Chapter 21: Powers
ABBY and I walked into Training Room One to get to the arena between the two training rooms.
I looked at her, wondering how this worked. “So how’s your mom gonna figure out what my power is?”
“She’ll start with breathing.”
“Sounds a little simplistic,” I said.
“Not as simple as you’d think.” She smiled. “Breathing puts the body in the different states of emotion. Fast breathing causes the body to be in a fight or flight state, even if you don’t truly feel you’re in that state. Slow breathing puts the body in a calm, peaceful state. Very slow breathing can put you into a hypnotic or sleep state.”
A cracking sound came from the arena.
Abby looked at me, confused, then walked toward the arena door. “Did Mom beat us here?”
She opened the door and a training dummy exploded against the wall just inside. Abby threw her arm up to shield herself from the splintering wood.
Euan was inside the room moving so fast I could hardly keep track. He thrashed through training dummies with incredible speed, utterly destroying them with punches, kicks, or two short swords. A red-haired woman ran around the perimeter of the room, two large knives in hand.
Euan reached a hand into his jacket pocket, then spun. He was about to throw something.
“Get back!” yelled Abby.
I grabbed her, shielding her with my body.
Metal shards flew every direction. Hundreds of pings sounded off as the shrapnel assaulted the stone wall. Strangely, none pierced my back. A few final clinks, and everything fell silent.
I let go of Abby. “You okay?”
She sighed as she nodded. “Thank you.”
I turned to see what exactly had happened. No metal pieces lay where we stood but covered the floor everywhere else. Euan had managed to throw in every direction except ours. He’d missed the red-haired woman, too.
Euan said nothing. He didn’t have to. The piercing look in his eyes and his angry breath had me bracing for an attack.
“Sorry to barge in on you.” Abby was far more civil than I would’ve been. “Don’t forget to lock the door next time.”
Euan let out another boiling breath and went out the opposing door without a word. The red-haired woman’s lip slanted up at the side, then she turned to follow Euan.
“What’s with him?” I said.
“Don’t take it personally. He was angry before we walked in.”
“What was he doing?”
I grimaced. “What do you mean?”
“Remember how I told you everyone here works out to drain off their aggression?” she said. “If people with powers don’t work off the anger, it turns into rage, and their powers can explode out of them.”
“So, when someone gets angry, they come in here and destroy stuff?”
“Only if they get enraged,” she said. “Usually, our training and workouts bleed off a lot of anger. But you’d be surprised how often people don’t know they’re stuffing anger. It’s not so difficult for rage to sneak up on them.”
“Must get expensive.”
“Yeah.” Abby smiled. “But what you just saw wasn’t typical. No one uses their powers to expend rage. No one except Euan. It’s extremely dangerous. If your kind gets enraged and lets their powers loose, they could go mad and kill everyone around them.”
I frowned. “Why does he do it then?”
“Euan’s not like the rest of us. When we fight Hunters, we try not to kill them. Euan doesn’t care, though. He hates them. He tries to kill as many as he can, and he’s good at it. Some call him the Death Dealer.”
“Why don’t you kill them?”
“Because it does something to a person. Something dark.” She leaned against the doorway, looking down. “No one wants to carry those emotions around and risk going mad.”
I nodded with realization. “What’s Euan’s power?”
“Pure, raw speed.” Abby knelt and picked up a piece of shrapnel, playing with it in her hand. “He can move faster than anyone else here. These metal pieces he threw would’ve gone right through you like bullets.”
I frowned at that. “Then how did he not tear us to shreds?”
“He tracks visually first and releases the pieces afterward. He targets exactly where every piece will hit.”
“Whoa.” I walked through the debris at the edge of the room to the clean floor at the center. “Why was the redheaded chick with him?”
“The redhead—Scarlett—she’s Scottish like Euan so they get along well. Tend to keep to themselves a lot. She helps him with training since he doesn’t train with the rest of us most of the time.”
“Huh. I’m surprised he hasn’t killed her yet.”
“Nah, he’s too controlled for that.”
“Well, I still don’t understand how going crazy in the arena helps his fighting, especially with Scarlett chancing death.”
“Powers are stronger when someone’s enraged. Euan doesn’t talk about it, but we think he’s trying to control his powers at their limit without going insane.” Abby pulled away from the door frame and came to meet me in the middle of the room. “He’s probably purposely storing up anger until it turns to rage, then coming in here to do hard bursts of energy. Like I said, he wants to kill as many Hunters as possible, and he’ll stop at nothing to do it.”
“Won’t he age himself?”
“So far, no,” she said. “We’re not sure how he pulls it off. He knows way more about powers than he lets on.”
“And Joseph isn’t scared he’ll go mad doing this and kill everyone?”
“I really don’t think he’s gonna go mad. He’s the most controlled person here.”
I wasn’t sure I really wanted to hear the answer to my next question, but I asked it anyway. “Has anyone gone mad recently?”
“No, not for a long time. Not since we honed our training for emotion control.”
I nodded, feeling a little better about training.
Asa came through the door to see the mayhem everywhere. “What did you two do in here?”
Abby put her hands up. “Not us. This is all Euan and Scarlett.”
“Ah, that makes more sense.” Asa moved a hand and all of the metal shavings pulled into the center of the room and clung to one another in a neat ball. It then floated off the ground, out the door, and fell apart onto the mat below. “At least he didn’t use aluminum this time.” She gestured to Abby. “Can you grab a broom, dear, and take care of that?”
Great. We’d just inherited Euan’s mess.
Asa sat in front of me in what she called a lotus position, and I mimicked her pose. She breathed slow and deep with her eyes closed, having me do the same. I never expected such a thing from her, but this was how she’d chosen to start testing my power.
“Release your breath slowly for twenty seconds.” The air passed from her lips with the subtlest of whispers. “Are you sufficiently calmed now?”
“How’s the chatter in your head? Quiet?”
I nodded again.
“Open your eyes.”
Her eyes stared into mine as they opened. The lighting wasn’t bright in the large arena between the training rooms, its stone walls scarred by years of brutal fights and ability testing, I assumed.
She tilted her head forward ever so slightly, her eyes fixed on mine. “You are the most insufferable idiot I’ve ever laid eyes on. Not using your powers all of this time. It’s sheer stupidity. You could’ve killed hundreds of people if you’d discharged. What were you thinking, child?”
I grimaced, wondering if she was for real or if this was to stoke my anger. Probably the latter. “It won’t work. I know what you’re doing.”
She shrugged. “Well, it was worth a try. You’re not as gullible as some. Just because we’re hyperintelligent doesn’t mean we can always spot a ruse.” She adjusted her feet. “Okay, we’ll use the same tactic as in training. Think of an extremely upsetting memory. Let’s bring out the beast.”
I closed my eyes again, searching for the most painful memory closest to the surface. It didn’t take long before a disturbing instance from my past lodged itself squarely in my gut, and the dark roots of power seeped from my bones.
“Good.” She drew out the word. “Now, sink into the feeling as best you can, but catch yourself before you lose control of it. Hold the energy at bay.”
As it slithered through my muscles, it struck at my core, bringing energy pushing out of me. I felt the ground around me as it snaked across the surface, searching for cracks or anything else it could corrupt. As it touched Asa, she snorted, and the sound of clothes sliding against stone sounded a few feet from me.
“Keep hold of it, child. Visualize it.”
I saw it like a bubble in my mind, covering me like a shield.
“Now, stop it from going any farther.”
I tried to mediate the anger coursing through me, but it wasn’t working. My breathing slowed and became deep, but the anger persisted. I opened my eyes. “I can’t.” My breathing sped up.
“What?” Her eyes were a little wider than before.
“I can’t stop it from spreading.”
It touched her again, forcing her back.
“Try harder,” she said, trying to keep a calm exterior, but her words defied it. She backed toward the door.
“I can’t.” My limbs began to shake. I couldn’t hold it much longer.
She cursed and ran for the door, then jerked at the handle. It wouldn’t release the lock. Asa looked back at me. “Hold it!” She yanked at it again.
I pushed the memory from my mind, but my father kept stepping right back in, kept looking at me like a freak, like there was something wrong with me. “I’m trying,”
“Try harder!” She put her hand to the lock, trying to pick it with her powers. A frenzy of tiny little ticks sounded off inside. It was taking too long.
I strained a grunt, tensing my body, trying to hold the coming explosion of energy. Oh god, I was going to kill her.
She looked back, panic in her eyes, then turned back to the door. A god-awful growl escaped her lips as the metal handle mechanism twisted violently, bending in on itself.
The door released and Asa shot out, ducking behind the wall just as I lost hold of the energy. All was silent for a split second as the energy backlashed into me, then every ounce of it exploded out of my core.
The door shot out, straining against its hinges, slamming against the stone. Electricity sizzled and popped as it climbed the walls, then crackled out. Pressure pushed back in on me against the walls of the circular chamber but seeped at the edges where the two doors released it. Had I been in a smaller room with no doors, the pressure might’ve crushed me.
Once everything fell silent again, Asa peeked back in the door. “Are you okay, child?”
My chest heaved, body still shaking. I nodded, taking in large gulps of air. Her method proved to be a little too effective. “Sorry.”
She stepped back in the door with a dismissive hand raised. “Not your fault. We’ll have to work on control.” A smile inclined the edges of her lips. “And we may need a bigger room.”