Chapter Thirteen: Upgrades

Carter was angry. Angrier, in fact, than Aaron had ever seen him. Of course, all his twin did was frown and cross his arms as they walked toward the cabin, but he could tell. It had been late afternoon before they could all manage to sneak out at the same time, so Aaron had filled Carter in beforehand. It didn’t go over well.

“I’m sorry, okay?” he said, for the twelfth time.

Carter glanced at him, eyebrows knit together like a second frown. “I just can’t believe you went out looking for her without telling me.” Steam puffed out of his mouth as he sighed. “I really can’t.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”  Aaron kicked a pebble in his path and watched it skitter down the hill. “I was kind of pressed for time.”

“That’s a lousy excuse,” Carter said. He gave Aaron another sideways glance and stomped onto the porch. “I thought we were over this martyr complex of yours.” He opened the door and stormed inside without another word.

“I said I’m sorry,” Aaron muttered one more time. He sighed and hurried after his brother.

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Chapter Twelve: Means of Persuasion

Town was creepy at night.

It was always a little weird, since everything shut down around nine and the only two stop lights in town switched to a single blinking yellow light. But with the addition of blown-out windows and the abandoned cars, it looked more like a set from the zombie apocalypse. Lucia kept expecting someone to lurch out of one of the dark storefronts and moan at them.

“I wonder if my power could sense zombies,” she said.

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Chapter Eleven: Hearth and Home

Aaron lay on his bed, fighting the worst headache he’d had in weeks.

The vision was still a jumble in his head, but he’d sorted out the gist of it. The girl from the school needed his help. He’d seen her hiding in dark places, fleeing from shadow to shadow. An overwhelming aura of fear drenched every image, every sound and scent. That, and a sense of loneliness so intense it burned like a physical pain.

What he didn’t know was how to find her.

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Chapter Ten: Avalon

Molly stared.

Somewhere through the deafening panic, she found a thread of sanity.  “You’re my grandmother,” she said. It was an idiotic thing to say, but finding her voice seemed to jumpstart her brain.

“Yes, dear,” she said. The words sounded right, but the woman at the table was anything but grandmotherly. For one thing, she wasn’t nearly old enough. Evelyn Lakefield should have been in her seventies, and this woman barely looked old enough to be her mother. The resemblance to that thirty-year old photograph was uncanny. Identical, except for a few slight signs of aging: crow’s feet around her eyes and a crease over her nose that suggested a permanent frown. A few stray white hairs. And not a trace of frailty, either in her poise or in the sharp, knowing glimmer in her eyes.

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Chapter Nine: Shadows and Ghosts

“I think this is as much as we’re going to fit,” Selena said, inspecting the load on the trailer.  It was balanced almost perfectly now. Almost. “Just—shift—this one—” She nudged the weight, trying to redistribute it more evenly over the wheels. “And we’re done.”

“Hallelujah,” Kylie said dryly. She was leaning against the white Lartech van, texting rapidly. “Does this mean we can finally go?

Their friend Steve shoved at the boxes to squish them closer together. “I bet we could squeeze another one in right—”

“Touch it and lose a hand,” Selena said, jabbing her stylus at him.

“Easy, babe,” he said with a cavalier grin, “Just trying to help.”

“Well don’t. It’s good,” she said, looking down at her tablet to check off the inventory they’d loaded. For once, her bike was more useful than a car. Enough debris still cluttered the roads that it was much easier to navigate her motorcycle through the town than a car—not to mention the stalled and damaged vehicles still blocking streets, or the dozens of cracks and fissures caused by the quake. She’d been occupied most of the day as a delivery driver, shuttling supplies from the drop-off to work crews and distribution sites. It felt good to be out doing something instead of waiting behind a computer screen. Even if it was just as a delivery girl.

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Chapter Eight: Awake

For once, Brennan was too tired to dream. He hit the pillow and crashed, waking in short bursts to the sound of sirens or a sudden sense of cold. Neither one bothered him longer than it took to roll himself tighter in his nest of blankets, and he slipped back into deep, exhausted sleep, until sometime in the morning.

Dimly, Brennan became aware of the sound of rain against the window, and a soft, cloudy late that promised that the morning was well past the time he could still consider it night. But there was no school today, and if any day deserved a sleeping-in, this felt like a good one. He yanked the corner of his blanket over his face to search out more sleep.

An ice-cold hand touched his cheek.

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Chapter Seven: Search and Rescue

Carter lunged for Aaron as he blurred out of view, but his hand closed around empty air. His brother had vanished, and Carter dashed toward the street,  searching wildly for some glimpse of where he’d gone. But he halted at the curb, cursing in frustration. Even if he’d seen which way his brother had gone, he’d never be able to catch up. Lucia stopped a step behind him, fuming so hard he could feel it.

He pressed a finger to his ear. He took a deep breath, and managed to dial the anger back enough to keep his voice steady. “Farsight,” he said. “Answer me. Come on, I know you’re listening. Damn it, answer me!” Mingled with demands were three other voices alternatively shouting “Aaron” and “Farsight,” peppered with a few choice swearwords from Lucia.

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No chapter today (insert sad smiley)

I really hate to do this, but I’m going to have to postpone the next chapter until the 15th. It’s been a rough week, health-wise and I haven’t been able to give it the time it needs. I’d rather make you guys wait a little longer and give you something that’s not thrown together under the influence of sinus pressure and cough syrup. Hopefully, I can make up for it with some extras down the road. (Bonus chapter? Bonus art? Extra pickles?) Thanks for being patient, and please check back in a couple of weeks.


Chapter Six: Chain Reaction

“Dad!” Molly shouted as she burst through the door, her eyes hunting wildly for her parents. The cafe was a mess. All the boxes they’d stacked that morning had tumbled to the floor, along with most of the chairs. A broken light flickered over the debris. “Dad! Clarissa!”

“Back here!” Clarissa’s voice.

Heart leaping, Molly had to climb through the room—over boxes, broken glass, and overturned chairs, and past the counter—before she found her dad, lying on the floor with one bloody leg stretched in front of him. Clarissa knelt beside him, her skirt and heels smeared red. A ladder lay crookedly between them, one rung dented where it had hit the counter hard.

Molly jolted to a halt, her stomach in her throat.

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Chapter Five: Damage Report

Selena hated being left behind.

Watching as the little dots moved further away from her and closer to the town dredged up with an unpleasant mixture of resentment and guilt. Of course, Aaron was right that it made sense to stay behind. She’d designed this place to be central intelligence, and it was pointless to have all this tech here if she wasn’t here to use it.

But it just felt wrong.

“They’ve barricaded the road,” Carter said over the com. “Selena. Selena!”

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