domingo, 1 de julio de 2018

PROJECT MEDUSA 33

‘You little idiot!’ Jack’s chest heaved with anger. ‘I needed that gun.’
We stood facing each other for a split second.
‘Enough games,’ Jack snarled. He strode over Fergus’s body and thrust his hand out towards me. ‘Give me the memory card.’
My fist tightened on the tiny stone in my hand. It felt hard and warm. I was going to have to show Jack what it was, that I didn’t have the card. I just hoped the others had had time to get away. I glanced up.
A small figure was racing across the field, half-running, half-limping towards us. Ketty.
‘Wait,’ she shrieked. ‘Wait!’
I frowned. What was she doing?
Jack saw her too.
‘Nico doesn’t have the memory card,’ she panted, running up to us. ‘I do.’
‘What?’ Jack frowned. ‘You’re lying.’
No. I shook my head at her.
‘Show him the stone in your hand, Nico,’ she said, backing towards the cliff edge.
What? How did Ketty know what I was holding?
‘What’s she talking about?’ Jack snapped.
‘I don’t know—’
‘The memory card with the Medusa gene formula is in here.’ Ketty drew her pink phone out of her pocket and showed it to Jack. ‘I swear.’
‘What?’ Jack looked from Ketty to me and back again, an expression of bewilderment on his face. ‘How did Nico get it in there? I gave your phone to Dylan when—’
‘It wasn’t Nico,’ Ketty went on, breathlessly. ‘Dylan stole the card off you about thirty minutes ago. She hid it in my phone, then called Geri Paterson and told her that you’ve been trying to double-cross her. Geri’s dealing with Carson right now, then she’s coming here to deal with you.’
My eyes widened. Dylan had taken the card? And got hold of Geri Paterson?
‘I don’t believe you,’ Jack snarled. ‘Dylan doesn’t even have Geri’s number.’
‘She sneaked a look at it off your phone at the same time as she stole the memory card,’ Ketty explained.
Jack glanced over to the gate, where Ed and Dylan were still waiting. ‘If all that’s true, why did Dylan let you bring the card over here?’
‘She didn’t want me to have it at first,’ Ketty explained, pulling the back off the phone, ‘but I made her see that we couldn’t let you hurt Nico.’
Jack shook his head. He checked his watch and swore under his breath.
‘There’s no time for this,’ he said. ‘Nico, show me what you’re holding.’
There was nothing else I could do. I opened my fist and the tiny stone and a trickle of earth fell out.
Jack gave a roar of frustration.
Ketty slid the back of her phone off and drew out a tiny memory card. She held it up. ‘Look, this is it.’
Jack glanced from Ketty to me, then back to Ketty. ‘That could be any memory card,’ he said.
‘No.’ Ketty peered at the card. ‘It’s red and gold with the number 894410633 in the corner. It’s yours. It’s the one with the Medusa gene formula.’
A look of fury crossed Jack’s face. He swore. ‘I suppose it was Dylan who told Fergus where we were as well? Double-crossing little bitch. I thought it was strange him working that out when Geri had covered my tracks so well.’ He held out his hand to Ketty. ‘Give me the card.’
‘Let Nico go and I will, I promise.’
‘No.’ I took a step towards her. ‘Ketty, no.’
‘No more bloody games,’ Jack snapped. ‘Hand it over.’
Ketty took a step away from him, towards the cliff edge.
‘Once Nico’s gone,’ Ketty said.
‘You shouldn’t be doing this, Ketty,’ I said. ‘What about what you said earlier? If Jack sells that formula, more people will die.’
Ketty ignored me. She kept her gaze on Jack and stepped back again. Now she was as close to the edge of the cliff as I was, just a couple of metres to my side. The wind roared behind us. Waves crashed against the rocks beneath.
‘Let Nico go,’ she said, calmly. ‘Then you can have the card.’
Jack gritted his teeth. He waved me away. ‘Go.’
‘No.’ I turned to Ketty, my heart thumping. ‘I can’t leave you.’
She smiled at me. ‘Yes, you can. This is how it’s supposed to be. I’ve seen it.’
No. This was all wrong. Tears welled up behind my eyes.
‘What about your mum and dad and brother? What about Ed?’ I said. ‘I thought you and he were like this big item? Aren’t you going out together? You can’t do this to him.’
Ketty shook her head. ‘Ed and I are only together because you’re with her.’
I stared at her, forgetting everything, even the fierce wind that whipped at my face. ‘You mean Dylan? I told you there’s nothing—’
‘Go, Nico,’ Jack ordered, clearly out of patience, ‘or I’ll kill her anyway.’
Ketty’s gaze fixed on me. ‘It’s okay,’ she said. ‘Trust me.’
I took a step away. Then another. I was hardly aware of what I was doing. My mind kept going over Ketty’s words. Her eyes were still fixed on Jack . . . her arms outstretched, the pink phone and the memory chip clenched in her fist.
‘Nico’s not far enough away,’ she was saying. ‘Let him get further.’
A seagull screeched overhead. The wind roared in my ears. I took another step back, my head spinning.
Jack checked his watch again. ‘Carson’ll be here any second. Come on, let me have it.’ He reached forwards.
Ketty stepped back again. She was right at the edge of the cliff now. Dangerously close. Her eyes swivelled to look at me, pleading with me to run. To escape.
‘I’m not going any further away,’ I said. ‘I’ll be fine.’
‘I know.’ Ketty smiled. And in that moment I understood what she was planning.
‘Wait,’ I said. ‘I don’t know if I can do it.’
‘You can.’ Ketty shuffled backwards. Earth crumbled under her feet. ‘You will.’
She teetered on the edge of the cliff.
‘NO!’ Jack roared, fury consuming his whole body. He lunged forwards to grab her.
But Ketty took a final step backwards – off the cliff, into air.
Everything went into slow motion.
I could feel my mouth opening slowly to yell. Ketty seemed to stand in mid-air, like a cartoon, her arms wind-milling.
I started running towards the cliff edge as Jack backed away.
But it was too late. I was too late.
Arms outstretched like wings, Ketty toppled and fell, towards the rocks.
Towards the sea.

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Everything was still happening in slow motion. I passed Jack. He was turning . . . running away. I hurled myself onto the ground by the edge of the cliff. Ketty was still falling, her body bumping against the rocky cliff face beneath. The phone and the card containing the Medusa gene formula flew out of her hands, into the sea.
‘KETTY!’ As I screamed, I focused on her . . . my eyes straining with the effort.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. I had to stop her . . . had to hold her. But the weight of her body resisted.
I’d never been able to control my telekinesis around Ketty. She didn’t understand. I couldn’t bring her back. I gripped the edge of the cliff. The ground was rough under my fingers.
NO!’ Every ounce of energy in my body concentrated on Ketty. But she was still falling fast . . . too fast . . .
The rocks, zooming up to meet her. I couldn’t hold her. Gravity was pulling her away. Panic rose. I pushed it down. No.
This was it. This was everything. Now.
I breathed out – my hands reaching out over the cliff, towards her. I felt a surge of energy flow through me, down to my fingertips.
Ketty’s voice sounded in my head: you can . . . you will . . .
Her body stopped in mid-fall. She was just centimetres above the rocks. Spray cascading over her. I held her, my focus intent. The energy was still coursing through my body . . . tingling into my fingers, my toes. She was limp. Was she even conscious? Yes, her eyes flickered open.
Slowly I turned my hands to pull her towards me. Gently, carefully, I hauled her up . . . up . . .
The wind roared around me . . . the sea smelled fresh and clean . . . all my senses were heightened as I held on, drawing Ketty closer and closer to the top of the cliff. As she got nearer I could see her jumper was torn and her jeans ripped. A thin trail of blood trickled down her left cheek. But her eyes were open, fixed on me now, holding me as I lifted her.
She looked at me and smiled.
Time zoomed back to normal speed as she rose up, past the cliff edge. I laid her onto the earth beside me. All the energy drained out of my body. I sank down, suddenly exhausted.
‘Nico?’
I leaned over her body, trying to catch my breath. My head pounded like it was being machine-gunned.
‘Ketty?’ My voice was hoarse. ‘Ketts, are you okay?’
‘I knew you’d save me,’ she whispered, her eyes shining. ‘I saw it when you sent Ed and me away. It came to me while we walked across the field. Not a dream, but a vision. A really clear vision. I saw it all.’
I stared at her. ‘I don’t get it,’ I said.
‘There’s nothing to get.’ She smiled. ‘I saw what was going to happen, and then I told the others. I made Dylan give me the phone and wait with Ed by the gate while I came over to you and Jack.’
I glanced across the field to where Dylan and Ed were still standing by the gate. They appeared to be arguing – Dylan had Ed by the arm, as if stopping him from running towards us.
‘I told them to wait five minutes after you brought me back up and over the cliff,’ Ketty went on.
‘I don’t think Ed’s enjoying the wait much,’ I said, drily, the pounding in my head finally easing.
‘I know,’ Ketty said quietly, her voice almost lost in the roar of the wind, ‘but that’s what I saw. That’s what has to happen.’
I bent lower over her, trying to hear her better. ‘Ketts, I know I’ve been selfish, but I do care and you’ve got it all wrong about me and Dylan—’
‘Sssh,’ she whispered. ‘I know.’
I frowned, not understanding. I leaned even closer. For a second we were just looking at each other. I took a deep breath.
‘It’s you, Ketty,’ I said. ‘It was always you.’
‘I know.’ She smiled.
‘Will you stop saying that?’ I smiled back.
Ketty’s smile deepened. ‘Okay.’
And then the world spun inside my head and I leaned closer and closer and we kissed.
As we drew apart, I knew that everything was different now. The whole world was different. Ketty’s eyes were closed, her mouth still curved in a blissed-out smile. I leaned forward to kiss her again.
‘Stop.’ Ketty’s eyes snapped open. ‘We don’t do a second kiss yet.’
I frowned. ‘Er . . . what? Well, when . . . er, why?’
Ketty wriggled away from me. ‘Because of Ed,’ she said. ‘He didn’t see us just now, but we can’t risk it again. My vision didn’t show me what happens after . . . er, this point . . .’
I stared at her.
‘Nico?’ Fergus’s moan from across the grass tore me away from Ketty. He was sitting up. The wind whipped round my ears as I scrambled over to him.
‘Fergus?’ My throat tightened. ‘Are you all right?’
He grimaced up at me. ‘I’m fine,’ he said, struggling onto his feet. ‘What happened to Jack? Did he get the formula? Is everyone okay?’
‘Jack’s gone,’ Ketty said, ‘but everyone else is here. No one’s hurt.’
Fergus stared at her, bleary-eyed. ‘What about Carson? He’ll be here any second. We have to go.’
Ketty shook her head. ‘Dylan called Geri Paterson. She’s dealing with Carson. It’s over. We’re safe.’
Fergus followed her gaze to where Dylan and Ed were still arguing by the gate. ‘I don’t understand,’ he said.
‘Dylan was standing up to Jack after all,’ I explained. ‘She was just doing it in secret.’
Fergus rubbed his forehead. ‘I’d better make sure she’s . . . that she and Ed are all right.’ He set off unsteadily across the field.
‘They’ll be back here in a second,’ Ketty said. She looked up at me hesitantly.
I shook my head. All I could think about was kissing her again. ‘Ketty?’ I leaned towards her.
She took a step away from me. ‘I’m still going out with Ed,’ she said.
My stomach twisted over. ‘Then stop. I don’t want you to go out with him any more.’
‘Really?’ Ketty bit her lip. ‘Why?’
I took a deep breath. ‘Because I want you to go out with me.’
There was a pause. Ketty’s face split into a huge grin. ‘Okay.’
I grinned back.
‘But not right now,’ Ketty went on. ‘I’ll tell Ed it’s over, but you and me . . . that has to be a secret. At least for a while.’
What?’ I said, the smile sliding from my face. ‘That doesn’t make any sense.’
‘Yes it does.’ Ketty tucked her hair determinedly behind her ears. ‘Ed’s a sweet guy. But he’s been bullied at every school he’s ever—’
‘That’s not your fault—’
‘Will you listen to me?’ Ketty frowned. ‘He’d never admit it, but Ed’s a bit envious of you. I think it would really hurt him if he knew I’d started dating you straight after we broke up.’
Raised voices sounded from the field that led up to the gate. I glanced round. Fergus had reached Ed and Dylan and the three of them were talking loudly as they walked back towards us.
‘Keeping it a secret’s ridiculous,’ I hissed. ‘It totally sucks.’
‘Well, it’s your own fault.’ Ketty’s eyes flashed. ‘If you’d asked me out sooner instead of saying nothing for months I’d never have looked twice at Billy Martin, and if you’d just told me how you felt instead of trying to impress me with money and flash juggling tricks . . .’
I gasped. ‘You mean you’d have said “yes” back then?’
Ketty shrugged. ‘Yeah, but you didn’t ask and I figured you could have any girl you wanted so you couldn’t be interested. Then, later, after you met Jack, it was like you’d changed and it didn’t feel like we were friends anymore.’
A helicopter whirred high in the sky above us, but I didn’t look up. My stomach twisted over. I couldn’t believe it. All that time I’d had . . . all the opportunities I’d missed. If I’d been going out with Ketty when my telekinesis developed, maybe I could have controlled it from the start . . . maybe I wouldn’t have been interested in meeting Jack . . .
‘We’ll just keep it quiet for a bit.’ Ketty’s face softened. ‘Just till Ed’s settled down at school. Deal?’
‘Are you really all right?’ Ed ran up, ahead of the others. He threw his arms round Ketty, his face white. ‘There’s blood on your face, are you sure you’re not hurt?’
‘It’s just a scratch. I’m fine.’ She hugged him back and smiled. ‘Nico is too, aren’t you, Nico?’
I stared at her. At them.
‘Yeah, I’m good, babe.’ I looked away. I had to give Ketty a chance to do things her way. I had to trust that she meant what she said. That we were together – even if it was a secret.
Fergus was talking to Dylan. I could see him trying hard to be nice, but coming over a bit stiff and formal. And I could see Dylan not knowing what to make of him – her long-lost uncle.
They walked over. Dylan pointed to the helicopter, still buzzing overhead.
‘Geri said she was sending a car for us,’ she said. ‘Not a helicopter.’
‘Well, it’s definitely not Jack,’ Ed added. ‘He ran past the gate at about ninety miles an hour – but that was less than ten minutes ago.’
‘D’you think it’s Carson after all?’ I said anxiously, as the helicopter lowered itself slowly to the ground.
‘I don’t see how,’ Dylan said.
I was suddenly aware of Fergus by my side. He bent down and whispered in my ear. ‘Whatever happens next, I want you to know how proud I am of the way you tried to save Ketty and the others earlier.’
There was a pause, as the helicopter landed. ‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘And I . . . er . . . I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you before. You were right . . . about not trusting Jack, I mean.’
Fergus sighed. ‘I should have told you more . . . realised that you’re becoming a man . . . more able to make your own mind up about things.’
I stared at him. Fergus had never spoken to me like that before. There was some new quality I couldn’t quite identify in his voice.
‘What I can do – the telekinesis – it isn’t evil,’ I said. ‘Not on its own. It’s what I do with it that counts. Some of the things I did before . . . the cheating and stuff. I know that was wrong. But there are times . . . there will be times . . .’
He nodded. ‘I know . . .’
I grinned, suddenly recognising the new quality in Fergus’s voice.
Respect.
‘Nico?’ Ketty’s voice made me turn.
She pointed to the helicopter. It was on the ground now, the blades spinning slowly to a stop. A fresh panic twisted at my guts. There was no time to run away. Who on earth was inside?
‘We may have to fight.’ I looked at Ketty. ‘Okay?’
She nodded, pressing her lips together in a determined line.
‘Ed . . . Dylan?’
They both nodded. I glanced back at Ketty, the memory of our kiss suddenly flashing into my head. Her face reddened and I knew she was thinking about the same thing.
We stood in a line, the four of us, with Fergus behind, as the helicopter door slid open.
A figure emerged.
‘What’s she doing here?’ Ed said.
‘You said she was sending a police car for us,’ Ketty added.
‘Whatever she wants,’ Fergus added grimly, ‘it won’t be good news.’
We all watched, as Geri Paterson slammed the helicopter door shut and walked towards us.

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Stony-faced, Geri approached.
‘Are you guys all right?’ she said, tucking her neat blonde bob under a beret. She took in the whole cliff top scene, then turned to Dylan. ‘Where’s Jack? Did you get the Medusa gene formula?’
‘Jack ran away,’ Dylan said quickly. ‘And the formula’s been destroyed.’
‘Ah. Well, never mind. We’ll catch up with Jack Linden – greedy, double-crossing idiot.’ She glanced at Fergus. ‘And perhaps that memory card didn’t contain the only copy of the formula?’
‘It did,’ Fergus said, shortly.
Geri laughed her tinkly little chuckle. Her eyes flickered over Dylan, Ed and me. ‘At least you’re all safe,’ she said.
I stared at her. ‘Why would you want the formula anyway?’ I said. ‘It’s lethal. Jack said you were too ethical to use it.’
Geri stared at me in surprise. ‘I wouldn’t use it on actual people,’ she said. ‘But now you’ve all proved the gene works, I’m sure I could get funding for research into a new prototype – one that works more immediately and doesn’t have fatal side effects.’
Funding from who? I frowned. Neither Jack nor Geri had ever properly explained who they worked for. I was determined to get some answers now, but before I could speak, Dylan had opened her mouth.
‘Did you find Carson?’ she asked.
‘Yes, at least the police did. My priority was to get here and make sure you and Nico and Ed were all right. Lucky I wasn’t too far away when you called.’ Geri raised her eyebrows. ‘Not that you needed me. It looks as if you’ve managed to prevent Jack from selling the formula and keep everyone safe. Well done.’
Dylan smiled modestly. ‘It wasn’t just me,’ she said. ‘Nico helped.’
‘I could have helped more if I’d known you were planning to steal the memory card,’ I said. ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were working against Jack before?’
‘There wasn’t time. Anyway, I didn’t want Jack to know what I was doing and I wasn’t sure you’d be able to keep quiet about it,’ Dylan said, haughtily. ‘I mean you’re not trained or anything . . .’
Trained? What did she mean by that?
‘But I left my phone out for you on the hall table, back at the mews house,’ she went on. ‘Didn’t you realise I’d done that on purpose?’
‘Er . . . no, actually . . .’
And I told Fergus we were at Penhagen House. He rang Ketty’s cellphone, which Jack had left with me,’ Dylan went on. ‘So you see, I was trying to help you, but I had to get that formula without Jack knowing. And Jack’s the only person I know who knows Geri – so I had to wait until I could steal a look at his phone contacts list before I could get hold of her.’ She turned to Geri. ‘By the way, Ketty helped too. She’s Viper.’
Geri’s eyes widened. Her gaze settled on Ketty. ‘Really, dear?’ she said. ‘And what is Ketty’s gift, I wonder?’
‘She has precognition,’ Dylan explained. ‘She foresaw that Nico would save her if she fell off the cliff and that Jack would run away as soon as he’d lost the memory card and knew you were onto him.’
‘Yeah, Ketty saved my life,’ I added.
‘Er, I can talk for my—’ Ketty began.
‘How marvellous,’ Geri enthused. ‘Precognition is a gift we can make great use of.’
‘Mmm, I don’t think what she can do is very sophisticated,’ Dylan said, a hint of a sneer in her voice. ‘She can’t actually control what or when she sees anything.’
‘Not to worry.’ Geri smiled at Ketty, who was pointedly glaring at Dylan. ‘A deeper gift may develop in time, dear.’
‘I’m not worrying,’ Ketty muttered.
She threw me a cross look. I winked sympathetically at her, then turned to Geri.
‘You keep talking about “us” and “we”,’ I said. ‘Don’t you think it’s time you told us exactly who you’re working for?’
‘Absolutely,’ Fergus agreed.
Geri and Dylan exchanged glances.
‘Very well,’ Geri said. ‘I work for the state. A discrete part of the secret services.’
The wind whistling in from the sea suddenly dropped. I shivered.
‘You mean the government?’ Ed said slowly. ‘Why is the government trying to track us down? How do they even know we . . . the Medusa gene . . . exists?’
‘Okay.’ Geri smoothed down her hair below the beret. ‘D’you remember I told you my code name was Medusa?’ she said.
Ed nodded.
‘So?’ I said.
‘Well, I was given that code name years ago, when I joined a small team of government agents whose remit was to investigate unexplained phenomena,’ Geri said. ‘There were three of us – one agent’s job was to look into the existence of mythic creatures, while the second had to analyse weird and unexplained events in the natural world. I was the third agent, code named Medusa, and tasked with investigating psychic phenomena.’ Geri paused. ‘For five years, I ran a secret operation through which I tracked and tested thousands of people who claimed psychic abilities such as mind-reading and telekinesis. But every lead I followed took me down a dead end, until I met Dr William Fox. He claimed that, given sufficient resources he could manufacture a gene for specific psychic abilities. His thesis made sense, so we invested money in his research. The result was the four of you.’
Dylan, Ed, Ketty and I all looked at each other, then back to Geri.
‘The original investigative operation came to a close when we realised that Fox’s Medusa gene had fatal side effects.’
‘You mean it killed all our mothers,’ Ketty said.
‘That’s right, dear. And very sorry I am about it too,’ Geri said, quietly. ‘Anyway, in response William Fox told us that all the research and gene engineering data on Medusa had been destroyed. We had no reason to doubt him – he was genuinely appalled by the cancer your mothers were infected by and particularly devastated that his actions were going to cause the death of his own beautiful wife.’
I glanced at Dylan. She was staring stonily at the ground.
‘However, despite his anguish, William couldn’t quite bring himself to destroy his research. Instead, he hid all his notes in his family home, only telling one person – his brother – where they were. We questioned Fergus after William’s death, but he backed up William’s story. And managed to make sure that Ed and Ketty’s true identities were kept quiet.’
I stared at Fergus with a new respect.
Geri sighed. ‘Without the state resources I’d enjoyed before, my operation was closed down, there was no way I could find you. And – to be honest – little point in doing so at that time. William Fox had made it clear that the effects of the Medusa gene wouldn’t kick in until puberty. And, of course, we couldn’t be sure back then that the gene would really work.’
‘So what changed?’ I said.
‘Last year, when I knew your abilities would be emerging, I got the government to fund a new project and set Jack to find you all. Dylan – as Fox’s own daughter – and Nico – who we knew was living with Fergus – were the easiest to track down. The other two, as you know, took more time. And it would all have gone very smoothly, if Jack hadn’t stumbled across the Medusa gene formula . . .’
‘. . . and Carson hadn’t offered him twice as much money as you were paying him,’ I added.
Geri nodded.
‘So what’s the purpose of this new project that the government’s agreed to fund?’ Fergus asked.
‘And how do the four of us fit into it?’ I asked.
Geri was silent for a moment, the only sound the wind and waves raging. Then she spoke again.
‘The four of you are the new project,’ she said.
‘What does that mean?’ I said.
‘That’s up to you, dear,’ Geri went on. ‘There are three options . . .’
‘Go on,’ I said.
‘Okay.’ Geri cleared her throat. ‘Option one. I call the gutter press and tell them all about you. I make sure they know wherever you go and whatever you do. They hound you forever.’
‘No!’ Behind me, Fergus exploded. ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to protect them from! That’s . . .’
‘Option two.’ Geri continued as if Fergus hadn’t spoken. ‘We keep everything secret and I hand you over to a team of government scientists. They will keep you locked up in lab conditions, away from your friends and families, for the rest of your lives.’
What?’ Ketty said.
‘You can’t,’ I said.
‘These kids have rights!’ Fergus was red in the face. ‘You’re not their legal guardian, you can’t just whisk them away and turn them into . . . into . . .’
‘Research experiments,’ I finished for him. ‘Those are crap options, Geri.’
Geri smiled at me. ‘But you know I can make them happen,’ she said. ‘You saw how fast I was able to remove the records of Jack’s helicopter’s flight this morning. He called me on the way to the heliport, claiming he had new intel on Viper’s identity. I didn’t know he was double-crossing me with Carson at the time – so when he said he needed to throw the police off his scent I just assumed he’d broken some minor law to get a lead on Viper and covered his tracks as he requested. It was – literally – as easy as making a phone call.’
‘You’re still offering us crap options,’ Ed stammered.
‘Yeah.’ I nodded. ‘Media victims or lab rats isn’t much of a choice.’
‘You haven’t heard the third option,’ Geri said slowly. ‘How would you like to go back to school and still stay in touch with your families? No press. No labs. A normal life. Your old life, in fact.’
‘It wouldn’t be an old life for Dylan,’ I said.
‘Dylan’s already agreed to option three,’ Geri said briskly. ‘She did so months ago, when we first met in the States. You can ask her yourself, but I know for a fact she was – and is – very keen to leave Philadelphia and begin a new life here . . . at her uncle’s boarding school.’
I stared at Dylan. ‘So you were never staying with relatives,’ I said slowly. ‘You and Jack made that up because you didn’t want to have to explain you were moving here.’
Dylan crossed her arms and gazed out to sea. I suddenly remembered what she’d told me on our train journey back from Scotland.
Geri made it sound like coming here would be the most exciting thing that would ever happen to me.
I frowned. How could she think joining Fox Academy would be exciting? There had to be something Geri wasn’t telling us. ‘What’s the catch?’ I asked.
‘No catch,’ Geri said. ‘But we will need something in return.’
The wind died again. A seagull squawked overhead.
‘And what’s that?’ I said.
Geri’s high, tinkly laugh rang out. ‘Every now and then, a difficult situation arises in the world which can’t be dealt with by normal means. Your abilities will help.’
I narrowed my eyes. ‘You want to use our abilities?’
Geri nodded. ‘That’s why we set up that elaborate con in the casino – to test out how well you performed under pressure. Unnecessarily, as it turned out. All four of you have had to work under far greater pressure today – and it has been a huge success.’
‘Wait a minute,’ Ketty said. ‘You’re saying you want us to form some kind of crime-fighting force?’
‘To fight criminals?’ Ed added. ‘Using our abilities? No.
‘They’re just kids,’ Fergus pleaded.
Geri shrugged. ‘You’ll get relevant training and a proper briefing each time. And you’ll be able to develop your team-working abilities too, under Mr Fox’s guidance.’
Team-working? I made a face. That didn’t sound much like fun.
‘I want no part of this,’ Fergus snapped. ‘These are children whose lives you’ll be risking.’
‘Would you rather we went back to options one or two?’ Geri sighed. ‘Anyway, from what I’ve seen, the four of you work together very well.’
I glanced from Ketty and Ed to Dylan. My secret girlfriend, plus the boy who wanted her and the most arrogant girl on the planet, whom everyone appeared to think I was actually going out with.
Oh yeah. Loads of team-working potential there.
‘There isn’t a choice, then,’ Ketty said flatly. ‘We’re part of this project whether we like it or not.’
Ed put his arm round her shoulders.
I looked away.

‘We’re agreed then.’ Geri smiled. ‘In that case,’ she said, ‘welcome to the Medusa Project.’

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