“What’s our next move?” Mina’s voice came from my right, and I turned to see her sitting across from me. A black dress hugged her petite frame, lips painted red, and without her mask I could see sharp cheeks accent her face. She watched me questioningly from behind a veil of straight bangs.
I hated to admit it, but she was beautiful.
Wait, I thought Mina was attractive? I mentally shook my head. No, I didn’t swing for my team. Was this another dream? Were these Pluto’s thoughts?
“We wait,” We answered, and Mina’s lips pursed together in a pout.
“I mean after that.”
Eager to know—perhaps slightly impatient, but in a good way. She desired knowledge. She liked being prepared. Again, it was attractive.
“Pisces will be drawn to the artifact after she recovers,” I said. No, not me. Pluto. We raised a glass of champagne to lips and I realized Pluto wasn’t wearing a mask. “She won’t be able to resist the urge to find it.”
Soft music began to play, violins maybe? Mina brushed a curtain of black silk behind her ear, and tilted her head to look down at the musicians playing exposing her neck to me. Slender and toned, my eyes rested on it briefly before flicking up in time to catch her lips twitch. She knew what she was doing, and I could feel the desire stirring within me.
No, Pluto dammit, not me! This was so much easier without his thoughts.
“What makes you so sure she’ll come,” Mina asked.
“You doubt me,” Pluto answered.
“When have I ever?” Mina’s heavy lids drew back to mine, “But she has no reason to show up.”
It felt wrong watching this conversation, but at the same time I didn’t care. These people were responsible for so much death. Why should it matter if I was spying on an intimate moment? More than anything I wanted out of this, but I also knew I could learn something important.
“The artifact will balance her,” Pluto said. “It will give her the ability to control both LED and DED abilities. She also knows I’ll come for it. What better way to seek revenge than when you’re at your strongest and know your enemy is coming?”
“Then why choose Pisces,” Mina asked. Though she tried to keep her voice even, the twinge of jealousy along with concern was there. “Why not choose a weaker LED.”
“Because only an architect can locate and access the artifact.”
“So couldn’t we find a different architect who wasn’t involved with GASPR?”
“You’ll just have to trust me on this.”
Mina huffed and crossed her arms. The air between us fell silent, the only sound being the soft strings.
“Mina, there’s something you should know.” I was surprised by the tone leaving our lips, and the concern on Mina’s face piqued my interest further. “There’s a window where Pisces can recover the artifact and I can’t interfere.”
“What do you mean?”
“The percentage of it happening is ridiculously low, but should she succeed everything we’ve worked towards will be undone. There’s a comet that passes the Earth once every seventy years or so. It’s only for an hour—but during that time my powers will be significantly hindered while hers will rise exponentially.”
“When is this supposed to happen,” Mina asked, her posture becoming rigid.
“In less than forty-eight hours. Odds are she’ll still be recovering from our last exchange, but there’s still a chance she might find it in time.”
Mina relaxed, “Well those are some pretty slim odds.”
“But they’re odds nonetheless.”
Mina smirked, eyes dancing, and placed her arms in her lap. Leaning forward just enough to draw our eyes down for a beat second she asked in a husky voice, “What are the odds we go back to my room and prepare for the next step?”
I internally rolled my eyes. How bad did this bitch want him?
Our lips pulled up, mirroring Mina’s own smirk and replied, “Slim.”
Mina’s shoulders slumped, and a sigh escaped her ruby lips. We enjoyed the defeated look for a moment before saying, “But we should go, we do have planning to do.”
Standing up, we waved our hand and the rift appeared beside us. Offering our hand to Mina we asked, “Shall we?”
A giggle escaped Mina as she took our hand, “The most powerful man in the world and he still dines and dashes.”
“Old habits,” we replied, and we disappeared from the restaurant.
When I came to it was late, witching hour according to the clock on the wall. The room I’d slept in glowed from the multiple machines around me. Movement caught my attention, and my eyes trailed left to see Matt sitting in a chair beside me. His face was grim, and like mine, his eyes stared at nothing.
“How long have you been there,” I asked, and then coughed at my parchedness.
Matt’s head turned to me, and then handed over a glass of water.
“Since you fell asleep,” he said.
His voice sounded rough, had he been crying? “What’s eating you?”
Matt was silent for moment, the only noise of the room being the hum of machines. Then he said, “We lost a lot of good people today—Dr. Belto and Director Bishop being two of them as well as a few STAR members.”
“Oh.” What else could I say? I didn’t know anyone except for Zeik and Matt.
“What’s more is the person responsible for half of those deaths is someone…” Matt shuddered, “Someone I don’t want to let go of.”
Sobs began to fill the room, and Matt did his best to choke them back. I didn’t say anything, giving him time to regain his composure. But in that time my mind pieced it together.
“It’s Mina, isn’t it?”
Matt stiffened, but eventually gave a weak nod. “We joined GASPR at the same time, about a year ago, and ended up partners during our STAR training. We did everything together, knew each other’s quirks and habits. But one day the director gave an order for Mina to become a double agent in Nebula. Since I was a pulsar, there was no way I’d be able to get in. Mina accepted and managed to get in but after a few months she went dark. We thought they’d found out and killed her.”
Matt’s eyes stared at the wall across the room, tears glimmering in the soft light. “Then one day we got a report of a Nebula raid. We responded and when we arrived she was there. Right beside him. Fighting for him, protecting him. She’d turned on us.”
Well I guess that explained why the chemistry between us had been off. Matt had something for Mina. And I wasn’t about to tell him how she was using every trick in the book to sleep with Pluto. He wouldn’t believe me, and I definitely didn’t need him angry at me. Not now. Not when our window of opportunity was rapidly closing.
“I think I can stop Nebula,” I said, and Matt watched me closely. I could see the fear of having his hope crushed. I didn’t blame him, but I need his cooperation. “Look, I know it might be hard to understand, but I have this sort of…connection with Pluto.”
Matt’s face screwed together and I waved my hands, “Just listen. On the flight here I had a dream I was in Pluto’s head. I was able to see and hear what he was talking about. I heard about his plan to attack ORION, but I never said anything because I thought it was just a dream.”
Matt watched me, but then his eyebrows rose as realization set in, “You had another dream.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “and I learned there’s a two day window to find the artifact he’s looking for. If I can get it within that time-frame, I’ll be able to use the artifact to beat him.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“No, but Pluto says I should be drawn to it. So if we leave soon, we might find it before time runs out.”
Matt nodded, “The vice-captain needs to know about this.”
“No,” I said grabbing Matt’s wrist before he could leave. I blinked in surprise at my own action, but then logic took over. “We don’t have time to get everyone together. Leave a message for them and they can send back-up. What we need are computers. Computers and a ship.”
Matt hesitated for a moment, but then nodded. “Hold on,” he said, and opened a drawer across the room. Pulling out a tablet, he handed it to me saying, “Start looking for what you need. I’m going to secure a ship and leave a message for the vice-captain. Meet me at the docks once you’re ready.”
Matt left the room and I logged into the tablet. I started by looking into where the largest fields of dark energy were located on Earth. The search gave me five possible places with the strongest one located in western Russia. I’d found our destination. My heart sped up as I searched for when Halley’s Comet passed Earth, which I knew was the comet Pluto spoke of.
Thirty-six hours of visibility with its peak time between the twenty-fifth and twenty-fourth hour. Twelve hours to find the artifact.
I tossed the tablet aside and leapt out of the bed. I ran to the door, but stopped just outside the room. Slowly, my eyes drifted back to the tablet. There was one last thing I needed to search.
I drifted back to the bed. The tablet was connected to ORION’s database, which meant everything I needed was right before me. Typing BK 201 into the search bar, I held my breath as I pressed enter. A second later a single result appeared. Hesitancy washed over me in waves, my heart slamming in my ears as a trembling finger clicked the file.
I blinked when the demand for a password appeared. The fucking bastard did that on purpose! My teeth clenched together and a breath hissed between my lips while I tried to calm myself. He gave me the keys I needed to answer my question—I just had to figure it out.
I typed Noah, and the word DENIED flashed before me in bright red.
I bit my lip, my eyebrows furrowing. What else could it be? My fingers moved on their own, as if they knew the answer themselves.
The file opened, revealing nothing more than a video box. I moved to press it, but my finger stopped inches away from the play button. Hovering over it, fear of what I’d see crashed down on me. If what I’d seen in the past twenty-four hours was any indicator, I wasn’t so sure I could handle it. But the need to know pushed its way forward, and my finger clicked play.
“Hello,” a man with salt and peppered hair greeted, and I recognized the room he stood in as Zeik’s lab. “This is Director Bishop Thresher, first entry for Project BK 201. Leading this experiment will be Dr. Zeik Belto of the novae anomaly lab with help from Dr. Brady of energy research, and Dr. Salen of energy consistency. Our subject is Noah Alis; male, fourteen years old, body weight: 50.2 kilograms.”
The screen flickered to Noah, and my throat clenched when he appeared strapped to a chair and barely conscience.
“Dr. Belto will be recording entries from here on out.”
The video cut and Zeik appeared, grinning as he motioned for the camera to come closer. Noah lay in the chair, covered in sweat and breathing rapidly.
“Entry twelve of BK 201. We’ve finally managed to draw out some energy. However, upon ceasing our extraction the energy was reabsorbed into the subject’s body.”
“Please,” Noah rasped, “let me go,”
Zeik paid no attention to him and continued, “Unfortunately, the extraction process is extremely stressful on the body. We’ll have to proceed carefully from here.”
“Entry forty-six of the BK 201,” Zeik said only this time appearing agitated. “We’ve increased the power of extraction despite the physical damages to the subject’s body.”
Noah appeared—patches of his skin blistered, and in some areas even charred black. He was crying softly and blood trickled from his mouth.
“We still haven’t been able to extract the energy. As frustrating as it is we must stop for the time being so the subject may recover. We’ll begin again after the healers have seen to him.”
“Entry fifty-two. Our healers are miracle workers, only took three hours to repair the subject’s body. After multiple tests we finally managed to extract some of the energy! Finally some progress.”
Noah appeared again, and a sob broke from my mouth when I saw him. His hair was gone. Dried blood covered his body and muscle showed through missing skin, even bone in some parts. I couldn’t hold the tablet my hand shook so hard, the other trying to muffle my cries. I dropped it on the bed and my knees gave out. Burying my face in the sheets I screamed as hard as I could. I cursed Zeik, the director, everything that had to do with GASPR. I choked my frustrations out until my voice was too raw to speak. And as I lay there, numb and hollow, I heard him.
“Nora…” I raised my face, and Noah stared into the camera breathing in erratic gasps. “Nora, I don’t have a lot of time, so listen to me. You’re strong. I know you don’t see it, but I do. I see it every day. You never had the confidence I had, but the strength you hold inside is something I could never compare to.”
He coughed, blood dribbling down his chin, and he laughed despite his contorted expression. “I want to tell you to move on—but we both know you’re too stubborn for that. So, when you find this video know that I love you Nora. And if you can do one last thing for your brother…it’s make these bastards pay.”
The video cut out, and before the next entry began the tablet imploded. I glared down at the device, tears blurring my vision and my palm outstretched. Heaving a few breaths, I wiped my eyes and strode out of the room towards the docks.
I would blow this disgusting beacon of inhumanity out of the sky. But first, my brother had some questions to answer.