Chapter Twenty-two: Side Effects

Things were happening, but it took Aaron a long time to make sense of the noise. It was like waking up from a deep sleep. He’d been dreaming, but he couldn’t remember what about. Nothing semeed to work; his thoughts were fuzzy and his arms and legs numb and heavy.

“—didn’t do anything to him,” a voice said. Aaron felt like he should recognize it. “We were just talking.”

“How long has he been like this?” Another voice asked. Carter?

“At least five minutes,” the first voice said. Molly. “I was about to call the paramedics—”

“No! No, don’t do that. He’s stopped seizing now. He’ll wake up any second. Aaron! Hey, can you hear me?”

Aaron tried to respond, but all he managed was a grunt. Maybe he should be scared, but it was hard to feel anything through the numb, groggy feeling in his head.

“He needs medical help. It’s been—”

No.Carter sounded upset. “No, he’ll be fine. It’s not even a real seizure. It’s—”

“Just because he sees things doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous,” Molly said.

It took some effort, but Aaron managed to open his eyes. Everything was blurry—even more than usual. He blinked, trying to clear his vision. Molly and Carter sat on either side of him, staring at each other with more hostility than the situation really called for.

“How do you know these episodes aren’t causing permanent damage?” Molly continued. “How do you know they won’t kill him some day?”

Carter started to retort, but whatever he’d been about to say died on his tongue. He halted, shutting his mouth firmly, and glanced away from her.

“I’m calling.” Molly started to rise, her hand halfway to her pocket.

“No,” Aaron said. Or tried to. It came out more of a “mmghnn…” He managed to move his hand, even though it felt like it weighed a few hundred pounds.

“Aaron?” Carter’s hand gripped his shoulder. Can you hear me?”

He tried to answer yes, and had to settle for a nod. “Okay, just take it easy.”

“I’m okay,” he said, although the words were slurred enough that they probably didn’t understand. His mouth felt sucked dry. He swallowed a couple of times and tried again. “What happened?”

“You had a seizure,” Molly said.

Like that wasn’t obvious.

“Before… that,” he said. Even talking was exhausting. “We were…talking…”

They exchanged a glance. “Yes,” she said. “You felt dizzy, and then you collapsed. I called Carter after it didn’t end.” She hesitated, and said: I really think I should call the paramedics—”

“I’m okay,” he said, more strongly this time. He tried to sit up, but they both pushed him down.

“Just chill a second, okay?” Carter said. “Maybe you should call them,” he said to Molly.

“Don’t, I’m fine,” Aaron said. “Carter, I’m fine. Just tired.”

“No, you’re not,” he said. “You’re really not, Aaron.”

“I have seizures all the time.”

“Not like this.”

Aaron tried to argue, but his brain felt like mush. He had this weird feeling of anxiety, too, like he’d been talking about something important…He tried to trace his memory from the last thing he remembered. Walking down the sidewalk to meet Molly, and Ivy had told him…

“Wait,” he said. “Wasn’t Ivy here?”

“She went to get ice cream,” Molly said. He remembered it dimly. “I texted her after you fell, but she still hasn’t responded.”

“How long ago?” Carter asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Ten minutes?”

“Ivy always looks at her texts,” he said, frowning. “And she wouldn’t have blown off something this important.”

Molly chewed on her lip. “Okay. I’ll go look for her. Don’t let him get up,” she said to Carter. “He’s too much of a moron to take care of himself.” She moved out of view, and a few seconds later, Aaron heard the shop door open and slam closed.

Aaron sighed and rubbed his fingers into his temples. “You aren’t going to tell Mom about this, are you?”

“I think we have to,” Carter said. “Sorry.” He leaned back against a stack of boxes. “What did you see? It must have been something big.”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “Having trouble sorting through it.” He closed his eyes and tried to recall the images, the sounds, but they were still a jumble in his brain. Too chaotic to make any sense of. “I think it was him. Leveille. I heard his voice, but I can’t remember the words. He was in some kind of dark place. This loud noise, like…I don’t know. Thunder? A train or something? I don’t know. I need more time to process it.”

“Okay, don’t hurt yourself,” Carter said. “We haven’t seen him for weeks. There’s no reason to panic. Just…you know… rest for a minute. Just chill.”

Chill. Right. Aaron pressed his hands over his eyelids. His thoughts were clearing some, and even though his vision was still a muddle, his memory was coming back in pieces. “Where’s the notebook?” he asked.

“What notebook?”

“The one I was looking at… Molly’s notebook. I must have dropped it…” He started to roll over to look for it, but Carter pushed his shoulder back down. Gently, for him, but still firm enough that Aaron couldn’t fight him.

“It’s not that important,” Carter said. “And I don’t see a notebook anywhere. She must have put it up.”

“It is important,” Aaron insisted. “It’s about Avalon… her grandmother, she was like us. Special. Avalon was a code name—they were studying her because her cells started regenerating spontaneously. Reading that journal triggered my vision. Something about it, and it was important, Carter. If I could just remember what it was!” He clenched his fist against his forehead. “Maybe she put it in her bag. Check—”

“I’m not looking through Molly’s stuff!”

“But—”

The door opened again, and Molly rushed in, out of breath. “Ivy’s gone,” she said.

“What?” Carter said.

“She wasn’t in the ice cream shop. Mackenzie was there, and she said she saw Ivy come in, but she left after a couple of minutes. ‘Some guy’ was with her.”

“A guy?” Aaron said, alarmed. He sat up, fighting back a wave of dizziness. “Did you get a description?”

“Not a very good one,” Molly said, annoyed. She rolled her eyes and mimicked Mackenzie’s voice: “He was ‘like, wearing black, and kind of old, and creepy looking. Or whatever.’”

Carter and Aaron glanced at each other. “You don’t think—” Carter said.

“I think I shouldn’t have left her alone,” Aaron said. He grabbed Carter’s arm and pulled himself to his feet. His brother held onto him, even after he managed to keep his balance. “Everyone was so worried about me, and no one thought he’d go after anyone else.”

“What are you talking about?” Molly asked. They both glanced at her.

“The guy from the lab,” Aaron said. “He’s a Canadian mercenary named Hugo Leveille. Uh, and he has powers.”

What?”

“Yeah, we didn’t get around to that part before you… before we…Don’t look at me like that! I’m sorry!”

Molly looked ready to murder him.

“I was going to tell you,” Aaron said. “But after we stopped talking to you, I guess I… forgot. But we didn’t know who he was! Not until a couple of days ago. And my vision just now—”

“You forgot?” She clenched her fists, and Aaron heard a creak and a rumbling in the walls, not unlike the trembling he’d felt at the lake, when she’d almost lost control. “I swear if you weren’t—” She turned suddenly, and punched Carter hard in the shoulder.

Ow!” he said, rubbing the spot where her fist had connected. “What did I do?”

“That was for Aaron,” she said. “Feel free to give it to him when he’s recovered from his head trauma.” She clenched her fists again, but almost immediately, she relaxed them, taking a deep breath and releasing it in a huff. The noise stopped. She closed her eyes and took another slow breath.

Carter glowered at her, still massaging his shoulder. “If you two want to fight, you can do it later,” he said. “We have more important things to worry about. Like the fact that Ivy might have been kidnapped?”

“This is all my fault,” Aaron said.

“Sit down before you hurt yourself again,” Carter said, catching his arm as he started to waver. “I’ll look for her. I’ll call the others. We’ll all look, okay?”

“Maybe we should call the police,” Molly said.

They both looked at her like she was crazy. “And tell them what?” Carter asked. “That our friend has been missing for ten minutes, and may have been kidnapped by a dead mercenary with superpowers? Tell them we know that because we have our own superpowers that we used to break into a high-security lab during a quarantine?”

“Okay, I see your point,” Molly said. “What about your Dad? He does security at the lab. Maybe he could—”

Aaron exchanged a glance with Carter. “No,” they both said, and Aaron sighed. “It’s complicated.” He sank down onto a stack of boxes and rested his head in both hands. “This has all gotten so complicated.”

“I’ll call Brennan,” Carter said. “You should go rest. Maybe try to remember your vision? If it coud help, I mean? You said you heard him in it. Maybe it would give us a clue.”

“Come on,” Molly said. “I’ll borrow Clarissa’s car and take you home. You can get something to eat, work on getting your strength back. Carter can go look for Ivy. We’ll figure it out.” She held out her hand. After a second, he reached up and took her hand.

“Okay,” he said. “But as soon as we figure out where she is, we’re going after her.”

* * * * *

It was a quiet, uncomfortable drive. Aaron insisted on looking through the notebook again, hoping it would help him remember more of his vision. He propped his arm against the door and stared at it, deep in thought. Or falling asleep. She wasn’t entirely sure.

The roads were slick, and it looked like it was going to rain again. That added to the dozens of cars jamming the town’s handful of major roads made it almost impossible to navigate. She sighed as she came to a halt, her progress blocked by someone turning the wrong way at an intersection.

“I hate driving.”

“Uh-huh,” Aaron said absently.

Molly fidgeted in her seat while she waited for traffic to move. “Hey, Aaron,” she said after a minute. “About Avalon…”

“Yeah?” He flipped a page wthout looking up.

“What did you know about it? Before I showed you the journal, I mean.”

Aaron rubbed his head. “Leveille mentioned it,” he said after a second. “He, um, he said Avalon had sent him.”

“That doesn’t mean anything. It could be a coincidence—”

“It’s not the first time I’d seen it,” Aaron admitted. “There was a reference to it in a memo I saw at Lartech. Referenced genetic therapy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.” He frowned, and rubbed at his head. “Somehow what happened to your grandmother is related to what’s happening today.”

“It’s not her,” Molly said. “Even if she were alive, she’d be, like, eighty or ninety.”

“Unless the regeneration slowed her aging.”

“It didn’t,” Molly said. “It was short term. After a few years, the cancer came back. It’s what killed her.”

“I’m not saying your grandparents were involved,” Aaron said. “But something they did might have caused our powers. And if they caused our powers, they could have caused others, too. It’s too much of a coincidence to think it’s not related.” He was silent for a long time. Molly thought he really might have fallen asleep when he said, “I do believe you didn’t know about it.”

“Wow, thanks,” Molly said. “Your trust is overwhelming.”

“I meant to say I’m sorry,” Aaron said. “For not believing you before. For not giving you a chance to explain.”

She rubbed her thumb over the steering wheel, not sure how to respond. “Thanks,” she said quietly, and that seemed to be good enough. She glanced out the window at the sky. The clouds had darkened, and hung low enough that she could sense them distantly, like a pressure over her head.

“Rain’s coming soon,” she said.”

He glanced at her. “Can you really tell that?”

“Well, I’m guessing, same as you would,” she said. “But yes, I can sense it. It’s close.”

Aaron frowned. It was a look she was getting familiar with—some thought had struck him and run away with his brain. She was about to say something else when he suddenly sat bolt upright. “Oh, wait, the rain,” he said.

“What? It’s just bad weather. It’s been raining for weeks. It’s nothing new.”

“No, no no, I remembered something…In my vision, it was raining. Dark. The sound I heard, the noise. It was…water…and—” His whole face clenched up. “No. It’s gone. I almost had it.” He flung the notebook down and slammed a fist against the door. “What use is this stupid power if I can’t make it do what I want?”

“Do you think looking at the notebook again would help?” Molly said. “If that’s what triggered it?”

“Maybe,” Aaron said. “It would be more use if I could… Hang, on, my phone’s going off. Maybe it’s Carter.” He fished his phone out of his pocket and swiped the screen. Half a second later, his face went from concern to panic. “Oh, no.”

“What? What is it?”

Hand shaking, he turned the phone toward her. The text was from Ivy’s phone, in bold caps. All it said was: YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS. DON’T INTERFERE.

“Oh my god,” Molly said. A sick feeling twisted her stomach. “I’m sorry, Aaron. You were right. Ivy…”

“We have to find him, Molly,” he said, breathing hard. “We have to find him now.” He pressed his hands to his head, squeezing his eyes shut.

“We will,” Molly said. She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt. “We’ll figure it out. Selena can hack into anything, right? And all of us will be out looking for her. And—”

He jerked upright suddenly, sucking in a sharp breath. “Wait, Stop.”

“What? The car? Why, did you remember something?”

“No,” he said. “No, but I had an idea. During the quarantine at the lab, after I was trapped, I had a second vision.”

“I remember. You told us all about it afterward.”

“Yeah. What I didn’t tell you was that… I did it on purpose.”

“On purpose? But I thought you didn’t have any control over it.”

“I don’t,” he said. “Usually. And I didn’t tell anyone because I haven’t been able to do it again. I’ve tried, but… I think it must have been the stress that did it,” he said. “And the fact that I’d overused my power so much. It made it a lot easier to do…whatever it is I do.”

“Makes sense.”

“So…maybe if I can find the right trigger, I can do it again. Maybe see something that will help us find Ivy.”

“Like what?”

He withdrew again, squinting through his glasses like he was trying to focus on each individual piece of dust on the windshield. Then he cocked his head and asked: “When you found that notebook, did you find anything else?”

* * * * *

By the time they reached Molly’s house, the rain had already started. Huge drops of water splattered over them as they ran from the car to the house. Aaron shook it out of his hair as he crossed over the threshold, and pried off his muddy shoes. Molly seemed less bothered; she barely even seemed wet.

“It’s upstairs,” she said, flicking on the light switch. “I have a whole box of them. Don’t know how much they’ll help you, though. It’s mostly just science and boring memos.”

It turned out, she was right. An hour later, Aaron was ready to give up.

He sat cross-legged on Molly’s bed, surrounded by her grandfather’s journals and absolutely no closer to remembering what he’d seen.

“Any luck?” Molly said, coming through the door with a glass of water in one hand. She offered it to him. “Here. I promised Carter I’d make you drink some.”

He took it absently, still staring at an obscure paragraph about lenses. “No. If anything I’m more confused than before. It’s all just…math and science and…” he sighed and took off his glasses to rub at his eyes. “I don’t know. I reread the original one again, too, but I can’t even remember what triggered it the first time.” He settled his glasses back across his nose and bent over a journal again, frowning at the crooked handwriting without taking much in.

Molly paced while he read, alternating between staring out the window, checking her phone, and leaning against the wall watching him. It drove him to distraction, and what little concentration he had left soon melted into frustration.

He sighed and flung the journal to the floor. “This is so pointless,” he said. “None of ths is going to help! I have no idea what I’m doing. My power’s useless, these journals are useless. We need to just get out there and help look—”

Stop,” Molly said. She climbed over the mess of journals to sit in front of him. “Just stop. You’re trying too hard.”

“I’m trying too hard?” he said. “Trying too hard to find my friend who’s been kidnapped? Who’s only in danger because of me in the first place? I am not trying too hard!

“You’re getting worked up and tense again, just like before. ”

“If you tell me to relax, I’m leaving.”

She took the glass of water from him and swept the journals aside. “Forget about all this,” she said. “This isn’t working.”

“Fine,” he said. “What do you suggest, since you know everything?”

“I don’t know! But sitting here whining and snapping at me isn’t going to fix anything! Ivy needs help now!”

The unexpected urgency in her voice shook him. She’d kept so calm through everything that he hadn’t noticed how tense she was. “I…” He took a breath. “I don’t know what else to try. I just can’t do it.”

“You can,” she said. She gripped his shoulders. “When you were trapped in that quarantine, you didn’t give up. You kept moving, kept thinking. You risked your life to try and stop more people getting hurt.”

“And I screwed it up,” Aaron said. “He won. He got away, and we helped him. Because I just had to interfere. I just wanted to prove I wasn’t useless for once, and now Ivy is in trouble and I still can’t help.”

“Do you want to talk to me about screwing up? After everything I’ve done? Trust me, Aaron, you haven’t screwed up half as much as I have. But you can’t use that as an excuse, not right now. The rest of us can help, but not if we don’t know what we’re up against. Not if we don’t know where to look. And you’re the one who can do that. You’re a pain in the ass sometimes, but you are not useless.”

2201

Aaron closed his eyes. Ivy needed his help. That was all that mattered. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll try again.”

“Okay,” Molly said. “So what did you do before?”

“Sat down and thought really hard about things exploding. It helped that I was kind of surrounded by the disaster already.”

Molly got up from the bed and switched off the light, so that the only illumination came from the hall. Aaron raised an eyebrow. “You said it was dark,” she said. “And raining,” she added, eying the roof. The sound of rain thundered over them. “So what else?”

Aaron took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “It was dark, raining. Someplace kind of cold. Loud noise drowning out the voices.” He focused on the sounds he remembered, the feeling of being in a cold, dank room.

The rain, the darkness. Leveille. Ivy.

Leveille’s voice was easy to recall. It was seared into his memory. So was summoning up a sense of urgency. He immersed himself in the reconstruction, concentrating on what he wanted to see.

The rain, the darkness. Leveille. Ivy.

“Molly, I don’t thnk it’s—” He cut off as a searing pain spiked through his skull. A shrill whine accompanied it, followed by a sudden blur of image and sound.

A dark, cavernous room. The smell of metal and mold, and a steady drip.

Leveille, his face expressionless, his voice cold. “Do it, girl. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will.”

Ivy, face bruised, but angry, in front of a computer screen. “I don’t know how!”

The sensation of pain.

Noise like thunder. Rain and flowing water.

“Then you better figure it out fast.”

Aaron jerked as it left him, and felt Molly catch his shoulders as he lurched forward. Shaking, he pushed her away, and wiped at the sweat on his face. His stomach felt like it had twisted over and his mouth was dry. Ivy. He blinked as the dim bedroom came back into focus.

“Did you see something?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said, gulping down as much water as he could swallow. “He’s got her,” Aaron said, sorting through the rush of images. “He’s trying to get her to do something… He must think she helped me hack into to the lab.” He pressed a hand against his head. “He’s going to hurt her if we don’t do something.”

“Do you know where they are? Where is he trying to break into?”

Aaron exhaled slowly, piecing together the fragments of his vision. Dark, cold, overwhelmed by the thundering noise… like… “The dam,” he realized, looking up at her. “They’re at the dam.”

Molly’s eyes widened. “Are you sure? What is he going to do? If the dam breaks—”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Right now I’m more worried about Ivy. We’ve got to get to her. Stop him somehow.”

“Okay,” Molly said. She snatched his phone off the bed and tossed it to him. “Go call the others and tell them to meet us there. He may know what you can do, but the rest of us can still surprise him.”

“What are you going to do?”

She shrugged. “I guess I’ve got to find some clothes I can fight in.”

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