Where foundlings hide, p.31
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.31

           KL Mitchelson
 
Chapter Thirty-One

  My legs feel like they’re about to give way beneath me. The capital city. London. “Ivy and Parker are there.”

  “They’ll be OK, Casey,” Roma says, appearing behind me. “The rioters won’t get near enough to hurt them and the power station is miles away from the city. Some of my agents have already gone ahead to deal with the melt down and Nicholas has assembled a team of Smith soldiers and Vedmak agents to extract Parker and Ivy.”

  “I want to go.”

  “It’s too dangerous,” Roma shakes her head firmly. “You’ve only just started your training.”

  “I can’t stay here waiting to find out if they’re OK, I have to go.”

  “Ivy made me responsible for you,” Roma says. “I can’t let you leave.”

  I stare at her intently. You promised I could go home whenever I wanted. I’m choosing to go now. Let me do this and I promise to come back.

  Roma’s mouth tightens into a thin line as she hears my silent plea. She considers me for a moment and then sighs a little exasperatedly. “Nicholas, I want you to take Acacia with you.”

  He looks at her in surprise.

  “She should see what we are dealing with. You’ll take care of her?”

  “With my life.” Nicholas says, taking her hand and skimming a gloved thumb over her knuckles.

  She takes a long inward breath, looking me up and down. “Well you can’t go dressed like that.”

  Ten minutes later I stand between Nicholas and Haydn wearing a compression suit in Vedmak-blue, my hair tied in a knot on top of my head.

  Nicholas slides a sword into the sheath at my back. This is no training sword; I see the glint of sharp steel as it is slotted securely in place. “We don’t really use these, do we?” I ask, my stomach twisting.

  Nicholas smiles. “Only in extreme circumstances, they’re mostly just a scare tactic. No one’s going to mess with you when you have a sword in your hand.”

  We near the front of the line and I step up on to the ledge of the fountain, my stomach squirming with nerves. I look over my shoulder at the group assembled behind us and I see Caleb. He catches my eye and I hastily look away, wondering for a brief moment if my quarters are still in devastation.

  Haydn pulls my hood up over my head and wraps his arms around me. “I’ll need to hold on to you so I can guide you through to the other side.”

  I nod. “And thank you… for not saying anything to Nicholas about what I told you.”

  He frowns, then he plants a quick kiss on my forehead. “We can talk about it later. Now, on three. One, two, three…”

  I feel a stab of panic as he pitches us into the fountain, but this time the temperature of the water is bearable, the compression suit protecting me from the icy sting. Electricity flashes and crackles around us, but my head doesn’t spin like it did before.

  Before I know it, we are swimming towards a dim light and then my face breaks the surface. I wade towards the edge of the fountain, and as my eyes clear, I take in the familiar surroundings.

  Haydn pulls back his hood, shaking out his dark mane. “Are you OK?”

  “Trafalgar Square,” I say. “We’re in Trafalgar Square.”

  But it’s not the Trafalgar Square I remember. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle of tourists and the surrounding traffic, the square is empty except for a man sleeping on a nearby bench, his body covered with a sheet of cardboard. There are no rioters, no police sirens like I had imagined, just an eerie silence.

  “Where is everyone?” I ask.

  “No idea.” Haydn replies, scanning the area.

  Nicholas appears on the ledge beside us and gives a signal. The Smith’s and Vedmak’s in front of us shift into position, creating a perimeter around the fountain. “An emergency broadcast was released,” he says. “Everyone was instructed to stay indoors.”

  I jump down from the ledge, shivering in my now-wet compression suit. More Displacian’s emerge from the fountain, leaving puddles on the pavement as they step into Trafalgar Square.

  “Here.” Caleb appears beside me and reaches around the back of my neck. I feel him press something on the back of my collar and my suit starts to heat up, warm air spreading through the leathery fabric and warming my body.

  “Thanks.” I say, as tiny blasts of warmth shoot from the shoulders to dry my hair.

  “You need to take care of her.” Caleb says, glowering at Haydn.

  Haydn clenches his jaw. “She doesn’t need anyone to take care of her.”

  “Yes, she does.” Caleb says, turning to me with a pained expression.

  Before I can respond, Nicholas ushers Caleb over and the two of them walk silently towards the sleeping man. I watch Caleb’s back feeling both irritated and embarrassed.

  At first, I think he and Nicholas are going to wake the man, to send him to safety, but then he whips off his cardboard sheet with a flourish and springs to his feet. “Good to see you both,” he shakes hands with Nicholas and then Caleb, before signalling in the general direction of the road. “We’ve searched the area for Ivy and Parker, but we haven’t been able to locate them,” the man takes off his ragged cap and scratches his head. “They were last seen heading towards Tower Bridge, followed by a herd of rioters, must be at least a hundred of them.”

  Haydn squeezes my hand reassuringly, but I feel his own panic spike through me.

  “OK, I’ll take a team in search of the rioters, try to distract them,” Nicholas says. “Caleb, you head towards the bridge, try to locate Ivy and Parker.”

  “It’s going to take some time to get across the city,” Caleb says. “With our communications down, we couldn’t call in logistics ahead of our arrival.”

  “It’s all been taken care of.” The man says, just as a huge, black truck comes rumbling around the corner.

  The Displacian’s surge forward as Nicholas and Caleb open the shutter on the back of the truck and jump inside. A ramp emerges, hitting the tarmac with a clatter, then I hear the guttural roar of an engine. Caleb and Nicholas emerge on a pair of shiny, black dirt bikes, riding steadily down the ramp, their heads encased in black helmets with a letter ‘D’ stamped on the side.

  Haydn releases my hand to join the other Smith’s and Vedmak’s jumping into the back of the truck to get bikes of their own. There isn’t enough for everyone, so Nicholas calls for people to pair up, then he rounds up a team to search for the rioters. Haydn and I are to go with Caleb, in search of Ivy and Parker.

  Haydn exits the truck astride his own bike, he hands me a helmet before slipping his own over his head.

  “I think you should come with me, Casey.” Caleb says, so close that it sounds like he’s whispering in my ear.

  At first, I think I’m hearing his thoughts, then I realise that the helmets have a built in communication system, and from the way everyone turns in my direction, it appears that they all heard Caleb too.

  “I’m going with Haydn,” I say, swinging my leg over the seat of Haydn’s bike. “You’ll need a clear head so you can listen out for Ivy and Parker.”

  “Fine,” he says, pulling his shaded visor down over his eyes. “Then I’ll take point. I’ll see if I can get a reading when we get closer to the bridge.”

  “We’ll meet back here in three hours.” Nicholas says, his voice reverberating inside my helmet. He revs his engine and then he and his team take off with a deafening roar.

  Aimee climbs on to the back of Caleb’s bike and then he starts in the opposite direction.

  I clutch on to Haydn as we speed through a street lined with damaged shop fronts, my stomach dipping as adrenaline courses through me.

  The surrounding windows are smashed, the insides of the buildings in disarray. Now and again I think I see a face peering out from a window, startled by the offensive sound of the bikes.

  We pass under a bridge, a stationary train clinging to the tracks above, we weave through abandoned cars, dodge around huge cracks in the road and shat
tered glass.

  When Caleb pulls his bike to a halt and takes off his helmet, the rest of us group around him.

  “I heard Ivy,” he calls over the snarling engines. “They’re close, she can see the bridge from wherever she’s holed up, and-”

  Caleb’s expression goes blank for a moment, then he starts to scan the road around us. He looks over his shoulder towards the bridge, frowning as something claims his attention. I follow his gaze and see a red bus lying on its side.

  “There’s someone inside,” Caleb says. “A woman, she’s hurt.”

  I climb off the back of the bike and take off my helmet. “In the bus?”

  Caleb nods. “She’s pregnant.” He starts towards the bridge, followed by a group of Vedmak’s.

  “Wait,” I say. “She’s probably scared out of her mind. Let me go first.”

  “I’ll go too,” Aimee hurries forward. “If she’s injured I can help.”

  Aimee and I head towards the overturned bus, it’s so quiet that I can hear the gently sway of the river below and the wind as it whistles through the railings.

  Luckily, the door to the bus is on the upside and it’s wide open. Caleb gives me a foot-up so that I can clamber onto the wheel. I peer inside and I hear a whimper.

  “It’s OK, we’re here to help you.” I call, lowering myself into the bus.

  I see dark hair and then a small, pale face peeking around the side of a seat about halfway along the row. Aimee lands softly beside me on the door to the driver’s booth. She holds up a hand for me to wait, and then she starts towards the woman, her footsteps crunching on shattered glass.

  “I’m not going to hurt you,” she says, crouching down beside the woman. “What’s your name?”

  “S-Sarah.” She is huddled in a kneeling position, clutching at her swollen abdomen.

  “Sarah, I need to have a feel of your tummy. Are you injured?”

  “My head,” she sweeps back her short, black hair, revealing a red welt above her left eyebrow. “They pushed the bus over – a gang – they just went crazy.” Sarah’s eyes are wide, her breath ragged.

  “It’s OK,” Aimee says. “You’re safe now.” She touches her fingers to Aimee’s abdomen. “Your baby’s fine.” She inspects Sarah’s forehead and then cups her palm over the wound. When she pulls back her hand, the welt has gone.

  “I need to get her to a hospital,” Aimee says. “Her baby is OK, but she could go into labour at any moment. I’m going to speak to Caleb.”

  Aimee makes her way carefully along the inside wall of the bus and then lifts herself out of the door, using the railings as a step up. “Stay with her.” She calls back to me.

  I make my way along the bus, disorientated by the interior being on its side, and I crouch down beside Sarah, trying desperately to think of something reassuring to say. Her head hangs forward, her hair obscuring much of her face.

  “So…. is it a boy or a girl?”

  She doesn’t respond, but she appears to be shaking, her whole body shuddering with every breath.

  “Sarah, are you OK?”

  She draws her head back slowly and I recoil in horror when I see that her eyes are black, just like Molly’s were, just like the beetle-black eyes of the Khuulsu.

  “He’s coming for you.” She says, her mouth pulling up at the sides into a wide smile.

  I start to back away from her. She is staring both at me and right through me. “He’s coming for you and they won’t be able to stop him,” Sarah continues. “He’ll destroy everything and everyone you love. It’s too late for me, I’ll die before I help him.”

  I stop then. “Who will, Sarah? Who are you talking about?”

  Her face crumples and she begins to sob.

  “Sarah?”

  Her tone changes to something closer to a cry. “You have to run, Casey. You have to run. Don’t go to Evergreen, don’t go to Malvern, he’ll find you there.”

  “What-”

  Sarah clamps her hands over her ears and lets out a scream that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

  “Casey?” Haydn’s head appears in the doorway.

  “She’s being controlled,” I say, moving swiftly towards him as he drops down into the bus. “She sai-” I turn to look at Sarah, but her eyes are back to a normal, her brow furrowed in confusion.

  “What do you mean controlled?”

  “She said someone’s coming for me.”

  Haydn looks back at Sarah, now clutching at her swollen tummy, silent tears rolling over her cheeks. “She’s not showing any signs of mind control,” he says. “Maybe she’s just confused.”

  “Her eyes were black,” I say, impatiently. “She said I should run and then she screamed.”

  He looks at Sarah again and she looks back, her eyes wide.

  “You have to believe me,” I say. “Something’s wrong.”

  “Ok,” Haydn says. “I believe you, but Aimee said we have to move her, at least to somewhere secure until we can get her to a hospital.”

  He approaches Sarah cautiously and holds out a hand. “It’s OK,” he says, softly. “We’re here to help you.”

  She takes Haydn’s outstretched hand and then he shifts an arm around her waist before carefully manoeuvring around the debris towards the door.

  I climb out of the upturned bus first, aided by Smith soldiers, then Haydn and Caleb help Sarah out. She looks at the empty bridge littered with abandoned cars, her face set in bewilderment, as though she can no longer remember how she got there.

  As the Smith’s help her down on to the road, I turn to Caleb. “Sarah was being controlled.” I say quickly. I’m not ready to forgive him for what he did to me, but I know he’ll believe me. He only needs to look into her mind to know that I’m telling the truth.

  He scans my face and I see a flash of guilt in his eyes.

  “It was just for a second, her eyes were black and she said something to me.”

  “You’re right,” he says, narrowing his eyes as he fixes Sarah with a stare. “I can see the darkness in her mind. What did she say to you?”

  Before I can answer, Haydn grabs my hand, sending a jolt of panic up into my brain. “We’ve got incoming.”

  I turn to follow his gaze. At the far end of the bridge, I see a swarm moving towards us, men and women moving silently, weaving around the stationary vehicles.

  “Rioters.” Haydn says.

  “Aimee, take Sarah into that building,” Caleb says, pointing to a glass building at the closest side of the bridge. “We’ll lead them away.”

  Aimee takes off, assisted by one of the Smith soldiers who half-carries Sarah towards the building.

  As we climb back on to our bikes, I hazard a glance at the approaching crowd, there must be at least a hundred of them.

  We’ve barely turned around before Caleb pulls his bike to a sudden halt. There’s another crowd heading in our direction, trapping us on the bridge.

  “Can’t we push through them?” I ask, but the words die in my throat when I see the guns in the hands of the rioters.

  Caleb moves his arms in a sweeping motion, and the scattered vehicles form a barricade across the bridge. “Head to the steps.” He calls.

  But as we dump our bikes, more rioters emerge from the stone steps at either side of the bridge, the water from the river lapping at their feet. “The Shadows,” Caleb says. “They’re here.”

  The crowds have come to halt. Most of them look like ordinary people, young, old, male, female, some are dressed in suits, as though they have just come from the office, others wear a more casual attire. But all of them have the same black eyes.

  I realise, then, that the water has started to rise, the river rocking backwards and forwards, sending water rushing between the railings on either side of the bridge. “Morgana’s.” I say.

  “Amongst others,” Caleb replies. “I can hear their thoughts; they’re controlling the rioters.”

  That’s when I see t
hem, in amongst the gathering of ordinary people, figures shrouded in black cloaks, their faces concealed.

  My breath catches in my throat. “What are we going to do?” I say, reaching for Haydn’s hand. I can feel his panic thrumming against my skin with every beat of his pulse.

  “There’s nothing we can do,” Caleb says behind me. “It’s too late.”

  I turn to look at him and he fixes me with a sad expression. “Take her.”

  “What-”

  Haydn grabs me around the waist, just as the river rises up to form two huge waves on either side of the bridge. I hear a snap, a rush of wind and then everything goes black.

 

 
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