“I think this is as much as we’re going to fit,” Selena said, inspecting the load on the trailer. It was balanced almost perfectly now. Almost. “Just—shift—this one—” She nudged the weight, trying to redistribute it more evenly over the wheels. “And we’re done.”
“Hallelujah,” Kylie said dryly. She was leaning against the white Lartech van, texting rapidly. “Does this mean we can finally go?“
Their friend Steve shoved at the boxes to squish them closer together. “I bet we could squeeze another one in right—”
“Touch it and lose a hand,” Selena said, jabbing her stylus at him.
“Easy, babe,” he said with a cavalier grin, “Just trying to help.”
“Well don’t. It’s good,” she said, looking down at her tablet to check off the inventory they’d loaded. For once, her bike was more useful than a car. Enough debris still cluttered the roads that it was much easier to navigate her motorcycle through the town than a car—not to mention the stalled and damaged vehicles still blocking streets, or the dozens of cracks and fissures caused by the quake. She’d been occupied most of the day as a delivery driver, shuttling supplies from the drop-off to work crews and distribution sites. It felt good to be out doing something instead of waiting behind a computer screen. Even if it was just as a delivery girl.
For once, Brennan was too tired to dream. He hit the pillow and crashed, waking in short bursts to the sound of sirens or a sudden sense of cold. Neither one bothered him longer than it took to roll himself tighter in his nest of blankets, and he slipped back into deep, exhausted sleep, until sometime in the morning.
Dimly, Brennan became aware of the sound of rain against the window, and a soft, cloudy late that promised that the morning was well past the time he could still consider it night. But there was no school today, and if any day deserved a sleeping-in, this felt like a good one. He yanked the corner of his blanket over his face to search out more sleep.
An ice-cold hand touched his cheek.
Carter lunged for Aaron as he blurred out of view, but his hand closed around empty air. His brother had vanished, and Carter dashed toward the street, searching wildly for some glimpse of where he’d gone. But he halted at the curb, cursing in frustration. Even if he’d seen which way his brother had gone, he’d never be able to catch up. Lucia stopped a step behind him, fuming so hard he could feel it.
He pressed a finger to his ear. He took a deep breath, and managed to dial the anger back enough to keep his voice steady. “Farsight,” he said. “Answer me. Come on, I know you’re listening. Damn it, answer me!” Mingled with demands were three other voices alternatively shouting “Aaron” and “Farsight,” peppered with a few choice swearwords from Lucia.
I really hate to do this, but I’m going to have to postpone the next chapter until the 15th. It’s been a rough week, health-wise and I haven’t been able to give it the time it needs. I’d rather make you guys wait a little longer and give you something that’s not thrown together under the influence of sinus pressure and cough syrup. Hopefully, I can make up for it with some extras down the road. (Bonus chapter? Bonus art? Extra pickles?) Thanks for being patient, and please check back in a couple of weeks.
“Dad!” Molly shouted as she burst through the door, her eyes hunting wildly for her parents. The cafe was a mess. All the boxes they’d stacked that morning had tumbled to the floor, along with most of the chairs. A broken light flickered over the debris. “Dad! Clarissa!”
“Back here!” Clarissa’s voice.
Heart leaping, Molly had to climb through the room—over boxes, broken glass, and overturned chairs, and past the counter—before she found her dad, lying on the floor with one bloody leg stretched in front of him. Clarissa knelt beside him, her skirt and heels smeared red. A ladder lay crookedly between them, one rung dented where it had hit the counter hard.
Molly jolted to a halt, her stomach in her throat.
Selena hated being left behind.
Watching as the little dots moved further away from her and closer to the town dredged up with an unpleasant mixture of resentment and guilt. Of course, Aaron was right that it made sense to stay behind. She’d designed this place to be central intelligence, and it was pointless to have all this tech here if she wasn’t here to use it.
But it just felt wrong.
“They’ve barricaded the road,” Carter said over the com. “Selena. Selena!”
Aaron was still watching her.
Glowering at her, to be honest, although it was hard to tell with the glare off his glasses. Besides, Aaron’s face was kind of stuck in a permanent glower anyway, so how was she even supposed to tell?
Brennan’s departure had left an intensely uncomfortable silence behind. Selena knew if she said anything, they’d just argue, and Aaron had apparently come to the same conclusion. He’d been half a breath away from starting in on her again, but had stalked off instead, cleaning his glasses on his shirt and muttering under his breath. She did her best to pretend she didn’t notice, and busied herself playing with the map on the screen.
Carter set the box down and heaved a sigh of relief. The room was really starting to look like a cafe. The walls were painted, cabinets installed, and brand new appliances sat gleaming on the counters. And despite the temptation, he’d hauled every single thing in without using his power at all.
Beside him, Molly ran her hands through her hair and sighed. “Well that’s the last one,” she said, glancing around the room. “I guess we could start unpacking them. Or take a break.” She leaned against one of the round tables.
“Break sounds nice,” he said. “Some of these boxes are heavy.”
“Yeah?” she said with a grin. “That shouldn’t be a problem for you. All you have to do is—”
“Hey, if I used my power for everything, I wouldn’t build up any muscle tone.”
Brennan woke up in a sudden state of panic, certain he was about to die. He fought his way free of the sheets, panting as he searched the room.
Everything around him was dark. Quiet. Familiar.
It was just a dream, he told himself, even though he couldn’t remember dreaming anything at all. It was a dream, he thought again, firmly. It did nothing to numb that sense of danger, or the pain lodged in the pit of his stomach. Reflexively, he felt at the healing scar on his abdomen, relaxing as his fingers brushed the circle of rough skin where the bullet had hit him. Jerking awake hadn’t done much for the soreness, but everything was still closed up.
Of course it was.
It had been almost two months. He was fine. There was no danger.
As unplanned break-ins go, this one had gone pretty smoothly. So far, anyway.
Selena knelt under the window and pulled her glove tighter over one hand, smoothing out the wrinkles between her fingers. Of course, she hadn’t actually broken into anything yet, just hopped a couple of fences and avoided a roving security guard in a golf cart. Honestly, she’d expected better security for a university with a rep for technology. After all, they built rockets here. Well, parts of rockets.
A quick peek past the shrubs and trees revealed no late night stragglers wandering past. The patch of sidewalk she’d chosen was fairly secluded—shaded by a couple of nicely placed trees and warded by a spiked garden fence. The most she had to worry about here was someone looking for a spot to make out.
She adjusted her glove again, and sent a spark through the conductive material, feeling out the fit. The metal strip against her wrist felt awkward, and the charge in the capacitor tingled at the contact. Still, not bad for a prototype. She could tweak it later.