He thought this might happen, I realized. He must have.
I tore open the drugstore bags, picking through the boxes of medicine and food until I found the bottles I needed. One, the metoprolol, was in pill form and the other, haloperidol, was in liquid form.
The syringe—that’s why I needed it. I found a box of them and dumped them out, clutching a handful. Neither of the boxes had instructions on how to administer them.
“Of course not, because it’s supposed to be done by a fucking doctor,” I muttered. “What the hell—?”
A sudden spark of power shot across my senses, burning through every other thought. My adrenaline kicked in as I straightened, searching for the source. Distant, but coming nearer. Three…four…five…six sparks. Low-grade power like…
I pressed the medicine to my chest and bolted for the house, shoving the door open with my shoulder. My feet slid across the dusty floor, coming to a dead stop.
The bottles and syringes tumbled from my arms as I reached back and pulled out the gun I’d taken from Roman.
Lana hovered beside Roman and Priyanka, staring at them through the curtain of her wild hair. She hadn’t touched them; she hadn’t seemed to have done anything to them. Yet.
The girl didn’t move. She only looked at me with that thousand-yard stare. “Where’s her medicine?”
“Back up,” I warned her again, switching the safety off.
The sparks were close now, just on the other side of the house. Another extraction team.
As soon as that thought registered, another came right on its heels: I still had my power.
My gaze shot back to Priyanka. She was trembling harder now, as if it were taking every last bit of strength she had to hold on.
“Blue star,” she was muttering, “blue star, blue star, blue star…”
The words tugged at something in my mind, some memory.
“That’s right, Pri. Figured it out, have you?” The girl was fixated on Roman’s and Priyanka’s stiff forms, watching through heavy-lidded eyes as they worked. Then, like puppets whose strings had been cut, they collapsed to the floor, still writhing. Lana ignored me, ignored the gun, and went for the medicine.
I fired a shot at the ground beside her, stopping her. Outside, the team of soldiers that had come to support her was gathering. I only had seconds before they stormed the house.
My gaze fixed on the other girl. Lana’s presence alone wasn’t what caused the suppression. She must have had to will it to happen, just like the rest of us. And right now, I was still free of it.
My silver thread of power wove through each of the sparks outside. I seized control of the batteries on their comm units and urged the electricity forward, tugging until I heard the soldiers begin to shout in agony.
All six power signatures went out. No new ones approached.
A few of the soldiers were still alive; I heard them groaning in pain. The first attack hadn’t been enough to erase the threat they posed. Not completely. The thread found another, bigger power source. The AC unit idling outside.
Lana looked up slowly, her eyes narrowing, and I seized that one last opportunity.
The explosion from the unit knocked us both off our feet, sending the gun sailing out of my hand. My vision blacked out as my head cracked against the ground.
When I came to, Lana had pushed herself up off the floor. She staggered to her feet, pressing a hand against a cut on her forehead. The back wall of the house was on fire. Tendrils of it raced along the floors and ceiling, pouring more smoke into the room.
She dropped down onto her knees beside the liquid medicine, clutching one of the syringes in her fist. She jabbed the needle into the open bottle and filled it with surprising care, eyeing the measurement.
Roman groaned from the ground, his legs curling in pain. He didn’t seem aware of his sister or the explosion. There was no world outside of whatever agony was scorching him from the inside out.
Lana crawled toward Priyanka, the syringe in her hand. I dove for her, tackling her back to the ground.
The lance of pain that skidded across my brain still caught me by surprise as Lana switched off my powers. Her elbow knocked me back. That same horrible rush of hot pins ran down my back, leaving a jagged, gaping emptiness, as if my abilities had been physically torn out from under my skin.
“You…” I choked out.
“She needs her medicine!” Lana growled at me. “I’m trying to help her!”
I lashed out a foot, knocking the syringe from her hand.
Something seemed to occur to her. A rare light entered her eyes.
“You don’t even know,” Lana taunted, her voice turning singsong. “You don’t even know! Aw, did you think they were your friends? Did they tell you some sad story about how very awful their lives have been?”
“They told me enough,” I said, as we circled each other. Lana licked her lips, obviously relishing this. “They told me about the Psion Ring.”
Her face screwed up. “The Psion Ring? What are you talking about? We were raised by Gregory Mercer—you’ve heard of him, haven’t you? I can see it in your face.”
Mercer. Blue Star.
The connection snapped into place. I did know that name. He was on Interpol’s wanted list for weapons trafficking. His had been one of the few crime syndicates to stay afloat and thrive after the United States’ borders had been closed during the Psi epidemic.
Blue Star. His organization.
Blue Star. Like the tattoo on Priyanka’s wrist. Like the tattoo Lana pushed up her sleeve to show me on her own wrist.
The cold shock of it left me standing in place, my feet frozen to the floor.
Liars. The word hissed through me, as bitter as it was ugly.
After everything, they’d still lied to me. The only difference was that this time, I’d been stupid enough to believe them.
Whatever happened to once bitten, twice shy? I asked myself savagely.
“Mr. Mercer made us. He cared for us,” Lana said. “My brother and Priyanka let someone else fill their heads with lies. They hurt him when they left, so badly, and I—” Her face hardened with rage. “They’ll need to answer for it. But the punishment won’t be as harsh, now that they’ve decided to come back with me.”
I straightened, unable to hide my surprise at the girl’s conviction.
“They don’t want to go back,” I told her, my throat raw from the smoke. “They want to help you get away from…from Mercer.”
“Do they?” Lana asked, her voice too sweet for the dark look on her face. “Why else would they be here, turning on the server and helping Mercer? That little worm wouldn’t give us the actual server location. He would only give us remote access to it after we extracted him from the house.”
“Who’s he?” But I knew. I already knew.
Anger, as helpless as it was scalding, poured through me. It was impossible. Clancy’s memory was locked down. How could he remember where he’d left a server in his past life enough to—The rest of her words caught up to me.
Extraction. Clancy had asked Blue Star to get him out of his house. Out of Charleston.
Somehow, he remembered.
Lana only smiled. “The boss’s business is his own.”
Behind her, a section of the wall collapsed. Neither of us so much as flinched.
“You don’t believe me,” she said. Reaching into her jacket’s pocket she pulled out a familiar black device. The spare battery. “Tell me, why was Priya carrying the tracker from the drone? Why did she switch it on, if she didn’t want me to come get them?”
I drew in a sharp breath, choking on it. The blood left my head so rapidly it felt as if the floor were tilting up underfoot.
If we keep chasing her, she’ll run farther and faster, Priyanka had said. We have to find a way to get her to come to us.
Oh, Priyanka, I thought, glancing toward her
shifting form on the ground. Of all the stupid, desperate things…
“She wasn’t telling you she wanted a pickup,” I told Lana. “She was luring you into a trap. And you fell right into it.”