The shadows crept across the floor of the abandoned warehouse we had chosen to stay the night in. Broken windows gaped like jagged teeth, distorting the moonlight that shone from the white, pitted sphere floating in the sky.
Our fire had died down to embers, casting a dull red glow around the circle of old metal we had used to contain it, radiating a reluctant warmth that flickered and sparked. I sat at the edge of our little group with an old, ratty blanket pulled around me, keeping watch. The others slept around the fire, stretched out on the floor with jackets and other soft things we could find to use as mattresses and covers.
I stared blankly into the dark recesses of the warehouse, listening to the skitterings of rats and the occasional rumble of a vehicle outside. I held a blackened stick in my hand, though I figured I wouldn't need it, with my powers. My powers. The thought felt strange, even in my head. I wondered how I could activate them. It couldn't hurt to know how to use them, in any case. Regenerative healing factor and dynamic cameoflauge, Anima had said. What was that supposed to mean?
I glanced over my shoulder at her sleeping form by the fire. Her long black hair was fanned out around her head, streaked with strands of galaxy and copper, her pale face flickering with crimson light. Ilene lay a little way away, her purple T-shirt wrinkled, jeans stained with garbage-juice from the Dumpster. Alice slept on the other side, black glasses held loosely in her fist. Astrid's tan skin looked like mahogany in the light of the embers.
I felt a strange sensation in my chest, like a balloon expanding, as I looked at them, sleeping peacefully as I guarded them, ready to defend them with my burned stick. I felt an urge to leap up and shout to the world, "These are my family! You can come, but you will never harm us again!" Of course, that was stupid, and I stayed where I was. But I felt a real sense of kinship with these girls.
My whole life I had spent running from my past. No one wanted me. No one cared. I was alone. So I ran. Over and over. Eventually they would catch me, shunt me from orphanage to orphange, foster home to foster home, but I hated them all. I hated them with a fury and a passion that would never be quenched. It was an inferno inside of me, a blaze of rage that devoured all in its path.
But since meeting these girls, these girls who had suffered the same hardships as me, the flames had begun to die. These were the only real friends I'd had since... well, ever. I didn't want them wrenched from me, like so many missed opportunities, so many treasures stolen from me. I had never had a say in what other people did with me. I felt like the horse in Black Beauty, Ginger, who had been maltreated and whipped, and had hated all of humankind. She had died a terrible death, being overburdened and abused, finally dying on the streets; a fate that had been accumulated day after day, as if whoever was in charge of the universe had decided to see how much she could take before buckling under the strain. I didn't want to be like that. We can choose our destinies, right? I don't want to run anymore. I want to fight back, to torment them as they have tormented me all these long, painful years. I found myself gritting my teeth, knuckles white. I wanted to punch a wall. I wanted to go out and scream to the sky, "Here I am! Come and take me, if you can!"
Suddenly, I heard the sound of the huge warehouse door rolling open, and I scrambled to my feet, clutching my burned stick. Sarah started up, eyes wide. "What was that?" she mouthed.
I shook my head, mouthing, "I don't know."
Everyone was up by this time, and we huddled back-to-back around the fire, waiting for the intruders to find us.