Jack steps back and trips, falling on his hands.
Kasym’s eyes drill into him. “Recruit,” he says with a sneer.
Jack hears no sign of Maya or Chris. They were right behind him a moment ago. He eyes the looming menace.
“What have you done with my friends?”
Kasym lowers his chin, steps forward, and then raises his arm and makes a fist. Jack stiffens, preparing for whatever horror this monster might unleash on him. Will he plant an idea in his mind to make him do things like hurt his friends against his will? Apparently that’s not even the limit of his ability. He could also kill him with a single thought.
Jack feels a strange sensation, like a snake crawling inside his head. It startles him at first. It’s not a physical sensation, but an emotional one. He feels like his own thoughts and emotions are strangling themselves, the snake tightening its death grip around them. He understands it. It’s probably similar to what people feel when Jack dips into their minds.
“Your mind is like mine,” Kasym says.
Jack shudders, trying to flush the foreign invader. “Not like yours.”
He twists his head and contorts his face to form a bulwark against Kasym’s mental tentacle. He’s able to halt its creeping foray. He goes further, pushing outward to project himself into Kasym’s mind. He strains himself beyond any effort he’s made so far.
Kasym takes him in. “There you are,” he says, as if he’s been waiting for him. “I can feel you. You are a part of me.”
He steps forward calmly. Jack scoots back. He wonders if Kasym is holding back not only the police, but also Maya and Chris. How many minds can he control at once? Jack is spent after tapping into only one mind. This man’s powers are ten times his—a hundred times. But he has to get past him. He has to reach the Pentagon any way he can.
“Ah.” Kasym raises his eyebrows. “You know something of my plans.”
Jack tries to display as much bluster as he can. “Enough to stop you.”
He reaches, pushes, grasps for more leverage. He twists around the cloudy labyrinth of this sick mind, pulling out snippets of tortured emotion, terrible images.
Kasym makes a crooked smile. “You imagine you are brave.”
Jack just needs a fragment, any thought he can use to give him a fighting chance against this man. That is, unless the terrorist can somehow prevent Jack from moving or using his power, rendering him helpless. He’s outmatched. He can’t put the thought out of his head.
Is he planting that thought?
He focuses with all his strength and works to steady his breathing. He tries to shake off Kasym’s invading thoughts. “Why are you doing this? Why are you trying to kill us?” Jack can’t hide the quiver in his voice, and quickly realizes that it doesn’t matter. Kasym knows how scared he is. There’s no fooling someone who’s living in your mind.
Kasym raises his arm like a hammer. “I have already succeeded. In minutes, you will all be dead.”
His words chill Jack to his core. He wonders how someone could get so warped. The question seeps into the labyrinthine walls and undulating passageways inside the twisted mind before him. He finds a glimpse of Kasym’s pain and anger. To Jack’s surprise, he feels no resistance. He finds that Kasym is straining to control others: Maya and Chris, the agents, the police.
Where is Sabine?
Kasym breaks his stare and looks up to the end of the alley.
“Jack!” Maya’s voice yells from behind him. “Are you all right?” Chris is with her.
“What took you so long?”
Jack sees now that Maya has Kasym in her hold. Her power is focused only on him, while his is spread among several others. If they can pool their efforts, they might get past him.
Jack focuses his mind on Kasym as intensely as he can. This may be his only chance to get information he can use.
Another set of footsteps enters the alley, followed by the heavy sound of rusty wheels rolling slowly against gritty pavement.
“Jack, look out!” Maya yells.
Jack momentarily breaks his concentration to look behind him. A dumpster flies through the air, heading for him like an elevated train careening off its tracks. He dives for the wall as the dumpster slams to the ground like thunder right where he was standing. While Maya may have Kasym’s body under control, his mind appears all too free to cause havoc.
“Wait—I did that!” Chris says with shock.
Jack looks back at him. “What?”
“He’s controlling my mind. Using my abilities.”
“He did the same to me,” Maya says. “I’ve been holding back the police to protect him. I can’t stop it.”
Jack puts it together: the doctor was right. He has only one ability. But with that ability he can hijack others’ abilities, whatever they may be, by going into their minds and planting the necessary directives.
A manhole cover scrapes out of its housing, rises from the center of the alley, and then speeds toward Kasym. Jack looks back at Chris and sees in his face that he’s controlling the manhole cover. It stops in midair, then shoots back toward Chris, picking up speed.
“He’s stronger!” Chris says with a note of panic. He jumps aside as the manhole cover shoots toward him. It grazes his flank, barely missing him as it embeds itself in the brick wall beside him.
Kasym sports a cruel, confident smile, but Jack sees a trickle of blood dripping from his nose. He’s pushing himself.
A piercing shatter comes from above. Several windows shoot broken glass out in a plume, but the glass doesn’t fall. The shards swirl together like a school of fish, and then dive-bomb directly toward Maya.
“Chris! Help!” Maya yells.
Chris stands in front of her and looks up at the glass with defiance. “I think I can stop them!”
Without warning, and sounding like it’s coming from the far end of the alley, several gunshots echo through the small corridor.
Kasym stumbles, and then falls to his knees.
Jack looks in the direction of the shots and sees several of the officers turning their guns on each other. Chaos follows, with officers shouting and scrambling away. Then, in a hail of point-blank madness, officers begin shooting each other.
Kasym slumps over like a sack of grain.
The glass shards, no longer defying gravity by angling toward Maya, rain down short of her, impacting in a splash of powder on the pavement. She and Chris huddle out of the way.
Jack notices two officers creeping in along the wall from the far end of the alley as their comrades slide the bodies of the fallen officers out of the line of fire.
He crawls to Kasym, whose hand covers a widening splotch of blood on his stomach.
The terrorist looks at Jack deeply. His eyes burn, but their intensity is fading. “They will pay. They took everything from me.”
The officers are now within a few feet of Jack. He stands, raises his hands, and yells back to Maya and Chris expectantly, “Where’s Sabine?”
“She was right behind us,” Maya yells back.
The officers’ radio chatter blares, “Take the minors into custody, now!”
“Sabine!” Jack yells. “We need you!”
The officers grab him.