the right side of his neck. He was dressed in a sleeveless army fatigues jacket and worn, ripped jeans that ended at his black steel-toed boots. Physically, he didn't have a very thick build yet almost looked young enough to be her father, in his mid to late twenties—at least that, but not a day over thirty. She nodded a little, still not sure what was going on, who this man was—though he looked very familiar—or where she was. "It's not too hot in here, is it? Too cold?"

Katie shook her head, slowly inching away as he stepped closer one step at a time. "Can I get you something? Hungry? Thirsty? You did have a long trip, after all. Sorry, you probably have many, many questions right now."

   He snapped his fingers and a chair materialized from thin air, which he sat in. "Fire away, Katie." He paused slightly while reading her body language and expression. "It's okay, I don't want to hurt you and I can ensure you absolutely no harm will come to you of any kind."

She looked into his dark green eyes and saw the kindness but also power and authority behind them. She could tell that he was being very patient and there was no telling how long he'd been waiting for her to come to. "Ask any questions you have on your mind and I'll answer to my best recollection." Inside her head, Katie was panicking, she couldn’t understand where she was, how she got there, what was going on, why she was here.

  “H-How do…?

Ultimately though, there was only one other person in the room. She wasn’t sure how honest he was in his claim he wouldn’t hurt her, but she decided to play along anyway; after all, this was the only way she could get any answers that she needed,

"Okay," she said slowly, picking up her white denim jacket off the floor. "Can you tell me who you are?" He gave a small smile and nodded, obviously this wasn't the first time he'd heard that. “How do you know my name?”

   "It's good to hear you talking, I suppose," he began before clearing his throat, "My name is Zander Sanchez, leader of the Sanchezes, master of Sanchez A-Squad and latest Elder God. As for you, I know that your name is Katherine Angelica Karew, and quite a bit more than that. Your brain is quite the page turner, Katie."

Katie reserved immediately questioning him about that in order to move on to higher priority questions. His answer, however, was difficult—if not impossible—to ignore.

   "Zander Sanchez," she repeated. "Why does that name sound so familiar?"

   "Don’t worry about it; I wanted to go with Zender Svengali, but apparently nobody would get that. Bit too on the nose, but I just don’t see it. Wouldn't have to worry about changing my monograms, though. Rambling, I know; I'm an old man." Katie did feel a bit more at ease, and it was clear by this point that he wasn’t going to hurt her.

   "You don't look that old, Mr. Sanchez," Katie said, feeling a little more comfortable around this strange man.

   "That's very kind of you, dear. You know what they say: twenty-seven hundred is the new two thousand." Katie was a bit perplexed by this. "It's a bit of an inside thing, you'll probably get it eventually."

   "Where am I," Katie finally asked.

   "The Dream Realm," Zander replied casually. "I suppose I should've started with that, or done this sober; semantics." He pulled out a martini glass from the ether and drank the contents, swallowing the olive and toothpick without noticing.

   "Am I in trouble for something," she asked nervously. Zander chuckled, standing up out of his chair as it disappeared without him.

   "The exact opposite," he assured her. Producing a mirror, Katie looked at the reflection of her own neck and saw the exact same tattoo as Zander, wincing slightly as she touched it. "As of your return to consciousness, you've been drafted. I probably should've adopted you while you were conscious but the insignia on your neck sorta needed you to be out cold...y'know, to make sure you're not screaming the whole time or something; very distracting."

   "Adopted," she asked immediately, Zander teleporting the two into a large master bedroom. "What are you talking about?" Zander placed on a hand on her shoulder, his dark green eyes focusing on her as the gears in his head turned.

   "This is probably a lot to take in," he started, trying to find the right words. "Katie, there's good news and bad news: the good news is that you are now a Sanchez, an elite group of gods, demigods, etc. gifted with total freedom. However, the bad news is...your parents are, unfortunately, dead." Katie collapsed to her knees, Zander sitting her on the bed as he sat down next to her. "You probably don't remember it, though."

   "I-I can't believe it," she said on the verge of tears. "I can't even remember anything. Did I ever have parents? Are the few things I do remember just a lie?" Zander embraced her, showing remarkable strength for a man of lean mass. Katie hugged him back, crying into his chest.

   "It’s okay; Katie, your life up to this point wasn't a lie," he said reassuringly. Katie sobbed into his jacket a bit before looking back at him. "I should probably leave you to grieve," he said, stroking her hair. Katie didn't notice, though. "You need some time to yourself, don’t you?" She nodded and Zander let go. "I understand. You take all the time you need, sweetheart." Zander stood up and walked out of the room, leaving Katie to her thoughts and tears. Zander stood in the doorframe before turning back to her. "Just know that, as long as you’re a Sanchez, you'll never need to be alone again." With that, he finally left the room.

   A Japanese girl in a short-cut lacy funeral dress and matching shoes entered through a large door. She had long, straight shining black hair and beautiful green eyes much like Zander's. Following close behind was a light brown-haired boy in a dark green wool hat with a ratty, dirty dark brown jacket and torn old jeans. He had light brown eyes and was wearing a pair of faded grey fingerless gloves; both of them had the same scriptural S on their neck. A little girl with mauve hair and pale violet eyes ran up to them excitedly.

   "Charlie, Lacey, you're home," she said excitedly. Lacey Alexis hugged her little sister and lifted her up. Skippy was dressed in a black leather jacket over a bright orange t-shirt with purple denim shorts. She crossed her arms defiantly. "Were you at your fight club again?" Lacey Alexis put her back down.

   "At some point, it kinda stops being a fight club and starts turning into death row," Lacey Alexis said dryly. "I mean, really? At some point, when you're squaring off against Lacey Alexis Sanchez, you'll probably die a lot faster if you just put a loaded gun to your head."

   "Is it time for dinner yet," Charlie asked.

   "It's not even lunch yet, Charlie," Lacey Alexis said. "It's not even one."

   "I know. I just love having three meals every day for once, and not having to choke someone over a half-eaten sandwich." Lacey Alexis kissed him full on the lips. "What's up with you, Lace? Usually, you wait an hour or so to wash the blood and sweat off after fight club."

   "Charlie, you know how the shower fits up to three people," she asked. Charlie nodded, much slower as his eyebrows raised. "You see where I'm going with this, right?"

   "We're gonna get a group thing going?” he asked. "I mean, it's a little early in our relationship and I don't know that many people." Lacey Alexis rolled her eyes and scoffed at her boyfriend.

   "No, you idiot," she said deadpan. "I was thinking..." She leaned in and whispered to him as his eyes widened. "And later..." She whispered the rest.

   "Wow, I thought you only did that because it was my birthday."

   "Lacey, can you still take me around town?" Skippy asked.

   "Sure, whatever," her older sister hand-waved as she went back to making out with Charlie. Skippy crossed her arms again.

   "You promised." Lacey sighed and knelt down to meet her at eye level.

   "Skippy, I promise that I'll go take you out to train," she said. Skippy applauded and leaped into Lacey's arms, wrapping her arms around her. "Just let me do it when I don't smell like a gym locker room." Skippy released herself, and hopped down.

   "One hour?" Lacey nodded. Skippy left, watching Marcy meditating calmly.

  Marcy was only about a year or two older than Skippy, yet somehow only a foot taller. She had short mousy brown hair and was wearing a short brightened dress over a pair of denim jeans. She had her eyes firmly clenched shut as she whispered to herself and levitated off the ground. Skippy just watched her, before she finally floated back down and opened her brown eyes.

   "What's up, Skippy," she asked.

   "Lacey Alexis said that I get to train with her today," Skippy squealed excitedly. "Can you really believe that? After all that time training with daddy, I finally get to spend some time with the number one best big sister in the whole world." Marcy glared at her. "After you, Marcy."

   "Did she go to her fight club without me again?" Marcy asked.

   "Marcy, you panic around anyone you don't know," Skippy said. "You're a great fighter, sure, but you just wouldn't be able to handle all those people."

   "I'm almost ten-years-old," Marcy said. "I'm pretty sure I can handle it. Wait, first I wanna show you this new familiar I can summon now." Skippy sat down as Marcy took a deep breath. "Age!" A cloud of dust kicked up from nowhere and a very old tortoise with a long white bread and cane appeared floating above her. "Pretty neat, huh? Don't really know why he's a turtle, though." The tortoise leered at her and hit her on the head with his cane. "Ow! What was that for?"

   "Doggone whippersnapper," he said frustrated. "I ain't no sassafrassin' turtle! I'm a tortoise."

   "Well why do I have a tortoise as my Age familiar?" Marcy asked. "That doesn't even make any damn sense." The tortoise hit on her on the head again. "Stop that!" He hit her again.

   "I'm over twenty-five hundred years old," he snapped. "Show some respect, you ungrateful little punk!" Marcy snapped her fingers and dispelled him.

   "I'm not going to be using him," she said finally. "None of my other familiars are this rude."

   "You only have seven now," Skippy said. "Aside from him, none of them can talk. At least not that everyone but you can hear." Skippy paused and turned back to Marcy. “You haven’t seen Daddy, have you?” Marcy shook her head.

  “I’ve been in my room all day,” Marcy said. Skippy left and jogged after her older siblings.

  “You two haven’t seen Daddy today, have you?” she asked.

  “Skippy…” Lacey was about to answer but paused to think. “Actually, I did see dad once, but that’s about it. He said he had ‘errands’ to run; all know what that’s code for.” Charlie nodded, joining in Lacey’s laughter. Skippy frowned.

  “What’s it supposed to be code for?” Skippy asked.

  “You wouldn’t get it, Skips,” Charlie said. “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

  “Wonder who he found this time,” Lacey commented.

   Katie looked at the clock; it was almost three. She fell asleep at some point, and winced at the tattoo.

   "I guess it wasn't a dream," she said to herself. She left the room, seeing Charlie walking out of the room down the hall with Lacey following him out.

   "That was cosmic," Charlie said exasperated. "Four times in a row." Lacey smirked.

   "Charlie, you're the only person who'd consider holding out fifteen minutes 'cosmic.' At all." Katie slowly walked away before lifting off the ground and floating in front of Lacey where she was dropped at her feet. "Okay, cupcake, just where do you think you’re going?"

   "I'm...I'm not really sure," Katie said honestly, standing back up. "I kinda just woke up a few hours ago, and I had this." She showed them the symbol on her neck, Lacey Alexis's eyes widening slightly. “Do you know what this is about? Cuz, I mean, everyone else seems to think it’s really important or...something.”

   "What...the...HELL," Lacey Alexis said, clenching her fists. “There’s no way, in All Known Existence, that she is one of us!”

   "Is that bad?" Katie asked. Before Lacey could do anything, Charlie stepped between the two.

   "Lacey, just cool it. If Dad made her a Sanchez, then he has to have had a reason."

“He’d better!” Lacey Alexis teleported away.

   "What was that about?"

   "Got me; I think it's easier just to give her some time to wind down first. My name's Charlie, by the way; Charlie Sanchez." He showed her the same tattoo. "What's your name?" Katie snapped back, slightly distracted.

   "Huh? Oh, yeah. Katie, my name's Katie...Sanchez, I guess." She finally pulled herself away from Charlie's shirtless torso. "I'm sorry, but you could just put on a shirt or something." Charlie smiled, putting his shirt back on.

   "C'mon, I'll show you around." Charlie took her by the hand. She blushed, her freckles vanishing. "You're pretty cute, y'know that?" Katie shook her head fiercely and cleared her throat.

   "Well, you wouldn't be the first to tell me that," she said, trying to seem more collected and cool-headed than she was.

   Zander was sitting next to a beautiful, very young looking Japanese woman with long black hair like Lacey Alexis's dressed in a short teal dress kissing Zander full on the lips.

   "Stace, what do you say we do that thing you did on our honeymoon?" Zander asked.

   "Zander, I'm not doing that again," Stacey said defiantly, crossing her arms over her chest. Zander draped his arms around her and spun her back to meet his eyes. "Zander, I said I..." He kissed her before she could say anymore. "Could never resist you. I'm still not doing that, though." Zander groaned, but Stacey went back to kissing him much deeper this time. "I'll do other things, though." Lacey Alexis burst in suddenly, much to Zander's frustration.

   "Dad, can I have a word with you?" Lacey said through her gritted teeth. "Now?!"

   "Lacey Alexis, I'm kinda in the middle of something," he said.

   "No, we can keep going in a few minutes," Stacey said. "It should give me some time to get into something more...comfortable." She kissed Zander again and left, Lacey Alexis glaring at her father as he took a deep swig from a silver flask before replacing it in his jacket pocket.

   "What is so important? I was in the middle of seducing your mother into doing things too repulsive and distasteful to even name in polite conversation. Y'know, except for the obvious stuff; I have my reasons. Now, you had something on your mind, honey?"

   "Dad, would you mind telling me what the hell you were thinking inducting that new girl," Lacey Alexis asked, her tone a bit calmer but still just as furious. "And don't even think about giving me that 'I work in mysterious ways' bullshit. I'm almost thirteen, for Creators' sake." Zander sighed, taking another deep swig of his flask.

   "Her name is Katie," he started. "She's a bit of an ongoing project of mine. I suppose you're old enough for me to fill you in on the details. After all, there will eventually be a time when you succeed your old man and reshape the Dream Realm however you see fit." Lacey Alexis blew a stray lock of her hair out of her face.

   "I kinda like what you've done with the place so far, dad. Now, getting back to why you started incorporating Americana washout losers into the supreme and divine ranks of power, stature, and wealth of our family name."

   "You didn't feel that way about Charlie." Lacey Alexis glared at her father. "Besides, I need Katie. She's…well, she's more of a charity case."

   "You're always saying charity is for empty-skulled dumbasses willing to throw their paychecks to any Johnny Welfare or Suzy Sob-story who's too inbred or drunk to make their own lives."

   "This is useful charity. Just trust me, Lacey Alexis. When have I ever had a bad idea when I'm this sober?" Lacey Alexis nodded slowly.

   "Second," Lacey continued. "Charlie was cute, desperate, and impoverished. It's a miracle he lived as long as he did but he's resourceful, and smart, and fun, and...really good in bed. Point is, Katie could get killed just walking down the driveway here."

   "Just give her a bit of a chance and try not to disembowel her; your mother just steam-cleaned the carpet." Lacey Alexis groaned.

   "Fine, I'll try and tolerate her. I don't have to friends with her, though."

   "That's my girl." Lacey Alexis walked out of her father's study, Skippy waiting for her.

   "Lacey Alexis, you promised to train me," she said.

   "I wasn't ditching you, Skippy. C'mon, you'd really think I'd pass up a chance to beat people into graphic puddles of goop so hard you couldn't tell their ass from their arm. How long have you known me?"

   "About two months or so, actually. Does this mean were still going?" Lacey Alexis ruffled Skippy's hair.

   "Of course we're going, kiddo. Might wanna get on something that won't stain easily, though; learned that the hard way once." Skippy teleported away for a fraction of a second and came back in black leather and an entire arsenal of guns, blades, explosives, and a bright red bandana. "Maybe you wanna dial it back just a little, Mad Max. We're killing crackheads and rapists, not single-handedly taking on the Taliban. Then again, it’s not even July yet."

   Katie obediently followed the strange boy she'd just met. Strangely enough, though, Charlie seemed to be taking a lot of the bizarreness of the 'Omniverse' as he called it in stride. Charlie paused for a moment and stopped.

   "I kinda heard you crying when I walked by your room," he said. Katie turned away, which only confounded Charlie further. "What were you crying about anyway? That is, if you don't mind me asking."

   "I found out my parents are dead," Katie said quietly. Charlie nodded solemnly, putting his arm around her shoulder. "It seems like I was so happy to be celebrating the best summer ever with my best friends, and spending an entire two months away from my little brother. Now, I just miss them all so much."

   "At least you remember your parents. Both of my parents were dead by the time I was five and I spent the rest of my life either in an orphanage or on the streets, until I met Lacey when I was eleven. You're a lot luckier than you think, Katie." She nodded again. Every moment Katie spent with Charlie, she felt a little better but also couldn't help finding him even more interesting. There was another question that didn't seem to resonate as loud as the other dozen questions in her head, but it seemed quite important nevertheless; it didn't hurt that she just wanted to steer the conversation to a less morose subject.

   "I was wondering, Charlie, but is there anyone...closer to my age around?"Charlie gave a near instant response as if he'd expected the question to come up at some point.

   "Actually, yes. There's me, and my sister Lacey Alexis—I'll circle back to that, and my little sisters Marcy and Skippy; we don't actually know her name so we just call her Skippy because she really didn't give us anything else." Katie instantly did a double take at Charlie referring to Lacey Alexis as his sister. Noticing this, Charlie intervened. "Well, let me explain. I was adopted just like you, but of course before I was adopted I was dating Lacey, so in a way I'm her boyfriend first and brother second not the other way around; you're not the first one I've had to clarify with about it either and I know it won't be the last."

   "So, who's Lacey Alexis again?"

   "She's out with Skippy right now but I think you should probably be introduced personally. Marcy is a little shy, but she's probably around and if you have any more questions, I'd take 'em up with dad but he's usually out.” Katie wanted to ask, but she had more questions seeing Zander walking by. “Oh, that’s just one of dad’s clones. He does a lot of multitasking.”

   “So why is Lacey so mad at me again?”

   Zander trudged through the burnt ashes of what was left of the world, a young boy with scruffy dark blonde hair in a cape and bow tie followed him closely behind. The boy was in an ash grey cardigan and suspenders, holding a very heavy-looking and very old leather bound book with arcane Black Magick symbols inscribed into the cover. Zander stopped and inhaled deeply.

   "I love the smell of apocalypse in the morning, don't you Nicky boy?" Nick shrugged.

   "I...I guess so, Mr. Sanchez," he said awkwardly. He sniffed the air slightly, and gagged violently. "It smells like kerosene on the floor of a gas station bathroom!"

   "Damn right it does, kid!" He pulled out a Blackberry, dialing in a number. "Xekkyl, Checkpoints Alpha through Garland are clear, confirmed fatalities numbering in the thousands with civilian casualties near countless. How are things on your end?"

   "Everything's all clear on my end, Sanchez," a voice crackled. "I'll take it from here; you got the last two so I think I can handle the rest from here."

   "The usual deal stands, Xekkyl."

   "Fifty-fifty, don't remind me. You'll have to take Nick with you until I get him home."

   "Understood; over and out."

   "Not a walkie-talkie, Sanchez." The other line disconnected, Zander pocketing the phone.

   "Looks like you're staying at my place for a couple hours, Nick." He nodded, clearing his throat slightly. His book opened and a large red cloud emerged from it, shaping into the upper body of a grizzled man with an angular jaw and steel cold eyes—although the eyes themselves were absent just leaving his eye sockets.

   "Now, just stop the track right there and rewind," he said. "Isn't it bad enough I'm stuck with a ten-year-old with the upper body strength of a goldfish? I got a DVR full of The Sopranos to go through; I just got up to season 2."

   "First off," Nick interjected, "I'm eleven." The spirit muttered something cynical under his breath. "Second, I can at least lift your book. What do you call that?"

   "I haven't had a body in over six hundred years, and even I can bench press more than you." Zander finally intervened.

   "Jeri, Nick, if you ladies are done gossiping about boys and rainbows, I kinda have a new daughter to get home to."

   "Congratulations, Mr. Sanchez," Nick said. "Have you decided on a name yet?" Jeri smacked Nick in the back of the head enough to almost knock the boy off his feet.

   "Thanks Jeri. I was about to do that, but thank you." The two teleported away.

   Marcy sat meditating, her mind slowly clearing as she began to float off the floor. As her familiars—a dolphin, a firebird, a goat, and the tortoise among others—materialized around her, she started noticed several that represented elements she didn't unlock yet but could tell what some of them were. A small purple monkey stood in front of her, giving a small smile.

   "Where am I?" She asked.

   "Now really, Marcella," the monkey stated coolly, "You'd think that the Magical Avatar of all people would recognize the inside of her own mind?" Marcy came to a sudden realization, a spark of electricity shocking the purple monkey's tail. "Ow! Now that's just rude. As long as I have the body of a monkey, I need my tail."

   "Who are you again?"

   "Your Thought familiar, obviously. These are your other familiars, one for each element but you only have seven now am I correct?" Marcy nodded, looking over all of them and stopping at a glowing green owl covering in stars. "You always did like your Time familiar. If it wasn't for Light, he would've been your favorite." Marcy turned back to him. "I've lied dormant in your mind since your coronation gave you these powers."

   "So, does this make me, like...a princess?!" She beamed. The monkey shook his head.

   "Not really, no." Marcy's expression reverted back until twisting into anger.

   "I remember now. It's because of you that I lost my memories!" The monkey didn't seem too phased with her sudden shift in mood but simply sighed in a state of remembrance.

   "It's a shame, really. Reset your training, locked a good number of my compatriots back in your psyche—including me. This wasn't exactly my plan! I liked being freed, and even I didn't know about what the results of it would be." Marcy turned away. "Alright, Marcella. I might be able to open two or three including myself to...make up for my faux pa. Deal?" He extended his hand to her. Marcy turned her head back.

   "I'm not falling for that whole touching your hand again." He retracted. "Well, I think I want Time, Space, and Aether for starters." Her Thought familiar scoffed before she could continue.

   "Marcella, I could never access the familiars of the Universal Triad; the strongest thing I can unlock in your mind is Sky. I'll give you Metal, myself, and I can see what I can do with Heaven. It's a bit advanced, but seeing the vast abyss of your mind I believe that you are capable of its power." A sudden knock at the door snapped her out of her mind and caused her to fall back to the ground, hitting her head hard on the floor. She opened the door telekinetically, glaring at Charlie from the other side. Charlie tried entering but walked face first into an invisible wall.

   "Really, Marcy? That's really mature." Marcy rubbed the back of head tenderly as the pain slowly subsided.

   "I'm eight, what's your excuse? I was meditating to realign my chakras and focus my aura." Charlie stared blankly, Marcy only giving an exasperated sigh. "I was busy." She dispelled the aura with a snap of her fingers. Charlie entered, Katie following. Marcy suddenly went completely pale and silent as if the Angel of Death had walked into the room.

   "Hi, my name's Katie," she said. Marcy shrank back a bit and hid behind Charlie.

   "Sorry, Marcy's kinda shy around new people. She's sorta always been like that for as long as even Lacey remembers." Zander suddenly teleported back, Nick along with him.

   "Miss me, girls? Nicky-boy, make yourself at home and don't touch anything. Oh yeah, this is Katie." He smiled a little and she gave a small wave. Marcy finally stepped out from Charlie and hugged Zander.

   "Daddy, you're home! Did you miss me?" Zander nodded.

   "How could I not miss my own daughter? Where are Skippy and Lacey Alexis?"

   "Skippy's training with Lacey," Charlie answered simply, before muttering, "Kinda hoped they would've taken me with 'em but whatever. Nick, have I told you that I just got up to the last level of Dread Soldier III?" Before Zander could leave, Katie stopped him.

   "If you're a god, then tell me what I'm doing here. Why me? Why not use the power you have for the benefit of—?"

   "Benefit of who? Humans?!" Zander turned away. "I tried. You wake up after five years and you're told that you have these incredible powers and want to save the world, help people, but they just call you a freak and a monster. You retaliate, and you're a demon; at first, it's kind of annoying when their 1200 attempts to kill you fail in increasingly comical and disturbing ways. Then, it starts getting sad. I tried to save them but people don't want a golden idol to worship, they want bullies and thugs, cowards who hide behind a badge and a gun, and they've proved time and again that they're not worth salvation but they aren't worth eradication; parasites, keeping even the most worthless things alive. I left those drooling apes not because they wanted me to leave but because I didn't want to stay." Katie was absolutely silent. Zander sat down in a leather-bound chair and sighed. He didn't look up, but just sat there with his head in one hand just as quiet. The entire room felt a lot heavier like every molecule of air had suddenly been replaced by lead. Katie, against her better judgment, walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

   "I'm...sorry, I-I just...I didn't..." Zander looked up and gave a small smile. He sat up and brushed a lock of her hair away from her freckled face.

   "That's why you became a Sanchez," he said. He met her confused look before she slowly withdrew her hand. "That emblem means you're worthy, you're done needing to survive and can just...live. There's a reason that humans aren't immortal, that they aren't free, that they can't do even a fraction of a fraction of the stuff I can do. Why do you think that is, Katie?" She shrugged, scratching the back of her head while thinking.

   "Overpopulation," she guessed. Zander smiled.

   "That's a good first guess, I suppose. Humans are their own natural predators, and thus they need disease, war, crime, death, weed out the weak and strengthen the strong. Humans cannot be as free as we are, they can't ascend from death, and they will NEVER have our power. Only so many of them are responsible enough to earn divinity, earn total freedom. Humans are self-righteous, conniving, vengeful, savage creatures, but then there are those like you that don't deserve to suffer and degenerate and break down because of the weak, the feeble, and the atrocious subhumans. They deserve this." He pulled the right side of his collar down to reveal the same tattoo. "Encrypted into this emblem is the algorithm for total spatial freedom, the ability to walk between dimensions, universes, time, space, reality itself with absolutely no consequences; as easily as walking down the street. Just about every whacko and their great uncle Marvin would just love to rip the encryption out of my DNA and use it for themselves. Now, you've got it." Katie looked at the tattoo, wincing as she touched it.

   "I don't understand. Why me? I'm not brave, I'm not strong, I'm not fast, I'm not that pretty, I'm not even the smartest or oldest in my family. I'm just...average; me."

   "You say that like it's a curse."

   "Well, isn't it?" He shook his head.

   "Katie, you're much braver than you're willing to admit, you're a lot prettier than you may think people think you are, and you're more wrong about not being strong than you could ever dream in the wildest possible hallucination this side of Pink Floyd. You may not be physically strong, but you're stronger than the combined might of the Olympians, Norsemen, and even God himself all in here." He pressed a finger against her chest, earning a small modest smile from her.

"The approximate population of Earth is 5.2 billion, give or take depending on how many people are born and die every thirty seconds. Of the aforementioned, if you were to take every last person—regardless of variables including but not limited to gender, race, religion, sexuality, age, etcetera—the population wouldn't fill a quarter of a county in Rhode Island; that is less than a thousand assuming that all are in perfect health and have the potential for the longest possible life expectancy.

“The Sanchez clan—only counting myself, my brother, my sister, our respective spouses, and our children—barely reach twenty, counting you, sweetie."

   "Why are you telling me all this?" Katie finally asked.

   "Because, Katie, you are special and you deserve to know it more than anyone. As your father, I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, what's right or wrong, or what to do; you're a big girl and you can handle yourself. As my daughter, I'll teach you everything you'll need to know and protect you until every last atom in my body is gone. As a Sanchez, you'll be protected by your siblings just as strongly as you'll need to defend them. One last thing: don't be afraid." Zander teleported away before she could ask any more questions, leaving Katie to leave the room and wander the massive halls before finally seeing Stacey.

   "Oh, hi. Are you lost?" Katie noticed that Stacey looked almost exactly like an older version of Lacey, though unsure of whether or not to inquire about it. “Are you okay?”

   "Kindof, I guess; I’ve sorta gone through a lot today. My name is Katie. Are you Lacey’s mom?” Stacey nodded. “I guess that makes you my mom, too.” She nodded again.

   "Just call me Stacey; ‘Mom’ makes me feel old. C'mon, I'll show you around and we'll see if we can't find you a nice room, okay?" Katie nodded, following Stacey.

   Lacey Alexis and Skippy sat on the edge of a rooftop, watching a pair of men talking. Skippy was laying on her back staring at her shoes.

   "Lacey, this is SSOOOO boring," Skippy whined.

   "Quiet, kid," Lacey Alexis hissed, "You just have to focus."

   "But there's nothing happening." Lacey continued watching until the two men went their separate ways. Lacey sighed, pulling out a small flask and taking a quick swig. "Lacey, can we go somewhere else for this? I'd really like to train on some live targets. Please?" Lacey nodded.

   "Thought we'd get some serious action by now, Skippy; sorry. Tell you what? Why don't we go to Earth and see if we can't find something to waste? A prison, a crack house, something with a lot of targets. Deal?"

   "Really?" Lacey nodded. "Yay! Yayayayay!!!" Skippy bounced around the rooftop, skipping in circles before she skipped face-first into an invisible wall. "Hey!"

   "Sorry, it was cute but it was getting annoying." They two vanished in a burst of light, appearing in a dirty, graffiti-ridden street riddled with burnt and desecrated buildings and a speeding white car going by. "The Zoo; corner of Fletcher and 8th, stomping grounds of the Jackie Queens, Arcnovec crime family, and highest murder, suicide, and abortion rate in the country. Think you can find enough live targets, scout?" Skippy nodded eagerly.

   "I feel like a kid in a really crappy candy store, except I'm not about to get molested."

   "Night's still young, wouldn't surprise me if some shit-head—" a siren alarmed from the distance. "Lot of profiling here; let's move out." A pair of bright orange wings burst out of Skippy's back. She flew up in the air and followed Lacey Alexis and the sirens, finding the source: a dilapidated house, a lot of loud screaming coming from inside. The police were standing outside, Skippy landing next to Lacey Alexis.

   "What are we doing here?"

   "You want experience? Inside is the best possible target you could find here. Follow me, and I'll do the talking." Lacey strode up to the door with Skippy following, an officer stopped them.

   "You can't go any further than that, kid. This is a crime scene."

   "Kiss my spray-tanned ass, pig. I'm a Sanchez, and so is my sister so piss off." They revealed their tattoos to the officer who immediately stepped aside. "That's what I thought, princess. Skippy, let's go." Skippy followed behind her older sister, Lacey Alexis brushing a stray lock of her hair out of the way and pulling out a gun. "Care to do the honors?"

   "Really? Okay!" Skippy kicked in the door, Lacey following her in. A young man in black was holding his belt and standing over a sobbing little girl and woman.

   "Who the fuck are you?!" Lacey Alexis cocked the gun, Skippy pulling out her knife.

   "Bruce Vannigar, I am Lacey Alexis and this is Skippy of the Sanchez clan; we're here to take your undeserving, immortal soul. You can surrender now, or just die slower."

   "Yeah fucking right!" Before he could move, Skippy had already appeared behind him and kicked him straight to the temple, cracking his skull once he hit the wall. The man turned and pulled a gun before Lacey shot it from his hand. Skippy stabbed him through the eye before punched her in the jaw. Lacey immediately shot him in the throat twice, running over to Skippy.

   "Skippy, you okay?" She helped her to her feet. Lacey noticed the bruise on her cheek.

   "I'm fine, Lacey, really. Aren't you going to so that heart eating thing?" Lacey Alexis shook her head bitterly.

   "That's only for worthy opponents, not thugs. Speaking of, someone should deal with those pigs outside." The police burst in. "Oh how convenient, the problem's already dealt with. GTFOIAMO already!"

   "What?"

   "Get the fuck over it and move on," Skippy translated. "Now, we have a very busy schedule. Can we just take the soul and move on?" The officer pulled a gun.

   "You're not going anywhere." Lacey Alexis teleported behind him, her hand transforming into a blade and holding it to his throat.

   "Why don't you get that gun out of my little sister's face before I send you back to your kids in a matchbox?" The officer turned to her, Lacey immediately countering with a hard kick to his chest. Skippy's wings burst out as she flew to the ceiling and landed on his shoulders, forcing him to the ground. Again, the officer attempted to pull his gun before Skippy broke his arm. "Nice going, kid. Now, why don't you be an angel and finish him off?" She tossed her gun to Skippy, who shot him through the back of the head. Lacey Alexis smiled, picking up Skippy—who remained very light for her age but their father speculated it was for her to fly. "How do you feel, kid?"

   "I-I feel...good. Let's get their souls and go home." Lacey Alexis nodded, turning to two girls cowering in the corner. "What about them?" She walked over to them.

   "Relax, okay. I'm a Sanchez." She showed the tattoo on her neck, and they slowly stopped cowering. "Just sit tight and I can get someone here to deal with you." She produced a small business card. "You know how to use a phone, right?"

   Katie, after having found a room, found herself in a conversation with four other girls. Two blonde girls and a brunette girl were sitting around conversing while the rainbow-haired girl sat silently just as confused as Katie.

   "Y'know who I've always wanted to date," Wendy started. "A Cody." Wendy was a girl with bright shining blonde hair and gleaming vivid green eyes in a red-and-white striped shirt and tight lime green acid-washed jeans that were almost painted on. In fact, Katie was almost certain that they were painted on; how else could Wendy possibly sit down? She had a matching green scarf tied around her neck and a sailor hat perched on her head. "Or maybe a Todd, but I really don't think that'd work."

   "I've always wanted to date a Cody," Laura added. Laura, unlike her older sister, was dressed much more casually in a red hooded vest and jeans. She had light caramel brown hair and eyes with a small dusting of freckles across the bridge of her nose. "Why not a Todd?"

   "You really think I could go for some long-haired bumpkin in overalls with no shirt underneath; thinking he's so deep because he plays a guitar, and such a great kisser."

   "Wendy, you are SO not over Todd Browns from fourth grade," Penelope cut in. Finally, there was Penelope (she hates being called Penny for short), a girl in a navy blue jean jacket over a bright pink tank top and scarlet spandex pants. She had long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail with light pink highlights streaked through the tips of her bangs and bright blue eyes that seemed to sparkle in the light. She was also wearing a bright red jewel necklace that gave off a bizarre shimmer in the light. "C'mon, you're a Sanchez and a solid 10; how do you NOT have, like, eight boyfriends by now?"

   "Unfortunately for me, Miss Head Cheerleader, dating the high school quarterback, I have an entire line of boys leading out the door and around the block, but there isn't a single one I want enough. Plus, how great would it be to date a Cedric or an Aiden?" Penelope sighed dreamily.

   "Ooh, to date an Aiden, or a Francis. Not a Frank, a Francis."

   "I've always sorta found dating a Tommy would be pretty nice. Or maybe a Drew or Danny," Laura chimed in. Wendy groaned in exasperation.

   "Laura, again with the Danny thing! Get over him already. He was an idiot and a loser, plus even you could kick his ass."

   "Sorry about all this," Laura said, roping Katie into the conversation. "I just realized that we totally forgot you were here. So, what's your name?"

   "Oh, well, I'm Katie, and...umm...I just became a Sanchez, like, I think it's been at least a few hours."

   "You know what squad yet," Penelope interjected. Katie paused for a moment before answering.

   "What?"

   "Your squad, honey," Wendy answered. "Me and Laura are C-Squad, and Penelope and Roxie are B-Squad. What about you?" Laura quickly cut in.

   "Wendy, she just said that she's only been a Sanchez for less than seven hours."

   "Anyway, I'm Wendy, this is my little sister Laura, and our cousins Roxie and Penelope. I guess that makes them, and us, your cousins." Roxie finally stood up. Roxie was dressed in a tight sky blue tracksuit with rainbow lightning bolt stripes down her legs, her shirt had the sleeves ripped off by hand. She blew a lock of her rainbow hair out of her magenta eyes, and extended a hand to Katie.

   "If we're done with all the middle school bullcrap, I think we should address the bigger, much more important thing going on here." She took Katie's hand in quite strong grip and shook it firmly enough to almost dislocate her wrist. "Kid, let me be the first to welcome you to the family." She finally released Katie's hand and it almost felt like it was going to fall off her wrist.

   "Well, thanks Roxie," Katie said nursing her wrist to make sure it wasn't broken. "Y'know, except for Lacey Alexis, everyone here's been super nice to me. I mean, I really didn't have any trouble making friends back home—except for Marcy, but Charlie said she's shy around new people anyway. Oh, and I guess I'd want to date...I don't know, a Kyle; or a George, one of my best friends is named George and...well, he was pretty cute."

   Lacey Alexis carried Skippy into her room and carefully set her down on the bed. She'd practically carried her from the Zoo all the way back home while Skippy protested the entire way.

   "Lacey, I told you I'm fine," Skippy repeated. "It's just a small bruise, and once I put some ice on it I'll be okay." Lacey Alexis sighed and sat down next to her on the bed.

   "I know, I know, I'm overreacting. I just get like this and I don't know why. If dad ever found out..." Skippy gripped onto Lacey Alexis' hand; she stopped.

   "You just said you were overreacting. You never told me how I did, either." Lacey Alexis smirked. "Daddy always tells me how good I did."

   "You did need a bit of help apprehending the target."

   "Only because you cut in when I had him," Skippy interrupted. "I was just getting ready."

   "Other than that, you had my back the whole way through and we got the souls; A-minus. How's that?" Skippy nodded. "Yeah, I kinda figured, kid. Maybe we could try again a few days from now?" Skippy beamed.

   "You mean it? We can train again?" Lacey nodded and hugged her. She saw Katie standing in the doorway and glared at her. Skippy followed her older sister's gaze with a bit of confusion.

   "You're still here," she asked bitterly. Before Katie could respond, Lacey Alexis continued. "How long have you been standing there?" Katie noticed the bruise on Skippy's cheek and rushed over to her side. Katie grew up with a little brother—at least from what she remembered since details were still a bit fuzzy to her—and it didn't help that her naturally caring and protective nature kicked in immediately.

   "Oh my gosh, are you okay," she asked, turning Skippy's head to see it closer. "How did this happen?" Skippy groaned, pushing her off.

   "Like I told Lacey, I'm fine. It's just a bruise; I'll live. I'm the one in pain here and you don't see me crying about it." Katie was a little taken back by Skippy's attitude on this before Lacey Alexis pulled her away again.

   "Okay, princess, just what the hell do you think you're doing?" Katie reacted quickly, seeing Lacey was clearly in no mood for anything that wasn't straight forward and to the point.

   "Well, I don't think we've been properly introduced. My name's Katie, you must be Skippy—Charlie told me about you—and..."

   "Lacey Alexis," Lacey recited firmly, completely deadpan. "Lacey Alexis Alexandria Sanchez, daughter of Zander Sanchez, second-in-command of Sanchez A-Squad; I'm a Sanchez by blood. You just waltzed right in here on your little sparkly rainbow pixie unicorn with no clue what we are, who we are, or what we represent. It's very insulting."

   "I'm kinda confused on that. You see, I kinda woke up here and your dad told me everything and kept it pretty vague."

   "My dad tends to keep things vague," Lacey Alexis said darkly. "He says its because he 'works in mysterious ways' which is bullshit." Katie cleared her throat slightly before continuing her small talk.

   "Well, your cousins seemed pretty nice, especially Laura." Lacey's nostrils flared slightly.

   "Laura is nice to everyone. Listen up, sugar-tits, I don't like you and I'm not going to like you."

   "Maybe if we got to know each other we could be friends." Lacey Alexis almost looked like she was about to punch her but just took a deep breath; her body language remained just as aggressive and rigid, however.

   "You're just a big ball of sunshine and glitter, aren't ya princess? We'll be friends when it starts snowing in July...in Cancun. Now, get out." Before Katie could continue, she was already teleported away.

   "Lacey, she seemed really nice, though," Skippy chimed in.

   "It's just not something you need to understand, Skips," Lacey Alexis said. Skippy jumped out of bed and followed her. "Where are you going?"

   "It's a bruised jaw, not a broken leg," Skippy said conclusively, teleporting away.

   Zander sat in a red velvet chair in front of a fireplace, the only thing providing any light in the room. A man around Zander's physical age sat in the chair next to him drinking from Zander's flask. The man had dark brown hair and dressed much more casually than his brother, in a simple pair of loose black pants and a dark grey t-shirt. Zander looked over at him, furrowing his brow before the flask glided back into his hand.

   "What? I left some for you. Like, almost half the thing."

   "Thom, I kinda figured you'd dress a bit...less casual. You're in my personal study for Creators' sake! Show some class." Thom groaned.

   "Zander, one, I'm older than you; by, like, three years," Thom started.

   "Here we go," Zander said exasperated. Thom ignored him.

   "Second, it's my castle too. Get off my back, mom. Third..." Thom's tirade paused as a puff of smoke billowed from the darkness. "Who's the guy behind me?"

   "Just a work friend," Zander hand-waved. Thom raised an eyebrow.

   "You...haven't needed to work in forty-five years."

   "He's a business friend," Zander elaborated. "He swung by to pick up Nick, I invited him here for a drink, and he kinda wanted to meet you." The embers from the tip of his cigar partially illuminated the man's face, revealing a long prominent scar over his right eye.

   "Zander has told me a lot about you, Thomas; pleasure." He extended his hand from the darkness, encased in a black steel gauntlet, Thom hesitantly shaking it. "I'd remove my suit for a much less impersonal handshake but it would lead to too many...complications; I suppose that would be a nice way to put it." He faded deeper into the shadows before disappearing altogether.

   "He seems...cool...I guess."

   "Always knows how to make an exit; class act. Right down to the way he empties a body cavity, like ballet." There was a knock at the door, and a young woman—not too far out of her early twenties—with short blonde hair and blue eyes in a white tank top walked in wearing a long tight pair of black pants. She snapped her fingers, illuminating the entire room to the irritation of the men and earning a small smirk from her.

   "So, Mr. Wayne have you decided to come to dinner or should I just give your son your serving?"

   "Melinda, we were in the middle of discussing important Sanchez business. You would know that if you ever decided to join us."

   "Oh really? I kinda thought the 'No Girls Allowed' sign you taped on the outside was a clear enough red flag," she replied sarcastically.

   "Melinda, you're acting like a child. We're not kids anymore; I broke your dollhouse but then I broke Tommy Perkins' arm when he stole your animal crackers. Get over it already! You can be so petty; it's exactly why I don't invite you into my personal study." Melinda scoffed.

   "So, what are we having anyway," Thom asked, attempting to break his siblings' bickering.

   "You honestly think I don't love you, Mel. You're my little sister, and like it or not we're family and I'd fight to the ends of time, space, and existence for you. When are you going to accept what happened and move on?"

   "Guys, break it up now. You guys are in your mid two-thousands, for Creators' sake. So quit acting like a bunch of five-year-olds." The two leered at him, but Thom stood firm; he knew they he didn't have any more power over them than they had over him, but they were family and they'd always be family. Melinda stormed off without another word.

   "What's her damage anyway? I mean, seriously, Thom; it was centuries ago, and both of us admitted it wasn't just for her but all of us, and mom, and...Especially grandpa."

   "Relax bro. The past is in the past, the future is unwritten, but if I don't get some food in the present, I'm going to snap."

   "We don't even need to eat, sleep, drink, or any of that; it's the perks of being a god."

   "It's more about reflection. Plus, Violet always makes great food."

   Everyone was sitting down at a very long sterling silver table with an embroidered tablecloth over it in bright red chairs. Katie could feel that they were made of some kind of metal but couldn't even recognize it. She was sitting in between Charlie and Lacey Alexis, Skippy right across from her with an ice pack pressed against her cheek next to Marcy. She folded her hands in prayer, everyone else looking at her.

   "What the fuck are you doing, princess," Lacey Alexis said, raising an eyebrow slightly.

   "I...I just kinda thought we were saying Grace first," she said.

   "You're in a dining room full of gods and divine blood, and you're saying Grace," Lacey Alexis repeated. Katie lowered her hands into her lap as she realized it herself. "Really? You probably shouldn't be here if you're going to insult us."

   "But I..."

   "Just stop talking while you still have a tongue, your teeth, and anything else you're not willing to painfully part with." She pulled out a butterfly knife, flipping it open to punctuate her sentence. Stacey was seated next to Zander at the head of the table, across from Thom.

   "Lacey Alexis, no knives at the table," she commanded.

   "It's going to make cutting steak a lot harder, mom." Stacey smiled a bit at her daughter, but then quickly returned to a more stern expression. Lacey Alexis flipped the knife closed and slid it into her pocket. Katie looked over at a dark brown haired boy with darker brown eyes hidden behind silver rimmed glasses sitting next to Penelope a little further down the table clustered together with Laura and Wendy talking and laughing.

He was wearing a dark red shirt and torn old jeans, muttering off equations in his head and scratching them down on a notepad. Across from him was a girl with long black hair and dark blue eyes in a dark grey shirt and cut-off black dress who looked like an older version of Lacey Alexis. Seated across from each about a seat away from Melinda were a blonde girl in a hot pink denim jacket and white shirt and a boy with dirty black hair with red streaks in badly tattered jeans and a sleeveless shirt with a band she'd never heard of on it; both were about their late teens, at least.

Roxy was sitting right next to him, talking excitedly—something a bit unusual for her from what Katie saw of her—with the boy occasionally nodding but not listening to anything other than the music in his headphones.

   "I see you're checking out the rest of the family." Charlie's voice managed to snap her back into what was happening, not even noticing that a large slab of meat had been placed in front of her on a fine china plate. "Well, you already met my parents Zander and Stacey Sanchez—or your parents too, we'll see—then there's Uncle Thomas, Aunt Melinda, you met Skippy, that’s Roxy, Wendy, Laura, and Penelope; that's my older sister Jodi, my cousin Kyle, and my oldest brother and sister Zebb and Sabrina respectively."

   "I guess you—I mean, I sure have a big family now," Katie said, trying to make small talk. "You all live here?" Charlie nodded. Katie always had a very small family, and even most big holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, became fairly infrequent after a while; it wasn’t like the Sanchezes where everyone was talking and interacting. Often times, they’d break off in small sects and rarely even look at anyone outside of their respective cluster except for Katie.

   "Well, Sabrina and Zebb live in separate apartments a district or two over," Skippy chimed in between bites. "Natasha moved out before I got here and Huck is at a sleepover; Cathy couldn’t make it to dinner tonight, though, since she’s sick but Aunt Violet’s getting her dinner."

   "Lucky," Charlie mumbled under his breath. "Katie, you haven't even looked at your tiger. You even got, like, the best part: a front paw." Katie pushed her plate towards him.

   "You take it," she offered. Charlie shrugged and threw it on over what was left of his second plate, causing Katie to wonder just how long she zoned out scanning the table. "I'm a vegetarian."

   "You just get more unbelievably appealing by the minute, don't ya princess," Lacey Alexis growled. "First, you don't know about us, then you waltz around with my boyfriend like you're Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, then the Grace thing, and you're piling this on now! Let me guess, you can't fight to save your own skin, can you candy-ass?" Katie's silence gave her all the answer she needed.

   "If it helps, it's about the diet not the lifestyle," Katie elaborated. Lacey Alexis unclenched her fist and went back to her steak.

   "You still got two strikes, kid. Don't get cute." Kyle sighed.

   "Penelope, I should be in my lab running diagnostics and calculations right now. I was in the middle of building something that could revolutionize the very definition of science itself, totally reshaping—"

   "Totally reshaping the whatever," Penelope cut in. "You can't keep taking your dinner in your lab, Kyle. I mean, you graduated from the most prestigious Ivy League school valedictorian and you've been doing nothing but locking yourself in a lab."

   "I find it more productive than a mall," he said bitterly, earning a disgruntled look from his sister. "I still don't have this single variable figured out and I keep coming across it." Zander stood up, tapping his fork to a wine glass gathering everyone's attention.

   "Dad, if you wanted attention you could've just borrowed my air horn to shut everyone up," Lacey Alexis said.

   "It broke four glasses," Zander reminded her. She nodded thoughtfully. "I wish to proper a toast; to the wealthy, powerful, and privileged, and to the newest member of my, or rather, our family: Katie Sanchez." Lacey Alexis shattered her glass in her hand, the shards not embedded in her palm. Everyone drank, before Lacey turned a white-hot gaze to Katie.

   "Dad, I'm going to go out for a minute. I'm taking my dinner, my phone, and my gun." Her tone was strong enough to almost rip straight through the air and she seemed to tense up enough to squeeze coal into a diamond. Zander could sense that there was something upsetting his daughter and she clearly needed a moment to herself.

   "Just be back by eleven," he whispered. Lacey teleported out, everyone except Jodi and Kyle, who hadn't met Katie introducing themselves and talking to her. She turned to Charlie.

   "Did I do something to upset her?" Charlie shook his head.

   "Just give her a minute or two to cool off; it'll be safer that way." Katie was starting to feel like a steel weight had dropped on her. She got up from the table.

   "Katie, is something wrong," Stacey asked.

   "I'm not very hungry, Stacey," she said quietly. "I don't really eat meat either. I'm just going to go to my room to think." She walked off; Zander and Thom already through two boxes of wine each.

   "Okay, okay," Zander asked. "Emma Wattson or Felicity Tormelz?"

   "Fuck, man," Thom said. "That's a tough one. I'm going with Emma Wattson; she's cute, she's got a great body, plus at least she wasn't in Fight of Your Life. That thing was like cinematic ipecac."

   Katie shut the door to her room behind her, flopping face-first onto her bed and crying into her pillow. She didn't even hear Marcy come in until she saw her standing there.

   "Hi," she said shyly. "I...I think we kinda met before. I'm not really good at this. What's wrong?" Katie pressed her face back into her pillow and continued sobbing, Marcy sitting down on the bed next to her. "Katie, right? Listen, do you wanna talk about something? You seemed really upset after Lacey left."

   "Lacey Alexis was right," Katie said, her voice muffled by the pillow. "I don't belong here and I'm the absolute last person who Zander should've ever picked to be a Sanchez. I can't do anything, and I might as well just go back to camp and spend the rest of my childhood with my grandparents in Atlanta." Marcy rested a hand on her head.

   "It's okay, Katie. Don't cry."

   "Everyone here is so much better than me; you have your magic, Skippy has her training, Charlie is just so smart and cute, and Lacey..." Katie continued sobbing harder into her pillow, as Marcy started to worry. "I'm just not cut out for total freedom."

   "You might be." Katie sniffled and turned back to Marcy, tears staining her freckled face and overflowing in her bright green eyes. "I mean, Daddy must've picked you out of everybody else to be chosen for such a rare gift. Otherwise, why are you here?"

   "Just some big joke, I guess." Marcy frowned, seeing she wasn't getting too far with her.

   "I think if it was a joke, you wouldn't have that." She pointed to Katie's tattoo. "Only a Sanchez is worthy enough to wear our emblem and have total freedom, even from our own destinies. Daddy, Lacey, even I'm not going to tell you what to do because it's all up to you now."  Katie gave a small smile, wiping away her tears.

"Y-you think I can really be a true Sanchez," Katie asked. Marcy wasn't sure how to answer, so she simply gave a nod and hoped Katie wouldn't start crying again. Instead, Katie hugged Marcy tightly in her arms. "Thank you," she whispered. "You're the best little sister I've ever had. Maybe I can make it as a Sanchez after all."


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Chapters
1. Chapter 1- The New Blood
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