THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA
SIX STOPPED WALKING SO ABRUPTLY THAT SAM almost ran into her.
“What?” he said.
“Did you hear that?” Six asked.
The in-ear receiver she wore was tuned to Rena’s transmitter, while Sam was receiving Nemo’s feed. Although the wrist monitor Six wore was receiving the video feeds from both girls’ contact lens cameras, the smallness of the screen and the darkness of the woods made it impossible to tell what was going on.
“The shouting?” said Sam. “Yeah. Why? Did you hear something else?”
Six nodded. “Rena must be closer to them than Nemo is,” she said. “Something happened.”
There was silence, then some scratchy sounds, as if something was being dragged through the snow. Then a woman’s voice said, “He is.”
“Good,” said the first voice. There was an odd quality to it, as if the speaker was in pain. “He was the only one with any survival skills. Without him they won’t know what to do.”
“The boy can still shoot fire,” said the woman.
“Yeah, I noticed that,” the man replied.
“Relax,” said the woman. “It only burned your jacket and part of your arm. You’ll live.”
“It’s my shooting arm,” the man complained. “And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s pretty goddamn cold out here.”
“We can stop at the lodge and get you another coat,” said the woman. “They won’t get far.”
The man grumbled something unintelligible, and Six heard the sound of feet on snow. They were walking away from the necklace, which Six guessed Rena had either dropped or lost. But that wasn’t what worried her at the moment.
“Patch through to Lexa,” she said to Sam.
A few moments later, Lexa’s voice was in her ear. “Where are you?”
“We just got to where they parked the truck. Now we’re heading up the mountain,” Six said. She hesitated a moment, then asked, “Are you still getting a read from Kirk’s tracking device?”
“I’ll call it up,” Lexa said. Then, in a more somber tone, she said, “It’s still tracking, but it’s on recovery mode. No signs of life.”
“Shit,” Six muttered.
“What the hell is going on up there?” Lexa growled, her usually calm voice bristling with anger.
“Someone is hunting the kids,” said Six. “Literally. Kirk was helping them get away, and—”
“How close are you?” Lexa interrupted.
“Not close enough,” said Six. “Can you help us out?”
“I’ll work with Nine on getting someone up there,” said Lexa. “But it might take a little time.”
“A little time is all we have,” Six said.
“Got it,” Lexa said, and disconnected the call.
“They’re really hunting them,” Sam said. “They’re as sick as the humans who sided with the Mogs.”
Six said nothing. Inside, she was raging with anger and frustration. She wanted to find Nemo, Rena, and Yo-Yo and get them out of there. Then, she wanted to find Jagger Dennings and the two monsters hunting the teens and show them what it was like to be on the run from someone who knew how to use her Legacies to their full extent.
She doubled the pace. She and Sam moved swiftly up the mountain, following the path that Cutter had led Rena and Nemo up. Without Rena’s transmitter sending them her feed, Six tuned to Nemo’s, hoping for clues as to where the three teenagers were.
“Are you sure he was dead?” Nemo said.
“No,” Rena said, her voice trembling. “But I think so. There was a lot of blood.”
“Fuck!” Nemo said. “This is all so fucked-up!”
“Yo-Yo, we need to bandage your hand,” Rena said in a calmer voice.
Good girl, Six thought. Keep them thinking about other things.
“What’s the plan?” Sam asked from behind her.
“First, we find these three and get them out,” Six said. “After that, I don’t know.”
“We find the two who are hunting them.”
“I’ll be more than happy to spend a few minutes with them,” Six told him grimly.
They reached the point where Cutter had transferred the girls to the ATV. Now, even though they were in great shape, they found the going tough. Six pushed herself on by listening to the voices of Yo-Yo, Nemo, and Rena as they looked for someplace to hide from the people pursuing them. They had bandaged Yo-Yo’s hand. Now they were debating whether to go to the lodge and try to steal an ATV or keep moving on foot.
“Dennings will be waiting for us to try that,” Yo-Yo argued. “I say we stay away from the lodge and head down the mountain on foot.”
“My feet are blocks of ice,” Nemo said. “My jeans are wet too. Rena and I aren’t dressed for this. If we don’t change or get warm, we’re going to freeze to death before we get out of here.”
“Nemo’s right,” said Rena. “My teeth are already chattering, and I can’t feel my toes or fingertips. We’ve got to dry out somehow.”
“Okay,” Yo-Yo said. “There’s another building. Some kind of barn or storage shed or something. Down the mountain a ways from the lodge. I heard Dennings tell Cutter to go get something out of it. We can try to go there. Maybe find some weapons while we’re at it.”
“Won’t they be watching that place too?” Nemo said.
“You got a better idea?” said Yo-Yo. “Unless you can build us a cabin somehow, that’s all I’ve got.”
“We’ll go there,” Rena said decisively. “It can’t be any more dangerous than trying to get down the mountain in this weather. Besides, Sam and Six are probably on their way to help.”
“We are,” Six said aloud, forgetting that they couldn’t hear her.
“We have our tracking devices, and if they’re listening, they’ll know exactly where we are,” Rena told the others. Then the sounds of talking were replaced by sounds of walking.
Six looked down at her wrist. She was wearing a GPS that showed their position in relation to the lodge, the coordinates of which she’d put in once they’d used the data from Rena’s and Nemo’s tracking devices. They were only about fifteen minutes away.
All of a sudden, there was a screeching sound in her ear. She pulled the receiver out, seeing that Sam was doing the same thing.
“What was that?” Sam asked.
“I don’t know,” said Six, rubbing her ear. There was a ringing in her head. “It’s like something fried Nemo’s transmitter.”
She looked at Sam as a horrible thought filled her mind. If the transmitter had been destroyed, it might mean Nemo had been hurt, or that Dennings had discovered it was a transmitter and removed it. Sam, likely realizing the same thing, said, “We’ve got to get to them.”
Finding the barn was not difficult, and it’s setting—below and away from the lodge—meant that it was hidden from anyone spying from the main building. This didn’t mean it was safe, though, and Six and Sam weren’t about to just walk through the doors. Instead, they first peered through one of the windows on the side. The inside appeared empty. Then Six noticed movement towards the back, plus a flicker of light.
“They’re in there,” she said with a sigh of relief. “But if they’re smart, they’ve barricaded the door from inside. We need to get their attention.”
Sam looked around. The barn was filled with pieces of furniture, boxes, and tools of various kinds. But one thing stuck out at him. It was an old pinball machine, sitting not far from the window. Why it was there, he had no idea. “This might do it,” he said.
Concentrating his attention on the machine, he brought it to life. The lights around it suddenly flashed, and the various bells dinged as a ball was launched up the shooter lane and the flippers went wild. It wasn’t the subtlest way of announcing their presence, but it did the job. A moment later, a worried-looking Nemo peered out from the shadows. Sam waved at her, hoping she would be able to tell it was him and not think someone was attacking them.
She did. She ran to the window, then to the door, which opened a crack. Sam and Six slipped inside, then they barricaded it again. Six looked at Nemo, who was trembling with cold. “Are you okay?”
Nemo nodded even as her teeth clacked together. “Yeah” she said. “Just hiding out from some nutjobs who are trying to hunt us down like a bunch of deer. The usual.”
“We heard,” Six said.
Rena and Yo-Yo appeared. Relief flooded their faces when they saw Sam and Six. “You made it!” Rena said.
“Let’s go in the back,” Six suggested. “Away from the windows.”
Rena led them to the rear of the barn. There, they found a fire burning inside a large metal cauldron that hung suspended on chains from a steel frame. “Hunters and farmers use these for cleaning animals they kill,” Yo-Yo explained. “You fill them with water and heat it to help de-hair hogs and such when you’re skinning them. I saw my cousins do it once. It’s kind of gross.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever feel warm again,” Nemo said, standing close to the cauldron.
Rena looked at Sam and Six. “I think they killed James,” she said, her voice breaking. “I tried to . . .” Her words trailed off, and she started to cry.
Sam hugged her. “It’s okay,” he said. “We’re going to get out of here now.”
Six addressed Yo-Yo. “Are there any other kids up there?” she asked.
“A few,” Yo-Yo said.
“Ghost or Edwige?” Six said.
Yo-Yo shook his head. “I don’t know who all is there. I only got here yesterday, and they kept me to myself mostly. Except when I saw Drac, and he restored my Legacy.”
“Drac is here?” said Six.
“Yeah,” said Yo-Yo. “Like I said, he’s the one who fixed me up.”
“Six,” said Sam. “We really should get out of here.”
“What’s the hurry?” Dennings’s voice filled the room. Everyone spun around, looking for him. Yo-Yo lifted his hands, forming a fireball. Dennings laughed. “Everybody’s so ready to fight. Settle down. I just want to talk. You think I’d bring you all this way just to kill you? Not that I couldn’t if I wanted to,” he added. “The barn is rigged with enough explosives to send you all back to Lorien.”
Dennings laughed again, his voice crackling through speakers in the barn’s roof. “You think I wanted Rena and Whatshername?” he said. “Hell, no. I wanted you, Six. One of the originals. Why do you think I took your flyboy pal? Why do you think I let those two run around with their implants and their transmitters? I wanted you to hear everything. I wanted you and your human boyfriend there to come running to save these two. I knew you wouldn’t let them get picked off.”
“What do you want with me?” said Six.
“Like I said, I want to talk,” Dennings replied. “Why don’t you come up here to the lodge?”
“We’ve got nothing to talk about,” said Six.
Dennings clucked his tongue. “I’m sorry you feel that way. Well, if you’d rather all of you die right now, I guess we’ll do it your way.”
“You know he means it,” Yo-Yo said. “He doesn’t care what happens to any of us.”
“All right,” Six said. “I’ll come talk. But everybody else leaves.”
“Sure, sure,” said Dennings. “I mean, I can’t promise my clients won’t try to stop them, but four against two is pretty decent odds.” He laughed. “Not that it helped your pilot.”
Six swore and started to say something, but Sam put his hand on her arm. “I can handle this,” he whispered. “It’s two bad guys. I’ll get everybody out, take them to safety, and come back. I’m pretty sure you can handle yourself.” He smiled and lifted an eyebrow. “Okay?”
“No,” said Six. “But I guess that’s the plan.”
“Come to the lodge,” Dennings said. “Alone. And no one else leaves that barn until you’re inside. I’ll tell them when they can go. Oh, and don’t try the going-invisible trick or everyone else dies.”
His voice seemed to evaporate, and the barn was once again still except for the crackling of the fire.
“He’s probably still listening,” Nemo said.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Six. “Here’s the plan. I go up there. When he says you can leave, you get out of here.”
“That’s not much of a plan,” said Nemo. “What’s to stop him from blowing this place up once you’re there?”
“Because if he does, I’ll tear that lodge—and him—to pieces,” Six said. She spoke loudly, assuming that Nemo was right about Dennings listening in. “Besides,” she added in a whisper. “McKenna knows exactly where we are and is sending help.”
“Dennings will just move again,” said Yo-Yo.
“He’s not the one I care about,” Six said. “You guys are. All right. I’m going.”
They walked to the barn door. Six removed the boards they’d used to hold it shut from the inside, opened the door, and looked outside. She didn’t see anything suspicious, but that didn’t mean there was nothing out there. She turned to Sam, leaned in, and kissed him. “Be smart,” she said. “I’ll see you soon.”
Six walked up the slope towards the lodge. She knew Sam was capable of handling himself, but still she worried. He had three other people to take care of—three people who had been through a lot and were frightened, exhausted, and edgy. She didn’t know who those people hunting them were, but they’d already proved that they were more than willing to kill.
She passed through a copse of trees, momentarily engulfed in darkness, then emerged into the moonlight again. Ahead of her, the lodge loomed against the backdrop of the full moon. A lone figure stood on the porch, looking down at her. He waved.
“Come on up,” Dennings called out.
Six mounted the stairs. “Well,” she said. “What do you want to talk about?”
A second later she felt a sharp sting at her neck. Her hand flew to the spot, and her fingers felt something fuzzy and sharp. She pulled the tiny dart away and looked at it. Already her vision was fading. She tried to attack Dennings, but her body went limp. As she fell, he caught her.
“Oh, there are so many things to talk about,” he said as he dragged her through the door and into the house. His voice sounded very far away. “Right after you see the doc.”
THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA
SAM LOOKED AT THE THREE TEENAGERS WAITING for his instructions. “You guys ready to get out of here?”
“Is Six going to be okay?” Nemo asked.
“Sure she is,” Sam said. “She’s faced way worse than Dennings. I’d be more worried about him than her.”
Nemo snorted. “I don’t care what happens to him,” she said. “I hope Six beats his ass from one end of Montana to the other.”
“She just might,” said Sam, stifling a laugh.
“Okay, kiddies.” Dennings’s voice crackled through the barn. “Time to go. Good luck.” He laughed loudly, and then there was silence.
“Okay,” Sam said. “Let’s move. Remember the plan—we get down the mountain. That’s it. If we run into trouble, you let me handle it. And if for some reason we get separated, just keep going down. Get somewhere warm and dry, if you can. I can find you using your implants.”
“What if something happens to you?” Yo-Yo said. “Those hunters out there mean business.”
“The dude took down a Mogadorian warship,” Nemo said. “I think he’s got this.” She looked at Sam, who was surprised that she knew about that. “Nine told me.”
“You said there was an ATV, right?” Sam asked.
Rena nodded. “Back at the lodge.”
“That would make things a lot easier,” Sam said. “You three could take it and get out of here. Let’s try that first.”
He opened the barn door again, ready to leave. Before he could, an arrow embedded itself in the wood beside his head. Sam slammed the door.
“They found us,” Yo-Yo cried. “Now what?”
“Stay away from the windows,” Sam ordered. “Get into the back.”
Nemo, Yo-Yo, and Rena did as he said, crouching down and moving into the rear of the barn. Sam stayed where he was, surveying the contents of the barn. Mostly it was just junk. But there were some tools—hoes, rakes, an axe—that could be used as weapons. Except that the people out there have a crossbow, he thought.
He risked a peek out one of the windows. The moonlight revealed nothing. But of course the people hunting them would stay hidden. Were they just going to wait out Sam and the others? Or were they planning something else?
He got down and retreated to the back of the barn, where he found Rena, Yo-Yo, and Nemo busily assembling something that looked vaguely like a large human figure made of boards, tools, and other things.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Nemo had an idea,” Rena said.
“You know how Rena makes things come alive?” said Nemo as she used rope to affix a rusty sickle to the end of a broom handle. “Well, I thought we could make a kind of doll, and she could animate it.”
The figure had a scarecrow-like appearance, an assemblage of odds and ends. And Sam was doubtful that it would even stand up successfully, let alone move.
“I’ve never done it with something this big,” Rena said. “But I can try.”
A faint thwacking sound came from outside.
“Why are they shooting arrows into the side of the barn?” Nemo wondered.
“As a warning?” Rena suggested.
Yo-Yo pointed to the nearest window. “No,” he said. “To set it on fire.”
Flames reflected in the window glass crackled eerily, and smoke drifted across the panes. The fire caught quickly, licking around the window frames.
“This place is going to go up fast,” Sam said. “Especially if there really are explosives rigged. We need to get out.”
Nemo stood back, looking at the Frankenstein’s monster they’d created. “It needs a head,” she said.
Yo-Yo pointed to the mounted head of a black bear that sat atop a stack of wooden crates. “How about that?”
A window shattered as a flaming arrow pierced it and flew into a pile of cardboard boxes. The dry material burst into flame, which crawled hungrily up the sides.
“It’ll have to do,” said Rena, helping Yo-Yo drag the bear head down. They tied the head to the rake handle neck, where it hung heavily.
“All right,” Yo-Yo said to Rena. “Do your thing. It’s getting real smoky in here.”
Rena took a deep breath. She closed her eyes and held her hands out over their creation. Nothing happened. She wiggled her finger like Sam had seen her do in her videos, pretending to sprinkle magical dust over the lifeless form. Still nothing.
“I think it’s too big,” Rena said, frustration edging her voice.
“You can do it, Rena,” said Nemo. “Picture it getting up and breaking out of here.”
Rena tried again. Sam could see the strain in her face as she attempted to raise the creature. The heat and smoke were building up in the barn, and he knew they had only another minute or two before they would have to make a run for it. He was about to tell Rena to give up.
Then there was the scraping of metal on metal. One of the scarecrow’s arms moved, lifting off the ground and rubbing against its snow-shovel leg. Rena gasped, and the arm clattered back to the ground.
“It’s hard,” Rena said. “I can feel it draining the power out of me.” But again she concentrated, this time holding her hands out with the palms facing the creature.
It moved. Tried to sit up. With no knees, it was struggling. Nemo and Sam went to it and lifted it. The thing towered over them and wobbled as they tried to steady it. Then it suddenly seemed to find its feet. Sam and Nemo let go, and it stood on its own.
“Can you make it walk?” Sam asked Rena.
The girl nodded, clearly already worn-out. The bear-headed thing moved, its makeshift limbs animated by her Legacy. It ambled towards the barn doors, passing through the smoke without stopping. Sam and the others followed, with Nemo and Yo-Yo helping Rena walk while focusing her attention on the giant figure.
Sam unblocked the barn door. “Stand away,” he told the others. “Once this opens, all hell will break loose out there.”
The others did as he said. Only the cobbled-together beast remained next to Sam. “When I open the door, send it out,” Sam told Rena. “And whatever you can make it do, do it.”
He opened the door using his telekinesis. Then Rena worked her magic, and the thing went striding out of the barn. Sam motioned for the others to come with him.
Outside, the two hunters had emerged from hiding, thinking that they were going to pick off their quarry easily. Instead, they found themselves confronted by something out of a horror film. Confused, they just stood there, looking at the thing coming towards them.
A spark flew from the burning barn and lit on the handle of the scythe that formed one of the arms. It started to burn. As if feeling it, the creature lifted its arm in the air and began to swing it from side to side.
“Come on,” Sam said to the others, using the distraction as cover to make an escape.
Yo-Yo and Nemo followed him as he ran for the cover of the woods. But Rena remained standing behind the monster. Sam stopped and turned to go back for her, then paused. Backlit by the burning barn, Rena looked like some kind of sorcerer commanding her creation to do her bidding. She raised her hands, and the scarecrow moved with her. It was burning now, too, and probably wouldn’t last much longer.
Rena pushed her hands out, as if shoving the giant thing, and it took a step towards the hunters. Startled out of their initial shock, they began shooting wildly, the arrows cutting through string and wood. One of the creature’s legs buckled, and for a moment it seemed about to come apart. But it held, and took another step.
“What the hell is this thing?” the man shouted to the woman beside him.
She didn’t answer. But the bear-headed thing did. It swung its scythe arm again. This time it connected with the man’s neck, slicing through it as if cutting down a stalk of corn. His body slumped to the ground while his head rolled away across the snow, leaving a bloody trail.
Rena sank to her knees. The creature listed. Sam ran to Rena and picked her up, dragging her away as the thing she had been commanding fell apart, its rope tendons shredding as the fire destroyed them. It toppled onto the woman, who screamed as she fell to the ground under the rain of farm implements and wood.
“Can you walk?” Sam asked Rena.
The girl nodded but didn’t speak. She and Sam rejoined Nemo and Yo-Yo.
“That was amazing,” Nemo told Rena as the four of them began to move towards the lodge and the waiting ATV.
“I could feel it,” Rena said weakly. “It wanted to fight. It did exactly what we built it to do.”
“Talk later,” Sam said. “We need to find that four-wheeler.”
When they got to the lodge, Sam looked for the ATV. He found it right where Nemo and Rena had told him it would be. Staying under cover of the trees, he connected with the machine and started it, directing it to drive over to where they were hiding.
“Who knows how to drive one of these?” Sam asked.
“I do,” said Yo-Yo. “My cousin has one we drive around out in the country.”
“Get on,” Sam said.
Yo-Yo swung his leg over the seat of the four-wheeler. Sam instructed the engine to start, and it revved to life. “Rena and Nemo, you’re riding shotgun,” he said.
Rena was seated, and Nemo was about to get on when Sam felt a stabbing pain in his leg and his knee buckled. Looking down, he saw the fletched end of an arrow protruding from his thigh.
“Go!” Sam yelled at Yo-Yo, who wasted no time taking off. Sam grabbed Nemo’s wrist and hobbled away, pulling her with him into the darkness. Ignoring the burning sensation radiating through his leg, he limped on, but every step was torture.
“We need to stop,” Nemo said.
“We can’t,” Sam said. “She’ll know we didn’t all get away, and she’ll be coming for us.”
“Well, we can’t move fast enough with you hurt,” Nemo said. “We’re going to have to figure something out.”
Sam thought. He tried to remember what he knew about the lodge and the surrounding area from the aerial photographs McKenna had sent them.
“There’s a lake,” he said. “On the other side of the lodge. They use it for fishing.”
“How far?” Nemo asked.
“Not close,” said Sam. “But I think I can make it.”
“And what do we do when we get there?”
“There might be a small cabin,” said Sam. “Someplace to hide.”
Nemo nodded. She put her arm around Sam’s waist, and he threw his arm around her shoulders. Moving as quickly as he could, they headed in the direction of the lake. It was slow going, and at any moment Sam expected the remaining hunter to show up, but for some reason, she didn’t. This worried Sam almost more than if she had, but he pressed on, hoping their luck would hold out.
When they came to the lake, they were disappointed. There was no cabin. However, out on the frozen surface of the water was a fishing hut. It would have to do.
Carefully, Sam and Nemo stepped out onto the ice. Using a sliding technique, they edged farther out, shuffling across the snow-dusted surface.
“Is it going to hold?” Nemo asked.
“It should,” Sam said. “Otherwise the fishing hut wouldn’t be there.”
They were about twenty yards from shore, and the fishing hut was still impossibly far off, when a voice called to them.
“Not the smartest place to go,” the woman called out.
Sam and Nemo stopped. They turned and looked at the shadowy figure watching them from the shore.
“That was some trick you pulled back at the barn,” the woman said. “Impressive. But I don’t see any—whatever that was—to help you here.”
Sam’s heart sank. She was right. He had made a choice, and it was the wrong one.
“Let her go,” he shouted. “She’s just a girl.”
“How noble of you,” the woman said. “But I paid for her, and I’m going to take her. If nothing else, it’s payback for what you did to William.”
“I wish I had a different Legacy,” Nemo muttered. “If I could make fireballs like Yo-Yo, I’d toast her ass.”
Sam, looking down, had an idea. “You’ve got exactly the Legacy we need,” he said. He concentrated on the ice, focusing his telekinetic ability and envisioning tiny cracks forming underneath them. He couldn’t break the ice itself—it was too thick—but he could manipulate it a little bit. He heard the ice creak and groan. It was working.
Next, he focused on the water, drawing it up into the tiny fissures he’d made. The ice cracked loudly.
“What are you doing?” Nemo whispered. “We’re going to fall through!”
“Exactly,” Sam said. “And when that happens, you do your thing and swim for the fishing hut. There should be a hole in the ice.”
“What about you? You can’t breathe underwater.”
“Well, you’d better swim fast,” Sam said. Then, shouting for the benefit of the woman on the shore, he said, “The ice is giving way!”
The ice splintered. A hole appeared, and Sam and Nemo fell through it into the frigid waters of the lake. Sam had taken a breath before plunging in, but the shock of the cold almost forced it out of his lungs. His fingers clung tightly to Nemo’s sleeve as they sank deeper into the dark water.
He forced himself to kick his legs. The pain was excruciating, but the icy water dulled it somewhat. Together, they swam up until their heads bumped against the ice. The full moon penetrated the inches of frozen water, but just barely, and Nemo and Sam moved through a twilight world of hazy shapes and bubbles as he took them towards what he hoped was the fishing hut.
More quickly than he had expected, his air began to run out. His lungs ached, and he found himself instinctively trying to breathe. His mouth flooded with water. He choked and panicked, pushing a hand against the ice in desperation. Then Nemo pulled him to herself. Her mouth found his, and she blew air into his lungs. He gasped, choked again, pushed down the feeling of drowning. He had air.
Now that he was able to think, he reached out with his technopathy, searching the fishing hut. To his relief, he sensed a battery-operated light inside. He turned it on. Not far away, a small spot of light appeared in the water. He and Nemo swam for it. Then Sam’s head pushed up and through a hole in the ice.
Sam pulled himself out, flopping onto the floor of the fishing hut. Nemo’s head popped up a moment later. Sam knelt and helped pull her through.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Nemo said.
“It almost didn’t,” said Sam. “Thanks for the air. Now let’s hope that woman believes we drowned.”
“I guess we can always go back down and swim the other way if she does,” Nemo said. She looked around. “Think there are any blankets in this thing?”
Sam indicated two thick wool sweaters and two pairs of overalls that were hanging on pegs beside the hut’s door. “How about those?” he said.
Nemo took one of the sweaters down and started taking off her wet clothes.
Sam shut his eyes. When he opened them again a minute later, Nemo was dressed in the sweater and overalls. She had also found a pair of boots to put on. All of it was too big for her, and she looked like a kid playing dress-up as a fisherman.
“Now you,” Nemo said.
“I can’t get my pants off with this thing there,” Sam objected, pointing to the arrow that still protruded from his calf.
“That’s what this is for,” Nemo said, holding up a fishing knife she’d found.
She cut Sam’s pants around the arrow. She removed his boot and sock and slid the severed portion of his pants off.
“Now for the fun part,” she said. “I saw this in a movie once. It might hurt a little.”
It hurt a lot. Sam ground his teeth together to keep from screaming as Nemo sawed with the knife on the arrow’s shaft. Then she used her hands to break off the barbed tip. Finally, she yanked the arrow backwards through his leg. But it came out cleanly, and there was very little blood. Nemo took a piece of cloth she found in a bucket and inspected it. “Not too many fish guts on here,” she said, wrapping it tightly around Sam’s leg and knotting it.
She helped him take off the rest of his clothes, until he was down to his boxers. Then she discreetly turned around while he took those off, too, and wrestled himself into the overalls and sweater. He smelled like a pile of trout, but he was dry and warm.
“Now what?” Nemo asked.
Sam eased aside a curtain and carefully peered out the window. There was still no sign that the woman was coming after them. Next, he checked the pockets of his wet pants. His phone was gone, probably lost during the fall into the lake. But McKenna knew where they were. He would send help. What was important was that Yo-Yo and Rena had (he hoped) gotten away and that he and Nemo were safe for the moment.
He sat down on a wooden box. “Now, we wait,” he said.
THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA
SIX OPENED HER EYES.
“Welcome back,” said a voice she didn’t recognize.
She tried to rub her eyes, but her hands were held down by straps of some kind. So were her ankles. There were also restraints around her legs, waist, and chest. That’s when she realized that she was lying on her back on a metal table. Over her head, harsh fluorescent lights buzzed like angry gnats.
Suddenly, a face hovered over hers. She recognized it as belonging to Drac, the man Dennings had used to remove a kid’s Legacy in Texas.
“You’re even uglier up close,” she said, her tongue thick in her mouth.
“What are you talking about?” said Six.
“You won’t remember, of course,” Drac replied. “I find it’s easier that way.”
“You’re full of it,” said Six. “You didn’t remove anything.”
Drac laughed. “You’ll find out for yourself soon enough,” he said. “But I assure you, I did. Although I must admit, I had doubts that the procedure would work on one of the originals. Human Garde are much less developed, as you know. Weaker. It’s easier to work with them.”
Six still didn’t believe him. Without saying anything, she turned her head to see what was in the room. A tray of medical instruments stood nearby. She fixed her attention on it and tried to levitate it. Nothing happened.
“Go on,” Drac said. “Try your other abilities. Go invisible.”
“I’m not doing tricks for you,” Six growled, although she did try to use her Legacy. Again, nothing happened.
“Really, I’m surprised no one has done this before,” Drac said. “Once I figured it out, it was really quite easy.”
“How did you do it?” Six asked him. She remembered the strange colored lights that had surrounded the girl Drac had performed on in Texas.
He looked at her and seemed to think about the question. “I suppose there’s no harm in telling you,” he said. “Not everything, of course. But the general idea.” He disappeared, returning a moment later and holding up a small metal device. “This is the key,” he said.
“Do you know what causes your Legacies?” Drac asked.
“The Entity,” said Six. “Everybody knows that.”
Drac nodded. “The Entity, yes,” he said. “I should have asked, do you know how it does it?”
“It just does,” said Six. She hated that she was talking about this subject with someone like the grinning, oily Drac.
“‘It just does,’” Drac repeated. “Actually, the answer is much more scientific than that. I imagine there are others studying this as we speak, looking inside the brains of those of you who have been fortunate enough to be blessed with these gifts. Trying to find ways to duplicate them, make them available to anybody who wants them. Or to the highest bidder.”
An image appeared in Six’s mind: A teenager strapped to a table, as she was, a girl with her head shaved and a portion of her skull removed. Were there people really experimenting on kids with Legacies? She didn’t want to believe it, but she remembered what the Mogs had done. There were humans in the world who were just as twisted. People who would do anything to try and get power for themselves. Thinking about it, she was filled with rage, and struggled against her restraints. Again, she was helpless to break out of them.
“In simplest terms, the Loric energy creates changes to the pituitary gland,” Drac continued, sounding as if he was teaching a science class. “I don’t yet know exactly how this results in a person developing Legacies, but I’ll figure that out. What I do know is that this device will interrupt pituitary activity and render a person incapable of accessing the energy.”
“You put one of those in me?”
“You’ll probably have a headache for a while,” Drac said in answer to the question.
Six did have a headache, but she wouldn’t admit it. “Sounds like a lot of bullshit to me,” she said.
“And yet, here you are without your Legacies,” said Drac. He looked at the device he held in his fingers. “It’s science, not magic.”
“Dennings said you gave Yo-Yo back his Legacy,” Six said.
Drac nodded. “You saw for yourself that I did,” he said. “There’s no point in lying about it.”
“So, whatever you did is reversible,” said Six.
Drac frowned. “Oh, did I get your hopes up?” he said. “I’m sorry. Yes, the process is reversible. In your case, though, I’m afraid it doesn’t really matter.”
“Mmm, that may be one secret too many to share,” Drac said.
“What are you afraid of?” Six taunted him. “That your procedure didn’t really work? If it did, you don’t even need these restraints to keep you safe from me.”
“True enough,” Drac said. “All right, then. As I mentioned, you’re the first of the original Garde I’ve had the chance to examine. This is a unique opportunity to perform tests on your pituitary gland and harvest samples of its secretions.”
“A crude way of describing it, but yes,” Drac confirmed.
Six had a flashback. She was in a Mogadorian cell. Being tortured. Feeling helpless. Then, she still had her Legacies. Now, she had nothing. Her heart sank.
“How’s the patient?”
Jagger Dennings leaned over her. “Hiya,” he said.
“Go to hell,” said Six.
“Didn’t remove her attitude, I see,” Dennings said. “What about everything else?”
“She’s powerless,” Drac replied.
“Good,” said Dennings. “The boss will be happy to hear that. When do you think you’ll have a working serum, or whatever you call it? Something to give people Legacies?”
He sounded excited and hopeful. Six wondered, was he thinking he’d be one of the first to benefit from Drac’s promises? Did he think he could get an injection and have a Legacy just like that? Suddenly, things made a lot of sense.
“Oh, not for some time yet,” Drac said. “There needs to be more testing. Refinement. We can’t rush something like this.”
He’s stalling, Six thought. She could tell by the tone of his voice. But why? There was something he didn’t want Dennings to know. Like maybe this device of his isn’t working as well as he says.
“Well, I’ve got some more subjects for you,” Dennings said. “Cutter’s bringing them down now.”
Six heard the sound of footsteps, and then voices as more people entered the room. When she turned to see Yo-Yo and Rena standing there, their hands cuffed with plastic zip ties, the feeling of hopelessness inside her deepened. Her eyes met Rena’s, and the girl’s reflected the same thing.
“They tried getting out on the ATV,” Dennings told Drac. “Too bad they didn’t know about the stop strips Cutter put out on the trail.” He chuckled, as if the whole thing was a big practical joke.
“What about the other two, boss?” Cutter said. “They’re still out there somewhere.”
“Helena will take care of them,” said Dennings.
“Or they’ll take her out,” Rena said defiantly. “Didn’t you see what we did to her friend back at the barn?”
“I saw it,” Dennings said. “But Helena’s smarter than Bill. She’s the dangerous one. She won’t get caught like that again. Your friends are probably already dead.”
Six wondered what had happened back at the barn and why Sam and Nemo had gotten separated from Yo-Yo and Rena. A momentary panic overtook her. Were they dead? She forced herself to calm down. Unlike Dennings, Sam was someone she couldn’t imagine anyone taking out, at least not very easily. If he was alive, he was her—their—best hope. And if he wasn’t . . . she couldn’t even think about that possibility. He was alive.
“Anyway,” Dennings continued. “If they get anywhere near this place, we’ll know.”
“Stick ’em in separate cells,” Dennings ordered. “Make sure there’s nothing in the girl’s. And I mean nothing but concrete floor and walls. I don’t want her making any kind of doll or whatever. Keep those fireproof mitts on Sparky’s hands so he can’t light up.”
“Why not just shut them off?” Cutter asked.
“Because the doc here wants to do some experiments on them,” said Dennings. “Don’t worry about it, all right? Just do what I tell you.”
“What about that one?” Cutter asked, pointing at Six.
“She stays where she is,” said Dennings. “For now.”
Cutter hustled Yo-Yo and Rena out. Six bristled with renewed anger as she heard the teenagers being pushed around.
“Guess you know how Superman felt when he got around kryptonite,” Dennings said to Six. He leaned against the table and looked down at her.
Six didn’t answer him. She was too busy thinking about everything she would like to do to him if she wasn’t strapped down. With or without her Legacies, she would teach him a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget. If he was still alive when she was done with him.
The sound of a cell phone ringing came from Dennings’s pocket. He reached in and pulled it out, looking at the screen. He ran his finger over the surface. “Hey,” he said. “What’s up?”
He hung up. “Mr. Bray is coming,” he said to Drac.
“Here?” Drac said. He sounded surprised.
“He’ll be here in an hour,” said Dennings, who also sounded a little tense. “And he wants to see a demonstration of the serum.”
“But I told you it—it isn’t ready yet,” Drac sputtered.
“Well, you’ve got an hour to get it ready,” said Dennings. He turned and walked out of the room, adding as he went, “Don’t screw this up.”
After Dennings left, the change in Drac’s mood was palpable. He slumped into a chair and rubbed his forehead. The smirking attitude of before was gone, replaced by a nervousness that practically radiated off him.
“Who’s Mr. Bray?” Six asked.
“Shut up,” he barked. “I’m trying to think.”
“Whoever he is, he must be important,” Six continued.
Drac ignored her. He stood and started doing something at a counter that ran along one side of the room. He picked things up and put them down, talking to himself the whole time. “It’s way too soon,” he said. “I told them that. Can’t be rushed.”
Cutter, returning from wherever he had taken Yo-Yo and Rena, walked in. Noting Drac’s behavior, he said, “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Drac snapped.
“Mr. Bray is coming,” Six informed Cutter, knowing it would upset Drac.
Drac whirled on her. “I told you to shut up!” he said. He picked up a syringe and stalked over to the table. Pressing it against the crook of her arm, he started to slide the point beneath her skin. Then he paused and pulled it out again. “No,” he said, seeming to speak more to himself than to Six. “No. I don’t have time to do that.” He threw the syringe across the room. “I need more time!”
“Calm down, doc,” Cutter said to him. “You can’t let Mr. Bray see you like this. He won’t like it.”
“I know that!” said Drac. “I know that,” he repeated in a less-hysterical voice. “I just need to think.”
“Think fast,” said Cutter. “I’m going to go upstairs and get ready for him.”
Left alone with Six, Drac ignored her completely as he frantically prepared for the arrival of the mysterious Mr. Bray. Although Six attempted to get him to talk, he ignored her, busying himself with pulling out vials and needles and other things Six couldn’t see. Eventually she stopped trying to engage him and shut her eyes, attempting to relax. She didn’t have a plan, didn’t know what was coming, but she wanted to be as prepared as she could be.
Not long after, Cutter returned to the room. “He’s here,” he said.
“He’s early!” Drac said. “He’s not due for another twenty minutes.”
“Tell him that,” said Cutter. “He just showed up with that kid who can teleport. He and Dennings are on their way down now.”
Right on cue, Dennings’s voice could be heard as he came downstairs. “I think you’ll be really pleased,” he said as he entered the room.
With him was a man who looked anything but pleased. Short and big-bellied, he had thick black hair and equally black eyes. Like a shark, Six thought when he turned and looked at her. Mr. Bray.
“Drac here has been—”
“That’s the Loric girl,” the man said, interrupting. He came closer to Six, eyeing her as if she was an animal in a zoo. His expression was impassive, unreadable. Six half expected him to touch her, but he kept his hands at his sides.
“Have you harvested from her yet?” the man asked.
“No,” Drac answered uneasily.
“She only arrived earlier tonight,” said Drac.
“Prep her,” said Mr. Bray.
“But—” Drac began.
“I said prep her,” Mr. Bray repeated in the same even tone.
“We have a serum derived from some other subjects,” said Drac. “Maybe—”
Mr. Bray’s face tightened. “I want her,” he said. “Don’t make me ask again.”
“All right,” Dennings said. “All right. We’ll get it for you. Cutter, why don’t you bring Mr. Bray upstairs and make him comfortable. This will take a little while.”
“How long?” Mr. Bray asked.
“About two hours,” Drac answered.
“Can you really do this in two hours?” Dennings asked Drac in a low, worried voice.
“I don’t know,” Drac admitted. “I can try.”
“Shit,” Dennings said. “You’re going to get us both killed.”
“I said I’d try,” said Drac. “But it might kill her.”
Dennings glanced at Six. “If you don’t do it, he’ll kill us,” he said. “Seems to me it’s an easy decision.”
Drac picked up a syringe. He came over to where Six lay on the table. This time, he didn’t stop when he put it into her arm.
THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA
“HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN?”
Sam automatically looked for his watch, remembered it was gone, and said, “I’m not sure. I’m guessing about an hour.”
“Should we try to leave?” Nemo asked.
Sam thought about it. In the fishing hut, they were more or less safe. But they were also useless. Six was still out there, and even if Yo-Yo and Rena had gotten safely away, they were still vulnerable to anyone who might be following them. Despite Rena’s impressive work with the bear-thing and Yo-Yo’s ability to make fire, they were still at a disadvantage.
Then there was the cold. The change of clothes had helped, but Sam could tell that Nemo was suffering from her time in the icy water. She had her arms wrapped around herself, trying to get warm. But she needed more than that. So did he.
At least his leg was feeling better. It still hurt—a lot—but he was able to stand and move around.
“Well?” Nemo said, and Sam realized he hadn’t responded to her question.
“You never give up, do you?” he said.
Nemo shrugged. “Not usually,” she said. “Not when my friends need me, anyway. You don’t either. You or Six.”
Sam nodded. “No,” he said. “Especially not Six.”
“Then what are we doing sitting around in here?” Nemo said.
“That’s a good question,” said a man’s voice from outside the hut.
Nemo shrieked, and Sam sprang to hold the door closed.
“Relax,” said the voice. “It’s me.”
“Nine?” said Sam. He motioned for Nemo to get behind him, then opened the door a crack.
Nine was standing outside. “I never took you for the fishing type,” he joked.
He came into the hut, and Sam shut the door. Nine nodded at Nemo.
“Did you find Rena and Yo-Yo?” Sam asked.
Nine shook his head. “No. But Rena’s tracking device shows that she’s somewhere here.”
“Damn it,” Sam said.
“They didn’t get away,” said Nemo sadly.
“No one,” Nine answered. “I saw a lot of smoke and what looks like it used to be a barn. What happened there?”
“Long story,” said Sam. “Six is here somewhere. We need to find her. Is anyone with you?”
“What? I’m not enough?” said Nine, pouting and pretending to be offended. “Actually, there’s some help at the bottom of the mountain. Earth Garde. But they don’t move as fast.”
“We don’t have time to wait,” Sam said. “Let’s go to the lodge.”
The three of them left the fishing hut, walking out onto the ice. Sam kept his eyes open for any sign of the woman who had been hunting them. Had she given up, thinking he and Nemo were dead? He hoped so, but he had a feeling she was still out there, waiting to make another kill.
“Dennings is letting people hunt us,” he told Nine.
Nine’s face hardened. “Lexa told me,” he said. He let out a long breath. “Why did Six go to meet Dennings?”
“He had us trapped,” Sam explained. “And it’s Six.”
Nine looked at the device strapped to his wrist, pressing some buttons. “According to this, she’s still somewhere near the lodge.”
“Then something went wrong,” said Sam. “Otherwise she would have either been out of there already or torn the place apart.”
“What could stop Six?” asked Nemo.
“Not much,” Nine said. “That’s what worries me.”
They reached the edge of the lake and safely stepped onto the shore. Sam’s leg ached where the arrow had penetrated it, but he limped only a little as they walked back towards the lodge. They were halfway there, moving up the mountain, when Nine shouted, “Get down!”
A moment later, a bright light came into view, a single Cyclopean eye that burst out of the darkness—accompanied by the roar of an engine. A snowmobile crested the rise above them and came roaring down the side of the mountain. Sitting astride it was a single driver. The machine hurtled towards them with no sign of stopping.
Sam concentrated on telling the snowmobile to turn. The snowmobile jerked sideways, hit a mound of snow, and flew up. It lurched, throwing the rider off, and crashed into a tree, where it sputtered and stalled. The driver kept going, arcing up in the air and then landing on the ground before sliding down the slope.
Sam stood up and ran to where the body came to rest. The person was wearing a helmet, rendering the face invisible. Sam bent and removed it, revealing the face of the woman who had been hunting them.
“I can’t feel my legs,” she said.
Nine and Nemo ran over. Nemo leaned down and picked something off the ground. It was a pistol. She pointed it at the woman. Her hands were shaking, and the barrel of the gun moved up and down as Nemo said, “How’s it feel to be on the other end?”
“Nemo,” Sam said gently.
“Maybe I should put you out of your misery,” Nemo continued. Now her voice was shaking as much as the gun was. She had started to cry.
“Nemo,” Sam said again. This time he laid his hand on her arm.
“Why not?” Nemo asked, sniffling. “She was going to do it to us. She did do it.”
“She’s injured,” Sam said. “She’s not going anywhere.”
Nine looked at his wrist. “Backup will be here soon,” he said. “We’ll tie her up and leave her for them. We have to get to the lodge.”
Nemo lowered the gun. Sam took it. He searched the woman for more weapons, removing a knife and another pistol from the pockets of her snowsuit. He was looking for something to tie the woman’s hands with when she spoke.
“The girl has bigger balls than you do,” the woman said. “I would have killed you. I still would, if I could move.”
“Then it’s a good thing you can’t,” said Sam, knocking the woman on the back of the neck with the pistol. She slumped over, unconscious. “Let’s go,” he said to Nine and Nemo.
They left the woman lying in the snow. After trudging the rest of the way up the hill, they came to the lodge. “This is where I wish I could go invisible, like Six,” Nine said.
They looked for a way in that wasn’t the front door. There was one door on the lower level, but it was locked.
“Can’t you just rip it off the hinges?” Nemo asked.
“Probably—but that would make too much noise,” said Nine, testing the knob.
Sam held her around the waist and hoisted her up. Nemo hit the glass with her hand, breaking it. Then she slid inside. There was a thud as she landed on the other side. They waited for the door to open, but it didn’t.
“It’s an electronic lock,” Nemo said through the door. “It needs a key code.”
Sam placed his hands on the door. He connected with the lock’s chip, running through every possible combination. There was a chirp, then the sound of gears moving. The door popped open.
Nine and Sam slipped inside, joining Nemo. They were in a hallway. Walking along it, they passed several locked doors. Nine paused, listening.
“There are people in there,” he said.
Sam laid his hand on one of the locks, again telling it what to do. The door opened, revealing a small concrete cell. Rena sat on the floor, her hands tied behind her back. When she saw Sam, her face lit up. Sam put a finger to his lips, signaling her not to make a sound. He knelt and used the hunting knife he’d taken from the woman to undo the plastic tie around Rena’s wrists.
“Yo-Yo is in here too,” Rena whispered.
Sam unlocked the next door, but the room was empty. He found Yo-Yo in the one next to that. He untied him. Yo-Yo immediately yanked the mitts from his hands.
Leaving the three younger teens behind, he and Sam walked the length of the hallway. As they reached the end, they heard voices and paused. There was a door between them and the next room, but it was solid metal, and they couldn’t see through it.
“What’s going on?” Sam asked Nine.
“They’re arguing,” Nine said. “It sounds like there are at least three of them.”
“Do you hear Six?”
Nine shook his head. He looked at his wrist device. “But according to this, she’s right behind this door.”
The sound of the voices suddenly increased.
“Kill me and there will be no one who can help you!” someone yelled.
There was a gunshot.
Nine kicked the door, and it exploded inward. He and Sam rushed in. The first thing Sam saw was Six, strapped to a metal operating table. Her eyes were closed.
The second thing he saw was the man called Drac. He was holding his arm, and blood dripped through his fingers. A man Sam had never seen before stood on the other side of the operating table, holding a gun and scowling.
Footsteps thundered on the stairs leading from the upper level. Dennings appeared. He looked at the bleeding Drac, then at Sam and Nine. His mouth hung open in surprise.
Sam started to move, but the man with the gun pointed it at Six’s head. “Stay where you are,” he ordered.
“What the hell is going on?” Dennings said.
“The doc here gave me something, but it isn’t what it’s supposed to be,” the man with gun said.
“I told you it wasn’t ready,” said Drac.
The man grimaced in pain. “What’s it doing?”
“It’s altering your pituitary gland,” said Drac. “I don’t know what it will do, exactly.”
The man shuddered. Sam worried that he would accidentally shoot Six. They had to do something, and fast.
“I’m going to kill him.”
Yo-Yo’s voice shook with rage as he pushed between Sam and Nine. Already, a glowing ball was forming in his outstretched hand. He faced Drac. “This is for making me and the others your lab rats,” he said, getting ready to launch the ball of flame.
The man with the gun swung the weapon towards Yo-Yo and fired. Yo-Yo’s eyes widened in surprise. The fire in his hands went out, and he crumpled to the floor.
Nine used the distraction to move with superspeed across the room, leaping over the operating table and slamming into the armed man. Sam took on Dennings, throwing himself at the big man and aiming a punch at his face.
Dennings countered, blocking Sam with one meaty hand. At the same time, he shouted, “Scotty, get down here!”
Sam kept fighting. But it was obvious that he was no match for Dennings physically, so he tried another attack, this time pushing Dennings away with his telekinesis. Dennings faltered, and for a moment Sam felt a surge of triumph. Then a teenage boy appeared on the stairs. He was the same pug-nosed boy Sam had seen before when Rena and Nemo were in the van.
“Get us out of here!” Dennings said.
The boy came down the stairs and reached out, touching Dennings’s shoulder. Dennings tried to pull away from Sam, but Sam flung himself forward, just managing to grab hold of Dennings’s hand.
Then he felt the familiar vertigo that meant he was being teleported. The room disappeared, swirling away. The last thing he saw was Nine bending over Six to make sure she was okay.
The feeling of disorientation lasted only a few seconds. Then he felt himself solidifying, as if all his atoms had been pulled apart and were now being forced back together. For a moment, he couldn’t breathe. Then his lungs went back to work, and he gasped in air. He smelled something salty and felt cold air on his skin.
He was on the deck of a boat.
“Looks like we got ourselves a hitchhiker,” said Dennings.
Sam prepared to resume their fight. Then he saw the three men standing with guns pointed at him.
“Take him below,” Dennings ordered the men. “Lock him up. I’ll figure out what to do with him later. I’ve got bigger problems right now.”
Two of the men came and took Sam by the arms. The third quickly knocked him in the back of his head with the butt of his rifle. Sam crumpled and was dragged across the deck and down some stairs. He was taken along a narrow corridor, then thrown into a tiny cabin. The door slammed shut behind him and locked.
“If he tries to get out of there, shoot him,” a man’s voice said.
Sam faded in and out. There was little in the room besides a bed affixed to one wall. He pulled himself toward it. In just a few minutes, everything had gone wrong. He had no idea where he was. He didn’t know if Six was all right. He had no way to contact anyone who could help him.
He was all alone.