“Take these.” I pushed a few loose pills into Seb’s hand.
“They’re for Maggie, not you.” I shut the medicine cabinet and chewed my lower lip. “I need the two of you to leave.”
“All I can do now is protect you and Maggie, and I can’t swear that you’ll be safe if you stay in this house and continue to make our relationship obvious. Please, go home, take care of Maggie. I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
Seb frowned, entire face fallen as he slumped against the bathroom wall. He shook his head, skin several shades whiter as negativity radiated off him. He was pissed off, scared, and confused. He didn’t understand why I was pushing him away, why I wasn’t reacting like a normal distressed parent. He wanted to stay there, to feel useful instead of packing up and trekking home like nothing had ever happened when everything but had actually occurred.
“I thought you didn’t want her to get sick from teleporting,” Seb said at last, meeting my gaze.
“That’s what the medicine is for. It helps with the dizziness from teleportation. I’ve used it on Blaine since she was a toddler.”
The confusion grew a bit. He didn’t understand why I hadn’t given him the medicine sooner. All I would’ve had to do was give him a few pills, and he and Maggie could’ve slept in their own home for the evening. Oh, and there was the realization. I’d withheld the medicine so I had a good excuse to keep Seb a little longer and maybe procure a few minutes alone with him. I wanted him and Maggie to stay. It was nice.
I cocked a brow at Seb and shrugged. “Now you know, and I would love it if you would take Maggie and go home. I have things to do.”
Seb shook his head again and ran his hand through his hair. “Plato, you just lost your daughter. We should call the police or something. I--”
“Absolutely not,” I said.
A sliver of anger cut through Seb. “How can you possibly justify not contacting people who could help bring her home?”
“I already have--”
“I’m not leaving.” Seb stepped away from the wall, coming closer to me, backing me against the sink. “There’s no way in hell I’m going to walk out of that door when you’re not even sane enough to call the cops. You have to be in shock o-or something. Don’t be stupid about this, Plato.”
“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling, but going all vigilante isn’t going to bring her home any sooner. If you want to find your daughter, we need to go through the right channels and--”
I clapped my hand over his mouth. “Sebastian, please.” He still felt confused and resentful, but I’d gotten him to quieten down for the moment. I moved closer, edging away from the sink before I felt claustrophobic from being trapped between it and Seb. Moving my hand off his lips, I stroked his smooth cheek. “I made a vow to protect Blaine, and tonight, I broke that promise. No, I’m not calling the police, but you can go home with the certainty that I will be doing everything in my power to bring her back to safety. But, as long as you and Maggie are here and in harm’s way, my hands are tied. If you aren’t out of this house in the next twenty seconds, so help me, I will show you exactly why this realm thought I was too much of a hazard to toss in a prison cell.”
Seb nodded and pursed his lips into a thin line. “We’ll go then.” He leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine in a quick kiss. “Call me as soon as you get back.”
“Of course. I hope Maggie feels better.”
Taking my cheeks, Seb pulled me forward and planted a kiss on my forehead. “For the love of the gods, stay safe, Plato.” He retracted, skin slipping off and away from mine, leaving me feeling frigid without his heat. With a final glance at me, hollow emotions brewing inside of him as he drowned in a sea of confusion, Sebastian left the bathroom.
Down the corridor, Seb scooped his daughter into his arms. In a flash, they vanished from the guest room. For the first time, I found myself all alone in that big house, and it’d never felt emptier.
I took a deep breath and spun the ring around on my finger, looking at the small bump in the center of it--right where the main camera was. “Wake up, agents. If you miss the best part of the show, I’m going to be so disappointed.”
With a deep breath, I ran my hand through my hair and pulled it back up into a tight bun. I’d had enough time off, playing house with Blaine, and going about a new life. While I realized it was limited, the shift still came as a shock. Although, I didn’t think it was a completely unwelcome one. Domestic life fit me better than I thought it would, but breaking back into my old life, taking another shot at reclaiming my throne, gods I hadn’t realized how badly I’d missed it.
The sight of my bathroom vanished in place of the center of the capital city in the realm, Diaste. Even in the middle of the night, it would be booming with life. When I arrived right in the middle of the road on Main Street, I was not disappointed by the crowd.
“The government is fooling you!” I shouted, cupping my hands around my mouth. Most thought I was just a regular crazy person, yelling about conspiracy. “They are running the terror syndicate called the Ring! Your own leaders are killing you!” Some looked, listened, but many of them saw. All across the realm, everyone knew my face as the one that didn’t belong. Coming across someone that didn’t recognize me was rare, even rarer was to learn that they lived in the Diedre Realm. Usually all those that did not know me were foreigners, those that hailed from different realms. Unlike the other realms, the Diedre Realm isolated itself. Our affairs were kept within our borders, and we didn’t bother sharing with anyone else.
But all those people in the capital, they were from Diedre. They knew. And as they looked upon me standing before them and shouting about a terror syndicate they all believed brainwashed and deployed me to attack their realm, they started listening a little closer.
It didn’t take a full five minutes to attract a crowd that took up half the street.
I held up my hand and looked into the camera again. “Looks like I’m being a liability again. You better come get me before I do something really stupid.” Addressing the crowd once more, I lowered my hand. “Furthermore, you all deserve to know that the ruler of this syndicate is none other than our--”
Blackness warped my vision. Senses stolen, I felt as though I floated on nothing, like I was everywhere and nowhere. At the very least, the Ring had found me and brought me in. Soon, Blaine would be safe, and things would return to as normal as I could possibly get them. Given that I’d fully fucked the Ring once again, my chances of returning to my life as it had been didn’t seem likely, but I’d been surprised before.
A snap cracked through the room and blinding white light struck my vision. I hissed, shrinking back from it, blinking rapidly. My hands were bound behind me; they’d positioned me on my knees. While the light disoriented me, based on the waves of emotions, I gathered that agents surrounded me like a gang of predators circling their once-lethal prey. Some felt mildly concerned, mostly the rookies. It was the veterans, the ones that once served me, that felt proud, overconfident… thrilled by that little display.
“Well, are you going to say something or are you going to just keep staring at me, Director Jameson?”
The ruler of the realm stepped forward, past the light, and into my sight. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled into a tight bun on the top of her head and her red glasses perched on the edge of her nose. She folded her arms across her chest, fidgeting with the white cuff of her blazer.
She smiled sweetly at me, the smile that meant she was only seconds away from tearing someone apart piece by piece. “You wanted our attention and now you have it, Mr. Foster. The floor is yours.”
“I’ve come to bargain. You have Blaine, and I would rather you not have her. Name your price.”
Director Jameson snorted, shaking her head. Astonished by the very suggestion that the Ring would even consider trading Blaine, as well as skeptical of anything I could potentially offer her. “I knew you weren’t particularly bright, but I didn’t realize you were this stupid. Have you honestly forgotten how much of a liability Blaine Swan is to us?”
“That isn’t her name.”
“It is, and we both know it.” A tick began to form in her jaw as she glowered at me. “Nothing you could offer would convince me to allow your little delusion to continue.”
“How about my silence? If you give her back and let us go on our way, I won’t breathe another word about the Ring ever again.”
“That isn’t going to work this time, Mr. Foster.”
The blackness descended on me again before I could get a word in edgewise. The clang of a cell door rattled my bones. As the vibration died out and the footsteps backed away, the radiation of sheer agony crawled over me. Screams echoed off the walls.
*** *** ***
Pain throbbed along my skin, and while I wasn’t positive, I felt certain the bruises had already started blooming. The second they tossed me back into my cell, I could already feel the pain Blaine was in. Mingled with mine, it only made it worse. Gods, it was suffocating. It wasn’t even the grounding kind.
Gritting my teeth, I sank my fingernails into my exposed forearms. Raking my fingers down the flesh, I split it, forcing out Blaine’s pain, muting mine into something that would make me focus and drown out the panic. I had to help Blaine. She needed to get out of there before they decided to quit torturing me and kill her. If I just laid around in that cell, she had no chance. I had to do something--and soon.
While Director Jameson and the others liked screwing with me, they wouldn’t keep it up for long, especially not with Blaine. She’d been slated to die as a newborn, and she was seven years past her expiration date to them. I couldn’t let them go through with it.
As blood trickled down my forearm, I sucked in a deep breath and forced myself to open my eyes. Finally, everything didn’t look pitch black. They’d put me in a glass cell in a completely enclosed, isolated room. The only way out was a door directly opposite me. It was a metal sliding door with a magic scanner on the side--the agents would place their hand on it, send through a small fissure of magic, and the scanner would allow them passage if their magical residue was in the system.
It would’ve been a brilliant security system for anyone else, but all I saw was a glaring miscalculation on the Ring’s part.
All I had to do was get out of the cell. After that, everything would be child’s play.
Circling the cell, I scrutinized every corner, skimmed my fingers over the glass, and tampered with each security camera. Of course, two-thirds of them were decoys. The majority of the real cameras were outside of the cell, where the Ring knew they would be free from my manipulation.
Over the course of the investigation, I determined several ways to escape, but only two of which seemed lead to the best possibilities of success. The first involved intentionally shattering the glass to force agents into the room, which would not only give me access to the magic scanner, but would also likely give me temporary access to the security cameras. Option number two involved a bit more patience. For that one, I had to wait for a specific agent to come to retreive me. During the retrieval, I would absorb their powers, manipulate the security cameras, and use them to trick the scanner. Their uniform would also have to be stolen so I could move about the site freely. Of course, that would only buy me a finite amount of time, but it was more than I’d get with option one.
Within twenty-four hours, a high-powered agent would likely come into my cell to retrieve me for another torture session. That was when I would make my move. If that prediction was wrong, then I would proceed with option one. While it was likely Director Jameson had learned her lesson about my magic mimicking, I also knew of her tendency to underestimate me, which worked in my favor. In addition to this, she overestimated me in several aspects. She thought I would physically attack an agent to escape, which was why she would send a high-powered agent. All the while, the fact that I would use the agent’s power to my advantage remained lost on her.
Director Jameson was always up to a surprise, though, which kept me on my toes and in need of that other option.
As I began to settle in, comfortable with my plans, a little light over the door turned green before the doors slid back. An agent in full uniform stepped off, heavily armed and completely calm. Closing my eyes, I stretched my magic a little. Invisible flecks of indigo enveloped the agent, swimming in and out of them, delving into them to determine their abilities.
I smirked and held my hands up defensively, already preparing for them to come in and handcuff me. As soon as they did, I’d hike up their sleeve just enough to make skin to skin contact. Once it was made, I’d have full control over their abilities. In that case--telekinesis.
Option two it was then.