I jerked awake, eliciting a small gasp from someone beside me. I tried blinking the bleariness from my eyes, but when I moved I realized I couldn’t. Adrenalin flooded my veins as I struggled, but it was useless. Just as I was about to scream a hand rested on my shoulder.
“It’s okay, Nora. You’re safe,” Matt’s voice brought on a moment of calm inside me—and in that moment I took my time to really look around.
“Where are we,” I asked. We were in some kind of metal tube. There were windows but it was dark outside from what I could see. I couldn’t see past that since I was strapped down.
“We’re on our way to GASPR’s headquarters,” Matt said sighing, the exhaustion in his voice well deserved. His head was bandaged, hand braced, and what looked like splints both of his legs. And to top it all off he had a black eye. Poor bastard.
Matt sat in a wheelchair beside my bed, and he noticed the looks I was giving the straps. “Relax,” he said, “its procedure when transporting an injured person.”
I tried keeping my relief from showing as he undid my straps, but Matt still smirked. Asshole. I can’t always wear my, as Justine calls it, resting bitch face in every situation. I went rigid for a second and then felt all my energy drain. Called, not calls. She wouldn’t be saying anything anymore.
My throat started tightening and the room began swimming. Thankfully, Matt had the decency to look away as if in thought.
“Justine…” it was all I could manage. Just her name, nothing more or I’d lose it completely.
“I’m sorry,” Matt said softly. “They said she died on impact.”
“To save you.”
My head moved so fast it actually popped, “What do you mean?”
“She was emitting energy right before…” Matt hesitated a second, “The point is, she was buying us time.”
My mind drifted back to Justine sitting in the booth, hands held out towards the car, screaming something I didn’t catch. She was trying to slow the car, maybe even stop it? For some reason the idea didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, I felt even worse. My best friend, the one who’d helped me cope with losing Noah, had died saving me.
“It’s not your fault,” Matt said. “Don’t hold it against yourself.”
I glared back. “How can I not? She died saving me!”
“Would you do the same for her,” Matt asked. The calmness of his words irritated me.
“Would you want her to blame herself?”
I opened my mouth, realized what he was saying, and closed it. I scowled into my lap, but refused to let him have the last word. “I still feel guilty.”
“And you will for awhile.”
What the hell kind of comment was that? Like that'd make me feel better.
“It’s part of the grieving process,” Matt explained. “You’ll feel guilty about it, it’s only natural. The important thing is you understand it was out of your hands.”
I my hands clenched. This wasn’t fair—none of it. I wanted Justine back. Tears began to dribble off my chin. I wanted revenge. I wanted to make the bastard—that Brutus—suffer. I wanted to kill him so badly but…
But you can’t kill someone who’s dead, Nora. And the person responsible for that is sitting right next to you.
“Who are you,” I asked. The question caught Matt by surprise. He probably hadn’t expected me to move past Justine’s death so quickly. “Is your name even Matt? Who do you work for? You knew how to shoot and you killed a man.”
Matt, if that was even his real name, sat in silence for a moment before looking out the window beside him.
“My name is my own,” he said. His eyes shifted back to me, “The rest will be explained shortly.”
The next question died in my throat as the entire metal container shook briefly. Then, a cool automated voice began speaking about exit protocol.
A man entered the cabin and helped me stand. Once sure I could walk, he pushed Matt to the back where another door stood. After walking through a short tunnel it opened onto a large catwalk. The enormity of the place surprised me, but even more so were the large windows on either side of the entry way we’d just come through. Beyond them an endless expansion of black speckled with white acted as the backdrop for a giant blue orb blotched with green and brush strokes of white.
“This is GASPR’s Orbiting Research and Investigation of Novae headquarters. Also known as the ORION space station.”
Motioning down the walkway he said, “Come on, we need to get to the infirmary.”
The walk through ORION was other-worldly. Everything seemed so futuristic. Glass walls lined the corridors we walked through just like in the sci-fi movies, allowing us to see scientists moving about in their labs. I didn’t really get to see much past the few hallways we went through, it was a relatively short trip from the docks to the infirmary. But the treatment we received fascinated me.
In minutes novae healed Matt’s legs, hand, and major cuts to nothing with just their energy. I was fine; the few cuts I had cleaned by hand. Twenty minutes later Matt stood before me like nothing had happened, giving me directions to a lab I needed to go to for an examination.
“Nora there’s one thing you should know,” Matt said. I noticed the seriousness and gave him my full attention. “Dr. Belto worked with your brother. I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust him, but if you watch your temper he might tell you a little about him.”
I blinked. My brother had visited here before? When? I sure as hell wasn’t about to trust anyone here, but I could see Matt’s concern about how I might react so I forced a smirk.
Punching him in the shoulder I said, “What temper?”
Matt returned the smile, and turned to leave. He’d mentioned earlier about having to report to the director of ORION. “Just making sure you don’t make a scene.”
Despite having his back to me I flipped him the bird, a genuine smile making its way to my lips this time, and headed in the opposite direction.
The lab was easy enough to find, but what surprised me was how much it lacked. It only consisted of a few computers in front of a glass room.
“You must be Nora.”
I turned to see a squat dark man walking out of his office wearing kakis, turtle neck, and dazzling smile. I nodded trying to smile as well, but the image from my dream flashed before me.
“And you must be Dr. Belto,” I said forcing the image away.
“Zeik is fine,” he assured still smiling. His accent was thick—African maybe? “But enough of the small talk, I’m sure you have many questions. Come.”
I followed him back to his office and we sat down. As soon as he was situated I asked, “You knew my brother?”
Zeik blinked for a moment before grinning. “Straight to the point I see. Yes, I knew your brother. He was a magnificent boy with a rare gift.”
I smiled at his words, but quirked an eyebrow. “What made him so special? I knew he was, but I never knew why.”
“I’m surprised to hear that since you’re his sister,” Zeik said.
My cheeks burned and I scowled, “I just knew he could do things nobody else could. He never really talked about it.”
“I meant nothing by it,” Zeik said holding up his hands. “Let’s see here. To begin, there are two categories of novae: LEDs and DEDs. The more common of the two are LEDs, which stands for Light Energized Denizen.
“LEDs use their own core to manipulate the physical objects around them as well as display some amount of control over density. And while each LED is unique, their abilities usually fall into three types: healers, contortionists, and architects. Healers are pretty self explanatory. Contortionists can shift and manipulate physical objects at will, and architects have the ability to create anything from their imagination.”
I raised an eyebrow, “Anything from nothing? That sounds a little…”
“Godlike,” Zeik said. “It is. We have no idea how they do it, and because they’re the rarest type of LED we have so little data. We do know creating something from nothing isn’t easy, and usually takes the architect some time to create the object they’re imagining.”
“That’s still impressive,” I said. “What about the other category, these DEDs?”
Zeik nodded slowly. “They’re rare, and it’s very difficult to get them to…cooperate. From what we understand, DEDs—or Dark Energized Denizens—use their core to attract dark energy.”
“Dark energy,” I echoed trying to keep the confusion out of my voice. What the hell was that? Wasn’t there just energy?
Zeik’s surprised look caused my cheeks to burn again. It wasn’t like dark energy was common knowledge, right?
“I’m surprised you’ve never heard of dark energy. It was a huge discovery about sixty years ago, and it’s what gave birth to the novae.”
Damn. Curse my disinterest in popular things.
“It was long accepted space consisted mostly of an invisible substance called dark matter,” Zeik said. “Sixty years ago scientists found a way to observe it. Then measure it. And finally collect it. What they discovered was dark matter released dark energy. Amazingly, this dark energy closely resembled the same energy we humans give off. Ten years later, the first experiment to see what would happen if a human was bombarded with condensed dark energy began, and the results were astounding.
“The human body fought off the dark energy with its own light energy, and as a result began to produce more. This gave way to the first generation of LEDs. What’s more, those who activated their core passed down the trait to their children as if it were hereditary.”
“So what does that have to do with DEDs,” I asked. “They don’t use light energy, they use dark. How?”
“A DED’s core acts like a magnet. It attracts dark energy instead of repelling it. DED cores collect the dark energy and convert it into a useable form for the nova, which give rise to completely different abilities.”
“Abilities my brother had?”
“Correct,” Zeik said. “And the amazing thing about a DED’s abilities is they’re not linked to just one type.”
“Huh?” Sometimes I amazed myself with how articulate I could be.
“LEDs are only one of the three types: healer, contortionist, or architect. However, a DED’s abilities are progressive. They begin as nullifiers. Like healers, nullifiers can repair injures, but in a completely different way. Instead of healing an injury, the injury vanishes.”
I blinked, “You mean it just disappears?”
“Correct. As the nullifiers abilities grow they enter the next type of DED—the distortionist—which is the most common type of DED, and where almost all seem to plateau. A distortionist can move objects kinetically. We believe this stems from the ability to manipulate gravity, since they can also create gravitational focal points. When a distortionist has trained enough to reach maximum control they can even create illusions.” Zeik pointed at me, “Your brother had reached that level when he left us. He was able to form strong gravitational focal points, lift several tons with just a wave of his hand, and create complex illusions.”
The memory of the tar appearing in the café popped into my head. It’d come out of nowhere, and was gone when Pluto tried to drag me into that strange portal.
“So Pluto is a distortionist,” I guessed and Zeik grew very still.
“No, our lives would be much easier if Pluto was just a distortionist. But he’s something else entirely. He’s the last type of DED, and the only one ever recorded.” Zeik sighed as if the very thought drained him. “Pluto is an atomizer—the abilities to fully control gravity, deconstruct objects down to their atomic level, and turn reality to illusion and illusion to reality.”
Stunned didn’t really describe how I was feeling. The numbness I felt throughout my body was probably closer to sobering shock. All of a sudden surviving my encounter with Pluto seemed a lot more impressive. And Matt?
After a few seconds Zeik said, “Now, you’re probably wondering why you were asked to come here.”
I looked at him confused. “Well now that I think about it, why am I here?”
“Do you know what a pulsar is,” he asked. I shook my head and he continued, “A pulsar is someone who has nova abilities, but can’t use them.”
“So someone like me,” I said, then frowned. “But I thought the term was dwarf star?”
“You are a dwarf star,” Zeik said. “But a pulsar is another type of nova who can’t access their energy.”
“What’s the difference?”
“A dwarf star is someone who can’t access their energy,” Zeik said. “A pulsar is someone who can’t access their energy, but can absorb energy and then send it out in a burst. I won’t get too technical, but the body has a circuit for its energy: in and out. A dwarf’s energy circuit is completely severed, but a pulsar’s energy circuit only has the “out” pathway disconnected. This gives them the ability to absorb energy, store it in their core, and when the capacity is overloaded the core releases the energy in a large pulse.”
I shook my head, “What’s that have to do with me?”
“Matt is a pulsar. I theorized if a pulsar connected to a dwarf, then the force of pulling on the dwarf’s core combined with pulsing energy back in might stimulate repair of the their circuit. He did this to you at the café.”
“And it worked?”
Zeik handed me a picture. It was a street that looked familiar, but almost completely destroyed.
“That’s what’s left of the café,” Zeik said and my eyes widened. “When your energy circuit repaired, the pent up energy leveled the café and the surrounding area. Luckily nobody was present after the initial attack from Nebula, so nobody was around you went into moratorium.”
I said nothing, instead opting for a blank stare.
“It’s a state of suspension, where a nova looses consciousness and their energy fluctuates rapidly. They can either return to a normal state or…” Zeik trailed off shifting in his chair. “Or they go supernova, a massive blast of energy that destroy everything including the nova.”
Anger was my first reaction. I shot out of my seat and grabbed the front of Zeik’s shirt. He stared at my raised fist terrified, and just as I was about to punch a whisper in the back of my head stopped me. It was three words. A simple sentence, but it had me letting go of the doctor and staring at my hands.
“I’m a nova.”
Zeik watched me carefully before saying, “You’re the most powerful LED ever recorded.”
The air left my lungs as a smile began to form.
“Would you like to see what you’re capable of?”