Chapter 53: Infiltration
AS the gunshot sounded, Agathe slammed her head into Jesse’s chin, then spun and kneed Reilly between the legs. She broke loose from them outside the door and sprinted for the town square.
“Son of a…” I let go of Abby and we both ran out the door just after Joseph and Kat.
Down the hall, Jesse pushed off with a hard burst of speed and slammed Agathe against the wall. He locked up her arms by the time Reilly reached them. They got her to her feet and headed into the town square to loop around to the Old City.
Abby and I made it to the end of the hall. As we rounded the corner, Abby crashed into Harlan.
“Sorry!” She regained her balance, then froze, her eyes wide enough to give a deer in headlights a run for his money. “Dad?”
“Abby?” Harlan teared up.
“How?” She looked back at me.
I gave a sheepish shrug.
Abby shook her head, mouth agape, an uncertain look in her eyes like she didn’t know what to do.
Another gunshot rang out from the town square, turning all our heads.
Rawlins and Chen stood near the East Passage. Two women lay at their feet, gasping for air, blood running from their chests. I hadn’t met everyone in the city, and I didn’t even know the ladies’ names. Just two victims of a screwed up game that played out right in front of us. A game that might end us all.
Rawlins holstered a silver pistol beneath his coat.
Joseph and Kat stopped at the top of the East Bridge. Abby, Harlan, and I closed in on them. Behind us, from the South Passage, came Artie and Brother Lawrence. Their mutual strangeness must’ve drawn them together. They chatted spiritedly as if nothing were happening. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised.
“Well, well, Mr. Sharp. In the wrong place at the wrong time again.” Rawlins looked confused. At Chen’s rear, Hunters fanned out—a lot of them. “I’m surprised to see you here. I thought Agathe got you exiled.” His face returned to its cool stare with a hint of amusement.
“Well…” I put on a mocking tone. “Since I’m not intellectually challenged like some people”—I blatantly stared at Rawlins—”I found the city in a few of days. How long did it take you? Thirty years?” I gave him my best patronizing smile.
“Clever.” Rawlins snorted a laugh. “I like that.” He looked to Joseph. “The twins work well together, don’t you think? Of course, Lena’s no serial killer like Agathe, but aren’t Agathe’s games fun? No need to waste a good serial killer in prison when we can put her talents to use, right?”
What kind of sick person used serial killers to murder people?
When Joseph gave no reasons, what little amusement there was in Rawlins’ eyes vanished. “I suggest you give up now so this doesn’t get,” he paused as he glanced down at the dead bodies, then looked back to Joseph, “messy.”
There was plenty of anger and fear to pull from to activate my power, but when it manifested, I could barely feel it. I tried to push out a telekinetic pulse from my palms hanging at my sides. It barely came out of me. My powers were present like Brother Lawrence had said, but they may as well not have been there at all. I’d be useless in this fight.
“Hand over Agathe,” Rawlins said.
“Why should we?” Joseph closed in on the Hunters, everyone following behind.
“Because I have something you want.” Rawlins nodded to someone down the East Passage.
Asa walked from the passage, a Hunter holding a gun at her back. A thick, silver, Egyptian-style necklace wrapped tightly at the base of her neck. She hadn’t been wearing it before. It must be a collar, though it looked very different than the one I’d seen on the Hunter in Denver.
It was shocking because it was so stylish, like she wanted to be wearing it. That was how they passed off the collars in public when women wore them. It was ironically sick.
Harlan’s hands balled into fists, heat emanating from them. Joseph scowled at Rawlins, then nodded back at Reilly and Jesse. They came forward, holding Agathe.
I looked for Brother Lawrence and Artie. They were at the beach by the waterfall. Artie rolled Brother Lawrence’s dice. The monk gave an approving look as the dice came to rest. He nodded to Artie, then vanished into hundreds of curls of black smoke. What were they up to?
I looked back to the Hunter moving Asa toward us and Jesse and Reilly taking Agathe to meet them.
Brother Lawrence materialized right next to me, nearly giving me a heart attack. “Brother, Rawlins plans to capture all of you and seize the city. You may want to do something about that.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” I said. “Any suggestions?”
“Acceptance, brother,” he said. “There is great power in it.”
How did that have anything to do with this?
“Well, what do we have here?” Rawlins eyed the monk and gestured for the Hunter holding Asa to stop. “That’s quite an impressive power you have.”
Jesse and Reilly stopped moving forward with Agathe.
Brother Lawrence turned to Rawlins. “Why thank you, but I have no powers.”
“Well, then your lack of powers is quite impressive,” Rawlins said. “Would you ever consider working for the government?”
“Oh, dear…” Brother Lawrence shook his head. “I don’t imagine so. I didn’t care for it the first time.”
I gave the monk a sideways look. “You used to work for the government?”
Brother Lawrence turned with his cheery smile and innocent eyes. “I wasn’t always a monk, you know?”
“Well, I must admit, having someone here who teleports makes me a little nervous unless he’s playing for my team.” Rawlins nodded to the Hunter nearest him who had a gun trained on the monk.
I flinched as a shot rang out, reverberating off the stone walls and painted sky. Brother Lawrence vanished and reappeared on my other side.
Rawlins’ eyebrows shot up.
“No need to be nervous, sir.” Brother Lawrence nodded at Chen. “You have him.”
Rawlins looked to Chen. “Do you know him?”
Chen’s jaws flared, eyebrows angling in with hatred.
“Oh, yes.” Brother Lawrence smiled warmly. “It’s good to see you, brother.”
I leaned in and whispered, “He’s a monk, too?”
“No, he’s my brother.”
“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but you’re Caucasian,” I said.
“I was raised by a Chinese father. A former Shaolin monk. Chen was his son, and I was…adopted, you could say.”
“He’s your stepbrother?”
“Yes, that’s it.” The monk nodded. “He’s quite the fighter.”
“I know,” I whispered. “I’ve fought him before. He beat up Abby pretty badly in her spirit form.”
“Oh, yes,” the monk said. “Chen is well versed in the spirit realm.” He looked up as if listening to something. “The Light says Rawlins plans to shoot Asa once we release Agathe. We should probably do something.”
“Like what?” I said.
Brother Lawrence looked toward the ceiling and whispered, “May we do violence?”
There was silence for a moment.
Rawlins frowned at Brother Lawrence, then leaned over to Chen. “What’s he doing?”
Chen responded with narrowing eyes. He was quite the talker.
Rawlins looked at me. “Excuse me, what is he doing?”
I let a sly smile stretch across my face just to make Rawlins nervous.
“Oh, wonderful news!” Brother Lawrence’s voice was still a whisper. “The Light says we may do violence to these men.”
I kept the smile but had no idea what was about to happen. I leaned toward the monk again. “That was sort of the plan, but how are we supposed to do that while they have Asa?”
Asa got a look in her eyes that said she was about to do something stupid. Something that would probably get her killed.
“Oh, crap,” I said. “Do something. Quick.”
“Of course.” Brother Lawrence grabbed me.
The universe yanked me and the monk into a wormhole. Streaks of light shot by. We appeared right behind the Hunter holding Asa.
Brother Lawrence wrapped an arm around the man’s neck and vanished with him. Seconds later, the man came falling from above us and plummeted into two other Hunters, taking them to the ground.
Brother Lawrence held what looked like the Hunter’s collar remote. He punched a button, and Asa’s collar fell from her neck.
Asa grabbed the Hunter beside her and broke his arm, then threw him to the ground.
I thrust a foot into the Hunter behind me, then slammed an elbow into the one on his left. Spinning, I used the man as a body shield.
Rawlins pulled a gun and shot the human shield I had, his own man, square in the head. A wicked smile stretched across his face. Had madness taken him, too? Who would do such a thing?
A gunman fired just as I spun to face him. I kicked the dead Hunter into the gunman.
Brother Lawrence materialized close by and kicked a Hunter whose gun was trained on me. The Hunter skidded across the stone floor. The little monk packed some power.
At least three barrels pointed at me now, but they abruptly slanted upward, firing off several unaimed shots. The Hunters holding them looked confused. They were focused on something behind me. I looked back to see Asa levitating about a foot off the ground, hands out from her sides, palms up with angry, curled fingers, and a frightful look of fury in her eyes. A moment later, the Hunters were lifted off the ground by their weapons. Some managed to snake their way out of their weapon’s strap and drop back to the ground.
“Isn’t that interesting,” Brother Lawrence said, then a Hunter kicked him in the stomach. “Wonderful!” The monk grabbed the next kick and pushed the Hunter’s leg up and back toward him, toppling him to the ground.
I smashed my foot into a Hunter’s chest, throwing him backward.
Someone kicked me hard in the back, and I flew a good twenty feet through the air. As I got my legs under me, I turned to see Agathe coming my direction with a scowl.
“We have unfinished business,” she said.
As she approached, she threw a punch, and I let it go by, pulling off of it and flipping her to the ground. If her punches couldn’t hit me, then her super-strength didn’t matter. I kicked her in the head, but it hardly fazed her. She rolled away, back onto her feet.
Just then, something invisible hit her hard in the face.
Hopefully, Abby could keep Agathe busy in her spirit form. I turned my attention toward where Rawlins and Chen were a few moments before. Murph was throwing a punch when Chen hit him hard in the stomach. That was a mistake. I and the other citizens in the general vicinity jumped back just as Murph let loose with a monster burp. The Hunters all around him began to cough and choke. They doubled over as tears sprang from their eyes. Such a gross power.
Chen wasn’t fazed by the tear gas mixture of the belch. He kicked Murph in the leg, bringing him down then kneed him in the face, sending Murph to the ground.
Then Chen turned his gaze toward me but stared right through me to Agathe.
No, not Agathe. He’d found Abby.
He came at me first. As I tried to throw a punch, he kicked my fist away and spun, catching me with another kick to the stomach. I hit the ground hard. He didn’t seem to have any powers, but his kicks felt like he did.
He continued toward Abby and snatched her invisible body out of thin air. I pulled myself from the ground, ran, and with a flying leap, kicked him in the back. He hardly budged. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy with a Tai Chi master…at least, at this point, I was pretty sure that’s what he was.
He held an invisible Abby high in the air, then slammed her to the ground.
Agathe came around Chen after me. I dodged four punches before I managed to kick her in the side. She just smiled, as if I’d merely tickled her. Then she landed a side kick that sent me through the air probably thirty feet before I hit the grass in the town square and slid to a stop.
Just to my right, a streak of brown launched off the bridge toward the pack of Hunters. Euan. He pulled two short wakizashis from underneath the back of his trench coat then cut through the Hunters quicker than anything I’d witnessed before. As he shot out of the other side of the pack of Hunters, he threw both blades backward and took down the last two Hunters. About twelve Hunters fell to their knees and turned over on their sides, dead or incapacitated.
Scarlett appeared, pulling two knives from her brown leather bracers, and ripped through a pack of Hunters rushing through the East Passage. I’d never asked what her power was, but if I had to guess, I’d say grace. She flowed through the men as if she were dancing, everything choreographed to perfection, as if she’d planned each second flawlessly. The only way they’d take her down would be to surprise her from behind.
Asa was nearby, tearing through Hunters. Just as one was about to grab her, Kat materialized out of thin air, slamming into the Hunter, then disappeared with him before they hit the ground. She appeared a moment later with the now-unconscious Hunter and dropped him.
Asa winced as Kat vanished again, probably fearing a nuclear blast. Kat was right—it was kind of funny.
Scarlett shot through the air, sailing over me and slammed to the ground. She slid several feet, but not one Hunter had touched her.
Merek came through the East Passage leading another wave of Hunters. I rose to my feet, mustering as much energy as possible, and ran toward the Telekinetic. I threw a punch at the man, but what I hit wasn’t his face. It was a protective barrier like the one I might have used at that moment if I’d had my powers.
Merek smiled. “No witnesses to protect you now, boy.” He struck me in the head with incredible force, like being hit by a car, and I slammed to the ground. As I pushed myself up, his foot crashed hard into my ribs, sending me thirty feet through the air. Had the madness taken him like it had Agathe? Had the Hunters discovered how to control the madness to make them more powerful?
Merek was on me again in no time. He raised a hand, and a curious sound came from behind. I looked back to see boards with nails pulling from one of the wooden bridges over the river. They hung in the air for a split second, then barreled toward me.
From the right, a Hunter crashed into Merek, taking him to the ground. The boards fell right before they hit me, rolling to a stop in the grass. The Hunter had saved my life.
He wrapped an arm around Merek’s head, and the color drained from his face. Merek was being…frozen. The boards leapt from the ground and rushed toward the Hunter. Several smashed and shattered over his back and helmet, tearing its strap, knocking it off. Some of the planks with nails stuck to him, burying deep into his back and sides.
The Hunter fell to the side.
I gasped as I saw his face.
It was Dad.