Twilight descended on the world outside their airplane, casting long grey shadows into the sky. The moon hung heavy in the night, a large glowing orb that looked as if it had been dipped in powered sugar. Lucy tried to focus on Agent Morrison’s briefing, but the pulse of the sphere in her backpack seemed stronger with the full moon present. The power seduced her into quiet reflections.
Luke jabbed her in the ribs with his elbow.
“Ow, that hurt.” She rubbed the sore spot and shot mental daggers at her twin brother.
“Sorry, Sis, but pay attention. What’s the matter with you?” His blue eyes studied her and she knew it was a loaded question.
She hadn’t told him about the sphere she’d discovered in Russia, before they’d escaped the Rent-A-Kid center. It wasn’t like she was trying to keep it from him, per se, it just hadn’t come up. Normally they told each other everything, so this omission weighed heavy on her, when she thought about it.
His eyes bore into hers, and she turned away, flicking her long brown ponytail at him. “Sorry, just got distracted by the moon.”
Morrison scowled. “You two ready to focus? We have a lot to cover here.”
This mission was important. The older kids may have escaped Rent-A-Kid’s evil clutches, but the babies and young kids were still being held prisoner, and Luke and Lucy had teamed up with International Paranormal Investigators, IPI, to rescue them. It had taken some strong arming, but Lucy had the address, given to her by a reluctant Mr. Black before they escaped. After he beat her near to death, Lucy harbored no warm fuzzies for the man, but at least he’d come through in the end. Also, Lucy and Luke knew more about Rent-A-Kid than any of these agents. The fact that they were martial arts experts, that she was a computer hacker and human lie detector with some cool shadow powers and Luke could walk through anything, and now, could change the molecular structure of something—like when he’d saved everyone from a cascade of bullets by thickening the air—made them uniquely qualified.
So here they were, on their most important assignment yet. This time, it wasn’t the money that drove them and their co-workers, it was the mission.
Morrison cleared his throat and flexed his biceps as he adjusted himself in his seat. He’d looked distinctly government when they’d first met after the break out, with his black suit, black tie and black briefcase. Seriously, did he take his wardrobe style from the movies? Now, he looked military, in camouflage and combat boots. “As I was saying, the compound is heavily guarded and we have to be careful. They could use the kids as hostages if we blow our cover too soon.” He handed them photos of the perimeter that showed walls, fences, guards and cameras everywhere. “Also, count on some snipers that you can’t see. We’ll drop the two of you into the water, where you’ll swim past the fence. If you don’t see an opening, use the under water torch in your packs to cut through. Then, when it’s fully dark outside, sneak into the compound and disable guards as needed. Lucy, once you’re in, hack their system and take over any surveillance.”
Luke flipped through the pictures. “What will I be doing?”
Agent Morrison pointed to a building in the center of the compound. “That’s the generator. If Lucy, for some reason, can’t get in, you’ll need to shut it down manually. But only as a last resort, got it?”
“Once you’ve done that, you need to plant sleeping gas in the ventilation system. This will knock out everyone inside and, hopefully, give us a chance to rescue the children while also keeping them safe. Luke, you will open the gate and our back up team will arrive to extricate the children and take the staff and guards into custody.”
It sounded simple enough, but Lucy had enough field experience to know that nothing was ever simple when you were in the trenches. “I thought sleeping gas was dangerous and hasn’t been used since 2002 with the Moscow theater hostage crisis?”
Morrison looked up from his file, surprised.
Lucy didn’t know if she should be flattered or insulted. “We have been doing this awhile, Agent Morrison. Rent-A-Kid may be a lot of things, but they aren’t stupid. We’re well trained and well educated.”
He put the files back into his backpack and zipped it up. “I can see that. And you’re right, that form of sleeping gas hasn’t been used in a long time, but our organization created a substitute a few years ago. It’s completely safe and top secret. The sleeping gas will be visible, and most will probably think it’s smoke from a fire. We need to shut down the fire alarm before it goes off and they start to evacuate.”
Lucy wondered what other top secret weapons and gadgets IPI had. Her thoughts were cut short when Morrison handed her and Luke black backpacks.
“These are waterproof. Inside you’ll find the sleep grenades, computers, a change of clothes and supplies, and a tank-less breathing system that will attach to your vests. It was created a few years back by an Israeli inventor and will allow you to breathe the oxygen already available in the water.”
It was Lucy’s turn to be impressed. She examined the device and then attached it to her black wet suit. They’d provided her with a top-of-the-line laptop for hacking, but she pulled it out and set it aside. “I need to use my own computer. I can’t risk working on a new system while in the middle of an assignment.”
Morrison frowned. “That goes against regulation. We know the quality of our own tools. I’m not comfortable sending you into a hostile situation with an unknown.”
Lucy rolled her eyes and pulled out her own computer from her backpack. The sphere pulsed softly and she palmed it and dropped it into her new pack before showing the agent her computer. “This is top of the line. Even you don’t have a better model with more power. It’s been fully customized for all of my hacking needs and is programmed to me, specifically. I’m not going in without it. And for the record, I’m not under your regulation. I’m not your agent; you and your agency are working with us. Let’s keep that clear.”
Luke snickered beside her and Morrison made a face like he’d bit into a lemon.
Lucy didn’t say another word, just waited for Morrison to make a move. How far would he push her?
His mouth opened to speak, then his phone buzzed. “Yeah… Oh, yes, Sir…. I understand, Sir…. Goodbye.” Morrison’s face twitched in annoyance and he grabbed the IPI issued laptop and put it in his own pack.
Interesting. Did someone just give him an order to allow her to use her own computer? She’d been certain he was going to make an issue of this. So, that meant someone had them bugged and the higher ups were keeping an eye on them. Based on Luke’s expression, she knew he was making the same connections. They’d have to talk about this later.
Agent Morrison handed them parachutes. “We can’t get too close to the base without revealing ourselves, so you’ll have to jump. Once you’ve completed your mission, use the orange flair gun provided to alert us. Agent Simmons will bring a task force through the gate and get everyone out. If you run into problems, use the red flare gun and her team will bust through the gate and attempt to offer aid.”
Attempt to offer aid. That sounded so reassuring. The holes in this plan would make a swiss cheese proud, but it was the best they could do under the circumstances. They’d tried to negotiate, but couldn’t make contact with the head—Sam’s father. They’d captured a hostage, even—the leader of the compound—but still, no one responded to them.
Luke tightened a strap around his chest and stood to make sure all of his equipment was on properly. “What if we’re captured, what’s Plan B?”
Lucy wondered that as well, as she readied herself for the jump and the mission.
“We have the compound’s leader. We’re hoping they will trade, if you’re caught.”
Lucy stood, mouth agape. “Your big plan is to try to trade a guy no one appears to want, to rescue two powerful paranormals? And you think this is a good plan?” Lucy couldn’t believe it. This was the lamest plan ever, and if they were captured, it would never work.
“I never said it was a good plan, but it’s the plan we have. Moral of the story? Don’t get caught.”
Right, don’t get caught. “Let me talk to him.”
Morrison looked up from his own preparations. “Who?”
“The hostage. If he’s in the plane, let me talk to him. I have some experience with interrogation, maybe I can get him to tell us more.” No one could lie to her without her knowing, surely she could break this guy and remove some of the risk from their mission. In other words, make it more likely she and Luke would survive, since she was fond of her life and didn’t relish the idea of losing it.
The IPI agent pressed his lips together and scowled. “Technically, since you’re not an agent, you’re not allowed near the prisoner.”
Lucy crossed her arms and glared at him. “This is our mission. We’re the ones risking our asses to save these kids. We’re the ones who will be left behind if it tanks. I don’t give a damn about protocol, I want to talk to this guy, now. If you want our help on this, that is.”
Their plan had no chance of success without her and her brother, and the agent knew it. They could do things no one else could. It wasn’t even just their para-powers, though that did give them an edge no one could compete with. Lucy and Luke had been in training for this, or doing this, their whole lives. Lucy didn’t back down as she watched Morrison struggle with towing the company line and blowing the mission, verses giving her what she wanted. She did wish she could borrow Sam’s power for just a moment and read the guy’s mind.
Sam. What was happening with her? Was she okay? Was the baby okay? Lucy couldn’t afford to spare too many thoughts for her best friend. She had to focus on the mission, and on getting home safely, so that she could be there for the birth. If she wasn’t already too late.
Morrison stood and walked to the back of the plane. “You coming?”
Score! She winked at Luke, who grinned like a fool, and followed Morrison to a locked bathroom.
“You’ve got him locked up in there?” She really hoped it wasn’t like in the movies where he was sitting on the toilet without pants and chained to plumbing. Not that she wanted the guy crapping his pants, but she didn’t need to see his junk, either.
Morrison waved his hand around and didn’t hold back the sarcasm. “Do you see many options for a secure containment here?”
“Guess not. He’s got clothes on, right?”
The agent rolled his eyes and opened the bathroom door to reveal a bald man with tribal black tattoos over his head and around his eyes—fully clothed, thank God—on the toilet. His hands and feet were handcuffed together and a rope around his waist secured him to the plumbing. His black eyes bore into hers over a silver strip of duct tape.
Lucy reached over and yanked it off, pulling more than a few whiskers from his short black beard and mustache. She spoke before Morrison could throw a fit. “I can’t question him if he can’t talk. Now, if you’ll excuse us, I don’t think we have room for a party in here.”
Maybe she shouldn’t have worked so hard to push so many Morrison Buttons, but it was just too easy… and the only entertaining distraction she had on this adventure.
Morrison left and was quickly replaced by Luke, who gave her the look—the one that said, “Shut up, Sis, I’m not leaving you alone with this guy.”
Fine. Luke had her back, and there was no one in the world she trusted more. Time to get this party started. “Hello, and welcome to the hostage tour. I’m Lucy, your tour guide. And this is Luke. What’s your name?”
Her attempt at levity fell flat on the man whose eyes looked dead.
“Beleth.” His voice came out like black oil, low and deep.
Lucy knew enough mythology to know that name. “Beleth… that’s the name of a demon or fallen angel. What? Parents didn’t like you?”
The power of the large man made of solid muscle surrounded Lucy and pushed against her almost viscerally. It wasn’t a para-power, she didn’t think, just his physical presence and energy held her in its grip, which she tried to shake by bating him. To no avail.
“Okay, no chit chat. Fine by me. Look, we can help you. We can offer you security, freedom, even protection, if you help us free those kids. I just need to know what we’re up against. Who’s guarding them? How many? Does anyone have para-powers? What’s the best way in?That kind of thing. Just information, you don’t need to do anything else.” Drake would be mighty useful about then. He could just compel the guy to tell them everything, if he hadn’t been stripped of his powers and then abandoned Sam and their baby. Damn him.
Beleth didn’t twitch a muscle as he spoke, his face and body as solid and still as granite. “You’re a fool if you think that you can stop what is happening, if you think you can stop paranormals—those gifted with power. We won’t let you destroy us.”
Lucy listened with her own power and knew he believed everything he was saying. To him, it was the truth. “My brother and I both have para-powers, and yet we’re working with IPI to help these kids. Would I be working with them if they were trying to destroy paranormals? We’re trying to help, to give people a fair life, to give them freedom. The children in that facility don’t deserve to be kept prisoner and used.”
A gust of wind or weather pushed against the plane and jerked Lucy from her feet. Before she could crash into the wall of the small bathroom, Luke used his para-power to solidify the air around her and catch her. Once steady, she smiled at him. “Thanks, Bro. Owe ya one. Guess we’re getting some weather, great.”
Beleth seemed unaffected by the turbulence and continued speaking in his commanding voice. “What will happen to them once they are free? Will you release them into a world that would reject them as freaks and use them to test and experiment on? And what will happen to the powerless? Children with no control will create chaos everywhere they go. Some have powers that are benign and harmless, but what of those who are dangerous? Can you imagine the headlines? Angry 10-year-old sets fire to entire class. Overactive toddler freezes her teacher to death. 3-year-old throws temper tantrum and destroys an entire apartment complex. You really want to be responsible for that kind of damage?”
The Seeker had given Lucy a similar speech before they revolted and broke free of Rent-A-Kid. Before he’d died saving Sam. He, like Beleth, truly believed that paranormals needed guidance and protection, for the safety of everyone. Lucy didn’t disagree, but this was not the way to do it. Not when they impregnated her best friend without her consent and experimented with genetics, not to mention drugging them into compliance.
Luke shifted behind her until he stood next to her—a very cozy arrangement in the cramped quarters. He spoke to Beleth. “They will be protected, and given a new home. They won’t be a threat to themselves or others and they won’t be used and experimented on. We will protect them.”
Beleth’s laugh came out bitter and harsh. “So that’s it? Those kids are just trading one facility for another. IPI just wants them for their own experiments. With you, they’ll be lab rats. With us, they have purpose, a greater mission in life. We do what we must, make the hard choices, for the greater good of our kind. You’re being used and you don’t even know it.”
Lucy’s blood pressure spiked as she thought of all the ways Rent-A-Kid had used them and manipulated them. “Your organization ruined my best friend’s life. You killed our mother, killed one of our guards, and destroyed so many lives I can’t even count. People, good people, are dead because of your methods. How dare you claim that you’re better than IPI or anyone else. How dare you stand behind some grand purpose to justify the abuse you perpetrate. The ends, even if I agreed with them, do not justify the means you use to obtain them.” She fought her own urge to beat the crap out of this guy as she stepped closer.
He finally moved his head, just enough to stare into her eyes. “Those deaths mean nothing compared to what we fight for.”
Her hand flew at him as if powered by its own force. Her palm stung at the force of the slap. His head didn’t even budge at the force, nor did his skin show signs of the impact. He remained unflappable and Lucy burned with anger.
In the same cold voice, Beleth spoke. “Aren’t you the reckless one. Certain times call for being still. If you can’t quench the flames that burn within you, they will consume you.”
Was this guy seriously given her Zen advice? Whatever. If he wouldn’t give her the information she needed, they’d do it the hard way. They’d had tougher assignments. Like their recent Russian adventure. That had been way worse. Genetic experiments, shootings, and… Adam. He’d been one of their mutations. Part man, part beast, but the heart of a true friend. He’d run into a spray of bullets to save her. She didn’t need crap from this guy, she’d do it her own way.
She turned to walk away, but Beleth’s next words stopped her. “You’re not so different from us. When the time comes, you’ll do what it takes. When hard decisions have to be made, you’ll make them.”
Lucy whipped her head around. “No. I’m nothing like you and your kind. I’ll make the right decision, or none at all.”
Beleth dropped his head. “Sometimes there are no right decisions, and you are left with the lesser of two evils.”
More turbulence threw Lucy off balance once again. Before Luke could use his para-power to steady her, Beleth’s arms reached out, his hard muscles stopping her fall against the sink. Thunder shook the plane and flashes of lightning lit up the windows. Lucy used Beleth’s body to balance herself and stand again. His skin was cool under her hands and his gaze unwavering. With each flex of his muscles, his tattoos came alive and seemed to crawl over his skin like living ink.
Lucy removed her hands from his body and nodded her head. “Thank you.”
A small smile touched Beleth’s lips briefly, and Lucy wondered what secrets lurked behind his dark eyes.
The plane shuddered again, and as Luke and Lucy turned to leave, Morrison approached them. “We have a problem. The plane is slowing down… on its own. The pilot can’t do anything about it.”
With a skipping heart, Lucy looked out the window. The storm that caused the turbulence was in full rage and the plane appeared to have stalled in midair. The power of the sphere pulsed like her own heartbeat, faster and faster as Mother Nature whipped them around. The increased frenzy of the sphere was Lucy’s only warning that powers beyond nature had hold of the plane. She gasped as the tale of the plane tilted up as if on a string that someone jerked. “Hold on!” Her warning was too late, as everyone on board slid toward the front of the plane. Lucy held tight to a chair, but the push of gravity forced her to let go and she crashed into Luke.
Morrison looked almost comical as he tried to right himself and regain control of his team. “Everyone, just stay calm as we figure out what’s going on.”
Before the agent could follow through on his plan, the back hatch of the plane, where they would have parachuted from, screeched open as metal twisted and snapped apart. The cabin pressure quickly changed and pulled at them.
A panicked pilot hollered from the cockpit. “I’ve lost all control of the plane and there’s another aircraft hovering above us.”
Everything clicked for Lucy as she looked into Bethel’s eyes. “Paranormals. They’re attacking the plane.”
Bethel’s head dipped slightly to acknowledge her words. “Now is the time for stillness.”
As if on command, military trained men in black poured into the cabin. Some of them carried guns, others… she guessed they didn’t need guns. That worried her even more.
Agent Morrison pulled his own gun and aimed it at Beleth’s head. “This is what you’re here for, right? Him? Don’t move or I’ll blast his brains out, I swear.”
One man stepped forward from the group, a baseball cap on his head. He raised his hands and Lucy felt the sphere pulse as energy flowed off of him. His pale eyes took in the group, and Lucy knew he was the true threat. “Be careful. He’s the telepath that brought down the plane. He’s very powerful.”
The man’s eyebrow twitched. “Perceptive.”
Morrison didn’t waiver, and Lucy found herself finally impressed by the man. “Don’t even think about it. As soon as I feel this gun budge, I’ll pull the trigger.”
Lucy pushed through the wind assault to face the man directly. “What’s your name?”
He looked almost amused as he answered. “Robert. And you?”
“I’m Lucy,” she said, then gestured to her brother. “This is Luke. We’re paranormals too. There’s no need to attack us. We’re not your enemies. But I can assure you, Agent Morrison will pull the trigger if you use your power. Are you willing to risk Beleth’s life?”
Robert hesitated, then waved his hand. The room tensed in anticipation and beads of sweat dripped down Morrison’s face, but his hand held steady. Lucy prepped for the onslaught of power, but instead, the other soldiers lowered their weapon.
The room let out a collective sigh. At least, those on the receiving end of the weapons and power.
Lucy looked over to Beleth, relieved that his life had been worth something to these men. A glint of black, something shiny like oil, caught her eye. The transformation happened so fast. One second, his tattooed hand rested by his side, the next, it extended into some kind of blade. “No!” Lucy tried to dive toward Beleth, to stop him, but the cabin pressure did not allow for a fast response. At least not for her.
Beleth had no problem navigating the space. No problem using his sword hand thing to slice through the air, and into flesh and blood and bone. No problem slicing Agent Morrison’s gun hand clean off.
Time moved in slow motion as Morrison stood, stunned, not seeming to realize his hand had been amputated. He looked down, his face paling, and clutched his wrist. Bright red blood poured from the space his hand used to live and Morrison slumped to the floor.
Lucy couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing. Breaking out of Rent-A-Kid had resulted in plenty of blood shed, but this… this looked almost fake. So much blood, so bright and sticky, like the stuff they use for movies.
Beleth, unfazed, walked to Robert, his black sword changing back into a hand. “What’s our location?”
Robert handed him a gun. “We’re near the base, Sir.”
Lucy couldn’t believe they could have a conversation like a man wasn’t bleeding to death in the corner. She pushed through the cabin, ignoring the threatening glares of the soldiers, and reached for Morrison. She pulled off her belt and tied it around his wrist. He didn’t speak, but stared at her with eyes that were losing their spark.
A soldier raised his gun and aimed it at Lucy.
Luke screamed. “No!”
Beleth put his hand up. “Not those two,” he said, pointing to Luke and Lucy. “Kill the rest.”
The sound of bullets filled the small space. Lucy screamed. Luke stood very still, channeling his power. The sphere pulsed stronger.
And the bullets stopped in mid-air.
The soldiers ceased fire and Beleth turned his attention to Luke. “Interesting.”
Luke seized the moment. “Why kill them? Just leave. You have what you came for. There’s no need for more blood shed.”
Beleth commanded a stillness as he stared at Luke. “Someday you will understand. One can never leave a cancer to spread.” He flicked his wrist and the soldiers open fired on the IPI agents and crew, carefully avoiding Luke and Lucy.
Luke threw up another shield. The bullets once again stopped mid-air, even as more joined them. The pow-pow-pow of a hundred bullets deafened Lucy’s ears. More and more bullets cluttered the air, stopping at Luke’s shield point. But Lucy could tell Luke was getting tired. The bullets shook, wavered, pushed forward as if fighting against the shield. It was a fight Luke wouldn’t win for long, she knew.
With another flick of Beleth’s fingers, the shooting stopped as suddenly as it had started. He addressed Luke. “Join us. If you come peacefully, we’ll let the crew live.”
Agent Morrison stirred under Lucy’s hands. His eyes sharpened to focus. “No! Luke, Lucy, don’t go with them.”
Before Lucy could register the movement, Beleth raised his gun and shot Morrison in the head, silencing him. Lucy choked back a sob, “No. What did you do?”
Beleth spoke as if she hadn’t said anything. As if he hadn’t just maimed, then killed a man. “What is your answer?”
Seriously? He thought they’d go with him now?
Luke had the same idea. “We’re not going anywhere with you scumbags. Ever.”
Beleth sighed without any melodrama, then nodded once. Robert lifted his hand. The sphere thrummed again and Luke flew through the air and was pushed into the airplane wall. His limbs spread apart and Lucy could hear cracking.
“Leave my brother alone!” She looked to Beleth, then Robert. They were going to kill Luke. She grabbed Morrison’s gun from his detached hand, fingers slipping on the blood. She lifted it, aimed and shot Robert in the chest.
Luke collapsed to the ground and groaned in pain.
Lucy shook and dropped the gun as her body went into shock. The plane shifted, tilting down and Lucy slid across the floor. Robert was dying and could no longer suspend the plane in the sky.
Beleth and his men grabbed on to seats to steady themselves. Soldiers and IPI Agents fell. Everyone drew guns, shooting at each other. Lucy knew Luke was too exhausted to stop the bullets. More people died as the plane tilted in the sky, suspended by metal cables attached to the plane above.
Robert writhed on the floor, the bullet to his chest killing him slowly. Lucy didn’t want to watch, but couldn’t seem to pull her eyes from the scene.
Beleth kneeled next to his dying friend, his voice low but still commanding. “Robert, you have served us well and now, your mission has come to an end. Rest assured, your family will be well cared for, and you will be missed.” Robert grunted, but couldn’t speak. Beleth placed his gun under his friend’s chin. A tear, shiny and black, leaked from Beleth’s eye. Robert nodded, giving consent to a fast death. Beleth pulled the trigger, and that one bullet sounded louder than the hundreds that had come before.
Lucy’s stomach lodged in her throat as the plane plunged forward more, the cables attaching it to the plane above stretched beyond capacity. Bethel looked at her, not with anger or despair, as she’d excepted, but with that same stillness that so aggravated her.
His voice boomed in the cabin. “You’ve made your decision.”
A flicker of doubt plagued her. Had it been the right one? She looked around at the dead men, agents and soldiers piling up at the back of the plane as it hung from the sky. How could this have been the right choice? But giving in, going with them, that wouldn’t have been right either.
Bethel’s words from earlier haunted her. “Sometimes there are no right decisions.”
The plane shook and strained against the cables, until one snapped, jerking the plane into a twisted limbo in the sky.
Bethel let go of his seat and allowed himself to fall toward Lucy, grabbing her. He yelled to the only soldier who survived the massacre. “Get the boy.”
Lucy shoved against his rock hard chest. She might as well have pushed against a brick wall. He wrapped his arms around her and locked her in a death-like grip, a mockery of a loving embrace. She couldn’t move, couldn’t fight him, couldn’t escape. He pulled her to the hatch, presumably trying to get her onto the plane above them before this one crashed and burned.
She saw Luke struggle with his own captor. He made more headway than her, marginally. Their circumstances didn’t allow for much in the way of true fighting, and Luke was still exhausted after his torture.
The men made it to the hatch, cables hanging and waiting for them to attach themselves so they could be pulled to the other airplane.
Lucy couldn’t let them capture her and her brother. This was the only chance they had to escape, once they were on board it would be near impossible with the level of para-power and man-power Beleth controlled. She thought fast, assessing her tools. Their parachutes were still attached, as were their tankless breathing systems and backpacks. Below them, the ocean swirled and consumed the world, as if waiting for another meal. The dark sky beckoned like a black hole into nothing.
Still, better than the alternative. Crazy-suicidal-probably-will-die-trying plan in place, Lucy waited until Bethel released her in order to hook her to the cables. When his partner did the same with Luke, Lucy tackled her brother… and pushed him out of the plane.
She held him tightly as they dropped into the night. Luke returned her grip and smiled. Such a guy!
“Hope you have a plan here, Luce. Not that I don’t love a good adrenaline rush,” he said through the rush of wind and the sting of rain that attacked their skin.
Breath came in small, shallow pulses. But at least they were free.
“Um, Sis. We’ve got company.”
Lucy looked up, and nearly choked on the rain when her mouth fell open in shock. Bethel had jumped out of the plane in pursuit. Head first like a rocket, and gaining ground. What the hell? He hadn’t been wearing a parachute. Was he insane?
He sliced through the sky like a razor through warm butter. How could he catch up so fast?
Lucy’s heart raced as she tried to think of something, anything to slow his pursuit. She caught Luke’s eyes, and he nodded, understanding.
Lucy counted. “One… ”
She could see his face, but not his eyes. Something black, like small wings, sprouted from his back.
And… when the white of his eyes came into view…
“Three!” Lucy clutched Luke tighter.
Luke’s body stiffened as he focused his power. The sphere pulsed frenetically. Luke put up one hand and…
Beleth slammed into the field Luke had created and riocheted off of it, like a bouncy ball against a wall.
Luke and Lucy continued to fall. If they hadn’t been in a race for their lives, Lucy would have enjoyed the descent. She loved sky diving and parachuting. But this was not for sport. Still, she couldn’t help but embrace the freedom of soaring through the sky, unfettered from reality. She’d have given anything to have this para-power, the power of flight.
Lightning flashed, tearing Lucy from her joy and illuminating the bright sky with another vision… one of a black silhouette of a man with wings.
Lucy acted fast. She flipped downwards, Luke helping her with his own body, and opened her parachute. It slowed them down, temporarily.
A current of wind drove through them, sending the parachute in conflicting directions. They began to fall too fast. The water beneath them rose up, like a giant mouth. If they hit it going this fast, they would drown, pulled down by the ocean and their parachute.
“Luke, make a wall of air beneath us, but not thick. To slow us, not stop us.”
Luke nodded and held out his hand. He looked so tried, so weak, but he raised his hand and focused his power.
Panic filled her even as she pushed it away. OMGOMGOMG… the ocean rushed up to them, water sprayed them and Lucy prepared for what could be the end.
It all came down to him.
When his son died he knew that he’d have to finish the plan alone. But then, his son had been weak. The Seeker couldn’t go the distance.
Mr. Steele could—and would.
He looked down at the body laying in the bed. They were all just bodies to be used and tested. They meant nothing except for what they could give him.
This body had been badly damaged, but there was one who could fix it. He motioned to the guards standing by the door of the hospital room. “Send her in.”
A petite ten-year-old with long auburn hair glared at him with fire in her green eyes and stroked the snow white cat in her arms.
The room crowded around him with so many people, but he ignored the sensation. Soon enough he’d be alone in his cavernous rooms, after he handled this.
He pointed a long finger at the cat. “What is that thing doing here?”
The guard on the right stepped forward. “She wouldn’t leave it. Said she couldn’t heal without it. You told us not to hurt her, so it seemed the easiest way to get her here.”
“And the mother?”
The scowl on the girl’s face collapsed into tears.
Mr. Steele knew what grief looked like on others, and found the expressions to be cliche and useless. He prided himself on his control and counted his blessings that he didn’t have to suffer in the sludge of human emotional excrement.
Before Mr. Steele could order the cat’s execution—both to rid himself of the nuisance, and punish the girl for her display of tears—the body on the bed convulsed. A fly buzzed around the its head, as if waiting for a decomposing treat.
He gestured with impatience. “Nevermind about the damn cat. Girl, use your para-powers to fix this.” He spat the last word out as a curse.
When the girl didn’t move, the guard shoved her forward and she dropped her cat who landed on all fours, the demon that it was, and hissed at him.
He kicked at the cat, but it avoided his black boot and scurried under the bed.
The girl trembled and looked even smaller without the white buffer of fluff. “I… I can’t. I’m not strong enough.”
He kept his voice calm and even when he responded. Anger was just another emotion after all. “You haven’t even tried. I think you’re much stronger than you give yourself credit for. Besides, if you don’t, I’ll rip your kitty apart with my nails and eat its heart while you watch. Then, I’ll do the same to you.”
It was an idle threat. Mr. Steele cared nothing for the heart. No, what he wanted, what he needed, existed solely in the brain. That’s where the real treasure awaited him. That’s where the power was.
Cerebrospinal fluid. The key to all his research. Located in the subarachnoid space and the ventricular system around and inside the brain and spinal cord, this fluid contained something very special in those with active and dormant para-powers—the blue print for specific powers and the code to activate them.
With the right cocktail of drugs, he could forcibly activate dormant powers in a subject.
And with the right procedure, he could syphon that fluid from a paranormal and use it to enhance and add to another person’s para-power.
He almost had it, but he needed to do a few more experiments before he became his own patient, and the most powerful paranormal to ever live.
The girl who stood before him would make an excellent test subject, but he needed her to do this first.
Snot and tears leaked down her puffy red face.
Another convulsion from the body.
“Do it. Now.”
The girl nodded and sobbed again, but did as she was told.
Serena tried to swallow her tears and keep her sobs shoved deep in her chest, but her heart hurt so bad.
Angel hid under the bed, but Serena knew her cat wouldn’t leave her. That was the only thing that kept her from falling to the ground in a heap of sadness.
The bad men had taken her from her new home, the place her mom had taken her to when her dad disappeared.
Serena knew her dad’s job was dangerous, but she never thought he would die and not come back to her. She missed her dad so much, and now her mom….
“Serena, run!” Mom screamed as the bad men grabbed her.
It happened so fast, it didn’t seem real. One loud bang and her mom slumped on the floor like a doll.
Serena cried and ran to her. “Mom, Mom, get up!” She banged on her chest and covered the hole in it with her hand to stop the blood.
“No, Mom. Don’t leave me. Come back. No!” But she didn’t come back. She stared at Serena with big dead doll eyes.
Serena opened herself to her power and let the white light flow into her. She would save her mom. She would bring her back.
Then the bad men grabbed Serena and said she couldn’t use her power. They took her away from her mom, too far away. Her power couldn’t work that far.
Angel ran up to her and meowed in sadness. Serena lifted her up, staining the cat’s white fur with red. She pretended it was marker and that her mom would come in and get mad at her for making a mess and Serena would clean it up and be so happy.
But it wasn’t marker and her mom didn’t come.
The bad men, they would hurt Angel, she knew. So she lied. “I can only use my powers with my cat. If you take her, my powers won’t work.”
They were stupid, they didn’t know. So they let her keep the cat.
Of course they wanted her powers. Mom and Dad had said she could never ever tell anyone about what she could do, because then someone might try to hurt her.
But someone must have told.
Now they were dead, and she’d be dead too. Would they wait for her in heaven? Would Angel come too?
Serena wished she was in heaven, and not here with these horrible men. The baddest man of all stood tall, and when he smiled she could tell that he didn’t have a soul. He would never get into heaven. At least her parents were safe now.
But she wasn’t, and neither was Angel.
She’d have to use her powers, and she knew she could die if she did what the evil man asked. But she knew she would die if she didn’t try.
First, she had to slow down her heart. It felt like a crazy humming bird was trying to peck its way out of her chest. Her dad used to take her to watch the birds. They’d had such fun taking pictures and drawing sketches of them.
No, she couldn’t think of her dad, or her mom, only her power, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
So she focused and breathed and let her body get really still.
When the warm light flowed into her, she smiled. In that moment she knew that no matter what happened, everything was connected and it would be okay. She let that peace settle into her until her hands got so hot she knew she had to let it out before it burned her up.
She hovered her hands over the person dying on the bed. In Serena’s mind, there was no male or female, only a glowing body of light, but this person’s light was nearly gone.
She didn’t know if she could light it up again, but she did her best. Light and power poured out of her like fresh orange juice into a crystal glass.
The soul in need sucked up her light and heat, but it didn’t help. It was like pouring it into a black hole.
A wave of dizziness hit her and she pulled her hands back in fear.
The evil man’s voice cut through her haze. “Don’t stop.”
She pictured him eating Angel’s heart and put her hands back out. More light drained from her, more heat and energy sucked into the person beneath her.
More and more and more.
Serena could feel her own life force draining to keep up the healing.
Before her world faded to black, she heard someone cry out.