Book One: The Innocent Heart

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Her Beast's Journey

Part 23.1 of 1.9: Saying goodbye…

Mackenzie held Ash’s hand with her clawed hand. She gripped it harshly watching the silhouette of a small armed freighter gliding among the clouds. The ship itself was beige in color with the forest green camo and stripes of the Talon Hunter. The Paxxian gulped feeling anxious to meet her father in person. Feeling the grip on her hand tighten, Ash looked at her twin beast.

Touching the arm of her brown haired Paxxian, Ash whispered, “Do not be so anxious to meet your father in person. Be proud, Paxxian. Be honored. He is making the trip to see you on his rounds between Earth and the other colonies.”

Turning to Ash, Mackie smiled and moved to kiss Ash on the cheek. As the ship got closer and landed, the Paxxian turned to watch the landing gear open. The incline moved down from the doorway and touched the ground with a heavy thud. A man in a Talon Hunter merc uniform with heavy military boots walked down. He had short brown hair, blue eyes and a stern expression.

Mackie watched as her father approached. His features lightened up with a smile he responded happily, “Mackie is this really you?”

The tail flitted to the other end of her side as Mack gulped nodding and responded, “Yes father.”

Offering his arms, he smiled. Mackie released her grip on Ash’s hand and ran toward him giving him a hug. The Talon hunter captain embraced the Paxxian rubbing her small fur and long curled brown hair. Mackie’s short tail wrapped itself around her father’s leg. Taking her shoulder, her father pushed her back and stroked her chin. He looked her with love. Mackie purred grasping his wrist and held it.

Captain Ubex responded, “You have changed so much in the last ten years since you were a youngling in my eyes. You look so much like your mother, you know?”

Mackenzie whimpered as she gasped feeling her eyes get wet. She hugged him as the captain embraced his daughter and spoke, “Hush. Do not cry my daughter. Are you ready?”

Pulling back, Mackie gasped and nodded. The captain wiped her eyes as the Paxxian turned around facing Ash. She rushed to give her a hug. Ash accepted the embrace of her twin beast as she held her there for a few moments. Pushing her back, she responded using her thumb to dry out her tears, “Do not cry, Paxxian. Be strong. Good luck in your training. I will miss you little beast.

Ash kissed her on the cheek. Mackie nodded turning and walked back to her father taking his hand. The captain responded to Ash, “Thank you for saving my daughter and taking care of her. I owe you one.”

The beast nodded watching them return to the Talon Hunter freighter. Mackie’s tail had a mind of its own as it flitted to her left wrapping itself around the captain’s leg. She kept her hold on his arm as they walked side by side up the ramp. The ramp closed and the space faring vessel left the ground as it rumbled lifting off.

Ashlyn watched the freighter fly off leaving the atmosphere in high speeds. Turning around, she tapped a few buttons on her wrist device while walking across the ground. She vanished in a blinding light of the humming teleporter.

Cameron was standing beside the garage near the Orphanage as a blinding light appeared in front of him. The light faded as Ash appeared. Cameron smiled approaching her. Grabbing her hand, he kissed her on the cheek speaking, “I’m glad you’re here. Where did you go?”

Keeping her cold stare, the beast shrugged not saying anything. He responded, “Well, I’m about to go into town for some things An’Pol wanted me to get for Thanksgiving dinner. You should come! I gotta get some things and I need help loading them to the car.”

Part 23.2 of 2.9: Hanging out with Cameron for the day

Nodding, Ash grasped Cam’s hand as they walked into the open garage with cars belonging to people in the school and to the visitors. Walking down the arranged rows of parked cars, Cam took out a device and clicked the button. The car in front of him beeped flashing once. The door opened. Ash looked at the car. It was different from the other cars. Cam smiled seeing that it caught her eye and spoke, “It’s a Lamborghini. Isn’t it awesome?”

She looked at his eyes and detected a lie somewhere. She stared not saying anything with her cold expression. Cam sighed responding, “Alright, alright! They wouldn’t give me one cause of the bad safety reviews and the fact it has the highest speed available. It’s so fast all you see is a blur as the slogan states-”

Cam finished with a disappointed sigh opening the door. Turning to her, he offered his hand showing her in. Ash stepped in into the front passenger seat as he closed the door. The boy ran over to the driver side and the auto responded while its energy drive activated, “Welcome back, Cameron Sheppard. Driving a Volks-Bienz has an advantage and will keep you alive. We care about the people’s safety on the road! Just remember to buckle up and drive slowly.”

The car automatically started shifting into the auto drive. Ash inquired staring curiously at the automated voice as the car rumbled out of the garage. Cam muttered darkly with his hands on the wheel, “Yeah, yeah I know. I’m fourteen. I wanted to drive but they said wait till I’m seventeen cause that’s when I start my driver’s ed. But I wanna drive and go fast!”

Ash was confused looking at his expression. She attempted to repeat what he said in English, “What’s a Lambor...bor?”

The fourteen year old groaned slapping his face. He looked at her and responded raising his tone, “NO! It’s a Lamborghini. It is Italian make and one of the few foreign cars to survive the war. Twice! It’s ancient and yet still awesome. It’s new with its sleek colors and light that reflexes off her model. When she goes fast she literally paints the road leaving it in a different color for like thirty seconds or so. Besides the one I want is way too expensive for me to afford, so I’m gonna have to save some credits for it. I want one. No, I actually need one!”

Cam lay back onto his chair pushing it down while resting his feet on the wheel. The car drove down the mountain road via auto-drive. He can’t drive it till he’s seventeen and given the password to activate it. Looking at him for a moment, Ash’s expression remained unchanged. The beast couldn’t understand why he’s still with her when she would have left him long ago. She still remembered the boy she almost killed when she was eight. Yet somehow Cameron was immune to her beast’s malice. His innocence and his purity of violence or being tainted were strong.

Cameron, the boy with light short blonde haired with a slight weave, lay back with his muscular arms behind his head. Looking at her, he offered a boyish smile. Facing up, he looked though the visible roof of the car at the trees, the mountains and the clouds that passed by. His vivid imagination wandered while listening to the slow rhythm of car music that was soft punk rock. He dreamt of space beyond Earth. The boy wanted to go out there as he imagined himself with Ash out there somewhere dreaming of a family and having children of their own. To him, all that would happen.

Ash saw differently. Every day as the beast sees him, she felt nothing. Somehow, something inside of her in some subconscious level tells her to follow him. It was a nagging feeling that they connect somehow, but they are on the opposite sides of the line. Cameron is on the good side. He is this good innocent human being who’s willing to fight for her while Tyler Tiarus was a rich, spoilt boy on the wrong side of the track. Ash knew Tyler was not evil. He was just misunderstood like her. Ash was standing on the edge of that line. It was a precipice in the end of the world. She had to choose. Not now, but at some point in her journey she will have to choose.

Part 23.3 of 3.9: Cameron, the young tech expert

The car rumbled into the town of Rocksboro, Illinois. As it drove through the streets, Cam instantly sat up and shouted. Ash was started by his sudden outburst and looked at him with a snarl raising her eyebrow. The excited boy all of a sudden rapped the car wheel and gasped, “Car, stop auto!”

The car blatantly responded, “We have not arrived to our destination. Please wait-.”

Cam wouldn’t give up. Hating the car, he spat, “NO! We can walk from there! Just stop and let us out. We’ll meet you there.”

The stubborn car repeated, “We have not arrived to our destination. Please wai-”

Cam cut it off with a groan. He pointed his finger up at Ash replying, “One moment.”

Looking down below the wheel, he touched the casing near the energy drive. Attempted to remove the casing, he pried it open as the car protested, “Please do not tamper with.-”

“Oh just shut up, you-” he spat removing the casing. Before his eyes was a keypad. He pressed a few buttons. Suddenly the car stopped and responded, “Destination erased. Please input a new destination.”

“Ash, quickly, get out of the car,” he responded opening the door.

As Ash opened the car and exited, Cam pressed a few a more buttons on the keypad and closed the door. The car plowed forward across the road, “Destination entered. Auto-drive reactivated. Please remain seated upon arrival.”

Ashlyn stood on the middle of the road looking at the fourteen year old tech expert. Cam giggled madly with his hands in his pockets and responded grinning, “I love technology-”

A car horn honked behind him followed by someone cursing, “Get out of the fogging road, you twats!”

“Ooop,” Cameron started immediately grabbing Ash by the hand. He pulled her across the road waving back speaking apologetically, “Sorry!”

The driver responded with a middle finger at the boy and drove away angry. Cam shrugged and looked at Ash. Confused at the boy, she inquired, “What did we just do?”

Cameron giggled and laughed grabbing her hand responding, “Sorry, I was getting tired of riding that thing. Besides I saw something that grabbed my eye. This-”

Cam pointed at the store window of a car store. Turning to what he pointed, Ash saw what he saw. It was a car in the middle of the auto place revolving. It looked similar to a Lamborghini that Ash saw in the holo-magazines that Cam was reading during his studies behind An’Pol’s back.

Part 23.4 of 4.9: That’s a cool car, kid. You sure you got enough credits for it?

Cameron cooed grabbing Ash’s hand. He was falling in love with a machine as he pulled her along toward the auto place. Ash couldn’t understand his feelings for this inanimate object. Releasing her grip, Ash stood her ground as Cam ran over to the revolving car. Standing up on the metal floor, he rode along on the front of the car and hugged it. The beast kept her eye on him.

From behind her, someone shouted, “Hey kid! Get off the car! It’s not a toy you know!”

Ash turned as she felt the rushing wind of the car salesman pass her and grabbed the boy harshly. The boy protested as he was brought down onto the ground. Uttering a snarl, Ash didn’t like Cam being handled improperly. As the car salesman prepared to smack the boy, Ash went over and grabbed the man’s hand. The salesman turned around to face the beast’s fangs as he heard her angry snarl. He gulped harshly once as a large lump passed through his throat.

The car salesman gasped with fear as he froze. Cameron shook him off and firmly responded, “I was jus lookin’ I swears! Was gonna save money for it. Gonna have it someday too. I love Lamborghinis-”

Placing his hands in his pocket, the innocent boy looked at the car falling in love and exhaled a sigh. The man muttered taking his hand back. After seeing the beast’s fangs a hairsbreadth from his neck, he murmured about having too much coffee. Seeing his chance, he put his business face on and replied, “So, kid, you want this car? Tell you what! You can have it for half price if you sign a form. It’s got a great engine and a good safety feature I just recently installed. A good car if you’re just starting out. Its fifty million credits but just for you, its half of that price if you sign an agreement. Whad’ya say?”

Cam looked back at him and gasped with renewed hope. He looked at Ash with pleading eyes. Ash looked both of them. Within the eyes of the salesman, she could detect some untruth. Staring back at Cameron, her expression remained unchanging while shaking her head. Cam moaned pitifully and made a humph sound as he scowled back at the man. The boy spat angrily, “My momma told me not to listen to you guys. When I get older, I’m gonna get a car, and I’m gonna run it over you!”

The salesman snarled angrily raising his fist. Remembering the beast’s fangs, he changed his mind shooing him off with irritation and shouted, “Then get outta here, kid. I don’t need you running around scaring away my customers!”

Cam stuck his tongue out at the big, mean man. Grabbing Ash by the hand, he pulled her along out of the store. They walked to another store where the car auto-drove on its own. He let go of her and ran ahead toward the store passing the alley. Ash walked by the alley and sniffed. Sensing a familiar smell and aura, she turned at the alley with a snarl at the nineteen year old boy leaning against the wall. He was smoking his cigarette.

Baring her fangs, the beast snarled as she growled, “Ty?” Musing, Ash remembered the second time she met Ty it was in the alley where he introduced her to the Underground. No matter what misgivings she had about Tyler, he was still the one who thrust her into the dark underground of fighting and violence that sated her beast’s lust for violence and blood. He was very much a part of her journey.

Cameron stopped halfway and turned. Seeing that Ash was headed into the alley, he turned running back toward her shouting, “Hey, you’re going the wrong way!”

Part 23.5 of 5.9: Not forgetting the second boy who is as much a part of her journey

The strong, muscular defined nineteen year old teenager held the cigarette between his fingers. With his foot back against the wall, he placed the piece in his mouth and inhaled the smoke. His other hand was halfway in his pocket. Removing his cig, a puff of smoke billowed from his mouth. Standing up straight, he looked up and smiled at Ash’s cold expression. With a nod, he responded, “Long time no see, Ashlyn. After the death of your father, I had begun to-”

At the mere mention of her father, Ash snarled angrily clenching her fist. She prepared to walk toward him. However, she stopped when Cam shouted from behind, “Hey, stop! Get out of here, Tyler!”

Cameron ran in front of her turning on his defense mode and pointed with a shout, “Go back to your own playground. She no longer wants to play with you!”

Inhaling his cig, Tyler blew another puff of smoke. He snarled clenching his other fist. His defined seventeen inches bicep flexed as he spat with irritation, “Who are you to tell me what to do, kid? Ash is no pawn and you know it. She follows her own way. Yet she needs this!”

Putting the cig back into his mouth, he inhaled and exhaled before removing the cig to blow another smoke. Tyler responded to his beast pointing at her, “Ashlyn, you may be gone from the underground for a while, but at some point you will come back and I will still have a place for you in my team.”

Ash watched Cameron speak for her. He blocked her from going to him as he spat back defiantly, “Tyler, get out of here. Don’t make me call security. They will take-”

Holding the cig to his side, he flicked it once with a shrug putting his other hand in the pocket. The pro fighter spat, “What’s the point, Cammy? You may call them to arrest me, but my father will always be there to take me out of holding cell in like a second he hears. I am untouchable. I am the Stryker.”

Cameron scowled at the rogue as Tyler placed the cig back into his mouth. He inhaled the smoke and exhaled while looking straight at Ashlyn offering her a cold glance speaking, “You may have this veil, a cloak, to protect you from the harsh world. You may live in a place where love and joy is a common place, but in the end, you- No your-”

Cameron snarled shouting at him. He advanced towards him pointing, “Don’t speak his name! Don’t get her angry! Get out of here, Ty! I will no longer abide your stench.”

Annoyed, Ash let out a snarl. She growled speaking harshly at the two boys fighting at each other, “Enough! Sheppard, let’s go!”

The beast turned and walked away with Tyler shouting back, “You can’t run away!”

Cam scowled at him letting out a growl, “Listen to her! You leave her alone!”

Tyler shrugged indifferently. Putting the cig back at his mouth, he responded chewing the end of his smoke, “Fine for a while maybe. Why don’t you listen to her? She seems to have a leash on you. It’s a damned shame.”

Part 23.6 of 6.9: Cameron and Tyler, still rivals till the end

Cameron snarled advancing on him. Raising his fist, he prepared to hit him. Tyler took the cig out of his mouth and raised his hand backing up. He spat back, “Hey! The moment you hit me I would use my powers that be to get you in trouble. I’ll use my father to make sure you never see the light of day and then I will use her. I will take the beast from you. Sure you want that, Cammy? Let the beast running around loose while you rot in a holding cell?”

Turning around behind him, Cameron looked for her. Ashlyn was gone. She headed toward the store where they were going. With a growl, the boy turned back to his hated and scowled at him. Tyler smiled taunting him, “Why don’t you go back to your beast, boy? I can see the leash she holds on you and it’s getting shorter by the minute.”

With an angry growl, Cam backed from the alley while pointing at him shouting, “I’ll not forget this! This insult! You’ll pay!”

Taking the cig out of his mouth, Tyler blew another puff of smoke. Raising his flexed defined arms, he shouted back with a cocky attitude watching Cam run off, “Name the place and time and I’ll be sure to whip your ass in shape,” moving his arms down, he beat his chest with one fist and pointed with a shout, “I’m the Stryker! You’ve been warned!”

Taking the cig, he spat and flicked his spent smoke onto the ground. Turning away, he headed back to the secret door activated by password. Touching it, it shimmered as he uttered a password and he vanished though it entering the Underground.

Meanwhile as Ash walked across the parking lot near the car, Cameron ran catching up with her. Ash brushed her long dark hair to her left shoulder. As they entered the store, several holo icons flashed as the store advertisements animated letting Cameron know which ones were for sale. They wandered around the store shopping as Ash found herself helping loading the heavier stuff onto the cart.

In the future while there were holo-visions capable of bringing food instantly to your house, people felt the need to go out there and shop. Even after several decades of war, people cannot resist the urge to go on a shopping spree in a local store. Store owners made sure they had a huge stock available to their customers a hundred percent of the time. There are no cashiers or baggers. Their store is automatic. Customers help themselves while activating codes from the stock availability to their carts and put their credits aside for the total purchase. It was convenient for the customers.

After thirty minutes of shopping, Ash pushed the heavy cart through a security checkpoint. The checkpoint beeped scanning every item and removed the total credits from their purchase. It included the products for sale that was deducted from the total. The holographic VI appeared and responded with a smile, “Thank you! Please come back soon and have a great day!”

Ash pushed the cart ignoring the holo. Cameron ran ahead to open the car door. He was about to help when Ash shoved him aside harshly. Brushing her hair out of the way, she tirelessly started loading the heavy stuff into the car as her muscles flexed.

Cameron watched her with amazement as Ash loaded the car effortlessly without pause or taking a break. She was athletic and strong. After Ash finished, she stared passively at Cameron wondering what he was looking at her for. Cam gulped approaching her and took her hand. Ash looked down and noticed his hand gripping hers.

Looking up as he clenched her hand while matching their strength, she stared at him. Watching her bicep rise, he stroked the muscle and responded, “Wow Ash, you’re still working on your strength unlike most of the girls in the orphanage. It’s no wonder they feel intimidated by you.”

Ash shrugged withdrawing her arm to close the car door. Cameron watched as she entered the passenger seat. Walking around the car, Cam returned to the driver seat while the cart automatically vanished in a blinding light. It was returned to the store.

Part 23.7 of 7.9: Ash and Cameron face to face

On the ride back in the car on auto-drive, Cameron fumed. He had remembered seeing Tyler and was hoping to see the last of him. The boy didn’t want to remember him. Seeing him again, he wanted to rip him apart. Ashlyn looked at him. She could feel his anger and inquired, “Cam, are you okay?”

Cameron scoffed angrily and spoke, “No, of course not. Tyler screwed with your life. He dabbled and tried to force you to fight for him. Seeing him again, I-”

He gripped his hands for a moment and stopped to close his eyes. With a sigh trying to calm down, he turned to Ash and responded, “I’m sorry. I am trying not to let him get me. I don’t want him involved in any way to get in between us.”

Ash looked at him and asked again, “Us?”

The boy nodded explaining, “I have done in three months what he failed to do. Do you not feel it?”

“Feel what?” The beast inquired curiously.

With a satisfied smile, Cam nodded responding, “Exactly! You are much calmer in a sense that I want you to be. I love you. I don’t want Tyler to intervene and to take away what we have going on.”

Getting close to Ash, the boy grasped her hand and kissed the top of it. He responded calmly and rationally, “Do you promise me, Ash? Promise me you won’t go back to Tyler?”

Looking back at Cam with an emotionless stare, Ash nodded. She squeezed his hand and responded, “Of course, Cam. I promise. Ty was evil.”

Cameron smiled at that and nodded speaking, “Yeah he was.”

As Cam lay back onto the seat, the beast stared at him still not feeling anything for the boy. She lay back onto her seat as the car drove back to the Blue Suns Orphanage. Ash took out the broken MP3 player. Cameron noticed the device recognizing it. He had seen it on her for a while and listened as she spoke, “Cam, I noticed you fixed the car’s destination and changed it.”

“Yeah?” the boy wondered. Ash spoke showing him the player, “I haven’t used this for a while. It is broken. Can you fix it?”

“Huh, yeah I think I might,” he responded, accepting the MP3 player. Inspecting it, he gave her his assessment of the damage, “I haven’t seen it anywhere. As it is old and outdated, it might take a while for me to find the parts for it and fix it. I might be able to fix it though. Can I take it?”

Ash shrugged. Cam nodded and smiled lying back against the driver seat. His innocent blue eyes watched the trees as they zoomed by. Another month had passed. Soon the fall leaves on the trees were gone replaced by snow as it was nearing Christmas.

Part 23.8 of 8.9: Christmas is near…

Among the heavy snow, Ashlyn walked along. She wore heavy coat to keep her warm as she admired nature’s fury just once respecting its power. The beast entered another building. Since her killing of the Pit Champion from that heated battle and her father’s abrupt exit from the world, it was four months now. It was nearly five months since the beast has been fight free and she still felt cold.

It was nearly Christmas Day. Ash walked up to see the Christmas tree. It stood there decorated with ornaments and adorned with lights along with presents under there. Even An’Pol’s Maltese, Delphi, was swaddled in Christmas clothing. For sixteen years, she couldn’t understand the need for presents or celebration. To the beast, it was the need to be brainwashed to think that these things would be there for pleasure while everything else is torn apart by anger and war. The galaxy was always in turmoil. There may not be a war going on, but there will always be a battle going somewhere out there.

Ash stared at the tree. Deep in her thoughts, she pondered. In the pit when she fought and marked her wins on her skin with tattoos, the beast felt pleasure. Here when she’s not fighting, the beast doesn’t feel anything. When she hears enjoyment, laughter, and people exclaiming to see good things out of a little box, there is nothing but coldness from Ash.

No matter how much Cameron would try to lead her to point saying good things, Ash would just look at him in confusion. She wasn’t connecting well in this place. The cold beast felt out of place feeling awkwardness. She was alone. No matter how many times Cameron tried to stay by her, she kept trying to push him away.

Walking down the corridor away from the tree, Ash entered a room marked for privacy. Locking the door behind her, she took out a holo tablet. It contained a message from Mackie. It was her first holo-message she ever got in her life that she held for the first time in her hand. Ash hesitated. However, knowing how temperamental her little beast would get if Ash didn’t read it, she tapped the tablet once.

The message activated as Mackie appeared as a hologram. She spoke smiling, “Merry Christmas, Ash. By the time you get this, it will be Christmas morning. It’s very hectic over here during training time. I’ve made some friends and some rivals but it’s not so bad. I mean a friendly little competition never hurt anyone right? Anyways, sorry I hadn’t been sending you any messages in a while. Like I said hectic as in instructors being very demanding and harsh, but I don’t mind all the hard work. After all, I have you to thank, Ash. So thanks for preparing me for this moment. For all the hard work and the pain you put me through. It was worth it.”

Ash listened as Mackie approached her. The holo-message sensed Ash in the room. As the holo of Mackie stopped before her real form, she touched her on the cheek. Stroking it, she offered her smile for her twin dark beast. Ash gasped touching the holographic hand of Mackie. It felt real.

Part 23.9 of 9.9: Listening and crafting a little holo message for her little beast…

Mackie resumed her message, “I love you, Ashlyn Sadie Techryn. So much that I missed you but I understand the distance and I promise you your space. I am not allowed to give you a present so I put in enough credits through the holo to your account so you can buy something from me. Please, buy something memorable for us. It has to be something that will mean something in our relationship. It could be anything. I’m sure I’ll love it! Promise!”

Grabbing Ash on the hand, Mackie kissed her on the cheek. She gazed into the eyes of her twin dark beast with love, “This relationship of ours is a secret and I know that as long as you promise me one thing. Talk and share secrets with me. I can keep secrets from people. I know how to cause I learned from the best. So if you don’t respond, then this will be the last you hear from me and our secret relationship is gone. It will be broken and torn apart. I don’t want this to happen and it will be very hard for me to forgive you.”

Mackie paused in her message letting her beast catch up. Ash listened to her speak, “Now, if it’s a first for you to send a message, it’s easy. All you have to do is respond back. Tell me what’s going on with you. Share me a few secrets. I won’t tell anyone. Promise! Cross my heart and hope to die. Take your time with the message. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I love you. You are my twin dark beast and will continue to be till the day we die.”

Mackie stroked Ash cheek and stared back. Lifting Ash’s hand, she kissed the top of her hand. The holo vanished as Ash’s hand fell free to her side. With a gulp, she looked at the holo tablet. Pressing a button for a new message, she responded with a few new words, “Little beast-”

After finishing her message, Ash exited the room and walked along the hallway. Cameron ran up to her and spoke while showing her a tablet, “Ash! We’ve been invited! Well, I was invited, but I can get someone to be my dance partner. I pick you!”

Ash looked at him with a confused look. Realizing he forgot something, he immediately responded, “Oh, sorry! It’s an invitation to a dance. It’s a Christmas Eve party for the Admiral. Mostly everyone who works for him is invited, so there will be like thousands of people. He funds this orphanage and boarding school, so without him this place would be some building in the middle of a forest up high in the mountains. He requested a few to come, so I’m coming! You should come too. It’d be awesome!”

Ash stared at him not saying anything. Cam spoke not giving up, “Just think about it, alright? Hey I know! Why don’t you come to town with me? I got to find a tux-” Grabbing her hand, he pulled her to the car.

Moments later as the car drove in self-auto to town, it stopped by the store. The snow stopped falling as both Cam and Ash entered the building. He looked around the store at the displayed tuxedos for young males. Several holo stands shimmered showing each kind that was available for the fourteen year old boy.

The store owner approached and measured the boy as he looked for one perfect tux. Ash watched keeping her eye on him. Soon as he found one, he tagged it. The tux beamed via Holo to his room in the Orphanage. It would be readily available to him. As the boy finished paying for it, they went outside. Cam stopped sharply as Ash nearly collided with him. She looked at him. The boy looked and gasped to see Tyler leaning against the glass.

Tyler was at the same position leaning against the wall and smoked his cigarette. Seeing both, the Stryker grinned taking his cig out and blew a puff of smoke against the cold air of winter. He smiled excited to see Ash.

Looking at the nineteen year old, Ash noticed something different about Tyler. He was grown in height and physically fit with an average muscular body. The last time she saw him, he was leaner with muscles. Now his visible muscles were defined, bulkier and his shoulders were broader. His physical features were chiseled. It had been four months and Ash just noticed that change.

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