hey guys

heads up, this isn't a full chapter update - I haven't written much to this story in a while. Thats not to say it's fully abandoned! I just...havent touched it in a while and therefore have no clue what i'm doing with it anymore;;

so, for now, have the small snippet of chapter 5 that i never got to finish. it's only 2000 words long, but i thought i might as well post some kind of new content while i figure out how to drag my motivation out of the abyss

Chase had been pacing his room for an hour now; if one were to enter his room right now, they'd see a pathway of pushed aside clothing and furniture that he had hastily cleared so he could resume his frenzied pacing. However, there was no one that was going to enter his room at the moment, for the only person that would have entered had been scared off.

If guilt were a substance it would be pouring from Chase and leaving lakes around his small room. Dax's fearful expression was still etched into his mind, and it was haunting him. He couldn't stop thinking about it, but it weren't as if he had anything else to think about anyways. Leaving his room meant questions of what was wrong, why he wasn't eating, what happened; they weren't questions he wanted to answer. Besides, it was the odd way Jinja kept asking that made him feel nervous.

This dilemma left him stuck in his room, constantly repeating X-Rays words over and over until the bitter acceptance that he was a monster settled. He had only just begun questioning the validity of the term monster too. Maybe he wasn't a monster.

Then the incident with Dax had happened, and it had left him with no question of what he was. Chase couldn't forget how Dax had looked at him; the look of sheer terror as he had loomed over the Lowlander spoke volumes.

He was a monster.

"He hasn't left his room even once?" Jon confirmed, and Jinja slowly nodded, fidgeting. She always hated doing this. She had always preached being truthful and loyal, but every time she entered Jon's office, the words felt more and more meaningless.

"Yeah. We bring him food, but it's mostly untouched, and every time we try to talk to him, we just get…silence," she said uncomfortably, thinking back to her own attempts at getting Chase to even sit in the Common Room. She hadn't even been rewarded a twitch for her efforts.

"Do you know why, at all?" Jon urged, leaning forward imploringly. "Has he been told anything? Did he do something?"

"I – I don't know!" Jinja said in aggravation. "We – We haven't talked much. Our friendship isn't what it used to be." For a moment a fleeting memory resurfaced, of a time where she and Chase were sleeping over at her house, giggling and laughing into the early hours of the morning while watching old cartoons before it faded, just like their friendship had. Jinja swallowed hard.

"I understand," the Commandant said quietly, raising himself from his chair to instead gaze out of the large window that dominated the far wall of the room. The room in question had been specially picked out by Jon in favour of this window for its feeling of freedom and openness, while Charlemagne's old office had been sealed off due to 'renovations'. There were rumours as to what these renovations were, although some darkly believed there weren't any renovations going on at all; instead, it was suspected that the room was harbouring a secret. Whatever it was, Jinja had a strange feeling that she didn't want to be anywhere near the abandoned office.

"I know how hard it is to feel your friendship fading," he continued, and Jinja's head snapped up to look at him. "But…I believe this is better for both of you; and not only you, but everyone else," he turned to Jinja with a bitter smile. "You remember what I told you about Chase. He's unstable, and could soon turn violent. I don't like this, but you'll see that in the end it will do you good."

Jinja nodded slowly, but there was a bitter taste in her mouth as her stomach turned. Chase couldn't be violent. She remembered when he'd held a small funeral for a bug he's accidentally killed and had almost cried over the incident. Sure, he'd gotten a bit carried away when he'd gotten Lock, but hadn't they all, when they first received a Monsuno…?

Try as she might, she couldn't remember back to the day she'd gotten Charger. She was sure people had been beaten up, and there was an arena and a train – but she could clearly remember Chase ordering Lock to capture and slowly crush Mr. Black for information.

The sick feeling returned, but she wasn't sure if it was due to her own fuzzy memories or parts of Jon's speech being true.

Jon looked over at Jinja considerately, before taking a deep breath. "I know this will be hard for you, but I'd like you to do something for me," he turned and faced her, and Jinja knew by the tone of his voice that this was an order, not a question. "I need your help in taking Chase's cores."

There was a sharp intake of breath, and Jinja stared at Jon with wide eyes as the Commandant gave her a grim look. Take Chase's cores? The thought was almost unthinkable.

"But – but why?" she burst out

"Think about it, Jinja," he said calmly. "He's unstable, and currently in control of several destructive mutants. Imagine what he could do with them when he begins to snap out of whatever sort of episode he's in."

"But Chase wouldn't…" she began weakly, but her excuse seemed feeble even to her. Would he? She wasn't sure. She wasn't even sure if she knew him anymore.

"We can't be sure," Jon said, using the same gentle tone as before. "You're my best hope, Jinja. We will take them tonight, and bring some back up, just in case. Agreed?"

A moment ticked by as Jinja sat struggling with herself, before her head hung low and a defeated sigh passed her lips.

"Agreed." She whispered miserably.

Unbeknownst to the two, there was a third party in their conversation. A third party that did not agree at all to what was going down. With silent steps, nobody moved quickly, barely glancing down at the phone they were holding and hitting stop on the record button.

Nobody punched in a few numbers onto the device, adding the recording as an audio file.

Nobody hit send.

"Huh?" Bren muttered, brows furrowing in confusion as a message alert popped on the core tablet. "That's weird, I don't recognize this number. And it has an attachment too."

"That is…very strange," Beyal peered over his shoulder, frowning. Bren made a small shrugging gesture and was about to hit delete when the monk suddenly put a hand on his shoulder, leaning over to peer at the tablet.

"U-uh, Beyal…?" the nerd gave him a nervous look as he took in Beyal's expression, which was suddenly very focused.

"Open it," he said after a moment. "This is important, I know it."

Bren was about to protest – surely it was just a virus or prank, but after a sharp look from Beyal he decided that he didn't want to argue with the monk today. To both their surprise, it was an audio file, and to an even further surprise it was Jon's and Jinja's voices they heard.

Both turned to look at each other then back to the tablet, a horrible feeling of dread rising in them as every second passed of the audio file, and as the last of the voices faded, the two slowly looked at each other. Bren stood up calmly.

"I'm going to go warn Chase," he said in an oddly serene tone, but it could not hide his trembling hands. "You're going to go warn Strike Squad. Keep your cores with you."

Beyal never even got to say a word before Bren had bolted from the room, Core's clipped to his belt and Longfang at the ready. The same ominous feeling that had been haunting him for the past few weeks returned, creeping into his soul and gripping it tightly – although not as hard as he gripped Glowblade's core.

"Tonight's the night then," he breathed, before he, too, darted from the room.

Dax sat quietly in the mess hall, having calmed down enough to think over what had just transpired in Chase's room. He hadn't imagined it, he knew he hadn't. Chase's eyes had been glowing.

Did this mean…?

The Lowlander shook his head rapidly, almost mad at himself. Chase wasn't evil, he reminded himself. Just...stressed.

And harbouring untested, probably volatile energy.

No big deal.

Dax sighed and placed his head in his hands, glad that the eating area was practically empty, save for a few soldiers here and there. He rarely got time to rest, to sit down and think and regather himself.

The last few weeks within S.T.O.R.M's walls had been stressful, to say in the least. Everything had suddenly felt more imposing, the air feeling thicker, everyone more tense since something had happened.

Well, he thought grimly, he knew what had happened. He was sure that everyone in both Core-Tech and Strike Squad knew, even if they were all hiding it from each other. Commandant Ace knew, Trey knew, and Jeredy…

Jeredy caused it.

Dax wasn't sure where one had to go so terribly wrong in their life that they could ever look at their small, helpless child and think that'd they would make an excellent test subject, but it went to show that some parents were incredibly fucked up.

that's all, folks