The Elemental Freedom Movement
To: Genevieve Mason
Subject: You must think you're so smart.
What did I tell you about not wanting to make me angry, Genevieve? Should have remembered that.
The email arrived in mid-March, and from the moment she saw it, Genevieve knew it couldn't be good. She had no idea what she'd done to provoke the email from Callan, and she had no idea how Callan had gotten her email address either. But she decided to keep the email to herself, not wanting to worry anyone needlessly. She figured she was safe within the walls of Nevaline.
Then came March twenty-fifth.
She was called to Professor Miller's office late in the afternoon, and so she'd slowly made her way from her algebra class to the room across the school. She had a strange feeling, like something had gone terribly wrong, but she tried to shake it off. Everything was fine. Of course it was.
She knocked on the door and opened it when Professor Miller said she could enter, and she discovered that she was not the only one who had been called to the office. Nearly all of her friends were there, except for Madelaine, as well as Sloane and a man she could only guess was Sloane's father. As soon as she walked into the office, Marilène stood up and pulled her into a hug.
“Oh, Genevieve, thank God you're alright. We weren't sure if he'd taken you both.”
“What are you talking about?” Genevieve asked, hugging Marilène back. “He who? Taken who?”
“Genevieve, if you could please have a seat,” Professor Miller said, motioning to the empty chair in front of his desk. “I'm afraid I have some news for you.”
Genevieve looked over at Juan as she made her way over to the chair, and she noticed that he was struggling to contain his emotions. She wanted to ask what was wrong, but Professor Miller started to talk again as soon as she was near the chair.
“Madelaine Lindahl was kidnapped out of the room she shares with you and Miss Howard earlier today,” Professor Miller said. “We thought that perhaps you were kidnapped as well since you missed your English class this morning. However, that is obviously not the case.”
“I fell asleep in the library,” Genevieve said softly, her mind reeling. Madelaine had been kidnapped? Who would do such a thing?
She was afraid she already knew the answer to that question.
“Stanton,” Professor Miller said, addressing Sloane's father, “do we have any leads at all?”
“After examining the room, I can confirm there was a message burnt into the wall,” Stanton Howard said, running a hand through his short blond hair. “And I believe Miss Mason needs to see it.”
“Me?” Genevieve said, turning to look at him. “Why would I need to see it?”
“Because it is a message for you,” Stanton said simply, reaching into the folder that he was holding and pulling out a large photograph. “You can't go in the room right now because officers are still searching it for evidence, but this is the message.”
He laid the photograph on the desk in front of Genevieve and she leaned forward to look at it. It was of the wall that her and Madelaine's beds shared, and seared into it were the words you shouldn't have made me angry, Genevieve, but you can retrieve her in Aceltaine. Genevieve gasped when she read it, and then closed her eyes.
Callan had Madelaine. Callan had Madelaine, and she had absolutely no idea what he was going to do with her.
“Genevieve, do you know who the message is from?” Stanton asked briskly. “Anything you can tell me about it will be very helpful.”
Genevieve took a couple of deep breaths to collect herself and opened her eyes again. “Callan Murphy,” she said softly. “It's from Callan Murphy. He sent me an email last week. Or maybe it was two weeks ago now, I don't remember the exact day.”
Professor Miller exchanged glances with Stanton. “Why didn't you tell someone, Genevieve?”
“Because this isn't about anyone else, this is about me,” Genevieve said, her voice getting stronger with every word. “I don't need someone else to fight my battles for me.”
“Genevieve, you have no idea what you're getting into with Callan Murphy,” Stanton said. “The man is the most dangerous person in the world.”
“No, he's really not,” Genevieve said, and she didn't even know why she was saying it.
“Genevieve, please think about what you're saying,” Marilène said, reaching out to take her hand. “Callan Murphy is a terrorist.”
“He's just standing up for what he believes in,” Genevieve sighed. “Just as we all think that we would stand up for what we believe in. So yeah, he kills some people. Well, so does the Society. Does it matter if the blood that is spilled is sapien or elementalist?”
“Miss Mason, you can't actually believe the words that you're saying right now,” Stanton said, his voice incredulous. “Or are you a believer in the Elemental Freedom Movement and you've just been trying to hide it?”
“No!” Genevieve exclaimed. “I believe that sapiens and elementalists can co-exist peacefully. That's how it's always been in my family, and that's how it always will be.”
“Then what are you trying to say, Miss Mason?”
Genevieve sighed, and looked around the room at her friends. “I can't tell you.”
Marilène looked up at Professor Miller. “Genevieve's always had an odd reaction to Callan Murphy, in my opinion. When we encountered him at my parents' house, she was so calm in his presence, it was ridiculous.”
“It was the same way when we encountered him in Xendaine,” Sparrow said, stepping out of the shadows in the back of the room to crouch down next to Genevieve's chair. “She talked to him just like she was talking to anyone else.”
Professor Miller cleared his throat. “I believe I can explain that, if you'll let me, Genevieve?”
Genevieve looked up at him, and she could tell by the look on his face that he was about to let everyone know that she was not just some random stranger to Callan Murphy. She nodded after a moment, and then turned and buried her face in Sparrow's neck. She couldn't face her friends when they found out the truth.
“The reason that Genevieve is so calm in front of Callan Murphy is because their elements share the same familial pattern. They recognize each other as family.”
“What?” all of her friends yelled at once.
Professor Miller put his hands up and shushed them. “It is an aspect of elementalism that you learn in your fifth year of schooling, so I'm not surprised to see that none of you are aware of it. But yes, Genevieve is related to Callan Murphy, and that is why she remains so calm in his presence. Their elements share a bond.”
“Wait,” Oliver said. “I thought you said your mother told you that Callan Murphy wasn't your father.”
“She did,” Genevieve mumbled into Sparrow's neck.
“Then what is Professor Miller talking about?” Sloane asked, and everyone else seconded his question.
Genevieve took a deep breath and sat up, avoiding eye contact with her friends. “My father is his brother. Callan is my uncle. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I didn't want to tell anyone yet.”
Stanton looked over at Professor Miller. “Eamon?”
“Yes. She's never met him.”
“Is Callan aware of that?”
“I have no idea,” Professor Miller said, looking at Genevieve. “Do you know, Genevieve?”
“He mentioned that he knows my father to me once,” Genevieve said. “What that's supposed to mean, I don't know.”
Professor Miller sighed. “Your mother still didn't tell you everything.”
Genevieve gave him a confused look. “I don't like that you know all of this and I don't.”
“Well, blame Noëlle for that, not me.” Professor Miller looked at his watch. “I must go teach a class. I want all of you to promise me that you will not under any circumstances go to Aceltaine to look for Madelaine. Leave this to the professionals.”
Everyone around the room muttered promises as Professor Miller stood up. “Thank you. Stanton, anything you can do to keep us posted will be much appreciated.”
“Of course, Augustus.”
“So we're totally going after Madelaine, aren't we?” Sparrow asked as they all walked through the city. “I mean, we can't just leave her there. Not when we know where she is.”
“She could be anywhere in Aceltaine,” Marilène said, reaching out to pull Oliver closer. “Aceltaine's not exactly a small elementalist city.”
“So we find out the EFM stronghold is Aceltaine and go there,” Juan said, his voice hoarse from the crying he'd been doing. “I won't sleep until I know Madelaine is alright.”
“We can't just go walking into an EFM stronghold,” Raven exclaimed. “We'd get ourselves killed.”
“Well we can't just sit here either,” Benjamin responded. “Madelaine would be the first one to go looking for us if this was the other way around.”
Genevieve sighed heavily. “I agree with Ben. But the thing is that we don't have enough information. We're missing something.”
“What are we missing?” Oliver asked, peering over at her. “I think that message on your wall said everything pretty clearly.”
Genevieve shook her head. “No, it didn't. I still don't know what I did to upset Callan. Obviously it was something big or he wouldn't have kidnapped one of my best friends.”
“What's Callan's deal with you anyway? Why is he so obsessed with making sure that you're a member of the Movement?” Marilène asked.
“I wish I knew,” Genevieve said, coming to a stop in front of the transport station. “But I think I know someone who might. Anyone ever been to Omaha?”
“No,” they all said at once.
“Want to go?” Genevieve asked, looking around.
“I'll do anything to get Maddie back,” Juan said, trying but failing to smile at her. “I'm in.”
“I'm in,” Sparrow said, and soon everyone else had said the same thing.
“Then let's go figure out how to get from here to Omaha,” Genevieve said, heading towards the transport station door.
Genevieve unlocked the door to the house and motioned for everyone to follow her inside. “Mama? Aria?”
Ariane came running down the stairs and shrieked when she saw Genevieve. “Gen!”
Genevieve ran over to where Ariane was and wrapped her up in a big hug. “Aria! It's so good to see you!”
“I missed you so much!” Ariane exclaimed. “Are you back for good now?”
“Not exactly, Aria,” Genevieve said, letting go and looking around. “Is Mama home?”
“She's in her office,” Ariane said, looking around Genevieve at her friends. “You have a lot of people with you.”
“Yeah, we need to talk to Mama about some stuff, okay? Why don't you go upstairs and do your homework?”
Ariane huffed. “Fine. But you don't get to leave without talking to me.”
“I won't, I promise,” Genevieve said, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “Go get Mama for me?”
“Okay.” Ariane ran back up the stairs, yelling for Noëlle, as Genevieve turned back to her friends.
“So that was my little sister Ariane,” Genevieve said, smiling. “She was nice today, so we were lucky.”
Raven smiled. “Reminds me of Piper.”
“She's a couple years older than Piper, but yeah, Piper reminded me a lot of Aria.” Genevieve sighed and collapsed into a chair. “Sit down, everybody.”
“Genevieve Clotilde Mason!” came Noëlle's voice as she bounded down the stairs. “I was just talking to Professor Miller about the fact that you disappeared from school yesterday! He was afraid that you were on your way to Aceltaine to search after this girl!”
“Hello to you too, Mama.”
“Do not speak to me like that, young lady,” Noëlle said, walking into the room and discovering everyone else that was in the room. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” Genevieve said, without looking over at her. “Now, you're going to come in here, and you're going to explain to all of us why it is so important to Callan Murphy that I become a part of the Movement. And don't tell me that you don't know, because you know that you do.”
Noëlle walked into the room and looked around at everyone. “Hello.”
“Hello,” they all said back.
“Genevieve, honestly, I don't--”
“Yes, you do,” Genevieve said, shaking her head. “I know better than to trust you when you say you don't know anything. Tell us. Tell us now.”
Noëlle sighed and sat down on the coffee table in front of Genevieve. “Are you sure you want to discuss this in front of everyone? These things really should remain private.”
“No! There is no more privacy! There is only Madelaine, who is somewhere in Aceltaine, probably scared out of her mind, because Callan kidnapped her! And he did it because he is angry with me, and I know he's told you why. I know you know this stuff, Mama, so don't even. Just start talking.”
Noëlle sighed and ran her hands through her long blonde hair. “They are aware of who your father is?”
“Fine.” Noëlle looked around the room and saw everyone's eyes fixed on her. “It's not that I don't want to tell all of you. It's just that I'm in a very difficult situation.”
Genevieve reached out and grabbed Noëlle's hands. “Quit stalling. You don't have to tell them everything. I haven't told them everything. But you need to tell us this.”
“Do you remember when you first went to Wentworth this summer, how on the plane they gave you the water that put you to sleep?” Noëlle asked, turning her attention back to Genevieve. “There is a reason that they do this, and that is so they may test the strength of your powers without scaring you in the process. It is different now than it was when I was in school. When I was in school, we were wide awake for it.
“They take a drop of your blood and place it onto this strip of paper, which gives them a number from one to fifteen. Someone who receives a one will have very weak powers, and will ultimately struggle commanding their element. They are the elementalists who generally end up doing the sorts of jobs where their element isn't required. Your doctors or lawyers, for example. Alternatively, someone who receives a fifteen will breeze through commanding their element. Most elementalists score somewhere between a seven and a twelve.
“They used to tell us the number when they administered the test, but it began to cause too many problems between students and so the testing was revised. But it is still the duty of the school to inform the parents of their child's score. Genevieve, you scored a fifteen. You must understand, because it is very important, that fifteens are very, very rare. But they have noticed that a child who scores a fifteen is very likely to have a parent who has scored over twelve. And you are special, Genevieve, because you have two.
“I scored a thirteen on my test, and Eamon scored a fifteen on his. So not only are you a fifteen, but your father was one as well. And his father was a fifteen as well. I do not know about the previous generations of the Murphy lineage, but as I said before, it is a pattern, so it is likely that there were other high scores as one goes back in your lineage.
“Callan knows of Eamon's score, of course. He knows of Eamon's strength. And it is one of the things for which he has always been the most envious, because he only scored a ten. But because he knows of Eamon's strength, and because I have previously told him of mine, he has long suspected that yours would be quite high. And when he asked me what your score was, I couldn't lie to him.”
“So you told him I was a fifteen?” Genevieve interrupted. “Great. Just great.”
“Genevieve, he was going to come after you whether I told him the truth or not. If I had lied to him about it, it could have put you in more danger.”
“Alright, so we've established my score. Now what does he want with me and what I have done to anger him?”
Noëlle sighed. “As you know, Callan is trying to bring aetherions to prominence, because he believes that aetherions will be able to help him conquer the sapien population. He also wants Aetherion to rise, and for that to be possible, he needs very powerful elementalists on his side.”
“What does Aetherion rising even mean?” Marilène asked.
Noëlle smiled at her. “You are Antoinette and Laurent's daughter, aren't you?”
“I can tell. You are a perfect mixture of the two of them,” Noëlle said. “Stay here, I will be right back.”
They all watched as Noëlle got up and left the room, and then Genevieve let out a big sigh. “I just...I don't know if I can trust a word she's saying.”
“You can,” came a new voice, and Genevieve whipped around to see Alexander standing there. “She's telling you the truth.”
“Alexander! How did you know I was here?”
“Aria texted me. And I decided it was probably in my best interest to come over here and see what's going on.”
“I am teaching them about Aetherion,” Noëlle said, walking back into the room with a slight scowl on her face. “I see you've just let yourself in.”
“Aria told me to,” Alexander said. “I didn't know you were here.”
“Of course she did,” Noëlle said, getting down on her knees next to the coffee table and spreading the map in her hands out over it. “Well, let's talk about Aetherion then. Aetherion isn't an actual place. It's a network of underground cities.”
Everyone leaned forward so they could see the map as Noëlle took a marker and made five X’s on the map. “There is Earthcester, located underneath London, Ville d'Eau, located underneath Paris, Stadt des Feuers, located underneath Berlin, Urbem Aere, located underneath Rome, and Aithēr, located underneath Athens. The five cities, one for each element. There are thousands of powerful aetherions living in each city. Callan's recruited a good number of them, but there is a resistance movement.”
“So if he's got thousands of powerful aetherions, what does he need with us?” Marilène asked. “He's tried to get me and Genevieve to learn to command aether, and I can't do it.”
“He's trying to get all of the children of members of the Movement to learn to command it because he doesn't think he has enough numbers. There's a big difference between thousands of elementalists and millions of sapiens.” Noëlle looked over at Genevieve. “He's angry at you because you didn't report to him that you've become an aetherion.”
“And how was I supposed to do that?” Genevieve asked. “I have no way to contact him.”
“You did have a way to contact him. She was right there in your room at school,” Noëlle said softly. “Evanthia Malone has been watching your every move since the moment you arrived there.”
“Evanthia?” Genevieve sighed. “So he heard about my fight with her then. But that was months ago. Why did it take him so long to respond?”
“Because he was too busy trying to figure out how you could command it so quickly and Evanthia couldn't. And then he realized that it must have something to do with the strength of your power. Except he's wrong. It has nothing to do with the strength of your power, though that probably helped speed up the learning process. It has everything to do with the fact that your father learned how to command aether before you were born. But he doesn't know Eamon can command it, so it's imperative that he not learn that connection.”
“So you're telling me that he kidnapped Madelaine and is holding her hostage and is trying to draw me to Aceltaine because he's mad that I didn't tell Evanthia that I was learning to command aether.” Genevieve shook her head. “That's insane.”
“That's Callan,” Noëlle said. “He's not reasonable when he's angry.”
“What does he want Genevieve in Aceltaine for?” Sparrow asked.
Noëlle looked up at Alexander, and Alexander nodded. “You have to tell her, Noëlle. She deserves to know what she's getting in to.”
“I can't, Alexander,” Noëlle said, shaking her head. “I'm still begging him not to do this.”
“Well, if you won't tell them, I will.”
“Bait,” he said firmly. “Callan wants to use Genevieve as bait.”
Sparrow gave Alexander a confused look. “Bait for what?”
“Eamon,” Genevieve murmured. “He's trying to draw out Eamon by threatening me.”
“Yes,” Noëlle said quietly. “And I cannot lose either of you, so it absolutely cannot happen.”
“What does he want with Eamon?”
Noëlle shook her head, and Alexander took over the conversation again. “He wants Eamon because he thinks he can appeal to him as a brother to rejoin the family cause. Especially if he's recruited Eamon's only child.”
“Which is why Genevieve is not going to Aceltaine.”
Genevieve looked over at Noëlle and shook her head. “Nope. I'm not leaving Madelaine there to suffer through whatever she's going through. I'm going.”
“We're going,” Sparrow said, and everyone else agreed.
Noëlle turned to Genevieve with tears in her eyes. “Be safe, Genevieve. Promise me.”
“You know I can't promise you that.”
“Well, at least stay for the night?” Noëlle said, trying to smile. “All of you. It's too late for you to get into Aceltaine at a decent hour today.”
Genevieve looked around at her friends for a moment before nodding. “Fine. I have to talk to Aria anyway.”
They had just exited the transport station in Aceltaine when they heard the first explosion.
“What the hell was that?” Benjamin asked, looking around.
“I have no idea,” Genevieve responded, only for a second explosion to occur. “But whatever it is, I don't think it's good.”
A loud squeal went through the city's intercom system and then there was a new voice talking.
“We are the REFSS. We are the REFSS. We are the REFSS,” came the voice, over and over and over.
“What is the REFSS?” Juan asked, shaking as another explosion ripped through the city.
“Remove Elementalists for Safer Societies,” Sparrow answered automatically. “We've just walked into a sapien terrorist attack.”
“So what do we do?” Marilène asked, jumping when another explosion blew all the glass out of the windows of the buildings a block away.
“Run!” Sparrow said, grabbing Genevieve's hand and taking off. Genevieve could tell that he had a specific destination in mind, but she had no idea what that destination was.
“Where are we going?” she yelled at him after another explosion.
“Just trust me!” he yelled back.
The rest of the group quickly followed after him as he navigated his way through the streets, and soon they were arriving at a plainly marked warehouse in the center of town. Sparrow ran up to one of the side doors and knocked on it three times, then paused for a moment, and knocked another three times. The door quickly opened, and he dashed through it, pulling Genevieve with him, everyone else following.
When the door was shut, the lights inside came back on, and it was immediately obvious that this wasn't a warehouse at all, but some sort of operations center. Sparrow let go of Genevieve's hand and went to speak to the person who had let them in to the building, and Genevieve walked towards the center of the room, where a large map of the city of Aceltaine was spread out on a table.
“Sparrow Blackwood, huh? Yeah, I know who you are. Was told you'd be coming here at some point,” said a man in a deep Irish accent, and that's when Genevieve realized where she was and who had just said that.
She turned around slowly and looked around at the Aceltaine headquarters of the Society, saving the spot where Sparrow was standing for last. When she finally let herself look there, she found Sparrow talking to a tall man with flaming red hair cascading down to his shoulders and his black eyes focused on her.
She fought the part of her that wanted to throw herself into his arms like she was still a child that needed protection from her father, and instead just stood there as he talked to Sparrow. Except for the long hair, he was practically the spitting image of his older brother, and she wondered if they had ever been mistaken for twins when they were growing up.
Eventually, Sparrow came walking over to her with him not far behind, and Sparrow could tell instantly that she knew who he was. “You alright?”
“Yes,” Genevieve said softly.
“You want to talk to him alone?”
“Then I'll go talk to Raven,” Sparrow said, leaning forward to kiss her softly before walking away.
Eamon approached her slowly, and she gave him as big of a smile as she could muster. “Hello, Eamon.”
“Hello, Genevieve.” Eamon's voice was tentative. “Your mother told me that it was likely that I would meet you today, but I couldn't believe it. Not after all these years.”
“You would have met me a long time ago had I known,” Genevieve said.
“I know, but it was for the best that you didn't,” Eamon said, smiling at her. “So, you are here to rescue your friend, correct?”
“Right,” Genevieve said, turning back around and looking at the map. “I have no idea where Madelaine is, other than the fact that Callan has her, and is apparently using me as bait to draw you out.”
“I figured as much as soon as I heard of what it was he'd done,” Eamon said, walking to the map and grabbing a pointer. “The Movement stronghold is here, right in front of Bedell, the school here in Aceltaine. We've got good intelligence that that's where she is. And as for drawing me out, well, that's not going to be an issue because I'm going with you. It's time Callan and I settle this once and for all.”
Genevieve put the thought that she could lose Eamon out of her mind and nodded. “So when do we go?”
“Well, first, we've got to wait for the all clear from the REFSS attack,” Eamon said, looking over at something across the room. “We don't have that yet.”
“God only knows what he's doing to her,” Genevieve said, feeling a shiver go down her spine.
“If he's just doing all of this to draw you and thus me out, he's not doing anything to her,” Eamon said. “My brother may be callous, but he's not unnecessarily cruel.”
“I think maybe you don't know your brother at all.”
“I think I know him a lot better than you do,” Eamon countered back before sighing. “But he's always been too much like my father, so maybe you’re right.”
“Eamon,” came a voice from another room. “You better come look at this.”
Eamon gave Genevieve a slight smile. “I'll be back in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Genevieve said, watching him walk into a different room before turning and finding Sparrow standing next to her.
“That looked like it went alright,” he said softly, pulling Genevieve into his arms.
“Yeah, it did,” Genevieve murmured, letting Sparrow's familiar embrace envelope her fully. “He knows where Madelaine is.”
“Good. We were just talking about how we need to get a plan together.”
“That's a good idea. We need to include Eamon in it because he said he's going with us.”
“Alright,” Sparrow said, leaning in to kiss her. “Gen, can I tell you a secret?”
Sparrow glanced around and made sure that no one else was paying attention to them. “You're not the only one who scored a fifteen,” he whispered. “Mom and Dad told me at Christmas.”
“Really?” Genevieve asked softly. “Sparrow, that's fantastic.”
“It means that if we have to fight, I'll be just as strong as you are,” Sparrow whispered. “It means you don't have to take him on alone. You're not alone.”
“I know,” Genevieve whispered back, bringing a hand up to caress Sparrow's face. “I know that I'm not alone. You're all here with me.”
“I heard you talking to Ariane about how you felt so alone all of your life,” Sparrow said softly. “I just wanted to make sure you knew that you weren't alone anymore.”
Genevieve leaned forward and kissed him softly. “Thank you.”
“For being here,” Genevieve said softly.
“I wouldn't be anywhere else,” Sparrow responded, smiling at her.
“Genevieve,” came Eamon's voice, and she turned to see him sticking his head through the doorway of the room he'd gone in to. “Get your friends together and come see this.”
Genevieve nodded and turned towards the rest of her friends. “Hey guys, Eamon's got something he wants us to see.”
“Okay,” Raven said, pulling Benjamin along with her as Genevieve and Sparrow started to walk towards the door Eamon had left partially open for them. “Hey Gen?”
“Eamon, was he nice?”
Genevieve smiled and nodded. “Yeah, he was nice. He said he's going to help us get Madelaine back.”
They all filed into the room where Eamon was waiting and discovered it to be a conference room, filled with a large table surrounded by chairs. At the other end of the room was a screen, and on the screen was a photograph of Madelaine, chained to a chair, surrounded by a wall of fire.
“Alright, everyone,” Eamon said, glancing down at the other end of the room. “This photograph just came in from our contact in the Movement. It seems that every time anyone tries to come near Madelaine, she surrounds herself with a wall of fire.”
“Incredible,” Juan murmured. “She has been having such trouble at school when it comes to commanding her element.”
“When you are in danger or fighting for your life, the ability to command your element becomes almost automatic. She may have no idea why she's able to do what it is she's doing, but right now, she's doing it to protect herself.”
“So do we know what room this is?” Genevieve asked.
“Yes. It's known by the Movement as the Restraint Room. It's where they generally keep any prisoners that they have. This won't be the first time we've had to rescue someone from there,” Eamon said, taking a deep breath. “I've got to warn you all now. This will be dangerous. You may be called upon to use your elements in ways that you've never had to before. Augustus tells me that you all are a very special group, and that you can handle this, even though he warned you not to do so, but really, it's important to stress that if you think you can't do this, then it is best for everyone that you not go along.”
“I said I'd do anything to get Madelaine back and I meant that,” Juan said, his voice full of emotion again. “I meant it.”
The rest of the group quickly agreed, and Genevieve looked at them all before smiling at Eamon. “We know what we're getting in to, Eamon. And we're ready to do it.”
“You can never be ready for a battle, but alright,” Eamon said, standing up and motioning towards the door. “Then let's go start planning how we're going to do this, shall we? We're still waiting for the all clear from the REFSS attack.”
“What is the REFSS anyway?” Benjamin asked.
Eamon sighed. “Remove Elementalists for Safe Societies. It's a relatively new sapien terrorist organization whose goal is to wipe elementalists off of the planet so that sapiens can reign supreme as the only surviving human race. As far as I'm aware, Aceltaine is the only city to experience attacks so far, and the ones that have been launched here have been minor. I'm sure you probably heard the explosions, and they are the reason that we're cautious, but there hasn't been anything that's really injured anyone or destroyed anything so far.”
“So we've got the EFM, which wants to kill all the sapiens, and now the REFSS, which wants to kill all the elementalists? Great,” Oliver said, sighing heavily. “Just great.”
“This is why the Society is the best option, son,” Eamon said. “Let's go look at the map and start coming up with our strategy, hm?”
Genevieve walked along the street in front of the school, glancing over at the building she was trying to get in to. She felt ridiculously exposed being so alone out there, but she kept trying to remind herself that everyone else was hiding just out of sight, and would reveal themselves as soon as someone came out to help Genevieve inside.
She felt like she paced back and forth for hours, though continued glances at her watch said it was maybe fifteen minutes, when the door to the building opened and a tall man with the silver hair of a water-bearer came walking out. She paused as he approached her, waiting for the right moment.
“Genevieve Mason. So you arrive at last.”
Genevieve took a deep breath. “I got here as quickly as I could.”
“Well, you're lucky that the boss is still here. And that whiny friend of yours is still alive. Follow me.”
The man turned his back to her and Genevieve yelled “Now!”
Before he knew what hit him, he was surrounded by walls of swirling fire, water, and dirt while the air was slowly sucked out of the area around him until he fell unconscious. Genevieve put up her hand when he started to fall to the ground, and the manipulation of the elements all stopped instantly. Everyone else came out of their hiding positions as Genevieve mentally searched the man for a way inside, and a set of keys came floating out of the man's pocket and into Genevieve's hand as they gathered around her.
“Nice aether work, Genevieve,” Eamon said, looking towards the building. “Ready to get inside?”
“As ready as I'll ever be,” Genevieve said, glancing at the man lying on the ground. “What do we do with him?”
“I'll take care of Wyn,” Eamon said. “You get inside and find Madelaine.”
“Wyn?” Benjamin questioned. “You know his name?”
“Wyn Jones. Good Welsh bloke. Went to the Institute together,” Eamon answered. “Shame he ever ended up on Callan's side in all this. Now go.”
Genevieve took one last look at the man before tugging Sparrow's hand and quickly walking towards the door. She struggled to find which key fit into the lock on the door until she remembered to just think of which key would open the door, and the keys neatly rearranged in her hands. She slid the key into the lock and it came undone, and then the door was open and they were making their way inside, Eamon slipping in a few moments later.
Everyone nodded, and then they were surrounded by layers of swirling air, fire, water, and dirt. Eamon led the way as they started walking, around a corner and down a hallway, then around another corner and down another hallway. Every person they encountered quickly got the same treatment as Wyn did outside, until finally they were outside of what was known as the Restraint Room.
“Everybody drop your elements in three, two, one...” Eamon took the keys from Genevieve's hands and quickly found the one for the door, opening it and carefully letting everyone inside. Once they were in, he relocked the door and turned towards Madelaine, who had surrounded herself with a wall of fire like she had done in the photograph from earlier at the Society headquarters. “One of you get her to stop doing that.”
Juan nodded and stepped towards her. “Madelaine? Maddie, sweetie?”
The wall of fire dropped and a broken and beaten looking Madelaine was staring wild-eyed at them. “Juan?” she said meekly. “Is it really you?”
“It's really me, Maddie,” Juan said. “It's me. We're going to get you out of here.”
Madelaine shook her head violently. “You've got to get out of here. It's a trap.”
“A trap?” Juan looked back at Eamon. “What's she talking about? Maddie, what are you talking about?”
Eamon looked around at the room, sucking in a deep breath when he spotted him. “Get down!” he yelled and everyone ducked just as a huge blast of fire came shooting across the room.
Eamon bounced back up quickly and sent a fireball in the opposite direction, careful to make sure it missed Madelaine in the process, and that drew Callan out of the shadows behind her.
And then they were flinging fireballs at one another, absorbing each other's blows with shockingly quick speed, hurling insults at one another in the process. Genevieve watched them for a moment before she noticed Juan crawling over to Madelaine and started to do the same.
By the time she got over to Madelaine, Juan was shaking the metal chair she was chained to, trying desperately to free her. “I can't do it,” he said as quietly as he could. “It's all metal.”
Genevieve took a deep breath and nodded, then picked up one of the chains. “I've never tried metal before, but now is as good a time as any to start.”
She closed her eyes and concentrated all of her energy on the chain she was holding, commanding it to break. She smiled when she felt the two sides go limp in her hands and opened her eyes to find it broken in half in her hands. She handed half of it to Juan and took the other side to begin to unwrap it from around Madelaine's legs. They worked as quickly as they could without drawing attention to what it was they were doing, all the while watching the fight between Eamon and Callan.
Once they got Madelaine unchained, Juan pulled her off the chair and into his arms, only to discover that her arms were handcuffed behind her back. “Damnit. Gen!”
Genevieve took one look at the handcuffs and sighed. She turned back in Eamon's direction and thought about the keys, and suddenly they came flying off the floor at her. She tried the same trick she'd used at the door to find the right one, but it didn't work, which told her the key to the handcuffs wasn't on that particular key ring. She glanced back over at where the fight was continuing, and when Eamon had sent fire to swirl around Callan, she concentrated hard on the phrase Callan's keys, only to find them come flying at her out of the fire moments later.
She grabbed them out of the air just as Callan screamed and sent a gigantic fireball in their direction, but before Genevieve could react, a wall of water was up in front of them, and the fireball hit it and sizzled out quickly. She glanced over at the group to find Marilène and Sparrow working to keep up the wall of water protection and quickly commanded her mind for the right key to the handcuffs, grabbing it as soon as it presented itself and loosening Madelaine's hands from their grasp.
Madelaine threw her arms around Juan and he held her close, whispering in her ear that everything was going to be alright now. He carefully picked her up and carried her across the room to where the others were, and Genevieve motioned for them to start heading out of the door and get out of there. Sparrow and Marilène kept the wall of water up and motioned for her to join them, but Genevieve shook her head.
She wasn't about to leave Eamon behind. So as soon as the wall of water dropped, she sent a fireball of her own in Callan's direction, standing up and watching as it knocked him off his feet.
Eamon glanced over at her. “Genevieve, get the hell out of here!”
“I'm not leaving you!” Genevieve yelled back, ducking as Callan sent a fireball in her direction.
Eamon sent a swirling tornado of fire in Callan's direction and ran over to where Genevieve was standing. “This was not the plan!” he exclaimed. “I can't protect you and me at the same time!”
“I don't need your protection!” Genevieve proclaimed back. “I'm just as powerful as you are!”
“But you don't know how to use it!”
“Oh but she does!” Callan laughed. “And she's going to use it against you!”
Eamon gave her a concerned look, but Genevieve only shook her head. “You've got it wrong, Callan. I'm not on your side. I was never on your side. I'll never be on your side.”
“Genevieve! What did I tell you about making me angry?”
“I don't care!”
“You should.” Eamon sighed and turned back to Callan, only to see a gigantic swirling ball of blue-hot fire coming at them. “Get down!”
But Genevieve didn't hear him until it was too late, and the blue-hot fire came barrelling into her side, knocking her all the way across the room and crashing her into the wall. She slumped down to the floor in searing pain as everything on the left side of her body hurt, from her arm to her shoulder to her ribs to her hips and below. She tried to scramble away but the pain the instant she moved brought tears to her eyes, and she had to stop trying.
“Genevieve!” Eamon yelled out, sending a vicious blow in Callan’s direction and running towards her. He absorbed some furious blows from Callan as he reached her, then used all of his energy to form a protective bubble of fire around them. “Genevieve!”
Eamon could hear Callan laughing from the other side of the room, and felt vicious blow after vicious blow bounce off the protective bubble. Genevieve could barely keep her eyes open, but she could sense that the protection wasn’t going to last for long.
“Go, Eamon. Get him,” she whispered. “He can’t get away.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Eamon said, shaking his head.
“You have to,” Genevieve whispered back. “Now go.”
Eamon stared at her for a few seconds before suddenly whipping around and advancing on his brother. Genevieve sighed as the fire disappeared and the room came back into focus, and then room was covered in ice. She didn’t know what was happening, but she knew she was safe, and let herself slip into darkness.
“...that Callan Murphy sure is one dangerous fellow, let me tell you. Making that poor girl's mother help kidnap her own child! Doing this to his own niece! It’s a shame they didn’t get him this time.”
Genevieve blinked repeatedly to get the sleep out of her eyes and then looked around to see she was in a hospital room somewhere, with two nurses standing over her checking different vital signs. The whole left side of her body was throbbing with pain, and when she tried to move to shift around, the pain radiated across her whole body. She let out a loud groan and caught the attention of the nurses.
“Well, good morning, dear. How is that pain doing?” the nurse to her left asked, taking the cringe on Genevieve's face for an answer. “Ah, well, it is time to have more of that pain medicine, so let me go order it up and I'll be back to administer it.”
“Where am I?” Genevieve croaked out, her voice sounding horrible from what had obviously been a period of disuse.
“Nevaline General Hospital,” the other nurse said, finishing writing down something she'd seen on one of the screens. “You arrived here last night in pretty good shape compared to what we were thinking you were going to. They did a good job patching you up at Aceltaine General before they sent you here at your parents' request.”
“My parents?” Genevieve asked, trying to get her head around the fact that she was back in Nevaline.
“Oh, we just had them step out of the room so we could look at your vitals,” said the first nurse, walking back into the room with a large needle. “Let me get this into your IV and then we'll be all done and they can come back in.”
Genevieve watched as the nurse inserted the needle into the right place in the IV and then injected its contents into it, while the other nurse moved around the room, gathering things. “If you need anything at all, dear, the button is right next to your right hand. Otherwise, you just get some rest, okay? Only time can heal you now.”
“Let us know if that pain shot doesn't help,” the first nurse said, smiling at her. “I'll let your parents back into the room now.”
The nurses walked out of the room and a few moments later Noëlle came rushing in, tears already running down her cheeks.
“Genevieve! Oh, my dearest Genevieve!”
Noëlle clutched at Genevieve's right hand and Genevieve did her best to smile at her. “It's alright, Mama. It's alright.”
“I made you promise me that you would be safe!”
Genevieve shook her head as best she could without causing herself great pain. “No, Mama. I told you I couldn't promise that.”
“Your father said you were reckless.”
“If by that you mean Eamon, then he needs to learn a thing or two about me.”
“Yes, I suppose I do.” Genevieve looked at the foot of her bed and saw Eamon standing there, smiling softly at her. “You doing alright, kid?”
“As alright as I can be at the moment. Someone tell me what happened please? The nurse said they didn’t get Callan.”
Noëlle squeezed Genevieve's hand lightly. “Your friend Madelaine is alright. She had some bumps and bruises but nothing severely wrong with her. She was mostly just very scared, but now she has been reunited with her friends and her father, she is doing better. She doesn't want to see her mother at this point in time.”
“Because Arabella helped Callan take her, of course,” Eamon said. “That's Callan for you. Never doing the dirty work all on his own.”
“Arabella is in custody now,” Noëlle said, tears streaming down her face. “But Callan...”
Eamon walked around to the side of the bed where Noëlle was sitting and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Callan got me in the side of the head with the chair Madelaine had been chained to before I could use it against him. He escaped.”
“It’s not something we need to worry about now,” Noëlle said softly. “All we need to worry about is you getting yourself healthy again.”
“I agree with your mother,” Eamon said, bending down to kiss the top of Noëlle's head. “How are you feeling?”
Genevieve watched them interact for a few moments as they looked at each other, and found herself smiling. She could see that their true affections lay with one another, and was suddenly determined to do something about that before too long had passed.
“Mama,” Genevieve asked softly. “Where's Alexander?”
Noëlle sent a worried glance in Eamon's direction, but Eamon just shook his head. “She has a right to think of him as her father, Noëlle. I certainly haven't been.”
“No, it's not that,” Genevieve said. “Is he with Dash and Aria?”
“Yes,” Noëlle said, squeezing her hand gently. “He has been spending more time with them, and we are learning to put aside our differences for their sake.”
“Good,” Genevieve said, shuddering in pain as she took a deep breath. “Why does everything hurt so much?”
“Well, you broke your collarbone, several ribs, and your arm when you were thrown into that wall, and the rest of the left side of your body was badly bruised,” Noëlle replied, reaching up to wipe away the tears that were starting to come down her cheeks again. “I cannot believe Callan did that to you.”
Eamon barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes, which caused Genevieve to giggle. “Mama, when are you going to realize that Callan Murphy is not the man you thought he was?”
“Oh, I've learned it alright,” Noëlle said. “It's just not sinking in very fast. It will though, it will. I promise.”
“What about the rest of my friends? Are they all okay?”
Eamon nodded. “They're fine, my dear. All are back in Nevaline today, though not back in school because Augustus thought that they could do with a few days off after what they've been through. They are down at Madelaine's room at the moment, except for young Sparrow, who has refused to be anywhere but near you.”
“Sparrow,” Genevieve said, a smile coming to her face. “Can I see him?”
Eamon and Noëlle exchanged knowing looks.
“Of course, darling,” Noëlle said. “Eamon and I will go get him.”
“Thank you,” Genevieve said.
Sparrow walked into the room slowly, like he was afraid of what he was going to see, causing Genevieve to raise up her right hand and wave him forward.
“Get in here.”
“Hi,” Sparrow said, coming to sit down next to her. “How’re you feeling?”
“Terrible,” Genevieve said honestly, reaching with her good hand to grab one of Sparrow's. “How are you doing?”
“Better now that I'm talking to you,” Sparrow said, bringing her hand up to his lips to kiss. “I was scared I was going to lose you.”
Genevieve let out a small laugh. “You can't get rid of me that easily.”
“I don't want to get rid of you at all,” Sparrow murmured, squeezing her hand. “Ever.”
“Hey now, you've got to take me on a few more dates before we start getting into the forever part of the deal.”
Sparrow smiled at that. “I can do that.”
“Technically we've only been on two.”
“We've been on more than two dates!” Sparrow exclaimed. “We've been on at least five.”
Genevieve shook her head gently. “Nope. Double dates with Marilène and Oliver don't count. Nor do any dates that were gate crashed by our friends. We have only had two dates where none of that happened.”
Sparrow sat there for a moment, then shook his head. “Damn, you're right. Well, we're just going to have to rectify that.”
“So that we can get to the forever stuff at some point.”
“We've got at least a hundred dates to go before you get to bring up the forever stuff again.”
Sparrow shrugged. “Alright. You're not feeling it yet. That's cool. I can wait.”
Genevieve squeezed his hand. “I think that's just the shock talking, Sparrow. We're sixteen. It's too early to be talking about the forever stuff.”
Genevieve tugged at Sparrow's hand until he looked up at her. “I'm not going anywhere. You've got nothing to worry about. Except for planning for the next date. That you have to worry about because I'm not doing it again.”
Sparrow smiled. “I was thinking a night picnic on the beach in California.”
“Sounds great,” Genevieve murmured. “But that's going to have to wait until summer.”
“I know. But it's the next time I'll be able to make it something special. Or, well, more special than a night at the pizzeria.”
“You could always take me bowling.”
“Benjamin takes Raven bowling all the time. I don't want to run into my sister on a date while I'm on a date.”
“Alright then, forget about bowling.”
Sparrow sighed. “We're sitting here joking around about dates when you could have died. I just...this doesn't feel right to me.”
“Well, I didn't die, so let's get over that right now. No more sitting around here thinking about what could have happened. What happened, happened, and it's over now. Nothing we can do to change it.”
“I was scared.”
“So was I. Did you have something to do with the ice?”
Sparrow smiled. “It was Marilène’s idea, but I helped. Once we noticed Eamon go back to fight Callan, we worked quickly to cover that corner of the room in ice to protect you. Professor Miller was surprised that Marilène and I could make ice that thick. Apparently that’s something that only sixth-years can do.”
“Thank you,” Genevieve said, squeezing Sparrow’s hand.
Genevieve yawned and Sparrow brought her hand back up to his lips, kissing it gently. “You should rest. I can go.”
“No,” Genevieve said, letting her eyes drift closed. “Stay.”
“Okay,” Sparrow said softly. “I'll stay as long as you want me to. I'll just watch you sleep.”
Genevieve squeezed his hand and drifted off to sleep.