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Chapter One: Natalia

I was lying in bed staring up at the dark, white ceiling above me. It was loud outside of my door, but I couldn't see what was making all the racket. Bars rose up all around me as if I was trapped within a prison cell. I kicked my feet high up into the air on the brink of tears. The sounds outside were too loud, too scary.

Suddenly, a lady in her late twenties appeared over my...crib. That's where I was. "I'm so sorry, my darling."

I reached for a long lock of her auburn hair. It had escaped from behind her ear as she leaned over me. "Thalia, we have to go," said a man I couldn't see because he was hiding among the shadows.

A tear escaped the emerald eyes of the lady by the name of Thalia. "We love you, darling. We wish you could come with us...but it's safer for you here." A loud bang resonating from the door echoed through the room. Someone was trying to break in, but why? "Come find us when you're older," she whispered. Thalia leaned down and kissed my forehead before leaving my sight forever.

I jerked upright in my bed right before my alarm screeched to wake me up. This occurred almost every night of my life and it was a routine I could count on in the unpredictable world I found myself in. The dream hadn't changed since the first time I had it in my early childhood years. I wasn't sure it would ever change. I pushed my covers off and started getting ready for the day.

Today was the first day of my senior year of high school. Unlike the students in my grade, I was already eighteen getting ready to turn nineteen in the spring. My parents refused to enroll me in school before they were sure I could protect myself and my thoughts.

I threw on a white V-neck t-shirt and a plain pair of blue jean shorts, a plain, unremarkable outfit. I reached into my closet to pick out my favorite pair of black combat boots. They were comfortable and practical if I found myself in a situation where I needed to fight or flee.

I threw my auburn hair up into a neat ponytail to keep it out of my eyes. I couldn't have it distracting me or inhibiting my vision in case a conflict did occur at school, preparation was key. I slipped my brown contacts in like usual, cursing as the scratchy texture rubbed my sensitive eyes.

The contacts weren't a necessity for me to see, my eye sight was perfect. The contacts were needed to conceal the bright emerald iris of my eyes, a look reserved only for Molecular Telepaths. The brown contacts dulled the green, hiding most of the color except a few persistent flecks that insist on being displayed to the world. The contacts were a precaution I hated, but one that was necessary so I wouldn't raise the suspicion of any Telepaths.

I added a necklace with a pale green rock within a silver setting to my outfit to help the beautiful emerald color in my eyes pop. It was the last accessory my outfit needed. I checked my bathroom mirror one last time to make sure every strand of my hair was in place, of course it was.

I ran down the stairs to find my mom already in standing by the front door with the family camera in her hand. She was ready for my annual first day of school picture. It was a tradition she'd kept alive since I was first enrolled.

I stepped in front of the white wooden door and looked directly at my mom. "Say cheese." I smiled widely as the flash blinded my sensitive eyes.

My parents and I lived in a four bedroom, two and a half bath, house in a dilapidated neighborhood the world forgot long ago. We rented out one of our extra rooms to a human-Telepath couple seeking protection and refuge from the TWA. An increase in our family's number was risky, but my charitable parent's couldn't turn them down.

The Telepath was a Terrain and, being a typical Terrain Telepath, hated fighting even if her freedom, and life, depended on it. She fled from the TWA and married a human in an attempt to escape her roots, but you can never escape your past. When they found us, they were relieved. My parents are two powerful Storm Telepaths and I'm a Molecular. We were more than capable of protecting ourselves and them if and when the time came.

My mom continued to snap pictures even after I stopped smiling. She always did, but this time it was overkill. "Mom, I think you have enough pictures."

She lowered the camera. "I want to make sure I get the perfect one of you. You can never be sure when it'll be the last."

My whole family, and the additional couple, have been on edge since the TWA increased their efforts to find rogue Telepaths like us. It'd been over a decade since the war ended and they were finally tired of incomplete control.

"Mom, I'll be fine. After school, I'll be in the car with you heading straight home." I kissed her cheek. "I promise."

My mom smiled weakly. “I worry about you at school.”

My mom was referring to a traumatic experience I had during Kindergarten that she reminded me about constantly. The principal came into my classroom to evaluate my teacher during our rotation to different stations. He made his way around to each of the stations talking to each child in my class until he stopped at me.

I was coloring when my pink crayon slipped, venturing outside the solid black line. I was almost done with the picture and needed it to be perfect for my mom. It was the final piece to the birthday present I'd been working on for weeks. I used my powers, even though I was warned about using them, to erase the single streak; it caught the principal's attention.

The principal snatched me up by my arm and practically dragged me into his office. He interrogated me for what felt like hours, attempting to get me to tell him what element I controlled. But when looking at the crayon incident, it shouldn't have been hard to tell. He only needed to use common sense to figure out I was a Molecular.

Being a scared six year old, I did the only thing I could, I broke down in tears. The principal called my parents hoping they would clear the situation up for him since I was unable.

When they arrive, he spoke to them privately. It wasn't long before my parents were out of there with worry lines littering their foreheads. I never went back to that school or attended another school in that district. We immediately packed up and moved. My parents hadn't stopped worrying I'd slip up since.

My mom put her camera down on the steps. "Remember to socialize and blend in."

I smiled before slipping my backpack over my shoulder. "I know. I'll be on my best behavior. Scout's honor." My mom hugged me before shaking her head; I headed out the front door.

Our house was located in a cal-de-sac along with one other house making it a perfect place to hide. I was friends with the only other kid in this area and we walked to school together every day. It was safer for him and it let me blend in a little better.

My friend was a human boy named Alex. He had short, curly brown hair and hooded sky blue eyes. He was as skinny as a twig and was about a foot taller. We grew up together in this remnant of a neighborhood after I moved in at the age of seven. He didn't know my secret and I never planned to tell him for his own safety.

I walked up to Alex's front door with my hand raised, ready to knock but he exited before I had the chance. "Ready for school?" he asked as he closed the door behind him.

I stepped back off the porch. "Never." We headed toward school.

Alex laughed. "I thought you'd be excited for our final year."

I laughed along with him. "It'll still be hell." Alex and I exited the entrance to our neighborhood. We could see the school from where we stood.

Our school was a mix of brick and stone, a quick project completed at the end of the war. There was no foliage around the building, but that was understandable. Foliage required workers to keep it trimmed and neat, a waste for a struggling school. The only decor our school had was displayed on the flag pole outside the entrance. The flag of the Telepaths always hung on the pole no matter the time of day or condition of the weather. It was against the law to take it down unless it was tattered but even then a Molecular would just come by to piece it back together.

The flag was a bright blue containing three intertwined circles representing each Telepath group that helped end the humans' reign: a circle of neon yellow lightning bolts represented the Electros, a circle of atoms for the Moleculars and a circle of water droplets for the Storms.

Alex's face always fell when he saw the flag even after all these years. "I hate Telepaths. They ruined the whole world because of their greed and hunger for power."

I couldn't stop myself before my brain acted on its impulse. My fists clenched tightly by my side, my heart pounded against my rib cage and traveled into my ears, my jaw locked, and my teeth slid past each other making an audible grinding sound. It was always my first instinct when Alex voiced his disgust for my kind. Usually, I was able to calm myself down after a second of deep breathing before mumbling a yeah or something of that nature. Today, was the first day I acted on the anger building inside.

"Why do you assume all Telepaths are bad?

Alex looked at me sideways. I tried to inhale a calming breath but my lungs refused my request. "I don't understand why you're defending them. They ruined our world. Our parents are one of the few lucky ones who found a job that didn't require them to be slaves."

When humans were desperate for cash or protection, they'd offer themselves up to a wealthy Telepath as a mindless servant. They were lucky it was their choice. There'd been instances where Telepaths hunted down humans to turn them into slaves or even pets. It was a dangerous world for defenseless humans.

"You're scared of them because they're evolved!" I yelled back. I could feel the molecules around me vibrating as my anger agitated them.

Alex stopped walking as if he noticed the disturbance I created. I took a few steps back so I could stand next to him. "Why doesn't that scare you? You're acting like one of their wannabes."

I diffused the molecules around me before they did something I'd surely regret later. "Let's get to school." I stalked off.

Alex ran to catch up with me, unaware that I wanted to be left alone. "Natalia, wait." I slowed down even though I didn't want to hear the apology about to spew from his mouth. "I'm sorry. I'm just mad because...you know."

Alex told me the story of his brother. It was a real tragedy no one, let alone a child, should go through. When he was seven. the TWA stormed Alex's house with a massive group of soldiers, truly an excessive power play. They grabbed his brother, ignoring the rest of the family, demanding he join them. Alex's brother probably didn't know he was a Telepath and neither did his half-telepath parents. It happened and it was the reason Alex's brother got caught.

Alex's brother resisted and I understood why. TWA officers are typically big, mean, and scary especially to a child. Any kid would've resisted, but the TWA doesn't care about your age. Any resistance to the TWA may be punishable by death and in Alex's brother's case, it was. The TWA Molecular officer killed Alex's brother right in front of him by denying the little boy oxygen. It was a brutal way to go, one I never wished upon anyone.

I picked up on Alex playing the memory in his head, although there was no doubt in my mind that it was nowhere near as clear to him as it was to me. His brother was only five when he died. It was a gruesome memory to constantly relive. I'd lock it up if I was Alex so it wouldn't affect me anymore.

I placed a hand on Alex's shoulder. "It's okay." We made it onto our school's campus. "I'll see you later." We waved and parted before the building's entrance. I saw a shimmer of light near the cafeteria and I was going to check it out before I was forced to start my role as an uninteresting human.

I slid around the corner of the cafeteria to find a guy dressed all in black, matching his jet black hair. "Hi," I said.

The guy turned around with a smile a mile wide clear across his face. He was sexier when he wore it, definitely his best accessory. "I wasn't sure you were going to come over."

I smiled back at him, stepping fully around the building. "Why not?"

The guy, Jesse, pushed me up against the brick wall, locking me in place. "I didn't think you'd risk being caught with me."

I closed my eyes for a second. I could feel the bricks poking into me, bruising sections of my back. I let some of my Molecular power leak out of its prison to help with some of the discomfort.

"If I'm caught with you, all I have to do is play the role of a weak human being taken advantage of by a strong Molecular Telepath." I opened my eyes to see Jesse staring straight into mine.

"We both know that's not true." Jesse sighed. "I hate when you wear your contacts. Just make your eyes duller. No one would question it."

I bit my bottom lip. I wanted so badly to feel Jesse's soft lips against mine. "You know I can't use my powers."

Jesse intertwined our fingers. "That's never stopped you before."

I smiled. "School is different. There's TWA officers here, ready to take me back to their headquarters to add to their collection of drones."

Jesse raised our hands from my side up over my head. "I would never let that happen to you."

I leaned closer to him, catching the smell of pine trees and fresh dirt from his clothes, his signature musk. "Will you shut up already?"

Jesse bent his head down and brushed his warm lips against mine for the briefest of moments. It felt like less than a second before he pulled back, as if he was teasing me. Jesse slipped his fingers from mine; my hands fell down to my waist but his remained next to my ears supporting him. "You should probably get to class," he said. I could hear the disappointment lacing his voice.

I nodded. I could sense there was something more Jesse wasn't sharing with me and I didn't need my powers to know that. "When am I going to see you again?"

Jesse shook his head. "I don't know."

I pushed past him, removing his left arm from the wall in the process. "I don't know if I can keep doing this."

Jesse stayed where he was. He couldn't even look at me. "Natalia..."

I moved closer to the edge of the building, hoping he'd stop me. "I'll see you when I see you I guess."

I stepped around the school, knowing Jesse didn't dare follow me. He feared some TWA officer was going to catch him. He was a rogue like me, but he hid in the shadows instead of blending in with the humans. I headed into the school without looking back.

My first class was biology out in the trailers. I stopped by my locker to place my lunch safely inside to prevent it from being stolen by my starving classmates. Suddenly, I picked up on the presence of another Telepath. It caught me off guard since most Telepaths were in a prep school by now, preparing them for the vigorous TWA training after their basic education. I peered over my shoulder to find the basic features of a Storm Telepath staring back at me.

The Telepath had shaggy blonde hair that ended just above his clear gray eyes. His facial features weren't as prominent as other guys' our age, but he didn't have the face of a child. His features were softer than many of the TWA officers, giving me the impression he wasn't an undercover officer. There was a soft dusting of freckles over his nose that stopped right before his cheek began, adding to the boyish charm he had going for him.

On his shirt, I noticed a water droplet pin. It meant at least one of his parents was a TWA officer or that he was indeed an undercover TWA officer who was failing miserably at their job. Since he wore it proudly, with an air of confidence I highly doubted an undercover TWA officer would display, I deduced it was deliberate and to show off he had a parent in the service.

"What are you looking at?" It took me a long second to register the Telepath was talking to me.

My heart skipped a beat. I forgot a cardinal rule: blend in.

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