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Fighting for infinity, p.27
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.27

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  The plane had taken off less than an hour ago. Anthony’s specially designed air vents hissed as oxygen poured into the cabin.

  Carson sat beside me. “Please stop fidgeting.”

  “I’m sorry, but we’re moving unbearably slow.”

  He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “This plane is flying at Mach 3, three times faster than the speed of sound. We’re traveling across the world in less than three hours.” He pointed out the window where the blue layer of the stratosphere merged with the black of the mesosphere, a glowing ridge of orange separated the two. “Do you realize what lengths we’ve gone to make sure this cabin is correctly pressurized and protected from radiation exposure while we travel at this altitude at over 2,000 miles per hour?”

  I ran my fingers along my soft leather armrest and inhaled without becoming lightheaded. “It is comfortable, but still unbearably slow.”

  Carson pulled ear buds from his pocket. “You, my friend, have become a traversing snob.”

  I tapped on the window, willing the plane to fly faster, even though Anthony had far surpassed all possible engineering enhancements for a private passenger plane. I would have given anything to instantly travel to Maryah. Add losing my ability to the long list of reasons I despised Dedrick.

  I stood and walked to the back of the cabin, making eye contact with each member as I passed by them. Everyone was aboard except Faith, Amber, and Mikey. Thankfully, no one showed any signs of playing body host to Dedrick.

  I slipped into the small lavatory and shut the door. Bracing my hands on the sink, I stared at myself in the mirror. Maryah said they had a plan. I prayed on every galaxy in the universe for that plan to succeed.

  Through the mirror’s reflection, an orb of light floated behind me. I spun around but only saw the door. I looked at the mirror again, and it was there, pulsing in shades of blue, green, and white. I reached back, trying to touch it but keeping my gaze on its reflection.

  I was about to shout for Louise so she could tell me if it was someone’s aura, but my skin began tingling. As I inhaled, I was transported.

  I stood in a dirt tunnel staring into a carved-out cavern where Maryah sat with Rina. They sat crossed-legged facing each other, holding hands.

  “Maryah?” I dropped to my knees beside them, but neither flinched.

  I touched Maryah’s arm, but my hand passed right through it. I stared in disbelief. I had assumed I traversed, that my ability had returned, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was only present in soul form.

  “It worked,” Maryah said.

  Rina smiled. “Told you.”

  Rina’s book lay open beside them. I studied it to see if I could figure out what they were referring to. The blank pages provided no answers.

  “He can’t see it?” Maryah asked, her eyes still closed. Were they talking about me? Did they know I was there?

  “No,” Rina replied. “Only you and me.”

  “He should know what we’re going to do. I have to tell him.”

  Rina’s chin dipped. “Maybe now isn’t the best time.”

  Maryah pulled her hands from Rina’s, and they disappeared from my sight.

  I swayed and fell into the wall of the plane’s lavatory.

  “Nathan?” Louise knocked as the doorknob jiggled. “Are you all right in there?”

  I opened the door. “I have no idea what just happened, but I’m certain it was important.”

  ILLUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

  Maryah

  I was back in the same dark room where I had stabbed Dedrick with a syringe.

  River and Rina’s motionless bodies were in the same place they had been when Dedrick left River’s body. Or if they weren’t in the exact same spot, they were as close as we remembered.

  I stared at the door, waiting.

  Until finally, it opened.

  I had planned on pretending to be startled, but my reaction was genuine. Even though we had been expecting him, Dedrick charging into the room made me jump.

  I stepped back.

  “Well, isn’t this an unexpected surprise.” He sneered. “Hello, Evelyn.” Dedrick towered over her. She straightened and lifted her chin. Her chest rose.

  “Out of everyone, I never would have guessed you would be a traitor.” He slapped her so hard I covered my own face. She stumbled backward, but he grabbed her by the hair.

  I wanted to attack him, but they had warned me something like this would happen. I couldn’t interfere. They said I had to act scared and helpless, so I pressed myself against the wall and watched as Dedrick clasped her cheeks and forced her to drink from a vial in his other hand.

  She fought back, thrashing as she tried moving her lips, but Dedrick persisted. “Drink it or your other option will be much more gruesome.”

  Through the palpable tension in the room, I heard her take one long, hard gulp. Dedrick pushed her against the wall, lifting her by her neck until her feet came off the ground. She coughed, barking and choking as she spit out the poison.

  “How dare you betray me this way?” Dedrick’s voice was sinister. “I trusted you for so long. I gave you everything you asked for. Even that wretched child.”

  She kicked and wheezed as drool ran down her chin. Her eyes closed then she went limp, and he released his grip. She fell into a heap on the floor.

  He turned slowly. I swallowed hard.

  “When I was in River’s body, I was susceptible to your schoolgirl attack, but now that I’m me, I’m done playing nice.”

  I stuttered. “Is, is she d-dead?”

  “I have never killed anyone. Future gods do not dirty their hands with a sin such as murder.”

  He really believed just because he didn’t do the physical act of killing that he wasn’t responsible for all the deaths he ordered his Nefariouns to carry out?

  He snapped. “Where is the starstone?”

  I didn’t speak.

  He pressed his fingertips together, thrusting them in my face. “Your only chance of escaping just collapsed into a coma right before your eyes. I imagine your fear has left you paralyzed, but tell me where the stone is or every last member of your kindrily will be tortured in ways worse than you can comprehend.”

  Evelyn needed two minutes. She said I had to keep him talking for two minutes, which shouldn’t have been difficult considering he loved the sound of his own voice.

  “Come now, Maryah. I know you have the starstone. Do you think I got where I am by being a fool? By not knowing what’s going on at all times? I know everything now, and I knew everything then. I knew Rina freed your soul. I knew you were traveling back and forth, reporting to your meddling kindrily. I knew every time River visited you. I allowed it, all of it, because I knew no matter what you peons thought you could achieve, I would always be three steps ahead of you. True, at times it was difficult hearing only one side of the conversations that took place in Rina’s room, but mostly the information was easy to figure out.”

  Moments raced through my mind. Did he really know everything? If he did, our plan would never work.

  “You’re no fool either,” Dedrick continued. “I’m sure you suspected I knew many times. The time River hid behind that curtain as if I couldn’t hear every annoying thought running through his mind? But you wanted to believe you were beating me. You wanted to believe that you and your clan of misfits could stop me.”

  He was so absorbed in his speech that he didn’t notice the dirt wall silently forming behind him. As fascinated as I was by Evelyn’s illusion-creating ability, I kept my eyes locked with Dedrick’s so he wouldn’t turn around.

  “The beauty of it is that you still did what I needed you to do,” he scoffed. “You brought them to me. They’ll be here soon, and I will dispose of all of them. I’ll shut down the portals into this world. There will be no way for your kindrily to return, and oh, what a lovely world that will be.”

  I inched sideways, pressing my ankle tighter against Rina’s open hand. River was pretending
to be passed out only a couple feet away, perfectly positioned to do his part.

  “You’re not as invincible as you think,” I said.

  He laughed. “Brave words coming from a girl with no memories and limited power, who's trapped in the belly of a mountain with no one to help her.”

  Me telling off Dedrick wasn’t part of the plan, but I had to. “That’s where you’re wrong. You helped me. By keeping me trapped, by talking to me so much, you made me face my fears. Now, I can look into your heartless evil eyes and not be scared. I can tell you to piss off. I’m not afraid of you, Dedrick.”

  He leaned closer. “You should be terrified of me.”

  I cocked my head, grinning. “You’re the one who should be terrified. It’s your turn to be caged.”

  Rina squeezed my ankle tight. Dedrick’s black eyes widened and flitted around like two wasps searching for someone to sting but finding no target.

  We were invisible, just like Evelyn.

  River roundhouse kicked Dedrick in the back of the knees. He fell backward, then turned, seething and probably ready to kill his attacker, but a dirt wall formed between River and Dedrick. And then another wall shot up in front of us, blocking him from my view.

  Rina sprang to her feet and grabbed my hand. “It worked.”

  “Come.” Evelyn appeared in our newly formed dirt cavern, waving us toward the door with one hand while she manifested another dirt wall with her other. “Hurry.”

  “What about Vivian?” I asked, worrying about her twin sister who was drugged and passed out on the floor.

  “She’ll be fine. She played her role well. Now our focus is getting you to your kindrily.”

  We grabbed River then ran out the door and down the hallways. Evelyn waved her hand every few seconds to form another wall. She warned us that her plan of confining Dedrick in a dark maze wouldn’t stop him, but it would buy us time to escape while he tried to dig his way out.

  “Why can’t you just bury him alive?” I asked as we rounded another bend.

  “He can’t be killed that way. He would just inhabit a new body.”

  “He can’t be killed?” I asked.

  “That’s not what I said.”

  We came to a room much bigger than any of the others. A helicopter—the one I had seen Vivian flying—sat in the middle of the cave. Lexie sat in the pilot seat.

  “Here.” Evelyn reached inside and handed coats to me and Rina. “Put these on, it’s bitter cold out there.”

  “What about me?” River asked.

  “You’re staying with me,” Evelyn told him.

  “No way. I’m getting the hell out of here.”

  “You have no powers, and this is going to be a battle of supernatural forces. You’ll only be a liability.”

  “I can hold my own.”

  “Not against people using every force on this planet to kill you. This will be a war of energy and powers, and I’m sorry River, but you’re only human.” Evelyn cupped his face. “You will play an important role, but you can’t go with them. That’s not the path you’re meant to travel.”

  “I can’t just sit here and wait for them to come back and rescue me.”

  “As I said.” Evelyn’s tone grew sterner. “You have an important role, but traveling with Maryah and Rina is not part of it.”

  River glanced at me then nodded. “Fine. I’ll stay.” He nudged my shoulder. “Be careful.”

  Rina and I put on our coats and climbed into the helicopter. Lexie turned the key. Nothing happened. She flipped a few switches but still nothing.

  “Shit.” She pounded her hand against the roof. “He disabled it.”

  “Do you know how to fix it?” Evelyn asked.

  Lexie shook her head then leapt out of the helicopter. “You’ll have to go on foot.”

  “Go where?”

  “Down the mountain to the beyul.”

  I glanced at Rina and she shrugged. “What is a beyul?”

  “The hidden valley,” Evelyn said. “That’s where the two groups must meet.”

  “A hidden valley? That’s the only direction you can give me?” Even though the huge torch lit room was cold and drafty, I was sweating. Dedrick could find us at any second. “I have no idea where to go.”

  “You’ve been there before,” Evelyn told me. “Let your intuition guide you.”

  She opened a sliding door to the cave that was eerily similar to the one at our hangar in Sedona. Rina gasped and covered her eyes as if the bright light burned her.

  “There’s no time to wait,” Evelyn warned. She handed sunglasses to me and Rina. “He’ll be here soon.”

  Rina put on her sunglasses. We walked to the threshold, and I stared out at monstrous snowcapped mountains. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

  I stared at Evelyn, wondering if perhaps I was wrong to trust her. She couldn’t believe we’d survive out in the snow, by ourselves, hiking mountains that looked to be thousands of feet high. “We’ll freeze to death out there.”

  “You’ll find a way. They’ll help you.”

  “They who?”

  “Your kindrily.”

  “They’ll never find us out there.”

  Rina pulled up her furry hood then held my hand. “They will. Dakota made sure of it.”

  And with that long shot of hope, Rina and I stepped out of the hangar, into the snow.

  DON’T CHUTE

  Nathaniel

  Shiloh sat in the copilot seat beside Anthony.

  “Anything yet, Shiloh?” I asked.

  His fingers pressed against his temples. “I’m searching, but so far all I see is one snowy mountain after another.”

  “Keep searching.”

  “Wait!” Shiloh leaned forward, squinting, as if he could see something just beyond the plane’s windshield. “I see them! Bank right, Anthony. We’ll pass three peaks and then a sharp left. Maryah is on foot with Rina.”

  My heart raced. “Hurry, Anthony.”

  The plane’s engines roared as we made a hard right.

  “How high up is she?” I asked Shiloh.

  He was intently fixed on watching them in his mind’s eye. “Close to the summit.”

  “That’s over 20,000 feet. They won’t last long at all.” I felt my own lungs constrict due to my panic. “They’ll be struggling to breathe and losing feeling in their limbs.”

  “We’re almost there,” Anthony assured me.

  “About five degrees east.” Shiloh directed Anthony as the plane followed the path of Shiloh’s pointing finger. “We’ll pass over them. They’ll be on our right side.”

  I ran to a window. Gregory and Carson moved to the right side of the plane as well. We practically buzzed the mountain where Maryah and Rina were walking. They looked so small and far away. Two slow-moving specks in a sea of white. They were much too close to the summit.

  “Dear god,” I whispered. “They’ll freeze to death.”

  “Dedrick isn’t far behind,” Shiloh shouted.

  “What?”

  “He’s following them.”

  “I didn’t see him.” But then again I wasn’t looking. I was too fixated on Maryah and Rina.

  “Nathaniel,” Gregory’s voice sounded urgent. His hand was pressed against the window as he turned to look at me. “She said pack a chute.”

  “Maryah? You heard her thoughts?”

  “Yes, and she said to hurry.”

  “I’ll circle back around,” Anthony said. “But I didn’t see any possible landing spots close enough to them.”

  Gregory and I were still staring at each other. He repeated himself. “Pack a chute. That’s what she told me to tell you.”

  I stiffened. I wasn’t there to help load the plane. I hadn’t packed a parachute, and no one else had probably thought to either.

  Carson blurred to a stop in front of me. He held a packed parachute bag by its straps. “Put it on.”

  I grabbed his head and kissed the top of it. “Always prepared.”

&n
bsp; Grinning, Carson shoved me away. “I can’t take credit. This was all Dakota.”

  “Dakota?”

  He strutted up behind Carson. He took a break from breathing into an air-sickness bag long enough to say, “My ability needs a lot of work, but I did get this detail right.”

  “He drew it,” Carson explained. “In the comic version of this scene, you parachuted off of a mountain to save Maryah.”

  I eyed both of them, so young and so talented. “Thank you, Dakota. You just saved two lives, maybe more considering the ripple effect.”

  Dakota’s cheeks blushed bright pink before he raised the bag to his mouth again.

  I slipped my arms into the straps and pulled the pack snug.

  “You’re sure it’s packed correctly?” I asked Carson.

  “Like I’d send my brother jumping off a jet into the freezing Himalayan Mountains with a faulty chute?”

  “Thanks, Car.”

  “We’re almost there,” Anthony announced. “Go below now or you won’t get a chance to jump until I circle around again.”

  I lifted the hatch to go under the plane to the loading ramp.

  “Nathan?” Carson grabbed my shoulder, and I paused. “Pull the main with enough time to still pull the safety. You know, just in case.” He shrugged. “No one’s perfect.”

  After one quick nod, I climbed into the belly of the plane. Carson stared down at me from the hatch door above. “Go save our girls!”

  The cargo door lowered, offering a spanning view of the sky and mountains. The plane had slowed significantly, but it felt as if I was witnessing the scene below me in ultra-slow motion. Dedrick and two of his cronies were much too close to Maryah and Rina, and they neared closer with every step. Maryah and Rina had reached the furthest edge of the mountain.

  Maryah turned, her head slightly lifted skyward. Too much sky separated us, but our eyes locked on each other as if we were only a breath apart.

  I didn’t need Gregory’s ability to read her mind. I knew what she was planning and what she needed me to do.

  Dakota had almost drawn it correctly. I gave one nod.

  She threw something toward Dedrick. It sparkled for a brief second as it flew through the air, but it wasn’t nearly close enough to hit him.

 
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