The last of the living test subjects had scrambled out the door just as an alarm began to wail. Red lights bathed the room, flashing menacingly in time with the alarm. Kali and I exchanged a look.
“We’ve got to get far away from here and fast,” Kali said, already halfway out the door.
I hurried after her, bounding down the flights of stairs to the lobby where the front door was left slightly ajar. We found Ira and Mariana waiting just outside. A large bump had formed on Mariana’s forehead where her head had kissed the glass. I felt a pang of guilt for trying to bring her with me and failing so miserably.
“What’s with the wild pack of kids that just ran out?” Ira asked.
“No time to explain.”
Without thinking, I grabbed Kali’s hand and bolted, heading for the path that led out of the colony. My lungs burned with the effort it took to keep running and my rushed intake of cold air didn’t help. I glanced back a few times to make sure Ira and Mariana were following. The alarm must have scared everyone else off. We were the only ones on the streets. The gate was still approximately fifteen minutes away and there was no telling whether it was up or down. I swallowed thickly, my rough palm feeling sweaty against Kali’s smooth one. Her amber eyes darted wildly as we ran. The terrifying thought of her breaking my hand plagued me when I registered the force with which she held on to it. Her brow was furrowed with concentration, her pink lips turned down in a half scowl, half frown.
Just as the gate came into view, so did a small army of white and blue clad warriors, all brandishing weapons with the same color scheme that managed to harness the power of high voltage electricity. Kali skidded to a stop, releasing my hand all at once. She looked around—presumably for an escape—and upon finding none, huffed indignantly and began backing up. I followed suit and instinctively went to Mariana’s side.
“Who are they?” Mariana asked.
I looked to Kali for clarification. “They’re the Order,” she said.
Kali swallowed thickly. “They are the ones who keep order. Their jurisdiction stretches all colonies.”
Ira’s frown was very apparent on his face. He stared intently at the 20-odd men before us.
“I can’t read their minds.”
Kali broke into a run wordlessly, trying to make it past the small army in one piece. I gripped Mariana’s hand and bolted after her, yelling for Ira to follow. A blood curdling scream arose from Kali’s throat as she grabbed the first warrior to test her. The wind went still. The ever-present whirr of electricity was silent for once. Everyone save for us froze in their tracks long enough for Kali to lift the man and launch him over her shoulder, then bulldoze her way through the rest. I felt a ripple go through me as time returned to normal. The sky above us grew dark with clouds and the air turned incredibly frosty to the point where I could see my breath. Snowflakes began to fall from the sky, but they seemed strange. The air had a slight burnt scent to it. Some of the snowflakes were ashy colored—gray and sickly looking. I looked at the others, my feet never once slowing down.
“Someone is messing with the weather,” Kali said knowingly.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“Who would do that?” Ira inquired.
“I know a lot of things. First of all, her name is Elisa.”
I felt a hard jerk on my arm and grunted as I flew backwards, landing on my spine. I gasped for air, watching as one of The Order came into view. He grinned down at me, raising his staff above his head before letting it plummet down towards my face. Rolling over, I nearly avoided getting hit. I sputtered, spitting out the mixture of volcanic ash and snow that had infiltrated my mouth. It was getting harder to breathe. As I scrambled to my feet, Ira tackled the youngest looking member of The Order to the ground. He was struggling to wrestle the staff from his hands when the other jolted him with enough electricity to make his eyelashes singe. Ira convulsed a bit then went limp. The member of The Order stood, brushing dirty snow from his hands with a frown.
“Sorry I had to do that,” he said, looking down pitifully at Ira’s body. “Now, the rest of you can either come peacefully or end up like your friend here.”
Glancing behind him, I noticed the other members of The Order had begun to catch up. The snow had gotten heavier and the wind whipped around us viciously. A storm was brewing. I pushed Mariana behind me, blocking her from view as I braced for battle. I could see Kali in the corner of my eye visibly shaking, hands clenched tightly into fists.
“Kali, you okay?” I asked, sending nervous glances her way.
She slowly raised her hands to the sky and with a voice that sounded more like Julian than her screamed, “Stop!” All at once the snowflakes froze midair. The approaching steps of the Order came to a screeching halt. The air around her glowed a soft violet, like lavender in the breeze of an early spring morning. With a quick shake of her head she glanced up at me and said, “We should have about 60 seconds. Let’s move.”
“That’s all I need.”
I didn’t waste time grabbing Ira from where he remained motionless on the ground. Summoning my power seemed easier when I could feel Kali’s energy saturating the atmosphere. I had almost forgotten about the bracelet until it began to glow that eerie iridescent green like it had when I first put it on. The feeling was a mixture of adrenaline and anxiety. The weight of my file tucked under my arm became apparent once I picked Ira up.
“Hold this,” I said, pushing the file into Mariana’s arms.
Slinging Ira’s body over my shoulder, I began to run towards District. We’d at least have a place to hide there. After a certain point, I couldn’t even feel my feet touching the ground. The sound of rushing wind was deafening but I’d never moved faster in my life. It felt like only a few seconds had flown by yet I was already at Julian’s doorstep, banging on the door like a cop in search of a wanted criminal. When Julian opened the door I wordlessly pushed Ira into his arms and dashed off, back towards Central to retrieve everyone else. I was on a mission.
In the span of 45 seconds I managed to make three trips to District, retrieving Mariana and Kali last. Just as we had stopped at Julian’s door for the final time a very apparent ripple moved through the air. I shuddered, feeling strange. Julian ushered us in, closing the door behind him and moving to the hidden panel in the wall to turn the shades down. With the push of a button the blackout shades slowly drew down, encasing the room in darkness only matched by nighttime. Julian pressed another button, illuminating the room with a soft glow reminiscent of a campfire. He moved to his usual spot on the heated floor, sitting crossed legged. He was silent, weary of the new faces in his home.
“What have you got for me?” he asked.
When I looked up he was busy crushing lithium pills between his teeth. Noticing my stare, he simply shrugged, making a motion with his hand that told me to get on with it. “I found Kali.”
“Oh. The kid knocked out in the other room?” Julian asked, pointing with his thumb to a room out of sight.
I shook my head. “No, that’s Ira.” I motioned to Kali, gently pushing her towards him. “This is your sister Kali,” I said, emphasizing the word “sister.”
Julian made a face that disappeared as quickly as it had come. “No shit,” he said, sounding astonished.
Kali seemed to relax instantly, feeling her brother’s nonchalant attitude. She shrugged her jacket off and tossed it onto the ground, revealing a tattoo of an hourglass on her left shoulder. With a grunt she too sat Indian style on the floor, causing Mariana and I to follow quietly.
“You thought I was a boy?” she asked. Julian nodded sheepishly, producing an exact replica of the photo he’d given me from his pocket. He extended the picture to Kali who looked at it like she was looking at a foreign person instead of herself. “I can see why…” She stared at the picture a little longer before tearing it down the middle then in half once more.
Julian didn’t seem to mind. He stood and went into another room, coming back with an envelope and another lithium pill on his tongue. He extended the thick envelope to me silently and I took it without question. My reward for returning his sister safely. I tucked it into my cloak, avoiding the questioning look Mariana shot me. Since Ira was still out cold, I took this as the perfect opportunity to discuss my original plan with the group.
“A rebellion?” Julian echoed.
“And we find the other Forces, how?”
“There’s already the four of us. We just need to find the other three. According to Kali, someone named Elisa is the one messing with the weather. I say we find her first seeing as she seems royally pissed off at the world.”
Julian glanced at Kali expectantly. She shrugged. “I only met her briefly. She’s strong but Julian is probably the strongest of us all. If by chance she wants a fight, he should be the one to against her.”
I nodded in agreement. “Once we get her and the remaining two board, we can go around gathering civilians interested in fighting for the cause. We’ll be a force to be reckoned with. No one could touch us. We could return everything to the way things were before the war. We can stop whatever the fuck they were doing to Kali and the other kids at Headquarters.”
Julian’s eyes showed the first real glint of emotion that night as his head whipped around to stare at Kali. “What did they do to you?” he asked, grinding out the words angrily.
Kali clenched her jaw, looking everywhere but at her brother. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
“Tell me, now,” he demanded as he grabbed her chin, turning her head to look at him.
She took a deep breath. “They ran lots of tests, pumped us full of drugs, and took samples of every bodily fluid a person can produce. They basically kept us locked up 24/7. The government is trying to see if they can engineer Forces in a lab environment. Their goal is to create an army of powerful children who grow into equally as powerful and virtually unstoppable adults.”
“That’s messed up: experimenting on children,” Mariana said. “Makes me sick.”
Julian released his hold on Kali’s chin and instead wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. “I’m glad you’re safe and alive. They won’t hurt you again. I promise.”
Kali nodded but didn’t say anything further, keeping her arms stiff at her sides. Her face was impassive. Julian released her, frowning when he couldn’t tell what was going on in her head by the look on her face. He excused himself, stepping outside into the frigid cold. I waited a few seconds before following behind him, curious as to where he was off to. I found him sitting on the blanket of snow covering the front steps, the air steaming around him as the snow melted from his body heat. I closed the door behind me and gingerly walked down the steps, opting to stand rather than sit. He glanced at me but said nothing. Julian produced a cigarette from his pocket and lit it with the flame from his index finger as if it was a lighter. The snow was still falling in droves, a veil of white covering every surface in sight.
“That’s Collins’ son in there, isn’t it?” he asked, eyes focused straight ahead.
“Yeah. He’s been a big help in finding Kali.”
Julian scoffed, flicking the ash from his cigarette. “I want him gone by tomorrow.”
“He’s just a kid. I doubt he even knows what his father and his minions have been up to.”
“Nothing good can come from him being with us. He helped find Kali, great, but his help is no longer needed.”
“His powers are strong too. He can help find the other Forces.”
Julian cut me a glare. “I won’t repeat myself.”
I raised my hands in defense and nodded. “I hear you. He’ll be gone tomorrow morning.”
“Good.” Julian nodded his head in the direction of the front door. “In my bedroom you’ll find a map of the colonies, pre-war era. Figure out where we’re going and we’ll move out first thing in the morning to find this Elisa you speak of.”