… EPISODE 25….
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
Jeremy and I don’t speak as we run through the streets. We keep our path erratic, circling back a couple times. For once I am grateful for his obsessive paranoia. There’s no way anyone could be following us.
The guys are waiting on the bridge when we arrive. Draven is pacing. Dante and Nitro stand over Riley, who is sitting on a bench, rocking back and forth like he’s in shock.
Draven notices us first. His eyes widen as he realizes we’re a group of two. Dante turns, smiling and expectant…until he also sees that Rebel isn’t with us. I expect rage. Fury. A wind storm of hurricane proportion. But instead, he looks oddly calm.
“Where is she?” he demands as we reach them.
I’m exhausted and out of breath, but I force out the words. “They have her. We
were trapped, surrounded, and—”
“And you left her?” His fists clench.
Riley whimpers. “Rebel?”
A gentle wind whirls around me, so soft I can’t tell if it’s Dante or just the weather.
Draven moves to my side and places a hand at the small of my back.
“No,” I tell Dante, fighting another round of tears. “She gave us no choice. She levitated us away and turned herself in,” I explain. “She saved us so that we could save the others.”
“I figured out how to get into the bunker,” Jeremy explains. “And we need Kenna’s power to do it.”
“When exactly did you have time to figure that out?” Nitro asks.
Jeremy rolls his eyes. “Apparently being shot at is a powerful motivator.” Dante looks from me to Jeremy and back again. His lips press together as he processes Rebel’s sacrifice.
“I’m sorry,” I say, knowing it’s not enough. “I’m so sorry.”
He doesn’t say anything at first, then shakes his head. “No. No, there’s nothing to be sorry for. We made an agreement going into this that we’d do whatever it took. My girl was courageous. I won’t take that away from her by blaming you for her decision.”
His words are quiet, his tone resolved. But neither disguises the shattered look in his eyes.
Nitro claps him on the shoulder. Standing here, surrounded by my ragtag team, I know that Dante is right. Rebel knew exactly what needed to be done, and she put our mission above her own safety. I would have done the same thing. Any of us
would have. Blaming myself for her act of heroism won’t do us any good—and tarnishes her bravery.
I try to tell myself that she’ll be fine, that her dad won’t hurt her. But it’s cold comfort. It’s our job to see this through. We have to rescue Deacon and find my mom. And when they’re both safe, we’ll rescue Rebel too.
My fear and sadness transform into rage. Pure, unadulterated fury. At Mr. Malone for caring more about an agenda than his own daughter. At the heroes for their nauseating hypocrisy. At myself for blindly trusting them my entire life.
First my mom, and now Rebel. I understand how Draven, Dante, and Nitro felt that night when they broke into the lab: desperate to get a loved one back. Terrified of failing. I’d risk anything to see them safe again.
“Now,” I say. “We go get them now. Before they have time to regroup, before they have time to prepare for an assault. We go in so hard and fast they won’t know what hit them.”
Nitro rubs his hands together. “Now that’s my girl.” Draven’s arm tightens around my waist.
“I think we’re all on the same page,” Jeremy says.
We all turn to Riley. He looks small and scared, practically curled into a little ball on the bench. “They really took her?” he whispers. “Heroes took my sister?” Nitro rolls his eyes with impatience, but I understand what Riley is going through. It’s a lot to process. I went through the same thing just a few days ago.
“They did,” I tell him. “Heroes took Rebel. On your dad’s orders. Just like he ordered the torture and murder of countless villains. Just like I think he ordered the kidnapping of my mom.”
Riley flinches. He looks at me like I’m the last life preserver on a sinking ship. His voice is barely a whisper as he asks, “It’s all true? That wasn’t just a rumor about a rogue group?”
I give him a sad half-smile.
His face breaks, just for a moment, and then he’s pulling it all back under control. For once, maybe all that hero training will do him some good. Do us some good. “Okay,” he says, nodding, like he’s building up steam with the movement. “How do we get her back?”
“First, we rescue Deacon. Rebel sacrificed herself so we could get to him, so that is our primary mission,” I explain. “Then we find her and my mom and get them back.”
“But to get to Deacon,” Jeremy says, “we need wheels.”
“How far are we talking?” Draven asks.
“Yeah, mate,” Nitro says, cracking his knuckles, “where precisely is this bunker?” Riley and Jeremy answer at the same time.
• • •
Riley offers us the use of his car, but none of the guys except Nitro trust that it’s clean. Jeremy insists that our powers—his and mine—would block any kind of tracking equipment, but there’s another problem. Riley drives a Porsche. So while his car might get us to the bunker fast, it will only fit two of us. Three, if we put Riley in the trunk like Dante suggests.
Instead, Draven “borrows” an SUV from a mall parking lot. It seats all six of us with room for Deacon and a few more rescued villains. If there are more than can fit in a single car, we’ll figure something out when we get there.
Nitro is at the wheel, which doesn’t exactly make me super comfortable because he’s never been the best at control and his idea of road-trip music is some kind of twangy electronica that makes my skin crawl. But since Draven and Dante are making plans for phase two, after we get inside, and Jeremy and I are hunched over his laptop in the third-row bench seat working on phase one, that left us with either Nitro or Riley. And with speed-limit-observing, law-abiding Riley at the wheel, it would take us at least twice as long to get there. Nitro has no problem keeping the pedal to the metal.
Jeremy insists we spend the drive studying the schematics for the bunker security system so that I understand exactly how he wants me to use my power.
My power. It blows my mind to think that I have a power. And not one I manufactured in a lab. One I was born with.
I have so many questions for Mom. Did she know I had a power? Did she know the immunity serum would mask it? What about before she developed the serum? Had she found another way to hide it even before that? She must have. But why did she keep it a secret all of these years? And that’s on top of the questions about the heroes, the secret experiments. Did she know those were going on? Did she participate in them? But first we have to find her. That won’t be easy.
Thanks to his rootkit and Riley’s insights, Jeremy has pinpointed where in the bunker the heroes are keeping the villain prisoners. But nothing has turned up any clue about where my mom might be. Not a hint, not an intercepted email. Nothing. Jeremy thinks that he might be able to get greater access from within the facility, penetrate deeper into the secure communications. Which makes getting inside all the more important.
“This relay box here,” Jeremy says, pointing at a square on the screen, “powers the force field that shields the entrance.”
I start to point to a similar square on the screen but pull back. I spent the first hour of the trip learning how to do meditative breathing to control my power just to be in the same space as Jeremy’s electronics without sending them kaflooey. But touching them is another matter.
Jeremy had to modify one of his communications earbuds so that there’d be a layer of foam between it and my skin.
As part of my training, every few minutes I focus on the car’s satellite radio and change it to a country station. The funny part is, Nitro has no clue that it’s me. “So if I focus my energy, my power on the relay,” I say to Jeremy, “then we’ll be able to get in?”
Jeremy gives me an almost condescending look. “Hardly.” He zooms in on another section of the drawing. “We’ll still have to make it through the fence, the guards, and the six-foot-thick titanium door.”
“The fence is no worry,” Nitro calls out. He lifts his right hand off the steering wheel, casually forming a bright yellow ball of energy while he bobs his head in time to the music.
I scrunch lower in my seat. I’m not eager to meet up with another Nitro special.
I change the station again.
“And between the two of us,” Dante says to him, “we can get the door out of the way.”
Nitro grins into the rearview mirror. “Right on.”
“Exactly,” Jeremy says. “And if Draven can use his woo-woo memory power on the guards, then we’ll be in.”
I look at Draven, who is now on the phone, facing the window and completely absorbed in his conversation.
Honestly, I’m not worried about everyone else following through on their roles. I’m worried about using this power that, until a few hours ago, I didn’t even know that I had. They’ve had their entire lives to learn how to control and manipulate their powers. I’ve had an hour.
Fiddling with a radio is one thing. Anything to do with the most advanced security system in the world is another, way more terrifying thing.
“How do I shut down the force field?” I ask. “What if I accidentally send the entire facility into lockdown?”
“Yeah, don’t do that,” Jeremy says, but he hurries to explain before I can punch him in the arm. “We’ll do it together, merging our powers.”
I shake my head in a mix of awe and confusion. Rebel tried to explain once what merging powers feels like, but it didn’t seem like anything I’d ever understand. Now, I’m about to experience it myself.
“My power,” Jeremy explains, “will guide yours.”
I nod. I close my eyes, trying to make myself believe.
I can do this, right? I’m a smart girl. I’m focused, and I have serious motivation to get this right.
I’m not sure I believe it though. Panic sets in. So many people are depending on me. Without my power to take out the force field, we’re done before we even get in. I don’t want to mess this up.
A warm, strong hand closes over mine. Draven. I open my eyes, and he’s twisted around in his seat to face me.
“You can do this,” he says with no hint of doubt. “How do you know?” I whisper. “What if I can’t?” He gestures at Jeremy. “Switch with me.”
Jeremy opens his mouth like he wants to argue, but he takes one look at my face and shoves everything but the laptop into his backpack. He climbs forward while Draven climbs back.
When Draven is settled into the seat next to me, he tugs me close against his side. “You are the bravest person I’ve ever known,” he tells me, quiet enough that no one else in the car can hear him over Nitro’s beats, but forceful enough that I have no choice but to believe him. “You’ve never hesitated to take on each and every one of us when you thought we were in the wrong, even when you had no power.” I give him a wry smile. “I was immune,” I remind him. “You couldn’t hurt me.” “Our powers couldn’t,” he agrees. “But we could have. You thought we were villains who wouldn’t hesitate to kill an innocent like you, and still you stood up to us.”
I shrug and shake my head. Now he’s making me blush.
“You don’t let anything get in your way, Kenna,” he says. “Powerless or powerful, there is no one I would rather have coming to my rescue.”
“I—” I flick a glance at the rest of the team, but everyone is absorbed in their own preparations. “I’m scared.”
“Good.” He squeezes my hand. “You should be. We all should be. Are you going to let the fear stop you?”
As if that’s even a possibility. “No.”
“Then you’ll do whatever has to be done. And so will I.”
I rest my head on his shoulder. As the SUV eats up the miles between us and the bunker, my nerves gradually fade. Draven is right. He has been since this thing began. He’s one of the smartest guys I know—also one of the best. The mark under his ear may claim him as a villain, yet from the moment I met him, he’s been nothing but a good guy. Dark, broody, and a little dangerous, but still a good guy. No matter what happens, I know I can count on him.
I want him to be able to say the same thing about me. Especially now that the tables are turned. I reach into my pocket and pull out an elastic band. The last thing I need is my hair getting in the way while we’re in battle.
Because as much as I don’t want to think of it that way, we really are going to war. It’s us against an enemy that outnumbers us both in manpower and technology. If ever there was a day to root for the underdog…. And the whole plan
depends on me.
I have to succeed. There is no other option. I have to, and so I will.
We all will.