… EPISODE 23…
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
For long seconds, we all stare at the burning display case in shock. Then several things happen at once. Riley starts screaming, Rebel dives for the bathroom and comes back with a fire extinguisher, and my shirtsleeve catches fire.
Draven runs for me. He knocks me to the floor and smothers me with blankets. By the time he lets me up—after patting at every inch of me to make sure there’s no latent spark anywhere—Rebel and Dante have the fire under control. Nitro surveys his work, seemingly pleased by the whole proceedings.
Jeremy ducks back into the other room just as Draven finally starts to breathe again.
“Are you all right?” he demands. He drags me into the bathroom and probes at the second-degree burn decorating the bottom of my bicep.
“I’m okay,” I tell him. “I mean, it hurts, but I’m a lot better than Riley’s comic collection.”
Draven’s eyes darken at my words. He presses a palm over my burned skin. “This is going to sting.”
He’s right. My arm erupts in pinpricks, like I can feel the burn on every nerve ending. It takes a little while, but eventually the pain fades. What was a bubbling,
red second-degree burn moments ago is now nothing more than a patch of red and a couple of blisters.
Draven releases my arm, his head hung low. “I can’t heal it all the way,” he says quietly, “or they’ll know.”
I don’t have to ask what he means. He already told me that his second power and his mixed parentage are a secret from everyone except Dante. “It’s fine,” I say, yanking down the remains of my sleeve. “It feels a lot better.”
“Why was it so bad this time?” he asks. “When he hit you before, it wasn’t like this.”
I shrug. “The serum must be almost out of my system by now.”
He moves closer, traces a fingertip over the back of my palm. “So your immunity is gone?”
Considering how much I’ve always resented those damn shots, I’m surprisingly emotional at the thought that my immunity—the one thing that made me more than ordinary—is gone.
“I guess so.”
“When was your last shot?”
I shake my head and look up at the ceiling. “I don’t know. Early last week sometime.”
He storms out of the bathroom and stalks up to Nitro. He wraps his hand around his friend’s throat and lifts him several inches off the ground. Nitro claws frantically at Draven’s fingers.
“Let him go,” I say. “We’ve got more important things to worry about right now.” Draven’s grip loosens enough for his friend to breathe. “What the hell were you thinking, Nitro? It’s like you didn’t even try to miss her.”
“She has immunity. Even if I winged her it wouldn’t matter,” Nitro gasps. “She doesn’t,” Draven snaps. “Not anymore.”
Riley looks up from his quest to rescue his prized possessions from the charred and foam-covered mess that was his once proud display case. “Kenna’s immune?” “Not anymore, idiot.” Rebel smacks him on the back of the head.
“How was I supposed to know?” Nitro complains, hands in the air as if surrendering.
I’m not happy either—believe me, getting set on fire wasn’t in the top one hundred things I wanted to do today—but there’s nothing to get angry over. I mean, until we find my mom, there’s nothing any of us can do about my immunity, or lack thereof.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be okay,” I say.
“Don’t worry?” Draven stares at me incredulously. “How the hell am I supposed to protect you if you can get hurt as easily as any other ordinary?”
“I didn’t realize you had to protect me,” I tell him. “I thought we were all supposed to protect each other.”
“You have to admit, you need more protection than the rest of us. So you need to stop getting so offended every time I try to help you. I don’t care that you’re powerless. I swear, Kenna. But you don’t seem to trust me. You want me to trust you, but this is a two-way street. If we’re going to get through this, you’re going to have to change that. Otherwise, we don’t have a chance.”
Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s not. I don’t know. But right now I don’t have time to figure it out.
“Seriously,” Riley says, oblivious to, oh, apparently everything else that’s been said, “Kenna is immune to powers?”
I glare at him.
Rebel answers for me. “No. Her mom cooked up an immunity serum to protect her. It’s a huge secret, but now everyone here knows. So she’s never gone without the serum before, never tested to see how long it takes to get out of her system.” “That’s against League regulations,” Riley complains, and starts citing policies and procedures. “All research is supposed to be recorded and approved by the—” “Yeah, well, torture is against regulations, too, Riley,” I retort, “and it seems like no one cares about that. As long as the public doesn’t know that villains are suffering and dying on your father’s watch, those who do know don’t give a damn. Including you.”
He glares at me. “You keep calling it torture, but it’s not. Of course we interrogate villains who have been caught breaking the laws, but torture? We’re the good guys. We don’t torture anyone.”
Before anyone can react to that ridiculousness, Jeremy calls from the living room, “Sorry to interrupt, but can you guys get out here? I want to show you what I’ve found. And pick your brain for a minute.”
The last of Draven’s temper mellows at the prospect of good news—or any news.
He starts for the door. I grab him by the back of the shirt and tug him back.
“We can’t leave Riley alone,” I hiss at him. “He’ll call Mr. Malone and ruin everything.”
“We’ve got this,” Rebel answers.
Sure enough, Dante and Nitro have Riley cornered, and my best friend is armed with a roll of duct tape.
Guess he won’t be much of a problem after all. At least not for a while.
In the main room, Jeremy sits in Riley’s breakfast nook. He’s got Riley’s desktop and laptop set up side by side, and there are blueprints on both of them. His phone also displays some kind of schematic I don’t recognize. Whatever it is, they all seem to be linked because the pictures change as he works on his tablet.
“What’s going on?” I ask, leaning over his shoulder to get a better look. “What did you find?”
“Give me a second,” he says, not even glancing up from what he’s doing. “Check out the blueprints over there.” He gestures vaguely at Riley’s laptop. “Breaking into the bunker is going to be ten million times harder than the lab.” That’s not exactly a surprise.
“So, any ideas?” I ask.
“Maybe. Take a look at this entrance.” He points. “It’s the weakest spot. I think I can hack through the security there, and if I can—”
Suddenly, all four of the screens go wonky, blur, and disappear completely.
“What the hell?” Jeremy exclaims, jumping to his feet.
I back away, trying to give him room to work as Draven paces impatiently behind me. Within seconds, the screens are back to normal, the schematics once again prominently displayed.
Jeremy settles back down without another word. As I watch, the graphics on the screen start to move, like the layers are being peeled away.
He points at another spot on the screen. “If I have enough time, I can hack the external system, but they’ve got all kinds of closed-circuit security that can only be accessed from inside the bunker and they have half an army of hero backups. Security guards, check-in stations, locks that actually require keys to get in.” He sounds scandalized at the old-school tech. “The good news is they aren’t running at full capacity yet. We forced them to move earlier than they planned, so the complete protocol hasn’t been implemented yet.”
I lean down once more to get a better look, and the screens go nuts. Again. This time the whole array turns to static and the laptop actually shuts down.
“What the hell did you do?” Jeremy snaps at me impatiently.
“Me? I didn’t touch anything!” I turn so he can see my hands clasped behind my back, a testament to my innocence.
“Then what is going on?” He goes to restart Riley’s desktop, but nothing happens.
It doesn’t so much as let out a start-up whir.
“I don’t know! Why would you think it’s my fault?”
“Because everything was working fine until you got close.” He sounds completely exasperated. “Unless…” He turns to Draven. “You don’t have any tech-based powers, do you?”
“Definitely not.” Draven lifts his own hands. “Dante’s got wind and Nitro—” “Trust me,” Jeremy interrupts. “We’ve all seen Nitro’s power. What about Riley?” “He’s a flyer,” I answer.
Draven lifts his brows in reluctant amusement. “You mean those Superman pajamas actually have some basis in reality?” “I know. It’s ridiculous.”
Jeremy checks his plugs and cords. “Then I don’t know what the hell is going on.” “Figure it out,” I tell him. “We’ve got to find a way into the bunker, and those blueprints are the only way!”
I’m so frustrated that I start pacing too. I walk from the kitchen into the living room. When I’m on the other side of the room, the computers spring to life again. “What the hell!” Jeremy yelps. “This isn’t normal.”
But Draven is looking back and forth between me and the computers, a studious expression on his face. “Come here, Kenna,” he says, holding out a hand to me. I do as he says, and the second I get close to the breakfast nook, the computers freak out again.
“It’s you!” Jeremy howls. “You’re doing this!”
“How is that possible?” I demand. “I’ve never had problems with computers before. It must be something with how you linked everything together.” I gesture vaguely at the web of cables.
“What? You think I made the mistake?” I’ve never in my life heard Jeremy sound so insulted.
“I’m not saying that. I’m just saying something is wrong and it can’t be me—” “Let me see your phone,” Draven interrupts. “My phone? It’s on the fritz. Why?”
“Just let me see it.”
By now, Dante, Rebel and Nitro have joined us and are staring at me like I’ve grown another head. So, under duress, I pull out my phone and hand it to Draven. He presses a button to turn it on. When he does, the screen goes static-y.
He walks away a few steps, tries again. This time, when he holds up the phone, the display works. Then he takes a few steps back toward me and the whole thing fritzes out again.
“What is going on?” I whine, totally frustrated.
I’ve worked with some of the world’s most sensitive technology in my mom’s lab, and nothing like this has ever happened.
“How long have you been taking those immunity shots?” Draven asks me as he hands back my now utterly useless phone.
“Since I was little. Why?”
“And this is the first dose you’ve missed? Ever?”
“Her mom is obsessive about those shots,” Rebel tells him. “What does that have to do with this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. But it’s hard to imagine that the same day the immunity wears off, you start making computers go nuts. That’s quite a coincidence.”
“You think I emit some kind of electromagnetic field and the shots blocked it?” He shakes his head. “I think the shots blocked some kind of power that you have.” “That’s not funny, Draven,” I snap. “I’m powerless.”
“Are you?” he asks. “Or did the immunity shots block your powers the same way they blocked everyone else’s?”
His words hit me like a freight train and my knees go weak. I reach out to steady myself and Draven—seeing me falter—starts toward me.
Just in time, it seems, because a second later, a bullet slams through the window and into the wall right where Draven had been standing.