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Fighting for infinity, p.28
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.28

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  Dedrick ran toward the object.

  Maryah wrapped her arms around Rina.

  I took one last breath and put on my sunglasses. It was now or never.

  JUMPING TO A CONCLUSION

  Maryah

  “Nowhere to run, my pets!” Dedrick shouted. His voice was muffled by the howling wind, but he was close enough to hear—too close.

  I made the mistake of licking my lips a few minutes earlier when I tried reassuring Rina that everything would be okay. Now I knew better than to open my mouth. My lips were two icicles plastered upon my frosted face.

  I glanced up at the plane flying toward us again.

  Had Gregory heard me, or were they too far away? What if Gregory didn’t hear my directions? Rina’s life and mine were on the line.

  The plane flew over us. The ramp was lowering out of the back.

  Nathan stood on it, staring down at me like the superhero I so desperately needed him to be.

  My hands and feet were numb. I could barely feel my legs and arms. Could I really do this? Was my brain frozen to the point of insanity? There was no other choice. No other way to escape.

  Shivering and shaking, my gaze locked with Nathan’s. He knew my plan. I could see it written all over his face. Nathan nodded as Dedrick shouted my name.

  But there was one part Nathan didn’t know about.

  Rina shivered and shook uncontrollably. I wrapped one arm around her and pulled her tightly against me. Her head pressed against my chest.

  The snow crunched under Dedrick’s boots. A few more steps and he’d be close enough to grab us. “Did you forget your precious Nathaniel can’t use his traversing power?”

  I hadn’t forgotten. It’s what made what I was about to do infinitely more scary.

  “This is your last chance, Maryah,” Dedrick shouted, “Where is the starstone?”

  I squeezed my ring tight in my palm one last time. “Here it is!”

  I threw it to the far left of him. He ran after it, and I used the distraction for the precious seconds I needed. The last bit of oxygen in my lungs was used to direct Rina. “Hold on tight.”

  She flung her arms around my neck. I hugged her until it felt like we were one person.

  With all the strength I had left, I leapt off the mountain.

  CATCHING FALLING STARS

  Nathaniel

  I ran as fast as I could down the steel ramp.

  One, two, three, four, five strides then I launched myself into the cold thin air. I streamlined my body, locking my arms against my sides to fly like a bullet toward Maryah and Rina.

  They tumbled through the sky, falling too fast and too far away.

  I would reach them. If it was the last thing I ever did in this lifetime, I would force my body to fly fast enough to reach them.

  The wind screamed in my ears. My face felt like ice. But I had done this enough times to stay focused.

  I visualized the air around me conspiring to move me faster than humanly possible.

  Something Mary said in our first life blew through my mind. Imagine you could travel as fast as a shooting star, where would you go?

  My answer was the same then as it was today. To you. I’ll always be destined to collide with you.

  As if the universe heard me, I flew faster than ever before.

  I slammed into them so hard it knocked the breath out of me.

  I kept it together, wrapping my arms around both of them, but struggling for a tight grip. Maryah was yelling hysterically, but it was hard to make out her words over the freight train winds ripping all around us. We were tumbling over and over like a snowball racing down a slope, but sinking like a stone in an invisible arctic ocean.

  “Pull the chute!” I yelled to Rina. She was closest to the ripcord, and she wasn’t screaming like Maryah. “On the side of my pack. Pull the silver pin!”

  Rina wriggled her arm free. We somersaulted end over end so fast that I couldn’t tell which way was up or down. “Pull it!”

  Rina’s hand reached around me and then we were yanked upward. I looked up and found a full canopy opened perfectly. Silently, I thanked Carson and Dakota.

  I looked down at Rina and Maryah, face to face, cold and paler than death, but alive, and safe in my arms. I forced myself to take a deep breath. The wind was calmer, but it was still so cold. Rina looked a little better than Maryah. Maryah still clung to Rina for dear life, and I had a death grip around both of them. “Maryah, you have to hold onto me.”

  Her voice cracked, still hysterical. “I can’t let go of her.”

  “Slowly, you can. Move your right arm up around my neck and then your left.”

  “She’ll fall!”

  “She won’t fall. I have her. I have both of you. But I need you to hang onto me so I can use one arm to steer us.”

  “I’m okay,” Rina weakly told her as her teeth chattered.

  “I can’t let go of you,” Maryah groaned. “I can’t.”

  We didn’t have much coasting distance left before we’d slam into the side of a mountain. “You can, Maryah. It’s the only way we’re going to survive this. You have to.”

  She trembled as she loosened one hand from Rina and wrapped it around me.

  “Don’t worry, I have her,” I promised. “She weighs next to nothing. Now move your other hand.”

  “I can’t.”

  “I know your arms are so cold you can barely feel them, but you’re going to need both to hang onto me.”

  “Here,” Rina said, wriggling her left arm free and wrapping it around my neck. She looked up at me, and there wasn’t a trace of fear or worry on her face. “I’m holding onto you. You’re holding onto her. She’s holding onto me. We make a circle. Circles can’t be broken.”

  Pride and love made my throat tighten. “You’re so brave.

  Rina tightened her hold on me then wrapped her legs around my waist. “Just like my parents.”

  I spoke fast because we were running out of time. “Maryah, can you move your legs?”

  “I think so.”

  “Try to wrap them around me like Rina did.”

  She struggled to position herself as Rina climbed higher, like a fearless monkey. Maryah’s legs were wrapped weakly around my upper legs, but both of them were attached to me, so I reached up and yanked on a toggle. We sharply sailed left, away from the unforgiving mountain.

  Maryah pressed her icy face against my neck. “It’s so cold.”

  “We’ll be on the ground soon. The plane will be warm, and Krista will help your blood flow properly again.”

  Her voice was hoarse. “How will they find us?”

  “The GPS tracker embedded in my vest.”

  I steered us toward a stretch of open land between two mountains. I hoped it was enough room for the plane to land. If not, Carson would arrive on foot quickly with something to warm us. He was always several steps ahead of everyone.

  “That was heroic what you did back there,” I told them, “both of you.”

  I assessed the horizon line and toggled left again to gain us a bit more distance to my target. Rina was smiling at me. What a contrast to the life she’d been living for so long. From solitary confinement in Dedrick’s dreadful cell to leaping off a mountain and soaring like a bird to freedom.

  “You’re free,” I told her.

  “Because of you.” She hugged me. “Just like the book said.”

  “The book?”

  She nodded then turned and admired the view, her smile unwavering. Her explanation could wait. I had to concentrate on safely landing us in the snow-covered foothills. And it had been quite some time since I traditionally landed after a jump.

  “Ladies, keep your arms and legs wrapped around me. High and tight to avoid injuries.”

  Maryah hugged me so hard, she almost choked me. I yanked both toggles and prepared my feet to hit the ground running. We touched down, but I failed to balance my weight and theirs, so I slid us feet first into the snow.

  The thr
ee of us just lay there for a moment, limbs still tangled together. I breathed a sigh of relief as I’m sure Maryah and Rina did.

  Rina let go and peeled herself off me, kneeling beside us. She giggled as if she’d just departed a carnival ride. “That was thrilling. I’d like to do it again sometime.”

  Maryah lifted her head but then collapsed on top of me again. “She’s her father’s daughter.”

  I beamed at the thought as I shimmied the parachute pack from my shoulders.

  The sound of our plane’s engines was music to my ears. “Come on, up we go. The last thing we need is a jet landing on top of us.”

  We scrambled to our feet and moved away from the area serving as a makeshift runway for Anthony to land.

  “They’re all on board, right?” Rina shouted over the roar of the engines as it dove between the mountains. She watched the plane with childlike wonder. I didn’t know if its hovercraft landing abilities were causing her wide eyes, or if it was her first time seeing a plane. “All of our kindrily?”

  “Everyone but Faith, Amber, and Mikey,” I shouted in reply.

  Rina spun on me. “No! They have to be here. Go get them.”

  “I can’t traverse.”

  She laid her hands on my chest and closed her eyes. “You can.” She stepped back and peered up at me. “It’s weak, but focus with Air energy and you can do it.”

  I stared, flabbergasted. “How do you know that?”

  “Go! We don’t have much time.”

  “Mikey is too young to be put in harm’s way,” I argued, “and Faith is pregnant.”

  The plane touched down. Rina glanced back at it then yelled at me, stomping her feet. “They all need to be here. All of them. If they aren’t here, it won’t work!”

  “What won’t work?”

  Maryah grabbed the neck of my jacket. “Just go get them! And hurry.”

  I opened myself up to connect with the light. One magnetic pulse traveled down my right arm, but nothing more.

  “Air,” Rina reminded me, “Connect with Air energy.”

  I closed my eyes and visualized my sign’s essence. Light flares flickered in the corners of my vision, but I visualized clouds and wind. My fingertips felt weightless. The sensation traveled up my arms, and I inhaled the feeling until it traveled through my core and down into my toes.

  I concentrated on the details of Faith’s eyes. The connection felt completely different from usual, but it clicked. I traversed.

  Faith stood on one foot, the other bent up against her thigh. Her hands were in prayer position at her chest.

  “Faith, you have to be with us.”

  She lifted her arms above her head. “I’m in the middle of tree pose.”

  “My apologies, but yoga will have to wait.”

  “I’m pregnant.” She planted both feet on her mat. “Who in their right mind asks a pregnant woman to go to battle and jeopardize her and her baby’s life?”

  “Maryah and Rina. They said you have to be there in order for it to work.”

  She huffed then turned and grabbed her pink tennis shoes from the foot of the bed. “It’s bad enough you have Shiloh with you, now you want me to risk our lives too?”

  “Apparently.”

  “The things I do for this family.” She finished tying her laces with a hard yank. A fleece, gloves, and a pink beanie lay on her bed as if she already knew she’d be going.

  “You should grab a heavier coat,” I said.

  “Nope. I need freedom of motion for my ninja skills.” She stepped into my arms and protectively covered her belly with her hands. “I’m sorry Sheila, but buckle up.”

  I traversed Faith back to the inside of the plane. From outside, Dylan saw me through a window and called my name. He ran toward the plane’s steps, but I vanished before he could order me to leave Amber and Mikey at home.

  Amber was sitting at the roundtable bouncing Mikey in her arms as she looked up from one of Dakota’s comic books. “About time.”

  She and Mikey were already dressed warmly. She pulled a hat onto his head. Eightball and Molokai were in the kitchen eating from overfilled bowls of dog food. She had poured them enough to last two, maybe three days.

  “You knew I was coming,” I said. “That’s why Faith was ready too.”

  Amber stood. “Before you all left, Dakota told me to read it.” She motioned to the comic. “It shows a battle with Dedrick. All of us are there.” She glanced down at Mikey. “Even him.”

  “And you believe he drew what’s really going to happen?”

  “So far the story is accurate. Details are a bit skewed, but overall the big events are spot on. We should have believed him. We should have read his comics as soon as he told us to.”

  I stepped closer and opened my arms. “We have to hurry back. They need us.”

  “One question first. Did you just jump off a mountain and save Maryah and Rina from falling to their death?”

  “No.” I wrapped my arms around her and Mikey. “I jumped from the plane.”

  POINT OF RETURN

  Maryah

  The entire kindrily stood around us, awaiting directions.

  “What now?” Nathan asked me as he finished tightening my bulletproof vest.

  “I’m not sure. Evelyn said we had to find a beyul, some hidden valley. She said I had been there before.” I clutched my Howlite, hoping it would spark a memory.

  Nathan’s head lifted, and he stared at something behind me. “It’s there, through that narrow pass.”

  “What?” The temperature was much warmer now that we were in the foothills of the mountain, but I still put on my coat. “How do you know that?”

  “I saw it when we landed.” Nathan slid another vest over Rina’s head. “I’ve been BASE jumping from these mountains for a decade. I know every lake, mountain, peak, and valley. The beyul is an area of flat land, circled by mountains. From above, it looks like a lotus flower. I’ve tried landing there many times, but whenever I’d get close, the wind would pick up and push me away.” He helped Rina shrug her coat back on. “I tried traversing there so I could explore it, but I’d only end up somewhere nearby, then I’d hike toward it but lose all sense of direction and end up lost.”

  Rina held my hand. The Howlite warmed against my other palm. I stepped back as a memory struck me like lightning.

  I was in a breathtaking temple. A light figure sat across from me. Her soul spoke to mine.

  Existing in the center of eight mountains is a temple with four doorways, and at the top, a gateway to the stars, to our world, to any point in time, to any point in infinity. The bridge between us is narrow, vulnerable, yet almost impenetrable, unless the stones are used together as a key. Meru must be protected. We must thrive forever. If it were to be overtaken, tainted by darkness, the universe would weep in such a cosmic way that the stars would never shine again. Countless souls would be lost forever.”

  Nathan’s hand touching mine snapped me out of the memory. “This entire lifetime, I’ve been drawn to these mountains, and I never understood why, but now it’s clear.” He smoothed down Rina’s hair. “My soul knew she was here even though my mind didn’t know she existed.”

  Rina flashed him a warming smile that only a daughter could give a father.

  Nathan’s finger rubbed against my naked thumb. “Where’s your ring?”

  “I used it to distract Dedrick so we could jump from the mountain.”

  Nathan’s eyes narrowed. “Used it how? Where is it?”

  “I threw it into the snow.”

  His jaw dropped. Carson lurched forward. “You threw away the starstone?”

  “It was a decoy. The starstone wasn’t in my ring.”

  “It wasn’t?” Carson, Mister Wise Scion, looked stunned that he had finally—and much to my satisfaction—been wrong about something. “So where is it?”

  “Helicopter,” Nathan said, alerting us. “They’re coming.”

  I couldn’t hear it yet, but he always heard ever
ything before anyone else.

  “Come on,” Rina said. “Let’s get to the beyul before they do.”

  “Wait.” I sat down and unlaced my boots.

  “What are you doing?” Nathan asked.

  “Switching shoes with Rina.”

  “Why?”

  “Just trust me.” I squeezed my feet into the hiking shoes Evelyn had given Rina. Rina pulled on Harmony’s shin-high boots. I stood and waved my fingers at Carson. “Give us some guns.”

  His brows rose. “Do you even know how to shoot a gun?”

  “Yes, just give me two of the lightest ones.”

  He pulled two black handguns from his backpack and gave them to me. They felt cold and heavy. I shivered as I thought about having to shoot them, but then I reminded myself some bullets do more good than harm.

  I stuck the lighter of the two guns in the back of Rina’s pants. I grabbed a dagger from Harmony’s shoulder holster and slid that into Rina’s boot. “Ready?”

  She shook her head. “We need Mikey.”

  Amber pivoted, turning Mikey away from us. “Why?”

  “I promise, he won’t be hurt.” I held out my hands, reaching for him. “We need his ability.”

  Amber pulled Mikey’s hat further down his head, making sure his ears were protected from the cold, then she kissed his cheek and handed him to me.

  Rina held his tiny hand. I focused on the new skill Rina had taught me.

  Together, with the rest of the kindrily, we hiked to the battleground. All of us were cloaked with Mikey’s gift of invisibility.

  ∞

  No wind blew. No sun shined. The path between the mountains was eerily void of sound and color. Even our footsteps were quiet. So many shoes plodding through the snow should have made a lot of crunching noise, but it was as if we walked soundlessly on clouds.

  “Do they know?” I whispered to Nathan. “About Rina?”

  Judging from the way everyone had been staring at Rina, and glancing at me with pity and curiosity, I suspected they did.

  “Yes. I told everyone on the flight here.”

 
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