Chapter Six: Chain Reaction

“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.

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Chapter Five: Damage Report

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!”

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Chapter Four: Echoes

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.

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Chapter Three: Connection

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.”

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Chapter Two: Consequences

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.

Nothing happened.

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.

Not anymore.

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Chapter One: Convenience

 

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.

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Beginnings

I’m back! Sorry for the long absence! My brief hiatus went on a bit longer than I had intended, but I’m about ready to start back up again. I’ll have a full-length chapter up on June 1st, but I’ve got a little prologue to share with you until then. Or maybe more accurately, Epilogue Part 2. Enjoy!

 

* * * * *

Molly turned the battered notebook over in her hands and tried to think of something to say. Fighting a sudden apprehension, she turned the first few pages.

“It was your grandmother’s,” Dad said after a long silence. Like it wasn’t obvious. “I found it in some of her old things. She’d gone to some trouble to hide it, but I think… I think she may have wanted you to find it.”

Molly glanced up sharply. It was clear what the journal was about—Evelyn’s account of how her powers developed. It didn’t look quite as battered, and the penmanship was cleaner. Neat and premeditated, where her grandfather’s had been erratic, speculative, and riddled with shorthand. Matthew’s notes had been for himself. Evelyn seemed to be writing for someone else. Molly realized suddenly she had been reading without actually absorbing any words. Maybe she wasn’t ready for them.

Dad was still watching her, looking as nervous as she felt. Molly knew that he hadn’t just stumbled across the journal. If Evelyn had been half as careful as Matthew in hiding that book,  he’d have had to have been searching for it.

Molly cleared her throat. “So did you know? Did you know she had…that she was…different? Like me?”

He let out a heavy sigh. “Yes,” he said.

Molly sank to a barstool. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“That… that’s complicated,” he said. “The short story is that she asked me not to. For your sake. She wanted you to have a chance at a normal life. I guess she was hoping you wouldn’t have powers. Your mom didn’t. And by the time yours developed, she’d broken contact with us. And if I’m honest, I don’t know if I would have reached out to her if I could. After what happened with your mother—”

“Wait, wait,” Molly said. “What do you mean, broken contact? I thought she died before I was born.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, M,” her dad said. “She’s not dead. She’s out there somewhere, in hiding. I was hoping I could find some clue in the old house.”

She’s not dead. The words echoed in Molly’s head. She’s not dead. And a smaller, quiet voice: She’s Avalon. Molly shoved it down.

“That’s why we moved here,” Molly said. “So you could track down my grandmother.” She laid a hand on the notebook, not sure if she wanted to pick it up or hurl it cross the room. “My grandmother who faked her death and has superpowers.” A nervous laugh broke the last word. “Does Clarissa know about this?”

He sighed. “No. And we can’t tell her.”

“Really? What happened to ‘no more secrets?’”

“I’m afraid I don’t have a choice this time,” he said. “Your grandmother’s in hiding for a reason. If she were exposed, even accidentally— I shouldn’t even be telling you about this. But as much as I dislike her, she might be the only person who knows what you’re going through. Who can help you control it.”

Molly thought of  what had happened at the dam, how close she’d come to losing control. But Aaron was there. Aaron saved me. She didn’t need some old woman to come in and lecture her. Especially if that woman was…

Still. One thing she did want was answers. She reached down and picked up her backpack from the floor. “Then there’s something I need to show you, too,” she said. She slid Matthew’s journal from the front pocket of her bag, and set it on the counter with a shrug.

“I found something, too.”

Chapter Twenty-Nine

The hospital was much more cheerful during the day. Despite the yellow paint and the constant, lingering scent of bleach, Aaron found that he didn’t hate it quite as much as usual. He just felt grateful it was here at all.

“Are you sure it’s okay if I come?” Molly asked, tucking her hands in both pockets.

“Sure,” Carter said, through a mouthful of energy bar, “Why wouldn’t it be?”

Molly only shrugged, watching the cheap vinyl tile as they walked down the hallway. “I just didn’t know if Brennan would want me there. I mean, I’m not really—we’re not really—”

“You can ask him when we get there if you want,” Aaron said. “But as far as I’m concerned, we’re over all that.”

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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Safe

By the time the police arrived, they were out of the way. They snuck through the trees under the cover of sirens and flashing lights, three shadows unnoticed in the commotion. None of them said a word until they had climbed back up to the rocky cliff overlooking the dam.

Aaron sank to the ground in utter exhaustion. The powerhouse was a beehive; half the police force had responded to the shutdown. But from here, it was just a swarm of motion and errant beams of light, and they still hadn’t restored power to the station.

Selena swung her black case to the ground and pulled a slim tablet out of the front pocket. She plugged a pair of earbuds into it and stuck one end in her ear. Molly paced instead—still too full of nervous energy to relax very much.

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Chapter Twenty-Seven: Breaking Point

Ivy’s scream echoed over the lake. Lucia whirled around at the sound to see Brennan  collapsed on the ground, blood splattered over his jacket.

“Oh, god, the gunshot,” Lucia said. Through the panic, she somehow hadn’t noticed, hadn’t seen or felt anything. She sprinted back to him, sliding to her knees hard enough to rip through the denim.

“I’ve got it, Ivy, move over.” Gently, she pulled Ivy’s hands away so she could press her own palm against the wound. “Bren,” she said. “Hey, Bren, are you with us?”

His eyes opened, and his body tensed in pain.

“Okay, okay, stay still.” His shirt was plastered to the wound, sticky with blood. She pressed her hands against the surge of blood, trying to focus through the panic.

Carter had already started tearing a long strip off the bottom of his own shirt.

“Show-off,” Brennan murmured.

“Hush,” Lucia said, but she was glad he was conscious enough to talk, even if every breath he took was forced through a grimace of pain. She closed her eyes and concentrated. It was hard for her to sort out what was damaged; everything was overloading in shock and panic. She didn’t think any major organs had ruptured, but something had been hit, because he was losing blood fast. Continue reading