“What do you mean, you ran out? Can’t you order some more?” Katrina growled, pounding her fist on the counter in frustration.
“Sorry kid, but our next shipment is due to arrive in a month.” The potbellied man shrugged, lazily puffing on a cigarette. “Blame the manufacturers, not me.”
Katrina narrowed her eyes, searching for a telltale sign that he was lying, but found none. If she wanted her hoverboard fixed, she would need to find another store that had the parts in stock.
She stomped out the store and resisted the urge to slam the door as she got onto her hoverboard. A small click told her that her hoverboard had magnetically connected to the soles of her shoes, preventing her from falling off as she rose into the air.
The breeze ruffled her wavy brunette hair, causing a few unruly strands of hair to fall out of her ponytail. Katrina impatiently pushed them behind her ear as she struggled to keep her balance.
The board moved forwards inconsistently as it rose, as if moving of its own accord. Combined with the strong wind, it was nearly impossible to not fall off. Suddenly, her board sped forwards uncontrollably.
Katrina left behind a trail of cursing people in her wake as she tried to stop herself from colliding into anything. From an outsider’s perspective, it would look like Katrina was an amateur at hoverboarding, despite the fact that Katrina had gotten her hoverboard license two years ago, when she was thirteen, the legal hoverboarding age limit in New York City.
When Katrina seemed to have gotten her board under control, it jerked to a stop. Katrina sighed, assuming that her board has, once again, decided to leave her twelve meters above the ground with no way of getting down. However, as she looked around her, she realized that everything had went into a standstill.
People were hovering in midair, exclaiming in surprise, and hovercars and nearby hovertrains screeched to a halt. Pedestrians found their feet glued to the floor, unable to move. Katrina could see some people, about a few blocks away from them, curiously glancing at them, wondering why they had stopped.
Surprised, Katrina saw the police flying around in the sky, pressing civilians’ fingers to a fingerprint scanner. Could this be one of the times where the police identify everyone in an area to locate a criminal? Katrina had heard of this happening before, but had never seen one, much less been in one.
“We have reason to suspect that there is an illegal Deviant in this area and will be scanning the fingerprints of everyone in order to identify the Deviant,” one of them said, a miniature microphone amplifying his voice, confirming Katrina’s suspicions. “If you have any information about the Deviant’s whereabouts, we encourage you to notify one of the police.”
Deviants, like Katrina, were people born with a superpower. They were incredibly rare and had a variety of powers, from creating illusions, which was the power Katrina had, to sprouting wings at will, even to the power of death itself.
Katrina tensed up as the police started getting closer to her. There wasn’t any way to escape; she was too high up to jump and the police has documented all the fingerprints of Deviants.
One thing Katrina could do was change the result of the fingerprint scan though. All she had to do is make the original result of the scan invisible and create an illusion of a fake result in its place.
As the police moved closer and closer, sweat dripped down her back and her teeth clenched together.
“Hand, please,” a police said to her. Katrina obediently held out her right hand. The police grabbed it and placed her pointer finger onto the scanner. With a beep, the scanner displayed her information on the screen. Katrina shut her eyes in apprehension.
“We have a problem,” Katrina heard. She opened her eyes, ready to punch the police and find a way to escape, but the police’s attention was drifting away from her.
As she took in the scene around her, she found that all the police were focusing on a boy her age next to her. He was sweating profusely and was being handcuffed by a police. Was he a Deviant, too?
The boy tried to kick and punch the police, but to no avail. Within moments, he had been apprehended and unceremoniously carried towards the police hovercar.
Underneath Katrina, her board jerked. The police had gotten ahold of their criminal, and everyone else, including her, was being released. She knew that she should get out of there before the police find out that she was a Deviant, too, but Katrina faltered.
There was a mutual agreement amongst Deviants to help each other out, especially when one gets arrested. Katrina knew that it was well within her capabilities to help the boy escape but was hesitant to risk her own life to help someone she didn’t know. For all she knew, the boy wasn’t even a Deviant, but instead a ruthless murderer. However, didn’t the police say that they thought there was a Deviant in the area? Chances are, the boy was a Deviant.
Within a moment, Katrina’s mind was made. She would help the boy.
“Fire!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. With a flick of her wrist, she created an illusion of a nearby skyscraper catching on fire. Smoke billowed into the sky, the flames roared and reached towards the sky, and despite the fact that it was an illusion, some people were already coughing from the smoke and sweating from the heat of the fire.
The police stopped, mouth agape at the sudden appearance of the fire. Their grip on the boy’s arms loosened for a moment, but that was all Katrina needed.
She yanked the boy away and rendered both of them invisible. A clone appeared where the boy was. Every detail was perfect, down to the ragged edges of the boy’s jeans and the pattern on his hoverboard. The clone appeared to be flying away, trying to escape in the confusion of the fire.
The police snapped their heads back, quickly starting a chase. They turned a corner and were gone.
Katrina could feel her head swimming. Black dots were appearing in her vision, and she knew that she couldn’t hold the illusion for much longer. She hadn’t made an illusion this big in ages and it was taking its toll. Katrina let go of the illusion of the fire and the clone, so that the only illusion she was holding was the invisibility one on her and the boy.
“Get out of here,” she hissed at the boy. “Before they come back.”
She could feel her invisibility illusion falling; nearby people were gasping and pointing at their flickering bodies. Their position was revealed. Katrina saw the police coming back, angrily flying towards them.
Katrina urged her hoverboard to move, but it stayed still. She muttered a curse at her old, broken hoverboard as her illusion fell, leaving her and the boy in full view.
“What are you doing?” she yelled. “Get out of here, they’re coming!”
“My hoverboard isn’t moving,” the boy replied hastily, running a hand through his messy blond hair. “Can’t you do one of those fancy illusion things again?”
Katrina tried to pull together the last of her energy and create another illusion, but her energy was spent. She shook her head.
Although she was mentally exhausted from creating that illusion, her body was humming with energy. She glanced around her. They were still too high to jump to the ground, but there was a building under them, only about seven meters away.
“Jump,” she said.
“What? Are you crazy?” the boy replied.
Without replying, Katrina immediately twisted her heels as hard as she could to release the magnetic connection to her shoes, and she jumped off, rolling to a stop on the building.
She stood up, getting a bearing on her surroundings.
Besides her, the boy fell to the ground clumsily. He gingerly stood up, rubbing his ribs.
“I think my ribs are broken,” he groaned.
“Doubt it. Probably just bruised,” Katrina replied distractedly, trying to find an escape route. The building was old, probably built a hundred years ago, in the early 21st century. Its edges were rough, and it would be easy to climb down.
Katrina clambered down the building, dropping the last few feet. Without waiting for the boy to catch up, she started running towards an alleyway, making them invisible in the process.
Her invisibility illusion wasn’t as good as usual. Instead of blending in almost perfectly, they looked like two shimmering walls of air, easy to spot. However, from up above, where the police were, it was a good enough disguise.
The twists and turns of the alleyway would’ve made anyone lost. Anyone, except Katrina. Her footsteps were quick and sure from years of running these passages. Soon, they reached a dead end. Without delay, Katrina turned to her right and scaled up the building, so that she was standing on the roof.
She surveyed the scene around her. The police were still looking for them, not too far away, but it seems like they expected them to blend in with the crowd. After all, the best place to hide a tree is in a forest, no? They were looking for them on foot, shoving pedestrians aside, taking fingerprint scans at random.
Beside her, Katrina heard the boy gasping for breath as he flopped onto his back, exhausted from the run. Katrina released their invisibility illusion so that they could see each other.
“You’re a Deviant, too?” he gasped, out of breath.
“Well, as far as I know, only Deviants have superpowers. Considering the fact that I’m an illusionist, the answer to your question is yes,” Katrina replied curtly. “What’s your power?”
Telepathy, he said. But he didn’t say it out loud. The words simply appeared in her head, almost like she was thinking the words.
Seeing her surprised look, the boy laughed. “Don’t worry, I can't read your mind. Well, I can, but I won't without your permission. I can sense your mind though. I’m Dean, by the way. Dean Stanford.”
“What do you mean, ‘sense’ my mind?” Katrina asked, ignoring the insinuation that she should give him her name.
“Like sense the energy of your mind. It’s hard to explain. It’s like a third sense, kind of like your gut feeling. I know when there is any living thing nearby. For example, I can sense that there are approximately ten million people in this city, and a couple thousand animals. Can’t get any more specific than that though,” Dean shrugged.
“So, you know when anyone’s nearby? That’s useful,” she said.
“Not as useful as creating illusions though. I swear, I actually thought that fire was real. I could feel the heat and smell the smoke and everything,” Dean admired.
“Thanks,” Katrina replied, proud of her handiwork. “I’m Katrina York.”
“Pleased to meet you, Katrina.” They shook hands.
“Well, we'd better get going. We can’t stay here all day, after all,” Katrina announced.
“Yeah,” Dean agreed.
Without speaking, they both left in opposite directions. Katrina jumped off the building they were on and jogged away. She elbowed her way through groups of people, most of whom were gossiping about the mysterious fire and its sudden disappearance. It seemed like the public did not know about Katrina’s trick yet. Undoubtedly, the fire would make the headlines on the news that day.
Soon, Katrina arrived at an old house in the midst of a small neighborhood. As far as she knew, no one had lived there for years. When she first took up residence there, the floor was covered with a layer of dust and cobwebs decorated the ceilings. The newspaper she found lying around was dated back years ago.
Now, the old residents wouldn’t have recognized the building. It was clean, cozy, and well-maintained. However, Katrina took extra care to keep the exterior of the house the same, so as to not attract the attention of the neighbors.
Katrina crept through the back door, going through all the rooms to make sure that no one had been there while she was gone. Nothing was disturbed.
Katrina relaxed and went to her bedroom, immediately collapsing on the bed, exhausted after the long day. Before she knew it, her eyelids were closing, and she was drifting off to sleep.
The sound of a doorbell rang throughout the house, waking Katrina up. She sat up, immediately on alert. She walked to the window and peeked out.
There was a group of armed police at her front door, all supplied with pistols and tranquillizer guns. There was a man in front of the group, and unlike the rest of the police, he had no protective armor or weapons. Grinning like a madman, he pressed the doorbell again.
Without warning, Katrina could feel her power flowing out of her. She fell to her knees in shock, having never felt this sensation before.
There were rumors that there was a Deviant in the police force, the only legal Deviant above the age of thirteen who wasn’t in the Experiment, a scientific experiment on Deviants to learn more about them, since the first of them only appeared a few generations back. Deviants thirteen and up were forced to enter the Experiment, unless they wanted to become a criminal. However, the catch is, none who entered the Experiment ever exited it alive.
Rumors said that the only legal Deviant above thirteen had the power to take away other Deviants’ powers at will, which was why he was selected to join the police. With this Deviant at their side, the police had become cockier and bolder, knowing full well that any Deviant would be turned into a normal person by the Thief, which was what many people called the Deviant.
Katrina rose, rushing out of her bedroom. There was no time to pack anything up. She broke the window opposite to the front door and jumped out as quietly as she could.
Without her power, Katrina felt vulnerable and useless. When the Thief took away her power, it was like he was taking away part of her soul, everything that defined her. It was all she could do to keep moving. Even then, her usual graceful reflexes were gone, replaced instead by the reflexes of an old man. She stumbled into the forest behind her house, trying desperately to get out of the Thief’s range to get her power back.
The farther she went, the stronger she felt, like her power was coming back. Hope rose in her; maybe she could escape once more, like she always did. However, soon, her hope died. She once again grew weaker, presumably because the Thief was coming closer. Behind her, she could hear the police shouting as they crashed through the forest after her.
Katrina stumbled and fell, lying on the moss ridden forest floor, trying to stand up. A cop placed his boot on top of her back, forcing her back to the ground.
“You know, one thing that you didn’t realize was that Thief here can track Deviants,” Katrina heard. “He can sense the energy of Deviants, so outrunning him once you’re in his range is useless.”
Kind of like Dean’s power, Katrina thought as a police shot a sleeping dart into her neck, rendering her unconscious.
The last thing she heard was a police saying, “Tie her up and put her into the Experiment.”