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Chapter 02



Chapter 02

      After an hour spent at the lab, being debriefed and tested I'm allowed to go home. The tests are routine after any hunt. They always want to make sure I'm in good form. We've been created as near to perfection as possible, but we can still breakdown and get damaged. They also want to see if I'm out performing my predecessors.

      I get to my apartment by riding the elevator to the eighth floor; the lab is on the fourth sub-basement. It's a simple place, a kitchen, living room study, bedroom and a bathroom. There are paintings on the walls of flowers and fields. I'm told my predecessor liked them. I'm indifferent to them, so I left them there.

      I know I'm not going to live here long, so I don't see a point in getting attached to any of it. That means not bothering trying to figure out what I might like to see on the walls.

      "Another demon attack in Los Angeles was stopped by a team of hunters this afternoon," greets me as I enter. I have the computer set to record demon related news while I'm away and replay them when I arrive. It lets me build an image of their activities. "All but two demons were killed, and at this time there hasn't been any information on their whereabouts. There were no civilian death during the attack, but twelve were injured when a demon brought down an apartment building."

      "Cancel playback." The report didn't give details, they never do, to keep the population from being unnecessarily scared, but I can read between the lines. That two were able to flee means they were older demons, smarter, able to enact some sort of plan. The LA hunting team consisted of four hunters, a few months older than I am, according to the files I read. They could easily take care of twelve demons like the one I went up against tonight.

      I don't have a team. My city is nowhere near large enough to warrant more than one hunter. Demons seemed drawn to larger population centers, so cities like LA and New York have larger teams.

      Sometime I wonder what it would be like to fight alongside others like me, but it doesn't last. I'm enough to take care of the threats to my city.

      I grab the fruits from their baskets and chop them, a dozen each of apples, oranges, banana, kiwis, peaches, pineapples, and six containers of cherries. I eat that, and drink a quart of milk, then I'm ready for my shower and bed.

      * * * * *

      It's seven am when I wake up. I don't dream. It surprised Amanda when she asked me about it. She said I was the first one not to dream. She asks me about it every so often. She's trying to figure out if it's making me more effective, or less.

      Since I don't know what dreaming is about, I don't have an opinion on it. I got to bed, close my eyes, and when I open them again it's three hours later.

      Breakfast is the last four steaks in the fridge, this morning is grocery shopping. I have the list of what I needed written on the door, like Jason insists I do. He and Amanda are my doctors, my creators in a way. They supervised my birthing, and have been keeping an eye on me ever since.

      I've heard some of the scientist described them as being my parents. I suppose that's true enough, although I don't think of them as such. They are the two people entrusted with making sure I function as best as I can.

      If the hunt hadn't been in the middle of the night, one, or more probably both of them would have been at the lab to supervise the tests. Unlike me, they needed a full night of sleep, I'm good with three hours. They'll see me in the morning. They always do.

      I cook the steaks following the recipe Jason gave me. I don't understand why I need to do this, I can get as much out of them eating them raw, or better yet, consuming the energy mixes I used to subsist on after being birthed. Jason said cooking food was the human thing to do. I used to point out I wasn't human, but that made him uncomfortable, so I stopped.

      Once the food is cooked and eaten I get dressed in shorts and go down to the gym. There's other people there, both scientist and support personnel, but I have my own section, with weights heavy enough so I can feel my workout.

      I still get stared at, but I don't mind it. I'd expect them to be used to hunter strength and endurance after all those years, but maybe it's something humans just never get used to. I work out for two hours, and then go back to my apartment to shower and dress to go out.

      Shopping for my food is something else Jason insists I do myself. To help me stay in touch with the people I'm saving. Amanda didn't want me to do it, after all it's simple enough for them to have my food delivered, but they discussed it and Jason convinced her it was for the best.

      The grocery store is ten blocks away, and the day is beautiful and sunny. I wear sun glasses because human's do on sunny days like this. I don't need them, short of looking directly into the sun and total darkness, my eyes can adapt to any light conditions. In total darkness I rely on my thermal vision to navigate.

      I do my grocery shopping on a weekday in the morning because there are less people. It's easier to follow the scent of a tainted human when there aren't too many of them. I haven't told that to Jason, he'd be annoyed at me for thinking tactically when I'm supposed to be doing something normal. I'm not certain how he expects me to just stop considering that a demon or one of their servant humans could attack at any time.

      I start with the produce and meat section, and fill most of my cart from there. I add some multi grain breads for the carbs. I should pass it, but as I go by the pop aisle I turn in it. I grab a six pack of coke. Amanda hates that I drink it, which is why I limit my intake to six cans in the week, but Jason exposed me to the drink, and I like it. The fizziness feels interesting on my tongue and in my nose.

      I pass another cart, overfilled, and as the woman reaches up for a bottle on the top shelf she bumps it and makes the bottle of ketchup on top of the pile of food in it tip over and fall out of the cart.

      I catch it without really thinking about it, and put it back in her cart without slowing. I need to go to the coffee and tea aisle, for a box of chamomile tea. This is something Amanda only has herself to blame for. She's always drinking it, so it was only a question of time until I tried it myself, and I like it. But I know it isn't something I can drink too much of, so I limit myself to one small box a week, ten cups, since I like it quite strong.

      Then it's to pick up six gallons of milk.

      "Excuse me," a woman says putting a hand on my arm.

      For a fraction of a second I think it's an attack, but there is no demonic scent, not even a hint of it, so I check my reaction. I turn and I recognize the overfilled cart. The woman standing next to it is five-eight, no more than a hundred twenty pounds. Her eyes are brown, her straight hair is the same shade and goes down to the middle of her shoulder blades. She's wearing loose jeans and a t-shirt with a few tear at the edges.

      "I've been trying to catch up to you since the soda aisle."

      I nod.

      "Didn't you hear me calling after you? I guess you were lost in thought," she adds before I can say anything. "I wanted to thank you."

      I frown, and then remember the bottle I caught. "You're welcome." I turn to my cart and push is along.

      She falls in step next to me. "Wow, your family must really eat healthy. I don't think I've ever seen someone with so much fruits and vegetables in his cart."

      I have to remind myself that humans don't eat as much as I do. They have a slower metabolism, and less demanding occupation. "Fruits are the best thing to eat before going to bed." I look at her cart, most of what is in it are processed food. Amanda would throw a fit if I ate any of that.

      "I guess they are. I wish I could afford to buy some, but with the price as they are, and three kids to feed, I have to go with what's affordable."

      I just nod. I have no idea how much what I have is going to cost. Jason gave me a card to pay with, so I never pay attention to the total.

      "Although I see someone does indulge a little." She points at my cokes.

      "A... coworker says it's good for the soul to indulge."

      "I don't know about that." She chuckles. "But a little is all the indulgence I can afford myself. I have a box of peanut butter cookies somewhere in there." She extends her hand. "My name's Juliette."

      I shake it gently. Jason showed me how, something else that is a 'normal' thing to do. "Mine's Derick."

      "It's a pleasure to meet you. I've seen you here for some time now. Do you live nearby?" She looks me over, a smile on her lips and some hunger in her eyes. The only time I've seen an expression close to that is when a demon's trying to take a bite out of me. There's none of the desperation in her eyes.

      "Yes, I live a few blocks from here."

      "That's good. I was hoping I could take you out for a drink, as a way of saying thank you."

      "A drink?"

      "Yeah, there's a bar further north of here called the 'Golden Pint'"

      "You don't have to." A bar means alcohol. I can't get drunk, so there's no point in me drinking any.

      "I know, but I want to. I don't think you realize the hassle it would have been if the bottle had broken. Finding someone, telling them about it, the humiliation of being responsible for it."

      Somehow I doubt it's quite that involved, and I consider turning her down, but Jason has been insisting that I socialize more. Going out for a drink with her, Juliette, that would be socializing, right? "Alright. When should I be there?" I stop by the milk and put six gallons of skin milk in my cart.

      "Just how many people are there in your family?" She eyes the jugs in surprise.

      I hesitate. I don't lie. I don't usually see a point to it, but Jason and Amanda have made it clear it's best if civilians don't know I'm a hunter. Because of the work we do protecting them we are something of celebrities. If they become aware of us, they will start gathering around me, which will give an attacking demon more collateral damage to cause.

      "I few," I finally say with a shrug.

      She gives me a knowing smile. "Are you available tonight? let's say at eight?"

      "I should be." I head for the registers. There are no tests planned for tonight. Unless there's an attack the scientist like shutting everything down before dinner, and attacks don't come on schedules, so I can only hope there won't be one tonight.

      "That's great. So I'll see you there at eight. It's a casual place, so no need to dress up." she turns her cart in the opposite direction. "I still have some shopping to do. See you tonight Derick." She heads away with a spring in her step I don't understand.

      The cashier scans my food and puts them in the bags I brought. They are reinforced so they won't break like the first ones I brought. When it comes time to pay I look at the total, two hundred -fifty-six and eighteen cents. Is that a lot? From Juliette's reaction, it has to be, but I have no idea. I pay and walk back to my apartment with my bags.

      * * * * *

      I've almost finished putting the meat in the fridge when the door opens. Amanda and Jason enter. I'm not surprised; I heard them coming six doors down. They were talking about the results from last nights' test.

      "Good morning Derick." Amanda always sounds severe, while Jason always seems to be jovial.

      "Morning D," Jason says, taking a seat at the island. I can smell the can of coke he's holding, and it makes me crave one myself, but I have water boiling for tea.

      "Good morning, Jason, Amanda." I continue putting the meat away. "So my results were normal?"

      They're silent for a moment. That gives me the time close the door and stand. Even they tend to forget just how good my earing is. They are looking at each other, concern on their face.

      "I don't think I heard anything I wasn't supposed to. You were talking about the dissection of the demon I killed, all I caught of that is that you didn't learn anything new. And then you talked about how my results were normal, as usual."

      Their features relax. I know they don't tell me everything. I don't need to know everything. If I have a question, they answer it, if I need information for a hunt, they give it to me.

      "That's good," Amanda says a reproachful look at Jason.

      The man shrugs. "We need to remember not to talk about work in the hall."

      They're both wearing their lab coat. Amanda's is over a brown suit, a design Jason refers to as 'power suit'. Jason wears a faded AC/DC t-shirt under his with black jeans and worn running shoes. AC/DC is a band of musician Jason had me listen to, another human thing to do, but I don't get music. As far as I'm concern it's just cacophonic noises.

      Jason thinks it's because of how my earing works, my brain doesn't process sounds the same as humans do. The thought I don't enjoy music saddens him greatly.

      I take the kettle off the heater before it starts whistling, from the bubbling I can tell the water is at the temperature I like. I pour it in the large mug with the two tea bags in it.

      "Is two hundred-fifty-six dollars and eighteen cent a lot of money?" I ask while I let the tea steep.

      "Why are you asking?" Amanda studies me.

      Jason's expression is one of surprised curiosity.

      "That's what my food cost. I'm curious if it's a normal amount for it."

      "You've never asked about that before," Jason comments.

      I nod. "I haven't thought about it before, but Juliette's reaction seems to indicate it's a lot of money."

      "Who is Juliette?" Amanda asks before Jason can say anything.

      "She's a woman I talked with at the grocery store. She has invited me to a drink tonight."

      "Well God damn D. My man's getting lucky!"

      "No. Absolutely not."

      "Come one Manda. Let the man live a little."

      I take my mug and lean against the counter, sipping my tea. I hadn't considered Amanda might oppose the meeting. I'm not needed for this discussion.

      "Live? Do you have any concept of the trouble this can cause? What if he..."

      "He can't get drunk. What's the harm?"

      I can tell Amanda wants to say more. Her face is red, he mouth opens and closes. With effort she calms down. "We can't have me do out in an uncontrolled environment."

      "Of course we can. That's what life's about. We can't keep him cooped-up in here all the time, just letting him out to go kill a demon."

      "Why not?"

      "Because he needs to interact with people. That's why he goes to the grocery store."

      "Yes, and now you see where that leads. Soon he's going to want to go out on dates."

      "And what's the harm in that? Plenty of people go on date."

      "He isn't like everyone else. What if they sleep together?"

      "That's jumping the gun, don't you think? They're just going out for drinks. D, how do you feel about going out for a drink with her, Juliette, you said her name was?"

      The question surprises me. They don't normally involve me. "I'm... curious about it. The people here only interact with me for tests or as part of hunts. It would be interesting to know how civilians behave outside of danger."

      "Are you planning on having sex with her?" he asked.

      I stared at him for a moment. Sex? I know what it is, Jason has seen to that. He's shown me videos, but I haven't felt any desire to attempt it. "No. I don't see the point to it."

      "Come on man, it's about..."

      Amanda silences Jason with a glare. "What happens if there's an attack with he's at that bar?"

      Jason rolls his eyes. "D, where's the bar?"

      "Five block south of here. It's called the Golden Pint."

      "I'll make sure the van has his equipment in it. There that's resolved." Jason has a satisfied smile on his face.

      Amanda sighs. "I swear Jason, you're doing your best to undermine this project."

      "Nothing of the sort. I just think my man D can be a well-rounded character, instead of just a demon killing machine. Isn't that right D?"

      I have no idea how to answer. This is twice I'm asked for input, it's never happened before.

      "Derick. You remember you can't tell her about being a hunter."

      "Yes. Jason fabricated a story for me to tell if she asks me about my work."

      Amanda glares at Jason. "You've been planning for this."

      He raises his hands in defense. "No, I haven't. I did it because he has to interact with people at the grocery store. It was just a question of time before someone asked him about his job."

      The glare doesn't diminish, and she adds a finger to it, that she points at his face. "We are going to discuss this further, in private." She turns and leaves.

      Jason watches her back, and whistles once she's out of sight. "She is going to tear me a new one. You better make sure you date is worth it. Is she pretty?"

      I shrug. I have no idea how to answer the question. How is someone pretty?

      "Anyway. You can finish your tea on the way. I have some tests I want to run."

      With that he leads me to his lab, where he tests my strength and endurance for most of the day.

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