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       Tremor, p.8

           Patrick Carman
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“This could be fun,” she said. “I’d like to get my hands on that flamethrower.”

  “Let’s go up,” Wade said. “I have a feeling they’ll try the net again.”

  “You go ahead,” she answered. “I’ll stay in the lower levels.”

  Wade shrugged. He’d known she wouldn’t be told what to do. It wasn’t in her DNA to follow anyone, let alone her twin brother.

  Wade rose sharply in the air, reaching the high ceiling in a split second. Five of the ten single pulses rose right along with him while the rest moved like lightning and surrounded Clara from the ground. The first set of challenges came in: three eight-pound shot puts, a favorite weapon this unit leaned on. Clara braced herself, felt one of the metal balls glance off her temple and another land on her rib cage, knocking her off her feet.

  “Throwing the weight around nicely today,” Clara said. What she wanted to do but knew she could not was heave these balls of fury right back where they came from. She could kill four or five single pulses without batting an eye, but that was not what this training session was about. She was supposed to find an escape route, for both Wade and herself, at the far end of the training room.

  Wade was being blasted with fire from three sides, darting in and out of the flames. He was laughing; but he also knew that if his clothes caught on fire, he might end up flying around buck naked, and that was an outcome he really wanted to avoid.

  “Come on, boys, shoot straight or go home!” he yelled.

  Wade and Clara were both backed up against a wall, and that’s when they saw that the entire situation had been nothing but an elaborate distraction. A section of ceiling spanning twenty feet across came loose and crushed them both, pinning them under a pile of concrete. A massive dust plume filled the air. When the debris settled, all ten single pulses were standing on the fallen expanse of concrete, weapons at the ready, waiting for their two victims to slither out from under the wreckage.

  “Didn’t see that coming, did ja?” one of them said. Unfortunately, the slab rose up in the air like a magic carpet; and before they could react, it was back up through the hole from which it had come, trapping all ten of them on the second story, which was closed off from the training room.

  Wade and Clara held the ceiling where it belonged while they walked toward the exit. They may as well have been walking in slow motion; they had all the time in the world. When they approached Gretchen near the exit, they let the slab of ceiling free-fall and almost wished the single pulses had been wise enough to move. It was a twenty-foot drop that caught them all off guard, and only some of them started flying in time to miss the landing.

  The flamethrower bounced free, and Clara yanked it through the air with her mind, trained it on Gretchen, and fired. But Gretchen was lightning fast, jumping up in the air and flipping once, landing on the opposite side of them both.

  “I do like this weapon,” Clara said. She looked at Wade and imagined burning the clothes off his body.

  “Don’t even think about it.”

  Gretchen took two steps toward her children. When it came to relations between first and second pulses, she was having many of the same challenges Meredith was. “They’re no good to us if they’re hurt. And you should appreciate them more. We’re in this together.”

  Clara and Wade kept walking, barely acknowledging that Gretchen had spoken at all.

  “Give them back their guns,” Wade said. “At least then it was fun.”

  Gretchen was ready to unload on both of them when the sound of a frantic voice came from her Tablet. She pulled the Tablet out of her pocket.

  “We’re under attack!” the unit captain on watch yelled. “Incoming!”

  Wade and Clara didn’t wait for instructions. They were flying through the compound as fast as they could, heading for one of the exits. The place was full of security measures; and, reaching the first of several, they found themselves held back by a giant door that looked as if it belonged at the entrance of a bank vault.

  “Let’s take it down,” Clara said.

  “Yeah but—” Wade said.

  “Now!” Clara said. She was crazy for some real action, and if it meant using their combined forces to escape from a maximum-security prison, then that’s what they were going to do. She looked at Wade, who nodded, and the two of them put every ounce of mental energy into ripping an iron door out of a wall made of solid marble.

  Clara and Wade had focused as much pure mental force on other things lately, but the door and the wall were like one immovable object. Clara shot a bead of fire across the hall, knowing it would have no effect, then dropped the flamethrower in disgust.

  “What a useless piece of garbage.”

  “Come on, Clara!” Wade yelled. He thought he could hear the door start to bend under the pressure of their combined power. He could definitely hear something that sounded like a very heavy door being moved. Being an Intel and, by far, the smarter of the two, Clara figured out what was going on before Wade did. She stopped exerting any kind of force and turned around just in time to see Gretchen smiling as the security door at the other end of the short hallway they were in closed.

  “Wade,” Clara said.

  His eyes were glued shut as he kept at it, fully immersed in the effort of moving an immovable object.

  “Wade!” Clara yelled again.

  This time Wade opened his eyes and shook his head back and forth a few times.

  Gretchen’s voice filled the room from speakers embedded in the ceiling, and behind her voice, Wade and Clara could hear first pulses cheering.

  “You’re in the most secure part of the entire supermax,” she said. “The walls are impenetrable marble on the outside, with two feet of reinforced steel hidden behind that. The door you’re trying to open, and the one I’m standing behind, are both solid iron, with retractable iron rods that insert into the walls. Those rods are seven inches around.”

  “Bitch,” Clara said under her breath.

  “Don’t talk to your mother that way,” Gretchen ordered. “Also, there’s no food or water in there. You’ll be dead in a few days.”

  Cheers went up again, because it was the first time a unit of single pulses had bested Wade and Clara.

  “They’re good,” Wade said. “Real good.”

  Clara had to agree, even if it made her want to throw up.

  “Good one, guys. Now let us out of here.”

  A new voice came through the speakers. It was Andre Quinn, and he wasn’t in a favorable mood.

  “I think it will be best if you spend a few hours in there. It will give you a chance to think about how not to make the same mistake twice.”

  “No way am I doing that,” Clara said. “Lesson learned. Just open the door.”

  “I’d prefer it if you didn’t interrupt me when we’re training,” Gretchen said. She hated it when Andre randomly inserted himself into her work.

  Andre didn’t answer, in part because he was, possibly, more annoyed than Gretchen was. Prison life had brought out the general in her. Andre had taken to holing up in the warden’s old office, thinking about what was to come. They were days away from going into serious action, and serious action always made Andre nervous.

  “We have a situation up here,” Andre’s Tablet announced. It was the first-unit supervisor from one of the gun turrets. “A real one.”

  Andre tapped his Tablet and spoke directly to Gretchen.

  “Let them out. Now.”

  “Already doing it,” Gretchen said. “But it’s going to take at least a minute or two to get them all the way out there. I’ll go.”

  “No, don’t,” Andre said. “Get the twins and meet me at the east turret. Let’s not overexpose until we know what’s going on. I can be up there in thirty seconds.”

  Gretchen was the only other second pulse they had, but if Andre wanted her to wait, she would wait. It was his funeral if something went haywire outside her control.

  Dylan was walking steadily toward the walls of the supermax pri
son, still fifty yards off in the middle of an empty field. It was daylight, so the skunks and other vermin were holed up, out of sight.

  “This is a secure facility,” Dylan heard the voice over a loudspeaker warn. “Stop where you are. Don’t run and don’t advance. Don’t move.”

  It was the second time the warning had been given, and Dylan wasn’t changing his course of action. He saw, far off to his left, an abandoned van parked on the side of a road that hadn’t been used for years. He picked up the vehicle with his mind, raising it ten feet in the air, and sent it flying. Glass and wheels and doors exploded off the wall, along with chunks of concrete from the wall itself. He very nearly blew a hole in the prison, which was maybe a little more damage than he’d intended to do.

  But it sent the appropriate message. Before Andre arrived at the east gun turret, the shooting had already begun. Dylan was under fire from four different locations, bullets pelting the earth in bursts of dust. He didn’t change his pace or his expression when the first bullet bounced off his shoulder. He felt it push against his skin, nudging him softly backward, but it did nothing to slow his progress. Another bullet hit him in the leg, puncturing a hole in his jeans.

  “We’ve got a second pulse out here!” someone yelled. They’d skipped the loudspeaker this time, but everyone inside the prison went into high gear.

  “That’s not possible,” Gretchen said. She had the door open, which was on a one-minute delay, and Wade and Clara were pouring out into the interior of the prison.

  “There’s only one person that can be,” Wade said, feeling the adrenaline rush of a serious fight about to happen.

  Andre was at the east turret, binoculars in hand, staring Dylan down.

  “Hit him with a few rockets,” Andre said. “Let’s slow him down.”

  Andre had heard about Dylan Gilmore, but the intel he could gather was sketchy at best. The extent of his knowledge was limited to four items:

  Dylan was a second pulse possibly aligned with Meredith, possibly not. There was no way of knowing for sure, because Meredith hadn’t been seen by anyone in years. He knew she was out there, that she had her own collection of single pulses aligned against him, but that was all.

  Outside of Gretchen and the twins, Dylan was the only other known second pulse in the world.

  They had determined, in a previous encounter, that Dylan Gilmore’s weakness was stone, concrete in particular. (Andre was comforted by the fact that the prison was made of a substance that could prove useful as a weapon, should things get out of hand.)

  Dylan had saved a single pulse named Faith Daniels because, presumably, he was in love with her. This was a touchy situation with Andre’s daughter, Clara, who had killed Faith’s best friend out of spite, because Clara was in love with Dylan, too.

  “Gretchen?” Andre said into a secure line.

  “We’re on our way; what’s going on?”

  “It’s Dylan out here. Clara’s going to be upset.”

  Gretchen couldn’t believe her ears. Dylan Gilmore? What was he doing attacking their camp?

  “What’s going on?” Wade asked. They were running up a switchback set of stairs, heading for a door that would release them into a long hallway.

  “Nothing your father can’t handle,” Gretchen said, though she and Wade both knew that wasn’t true. He was a single pulse. He could easily be killed if things went off the rails in the prison yard.

  Outside, three rockets were fired in quick succession, exploding within feet of Dylan. When the dust cleared, Dylan was still walking. He was twenty yards from the wall when he uprooted a telephone pole from which the wires had been cut, turned it sideways, and sent it flying through the air like an arrow shot from a bow. It hit the main doors of the prison, rocking the turret overhead.

  “Take it easy, Dylan,” Hawk said into his sound ring. Clooger and Faith were next to him, monitoring everything from a secure location on one of the hills outside the prison. “No need to get them too riled up.”

  “We’re taking fire,” Clara said, smiling as she felt the walls in the hallway tremble. “Finally, some action.”

  When Dylan was close enough to see Andre in the east gun turret, he smiled cunningly. Andre was staring at Dylan through binoculars, so he saw the look, which was the last glimpse of Dylan he had before watching him vanish. Dylan had gotten much better at launching into the sky, and before Andre knew what had happened, there was no sign of Dylan at all.

  “Find him!” Andre shouted as Clara, Wade, and Gretchen emerged into the sunlight. The moment they were through the double doors, all three were flying, circling the compound as they scanned the sky for Dylan.

  But they were looking in the wrong place, because the approaching enemy had already landed.

  Andre felt Dylan’s presence behind him and wondered how on earth this kid had moved from where he’d been to where he was with such speed and stealth. Dylan slammed the gunner’s head into the wall and watched him slide down into an unconscious position.

  “That’s going to be quite a headache in the morning,” Andre said.

  “Better than being dead.”

  “Fair enough,” Andre said. “Are you going to kill me, too? Because if you are, I’d rather like to fall to my death. It’s just a thing I have about flying. Maybe you could carry me into the sky and then force me into a free fall. We both hit the ground at once, but only you live. How would that be?”

  Andre was trying to distract Dylan only long enough for someone to see him, so it came as a shock when Dylan did precisely what Andre said. Everyone outside was searching for Dylan, but no one was looking for Andre. Dylan wrapped an arm around Andre’s chest, pulled him out of the gun turret, and flew them both along the east wall of the prison. Dylan could slam into a wall or the ground and it wouldn’t do him any harm. But Andre didn’t enjoy that kind of second-pulse protection. He’d be a goner on impact and he knew it.

  “Another twenty feet, security entrance at your right,” Hawk said into the sound ring. Only Dylan could hear the words, because they were sent directly inside his head, on the back side of his eardrum.

  “You got keys to this place or what?” Dylan asked, landing at the door and letting go of Andre.

  For Andre, there was no point in running or flying away. Dylan could alter Andre’s path and send him sideways into the prison wall. He was helpless alone with a second pulse, and he knew it.

  “I hope you know what you’re doing,” Andre said, holding his hand against a palm reader on the heavy metal door.

  “Let’s assume I do,” Dylan answered, shoving Andre through the door and down a narrow, dimly lit hall. “Any cells in this place?”

  Of course there were plenty of cells. It was a prison.

  Andre’s Tablet, which was in its small size stuffed in a back pocket, was full of chatter.

  Gretchen: Andre? Where are you? Answer!

  Wade: Is this part of the training exercise? It is, isn’t it?

  Clara: Lame.

  “Give me that thing,” Dylan said, taking the Tablet as Andre held it out and shoving him down the hallway. “Find me a cell. Now.”

  Dylan activated the audio for all parties on Andre’s Tablet.

  “Colder,” he said, smiling. “You’re getting colder.”

  “Holy shit, that’s him,” Clara said. “Come out in the open, I’ll show you how a real second pulse plays!”

  “Check all the turrets; make sure he’s not hiding under our noses,” Gretchen said.

  “Still cold,” Dylan said. “You’re on Antarctica.”

  Dylan gave Andre back his Tablet as they came to a security door, which Andre opened.

  “Plenty of cells in here. It’s D block, impossible to escape.”

  “I doubt that, but let’s test out your theory,” Dylan said.

  They entered the space, which was eerily somber. Incandescent lights cast a pale yellow glow on flat walls. As they came to the first of many open cells, Dylan was glad to hear Faith’s voi
ce in his head.

  “Check in when you can. Let me know you’re okay, lover boy.”

  Andre stepped toward the cell.

  “Where do you think you’re going?” Dylan asked. “The cell is for me, not you.”

  Andre looked at Dylan inquisitively. Andre was a brilliant man, but none of this made sense. Why would his enemy lock himself away in the most secure prison cell in the world? It was the kind of place even Dylan Gilmore couldn’t escape once the bars slammed shut.

  “Be my guest,” Andre said, playing along as he cautiously moved out of the way.

  To his surprise, Dylan walked right into the cell and sat down on the poured concrete slab that was supposed to serve as a bed. Andre’s eyes narrowed—What kind of trick are you trying to play here? He activated the cell door and watched it automatically slide shut with a grinding metal sound.

  Dylan felt the cold weight of the walls all around him. For Dylan they were like walls of dynamite waiting to be lit and turned into the one thing that could break through his second pulse. It sent a cold chill through him as he glanced around the cell and imagined the walls blowing apart and sending shards of stone raining down on him. It would take a lot of flying concrete to end Dylan Gilmore, but if it were used as a weapon, this place had enough. But this was all part of Meredith’s plan. You’ll have to willingly give up your power, she had said. It’s the only way he might come to trust you in the end.

  Andre stared at his prisoner, mystified by how he’d managed to lock him up so easily. His Tablet was going crazy with voices, but Andre didn’t respond to any of them. He was into something highly unusual here, and the voices were distracting him while he tried to puzzle it out. He muted the Tablet, looked through the metal bars at what he assumed to be the only other second pulse in the world besides his wife and the twins.

  Dylan looked up from his position on the concrete bed and spoke.

  “Hey, Dad, how’s it hangin’?”

  Chapter 7

  Cell Block D

  “I wish I could have been there to see Andre’s face,” Faith said. “That would have been priceless.”

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