…. EPISODE 53…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
For long seconds, I don’t know what to do. What to say. I just stand there looking at this man whose absence has haunted me for so long and wonder what the hell is going on.
Why is he here?
Why does he look so frail?
Why has Rex kept him prisoner for so many years?
And why, after all this time, is Rex letting me know of my father’s existence? He must know that there is no way I’m going to leave him here for Rex to continue torturing him.
“What are you doing to him?” I demand, whirling around, fireball raised and itching to ignite the air around me.
“It’s not what I’m doing to him,” Rex says. “It’s what he’s doing for me.” I gesture to my father. “Get him out. Now.”
Rex holds his hand out, palms up, and shrugs. He doesn’t move away from the door.
I reach out with Draven’s power, push through the Plexiglas that is holding my father prisoner, and let myself sense his body. What I feel almost knocks me to my knees. He is completely wrung out. A mere shell, connected to machines that are barely keeping him alive, and others that are probing his mind. Hijacking his power.
“Why did you bring me here? Why are you showing me this?” “Because I want you to understand,” he tells me.
My veneer of pretending to play along with his game shatters. “Oh, I understand, all right. I understand you are a sick freak.”
“All this time in the superhero world and you don’t get it. You think all of those powers churning inside you give you power? Those aren’t true power any more than this weapon is.” He gestures vaguely with the gun. “Control is power. Let me show you.”
He pulls back his shirtsleeve, and I see something shiny on his forearm. It looks
like an interface panel, a touch screen on a flexible smartphone, has been
implanted in his flesh.
What the hell?
He reaches over and opens the door. An instant later, the big, beefy guard steps inside. His eyes are glazed over, like he’s not seeing anything. The door closes behind him.
“What are you doing?”
Rex doesn’t look up from the screen implant.
I watch in horror as the guard draws his gun.
I let the fireball grow bigger, preparing to defend myself. “Please, Rex, don’t do this.”
“What?” Rex replies with an innocent tone. “I’m not doing anything.” The guard slides his finger over the trigger.
Oh God, I have to stop him. I struggle to find Draven’s glacier-blue thread as panic tears through me. It hovers out of reach, tangled with the new power I grabbed from the other guard. If I can’t find it, I’ll have to—
Before I can even complete the thought, the guard presses the barrel to his own temple and pulls the trigger.
I’m still screaming when Rex walks over to me.
“You see, Kenna. Control is power. And he”—he nods toward my father—“gives me control.”
Oh my God. In a flash, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. My dad. My dad is the super whose power is being used to control the minds of heroes and villains everywhere. My dad’s power is mind control.
I never knew.
The earbud hidden deep in my ear crackles for a second, and I jerk away from the painful sound.
“Kenna?” Jeremy’s voice comes in softly. “Kenna, are you there?” Finally! This is the signal I’ve been waiting for.
If Jeremy has gotten the earbuds working again, that means he’s inside the facility’s system and he’s figured out how to bypass whatever anti-technopath protections were in place. This cat-and-mouse game I’ve been playing with Rex has paid off. I’ve bought us—I’ve bought the team—enough time.
Relief floods through me, even though I know the game is far from over.
“Yes,” I tell Jeremy, not taking my eyes off Rex.
He still has a gun and he’s still immune to my powers. Right about now I’m wishing the serum had a shorter shelf life. But since that’s not exactly going to happen, I’ll have to do this the hard way.
Rex’s eyes narrow as he tries to figure out what I’m doing.
I smile blandly.
“We’ve got them out,” Jeremy tells me. “We’ve got everyone out.” “Rebel and Riley too?” I ask. “And V?” “What about them?” Rex demands.
My heart pounds as I await Jeremy’s answer.
“All of them,” Jeremy says. “I repeat, everyone is out. The building is clear.” “Good job. I’m just finishing up here.”
Rex lurches across the room, grabs my shoulder with his free hand, and shakes me. Hard. “Who are you talking to?”
“It’s over, Rex. All your hero drones are out of the building.” I do my best to ignore the gun he’s waving around. “They’re being dosed with immunity serum as we speak, which means they’re no longer under your control.”
His eyes grow wide, wild with rage. I duck just before he pulls the trigger, sending a bullet buzzing across the chamber. Not waiting for him to recover and fire off a second shot, I use a jet of Deacon’s water to knock the gun out of his hand. Then follow it with a swirl of Dante’s wind to bring the gun back around to me.
But before I can grab onto it, Rex is on me. He knocks me to the ground and lands on top of me with a thud as he too reaches for the gun. There’s no way I’m going to let him get it—no way he’s going to win.
I don’t know much about hand-to-hand combat, but every day I’ve spent with the villains has been a learning experience. And so I think about slamming my hand into his nose, think about throwing an elbow. But in the end I go with the tried-and-true. I jam my knee up and into his groin as hard as I can. At the same time, I lash out with Dante’s wind and send the gun spinning across the room, far out of Rex’s reach.
He’s cursing now, gasping—one hand cupping his groin even as he curls his other hand into a fist. He pulls it back, prepares to slam it into my face. But I’ve got both hands free now and gravity is on my side.
With a carefully placed, two-handed shove, I send Rex rolling off me—in the opposite direction from where I sent the gun. I may not be as strong as him, but I’m faster. In a flash, I’m on my feet and putting as much distance between us as possible.
I throw a hand out, using Dante’s wind to send the gun swirling across the room to me. This time I do grab onto it and hold it tight. It feels weird in my palm. Too heavy—and too treacherous. Too easy to just squeeze the trigger and end this all right here, right now.
For a moment, I consider it. Consider destroying him the way he’s destroyed so many others. My mother, Draven’s mother, my father. So many people whose lives have been taken or ruined because of Rex’s desperate thirst for power. His maniacal belief that he could do whatever he wanted without consequences.
Death is the ultimate consequence, and if anyone deserves to die, it’s him.
I lift the gun, point it at his head as I walk closer to him. He scuttles backward across the floor until he is pressed up against the wall. I’m no crack shot, but at this point I’m close enough to him that that doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t miss at this range.
My finger trembles on the trigger. It would be so easy to just pull. So, so easy. I take another step closer, do my best to aim right between Rex’s eyes. He’s terrified now—I can see it in the way his eyes widen with alarm. In the way he holds his hands out in front of him like he’s trying to protect himself. Or like he’s begging for mercy, something he’s never, ever shown anyone else.
Jeremy’s in my ear, demanding to know what’s going on and if I’m okay. I ignore him. The temptation to end this right here, right now is that great.
And still I hesitate. If I do it, I’ll be a killer, just like Rex.
I’d like to think I’m better than that.
“Kenna, please,” he begs. “Just listen—”
“No, Rex,” I tell him. “I’m done listening to you.”
Then I grab the gun by the barrel and slam the hilt into his temple, hard. His eyes roll back in his head and he’s out cold.
I step over him, step around the lifeless body of the security guard, and head for the door, but when I try the handle, it doesn’t budge. I mutter a soft curse. “Kenna?” Jeremy’s voice asks in my ear. “What’s going on? I’m blind here. Is everything okay? Did Draven make it down to you? Are you—”
“I’m fine, Jeremy,” I reassure him. “I’m in a vault at the lowest level. The door is locked. Can you get me—”
The door beeps three times and swings open before I can finish the question.
Draven is standing in the hall, the second security guard unconscious at his feet.
“Thanks,” I tell Jeremy.
He replies, “Any time.”
“Can you do me one more favor?”
“Of course,” Jeremy says.
“Come down to the vault room,” I say. “I need your help.”
“Really?” he says with a whine. “Do you know how many steps that is?” “It’s important.”
There is only a heartbeat of hesitation before he says, “I’ll be right down.” Draven pulls me close and wraps his arms around me, and I sink into him. Until this moment, I didn’t realize just how scared I was. How much I was operating on adrenaline and sheer determination to beat Rex, once and for all. Now that the imminent threat is over, it all rushes out of me.
“Your handiwork?” Draven asks, nodding at his father’s unconscious body. I smile, leaning back. “Yeah. Impressed?”
“Very.” Then his gaze drifts to the dead guard on the floor. “And that one?” My whole body starts shaking.
I bite my lips and shake my head. “Rex. Made him do it to himself.” Draven squeezes me close again, and I burrow into him for one second, two. Just long enough for the protection of his arms to provide a buffer between the safety of the present and the terror of the last few horrific minutes. There’s a part of me that wishes I could stay right here, head on his chest and arms wrapped around his waist forever. But we’re not done here and we need to be.
When I have myself back under control, I step out of Draven’s embrace. I cross to the apparatus in the center of the room and stare down into the ghostly pale face inside.
“What is this?” Draven asks as he stops beside me.
“This,” I say, placing my palm on the Plexiglas as if he’ll somehow be able to sense my presence, “is my father.”
And with Draven and Jeremy’s help, I’m going to get him out of this half-living hell.
• • •
An hour later, the team has reunited on the overlook above the secret mind-control facility. From this distance, the building still looks like nothing more than a mining operation. No one could have guessed what evil was going on below the surface.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I turn first to Rebel, who nods sharply, and then to Riley.Recommend you to download Topster Stories App for Exclusive Access To Erotic and Romantic stories (Join Group) https://t.me/topsterstories
His gaze is focused on the building below us. “It has to be done.” “Nitro, would you like to do the honors?”
He grins like a maniac. “It would be my pleasure.”
He holds his palms out in front of him, but nothing happens.
“Oh right,” I tell him. I close my eyes and return his power to him. “I was just getting used to that.”
“That’s more like it, love,” he says. A moment later, the biggest, blackest fireball I’ve ever seen goes sailing toward the building, followed by a deafening explosion. The entire structure collapses into the ground. Quake would be proud of his little brother’s capability for destruction.
To anyone passing by or a satellite flying overhead, the explosion would look like the result of an ordinary mining accident, an underground detonation gone wrong. Only we know the truth. We know that the facility had been evacuated of all personnel…except one. Somewhere beneath the rubble, two endless staircases below the surface, in the vault room that held my father prisoner for more than a dozen years, Rex Malone lies in suspended animation. Kept alive by the very barely life-sustaining system he helped design, with one slight tweak. He is still conscious.
Killing him would have been the easy way out. I kind of like the dramatic irony of him being destined to spent the rest of eternity—or until some court somewhere chooses a more fitting punishment—trapped with his own thoughts. Trapped with the knowledge that the powerless little girl who used to practically revere him turned out to be powerful enough to defeat him, and that a group of heroes and villains working together brought about the destruction of everything he spent his life building.
I can’t imagine a more fitting punishment.
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I turn away from the site and start back for the cars. One by one, the others do the same.
Rebel, Riley, and Draven are the last to return. Saying a not-so-fond farewell to their shared father.
As we pile into the vehicles, our little band of hero and villain misfits—Team Hillain and Team Vero, as Jeremy likes to call us—I can’t help but marvel at what we’ve accomplished by working together. And I wonder if the super world will ever know how close it came to being totally controlled.
It’s only a matter of time before another power-hungry hero decides to seek control of our world, to seek control of us. Rex’s disappearance will leave a power vacuum that all too many unscrupulous heroes will want to fill. But for now, we take pride in the fact that we made a difference. We made our world a better place. And we’ll be stronger and more prepared if—when—we have to do it again .
T B C