Molly ran into the powerhouse, pulling water in front of her body like a shield. It wouldn’t do much to protect her, but it might at least make her a harder target to hit. She hurtled toward the edge of the catwalk and vaulted over it, shoving water under her to soften the landing.
It still hurt—the impact jarred her knees, ankles, even her shoulders. But she kept her feet and crouched into a fighting stance, water swirling around her.
Well, she’d surprised him, anyway. He turned toward her, drawing his gun so fast she felt a jolt of terror through the adrenaline. “How many of you are there?” he yelled.
The moment he was distracted, Aaron moved. She caught a blur of motion and he was just gone. A moment later he blurred into sight again, grabbed the taser from Leveille’s other hand and shoved it into his side. It staggered him, but he didn’t fall, even though all his muscles tensed up and he dropped the gun. As soon as he recovered, he swung around, but Aaron had already vanished again.
Molly took the opportunity to close the distance. Disarmed and still reeling from the shock, he didn’t react right away. She got a good blow against his ribs before he fought back. When he did, he hit hard. Even though she blocked his arm with her sword, the impact hurt her wrists. Tough and strong, and has healing abilities? That is so not fair.
Still, she’d brought plenty of water with her. She used it against him where she could, tripping him up, slipping out of his grip, even shoving it in his nose and ears. It didn’t seem to do much more than annoy him.
Over the earpiece, she heard a heavy breath, suddenly, and Aaron’s voice, riddled with static. “Can’t…for long…the generator fixed?”
He must have been talking to Selena, because she hissed a reply. “Already done,” she said. “But he’s wired explosives inside this one, and he’s probably done the others, too. You need to shut down them all down!”
“…piece is going in and out, I don’t…much longer …Can you…again..? I couldn’t….”
“Control room! Generators! Just go!”
The garbled sound of Aaron’s breathing cut off.
Molly went on the offensive, trying to keep Leveille busy while Aaron got to the control room. A few seconds later, she heard a door slam above her. The sound jolted Leveille for a second, but as soon as Molly tried to go for the opening, he countered, and swung at her so fast she barely had time to dodge. His bland expression had started to crack, showing real anger behind the studied calm.
“Oh, hey,” she said, letting a grin cross her face. “Did I make you angry?”
“You should have stayed out of it. You have no idea what you’re doing.”
“If you wanted to convince us you were right,” Molly said, “You shouldn’t have started with killing and kidnapping.”
He swung a wild fist at her face. Easy to block—too easy, Molly realized, but she’d already fallen for the feint. He broke through her guard, batted her sword away, and delivered a short, sharp thrust against her sternum, hard enough to stun her. The sword slipped form her fingers, clattering along the floor.
Before she could recover, he had her in a chokehold.
Molly panicked, struggling to breath or break free. She heard Selena shouting, but it was drowned out by the sound of the blood rushing past her ears. And water. Water. Rushing toward her, drawn in by instinct more than any kind of plan. If I’m going to choke, so are you, she thought, and shoved it all at him. She stopped caring if she lost control, stopped caring if it killed him. It was just her and the water.
But he gave in first, giving her a shove that sent her sprawling. Mid-fall, she turned it into a slide, skating across the water while she tried to regain her balance.
She halted a good fifteen feet away from him, gasping for air. Her chest hurt and her throat burned, but she could breathe again. She’d released her hold on the water, shaking with adrenaline as she staggered to her feet.
Control, Molly. Control.
Sometime during the fight, the generators had cut off. Their absence left the huge room in an eerie quiet, broken only by the sound of rain pelting the roof.
Leveille was on his knees, coughing up water. Behind him, Selena had moved away from the open generator, inching forard. Toward… the gun he’d dropped, barely three paces from his feet. “Don’t,” Molly wheezed, but Selena crept closer, stretching her hand toward the weapon.
“Don’t what?” Leveille said, his voice ragged. “Don’t hurt you? Don’t hurt your friends?” He wiped a hand against his mouth. “I ought to kill all of you, and take the damn pay cut.” He spit again, and unexpectedly start laughing. “But then again, I bet I’ll get a hell of a bonus from you. Avalon’s been looking for you.”
Molly stopped cold. “What do you mean? Is she—” She didn’t ask. Couldn’t ask.
“Azure, right?” He laughed again. “I thought that whole thing was just some kind of prank or media stunt, but you really have powers. And you’re a fourteen year old girl.”
“I’m sixteen,” Molly said. “And my name’s not Azure.”
“All right,” he said, with a shrug. “Doesn’t matter what you call yourself. Your power’s real enough. And you’re not half bad with that wooden stick.” He kicked at Molly’s discarded sword, and it skittered further out of reach. “I’ve got to admit, you—”
Midsentence, he noticed Selena’s surreptitious progress toward the gun. Quickly, he turned on her, lunging for it. Selena bolted for it, stetching her hand out in a desperate attempt to reach it first. Sparks flickered around her hand, and the gun skidded away from his fingers, into her hand. She scrambled back, bringing the weapon to bear against him.
“I know how to use this,” she said, but her hands trembled.
“Do you?” he asked. Despite the gun pointed at him, he didn’t seem very troubled abut it. “Maybe you do. But there’s a big difference in knowing how, and doing it.” He took a step forward. “You’re running out of time,” he said, taking another step. She fumbled the safety off, and wrapped both hands around the grip.
“Last chance,” he said, a step away.
Selena tightened her grip; she had her finger on the trigger. Molly pushed past her tiredness and reached for the water, ready to throw everything she could at him.
A gunshot sounded, so loud it sounded like it was inside her head.
She halted, water hovering around her.
Selena stopped, too, her eyes going wide. The gun went slack in her hands.
But Leveille didn’t fall. He didn’t even falter. He snatched the gun from Selena’s hand and backhanded her, hard enough to knock her to the floor. It took Molly another moment to realize he hadn’t been shot. That the gun hadn’t even been fired.
Over her earpiece, she heard screaming.
* * * * *
Aaron shut the door to the control room, dropped his power, and almost collapsed. His brain still felt half-fried form being electrocuted, and using his power hadn’t helped. He leaned against the door, trying to catch his breath. First things first. He had to switch the generators off. “Codex,” he said, but there was no reply. “Codex,” he said again, pressing his finger against his ear. But all he got was static. “Great,” he said to the empty room. “Just when I really could have used some help.”
It was awful not knowing what was going on outside. Selena had cut the security feeds, so the monitor that should have shown him the room showed nothing but static. Molly and Selena were on their own, and Aaron had the terrible feeling that someone was going to end up dead—either because Leveille lost his patience or Molly lost her control.
I have to trust her, he told himself. And he had to shut off those generators. He pushed away from the door and scanned the equipment. There was tons of it. Every wall seemed to be covered in guages and switches, all of them ancient.
But the monitors were still live, and Selena’s laptop was open on the desk, presumably connected to the network. He fished the thumb drive out of his pocket and fingered it. What was it? A program? A virus? He wished she’d been able to tell him, but he’d just have to trust her, too.
He may not be a genius, but he knew his way around a computer well enough. One screen was running live updates on the plant’s power generation, and there was another showing the grid. Aaron hunted through the program for some kind of metaphorical red button.
Finally, he found it—an actual red button labelled “EMERGENCY SHUT-OFF” in capital letters. He clicked on it. Outside the control room, the noise of the generators started winding down. Aaron breathed a sigh of relief. One problem dealt with.
Now for the drive. He opened up Selena’s black box. As soon as he swiped the screen, it prompted him for a password. “Uh…” He pressed a finger to his ear. “Codex. Hey, Codex?” but there was no response. “Codex!” he shouted one more time. He ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “Great.”
He looked around the room like it might spark some inspiration, and his eye fell on the drive. Well, she wouldn’t have given it to him if it wouldn’t work, would she? He snatched it off the desk and plugged it into the box.
Like magic, the password prompt disappeared and the screen lit up with half a dozen windows, including the diverted security feed, some kind of half-finished code, a music player, and the audio network that linked their earpieces together.
Molly’s voice came through the speaker, “Did I make you angry?”
Great, Molly. Start taunting the enraged mercenary. That can’t possibly end badly.
Whatever program was on the drive, it started up automatically. A window of code opened up and scrolled through. It ended with a single command: PRESS ENTER. Aaron hesitated. I hope you know what you’re doing, Selena, he said, and hit the key.
* * * * *
They ran as a group toward the gate, huddling under the torrent of rain. Brennan had done what he could to warm her up, but Ivy was still colder than she should have been. The shock had finally caught up to her, and she kept trembling so hard she could barely walk. He staggered with her for a while, half-carrying her. Lucia stayed on her other side, keeping skin contact and pushing calm on her.
“She’s going to need help,” Carter said. He kept glancing toward the powerhouse.
“I think the jump is too far, even for you,” Lucia said.
“I’ve got to get Ivy safe,” Brennan said. “That’s the whole reason we came here, wasn’t it? But you go ahead.” He grunted, and tried to get a better hold on her. She wasn’t that heavy, but the rain was soaking both of them, and she kept slipping out of his grip.
“Here,” Carter said, lifting Ivy out of his arms. “There’s a guard station up that way,” Carter said, nodding toward a square building at the end of the road. “We can get her inside, and you two can take care of her while I go down. I may not be able to help much, but I’m going to try.” He set off toward the station, and Lucia hurried after him, trying to keep contact with Ivy. Brennan started after them, glancing down at the powerhouse. He could hear them fighting over the earpiece, but it was impossible to follow what was going on. The best they could do was get Ivy out of here, and hope the others could handle him on their own. He tore his gaze away, and stared up the road. A hot blur of motion caught his eye, and he reached out to grab Carter’s shirt. “Wait!” he said. “There’s someone there.”
He squinted through the rain, but he could barely make out the shape, even with his extra senses. Lucia was so focused on Ivy, she must have missed him completely.
The shape resolved into a person, staggering out of the guardhouse like he was drunk. One of the guards the mercenary had drugged?
“Get back. Get her down,” he said, moving in front of Carter to shield Ivy.
“Who’s there?” the guard demanded. He sounded drunk, too. He pulled the gun from his holster. “What are you doing here?
Lucia stepped forward, her hands up. “Please don’t get mad!” she said, in a fake, girly voice. If she could get close enough, she’d be able to deal with him, but he was a good ten feet away. “We just wanted to have a little fun, you know, climb around. We got lost, and my fried fell and hit her head—”
“Stop right there,” he said. Still unsteady, he wavered a little as he came toward them. He blinked, like he couldn’t see them very well.
“Look,” Lucia said, stepping toward him. “There’s no need to—”
The guard raised the gun. Brennan felt a sudden jolt of panic. WIthout thinking, he shoved in front of her, summoning heat from the air and water and channeling it into the weapon.
“I said stop!”
The water on the ground started to freeze, and Brennan felt his fingers go numb, but he kept pushing.
There was a loud crack, like a bolt of thunder, and a sharp pain tore through his stomach. Brennan staggered, but he kept forcing heat into the gun. The guard let out a yelp and dropped it.
Something hurtled past him—Carter?—and cannoned into the guard. Lucia ran after him, ready to subdue him. Brennan relaxed and took a deep breath of relief. Then he was falling. The sky spun around him as the pain set in, flooding out from his stomach like a hot burst of fire.
That wasn’t the plan, he thought. That really wasn’t part of the plan.