…. EPISODE 45…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
It’s getting dark by the time the immunity serum is ready and we make the long, tense drive to Rebel’s parents’ house. After everything that’s happened, it feels weird calling it her house, so I don’t. I find it telling that neither does she.
Then again, it never really felt like a home to her. More like a place she lived in until she could get away.
And now she’s away.
The closer we get to the Malones’, the quieter the van gets. Riley is in the far back, resting his head on Nitro’s shoulder. Rebel is next to me in the middle seat, nervously tugging at the hem of her T-shirt while Dante massages her shoulders from behind. She’s spent so long pretending she doesn’t need or want her parents’ approval that I almost forgot what a crock that was. Until now.
She may despise her dad and everything he stands for, but at her core he’s still her dad. It’s not in Rebel’s nature to write someone off completely. I just hope we’re doing the right thing.
Jeremy volunteered to be a test subject for the new batch of serum, arguing that he should be on prophylactic immunity to make sure the heroes don’t start controlling him. As crazy as it sounded, it also made sense.
We gave Riley a dose too. If heroes really are more susceptible to the mind control, then they should all be protected.
The serum started working on both of them right away. Which makes me think it only took so long to work on Rebel because she was unconscious. In a conscious subject, the effects are almost instantaneous.
So we know the serum works—and works quickly. Now we just have to wait and see if it works on Mrs. Malone.
I glance at Draven, hoping he can reassure me. But the moment our eyes meet, I realize he’s as uncertain about this as I am. My confidence level plummets. It must be written on my face, because he wraps his arm around my shoulders and pulls me against him.
I go gratefully, so tired and confused and sad that all I really want to do is bury my head in his chest and stay there forever. When this is over, I promise myself as we make the turn into Rebel’s old neighborhood, I’m going to spend hours—days— blocking out the world with the help of Draven’s arms.
“You doing okay?” he murmurs softly into my ear as he strokes my shoulder and tangles his fingers in my hair.
“Yeah.” It’s a lie and both of us know it, but he doesn’t call me on it. He just nods and pulls me a little bit closer, his lips ghosting over my temple.
It feels good, really good, and I’m so glad to have him back at my side.
I haven’t had time to truly appreciate it since we rescued him, what with being constantly on the run and all, but it’s a huge relief to know he’s just…here. I don’t have to do any of this alone anymore.
I’ve had my team through everything that happened—even when Draven was a prisoner and Rebel was under mind control—and they were invaluable. They kept me sane. Even Nitro, with his fireballs and weird sense of humor, somehow managed to keep me from falling apart.
But having Draven here now, absently playing with my hair, checking in on me, knowing what I’m thinking almost before I do—it’s different than only being surrounded by our friends. It’s… I don’t know how to describe this feeling except better.
“This will all be over soon,” he says, his lips moving from my temple to my cheek to my jaw. I turn my head and press my mouth to his. And for a few seconds let myself pretend that this kiss, this moment, this boy, is all that matters.
He kisses me back, his mouth sweet and hard against my own. I burrow closer, wanting to lose myself in him. He pulls away, his breathing a little harder and his hand a little shakier than it was moments ago.
I want to protest, to press my mouth to his again and kiss him until all the doubt and fear and pain go away. Until everything we’ve done, everything we still have to do, no longer exists.
But the van slams to a stop—V wants to make sure we all know she is driving under protest—at the curb in front of Rex’s house. Nerves flutter down my spine, and I grab hold of Draven’s free hand as he uses his other to push open the door. He climbs out and then helps me out, all without letting go of my hand. I take Rebel’s hand as soon as she’s on the sidewalk. With her other hand, she checks her pocket, where the syringe of immunity serum is tucked away.
Dante wraps her close to his side, but I don’t let go of her hand. She’s nearly vibrating out of her skin with nerves or excitement or, most likely, a combination of both.
The four of us take the lead, walking up the driveway as a united front. The rest of the team follows close behind. V hesitates, like she’s thinking about staying in the
van out of spite. But then she falls into step, bringing up the rear. I remind myself that, together, we are unstoppable.
“I’ll talk us in the door,” Rebel says, going over the plan one more time before we reach the entrance. “If I can’t get close enough to shoot her full of immunity serum, Riley will get her with his syringe.”
I give her hand a squeeze. “It should only take a few seconds to start working.” “When it does,” Rebel continues, as if it’s a foregone conclusion that her mom is being controlled, “we’ll explain everything my fa—everything Rex has done. Once she knows the truth, she’ll have to help us.”
I nod encouragingly, but I know it’s not enough. I know she’s waiting for me to say something about how perfectly our plan will go. How I’m sure she’s right about her mom and how this is going to help us take down her dad and the whole evil hero organization.
But I can’t force out the words—not now, when I’m feeling so shattered. I’m waiting for the next blow, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not afraid that that blow is going to come at the hands of Morgan Malone.
Rebel waits a few more seconds for me—for someone—to chime in, but when we all just look at her solemnly, she huffs out a sigh. Then turns and presses the perfectly polished doorbell.
The door is answered moments later by Celia, the Malones’ housekeeper. She gasps when she sees Rebel, her eyes growing huge at the entourage her boss’s only daughter has brought with her.
“Hi, Celia,” Rebel says, stepping over the threshold and into the foyer without waiting to be invited in. “These are Riley’s and my new friends. We were just stopping by because we want to see Mom. Is she around?” She doesn’t give Celia a chance to answer before ushering everyone inside and then launching into a rapid-fire speech about how much she likes Celia’s dress. Her shoes. Her new hair color. By the time Rebel’s nervous babble winds down, we’re all a little shell-shocked. Including Celia, who lets out a little squeak that, along with erratic hand gestures, I take to mean have a seat in the parlor. Then she dashes down the hall toward the wing of the house that Mrs. Malone uses for her office and personal space. “Should I follow her?” Rebel asks. “I mean, this is still my house, right? I don’t need to wait for my mom like I’m some stranger.”
“It’s okay, babe,” Dante tells her, ushering her toward the parlor. “Let’s just sit down.”
His eyes meet mine above her head, and that’s when I know that he has the same sense of foreboding I do. The same sense we’re going to have to pick up the Rebel-shaped pieces when this goes very, very wrong.
We all follow Rebel into the parlor and take seats on the various pieces of fussy furniture. It feels more like a museum than a home. And then we wait.
More than once I glance at Draven. I’m uncomfortable and afraid that we’re going to have to fight our way out of this place too. But what if Rex has security that even Jeremy and I can’t disable? What if we don’t have what it takes to get out of this house?
After what feels like forever but is probably only a couple of minutes, Mrs.
Malone comes striding across the foyer and into the parlor.
“Rachel,” she says, eyebrows raised and mouth tight with disapproval. “What are you doing with these people? And why are you dressed like that? Go to your room and put on something more appropriate.”
Out of all the possible reactions I’d imagined from Morgan Malone, from shock to rage to instant ice storm, that one didn’t even make the top hundred. I exchange another look with Dante. Maybe Rebel and Riley are right. Maybe their mom is under mind control.
She turns to her son. “And, Riley. What have you been thinking? Consorting with criminals. Bringing them into my house. It’s a miracle they haven’t killed all of us in our sleep!”
Yep. Mind control is looking more and more like a real possibility.
“Look, Mom.” Rebel stands up, her hand in her left pocket. “Things have been crazy lately, and I want it all to be over. I just want to come home. Riley wants to come home too.”
Mrs. Malone sniffs. “Yes, well, you can explain that to your father when he gets home. I left a message for him to come and deal with this situation once and for all.”
Her words send a ripple of fear through the whole room. She’s already called Rex and told him that we’re here in his home! Why didn’t any of us think about that? Why did we let Celia go get Mrs. Malone? We should have snuck in and ambushed her.
Before any of us can react, Rebel throws herself into her mother’s arms with a sob. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m so sorry. I got confused and I made a terrible mistake. But I’m going to make it better.”
“You certainly will. And while your—” Mrs. Malone screams as Rebel slams the needle hard into the flesh where her neck meets her shoulder and pushes in the plunger.
“Rachel! What are you doing?” She struggles to push her daughter away. “It’s okay, Mom. Everything will make sense in just a few seconds.” “Have you poisoned me?” Mrs. Malone shrieks, grabbing at her neck. “Of course not! I’m trying to help you.”
“Mom, it’s okay,” Riley says. “We just want you to hear the truth from us—” “I know the truth!” Her eyes are wild as she stares at Riley. “How did you break your sister free from the mind control?”
“What?” Rebel sounds like someone punched her in the stomach.
Mrs. Malone ignores her, focused on Riley. “Your father said yours would fade in time—they didn’t have all the kinks worked out until a few years ago—but Rebel’s should have been permanent. Foolproof.”
“You know about this?” Rebel asks, her voice stretched thin with tears. Her hands fall limp at her sides, and she backs away from her mom. “You know about the mind control?”
“Of course I know about it,” Mrs. Malone says indignantly, shifting her attention back to her daughter. “Your father and I don’t keep secrets from each other.” “And you let him do it? You let him control you too?”
Now she looks at Rebel like she’s insane. “I’m not being controlled. I support his mission.”
“It’s not working.” Rebel looks at me frantically. “Did you make it wrong?” “I don’t think it’s the—”
“You made it wrong,” she insists. “Make a new batch.” Dante reaches for her. “Babe, you saw it work on—”
“No,” she says, wrenching out of his reach. “No! She’s not immune.”
Nitro lobs a fireball straight at Mrs. Malone. She squawks, tries to duck, but it slams straight into her. It doesn’t do any damage when it hits though. Instead, the fireball disintegrates on impact.
“The serum is working just fine,” Nitro says in disgust. “It’s her brain that ain’t.” “That can’t be right,” Riley whispers.
Dante sends a gale of wind straight at Mrs. Malone. It knocks the china off the shelves behind her but doesn’t touch a hair on her head.
“Traitors!” Mrs. Malone yells. “You are traitors to your family, traitors to your people.”
V snarls. “She’s as crazy as her husband.”
“Villain bitch,” Mrs. Malone says, spitting in V’s direction.
It all happens in a flash. V lunges for her, but freezes midstep—literally—when Mrs. Malone fires back with a wave of ice.
“Draven?” Dante says, with a hint of desperation as Mrs. Malone turns on Rebel. “I’m trying,” Draven says. “But she’s immune.”
Then, before anyone else can act, Deacon grabs Mrs. Malone in a headlock and applies a sharp pressure to the side of her neck, just behind her hero mark. And we all watch in silence as Rebel and Riley’s mother falls to the ground, out cold.