…. EPISODE 33…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
To say that things are tense after Anton’s departure is an understatement. V doesn’t move from the doorway. I’m sure she knows that there are other exits—a back door and a dozen or so windows that require only one of Nitro’s fireballs or a gust of Dante’s wind to open. Or, you know, unlatching the lock.
As much as the guys want to fly out the door after Anton, defying his orders just
for defiance’s sake, we all know that we are in no shape to help right now.
Deacon is still a shell.
Draven is still weak.
Rebel is a huge liability.
And I’m… I don’t even know what I am.
I let Draven convince me to go into the bedroom and take a nap. I don’t sleep. How could I?
Those last moments in the courtroom play over and over in my mind. Releasing Mom. Indulging in a hug. Her spinning us so the plasma blast hit her instead of me. I’m not sure if it makes it better or worse knowing that she sacrificed herself to save me. It’s bad either way.
I lie there on my side on the rough wool blanket, staring straight ahead at nothing for as long as I can stand. When I can’t handle the silence and the solitude any longer, I push to my feet and force them to carry me back into the main room. “Rebel, stop,” Riley is pleading as I emerge. She spits in his face. “Traitor.”
Dante and Riley are struggling to hold her down on the table, while Draven is trying to lay his hands on her temples. Normally he can use his power from a distance. The fact that he can’t now is a testament to how much Rex’s treatment or the attempt to save my mom, or both, drained him.
Rebel’s power, on the other hand, seems to be at full force. Objects of various sizes fly across the room, crashing into people, walls, and other objects. Jeremy is shielding his computer setup with his body.
“Rebel, what is the matter with you?” Riley sounds close to tears.
“Me?” She laughs like a wild dog. “I’m not the one who turned my back on family. On all of herokind.”
Who is this reverse Rebel? She is absolutely the one who turned her back on her family and the heroes. Riley is a recent convert—and even he still has a lot more sympathy for the heroes than I have left.
Something heavy flies at the door and hits V in the stomach.
She reacts instantly, racing toward the table.
Nitro throws himself in her path. “Guys…”
“Put the bitch down,” V snaps. “Or I will.”
“You’re not going to touch her,” Dante growls.
“Hell, yeah, I do.”
“Hurry up,” Nitro urges Draven.
He finally manages to get a hand on her, and immediately her fighting stops.
“It’s biomanipulation, isn’t it?” Riley asks. “You have mixed blood, so you have a second power.”
He sounds almost jealous.
Before me, Dante was the only other person who knew about Draven’s second power. The only other person who knew that Draven’s dad was a hero. But we’re all long past keeping secrets from each other now.
“Well, we can’t keep knocking her out,” Riley says. “That can’t be good for her.”
“Do you have a better idea?” Nitro replies. “’Cuz if you know another way to stop a pissed-off telekinetic from sending everything in sight flying at my head, I’m all ears.”
“He could be frying her brain a little more every time he does that. We don’t know!”
“I’m being as careful as I can,” Draven tells him.
“Nitro’s right,” Deacon says. “Eventually she’s going to tear the entire cabin apart.”
“If one of you geniuses had thought to grab one of the powers-neutralizing helmets, that might have been useful,” Jeremy says.
One of us had. But she got hit by a plasma blast.
“They were fried, weren’t they?” Nitro throws back.
Jeremy points at himself. “Technopath. Remember? Or is that too much for your tiny brain to keep track of?”
“Oi, I’m not the nutter who thinks aliens are poisoning his pancakes!” “And I’m not the one who can’t control his powers.”
“That wasn’t my fault,” Nitro cries. “My powers just sparked out for a second.” “Oh yeah,” Jeremy mocks. “Just sparked out. Right in the heat of battle when—” “Stop.”
My word is barely a whisper, but everyone in the room freezes as if I have a supersonic voice.
Draven is at my side in an instant. “Kenna, love, you should be resting.”
“I couldn’t,” I say, shaking my head. “Couldn’t be alone with my thoughts.” I let him guide me to the table, where Deacon is still sitting. I wonder if he’s moved all day.
Once Riley and Dante get Rebel moved to the couch, they join us at the table. As if by unspoken agreement, everyone gravitates there. Everyone but V, who doesn’t leave her position by the door.
I think we all feel at a loss, not sure what to do next. Only knowing that we have to do something.
Deacon is the one to voice it first.
“We can’t just stay here,” he says, looking at me as if I might somehow have the answer. “What do we do?”
I start to shake my head. I’m the last person to lead us right now.
But before anyone can respond, Dante says, “Rex Malone has to die.” My breath catches at the pure hatred in his voice.
“Wait a minute,” Riley argues. “Let’s not get too extreme.”
“Extreme?” Dante parrots. “Extreme?” He points at me. “Rex just killed Kenna’s mom. He was prepared to kill Draven too. He’s tortured the hell out of my brother and just about any villain he can get his hands on. Extreme is exactly what Rex deserves.”
“I know he’s done some bad things—”
“Open your eyes, hero boy,” Draven says. “You’re on the wrong side of the line. Good old Dad won’t hesitate to catch you in the crossfire.” “No,” Riley insists. “You’re wrong. He wouldn’t do that.”
There’s something childlike in his insistence, in his still-unwavering belief that his father isn’t the monster we all know him to be. I almost wish we could protect Riley from accepting the whole truth. At this point, it’s inevitable.
“Killing Rex isn’t a plan,” I whisper. “It might be one of our goals, but we have other priorities.”
“Like what?” Nitro asks.
“Like finding the immunity serum formula.”
“What good will that do?” Dante retorts. “You want to get rid of our powers?”
I’ve done my time as an ordinary. I’m not eager to ever feel powerless again. “No,
not our powers.”
Deacon nods. “Rebel’s.”
“Exactly,” I say. “The immunity serum will suppress her power like it used to hide mine. We won’t have to keep rendering her unconscious.” Riley nods. “It will make her harmless.”
“Have you met your sister, mate?” Nitro asks with a humorless laugh. “A full body cast wouldn’t make her harmless.”
“No,” I agree, “but it will make her manageable.” I hope.
Jeremy grabs my mom’s phone from his station and hands it to me. “It’s fully charged.”
“Thanks,” I say as I clutch it in my hands. It’s still warm from charging, almost like it’s holding on to my mom’s body heat. “Once we have Rebel taken care of, we do what my mom said. We find Dr. Harwood. And then we find my dad.” As far as plans go, it’s not much more than a direction. But it’s better than nothing.
If anyone disagrees, they don’t say so. Maybe they’re just being nice because…well, because. Or maybe they just don’t have any better ideas. Or maybe—just maybe—they agree that it’s the right path. We’ll see.
First, I have to find the serum formula in Mom’s phone.
That’s not going to be as easy as a quick search. Since that awful night when the heroes took her and I found the phone in her bedroom, I’ve been through it a million times. I’ve read every message, every text, every note. All in the vain hope of unearthing some clue that might help me find her.
If there had been any notations about the immunity serum, I would have seen it.
Which means it’s hidden.
I could let Jeremy have a whack at it with his power. But something inside me wants to try. Needs to try. As if searching for this secret will keep her close to me. After entering her passcode, I start scanning through the apps. Deciding to be scientific about it, I go through them one by one. Methodically.
Mom didn’t keep her phone organized in any pattern that I can discern. Email, solitaire, decibel meter, videos, notes. On and on in random order.
In her text messages, I see the cryptic ones she’s gotten from Dr. Harwood.
The scarlet phoenix flies at dawn.
How could I have forgotten?
When I saw him in the bunker, right before Quake leveled the place, Dr. Harwood begged me to give her that message. But in the chopper, when she mentioned his name and told me to find him, I totally forgot. Was it important enough that I should have told her, even as she lay dying? Should I have used a few of our precious seconds to pass the message along? The only way to find out now is to ask Dr. Harwood himself.
I push that question away for later.
My eyes are starting to blur by the time I get to her photos app.
When it pops up, the first picture on the screen is one I took of her last year when we were hiking in the foothills. She is standing at the edge of a rock, her back to the plains below. She looks so happy and free, like she is literally on top of the world.
I don’t realize I’m crying until Draven reaches over to wipe my cheek.
“She’s beautiful,” he whispers.
I smile through my tears. “Yes.”
I start swiping through her album. I’ve looked through these pictures countless times. But this time I have a mission.
Draven drops his hand to the table and lets his fingers trace a pattern on my forearm. “I don’t remember my mom. I’ve never even seen a picture of her.” “Really?” I can’t imagine what that must be like.
Something Anton said tickles at my memories. About my mom and Draven’s and Deacon and Dante’s being best friends. An inseparable trio.
“Wait,” I say, swishing quickly through the pictures. “I think there’s a picture of her in here.”
The picture had stood out when I was looking through Mom’s photos before because it was obviously a scan. Not a digital picture, like the rest of the images in my mother’s phone. It predates camera phones and yet it’s on hers, which makes me think it’s important to her. The fact that I’d never seen it before only makes me more certain of who is in the photo with her.
“Here,” I say, pulling up the full image from the beginning of her camera roll.
I hold the phone out to Draven. It displays a picture of three women—three girls, really. They can’t be more than fifteen or sixteen. They’re standing in a line, arms looped over each other’s shoulders and legs lifted like they’re doing a Rockettes kick line. All three are smiling like they don’t have a care in the world. It’s heartbreaking to think that two of them are gone now.
“This is my mom,” I say, pointing to the girl on the left.
While two of the girls have medium-brown hair, I recognize Mom’s smile. She didn’t smile enough in the last few years, but when she did, it lit up a room. “That’s my mom,” Deacon says, leaning over from the other side to point at the girl on the right.
Dante is immediately at my back, leaning over so he can see.
From the wistful longing in Deacon’s voice, I’m almost afraid to ask. “Is she…?” Deacon nods.
“Car accident,” Dante says. “We were, what, seven?” “Six,” Deacon answers.
My heart breaks again. All three of these girls—captured in this photo so full of life and energy—are dead. It seems like more than coincidence. More than just bad luck.
“So that’s my—” Draven’s voice breaks as he gets his first look at his mother. The woman in the middle has dark hair, like Draven. They have the same full lips and the same spark in their eyes, although Draven clearly got his icy blues from Rex. More than the others, his mother—Lucinda—is looking directly into the camera. As if she’s daring it to capture her likeness. As if she’s daring the whole world to take her on.
It’s easy to see where Draven got his defiance.
“Beautiful,” I finish. “You have her chin.”
“You think so?” he asks, sounding more like a little boy lost than the tough guy image he usually projects.
“Absolutely,” I say, my smile growing. “Here, look.”
I touch the screen to zoom in on Lucy’s face, to show Draven their similarities.
But as soon as I start to move the image, the picture disappears.
The screen flickers, and all of a sudden a stream of text scrolls up the screen. After
a second, the phone reboots. When it does, almost all of the apps are gone. All that
remains are the photos and notes apps.
Finger shaking, I tap open the notes app.
There is only one note: Kenna’s Protection.
“I’ve got it,” I say as I skim the procedure. “This is the formula for the immunity serum.”
Relief sweeps through me. This might not be the key to saving the whole villain world, but at least we’ll be able to stop Rebel from trying to kill us all. That’s one in the win column for today. At this point, I’ll take what I can get.