Chapter 35: Disconnect
THE black SUVs would be on top of us soon. There wasn’t much time to escape. And with the energy Ian just spent saving us, he’d be left without powers for a few minutes until the pills neutralized the tranquilizer in his veins.
“Can you run?” I said.
“Don’t worry about me.” Ian waved a hand gesturing for us to go. “Just run. I’ll find you.”
“No.” Joseph scowled. “You won’t.”
“Just remember, I saved your life,” Ian said. “Get her out of here.”
Before I had a chance to think, Joseph threw me over his shoulder and took off as fast as he could.
“Put me down!” I yelled.
He kept running.
“Let go of me!” I wrestled against Joseph, but he had a death grip on me. Could I get away from him without revealing my powers? Did it even matter at this point?
I channeled my anger, triggering the dark sensation within. Strength flooded my muscles.
I punched Joseph’s side. He slowed for a second, letting out a growl of frustration. Joseph didn’t like secrets being kept from him.
He picked up speed again. I squirmed, trying to slow him down and break loose. He was too strong for me.
Behind us, Ian grew smaller and eventually vanished.
There was one hit that was sure to take Joseph down.
I braced myself. This was going to hurt.
I twisted around and hit him at the base of the skull. His body went limp.
We plummeted to the ground and hit hard. Probably 60 mph. Grass and dirt flew up around me as I rolled across the field. I threw my arms out to stop the roll, then grabbed at the ground, sinking my fingers in. As soon I stopped, I huffed, shook my head, then got to my feet and set out at a dead run.
As I headed toward Ian, I expected to run into Hunters chasing me and Joseph. Surprisingly, there were none. Had Joseph contacted them beforehand to come get Ian but leave us alone? Was Joseph the killer we’d been looking for all this time? I couldn’t imagine Joseph had been bought out by the Hunters, and I hardly had proof. There was nothing I could do about it at the moment, though. All I could do now is get back to Ian.
I spotted him in the distance, Hunters moving his direction, rifles trained on him. They yelled at him to get on his knees. Ian stood his ground, ready for the attack. The Hunters stopped a little ways from Ian as a man in a suit stepped forward, an Asian man at his side.
I slowed before I came to a stop beside Ian.
“Get out of here, Abby,” he said under his breath.
“I’m not leaving you,” I whispered.
The Hunter in the suit had a strong build, jet-black hair, and a knowing look in his dark brown eyes. We’d had run-ins with him before. He was a high-level operative in Denver. A director of sorts. His name was Rawlins.
The short-haired Asian with him didn’t wear sunglasses. He was probably in his forties, though it was hard to discern. He wore a traditional black kung fu jacket and pants right out of a Bruce Lee movie. He was shorter than Ian but broad shouldered. His steel expression said he wasn’t afraid to die.
Rawlins removed his sunglasses. “o, Ian. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Wish I could say the same.” Ian smirked.
“My name’s Rawlins and this is my associate Chen.”
“No last name, just Chen?”
“You do realize he’s a walking stereotype, right?” Ian said, referring to Chen. “If this were a movie or a novel, the author just totally phoned in his character.”
Rawlins frowned for a second, then his brow rose and he gestured at Chen. “Oh, you mean his clothes? I requested those. Makes him look like a badass.” He shrugged. “And he says he likes them.” He looked at Chen and spoke softer. “You like them, right?”
Rawlins looked back to me, palms turned up. “See?”
He had a point. In a suit, Chen would’ve been just another businessman on the street. But the kung-fu-suited man in front of us actually worried me.
Rawlins put on a friendly smile as if we were all good friends. “I head up the Denver division of Hunters, and I think we can help you out…keep you from being on the run.”
“How so?” Ian was stalling to give his powers time to recoup. The Hunters hadn’t caught on yet.
“We can employ you,” Rawlins said. “Give you a nice home. A good paycheck. Whatever you need.”
Ian smirked. “What’s the catch?”
Rawlins strode up to him, tucking his glasses into the inside pocket of his black suit jacket. “No catch.”
“And if I say no?”
“Don’t. Say. No.” The slow cadence of his words and their cold edge crawled up my spine.
“What else can you offer me?”
He raised an eyebrow, cocking his head. “You’ll have access to the latest technology to use while you work. We spare no expense.” Rawlins’ seemed like a slimy used car salesman. Well, a used car salesman from .
“You want me to hunt down people with powers?”
“Of course.” Rawlins’ short hair seemed unaffected by the light gusts of wind. Creepy.
“So, let me get this straight,” Ian said. “You want to give me my life in exchange for me killing others like me?”
“I didn’t say you had to kill them.” Rawlins’ lips peeled back in a defensive smile.
“But someone’s going to kill them if they don’t turn, right?”
“Maybe, but let’s not bicker over the details. I’m offering you your life, Ian. A better life than you have now.”
“By whose standards?”
Rawlins spread his hands. “By anyone’s standards, I’d imagine.”
“Sounds like you have a pretty skewed view of people’s standards.”
Rawlins looked at me. “We could make you the same deal.”
I gave him a flat stare. “No thanks.”
Rawlins had seen me before. He knew I’d been in Winter’s Edge for a long time and likely figured I couldn’t be bargained with. He turned back to Ian. “You did quite a number on my vehicles.”
“I can do it again if you like.” Ian flashed him sly smile.
Rawlins half-smiled, probably still unaware of Ian’s stalling.
“I’ve gotta say, I wasn’t too impressed with your agents back in Bennett. The Telekinetic and the one who froze trees. They couldn’t even catch a high school kid.” Ian shrugged. “What makes you think I’d want to work with your lackeys?”
Some of the Hunters’ faces grew angry.
Rawlins frowned. “One who froze trees? Interesting. I’m afraid that wasn’t one of ours.” He dropped the frown for an evil grin. “My agents let you go, but I think you’ll find they’re quite capable of containing you when there are no witnesses. We’ve taken the liberty of shutting down the freeway.”
“Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better,” Ian said.
“What, that we shut down the freeway?” He turned to Chen, putting on a show. “We did shut down the freeway, didn’t we?”
Rawlins looked back, feigning surprise. “Oh, you meant the part about my agents letting you go. Clever.” He let out a mocking huff. “It looks like we’re going to have to do this the hard way.”
“If you insist.” Ian spread his hands in resignation. “But aren’t you worried I’ll humiliate your men again?”
“I grow tired of your stalling.” He put his sunglasses back on as he and Chen turned to walk back toward their car. He nodded to his men with guns trained on Ian.
Cracks of quiet rifle fire sounded off, the distinct whisper of tranquilizer rounds. I flinched. Then my eyes went wide. Not a single round had hit me or Ian.
His powers were back.
“Aw,” Ian said. “What’s the matter? Do your little agents need some big-boy training to use those weapons properly?”
Rawlins stopped and turned around with a confused look on his face. “Hmmm. This may be more fun than I thought.” He cocked his head at Ian. “Switch to live rounds.”
The Hunters changed weapons with quick precision.
Gunfire sounded off again. Bullets impacted an invisible barrier in front of us. A speckled wall of flattened lead hung in mid-air before us as the gunfire ceased.
Then the bullets all reversed with blinding speed. Rawlins and Chen dove to the ground, narrowly escaping the onslaught of lead. The other Hunters took cover, but not quickly enough. Bullets impacted their body armor and ripped through clothing.
Flaming shrapnel all around us rose in the air, then launched toward the fleeing Hunters.
While everyone else scrambled back to cover, Chen rose to his feet and stalked toward Ian with a fierce look in his eyes. Shrapnel bounced off of him. I’d only seen Tai Chi masters do that. Neither blade nor bullet could pierce them.
Chen threw a flurry of punches and kicks at Ian. He was good, but Ian held his own, so I went for Rawlins.
He got to his feet and began barking orders at his men.
“Rawlins,” I yelled.
He turned and smiled. “Come to play, little girl?” He raised his pistol in my direction.
I kept walking toward him, locking him in a determined stare. “Let’s play.”
Rawlins’ trigger finger gave the slightest twitch and I leaned back and separated, casually walking out of my body. He fired a bullet that passed right through my spirit body’s head and just above my falling physical body’s head.
A wicked grin stretched across his face. He thought he’d killed me.
As he trained his gun on Ian, I clamped onto Rawlins’ wrist, pivoting myself to the side, then grasped the barrel of his gun and leveraged it from his grip. Having control of a person’s wrist meant having control of them. I flipped him to the ground, then kicked him hard in the stomach. He flew several feet through the air, impacted the side of an SUV, and fell to the ground.
“That’s for calling me ‘little girl.’“ I tossed his gun into a field nearby.
It had taken more strength to put him down that I thought it would. Or maybe I just hadn’t gotten used to my strength yet in this spirit form.
Hunters took cover behind the SUVs. I leapt over one and landed behind an unsuspecting Hunter. A hard kick to the chest sent him sliding across the road into another vehicle.
The man beside him took aim on Ian. I grabbed his submachine gun and wrapped its strap around his neck, then thrust my knee into his stomach and head. He flew backward, slamming into the Suburban’s door, unconscious. The other Hunters took notice, but couldn’t see me. So they fired in my general direction. I released my hold on solidity and the bullets passed right through me.
I jumped back over the SUV to find Rawlins on his feet. He should’ve been knocked out earlier. Had he been faking it earlier or did he just recover quickly? Or did he have powers? Whether he did or not didn’t matter—he couldn’t see me.
I kicked him in the back and he went down again.
Up ahead, Chen held Ian in the air by the throat. Maybe Ian couldn’t handle him alone. I rushed him and threw a hard kick into his back. He dropped Ian and collapsed to the ground. “Didn’t see that coming, did ya?”
Ian rose from the ground, realizing what had happened. “Abby, get out of here!”
As much as he wanted me to believe he could handle the Hunters alone, I knew he was uncertain. I wasn’t even certain the two of us could handle them together.
As Ian waved me away, a kick from below caught him in the stomach, sending him staggering backward. Chen rushed him and landed another hit to his chest. The guy really packed a punch. But so could I.
I landed a roundhouse kick to the back of Chen’s neck, taking him down again.
Ian jumped high overhead, landing in the middle of the Hunters behind me as I swung a foot toward Chen’s head to knock him out.
And he stopped it.
How was that possible? How could he see me?
Chen grabbed my foot in a death-grip. I released solidity, but nothing happened. He still had ahold of my foot. He flipped me backward. I landed hard on my back. Chen jumped and came down with a knee to my chest. Even though the pain was dulled in this form, I still felt his hits. No telling what they were doing to my physical body.
Chen grabbed me by the neck and lifted me from the ground. How could he possibly know where I was?
He spoke with a thick Chinese accent. “Poor little dreamwalker. You have walked your last dream.” He knew what I was. What else did he know?
An SUV door soared through the air and slammed into us, sending us both skidding across the pavement. My head and back throbbed, but I was thankful Ian had thrown it. He’d probably just saved my life.
Chen lay unconscious below me as I rose to my feet, then stumbled back to the road. My legs had no strength. I hoped to God this wasn’t a sign that my physical body was dying.
Ian yelled in my direction, unable to see exactly where I was. “Get out of here, Abby!”
He couldn’t tell that I was immobilized, which meant I was on my own. I’d just found a major drawback to my powers. Not to mention whatever Chen had done to me.
I began to crawl toward my body but stopped as I heard the distinct sound of a V12 roaring in the distance. The silver Aston Martin One-77 screamed in my direction. Tires squealed up ahead as it spun to the side and stopped right beside my physical body. The door snapped open and Kat climbed out and grabbed my body. She threw it through the driver’s side into the passenger seat.
I crawled faster, trying to reach my physical body before she left with it. I had to get back in it. What would happen if I were forever separated from my body?
Kat climbed into the car. “Abby. Wake up.”
I heard a quiet pop, then felt my cheek lightly burning. Had she just slapped me?
“Come on, Blondie. Wake up.”
I crawled as fast as I could.
Just as Kat hit the gas, I reached out to grab the fender and missed it by an inch. The car peeled out and shot back down the highway.
“No!” I yelled, then collapsed to the ground. Moments later, the car disappeared in the distance. At least she’d saved one of my bodies. Maybe that’d be enough.
Then I heard a cold, dark voice in my head. “Kat betrayed you.” It sent shivers up my spine. Where had it come from? The voice was so cold, and yet, part of me wanted to believe it.
The sound of the Aston Martin’s growling engine broke me out of the daze. It was faint—my physical body’s ears were hearing it from inside the car.
Kat cursed, unable to rouse me. “What did you do to yourself, Abby?”
The tires squealed and the engine began to wrap out again. She’d just taken a turn.
My spirit form didn’t want to move. Chen had effectively disabled me. Everything was spiraling out of control. I lay in the road, staring toward where I’d seen the Aston disappear, unable to look back and check on Ian.
Just then, something appeared in the distance. A car headed my direction. It was moving fast. As it came closer, I made out the distinct headlights of the Aston.
The car vanished for a second, then reappeared, and course corrected slightly. What was Kat doing? She was headed right for me, and it didn’t look like she intended to stop. Considering Chen was able to keep me in a solid state, I might still be solid right now. If Kat hit me, I’d die.
I did everything I could to hoist my body onto my arms and move out of her way. It was useless. She was about to mow me down at probably 170 mph. Why had she come back?
The silver Aston raged on, zeroing in on me.
I closed my eyes and waited for impact.