Tango kept silent about Damian’s visit, choosing to mull what was said over while everyone bustled around getting ready to meet the whole camp. I was the one to tell Murphy what had happened to which he clasped my shoulder and nodded. Keeping this away from the others was beginning to get on my nerves, the little voice in the back of my mind had muttering urges to tell Echo, Rooi and Fox, to keep them in the loop but Tango had given me orders and the last thing I needed was to anger him again.
So, now I found myself standing in front of twenty-five Gifted. Their eyes, some unnatural like Rook’s and Rooi’s, held raw suspicion, hate and fear. Some held the younger Gifted to their sides or stood protectively in front of them, however, those curious eyes always found a way to peek at us. Alpha team and Tango stood behind us, trying their best to look less intimidating with their civilian clothing. Magnolia had decided she would introduce herself later, rather fussing over the state of the cabin and how poor Missile was having bad allergies due to the dust.
“So, what, you expect us to be okay with this, Rylan?” The girl from the day before growled, green hair a mess atop her head. “They attacked me and my friends!”
“Firstly, you attacked us. Get the facts straight.” Rolling my eyes, I turned my glare on her. She bristled next to her friend who placed a hand on her elbow. Rylan cleared his throat the same time Kingston held onto my shoulder, whispering for me to calm down.
“These Gifted aren’t the same as us, look at how he needs his handler to cool him down!” The friend sneered, jabbing a finger at me. She looked familiar, sounded very familiar, but she was behind the green-haired girl, covering her face. I heard someone snort.
“They’re not our handlers, they are our friends for one. Secondly, you’re like eighteen, but I can snap you in half if I wanted while the girl next to me could do the same without touching you. Watch what you say or we could start our own war,” Rooi growled, her arms over her chest, gold eyes glaring daggers at the girls. A guy stepped forward, ready to defend his friends, but the ground shook, making us all glance towards Rook whose eyes burned with anger.
“Enough from all of you!” The ground rumbled again. “Rylan has already explained what happened to us, how these Gifted and soldiers helped us to escape. They lost one of their own because of us and now he lies in the ground amongst our dead. Show respect, show gratitude that they bothered to find us and want to help us get here.”
The clearing was deadly silent. The Gifted in front of us moved their weight from foot to foot, looking at each other uneasily. The green-haired was the only one still glaring at us, hands fisted at her sides and the faint hint of electricity pulsing around her.
Sighing through my nose, I tried to place myself in their shoes. In the beginning, I was with Damian before Tango saved me. The fears of being hurt by Damian were then replaced by the fear of being conditioned into a soldier puppet with powers. The soldiers around us despised us, blamed us for everything even if it didn’t link back to us and the majority of the time, they were hostile until Alpha team began to step in. The Camp Dragonfly Gifted most likely feared the same, had similar anxiety about the situation that we government-owned Gifted would give them up so we could get a reward.
“I do apologize for the invasion of your home, but we only come with the intent to help, not harm,” Tango began, coming to touch Cat and Rooi’s shoulders. “Your distrust of us is well placed. The government is quick to turn its back on its own, including you children. A place I thought would protect my team was fast to pull the trigger instead. So, I do hope that at some point in our stay here, we would have earned your trust.”
“Now, with all this tension we should do something fun!” Rylan exclaimed, clapping his hands together as he grinned. “What’s the best way to introduce everyone other than pitting twenty-three Gifted against the eleven newbies!”
Snow crunched under my boots, snowflakes flittering down from the sky and the leaves above rustled with the cold wind. My breath came out misty. The temperature was definitely plummeting lower the longer we were out here. The thing was, was it the Canadian cold or Echo’s cold making everyone shiver and come closer to hypothermia?
Shaking my head, I blew on my hands, focusing so the heat in my core would expand to my extremities. Tango’s orders were to play stealthily, push the Gifted into thinking of this as a military exercise rather than hunting down soldiers and trying to beat them into pulp. However, the want to rush forward and cause as much damage to their ranks as possible was a constant nagging voice in the back of my head, but I didn’t want to make Tango angry again for disobeying. Rather, I would let the other Gifted lose patience and do what I wanted. Their rash and clambering decision would lead them right into our clutches. With that, I decided then to climb a tree, wait at its lowest branch and jump down on the unexpecting Gifted.
Minutes had passed when I heard the faint chattering between two girls. Glancing down, I saw the green-haired girl and her friend, ginger curls looking way too familiar at this point. The question then was did I jump down now or wait? Thankfully it was answered quickly as I allowed myself to slip off the branch, landing behind them. Both jumped, the green-haired girl accidentally shocking her friend in her fright. When they snapped to turn to me, I felt rage burn hot in my chest. Kylie stared right at me, her face sheet-white as she recognized me.
“Hunter, how?” Her voice was quiet but the surprise then anger was clear. I could taste metal on her, around her ankles and wrists. The green-haired girl side-glanced Kylie with a questioning glare before jumping into action.
A bolt of electricity arced towards me, uncontrolled and not as strong as it looked. Flipping my hand, a wall of my own electricity absorbed the attack, sending it back towards both of them. The girls jumped to either side, Kylie further away than her friend.
“I’m guessing you did not expect me to come here?” I asked, willing her to be dragged closer by her ankles. She kicked at the snow, clawed at it to no avail. The other girl tried to send another charge, but I set her off balance with a stream of flames from my left hand. She shrieked, rushing behind a tree. This felt too easy. Kylie was at my feet in seconds, eyes glaring up at me as I slowly lifted her up.
“I thought you died in the attack on your base,” She muttered out. I felt my knife slowly lifting out its sheath while she spoke. For her benefit, I let it happen until she had it pointing at my right eye. Laughing, I fisted my hand, making it crumple into a ball before tightening the band around her right ankle. She screamed, throwing her head back. It was not as fun as I thought it would be but hey, I was playing the villain.
“Amy, help!” The green-haired girl didn’t move from behind her tree. The only reason I knew she was still there was that her shoe stuck out. Turning my gaze on Kylie, I bent down just as Amy shot out from behind her tree, knocking me off my feet with a larger, more powerful bolt of electricity. Steam rose up from my jacket.
“Well done, but I can do better.” Slowly sitting up, I began charging up another attack. Kylie tried to attack this time, using the metal bands to sharpen at her wrists and send them towards me. Damascus steel. I couldn’t just crumble it but I could deflect it. Doing so, I missed out Amy’s attack but I didn’t have to worry. Both attacks collided, sending electricity running down Kylie’s steel and electrocute her. Amy watched helplessly. That was one girl out of commission.
“You want to continue?” Amy shook her head vigorously. “You have a healer?”
“Well then, let’s help her back.”
Stumbling our way back to the clearing, it seemed like everyone was coming in drips-and-drabs, meeting in the middle where Echo and another boy worked over two forms in the snow. As we came closer, I saw one was Axel. He had a wound in his torso but the pain obviously was not enough to stop him from glaring and grumbling at a sheepish looking Murphy.
“What happened?” Placing Kylie on the floor, I came to stand over Axel. Echo glanced up, hands stained with Axel’s blood. He nodded, giving me a soft smile before looking back down.
“In my defence, I did not take in the possibility that a bullet would ricochet off Tango and hit him,” Kingston explained, rubbing the back of his neck, side-glancing Tango who rolled his eyes.
“That didn’t stop him from stabbing me!” Axel shouted, bristling as Echo helped him up. “Now I’m cold and throbbing all over. Alpha, please warm me up.”
Chuckling, I glanced at Amy who watched over Kylie, her hand on her cheek and stomach as the healer boy worked before allowing heat to radiate off me. Both Echo and Axel moved closer.
“Technically, I was not aiming for you,” Murphy admitted, motioning his chin to a boy Amy had called over. He was tall, dark-skinned and baby-faced but his rich, brown eyes showed how older he had aged since the Pulse. When he saw us watching, he immediately looked down with a sulky face.
“S-sorry,” He mumbled, clasping his hands in front of him. Axel looked him up and down with a small smile.
“It’s okay, this type of thing happens once in a while with my team. On the other hand, those duplicates of yours, have you tried giving them weapons to play with?”
“I-I have never tried.”
“We should sometime.”
Those who were around us were in dumbstruck silence. I wanted to laugh. It was just like Axel to bounce back like this after being shot and stabbed, brushing it off with a shrug and smile.
“Wait, that guy’s bulletproof?” A young Gifted exclaimed. “How, he’s not even in our age bracket.”
“I question it too, but I relish in giving the doctors a headache,” Tango answered, smirking. “Does anyone else have some sort of invincibility?”
“M-my skin hardens when it comes into contact with sharp objects,” One girl said nervously. Tango gave her an encouraging smile.
“I’m fire-resistant,” A boy behind me pitched in, eyeing the steam coming off me. Another boy, who held his side, added that he too was invincible to a majority of things, but only could hold out for a couple of minutes at a time.
“I got a plan if you Gifted are willing to work with us,” Kingston began, “We could split into groups of commonly powered kids, work on those specific powers and see what ones would work best with each other. From there, we soldiers help with self-defence in case something happened to prevent you from using your gifts. It would be like endurance training if you think about it.”
“Obviously, this would be with your consent and would be set out so it didn’t get in the way of your already set chores. We don’t need answers now, so please, sleep on it,” Neo added. His left cheek was showing a bruise where someone must have got a punch in, though it did not stop a kind smile from showing. “We can meet here tomorrow and from there see what to do.”
“You heard them; it is now your turn to think. As some boring adults would say, the ball is in your court. For now, everyone can go do their afternoon chores,” Rylan shouted, receiving some groans as a protest but still, everyone started walking away. He then turned to us. “Lunch will be made soon if any of you would like to help, please do. Secondly, Tango I’d like to talk to you in private.”
Tango nodded and followed Rylan, talking in hushed tones. Rooi and Fox turned to Rook for directions to the canteen which she gave readily. Axel snorted, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You guys wanna practice?” He smirked mischievously. Taylor rolled his eyes, grabbing him around the neck and pulling him away from me and Echo.
“You just got stabbed, shot and healed. You, my friend, need rest.” Axel made a face but ended up slumping back into Taylor. “Good boy. Now, how are we even supposed to teach these Gifted when they’re going to see this meaningless since well, we don’t exactly have things to throw at them to help.”
“We start by showing them that having gifts doesn’t make them invulnerable.”