Chapter 56: Of Water & Fire
ABBY’S body jerked, and more blood marks appeared under her skin. I should have been worried, but I wasn’t. My mind was clear. Thoughts flowed more freely. Ideas sprang up more readily.
This power that flowed through me was amazing. It was like a vast, untapped well of power resting just beneath my flesh. Peaceful, but ready to strike at any moment.
Something within urged me to use it, to let it out to play. And I did.
I needed no negative emotions to kindle its wrath. There was no wrath to be kindled. I simply pushed out an extension of myself that flowed through the air. When I touched Rawlins’ threads of power holding Joseph and Asa, I smiled at him. With a strong push, the power sliced right through the invisible threads. Joseph and Asa dropped to the ground with a thud, and my energy returned to me. That must be why Rawlins didn’t like Telekinetics.
Joseph shook his head and pushed himself to his feet beside me. Asa stood and brushed off her clothes. She harrumphed under her breath.
“My patience wears thin, Mr. Sharp.” Rawlins arm around Abby’s neck tightened and he pushed the gun against her temple harder. “Surrender is really your only option unless you want to sacrifice the lives of all your friends.”
I wasn’t worried about his threats. If we died in the standoff, it would be preferable to living collared under the torture of Hunters. And from what I knew of the citizens of Winter’s Edge, they probably felt the same.
I sensed the river flowing behind the Hunters, the energy dancing in the matter that made up the water. It gave me an idea.
Silently, I thanked Emma for her mischievous character, then leaned over to Joseph. “When I say now, spark the water with everything you’ve got. Do it twice.”
He looked back at me with a frown.
“Just do it,” I said.
Joseph’s expression melted away, then he nodded. The air around me came alive with static. The hair on my arms rose. Immense power drew toward Joseph.
Brother Lawrence smiled at me, then turned his gaze toward Rawlins. “I’m sorry, sir, but she’s coming with me.”
The prompting to use my powers rose within me once more. Without moving a muscle, I reached out toward the river that lay behind the Hunters and lifted its water high into the air. Before, that much weight would’ve been impossible to lift and probably would’ve crushed me. But the greater power made it bearable.
Brother Lawrence vanished, then appeared in front of Rawlins, his hands attached to Abby. Rawlins’ eyes lit with rage. He squeezed the trigger just as the monk disappeared into black smoke with Abby’s body. Rawlins and the other Hunters were left exposed without a bargaining chip.
“If I can’t recruit or collar any of you,” Rawlins said in a dark tone, “then I guess I’ll have to kill you.”
I spread out the river water above the Hunters just as Rawlins gave the signal to fire.
“Now,” I shouted, then dropped the water.
As it fell, it separated into thousands of droplets, drenching the Hunters. Joseph’s hands lit up with brilliant arcs of light that discharged through the Hunters and through the droplets. They split into hydrogen and oxygen, instantly drying the Hunters clothes. The Hunters seized as electricity jumped through their bodies, then dissipated.
Joseph sent another bolt of electricity through the air. The hydrogen and oxygen erupted into flames, tearing through the Hunters. They screamed out in agony as the air all around them burned.
Asa’s jaw hung slack. “What did you just do, Joseph?”
“I set fire to the rain.” Joseph wore a wicked smile. I hoped what I’d asked him to do hadn’t pushed him over the edge into madness.
Dozens of footfalls sounded from the North Passage. Another group of Hunters.
“Split up in the Old City,” Joseph yelled. “We can pick them off a few at a time.”
I let out a small sigh of relief at Joseph’s return to normality. He hadn’t gone mad.
Everyone pushed through the outside edge of the Hunters who writhed on the ground, jackets flaming, faces burning. They all fled into the Old City except for Joseph, Jesse, and Reilly, who stayed to hold off the new wave of Hunters.
I sensed Abby somewhere on the other side of the Hunters, in the middle of the park, but I wasn’t sure where.
Brother Lawrence held her physical body. It jerked, and more stripes of blood appeared beneath her flesh.
“The hate—you released it?” the monk said.
“Then you released your dark one. He’s killing her.”
“Where is she?”
Brother Lawrence raised his eyebrows in bewilderment, shrugging.
Agathe was on the ground in the middle of the Hunters. She’d escaped the brunt of the flames, but she still didn’t look too well. I hurried to her. She backed away, fear in her eyes. Grabbing her arm, I hoisted her off the ground. If she could see different wavelengths of light, maybe she could see spirits, too. Maybe she could see Abby.
“Where is she?” I said, giving her a hard look.
Agathe showed mock confusion.
I twisted her hand backward, and she let out a shriek, falling to one knee. “Where’s Abby?”
“Fine!” Agathe pointed at the wooden bridge in the middle of the park. “She’s there.”
I released her arm, and Kat materialized. She kicked Agathe in the stomach. “That’s for trying to get away.” She kicked her in the face. “And that’s ’cause I really like kicking your a—”
“Kat!” Asa said.
Kat growled in frustration but cut her failed anger-management session short.
I grabbed Abby’s body from Brother Lawrence and hoisted her into my arms, heading toward the bridge. Her physical body just needed to touch her spirit body. I pushed energy out, separating the groaning Hunters strewn across my path.
When I reached the bridge, nothing happened. I moved around, trying to find Abby’s spirit body, but she’d moved. I yelled back to Agathe. “Where is she?”
Agathe smiled wickedly.
She wasn’t the only one who could see into other realms.
“Kat!” I yelled. “Where is she?”
Kat vanished, then reappeared a moment later, pointing across the town square to the stone bridge. “There!”
I left the wooden bridge, heading for the stone bridge to the east.
Abby’s body jerked hard.
Kat vanished and reappeared again, “No, wait.” She pointed across the town square to the waterfall on the opposite side. “She’s there now.”
The beast had tossed Abby all the way across the place. She’d never stay in one place long enough for me to get her body to her to reconnect with it.
Then I remembered how I’d gotten her back into her body before when she’d first discovered her powers. I’d given her CPR, but I’d always had a sneaking suspicion that CPR hadn’t been the real reason. There was something more. She’d said she felt something, but she was holding back at the time. It had happened twice during mouth-to-mouth.
I let her legs fall to the ground as I held her limp body in front of me, and I kissed her with everything I had in me. It wasn’t like before, just feeling with my lips. My energy—my emotions—surged through her, as if calling her to come back.
Abby’s body tensed, gulping air, and her eyes shot open. She gripped me in a hard, passionate embraced and kissed me back. When she broke away, she breathed heavy, fear in her eyes. “I thought I was gonna die.” Then she lost her strength and sunk into my arms.
She looked at me with fear in her eyes, but her expression softened.
Footsteps approached. Abby let go of me, and I turned to see Brother Lawrence.
“The dark one,” he said. “It’s still loose.”
“Well, you’re the monk.” I gave him a questioning stare. “Can’t you do something about it?”
He nodded. “Dark one, you are commanded to reveal yourself and stay where you are.”
A startling roar burst out on the bridge behind me. Only a few feet from us stood a beast twice my size, blacker than night, with glowing, blood-red eyes and the silhouetted head of a bull. When it breathed, air pushed past me and goosebumps sprang up on my arms. Normally, everything inside of me would tell me to run, but the unexplainable peace held strong.
Joseph, Jesse, and Reilly had been holding off the Hunters, but the beast’s roar gave them the frightful nudge they needed to retreat into the Old City with the others.
“He will not stay indefinitely,” the monk said.
Hunters pushed our direction. Rawlins didn’t seem deterred by the sudden appearance of the giant demon, which had me wondering if he knew what it was. Chen pushed past him toward us, seemingly unfazed by Joseph’s setting fire to the water. I let out a hard burst of energy toward them, and they slammed against the wall of the outer perimeter.
“Can you run?” I said.
Abby had a worried look in her eyes.
I grabbed the monk. “Can you heal her like you healed me?”
Brother Lawrence wore a smile as if he were excited at the prospect of taking on Abby’s pain. “Yes, brother, but not without consequence.”
He placed his hands on Abby, and she gasped, the pooled blood under her skin shrinking and disappearing. She braced herself against me for a moment, holding my arm, then relaxed, breathing heavy.
Brother Lawrence fell to the ground with blood pooling under his skin, just visible under the edge of his sleeve. “Oh, that’s wonderful!”
Abby’s eyes were wide. “Thank you.”
“Come on. We have to go.” I tried to help the monk up from the ground, but he shook his head, pulling back.
“Go, brother.” He looked back at the Hunters closing on us. “I’ll hold them off.”
Hunters raised their weapons, and I threw up a shield. Cracks of gunfire sounded off. Bullets impacted the invisible barrier. I pushed barrier, sending the bullets back at the Hunters, tearing through them.
Brother Lawrence threw up a barrier of his own. I frowned at him. He really wasn’t coming with us.
I nodded to him and grabbed Abby. We leaped over the river to avoid the bridge-bound beast swiping vicious claws in our direction.
“Is he gonna be okay?” Abby said as we hit the ground running.
“He’ll be fine.” I looked back at the monk. “He’s enjoying this.”
A moment later, we were in the South Passage. Artie’s head poked out of his shop. He gestured for us to come in. I lost sight of the Hunters as we rounded a corner and disappeared into his workshop.
“Artie, what are you doing?” Abby said. “We need to go.”
Artie had a huge grin on his face, gesturing for us to follow him. At the back of the workshop, he ducked behind a protective wall with a pane of dark glass. We hid there with him, then poked our heads up, watching the workshop.
“What are we doing?” I said.
Artie put a finger over his lips, quieting me.
Several boots stomped by the door, but no one entered. The sound dissipated. Just as I was about to ask if they were gone, the sound returned. A group of six men eased into the workshop, guns scanning the room.
Artie fiddled with something in his hand and his robo-pug, Killer, hopped up and jumped off a workbench onto the floor. The Hunters turned, guns trained on the tiny dog. He walked toward the men, tongue hanging out, panting gleefully. Then he stopped and cocked his head at them in the traditional confused-pug manner. They circled him.
“Would you like to snuggle?” The dog’s cute little child-like voice still creeped me out.
The men’s guns lowered a little. “Is that a talking pug?”
The Hunter frowned. “Yes, sir.”
Killer smiled at the men. “Do you know what I like to do?”
The men wore puzzled expressions.
“I like to cuddle and bark and play. And when I get really excited, I like to explode.”
The men jerked back in surprise.
“Guess what.” Killer’s eyes grew wide. “I’m really excited.”
“Out!” the men yelled.
The dog exploded into a frenzy of solid rubber balls that pelted the Hunters so hard they were knocked out cold.
Killer’s head lay on the ground not far from us, relatively unscathed. “That was fun.”
“Oh, that was fun.” Artie looked at us with wide eyes. “Now we can flank the rest of the Hunters.” The little man was strange but clever. He reminded me of the monk.
“Huh.” I gave Artie an approving nod. “Nice.”
Abby crossed the workshop with me and Artie on her heels.
She looked back as Artie knelt over Killer’s body parts. “Is he gonna be okay?”
Artie smiled. “The blast doesn’t hurt him. I’ll put him back together so he can guard the workshop. He’ll make sure these Hunters are taken care of if they wake up too soon.” He waved us on. “Go. Go.”
We peeked out the door. Clear.
Leaving the workshop, we stalked down the South Passage toward where the Hunters had gone, staying close to the wall.
Abby whispered, “There’s a weapons cache not far from here.”
Another couple of turns and we found the door. Abby keyed in a code. The door clicked and we slipped in. The room was small, but an impressive amount of weapons lined the walls.
Abby grabbed a belt with two holsters and threw it at me. “Here.”
She strapped another just like it to her waste, and I did the same. Two black Glock 18s caught her eye. A second later, she had them holstered. She pulled two more, looked them over, then handed them to me. “They’re set to full auto.”
I hesitated. “Hold up, you’ve trained with these?”
She frowned at me as if I should know. “Yeah, of course.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to kill Hunters?”
“That’s why I had training.”
“So you trained in how to not kill them with a gun?”
I shrugged. “Alright, that actually makes sense, but why didn’t I get any of this training?”
“You didn’t ask.”
“Really?” I said in disbelief.
“You said you were only gonna stay for a little while. That’s why Mom just focused on helping you control your powers.”
Dang, she had me on that one. “Okay, fine.” I slid the guns into the holsters at my waste. Maybe shooting on the farm and all those video games would finally pay off.
“Don’t fire continuously on full auto,” she said. “You’ll exhaust your clip in a few seconds. Just use burst fire, a few shots at a time.”
I nodded. Any good gamer new that.
“Keep away from headshots. We don’t need you going mad and killing us all.”
“Gee, that’s reassuring.”
She slipped two cylindrical grenades into her belt and two into mine. “These are incendiary. They’re not likely to kill Hunters with the armor they wear, but they’ll do some damage.”
I nodded again.
“You know your way around a lot of the Old City?”
Abby walked past me to the door. “You go right, I’ll go left. Wrap around and take out as many Hunters as you come across. Then double back and meet me at the graveyard.”
I pulled her close, her body pressing against mine, and kissed her. “I love you.”
Her face stayed serious. “I know.”
“Did you just Han Solo me?” I said with a frown.
She gave me a quirky smile.
“You did!” Usually, I was the one cracking jokes at times like that. She’d caught me completely off guard.
Quickly, she gave me one last kiss. “Be careful.”
I grinned. “Well, that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?”
Abby’s lip twisted up at the corner. She cracked the door and peeked out. “Clear.”
We exited the room.
Towering passages lay to both sides and in front of us.
Hunters turned down the long passage ahead, Rawlins and Chen trailing behind them.
Abby and I split to each side of the hall, taking cover behind its corners. She pulled a gun and fired down the hall. Hunters crotched next to the wall, taking aim. Shots rang out, and Abby snapped back behind the corner. Stone chips burst from the nearby wall.
“Time to go,” she said, and started backing down the hall.
I backed away from her, then turned and broke into a jog. At the intersection, I turned back. Abby hit her intersection, both guns drawn, and stared back at me for a long moment.
Between us, Hunters peeked the corner with their weapons and fired my direction. I projected a wedged barrier of energy deflecting the bullets, then put the barrels of my guns just past the barrier and fired. The Hunters took cover.
I backed off and jogged down the hall to my left.
Turning back to the hall I’d just come from, I threw out a curved, telekinetic barrier around it. As I fired at the barrier, the bullets rode it around the corner. Men grunted and yelped as bullets cut through them down the other hall.
That wouldn’t hold them off for long. I had to keep moving.
Hopefully, they’d follow me instead of Abby.