Kid paces back and forth in Ana’s house, biting his nails as he looks at Leyna, who’s in her monster form and breathing heavily. Steam comes from her mouth as the arms sprouting from her back retract, her hands and feet shrink back to their normal size, and her eyes revert to human. “Hey, something is happening over here,” Kid shouts.
Ana claps five times. “Bravo, darling! I’m losing my patience waiting for her to get stronger. She’s not leaving until I’m satisfied with her strength. It’s about time we put an end to all this Jamie mess and prepare for what’s coming by any means necessary.”
Amanda groans. “I feel like… I feel like I want to die. I’m in so much pain. What happened to me? Why can’t I move? My bones hurt. I think everything is broken. Someone shoot me and put me out of my misery!” Amanda rolls and flails around on the ground.
“‘Thank you, Ana, for saving my life’ would be a more appropriate response. I want you to remember this feeling, so you never do it again.”
“Amanda, don’t worry—I’m going to knock you unconscious.” Kid zaps her with electricity, and she stops moving.
“I guess I have to heal her now, too. She didn’t even say thank you for saving her. I’ll make her pay for that someday. We’ve already lost too much time. We’re going to my world to heal her.” A black hole opens under Ana’s cabin in the woods, and it drops into a white void.
Back at ATRA, Richard walks over to the cell Jamie is in with a wavy-haired, baby-faced man carrying a clipboard. “Okay, Demitri. Give me an update,” Richard says to his companion, looking through the cell at Jamie, who is on a metal table with a green collar around his neck and IVs in his arms.
Demitri brings his clipboard up to his face and begins reading from it. “Alright. Jamie here has IVs in both arms—one is for administering blood, while the other for administering the silver liquid that promotes healing and organ regeneration. Nothing else can be done for him. With his powers suppressed by that collar around his neck, he’s human, which is hindering the healing process. At this rate, it’ll be weeks before he’s awake to tell you anything.”
“We can’t wait that long. Put one of those pill-sized bombs in his chest, take the collar off, and get him healed and talking. We need to know if he’s kidnapped any more children and where they are. Then, start making the arrangements for his execution.” Richard walks away with Demitri to another cell and sees Jacob wearing clothes that are too small for him. “Alright, what’s going on with this guy?”
“Here, we have Jacob. He also has a collar suppressing his powers. We caught him flying around as a giant eagle. He’s cooperating. Claims he was in the area trying to save people from what was going on when he was attacked by a small girl and her deity.”
“Alright. Gather video footage of everything that went on in that area and see if the story adds up. Then, do a worldwide search of old video footage, pictures, and anything else to see if we can link him to previous crimes or unsolved mysteries, or to see if he’s been up to suspicious stuff. Do the same thing for Jamie, too. If everything comes back clean for Jacob, he’s free to go. If not, then I’ll sit down with the council and see if he lives or dies. I’ll talk to the council about Jamie, too.” Richard walks away.
“Death? Wait a minute!” Jacob says.
Richard backtracks. “Yes, sir?”
“Freedom or death? There’s nothing in between?” Jacob asks.
“Counseling, if we think it will help you, but that’s only if we let you go free. Then there’s death—nothing else in between. You sound worried!”
“Hey, man, look. I can tell you everything you need to know about that kid-killer in the cell down there and the missing children I kidnapped if you promise to let me go.”
“Maybe. Tell me more.”
“I work for that guy, but not by choice. If I don’t do what he says, I die instantly. He’s had me kidnap children in broad daylight for him. Then he kills them and feeds them to his son because he’s sick, or something like that!”
“Make note of what he just said, and we’ll discuss it with the council,” Richard says.
“Please, man, I don’t want to die!”
“Make note of that for me, too.”
“Yes, sir,” Demitri says.
“And where the hell is Kid? We can use that girl who can tell when someone is lying or not.”
Back in Ana’s cabin, Kid sneezes. “Someone must be talking about me.”
Amanda begins to wake from her sleep. She looks around and sees Kid with his feet propped up on a table, reading a book.
“Hopefully, this is the last time we have this feeling of déjà vu,” Kid quips.
“Do you mind if we skip the small talk? Just tell me how long I’ve been out, where my sister is, where Jamie is, and where we are,” Amanda demands.
“About twelve hours. I don’t know. I don’t know. And in Ana’s house, but I don’t know where.”
“Alright, I’m out of here.” Amanda gets off the couch and walks toward the door. When she opens it, she sees nothing but a white void. “Don’t tell me none of this is real, and I’m still in my kundalini realm.”
Ana creeps up behind Amanda. “Nope, all of this is real. You’re in my makeshift deity world, and I wouldn’t go out that door if I were you. I don’t think you’re strong enough to withstand the gravity out there. You’re in a safe haven right now.”
“What? None of that makes sense to me. Ana, you can see people. Where is my sister?” Amanda asks.
“I’ll see if I can find her.” A third eye that looks like a crystal ball opens on her forehead. “Look into the crystal ball, and you can see what I do.”
Amanda looks into the crystal ball and sees Saira sitting next to Ameena. “Why is she with my deity? Where are they? Can you zoom in on my sister? I have to go and get her.” Saira opens her eyes, and Amanda jumps back in shock. Instead of a normal eyeball, it looks as though a vibrant blue and pink galaxy has been trapped inside each of her sockets. “Her eyes are so pretty.” Amanda stares in amazement.
“I see you,” Saira says.
“Enough of that,” Ana says hurriedly, closing her third eye. “Jamie is locked away back at your ATRA headquarters. Looks like he’s doing fine and dandy. I doubt that will hold him, though.”
“You’re right. Let me and Kid out of here so we can go handle it.”
“Sure. That’s a good idea.” Ana opens a black hole under Amanda’s feet, and she falls through and lands flat on her stomach in the white void outside the house. “Oops, I’m sorry. These portals have a mind of their own sometimes. But since you’re out here, you might as well do some training,” Ana yells out her window.
“She’s right,” a voice coming from behind Ana says.
“H-hey. How did you get in my realm, you snot-nosed brat?” Ana asks.
“I teleported. I can sense prana now. Acolytes have their own prana signature, so they’re easy to find if I recognize it. For some reason, you were hard to find in this place. Once you did whatever you did, I found you instantly.” Saira makes her eyes turn normal.
“Well, guess what? You and your new little tricks can join your stinking sister out there and struggle with her.” Ana puts a black hole under Saira and brings her out next to Amanda through another one. The black hole disappears.
“You have to get stronger. We need to take advantage of this environment. I don’t trust Ana. Some of the things she said back at her office about absorbing spirits raised red flags, and some of those spirits seemed violent. She can’t fully control them, and who knows what would’ve happened if we’d stayed there when she snapped?” Saira says.
Kid walks out the door and begins walking toward the girls.
Amanda struggles to get off the ground. “She saved my life, but I agree she is weird. I trust you and your judgment. If you think she’s shady, then she probably is, but she’s also knowledgeable. We need her, and she needs us. Anyway, I don’t think we’d be able to escape her if we tried. She knows where we are at all times, but we should walk on eggshells around her and try to keep her happy, at least for now.” Amanda continues to have a hard time getting up. “Damn it!”
“Alright, ladies, it’s time to stop talking about Barbie dolls and start some training,” Kid says.
Amanda looks at Saira and Kid, who are standing in the white void with ease. “Why aren’t you two struggling like me?”
“I’m used to this already. I think the gravity was heavier on your deity’s planet,” Saira says.
“And I’ve gained a lot of strength through countless battles. Never been to a deity’s world before—not even sure where mine is—but—”
“Ana called this place a makeshift deity world or something,” Amanda says.
“If that’s so, time moves quicker here than it does in the real world. One year here should equal one day out in the real world. If I’m wrong, we lose nothing. We can only gain from being here,” Saira says.
“You’re right, little girl,” Kid says. “Ana is pretty—”
“One day is too long. Let’s cut it to twelve hours. Six months in this place. I can’t risk any more children dying.” Amanda struggles to her feet. “I’m not about to let you outdo me, so I guess I have to get strong like you two!”
Saira kicks her legs out from under her. “Again.”
Amanda struggles to stand to her feet again and laughs. “Check this out! Ex animo!” She transforms into her yin form. She is now able to move around easily. “You’re not the only one with new tricks. Make your eyes change.”
Saira closes her eyes, then opens them, and it looks like a vibrant blue and pink galaxy has been trapped inside each of her sockets. “These help me sense prana and put faces to the prana I sense. The distance doesn’t matter. I could sense prana from Earth to the moon and be able to teleport to it. For some reason, I can’t sense deity’s prana, which makes me wonder if they even use prana at all. My other eyes, with the veins bulging out of my forehead and tiny black hooks, allow me to see objects and humans through buildings. I can see up to twenty miles with those eyes. Both sets of eyes give me the ability to swap items or transport to them.”
“Not bad. So, did you sync with your kundalini too?” Amanda gazes into her sister’s eyes. God, I’m so jealous.
“No, we want different things, and I can never picture us syncing, so I doubt I’ll ever unlock my yin powers. All I managed to do on Ameena’s world was strengthen my visual prowess and learn how to activate new ones.”
“Hey Kid, let’s see your yin side,” Amanda says.
“I’d rather not. I can’t tell what’s real or fake when I do.”
“What do you mean?” Amanda asks.
“Ana put a spell on me with that eye on her forehead. It creates illusions within the person she uses it on, and it affects all five senses. I don’t know how it works, exactly—I just know that once you see it, you can never defeat her.”
“Why would she put something like that on you?” Amanda asks.
“So I don’t kill her. She wiped out my entire squadron—well, I wiped them out when I was under her spell. I thought I was killing her people, but I was only slaughtering mine.”
“I understand why you would want to kill her, but why does she want to kill you?” Amanda asks.
“Because I killed her best friend in battle.”
“Okay, you two obviously have a long and violent history with each other,” Amanda replies.
“No time for games and small talk, girls,” Ana yells out the window of her house.
Kid grumbles, “I know she sees me out here. She really irks me.”
Jamie appears in front of the sisters.
“Don’t be alarmed,” Ana explains. “He’s fake and can’t make you decay, but he can kill you. That can happen in battle, and I want you to become familiar with the feeling of fighting for your life so it’s not so overwhelming when you’re out there in the real world. Living in a world full of acolytes, battles can be unpredictable, and the unexpected can always happen—the environment changing, unexpected people showing up, or anything else weird. So to add a little more realness to your fight, I’ll be throwing random challenges at you to try and overcome.”
“In order for us to be effective in battle, it’s important for me to see everything you can do,” Saira says.
“Us? You say that like we’re going to be fighting together,” Amanda says.
“Without me, you’ll die. It’s important we fight together.”
“In your own little way, I guess you do care about me. That’s sweet and all, but…” Amanda raises her forearm, and a transparent blue shield covers it. “I have this shield to protect me.”
“It’s only covering your forearm.” Saira taps it with her finger.
“What’s wrong with this damn thing?” Amanda waves her forearm up and down. “It was covering my entire body in my kundalini realm.”
Kid walks over and starts tapping her shield too. “With your current strength, that’s all the energy you can produce. The stronger you become, the bigger your shield will become.”
“Alright. You can now begin,” Ana yells.
“I’ll observe from a distance.” Kid backs away.
Jamie begins to run toward Amanda with his scythe in hand, and she summons her guns.
Explode on impact. Amanda fires her gun, and the kickback forces it from her hand. The bullet misses by a long shot, going out of sight. She fires her other gun, and the force knocks her to the ground, making her miss again. Jamie jumps up and prepares to deliver a fatal blow, but his scythe ends up in Saira’s hand.
Amanda recovers. Regular bullet.
She fires her gun at Jamie’s skull, expecting to see blood squirt out, but nothing leaks from it, and he just lies lifelessly on top of her.
“Seems like you need me after all,” Saira says.
Amanda pushes Jamie off her. “Maybe, but what would you have done if he were attacking you?”
“Either retreat or put you in front of me.”
Amanda throws up her hands in frustration. “So I can get hit by something and die?”
“So you can protect me. I’m not cruel. Isn’t that what older sisters are supposed to do?”
“Okay! Don’t go pulling on my heartstrings.” Amanda gets off the ground, huffing and puffing. “If I weren’t so exhausted, I’d come over to hug you. Feels like I just ran a marathon! Hey, am I out of shape or something? Because you seem to be unfazed by this.”
“I’ve built up the stamina to use my powers without becoming tired so quickly. On Earth, you won’t get tired as quickly since the gravity isn’t as heavy.”
“I hope not.” Amanda looks down at her arm and sees a patch of her suit is missing. “Now what’s going on?”
“As your stamina starts to deplete, your outfit will begin to disappear. Why didn’t your kundalini tell you this stuff?” Kid asks.
Amanda shrugs her shoulders.
“Don’t touch that scythe in real life. I lost an arm doing so,” Kid warns. He walks over to Saira and bends down toward her ear. “If that Jamie comes toward you, pretend you’re scared and helpless. I want to see how Amanda responds,” he whispers, then backs away.
“Alright, girls, get ready for round two,” Ana yells out the window.
Jamie appears again, and this time, he dashes toward Saira.
“Alright, time to see what you can do, sis,” Amanda says.
Saira gives her a fearful look. “I don’t have anything I can beat him with.”
“Well, do something!” Amanda prepares to shoot her gun but stops in the fear that she might miss and hurt herself in the process. She begins to run toward Saira but sees that she won’t make it in time. She turns her suit yellow, increasing her speed. Before Jamie can reach Saira with his scythe, Amanda connects her fist with his face, knocking him to the ground and making him drop his scythe. She picks it up from the ground and slices his head off.
“I was waiting on you to do something amazing, but instead, you’re standing there getting ready to get killed. Why didn’t you move?” she snaps at Saira.
“Because people can accomplish amazing things when protecting someone they love. Your powers can reach new heights, and you’re able to go beyond your limits. Look at the patch that was missing on your arm,” Kid says.
Amanda looks at her arm and sees her suit is whole again. “Kid, you’re a genius. You know what? I don’t feel exhausted and weak anymore either, and—” Amanda begins to slouch, and the entire left side of her suit fades away, showing her regular clothes and skin. “Never mind. I spoke too soon.”
“You can’t be afraid to use your guns. We’re here to practice, so mistakes are welcome. I doubt Ana would let anything tragic happen to you two, because you’re needed by her for some reason. Don’t be scared to go all-out in here and push beyond your limits. It’s the only way to get stronger. Try not to worry about the consequences,” Kid says.
“Right,” Amanda agrees.
“Bonus round, ladies!” Ana says.
“Can we take a break? Like, a two-day break? I’m exhausted, and I’m not used to this. We need to take baby steps,” Amanda shouts.
“Last round, then you can come inside. No more Jamie. I’m tired of seeing him lose, so here are fifty zombies that scream like banshees when they run,” Ana says.
Amanda hears the sound of a bunch of wailing women coming from behind her, and she turns arounds and sees a horde of rabid zombies running her way.
“Okay.” Amanda takes a deep breath and exhales. “Saira, stand behind me. I’m going to wipe them all out with one shot.” Sweat drips off her face, and her knees begin to shake from trying to keep herself up.
Amanda clanks her two guns together, fusing them into one long rose-gold laser gun, and the tip of it falls to the ground. Amanda struggles to lift it but fails. “Okay, I didn’t expect this thing to be so freaking heavy. Don’t worry yet, little sister. Another trick up my sleeve.” The remaining half of Amanda’s suit turns red, and she is now able to lift the gun. She pulls the trigger, and small holes on each side begin to light up pink. “My heart… feels like… it’s getting ready to hop out of my chest.”
As Amanda holds the laser gun, the remainder of her red suit crumbles up and fades away. She loses her grip, and it falls to the ground. She wobbles, trying to stay on her feet. “I failed again.”
She falls sideways, hitting the ground and going unconscious.
A day goes by, and Amanda yawns and stretches from her rest on the couch. She feels someone tapping her on her forehead.
“What?” she groans.
“Time to get up and train again,” Saira says.
“Train? I thought we were eaten by zombies.” She slaps Saira’s hand away.
“No, Ana stopped them after you passed out. She healed you so you could get back to training.”
“No complaints from me. I have a long way to go with plenty of time.”
“First thing you need to do is increase your duration, so you can be in each suit without getting tired,” Kid says, his arm folded.
“Let’s begin, sister.” Saira extends her hand.
Amanda grabs Saira’s hand. “Sisters against evil. Let’s begin.”