…. EPISODE 30…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
Two figures swing in through the obliterated windows, landing with a sickening crunch of combat boots on shattered glass. A third flies in behind them.
There’s no time to hesitate. No time to think. Our entire plan rests on grabbing Draven—and now Rebel and my mom—and getting out before the heroes have a chance to coordinate a response. The faster we act, the better. Superspeed would be really useful right now. Or the power to manipulate time.
But powers-beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. I’ll just be happy with the one I’ve got.
I sprint down the aisle while everyone else is still babbling in confusion, launching myself at Rebel to knock her out of the way. We hit the ground just as a hurricane-force blast of wind whips over us. The audience and half of the security guards fly back under its power, crashing into the back and side walls. Dante keeps them pinned there—struggling to breathe, struggling to remain conscious—as he uses his power to cause an ultra-low air pressure system.
I push to my feet, dragging a now-screaming Rebel up with me. “What are you doing?” She whales on me with her fists. “Let me go!”
Now I really know something is wrong with her. No way my best friend ever hits me. No way she’d fight to keep me from rescuing her.
“Kenna, here,” Dante shouts, holding out his right arm for Rebel while he uses his left to focus his power and keep the back half of the room out of commission.
I wrap both arms around Rebel and frog-march her over to Dante. He clamps an arm around her shoulders and pulls her to him.
She freaks out at his touch, looking around wildly. The next thing I know, a chair is flying from behind the judicial table and straight at Dante’s head. “Look out!” I shout.
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He turns just in time to spot it. He shifts his power slightly and sends the chair sailing away—into one of the guards who is trying to catch Riley’s foot as he flies by.
Rebel curses and sends someone’s discarded shoe flying at Dante’s head. When he deflects that too, she scowls at him with such fury and revulsion that it scares me. I’ve never seen her look like that before, and certainly not at Dante. It’s like she really, truly despises him. Which makes no sense, considering twelve days ago she was completely in love with him.
Whatever the Collective did to her, the real Rebel would be horrified by her behavior.
“I got this,” Dante yells to me. “Work the plan, Kenna.” I nod and leave him to deal with Rebel.
As much as I want to free my mom first—family instinct is begging me to save her—I don’t know what her power is, don’t know if she can help us. At least I know what Draven’s powers can do. And right now, we need all the help we can get.
Nitro is standing on top of the table, right above Rex’s seat, lobbing small, white fireballs in a never-ending stream. He has the entire stage basically surrounded, with most of the Collective cowering behind a wall of white-hot flame.
Riley has a couple of the others and two more guards tied to the track lighting in the ceiling and is going after a guard who is shooting potassium bicarbonate all over Nitro’s firewall.
So, in other words, all is going according to plan. Thank God.
Draven is struggling against his shackles, which are secured to a giant loop in the stage floor. I want so much to pull him close and physically assure myself that he’s fine, but there isn’t time for that.
Instead, I move behind him and find the latch on the powers-neutralizing helmet. An instant later, I yank it off and toss it across the room. It’s useless now, thanks to my circuit-destroying EMP.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Draven demands.
Does he really have to ask?
flash him a more-confident-than-I-feel smile. “Saving your ass. As usual.”
He gives me the cocky half smile I’ve come to love, and that more than anything else makes me believe that things will turn out okay.
I turn at Riley’s shout, just in time to see Mr. Malone break through Nitro’s firewall. Right behind me.
I freeze. This is the first time I’ve been face-to-face with Mr. Malone since I found out all the terrible things he’s done.
Since I found out he tortures decent people for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom.
Since I found out the word hero was a big, fat lie and they aren’t the good guys after all.
Rage overtakes me, and I lunge for him, forgetting the plan, forgetting everything but the need to make him hurt as he’s hurt so many of the people I care about. In a flash, Rex’s hands are around my throat. I’m completely immobilized, lifted to my toes and barely able to breathe.
Draven is enraged as he turns on Rex—his father—and shouts, “You’re not going to touch her!”
“Who’s going to stop me?” Rex sneers. “You?”
An instant later, he releases me and drops to his knees, howling in pain as Draven uses his biomanipulation to do God knows what to Mr. Malone.
I draw in gasping breaths, relieved at the oxygen now flooding my bloodstream. “Never go near her again,” Draven snarls, ramping up his biomanipulation grip on his father.
I lay my hand on Draven’s arm. We aren’t here to kill Rex, and the last thing we need is anyone in this room learning that Draven has a second power.
His muscles relax beneath my palm, and so do mine. Just this brief contact with him is enough to center me even in the middle of all this chaos. Rex collapses into a lump.
Draven snorts with disgust as he stands over his father’s prone body.
The faint thump, thump, thump of an approaching helicopter jolts me back into action. We have to move, now, before reinforcements show up and eliminate our escape plan.
But first I need to free Draven. I bend down, trying to find some way to remove the shackles or at least disconnect them from the loop in the floor. We have bolt cutters in the chopper. Why hadn’t we thought to bring them into the courtroom? “Allow me,” Nitro says, and suddenly a flash of blue whizzes past my nose. I watch as the loop melts into a pool of liquid metal.
“Nice,” I tell Nitro, and his cheeks blush bright pink.
Then I race across the room to the stand at the other end of the stage where my mom is secured, like Draven, to the floor.
“Look out!” I shout as one of the female members of the Collective breaches the firewall, breathing out something that looks like toxic fog.
Mom turns her head, still trapped in the disabled powers-neutralizing helmet. In a puff, the fog is gone. The woman frowns, confused. Then she draws in a huge breath and blows it out, as if she expects another wave of toxic fumes. She exhales nothing but normal breath.
Mom turns back to me.
“Hurry,” she says, holding up her shackled hands. “The suppression won’t last long.”
I repeat my removal of her helmet, just like I did with Draven, but as I’m about to throw it aside, she stops me.
“Keep it,” she says. “We might need it later.”
I nod and tuck it awkwardly under one arm. “Hey, Nitro, can I get another one of your—”
Another bolt of blue.
“Thank you,” I tell him. And then Mom is free.
This time, I can’t fight the urge to give her a hug. Since the moment I first went home and found her missing, it’s been torture not knowing where she was. Not knowing if she was okay. Not knowing if she was even alive.
But as I wrap my free arm around her and feel her arms squeeze me tight, I can almost forget about everything that’s happened in the last few weeks.
God knows if it wasn’t for meeting Draven, I’d wish it was all just a bad dream. “Kenna!”
I feel Mom look up at Draven’s shout.
Before I can turn my head too, she spins our bodies around so we change
positions. The helmet flies from my grasp. I stand there, watching, helpless and
trapped by her embrace, as a burst of plasma from one of the security guards
shoots straight into my mother’s back.
“Mom!” I scream as she collapses in my arms.
Fear pulses through me, like a white-hot flame. I blink, and the next thing I know, the guard who shot my mom is flying across the room with a fireball to the chest. I turn to thank Nitro again, but he’s halfway across the stage, locked in a struggle with a member of the SHN news crew.
The drone of chopper thunder drowns out the noise of wind and fire in the courtroom.
“Your chariot has arrived.” Jeremy’s voice comes through my earbud. “Now boarding, all members of Team Get-the-Hell-out-of-Dodge.”
I’m struggling under my mom’s weight. Trying to keep her upright. Begging her to say something. Anything.
“Mom, we have to go,” I shout, shaking her. “Mom, Mommy. Mom!”
“Come on.” Draven grabs my arm and starts to take my mother from me. “The others can’t hold them off much longer.”
“Mom!” She’s still not answering. Still limp like a rag doll in our arms. Panic is a living, breathing storm inside me. She has to be okay. She has to be okay. She has to—
“Riley!” Draven shouts, and in an instant, Riley is landing in front of me. He bends down and lifts my mom into his arms. I try to hold on, and though I know it’s irrational, I’m terrified that she won’t make it if I let her go for even a second. “I’ll get her to the chopper,” Riley promises me, his voice steady and reassuring. “I’ll protect her.”
I trust him, I do. But still I can’t let go. “Mommy.”
Draven pries me away, pulling me against him and pressing his lips to my temple. Then Riley is gone, flying my mom out the window and up into the waiting helicopter. The rest of us—me and Draven, Dante and Rebel, and Nitro—converge on the center of the table. Rebel has stopped fighting, and I can’t tell if she’s knocked out or if she’s simply given up.
It’s not like her to give up. Then again, it’s not like her to try to kill the boy she loves either.
Between Dante’s wind and Nitro’s fireballs, we’re keeping the heroes at bay. Barely. Draven is trying his best to knock the guards and the bad guys out, clearly not caring anymore if they find out about his biomanipulation power, but he is shaking beneath my palm. It’s clear that whatever Mr. Malone has done to him since he was captured at the bunker, it’s taken a toll. His powers are stretched to the raggedy edge.
I wish I could do something more to help, but with all the electronics in the courtroom already wiped out, there’s nothing else my power can do.
Still, I’m in charge of this mission, so I shout, “Move out!” over the roar of fire, wind, and chopper blades. “We have who we came for.”
Dante nods, and as one, we back toward the wall of broken windows.
As we step out onto the lawn beyond, Dante finally drops his wind, letting Nitro fill the entire opening with bright-white flames. No one who values their skin— literally—will be following us outside.
But where Dante’s wind drops off, the chopper wind picks up.
My clothes whip around my body, and my poorly secured wig goes flying into the flames.
I turn to look up at the helicopter Jeremy has hovering directly above us. Two thick, black ropes hang down, ready for us to climb.
“You go first,” I tell Draven.
He’s the weakest at the moment. And he’s the one in the greatest danger. “Not in this lifetime,” he replies. He turns to his cousin. “You’re up, Dante.” Dante shifts Rebel’s weight against him. “I’m not sure if I can—”
“I’ll take her.” Riley flies down and takes his sister from Dante’s arms, then zooms back up to the chopper.
Must be nice. “Go,” I tell Dante. And to Draven, “You too. Nitro and I will bring up the rear.”
Nitro laughs. “Always leaving me for last. Typical Yanks.”
I step close to Draven and press a not-nearly-enough kiss to his lips. “Sense before chivalry.”
Then I shove the dangling rope into his hands. He opens his mouth to argue, but I cut him off. “There’s no time. Climb.”
Reluctantly, he does as I ask.
“I’m last,” Dante says. “I can hold them back the longest.”
As if on cue, a swarm of guards wielding nasty weapons emerges around the corner of the building, heading into the courtyard. Dante blasts them with a gust, and they stumble backward.
Taking my own advice, I reach for the second rope and start the climb. My hands are burning by the time I feel a hand on my back, lifting me into the chopper by the neck of my blouse. As soon as I get my footing, I turn around, leaning back out the open door. Dante is halfway up the rope Draven used. Nitro has one hand on the rope, the other wielding his power back and forth between the courtroom wall and the ever-increasing number of guards storming the courtyard.
“Oh shit,” Jeremy blurts out. The helicopter lurches to the side.
I scream as Dante swings wildly, barely holding on as he spins around the rope.
“We’re taking fire!” Jeremy yells.
Dante manages to regain his grip and resume his climb.
“Are we clear to go?” Jeremy asks.
“No,” Draven yells. “Nitro is still on the ground.” “Well, tell him to get his scrawny ass up here!” “Nitro!” Draven and I shout at the same time.
I add, “Hurry.”
Nitro begins his climb as Dante does his best to cover him from the chopper.
Something hits the chopper hard and sends me crashing to my knees.
“Time to go,” Jeremy barks. “Tell him to hold on.”
We’re going straight up, flying high into the sky as Nitro dangles helplessly below. He can’t hold on and keep his powers going, so he wraps both hands around the rope. I watch, my heart hammering into my throat, as he tries to climb. Tries, and fails.
He can’t pull himself up while we’re soaring through the sky. Gravity is too much to overcome.
As one, Draven and I reach for the rope. Despite the searing pain in my nearly raw palms, I pull as if my life depends on it. Because Nitro’s does.
Pull by pull we get him up to the edge, through the door, and onto the chopper floor.
“A little more warning next time,” Nitro complains, pushing to his feet.
The helicopter lurches one way and then another. Nitro flies toward the door. He only just catches onto the edge, saving himself from soaring out into open space. “Oi! I think we need a bigger helicopter.”
“Jeremy!” I shout, pulling Nitro back in by the lapels of his leather jacket. “This is not a video game!”
“No,” he replies, and I can hear the tense smile in his voice, “this is way better. Hold on!”
“How do you expect to get away clean?” Draven asks. “There are at least a dozen hero choppers on our ass and twice as many fliers giving chase.” “Oh, ye of little faith,” Jeremy says. “Kenna, engage the crybabies.”
I slam my palm down on the big, red button on the box behind Jeremy’s seat.
“What did that do?” Draven asks.
“We just sent two dozen red-level news alerts,” Jeremy explains. “In about thirty seconds, every SHN chopper in the region will be in the air and heading in different directions. They’ll never track us.” “Kenna,” Riley says, his voice soft.
As Jeremy explains the details of what he assures me is a completely brilliant plan, I turn my attention to Riley. And to my mother, who is lying unconscious in his arms.