Chapter Twenty-Four: Access

“We should split up,” Molly said. She crouched by the side of the road, hidden by the trees, and watched Aaron and Selena walk through the gate. As much as she’d wanted to go with him, she had to admit he had a point—her presence would only put Leveille on guard, and she was more use out here.

Still, it annoyed her to wait, especially as wired as she felt in this rain. The nearby presence of the lake didn’t help; the rain had filled it to the brim, and every other sound was washed out by the clamor of the open spillway.

“No,” Carter said. “Splitting up is never a good idea. Don’t you watch movies at all?”

“This isn’t a movie,” Molly said. “One group can search outside, the other can go into the powerhouse. We won’t be far away from each other.”

“It’ll be faster,” Brennan said.

He was all tension, so close to the edge of the tree cover that he’d almost blown it. “Right, Lucia?”

“I don’t know.” She glanced sideways at Molly. “If we get in over our heads again—”

“Two people can hide easier than four,” Molly said. “You can use your power to sense her, and Brennan should be able to see her body heat. So we split up, we find her fast.” And I can get this over with, before I lose control.

“We’re wasting time arguing,” Brennan said.

Carter frowned, but he shrugged. “Fine,” he said, even though he didn’t sound it. “I’ll go with Molly.”

“No,” Lucia said. She glanced at him, and then settled her gaze on Molly. “You go with Brennan. I want to keep an eye on her.”

That stung. “Well, at least you’re honest,” Molly said. “What do you expect me to do? You think I’m—”

“I think you’re not entirely in control of yourself,” Lucia said. “You may be acting calm, but it’s raining like hell and we’re standing by an overflowing lake. Water makes you volatile on a good day, so yeah. I want to keep an eye on you.”

Molly started to bristle, but she stopped as she realized Lucia had a point. The rain made her reckless, and she was already starting to feel wired. “Fine,” she said.

“If we don’t get moving soon, I’m going to go without all of you,” Brennan said. He moved toward the edge of the tree.

“Okay, okay.” Molly pressed a finger against her ear and said; “We’re coming in. Give us a heads up if there’s going to be trouble.” There was no answer, but she didn’t expect one. She took another calming breath. I’ve got this under control, she told herself. “Let’s go.”

* * * * *

Leveille stopped them in front of the doors to the power station. Inside, the building was dark, and a red light over the door handle indicated that it was locked. “Well, sweetheart,” Leveille said to Selena. “Here’s your first test.”

“Call me sweetheart again and we’ll have problems,” she said, tossing back her hair. Despite her bravado, Aaron could see the slight tremor in her fingers as she raised it to the lock. After a second, the light flicked green.

“Nice job, angel,” Leveille said as she pulled open the door, and prodded her through. “Go on in.”

He stayed behind them as they entered, keeping one hand close to the trigger. Aaron imagined he could feel the gun at his back, waiting for him to make some sudden movement. Leveille knew what he could do, and he wouldn’t only be relying on Ivy’s safety to keep him in check. He was too smart for that.

The main room was huge. They entered on a walkway that spanned the length of the room, high enough to match the tops of the generators. The noise filled the space like low, constant thunder.

Leveille directed them toward the back of the station. Aaron could see windows to what he assumed was the control room, and Leveille headed straight for it, without hesitation. So he’d already been here, Aaron surmised, and the lock had just been a test.

The door was already ajar. As Aaron ventured through it, he caught sight of a body sprawled across the floor. Only unconscious, he reassured himself, watching the rise and fall of his chest. He tored his gaze away, trying not to dwell on whether he’d be all right, and looked around the room.

It was a weird mix of old and new. Panels full of old gauges covered the wall, and switches with the paint partly rubbed off. But the center station had been replaced with a heavy black console, fitted with brand new flatscreen monitors.

Selena glanced at the limp figure on the floor, swallowed, and strode to the center of the room. For a minute, she stood still, arms slightly out and fingers extended, like she could feel some current in the room that was invisible to him.

“Start with the security system,” Leveille said. He shoved the unconscious tech aside with hisboot. “I want total blackout. And erase the last two hours of footage.”

Selena nodded, still absorbing the room. After a minute, she took a breath and headed toward the center console. Aaron reached out a hand to stall her.

“I want some kind of proof Ivy’s okay,” Aaron said.

“Don’t trust me, kid?”

“I certainly don’t,” Selena answered.

“Smart girl,” Leveille said. He went a few more steps before saying: “I’m not telling you where she is. But I set up a camera for you.” He pulled out a phone and held it out so they could both see the screen. “Nice and safe,” he said.

He’d positioned the camera to focus directly on Ivy’s face. All Aaron could see of her surroundings were the explosives taped to the wall behind her. She didn’t look badly hurt, and she was conscious. Color had faded from her lips and face, and her curly hair was plastered to her face.

Selena reached for the phone, but Leveille swept it back before her finger could touch it.

“No tricks, cupcake,” he said. “She’ll be fine if you do what I want you to.” He gestured toward the control room. Selena tossed her hair back and stalked toward the central monitor.

“If she gets hurt, I’ll kill you,” Aaron said.

“Easy to say,” Leveille said. “But I doubt you’ll follow through.”

Aaron tried to think of a comeback to that, but before he could, he caught a flash of motion through the window. He glanced toward it and saw Molly, moving quietly along the length of the walkway. She halted as he glanced toward her, frozen in a crouch. Aaron glanced away quickly, hoping Leveille hadn’t noticed.

Luckily, he’d been occupied watching Selena as she plugged into the console and started to work.

Keep him distracted, Aaron thought. What am I supposed to do? Talk about the weather? He cleared his throat. The mercenary glanced back at him, lazily, and Aaron said the first thing that popped into his head.

“Who is Avalon?” he asked.

Leveille raised an eyebrow. “We’re doing this now?”

“Should I wait until you don’t need us anymore?”

“Fair point.” The mercenary leaned against the door frame. “Did you do what I told you to?”

“I looked into it,” Aaron said. “Most of the data’s gone. But I know it was a project in Lartech, forty years ago. I know it was a direct result of the Resson field. I know Matthew Lakefield was involved with it.”

Leveille just watched him, waiting.

“I assumed Avalon was a person,” Aaron added. He wanted to avoid mentioning Evelyn Lakefield, partly because he didn’t want to give too much away, and partially because he was afraid of the answer. Molly would hear everything he said, and he didn’t want her losing focus right now. “But maybe it’s an organization? They gave you powers, somehow. They hired you to sabotage the Resson generator, to keep more people from being affected.”

Again, the mercenary stayed silent, but Aaron had a feeling he was getting close.

“Did the Resson field cause our powers?” Aaron asked.

The question was met with another pause, but at last, the mercenary shrugged. “No,” he said. “Not exactly. But it amplifies them.”

“But you know where they came from,” Aaron said. “Don’t you? You know why we’re like this.”

Leveille took a step toward him, cocking his head. Aaron felt his hands clench into fists.

“How badly do you want to know?” the mercenary asked.

Aaron swallowed against the dry feeling in his throat. “You said if I knew what was going on, I’d be helping you. So convince me.”

“If you want answers, kid, you can have them. But—” a smile twisted his lips. “You have to meet her first.”

“Her? Avalon?”

“I’m under a contract, you understand,” he said. “I have to deliver results to get my payment. Part of that is my business with Lartech. But she wants you, too. To meet you, to see what you can do for herself… I have a feeling you won’t come unless there’s something you really want in the deal. So, I’ll ask again. How bad do you want to know?”

* * * * *

“She’s not in here,” Lucia whispered, crouching beside Molly on the walkway. “I can’t sense anyone else here”

“Would you still sense her if she’s unconscious?” Molly asked.

“Probably,” Lucia said, but she seemed uncertain. “It would be much fainter, though.”

“She’s conscious,” Selena murmured, in a low voice that Leveille likely couldn’t hear over the noise of the generators. “She looked cold. Wet. Concrete wall behind her, and some kind of red pole. Light came from the camera.”

“Thanks,” Molly said. She motioned to Lucia, and they headed back toward the front of the building. “She’s got to be outside somewhere. Heatseeker, you can’t sense her up there? From her body heat?”

“Not so far,” Brennan said over the earpiece. “But cold and wet will bring it down a lot.” His voice was calm, but tight. On the edge of panic. “Found a security guard. Looked like he’d been drugged, but he’ll be okay. There’s some construction equipment around, but no sign of any people.”

“We’ll come out to help,” Lucia said. “Don’t worry. She’s here somewhere.”

“What about underneath?” Carter asked. “Is there like a…generator…room thing? Tunnels?”

Molly imagined Selena, complaining under her breath that no one read the blueprints.

“Only the tunnels that push water through the turbines, and they’re full of water,” Molly said. She could feel it rushing underfoot, flooding her senses like the steel and concrete weren’t even there. She took a deep breath and adjusted the sword where it was strapped to her back. “If she was down there, she’d be drowning. And I don’t think he’d have risked putting her anywhere near the transformers in this storm.”

“Start looking for a red pole, and we’ll meet you up there.” Lucia said. nodded back the way they’d come. “There’s an elevator to the top back that way.”

As Molly followed Lucia, she went over everything in her mind. What had Leveille said? Enough explosives to blow the dam into the river.  Well, enough explosives and any part of the dam was vulnerable. Molly bit her lip. Anyway, that could have been a bluff. Leveille had played this pretty smart so far. Besides, he was a professional, which meant experience. He’d know there was a chance she’d have some kind of power. He’d take the extra effort to stash her somewhere more secure. Somewhere she wouldn’t be able to escape, even if she had abilities he wasn’t expecting.

“You sure you’re okay?” Lucia said as they boarded the elevator.

“Yeah,” Molly said. She could barely fight the urge to pace, and stood tapping her hand against her leg while she stared up at the ceiling, like she could see where they were headed. “This elevator is so slow.”

“Beats walking,” said Lucia, but she looked far from relaxed herself. After a moment listening to the elevator creak and moan its way up the wall fo the dam, she said, “Hey, Tempest.”

“Yeah?”

“You seem….better inside. Is it cause you’re separated from the water?”

Molly shrugged. “Guess so.” She sighed. “Can’t hide anything from you, can I?”

“Sorry,” Lucia said, but she didn’t sound it.

They exited the elevator inside the guard station. The small brick building was Molly could see the entire dam from here—a huge concrete wall stretching across the lake. Every door on the spillway was open, floodwaters cascading over the slope in a rush of white water. The rain had grown to a torrent, spattering against so hard it stung.

For a moment, she was overwhelmed.

The overflowing reservoir, the rain, the cauldron of water—it was like being drenched in adrenaline, to the point that it paralyzed her with its intensity. Molly could barely even feel the ground under her feet, could barely hear anythingg besides the rush of water.

Then, through the storm, she felt cold fingers against her neck, and Lucia said, “Hey, Tempest.”

The storm subsided. Molly took a deep breath. “I’m okay.”

From the expression on her face, Lucia didn’t quite believe her. Molly pushed her hand away. “I’m okay now.”

“Keep it that way.”

Molly nodded, taking another breath to steady herself. A moment later, Carter and Brennan came running down the road. “We looked again,” Carter said. “No sign of any kind of red poles, red markers, or anything else.” He frowned at Brennan, and looked away, searching the powerhouse, the lake, the dam, like some solution would magically present itself.

“It’s dark,” Molly said. She peered along the wall of the dam. “Maybe you missed something.…” but Brennan shook his head. “Are there any other tunnels? Through the dam?”

“There weren’t any on the blueprints,” Lucia said. “It’s solid concrete. Yes, Codex, I did look at them,” she said to the air.

Brennan shoved his hands in his pockets. “What if she’s not even here?” he said,  “What if she’s not even at the dam, and he put her somewhere else? How are we going to—”

“Uh, guys—” Carter said. He’d stepped away from the group, and was leaning over the edge of the wall, alarm dawning on his face. He pointed across the cascade of water, and they all followed his gaze. Through the rain and rushing water, Molly could see a glint of light, about thirty feet down the spillway. She squinted at it, and could just make out the shape of something against the concrete arch— construction scaffolding, the metal poles glinting red from the faint light.

Lucia squinted at it for a long moment, and then gasped. “She’s down there,” she said, clapping her hands over her mouth. “I can sense her.”

“She’s still conscious?” Molly asked.

“Barely,” Lucia said. “It’s faint…”

“That’s why I couldn’t see her,” Brennan said, “because of all the water… I wasn’t even looking that way.” Both hands were clenched into fists. “Ivy…”

“Hang on, I’ll check it out,” carter said, racing down the length of the dam. When he reached the arch over the scaffolding, he paused. “Uh, I don’t see a way down,” he said over the earpiece. “Looks like there was a ladder, but it’s gone. No rope, either.”

“Can’t you jump?” Molly asked.

“I don’t think so. The gates would probably get in the way. Maybe if it was dry and daylight, I’d try it, but I think in this weather I’d just slip and fall.”

Molly leaned over the wall. There was more scaffolding on the close side of the dam, and this ladder was intact. Molly climbed onto the wall and swung her legs over.  “Come back this way. I want to try to get closer,” she said, testing the highest rung with one boot. “Careful, it’s wet.”

2401In the dark and rain, it took a few minutes to climb the distance to the scaffolding. But after some careful climbing, Molly made it down. The others crowded behind her on the narrow platform. Molly crouched down, guaging the distance between their position and Ivy’s. It was almost half the length of the dam. Water sprayed into her face as she bent over the edge. All this water, and it wasn’t any help getting her to Ivy. Maybe if she could push it hard enough, she could—

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Lucia said behid her.

“I could probably make it,” she said.

“Could you get her back over here again?” Lucia asked.

Molly bit her lip. No. If course she couldn’t. “Cart—Um, Gladius, I guess you can jump that far, can you?” she asked. He’d just caught up with them, and was busy climbing the rain-slicked ladder.

“Not a good idea,” he said.  “I might be able get that much strength, but I wouldn’t be able to aim well enough to be sure of landing in the right place.”

Molly turned to he ladder. “I think I can get to her,” she said. “I’ll figure out how to get her back. If I can just—”

“Wait,” Brennan said, grabbing her jacket to stop her. “Why don’t we build a bridge?”

* * * * *

Aaron stared at Leveille, heart hammering in his chest. “Come with you?” he said, like an idiot. “But I—” He swallowed. All of his questions answered. About his powers, about Avalon, about everything… It was more tempting than he wanted to admit. Part of him—the sane part, probably—knew how that was likely to go: with him under their power, or dead, or… But he wanted answers. More than he’d realized. And Leveille just kept staring at him, locking Aaron’s gaze on his own.

“Cameras are wiped,” Selena

“Hang on, I’ll check it out,” carter said, racing down the length of the dam. When he reached the arch over the scaffolding, he paused. “Uh, I don’t see a way down,” he said over the earpiece. “Looks like there was a ladder, but it’s gone. No rope, either.”

“Can’t you jump?” Molly asked.

“I don’t think so. The gates would probably get in the way. Maybe if it was dry and daylight, I’d try it, but I think in this weather I’d just slip and fall.”

Molly leaned over the wall. There was more scaffolding on the close side of the dam, and this ladder was intact. Molly climbed onto the wall and swung her legs over.  “Come back this way. I want to try to get closer,” she said, testing the highest rung with one boot. “Careful, it’s wet.”

In the dark and rain, it took a few minutes to climb the distance to the scaffolding. But after some careful climbing, Molly made it down. The others crowded behind her on the narrow platform. Molly crouched down, guaging the distance between their position and Ivy’s. It was almost half the length of the dam. Water sprayed into her face as she bent over the edge. All this water, and it wasn’t any help getting her to Ivy. Maybe if she could push it hard enough, she could—

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Lucia said behid her.

“I could probably make it,” she said.

“Could you get her back over here again?” Lucia asked.

Molly bit her lip. No. If course she couldn’t. “Cart—Um, Gladius, I guess you can jump that far, can you?” she asked. He’d just caught up with them, and was busy climbing the rain-slicked ladder.

“Not a good idea,” he said.  “I might be able get that much strength, but I wouldn’t be able to aim well enough to be sure of landing in the right place.”

Molly turned to he ladder. “I think I can get to her,” she said. “I’ll figure out how to get her back. If I can just—”

“Wait,” Brennan said, grabbing her jacket to stop her. “Why don’t we build a bridge?”

said, breaking the spell. She gave Aaron a glance that let him know she’d done it on purpose. “What do you want now?”

Leveille stepped into the control room, nudging Aaron ahead of him. “I need power logs. Current ones, plus archives from the last two years. How much power is generated, and where it’s going. Put it on this.” He tossed her a USB drive.

Selena raised an eyebrow. “You could have gotten that without breaking in here,” she said. “That’s not even—”

“That data’s not accurate,” Leveille said. “It’s been tampered with.”

“Conspiracy theory much?”

He cocked his head. “I would have thought a hacker would be less trusting of authority,” he said. “Don’t believe everything they feed you, angel.”

“Fine,” she said, turning back to the console. She plugged the drive into her black box. “I don’t even have to hack anything for that, though,” she said. Aaron knew from experience that it only took her a few moments to transfer the data, but she made a show of it anyway. Trying to buy more time. “You could have just walked in and taken it.”

“That’s not all I’m doing.” He leaned over her on the console, watching the screen while she worked. “Come on, honey, you can do it faster than that.”

Glowering, Selena finished loading the data on the thumb drive, yanked it out and practically hurled it at him. He caught it easily, dropping it into his coat pocket. “There now, that wasn’t so hard. Now, I’m afraid this is the part you aren’t going to like,” he said. “The generators are governed my a mechanism that controls their speed. I want you to disable it.”

“But—but one of them could explode,” Selena said.

“Yes, sweetheart,” Leveille said. “That would be the point.”

She stared at the controls, one hand hovering over her keyboard. “I can’t—”

Over the earpiece, Aaron heard Molly’s voice. “We found Ivy!” she shouted, over the sound of rushing water. “But it’s going to be hard to get to her! You have to stall him!”

Selena glanced between him and the console, crippled by panic. He clearly meant to make sure those generators overloaded. If they did…how much power would the town lose? The lab? Would it break the dam, too? That kind of flood could kill dozens of people, not to mention the havoc it would wreak on the land and the town. He’d said that wasn’t the plan, but he’d made it clear he wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Aaron swallowed. But if they resisted now, he might blow it anyway, and kill Ivy in the process.

He took a slow breath. “Do it,” he said.

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4 thoughts on “Chapter Twenty-Four: Access

  1. So… is the whole story going to be them being helpless losers who end up crumpling and doing everything the bad guys tell them to do because they’re too morally weak to kill unapologetic murderers? I can’t stand that kind of protagonist. I like the story otherwise (assuming our ‘heroes’ powerups eventually make them strong enough to at least stand up to a few totally unpowered henchmen at least), but I really can’t stand that sort. It’s too late to save this particular encounter (it’s obvious it’s just going to be a repeat of the lab, with the baddy getting away scott free but with the added bonus of him knowing who ALL of them are), but hopefully the author can make the protagonists grow a backbone after this.

    Also, some questions on powers. One; why do you make them so weak? I mean, Carter for instance. He’s bulletproof. Period, no questions asked. If you can rip a massive bank-vault style door open, you’re bullet proof. Otherwise you would just rip you hands off trying it, assuming you managed to get that far before your muscle fibres exploded or your bones all snapped. So why isn’t he acting like it? Or did the author just not realize the implications? I see a lot of that in superhero stories, people who are strong enough to do stuff like rip off bank vault doors or toss cars but somehow can be harmed by bullets and quite frankly, it’s infuriating as a reader to see that level of illogic.

    And then there’s Molly… Molly, Molly, Molly. I just don’t get how her powers have been used. She can control massive amounts of water, and she doesn’t have to look at it to control it (she’s constantly sensing it), so why is she so weak, and why is her power so inconsistent? Why in the world are they asking other people to sense the hostage when she should be able to easily pick out isolated sacks of water and blood with her water sense (it was even explicitly stated that she could control, and therefore sense, blood)? Why in a fight does she even bother to use karate, when she could just suck a small portion of the water out of her opponents’ bodies, causing them to collapse from dehydration, with almost no effort? Or for that matter manipulate the water in their bodies to toss them into walls, or just hold them in place? For that matter there’s no reason she shouldn’t be able to fly, or grant herself superstrength or a degree of invulnerability, by manipulating her own body’s water. Why is it a plot device that she ends up stuck with no water to manipulate, when the atmosphere is LOADED with liquid water? I get that she can’t manipulate it once it’s changed state to solid or gaseous form, but humidity is LIQUID water droplets, and she should easily be able to draw it out of the air with her water sense?

    I could keep going on, but those two are the worst offenders. It seems like the author just didn’t bother to think out the logic of the powers he gave his protagonists, and that’s frustrating as hell as a reader. I mean I get that they’re stupid kids, but Molly at least has TONS of experience using her power, and should have figured out most of the tricks at this point. Hell, all of them should, they’ve had them for years and it’s not like the things I’ve pointed out are rocket science, or even high-school science, just common knowledge observations. It’s pretty boring reading a story about ‘superheroes’ who are so pathetic they can’t face a normal with a gun (or a couple of normals with fists for that matter), but it’s 10x worse when they actually have the power to wipe out a battalion of armed and armoured soldiers and are weak purely because of faulty story logic or their own stupidity. FFS, next thing you know this story will bring in some tried and true superhero cliche like a power blocking device (as if they need to be made any more weaksauce) and the path to unreadability will be complete.

    I know this whole past comes off as assholish, but honestly I get very weary of seeing these same sorts of mistakes over and over in superhero stories and just stories in general. Morally weak protagonists who let monsters roam free, stupid heroes who do more harm than good because they can’t put two and two together, and logically inconsistent powers that have been constrained in ways that are flat out absurd (like the strongman who can chuck a car without his body exploding but not stop a bullet). It aches in mah brain.

    • I took a few days to mull over your points:

      1. Killing (really) bad guys is okay.
      2. Powers are inconsistent.
      3. They aren’t doing things that masters of their powers might be able to do.

      This story so far is about teenagers who are exploring their powers. They’ve all learned a few tricks, but they haven’t had a driving force to develop their skills. This Ivy incident seems to be a forceful awakening (too soon?) that they need to get serious.

      So far, they have been learning by doing dumb teenager things like throwing baseballs at each other, sneaking into buildings, etc. (I doubt Carter has tried escalating to having his friends shoot at him with guns… yet.) The story has stayed on this theme fairly well, while throwing in unexpected elements (more bears please).

      If you start thinking about their powers, they all could do some really neat, horrible, and overpowered things. As they develop, I’m sure they’ll start to understand what skills and abilities their powers grant them, while balancing moral issues (good, neutral, evil).

  2. Chuck,
    What exactly was your purpose with this comment? Did you miss the tagline, “They’re trying to be heroes. She’s trying to stop”? I disagree with every sentiment you expressed in this comment except that “this whole post comes off as assholish.” Yes, it does. If you don’t like art, you don’t have to keep reading and you definitely don’t have to whine and complain about the things you don’t like or understand.
    You are entitled to your experience of art, but you wrote like five paragraphs about things you don’t get. There are no “mistakes” or “faults” with the science (there is no science of super strength! Hardly “even high-school science”!) or story (your assumption that ‘all of them should have figured out most of the tricks at this point since they’ve had them for years’ is ridiculous. This comes from all your experience as a high school supermutant, I imagine?).
    You don’t get their powers. You don’t get the tension or plot of the story. You don’t get how this story is exploring the fraught emotions of being teenage heroes. If you don’t get it, fine. But move along to something that’s more to your preference. Another thing you don’t get? Constructive criticism.
    Here are some of the things that I enjoy in this series:
    – I find the characters spunky, smart, believable, and intriguing. They follow through with the integrity, worries, or attachments in their lives but also grow when faced with difficulties. They’re trying to balance being normal and abnormal, trying to be good friends and siblings but also keeping these big secrets. I always laugh and feel anxious or angry along with the characters. I love the authentic, mixed emotions of family and friends and that some characters have told family and some haven’t. I find it an interesting dynamic that the high schoolers are connected by something as powerful as secret powers but not automatically being “friends.”
    – I’m in love with the teenage mutant powers and how they had them without knowing what they were or why. They’ve had to figure out high school – that’s hard enough – and dangerous abilities that no one can help them with. I love when they explore potential ramifications, use their powers to help people even knowing it might hurt, and put themselves in danger even when they’re uncertain how to use their powers to get out again.
    – I love the mystery and suspense of the plot. These are just teenagers, unsure of themselves and their places in the world, and they don’t know who to trust. I love how they discovered the Lartech and Leveille connections through Aaron’s vision and concern for his mom. Of course they would risk everything to help Ivy!
    – The pacing and dialogue are fantastic! Slow enough so that the reader really gets to know the characters and all the glorious back-and-forth between them, but fast enough for the tension to build from chapter to chapter. There’s been a great use of dramatic irony to build and resolve tension among superpowered friends. The suspense is grounded in emotional attachment to the characters. For example, Molly telling them (back in chapter 8?) that they’re lucky to have a group of friends and she didn’t mean to mess it up.

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