… EPISODE TEN…
Draven looks at me, his jaw clenched. “We don’t have time for a new plan.”
“Time or not, we have no choice.” I gesture to the empty garage. “Without the knockout serum, I’ve got nothing.”
He swears under his breath, words so vile and vicious that only a villain would use them. Then he yanks out his phone, hitting speed dial. “We’ve got a problem, Dante,” he barks when his cousin answers the phone, no preliminaries. “Get here, now.”
He doesn’t say any more than that, doesn’t warn Dante or Rebel about what to expect when they get here. Instead, he just disconnects the call, shoves the phone back in his pocket, and starts to pace like a caged tiger.
I try to think what our next steps should be, but it’s hard with panic ripping through me. Mom. Mom. Mom. She’s all I can think about. All I can see when I close my eyes. All I can focus on, even though I know that if I want to save her, I have to concentrate on being smarter, sneakier, better than the bad guys— whichever side they’re on.
She’s gone. My mother is gone.
There’s no way this is anything but a kidnapping—and it has to have been someone on the inside.
The question is, why? Did they find out about one of her secret experiments? The knockout serum? The night-vision pill? Or the projects she was working on that were so dangerous she wouldn’t even tell me about them? My immunity shot?
Just the thought swamps me with guilt. I almost blew my immunity secret with Draven tonight. Maybe it wasn’t the first time. Maybe I let it slip somehow when I was in Rebel’s dad’s office or on sub-level two.
Shit. I used my mother’s pass last night—to get to her lab, up to Mr. Malone’s office, and down to sub-level two. Her access card. Her RFID chip. Her digital trail. What if that’s why they came to get her? Not because of her side experiments, but because of me? Because of what I did?
And then when they got here to question her, they searched the house and found her unsanctioned experiments. Experiments Mr. Malone might very well consider treasonous. Experiments she was keeping secret because she wanted to protect us. To protect me.
Me. It all comes back to me. My mother is in trouble because of me. The thought makes me sick, makes my knees feel like gelatin and my stomach feel like I swallowed a bowling ball.
My mother was taken because of me.
My mother is being held captive somewhere because of me.
My mother might very well be tortured because of me.
They might be torturing my mother right now.
I try to force myself to be rational. Just because they took her, just because they want to question her, doesn’t mean they’ll hurt her. But the old argument about the heroes being the good guys is gone.
For a second, all I can see or hear is Deacon. Face pale, body tense, his screams echoing through my brain as they tortured him.
For the first time I understand, really understand the helpless rage that is written all over Draven’s face. The fury and terror and hate that have him wearing a path into the industrial-grade carpet my mother put in the garage when she turned it into her secret lab.
It is the same fury and terror and hate—yes, hate—that is suddenly burning inside me.
“We have to go!” I tell him, urgency beating a staccato rhythm through my blood. “We have to go now!”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” he growls. “You’re the one who wanted to scheme and think and wait. If you take any longer with that plan of yours, Deacon will be dead!”
Rebel and Dante choose that moment to walk through the door.
That was fast. Rebel looks pale and shaken, and Dante looks only slightly less murderous than Draven.
“What happened in there?” Rebel asks, her voice trembling. “Where’s your mom? Where’s her lab?”
She’s the only other person who knows all of our secrets. She knows about everything that used to be in here. She alone knows how bad things really are.
“Gone,” I tell her, my voice breaking on the single syllable. “She’s gone, Reb.”
Rebel’s next to me in a second, pulling me into a hug.
I just stand there, hiding my face in her shoulder as I struggle with all the emotions ripping through me. Tears burn my eyes and I can feel a sob—of fear and horror—welling up in my chest.
I swallow it down, refusing to give in to it. Not here, not now. Not with Draven, all curled lip and stormy eyes, staring at me like he thinks this whole situation is my fault.
Not thinks, knows. Because it is my fault. It is. I stopped them from rescuing Deacon last night. I did nothing to stop the heroes from torturing him tonight.
I used my mom’s badge and got her caught up in this mess too.
He doesn’t need to say any of that out loud. I already know.
I let myself draw strength from my best friend—all our recent differences forgotten in the wake of everything that’s happened tonight—and then I pull away. Dry-eyed. Composed.
No way am I going to let two villains see how weak I feel, even if Rebel trusts them. Even if they’re in the same position I’m in now. Even if they don’t seem all that villainous after all.
“How did you get here so fast?” I ask when I’m sure my voice will be steady.
“We were just around the corner,” Rebel says.
“You followed us?” Draven stares at his cousin incredulously. “After we agreed that you were going to stay put?”
Dante shrugs and looks a little sheepish as he glances my way. “I know Rebel trusts you, Kenna, but I don’t know you. The heroes already have Deacon. No way was I going to take a chance on them getting Draven too.”
He tries to sound tough when he says it, but I can see the terror in his eyes.
Somehow, that thought grounds me. If villains can keep their fear in check, so can I.
“We need a new plan,” I tell them, and my voice is steadier, more powerful than it’s been since I walked into the house and discovered this disaster. I look at Draven, daring him to make another comment about my planning. The right plan is the only thing that’s going to get our loved ones back. “They took everything my mom had, so we’re going to have to figure out what to do on our own.”
“I say we get Quake and Nitro and hit the lab with everything we’ve got,” Dante snarls. “Between the two of them, they can level the place.”
“And Deacon along with it,” Draven says with a glare. “If he’s in as bad shape as Kenna says, there’s no way he can hold out against an attack like that.”
“Not to mention the fact that tearing apart the lab would be a declaration of war, which would be even worse than getting your uncle involved,” I explain. “The lab is one of the most important League facilities. Blasting it will bring every superhero in a thousand-mile radius after us.”
Draven tips his head and gestures at me as if to say, Exactly.
“Besides,” I continue, “my mom might be there too.” As well as all the other people who work there—people who I love and admire and who I know could never be involved in torturing villains.
Then again, if someone had asked me twenty-four hours ago if any heroes would be involved in torturing villains, I would have laughed at the mere idea. Now, not only do I know they’re involved, but my own mother’s life might be in danger because of it.
“Do you have a better idea?” Dante demands. “Does anyone?”
The fact is, I don’t. But I need to come up with an alternate plan quickly, because Dante’s clearly not going to wait long before trying to rescue his brother. And I don’t blame him. My skin crawls just knowing my mother is in their clutches.
Mom always says that every problem has a solution. You just have to think it through.
I walk over to the whiteboards that line one whole wall of the garage. They’ve been wiped clean. A red dry-erase marker lies on the floor a few feet away. It’s the only thing in the whole room that managed to escape the purge. I pick it up, uncap it, and draw a rough diagram of the lab, labeling all the entrances and exits— including a couple secret ones that no one is supposed to know about.
“We have ten possible points of entry,” I tell them. “Eight of them are easily accessible and highly regulated, but two require a little more ingenuity to access. Because those two are hidden, there isn’t as much security staff there, so there are fewer people who could get hurt—”
“Believe me,” Draven interjects. “The last thing I’m worried about is hurting a goddamn superhero. In fact, I’m dying for a shot at a few of them—”
“Let’s focus on the plan,” Rebel interrupts, shooting me a worried look. Like she’s afraid I’m going to balk.
She doesn’t need to worry. Yes, I’ve been loyal to the superheroes my whole life, and I don’t want to see any innocent bystanders get hurt. But as far as I’m concerned, some of them—her father included—have crossed lines that should never be crossed.
If they get caught in the crossfire, then I can’t help thinking it’s exactly what they deserve.
“They’ve put in a ton of new security protocols since the break-in,” I say. “Not just the villain signature detectors. I got around them using my mom’s badge yesterday, but obviously, we can’t do that tonight. If they took my mom, then her badge is compromised.
We have to figure out another way to get inside so no one will know we’re there until it’s too late to stop us.”
“I can swipe my dad’s pass,” Rebel suggests. “No one would think to question him.”
“Yeah, but people notice him whenever he’s in the lab. He’s always talking to everyone, making sure people see him. The guards will be on high alert, ready to impress the boss when we swipe in.”
She groans. “Good point.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Draven asks. “Because I’m running out of patience. I’ll storm through the front door to get him if I have to.”
“Sounds good to me,” Dante adds.
“And get both Deacon and my mom killed? Not to mention yourselves?” It’s a challenge to fight an eye roll. “You’re not going near the lab.”
Draven takes a step toward me, his muscles tensing. “Hell, yeah, we are. No way are you going in there without us.”
“Yeah, well, no way I’m going in there with you, so I don’t know what to tell you, bad boy.”
We’re toe to toe now, nose to nose—or we would be if he wasn’t a good six inches taller. Not that his height intimidates me. He can glower and tower all he wants. No freaking way is he going in that lab with us. It would be group suicide.
“You think you’re going to stop me?” Draven growls low in his throat, as he gives me his best villain scowl. I have to admit, it’s a doozy. Nerves skitter down my spine, and for a second—just a second—I consider backing off.
But I’m right about this. The entire lab is now rigged to sense even a hint of a villain power.
If we set off the alarms, the guards will shoot to kill and ask questions never. I’ve already got my mom and Deacon on my conscience.
No way am I adding Draven and Dante to the list. Or me and Rebel.
Squaring my shoulders, I glare at him. “I’ll stop you if I have to. I won’t let you blow this—”
“Blow it? I would have had Deacon yesterday, if it wasn’t for your interference— ”
“My interference? You were bumbling around the wrong floor without a clue.”
“We were doing fine until you beaned Nitro with a fire extinguisher.”
“At least I have good aim,” I spit back, “which is more than I can say for him!”
Draven’s jaw drops. We both freeze as the other’s words register.
“You remember what happened last night?” Draven asks, his voice dropping from shout to whisper.
I close my eyes for a five count. I can’t believe I just blurted it out like that. I’ve spent half a lifetime keeping my immunity a secret, but one argument with a villain who makes my blood boil and I’m spilling the truth without a second thought.
There’s no turning back now.
“Well, if I didn’t,” I reply, “you sure as shit just let the cat out of the bag, didn’t you?”
“But you remember. How is that possible?” He shakes his head, looking at me like I’m speaking an alien language. “I planted other memories. My powers always work. On everyone!”
He turns to Dante and Rebel, both of whom are looking anywhere but at the two of us.
“You knew?” he demands, staring at his cousin. “And you didn’t tell me?”
Dante’s eyes widen.
“You told him?” I ask Rebel, aghast.
My immunity has always been our secret. Or at least I thought it was. She knows how important it is to keep the heroes from finding out, let alone villains. If they got their hands on the serum—well, it would be bad.
“I didn’t know until tonight—”
“I just told him—”
“I wanted to know why you weren’t freaked out by us—”
“I only just told Dante. He didn’t keep anything from you, Draven.”
Their words are a garbled mess, the two of them talking over each other in their need to convince us that neither of them betrayed anyone. After looking back and forth between them like I’m watching an air hockey match, I put two fingers in my mouth and let out an ear-piercing whistle.
“Everyone stop! We get it.”
“Really?” Rebel looks totally freaked out. “Because I swear, Kenna, I just told him in the car, right before Draven called. And I only told him because he was close to figuring it out himself—and because I figured the guys should know you’re immune if we’re going to be working with them.”
“Working with them?” I scoff. Yeah, right. Because that’s off to a great start.
“How are you immune?” Draven asks. “I didn’t even know that was possible. Are you immune to all powers or just psy?”
“All powers.” Then I quickly add, “I mean, If Quake causes an earthquake, I could die if something falls on me, but not directly from his superpower.”
“You let me think—” Draven shakes his head. Yet another bud of guilt unfurls within me when I see the look of betrayal on his face.
But then last night’s events rush back at me and the guilt turns to annoyance. “Don’t even bother giving me that look,” I tell him. “You left me tied to a lab table with alarms blaring, after Nitro tried to set me on fire!”
“Not that he could have anyway, since you’re immune!”
“You didn’t know that!”
“Exactly my point!” Draven counters. “I got set on fire trying to save you.”
“I didn’t ask for your help.”
“Wow, that’s an impressive defense”—he rolls his eyes—“if you’re five.”
“Okay, okay! That’s enough!” Rebel interjects when we both pause for air. “Amusing as it would be to watch the two of you duke it out all night, we have more important things to worry about. Like security protocols. And how the hell we’re going to get into the lab.”
Draven and I are panting, jacked up on the adrenaline, primed to go another round. But Rebel’s right. We don’t have time to bicker. I know she’s right, and still it takes every ounce of effort I have not to get right back into it.
There’s just something about Draven that gets under my skin, and I can’t stand that—because of Rebel—he got the last word.
Especially since his last word was basically calling me a baby.
The only other person I’ve enjoyed arguing with this much was Jeremy, when he’d spout off nonsense—
Holy shit, Jeremy!
Technopath and computer wizard extraordinaire. Why didn’t I think of him before?
“I’ve got an idea!” I yank out my phone and start to dial. If anyone can get us past those new security protocols, it’s Jeremy. And while we didn’t exactly part on good terms, I’m hoping he won’t hold our last fight against me.
….. Posted by uc beverly…..