…. EPISODE 27…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
I turn from Jeremy to face the rest of the team. Dante has Deacon cradled in his arms. He’s as close to lifeless as a living person can be. Draven is holding the young boy, Nitro is struggling to keep a massive villain upright, and the red-haired woman is carrying another unconscious prisoner—a girl about my age, with dark hair and ivory skin. The other two villains look pretty rough, but they’re upright. We don’t have many options. This little parade won’t be able to move quickly. Certainly not fast enough to stay ahead of an entire hero army.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” I say, forcing confidence into my voice. “Jeremy is going to lead everyone out in the most direct path possible.”
“That’s crazy,” he says to me, pointing at the diagram on his stolen tablet. “There are dozens of soldiers between us and the exit.” “I’ll take care of them.”
“No.” Draven closes the distance between us.
“It’s the only way,” I insist. “I’ll draw the heroes away so you can get everyone to safety.”
He shakes his head.
“They won’t hurt me.” At least I hope they won’t. “I’ll be fine. And you’ll be free to rescue Rebel and keep looking for my mom.”
Without a word, Draven walks over to Jeremy and hands him the terrified child. While Jeremy struggles to hold on to both the tablet and the kid, Draven exchanges a look with Nitro. Nitro nods in return.
“I can’t let you do that, Kenna,” Draven says, turning back to me. “If they’re going to have a chance at finding Rebel and your mom, at taking down the whole corrupt system, you and your power will be way more useful than mine.”
My eyes sting, both with fear and pride. I’ve never been so important before, so valued. And I’ve never been put first. Ever.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense.” He steps close again and presses his palms to my cheeks. “There isn’t time to argue. I’m going to create the biggest distraction they’ve ever seen. And you’re going to scramble the cameras and walk this crew right out the front door.”
I shake my head, wanting to find some other way to get us all out safely. But I’ve got nothing.
His lips brush against mine for the briefest second and then he races for the hall. We crowd into the doorway, listening to the echo of his voice as he sings at the top of his lungs.
“We’ve got to go,” Jeremy says, holding the tablet up where he can see the screen. “They’re heading for Draven, but as soon as they realize he’s alone—”
“They’ll come for us,” I finish. I take the boy from Jeremy’s arms. Then I draw in a deep breath and focus a sphere of electromagnetic energy around us that will deflect the sensors but still allow Jeremy to access the plans on the tablet. It’s amazing how quickly I’m getting used to this power. How…natural it feels. “Let’s move.”
Jeremy takes the lead. I nudge Dante and Deacon out behind him, followed by the other villain prisoners. Nitro’s next and I bring up the rear. We’ve worked hard to get this far. I’m not leaving anyone behind.
Draven’s voice, still transmitting over Jeremy’s communications system, echoes in my ear. He’s singing, shouting really. Banging on walls. Anything that will draw hero attention onto him.
Then, all of a sudden, he stops.
My heart stutters.
The sounds of soldiers shouting and some kind of scuffle carries though my earpiece. Then Draven’s voice again, this time full of mockery and loathing. “Well, well, well,” he taunts, “if it isn’t the king of the superheroes himself.” I gasp. This won’t end well.
“Have you located the others?” Mr. Malone booms.
“No, sir,” a young man’s voice responds. “They aren’t showing up on any of our scans.”
Because of me. I’m keeping us off the radar. As much as I want to help Draven, he would never forgive me if we all ended up prisoners.
“Silly villain,” Mr. Malone says so clearly it’s almost as if he’s speaking directly into my ear. “Did you really think it would be that easy?”
“Did you really think we would just blindly walk into your trap?” Draven throws back.
I can practically see the arrogant smile on Mr. Malone’s face. “It looks like you did.”
“We’re almost there,” Jeremy says. “Just a few more turns.” I’m not sure if he says it for us or for Draven.
“If I inherited one thing from my father,” Draven says, his voice taking on a cryptic tone, “it’s the art of misdirection. Make a big fuss over here, and no one will notice what’s going on right under their own noses.” Mr. Malone scoffs. “Is your father a magician?”
“No,” Draven replies with such sickly sweetness that it makes my stomach lurch, “he’s the President of the Superhero League.”
I stumble and nearly face-plant into the concrete floor. Only a supreme feat of recovery keeps me from squishing the boy in my arms between me and the concrete.
Mr. Malone? Mr. Malone is Draven’s father?
My mind races as I think back over the past few days, trying to put the pieces together. They fit amazingly well. Draven’s icy-blue eyes that look so much like Rebel’s. Like Riley’s. Like Mr. Malone’s. His second power that had to come from a hero parent. His seething resentment when we were interrogating the “golden heir,” Riley.
The affection he has for Rebel. I thought it was only because she was Dante’s girlfriend, but maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s because she’s his half sister. If Mr. Malone’s stuttering reaction is any indication, he is just as stunned to learn that Draven—a villain—is his son. Well, half villain. Wow. Just wow.
Once again, Draven is right. This is pretty much the biggest distraction ever. There’s no time to process all of this as we round the corner, racing the last stretch of hall to the main door.
A line of guards is stationed at the entrance, weapons drawn and pointed at us. Before they can even take aim, Nitro sends a wall of fire at them so fast that they scramble to get out of the way.
Despite having his arms full, Dante somehow manages to whip up some wind to push the line of fire away, keeping the guards at bay while we run through.
We race past the fence and up the hill to where our stolen ride is waiting. “We’re out!” Nitro shouts as he pushes the big villain up the hill in front of him. “We’re clear.”
The way he says it, Nitro sounds as if he’s giving a signal. I turn to ask what’s going on, when Draven shouts, “Now, Quake! Now!”
The ground starts to rumble. It feels like we’re standing on the edge of an erupting volcano. With the small villain boy clutched in my arms, I look around wildly. Quake, Nitro’s bigger, badder brother, stands at the cliff overlooking the bunker about a hundred yards from the SUV. With his hands spread wide and his massive muscles bulging. He looks like The Incredible Hulk trying to levitate a building. Except what he’s doing is much harder. He’s actually leveling a mountain. “No!” I set the boy down and start to race back to Draven.
I don’t get more than five steps before I collide with a solid wall of wind.
“Let me go!” I scream at Dante.
But he doesn’t let up. And it’s too late. I stare, helpless—more powerless than I have ever felt in my life—as the mountain crumbles. A geyser of dust and rubble shoots out through the opening to the bunker. Then everything is quiet. There is nothing left but a pile of boulders.
“Nooooo!” I wail helplessly.
I drop to my knees, put my head in my hands. My mind can’t form coherent thoughts. Draven. Trapped. Crushed. Dead?
This was his plan all along. His hushed phone call was to Quake; the look he exchanged with Nitro was a promise. He knew it would come to this, and he was willing to give himself up so we could escape.
I’m caught between sobbing and shouting. How could he do this? How could he do this?
A moment later, a lifetime later, I feel hands on my shoulders.
“Kenna,” Dante says, his voice just sympathetic enough to piss me off, “we need to go.”
“Don’t.” I shrug off his hands. “You knew.”
He doesn’t deny it. “Hero reinforcements will be here soon,” he says, half pushing, half carrying me to the car. “We can’t be here when they arrive.”
This must be what shock feels like. I’m numb. In the SUV, someone buckles my seat belt. Someone else starts the engine.
We speed away, leaving behind the one person who made me feel powerful.
Leaving behind a piece of my heart, crushed beneath a mountain.