The canteen, which had been the building we had risen in front of, was crazy. The atmosphere was a mix between that of a buzzing cafeteria and cosy family set up before dinner. A fire burned in a carved fireplace, a stone slab resting close by to act as a Dutch oven.
Everyone sat at stone benches, cushions tied to their surfaces to make it more comfortable. The tables were raised directly from the ground, spaces underneath allowing for comfortable leg space thanks to the geokinetics work. Everything else was like a bohemian mix of made and scavenged decorations, hanging lights and cutlery. What made it feel like home were the scents of baking bread and sizzling spiced meats. The chatter of Gifted around us reminded me of the military base.
“Is it just me or am I deluded into thinking that this could become home?” Cat asked as she plopped down next to me. She was bruised, choppy pink hair in a messier state than early this morning and clothing damp from snow.
“What happened to you?” Kingston asked, eyeing her purpling cheek.
“There’s another telekinetic.” Her eyes darted to her lap as she fiddled with her hands. “I kinda got the jump on him and slammed him into a tree before he...showed his strength.”
“You going to point him out or not?” Neo pushed, leaning on his elbows, gazing around the room as if the guy would have a giant spotlight over his head.
Cat nervously glanced up, pointing a shaking finger at a tall boy at the door. He was handsome with chiselled features and piercing blue eyes. However, he had nothing on Damian or Echo. He was in or trying to look like it, conversation with a pretty girl. She was obviously flirting with him as she batted her eyelashes at him and tugged at her hair.
“Did he tell you his name?” Taylor asked, taking a quick glance. Cat shook her head, seeming to deflate next to me.
“You want me to find out for you?” I prompted, nonchalantly picking out pine needles from her hair and clothes. She perked up at that. Rolling my eyes, I got up and made my way to the door.
“Come on, Claude, it’ll just be me in the bunker and it gets pretty lonely and cold,” The girl whined, pulling her tangled hair over her shoulder, squishing her breasts with her inner arms to give him a view of her cleavage.
Snorting, I tucked my hands into my jacket as I slowed my pace. Claude saw me before the girl did, his telekinetic pull coming around my waist as if asking me to help involuntarily. Shaking my head, I carried on forward.
“Sorry if I’m interrupting,” I began, touching his arm and glancing at the girl. “But I would like to talk to him.”
The girl glared pale blue eyes at me before turning them on Claude with a comical pleading expression. He shrugged, digging into his pocket and producing a box of cigarettes before slipping out the door. The girl huffed, storming off. Teenage lust was honestly something else. With that thought, I walked back into the freezing cold of the outside.
“Could you?” Claude lifted a cigarette to his lips. Raising an eyebrow, I let a small flame come to life on my middle finger before lighting the end of his cigarette. Claude nodded thanks with tight lips as he took a long draw.
“So, you know-” Smoke poured out of his mouth. “I’m not into that kinda thing.”
“What thing?” He looked me up and down as he took another draw before expelling smoke through his nose.
“The gay thing,” He said boredly. “And I’m not into having sex with just any random person, they have to be mine.”
“Noted. Though, I only came out here to get your name for a friend,” I replied, yawning. “Plus, I already have a boyfriend and ex who look a hundred times better than you. Not all of us gays want what you have.”
“Noted.” He took one last draw before throwing the remnants of his cigarette in the snow and glanced at me. “Anything else?”
“Nope.” I left him, going back to sitting next to Echo in the warmth of the canteen. Food was served already, everyone scoffing it down.
“Did you find out?” Cat asked, a blush forming on her cheeks. Smiling, I told her, keeping my thoughts on him to myself for the time being. Magnolia had only joined us then with Missile in her arms. Only some people noticed them due to the main hunger of everyone else.
“I finally got the whole place clean!” Magnolia exclaimed, sitting down next to Murphy. Her smile dropped when she took in our sorry state. “What happened to you?”
“Bonding,” Tango stated, rubbing his chest. He had been awfully silent, most likely taking in everything that happened this morning.
“What type of- You know what, you boys and your testosterone, honestly. Even the girls.” Magnolia rolled her eyes before giving Missile a piece of her bread. He happily sat on the table, munching on his snack.
“When we are done here, I would like us all to speak in private at the cabin,” Tango muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “Maggy, Rook wanted to talk to you as well.”
“No rest for the wicked, I see,” Magnolia sighed, scratching Missile between his fluffy ears.
Magnolia had lit a fire in the mantle place before she had come to the canteen, warming up the inside of the cabin with a comforting crackle of the flames. Though, I was probably the only one who took notice as Tango had us all sitting around the dining table.
“I suppose I should start,” Tango began, cracking his knuckles. “Alpha has been contacted by Damian and I have spoken to him this morning. He doesn’t bring good news.”
“Why would you believe him? He has no right to interfere now after driving us away from our home,” Echo growled, resting his hand on my knee. I laced our fingers, feeling the residue of Damian still in my mind and a tinge of guilt at my crying over his broken state. He deserved it, didn’t he?
“He’s been taken to an Evolved underground base. They have collared him, beaten and starved him along with an unknown number of other Gifted,” I explained, trying to leave out all emotion in my voice. “They don’t have long.”
“Did you find which harbour they were being kept at?” Murphy asked, catching everyone’s attention and earning me a hurt-filled glance from Echo.
“He confirmed it as the Seattle harbour this morning,” Tango stated. “I have already given Rylan a simple brief since we will most likely need the power backing us. Those guards would be rightfully kitted to the teeth with weapons.”
“Echo’s right, why should we run to this guy’s rescue? He hurt you and took away our base,” Cat spat. Irritation bubbled up from my chest, catching me by surprise. Sighing, I leaned back in my chair and let go of Echo’s hand. It didn’t feel right holding it when the next words would be like acid for him.
“I lived with the guy for six months, yes, he hurt me but it was not every day and I’m not explaining why I trust him because I don’t. However, Damian has a limit to his lying and scheming as well as how far he would allow his body to diminish. His reactions to his surroundings proved that he is scared and that doesn’t happen easily.” Rubbing my face, I felt my next words crawling up my throat slowly. “Damian does not realise it, but when he leaves your mind, whatever emotion he was feeling last before disconnecting is left like a residue. I can still feel his terror.”
“That explains that lingering fear,” Tango admitted, crossing his arms over his chest. “However, it does not change the subject. We need a plan to get into that base and soon. Neo, you need to be ready for a call at any minute. Alpha, you know what to do when Damian contacts you. The rest of us will be hands-on with this Gifted lot.”