2 nights later.
She looked into the bathroom mirror through a stranger’s eyes.
No, not a stranger. It was her own reflection staring back at her, after all.
She was Ariel Kyles.
Five foot six, one hundred thirty-five pounds. Black hair, green eyes. Left-handed.
Green eyes that were now ringed with gold.
Those intense, spiky lashed golden green eyes stared back at her as if her reflection in the glass was separate from herself. As if it were someone else’s reflection instead of her own.
She turned to look uneasily about her.
No, there was no one else in the bathroom. Just her freshly showered self. Why, then, did she feel as if she was not alone in this tiny, locked bathroom?
And why, even after just showering, did she still feel unclean? She had the almost irresistible urge to lick herself. If not directly put tongue to skin, then lick her hands and rub them all over.
She scrunched her nose with disgust at the image in the mirror.
So ugly. Pink and naked and hairless. Except for the top of her head and between her legs.
Unbidden, the image of a mole-rat flashed in her mind.
She let out a shaky breath and ran a hand through her haphazardly chopped, short black hair and continued to mentally catalogue what she knew about herself.
For, if she didn’t try to remember, she felt as if she’d suddenly lose herself. Like losing a wallet or forgetting your coat at a restaurant. Or worse, having your laptop stolen and returned only to find the hard drive completely wiped out.
Could that happen? Could a person actually lose themselves? Misplace their soul?
She was Ariel Kyles. Middle name……
What was her middle name? Did she even have one? Why couldn’t she remember with certainty one way or the other?
She’d obtained a Black Belt First Degree in MCMAP when she used to be in the Marine Corps. Black belt in Kung Fu, and Master Black Belt in Krav Maga. She was also a chemical explosives expert. She could speak French, Russian, and Spanish fluently in addition to English, and graduated at the top of her class from West Point.
She had five scars on her body, and she traced them now in the mirror with her strange golden eyes—one appendectomy, two bullet wounds, one long knife slash and ten stitches cutting through her right eyebrow down the side of her face from a street fight gone bad.
Vaguely, she recalled that fight. Her enemies had been much worse off at the end of it—as in, stone cold dead.
She had no living relatives. Grew up locally in the Little Flower Orphanage until age six. After that, she was shuttled from one foster home to another, but none of them stuck. Until finally, she enlisted in the military at seventeen, having forged the parental consent as well as her identification papers. She’d actually been sixteen and a half.
Now, at thirty years-old, she lived alone in a tidy, uncluttered one-bed, one-bath apartment in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. She had no hobbies, no friends, and didn’t require much sleep. Twenty-four-seven, she was dedicated to her job, and she was so good at it, she turned down offers from other agencies on a regular basis. She’d never taken on an assignment she couldn’t ace. Never met a target she couldn’t hit.
She didn’t need promotions. She didn’t need money.
The truth was, her employment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was a front. She was a double-agent, so to speak. Her real employer was Genomics Technology Incorporated, a top-secret, government-funded genetic engineering research operation.
On the surface, it was a legitimate medical and academic institution, producing white papers on its research, bloated with grants from both public and private sources to continue its cutting-edge work. In reality, its labs provided the governments of all of the G7 with genetically-enhanced humans to employ as assassins, spies, even politicians.
Ariel herself was the result of one of their experiments.
She’d been created in a test tube from the sperm and egg of parents she would never know. Her earliest memories were of endless days and nights in a small glass box, the better for observation by the scientists who watched over her progress and recorded her reactions to various stimuli.
Some of their tests were mild, some were excruciatingly painful.
She never had any feelings about it one way or the other. Besides her internal organs, she’d always felt strangely empty inside. A husk with nothing to fill it.
Now she felt everything. Emotions she never knew she had.
She felt too much. She was overwhelmed.
For the first time in thirty years, she felt awakened.
She stared unblinkingly at the image in the mirror.
She retained all of her memories as Ariel Kyles. But there was something else too. New memories now jumbled together in her head. Centuries’ worth of memories.
Those eerie golden green eyes flashed at her in the glass.
She was suddenly starving.
Her mouth flooded with saliva as liquid warmth pooled between her thighs.
It wasn’t food she craved, and—lucky day—she knew just the male to service her needs.