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Fighting for infinity, p.29
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.29

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “What did they say?”

  He grinned and lowered his voice. “Mixed reactions. Harmony is suspicious. She says Gregory would have remembered an event that significant.”

  I peered down at Rina between us. She undoubtedly heard him, but she kept focused straight ahead, marching toward the enemy. We had lost our sunglasses during the fall. I worried Rina’s eyes might be overly sensitive to daylight. “Rina, can you see okay? Do you need to borrow sunglasses from someone?”

  “Nope. I can see just fine.”

  Rounding a blind corner of sky-high rock, we reached our destination.

  Mountains towered above us on all sides, but the beyul was a flat stretch of land with no snow. People stood around, their eyes focused on the mountains. Not people—Nefariouns, with their snakelike gazes awaiting their commander’s arrival.

  Nathan motioned for everyone behind us to stop.

  “They’re already here,” Rina whispered.

  “I see them.”

  Rina pulled me closer. “Not his soldiers. The stones.”

  My eyes darted to Dedrick’s army scattering the land. “Where?”

  She pointed to the mountain to the left of us. “South.” Then at the mountain adjacent to it. “North.” Across from us, about halfway up the mountain’s base, a subtle glint of red winked at me as if the mountain itself were watching us. “West.” Her thumb jerked over her shoulder. “And East. They’ve already placed them in their keyholes.”

  “That cannot be good,” Nathan said.

  We all watched as the helicopter landed in the beyul. Dedrick jumped out of the passenger seat before the engine shut down. He shouted directions to some of the Nefariouns as he proceeded to the center of the beyul. He kneeled, held my ring up to the sky, and then placed it on the ground. He joined his hands together in a prayer position and waited.

  Rina lifted her face skyward. Her blue eyes gleamed like waves of the ocean at sunrise. “That’s my cue.”

  A beam of pink light radiated down from the sky and lit up the ground in front of Dedrick. The ring levitated. Rina’s powers continued to astound me.

  I bent close to her ear. “Rina, are you sure about this?”

  She nodded and pressed her finger to her lips.

  The ring lifted, higher and higher until it rose above the mountains and clouds, and could no longer be seen.

  Everyone except Dedrick stood, their chins lifted, eyes to the sky, waiting for something epic and magical to happen.

  An explosion, like a firework that splayed rays of every possible color, parted the clouds and shook the ground. I spread my feet wider, trying to keep my balance.

  A swirling flame shot out of the Firestone, the flame stretched long and wide across the valley until it melded with the pink beam shooting down from the sky. Blue light poured from the Waterstone like a wave of water. What looked like brown dust spiraled from the Earthstone. From the mountain behind us, one long white stream of fog billowed from the Airstone and met at the intersection of the center of the beyul.

  When they all joined together, the elemental tunnels of light burned so brightly, I had to shield my eyes.

  Each unique form of energy spread high and wide, forming towering walls of light that enclosed the beyul. Shimmering, pulsing, moving walls of red, blue, brown, and white surrounded us.

  In the blue wall of the Waterstone’s light, ghostly images of sea life swam as if it were a real ocean. In the Firestone’s wall of red, a massive white sun wrapped its rays around orbiting planets. Silhouettes of plants, trees, people, and animals scrolled across the Earthstone’s ethereal screen. Birds, butterflies, leaves, and a dozen other flying objects flew through the Airstone’s skyscraping tower of clouds.

  I could even smell different scents as I focused on each element. Saltwater, the musty smell of dirt and fresh grass, the burning of wood, winter air chilling my sinuses.

  Rina had given me the Cliffs Notes version of what would happen, but just like in school, the summary had left me unprepared. Seeing the real thing left me slack-jawed and spellbound.

  The elemental walls around us flexed and quivered.

  Dedrick bowed forward, kissing the ground. A glowing orb fell from the sky, hurdling toward him, but then dipped just before it landed and flew directly at us.

  I held out my hand like Rina had told me to do. The ring gently slid onto my finger, still shimmering and changing colors.

  “They’re here!” Dedrick shouted. “They’re invisible!”

  Rina released my hand, and our kindrily’s veil of invisibility lifted.

  “Thomas!” Dedrick jumped to his feet. “The shield!”

  A bubble of translucent light formed around Dedrick’s entire army.

  Rina’s explanation from our earlier training echoed in my mind. No one can get through Thomas’s shields. Unless he allows it.

  We expected a fight. Even though Dedrick and the Nefariouns were shielded, we still planned that someone, with some terrible ability, would try to harm at least one, if not all of us. But instead, Dedrick shouted one word, one name, and we instantly froze.

  Dedrick’s paralyzer immobilized us.

  Dedrick rushed forward, but he was burned by an unseen force. He leapt back, touching his face and arms as if making sure they were still there. He slowly reached forward, and his finger was burned again.

  Star power will trump his magic, Rina had said.

  Directly down the center of the valley, stretching tall and wide, separating us and the Nefariouns, stood a multicolored wall of starlight he couldn’t cross.

  Dedrick called to his flame-throwing servant and directed her to penetrate it. Fire burst from her fingers as she blowtorched the air, but it did nothing except make the barrier swirl with shades of yellow and orange. She tried crossing through, but she was also burned.

  If I hadn’t been paralyzed, I would have smiled.

  Dedrick turned to his paralyzer. “Allow the one with the ring to speak, but nothing more.”

  My lips parted as I blinked my eyes.

  “You think you’re so clever, don’t you?” Dedrick asked me. “How long do you suppose this parlor trick will last? And once this force field dissipates, then what? How will you protect your beloved cattle herd from being slaughtered right before your eyes?”

  “Look at all the power I have at my disposal.” He motioned to his Nefariouns. “Shall I burn your kindrily to death? Crush their skulls? Strip them of their skin with ancient tools? Which method of torture will you choose for them, dear, foolish Maryah?”

  “That barrier is nothing I have created,” I said. “No one can enter or cross that sacred space unless they have the starstone.”

  Dedrick cackled. “You don’t honestly expect me to believe that.”

  “Believe what you want. It’s the truth.” I didn’t feel bad lying to Dedrick. In fact, it felt good. Rina’s wall of star energy was even more impressive than how she described it to me.

  “Is that so?” Dedrick snapped his fingers. “Bring me Evelyn and River.”

  Two of the Nefariouns removed Evelyn and River from the back of the helicopter. They were both gagged with their arms tied behind their backs. Evelyn’s knees gave out and her head fell forward—she was obviously drugged—but the Neanderthal continued to drag her.

  “If I shove your friend River into the divider, he’ll burn, correct?”

  “Please don’t!” I tried to sound worried, but Rina had assured me she could control who or what the wall hurt.

  “This should be fun to witness.” Dedrick grabbed River by the back of his neck. “Enjoy the blazing pain.”

  He shoved River forward so hard that River tripped and tumbled to the ground. River rolled into the starlight, passing through to our side. He groaned while tugging and pulling at his wrist restraints, but he couldn’t break free. None of us could move to help him.

  Dedrick’s rage ignited. “Give me the starstone or I’ll start this massacre with her!” Evelyn’s eyelids wer
e barely open as she lay at his feet, bound and gagged. He lifted her head by her hair.

  “Don’t touch her!” I snapped. This time my anger was genuine. River thrashed and grunted even harder.

  “Would you like to do the honors?” Dedrick asked his flame thrower. Before I could utter another word, she splayed her fingers and shot fire at Evelyn’s feet. Smoke rose, and the smell of burnt flesh choked me as I screamed. “Stop! I’ll give it to you!”

  Dedrick waved his hand, and the flames ceased. “Wise girl, but you’ve taken more from me than just the stone. I want Rina back.”

  “No,” I growled.

  “Ahh. Such a protective tone. You know who she is, don’t you? You know she was yours and I took her from you, just as I will take her from you again.” He motioned at the flame thrower. This time, Evelyn’s face was burned as she thrashed and screamed through the rag gagging her.

  “Okay! Stop!” I yelled. We never meant for Evelyn to be tortured. We knew he’d hurt her, but we didn’t think he’d burn her to death. “I’ll give you the ring and Rina. Just promise not to hurt her.”

  “I have never hurt Rina.” He placed his hands over his chest. “She’s like my own daughter.”

  My blood boiled at the thought, but this is what we counted on. Dedrick would never give up his prized possession.

  “Unparalyze Rina,” Dedrick commanded.

  Rina threw her arms around me, but I couldn’t hug her back. I was still paralyzed from the neck down.

  “I’m so sorry,” I told her, loud enough for Dedrick to hear.

  “Rina,” Dedrick snarled. “Come to me now before Mommy Evelyn suffers to the point of death. And don’t forget the ring.”

  “Remember,” she whispered to me, “The shield then the paralyzer. After that, you’ll have all the help you need.”

  She pulled away and slipped the ring from my stiff thumb. She stared into my eyes. My daughter. My friend. The glue to my strings. She was my rock, or more accurately, my stone.

  Rina’s soul was the part of Meru I brought back with me. She was the starstone.

  She squeezed my hand three times—our secret signal.

  “You’re ready,” she whispered. “I believe in you. I always have.”

  “Rina!” Dedrick shouted. “I won’t ask again.”

  “Jupiter adsit.” Her hand slipped out of mine. She took two steps backward. The first step shattered my heart, the second my soul.

  I bowed my head so no one would see my teary eyes.

  But also because that’s the only way the plan would work.

  FOILED

  Nathaniel

  I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even turn my head to look at them. I was trying so hard to part my lips so I could tell them no. Rina couldn’t go to him.

  How could Maryah give her up so easily?

  I tried keeping a tight grip on Rina’s tiny hand, but she slipped free.

  No, don’t go to him!

  I tried traversing over and over as I desperately fought to do or say something, anything, but I failed.

  We swore we would protect her, and now we were giving her back to the devil.

  Rina took off Maryah’s ring.

  I stopped internally screaming in time to hear Rina whisper, “I believe in you. I always have.”

  Was this part of their plan?

  Rina stepped away from us then turned and faced Dedrick.

  She inched forward as if her feet were arguing with her head. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from her as she walked away from us.

  I wanted to scream. I wanted to traverse to him and rip out his throat with my bare hands. I tried again and again, but every time my energy hit a brick wall.

  In my peripheral vision, Maryah stood to the side of me. Only an arm's length separated us, an empty space where just moments ago, Rina stood grasping both of our hands.

  Rina paused at the energy barrier. Her legs visibly shook. She stepped into the wall of light, crossing from family and safety into monsters and peril.

  The man who was acting as Dedrick’s shield stepped forward. His hand glowed silver as he reached through the Nefariouns’ protective force field. He offered Rina his hand, but she had her head bowed.

  He grabbed her by the hair then yanked her inside.

  A part of my soul was yanked away with her.

  ONE INFINITE SOURCE

  Maryah

  Rina’s skinny legs shook with every step forward. Whether it was fear or adrenaline that made her shake, I wasn’t sure, but her legs carried her body to the shield protecting Dedrick and his goons.

  Rina had suffered so much. I had to keep her safe. She trusted me. She believed in me. She had put her life in my hands, literally, and I wouldn’t fail her. I had failed enough in the past. It was time for me to be the brave and powerful soul I had once been.

  I had never felt a heart hammer so fast and loud.

  I took a deep breath. This had to work.

  Someone yanked me through the protective barrier. It was Thomas.

  We were in.

  I raised Rina’s gaze enough to see the shield’s snakelike glare—and his moment of panic when he realized it wasn’t Rina’s soul looking up at him.

  It was mine.

  Rina’s words rang through my mind again. Shatter the glass.

  In a flash, I reached into Rina’s boot, grabbed the dagger, and drove it into Thomas’s heart before he could yell to Dedrick.

  “I’m sorry,” I said to him. “I hope you return much less evil.”

  It was just as Rina said it would be. I felt each of the kindrily member’s powers as if they were strings connected to my soul. I yanked on Anthony’s first, but it was just as difficult as before. I couldn’t stop time, but I slowed it down.

  Time stretched out to infinity, slowing everything and everyone. Rina was right; it gave me an advantage. Dedrick’s head was still turning. His hand, in slow motion, was still reaching for the gun at his belt.

  Tugging at the thread connecting me to Carson, I used his speed and strength as my own. I moved like a bullet through water. No one would be able to anticipate my next move, forget about trying to catch me.

  One shield down. One paralyzer to go.

  I blurred past Dedrick to the paralyzer while grabbing the gun from my other boot. I aimed it at the side of his head. Rina’s arms were stronger and steadier than I expected. I had complete control over her body as if it were my own.

  I shot him in the temple, wincing at the guilt of ending a life. But the guilt vanished when I felt my kindrily unfreeze.

  Dedrick still stared, mouth agape, at the empty space where I—in Rina’s body—had just killed his shield.

  It won’t be easy, Rina had said while training me. You haven’t had enough practice to build up your endurance. Using one ability will make you tired. More than one will drain you fast.

  My core shook as my soul struggled to maintain use of Carson’s and Anthony’s powers. Like a fatigued muscle snapping from exertion, my hold on time snapped away from me.

  Everyone, the kindrily and the Nefariouns, sprang into action.

  All the Nefariouns swarmed Dedrick, circling him like a defensive barrier.

  Amber cawed, and black birds dove out of the elemental walls, attacking only Nefariouns. Hands flailed every which way, trying to defend against scratching claws, pecking beaks, and flapping wings.

  A flood of voices bombarded my mind. I pressed my hands to my ears, trying to disconnect myself from Gregory’s ability.

  Nathan appeared in front of me, throwing his arms around my torso as I felt heat engulf me. We traversed and reappeared to the side of the flame-throwing woman. Nathan threw a knife into her back without ever removing his other arm from my waist. He traversed twice more, pulling a knife or dagger from a holster each time, throwing with deadly accuracy.

  I couldn’t tune out the rumble of voices, but no matter how loud the noise was in my head, I had to stay focused on the battle.

  Natha
n disappeared without me. I saw him reappear by my body, shouting something. Rina took off running. I prayed my legs were fast enough to carry her to safety.

  People scrambled all around us. Faith and Shiloh fought three of the Nefariouns surrounding Dedrick. They punched, kicked, and leapt through the air like ninjas. Shiloh swung nunchucks across the side of a Nefarioun’s head, and blood went flying through the air.

  A bald Nefarioun dashed out from behind some trees, running straight for Harmony, but she was clotheslining the redhead and wouldn’t see him coming. I aimed my gun and fired, missing the first shot, but hitting him in the ribs on my second. He fell to the ground, grabbing Harmony’s ankle on his way down, but she mule-kicked him in the face and ended whatever plan he had.

  Carson was nothing but a white blur, leaving crumpled and broken bodies in his wake.

  Even Louise and Helen had a gun in each hand, aimed and waiting, ready to fire at anyone who attempted to attack them or one of our kindrily.

  I focused on my energy net and found the string connecting me to Mikey. It took immense concentration, but I visualized his energy spreading through me and into every connecting string.

  The Nefariouns paused. Heads whipped in every direction as I made our entire kindrily invisible.

  Something that looked like small saw blades sailed through the air and into the throats of the two gorilla-sized Nefariouns flanking Dedrick. They both crumpled to the ground, one almost falling on top of Dedrick in the process.

  I could see Dylan’s aura directly in front of Dedrick. I sorted through the remaining thoughts and voices, which had thankfully decreased as Nefariouns were taken down.

  Dylan’s power of persuasion came in crystal clear. You will stop fighting. You will command any other hidden Nefariouns to surrender, and then you will release them from your spells. You will put your hands behind your head and kneel before us.

  I took a much-needed breath as Dedrick’s eyes glossed over. He slowly put his hands behind his head and knelt down. I lifted the invisibility veil. No one remained standing but our kindrily.

  My own voice screamed from somewhere behind me. “Krista! Come quickly!”

 
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