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Chapter 25

Colin looked through the plane window at the wing. Almost three weeks since the battle and all his wounds were nearly healed. All except the hole in his heart left by the loss of Mary, and the one straggler who Colin killed on accident, and all of the others who were killed in that cave.

CERT healed quickly, too. Katrina took over, with the help of Isaac, even though neither of them wanted to lead the group. Carmel had pulled Colin out of the cave, and handed him the sparkling white fragment of Mary’s shattered body he turned over in his hand.

Colin slipped the stone back into his pocket and looked at Hammond, who gave a tiny nod. Colin turned to the man beside him, the one who could threaten CERT and the future of all elementals.

“Hey, you’re Schmidt, right? You do those myth busting videos, right?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” Schmidt put on a patient smile.

Colin bent his head to whisper, “I know what you’re doing at the convention. I need to stop you.”

Schmidt’s smile vanished. “Good luck with that.”

Schmidt picked up a walkie-talkie and tried to turn it on. It didn’t work. He tried his cell phone. It also failed. He pressed the call button on the seat and opened his mouth to yell, but Colin was faster. A single tap stopped him in his tracks. He wouldn’t be going to the convention anymore.

Colin jumped out of his seat, yelling. “I think he’s having a heartattack! Does anyone know CPR?”

He moved away from Schmidt, slipped through the crowd and found Manny. They left Hammond behind to make sure the job was done properly.

They met again at a different gate and got on a plane to get to the convention.

Huge banners marked booths where dozens of internet celebrities filmed live video and sold merchandise.

Hammond found the rest of the group. “Theater B-3. Let’s check it out.”

A small sign taped to the door of theater B-3 said, “Debunker Buddies Live. Special Passes Only.”

Kurada handed the passes out, and all four entered together.

Lifesize vinyl banners with images of Kat and Schmidt posing with a corn cob pipe and a magnifying glass flanked the stage.

Kat sat alone in a folding chair behind a table that was too long for one person.

“Hello, everyone,” she said. “I am one half of Debunker Buddies, I’m Kat.”

The crowd applauded.

“My partner Schmidt was supposed to be here for this, but he is in the hospital instead. He should be fine, it’s related to a congenital heart condition that he doesn’t talk about much. It’s not the first time we’ve had to delay recording, and I promise you it won’t be the last. If you want to send him get well messages or tell him to walk it off, I’m sure he’d appreciate that.”

The crowd laughed with her.

“He had a special video planned and a special guest lined up, but he didn’t tell me anything about the plan and he’s not here to run it. So instead, I’ll open up to a Q and A, and I hit every vending machine to get the supplies for an urban legend death game. We’ll be mixing Pop Rocks and Coke, Wine and Vodka, we’ll do a sour candy challenge, we’re going to have a lot of fun. Welcome to the bunker!”

The crowd cheered and a lively theme song played. Kat got out of her seat and danced around the stage.

“That’s gotta be him,” Kurada said. “I’ll get him.”

Colin watched Kurada creep toward the front row and tap a man on the shoulder. She pointed toward Colin, Manny, and Hammond. The man nodded and followed her outside.

Colin and the others joined. Manny rolled his eyes. “I wanted to see this.”

“Shut up,” Kurada said. “You know who this is? This big beautiful was supposed to be the special guest.”

“No way, it was you?” Hammond asked.

“Supposed to be,” the elemental put his arm around Kurada, who hung on him like they’d known each other for years. “Were you guys part of this too?”

Colin produced and burned a slip of flash paper.

“I thought the plan was shit in the first place, but couldn’t we still go on with it? I didn’t realize they had so many backups. There are still cameras everywhere.” The man looked around at the crowd, who were almost as busy recording video as the hosts they came to see.

“It needed to come from a credible source,” Colin said.

“The chick’s still in there,” the elemental said.

Hammond laughed. “I said a credible source. Without him, she’s just some chick with pastel hair and big lips.”

“I guess you’re right. I’d better call my superiors.”

“Do you want to grab some lunch first? I have so many questions about this area. You’re a local, right?” Manny gave Kurada a jealous look.

“Yeah.” The elemental smiled and rubbed Kurada’s back. “There’s a cantina downstairs.”

Colin resisted the urge to roll his eyes at this guy. “No way, if I’m overpaying for a burger, I expect it to taste good.”

“Not like wet newspaper dipped in broth,” Kurada said, thoughtfully stroking the special guest’s chest through his shirt. “Come on, I know a place on the outside. If we hurry, by buddy can get us a discount on drinks.”

She darted away and the others followed.

When they reached a patch of grass at the curb, Colin said, “Hold up, there’s something in my shoe.”

He started to pull at his boot.

“This is going to be a while.” Hammond sat on the grass, followed by Manny, Kurada, and the special guest.

Colin tapped the special guest, who slumped immediately.

Hammond laughed. “Night, night. I’m going to grab a burger, then I’ll watch him ’til he gets picked up.”

“Hurry up,” Manny said. “I want to see the rest of the show.”

“Well, there’s one I have to see in a couple of hours, and we still need to patrol the place in case there’s more,” Kurada said.

“Now that you mention it,” Hammond said, “I want to see that Jenna chick who’s on all those posters. What time is she on?”

“She already did her video,” Colin said. “I checked. But she’s signing stuff later.”

Hammond smiled. “You’re into her, too?”

“I don’t know who any of these people are,” Colin said. “But I almost tripped over a few of those signs.”

Manny snorted. “Almost. Anyway, we should go back in. We came all this way, we should try to enjoy it.”

“Plus we still have those free drink tickets,” Hammond said. “It would be a waste not to use them.”

“And I think we lost Kurada,” Manny said.

“She’ll be fine,” Hammond said. “You know that girl gets in and out of trouble more often than most people-.”

“Shower?” Colin asked.

“I was gonna say ‘change their underwear.’ but it amounts to about the same thing. She’s fantastic, isn’t she? Go on, have fun, I’ll join you all a bit later. It shouldn’t be too long.”

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