Camille was up and dressed before Charlotte even rolled out of bed. After the fire alarm incident the night before, Camille hadn't been able to sleep although she hadn't been able to work out if it was because of the nightmares she wanted to avoid or because the golden eyes that had been staring at her from across the forecourt during the fire alarm. It still felt surreal for someone like Camille to see real life Draygonians. Her exposure had always been through social media and the news. The aliens had been transparent about their kind but none of it could prepare Camille from being around them. She wasn't scared but rather blown away by their beauty. 

This particular male had to be at least 6ft 11in and well built. His pitch black hair was cropped close to his dark blue scalp along the sides and longer on top. Golden eyes were set on either side of a strong straight nose, coupled with sharp cheekbones, strong jawline and intriguing symbols on his chin and eyebrows. Camille could see why women were fawning over the visitors and yet she was happy to stay well away. She didn't need any more excitement or drama in her life. Hopefully it had just been a wandering gaze on the alien's end and nothing more. 

Yet something deep inside the recesses of her mind told her that wasn't necessarily true. 

"Coffee?" Camille asked her friend who staggered towards her. 

"Yeah but best make it to go, we need to get you to HR for your work badge." Charlotte replied tiredly as she flattened her pink hair which was stuck up in all directions. “Heather is expecting us soon and it takes a bit of time to get into the compound.” 

“How come the contactors are housed outside of the compound?” Camille asked curiously as she searched for a flask for her friend. 

“Well because someone had the great idea to build the base along with the security fencing then realised there was no space for the contractors quarters.” Charlotte explained. “So they had no choice but to put them outside of the compound because the New York officials didn’t want to admit their mistake and spend more money rectifying it. It’s fine though, it makes going out so much easier and there are passages underground that lead to safe rooms if there is an attack but so far that’s never happened. Well, not at the base anyway.” 

Camille nodded. Neither of them had to mention it. Five years ago, a faction of anti-everything had detonated a bomb in Union Square killing fifty people and three Draygonian guards. Hundreds of people had been injured not to mention the damage it had caused to buildings, the park and to businesses. The members of the terrorist group had been caught and were serving life sentences but they weren’t the only ones looking to cause fear and mayhem. While there hadn’t been any more attacks in New York since, there had been attacks elsewhere in the country and the world. Life generally went on for everyone but fear left a bitter taste in the air. No one knew when the next attack would be or when peace would finally reign.

“Did you get much sleep?” Charlotte asked curiously and yet she already knew the answer. 

She had woken to Camille’s whimpers just before the fire alarm went off but hadn’t made any attempts to wake her friend. She knew some of what Nathan had done but she suspected there was a lot that Camille hadn’t yet confessed to. 

“A bit.” Camille gave a smile that didn’t reach her spring blue eyes. “Come on, let’s get ready. I don’t want to be late before I even start.” 

While Charlotte showered and dressed, Camille found herself playing with her hair or rather, what was left of it. Gone were her mousy brown waves which had fallen down her back like silk. Now she had a short pixie cut that framed her round face and was blonde. Charlotte had suggested she change her appearance as much as possible. After all, Nathan was going to be looking for a brown haired girl not a blonde one. It was only until Nathan gave up looking or Camille made it to Canada then she could grow her hair out or change the colour all she wanted. She would be free to do as she pleased; a concept that was very foreign to her. That said, she quite liked the short cut even if the blonde was a bit bright for her. 

Using a bit of concealer, Camille carefully worked to hide the bruising on her face. She had become so used to doing it that she no longer felt disturbed by just how good she had gotten at it. Within minutes she had the bruises hidden while a reddish lip balm hid most of the but on her lip. It wasn’t too over the top but enough to make her look less tired, less pale and less beaten up. It occurred to her this would be the last time she would need to hide bruises, a dizzying thought she couldn’t quite get her head around yet. 

She opted for black skinny jeans, a dusty pink sweater and her beaten up sneakers making sure to hide as much of her body as possible. Had her hair been long she might have been able to hide the silver scars on her neck from where Nathan had burnt her with cigarettes or where the collar had cut in repeatedly. At least everything else was hidden and hopefully no one would notice. 

“So I told Heather a bit about your situation.” Charlotte explained as they walked, the fresh spring air biting at their cheeks. “Not too much but she volunteers for a charity that helps women out of domestic violence. She knows a thing or two about how to help someone hide in plain sight.” 

“I don’t want any trouble.” Camille frowned a little.

“It’s not any trouble.” Charlotte chuckled and paused at a set of gates where two US Army personnel were stationed with rifles. She showed them her ID as well as a piece of paper that had an approved request to let Camille into the compound before they were on the move again. “I can’t think of anywhere safer for you right now than on a heavily guarded base with several thousand US soldiers and Draygonians.” 

“Well, that wasn’t exactly a difficult checkpoint to get through.” Camille countered, glancing behind her at the two soldiers they had just passed. 

“Wait until you see inside.” 

Charlotte hadn’t been exaggerating about the security protocol. While they easily walked through revolving doors into the massive glass foyer of the HQ building, they were still faced with body scanners and security gates made of reinforced glass that only opened when someone put their hand on a scanner. Additionally, more soldiers were stationed at designated sections of the foyer and the security obstacle course. There were even dogs to sniff out any weapons or devices that cause harm. At each control point a camera took a photo of the person who stepped into the device. It reminded Camille of the passport control setup for Gatwick airport that she had seen in a magazine. There was no room for faking it. Green meant you had passed the checks and red meant you had failed and had to try again. Too many fails and a giant blue beast of a male would wander over and take you to one side to be searched and vetted the old-fashioned way. 

They had turned up when it wasn’t too busy and yet it still took them five minutes to get past the gates. However, once they were past the gates, everything seemed much quieter. The elevator took them down to the third floor where Heather was waiting for them at the doors. Heather instantly struck Camille as the motherly type, her jet black hair was done up in twist braids and pulled into a ponytail while her warm brown eyes glittered with friendliness. Her sepia skin glowed under the sterile lighting of the hallway which did little in taking away Heather’s warm and welcoming aura. 

“Hi Heather.” Charlotte greeted the HR manager with a grin and motioned to Camille. “This is my friend Camille.” 

“Lovely to meet you, Camille.” Heather smiled, clasping one of Camille’s dainty hands with both of hers. “I’m so happy you are joining the team. Come, let’s go to my office and we can sort out your paperwork and get you all logged into the system.” 

“I actually need to get to work.” Charlotte smiled, looking at Camille apologetically. “Think you’ll be okay with Heather? I’ll come grab you when I’m done if you like.” 

“Sure.” Camille nodded. “I’ll be fine.” 

The three women parted ways, Camille following Heather while Charlotte disappeared down the other end of the hall. Heather and Camille passed a number of offices, most of the doors open showing the occupants hard at work or chatting to each other. So far everyone was human but it made sense given that this was the contractors offices. Eventually they reached Heather’s office, the lights blinking on as they entered the room. The set up seemed like it had come out of a sci-fi show but then again it didn’t seem too surprising given the visitors. Several screens that resembled glass panels lit up to show several programmes and files open. What appeared to be a smart mirror hung on the wall between two windows showing the forecasted weather as well as headlines from around the world. The desk surface appeared to be smoked glass until Heather touched it and a keyboard and trackpad lit up on the glass. Despite the rather futuristic feel to everything, there was something homely about the room. Lush plants sat around the room while photos of Heather and her family adorned the walls between certificates and awards. 

“Normally we need to do full checks on new employees but given your background, I’ve managed to get that sorted.” Heather began as she sat at her desk. “I know cleaning isn’t particularly glamorous…” 

“Oh no. I am more than happy to do the work.” Camille smiled shyly, tugging the cuffs of her sleeves over her knuckles. “And I’m grateful for the opportunity.” 

“You deserve it after everything you’ve been through.” Heather gave a sad smile. “I am going to suggest you change your name. Camille isn’t too common and if your ex is looking for you, he’s going to make sure your name is everywhere. A new hairstyle isn’t going to be enough.”

“Oh.” Camille blinked in surprise. She hadn’t been expecting that. “How about Emma Sampson? It was my grandmother’s name.” 

“Emma Sampson is good.” Heather nodded, typing it into her alien computer. “I’ve already put Charlotte as your next of kin and her address as your address. Now, I don’t need to check, have you been tested for the Isis gene?” 

Camille froze, her heart leaping into her throat.

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