“Nobody told you to come after me!” Sutar argues, standing as a guardian for her medical gear.
“Are you insane? Some blood samples are not worth running into a war for!” Wallace shouts.
“Nuria is dead! You heard them that day! This data is my last,” she pauses, unnerved by the crashing nearby. “This is my last hope to learn what I am! Nuria was kind enough to donate me her blood when she had no reason to! I’m not wasting her generosity!”
“You can’t make use of it if you’re dead!”
“Why do you care?”
“Can you guys…shut up…please!” Donovan urges. He sweats profusely as he holds his arms out fully stretched. He commanded all of the soil from every flower bed in the greenhouse to form a wall to protect himself and his classmates and concentrates to keep it solid. “This is…not…easy!”
Deflated, Wallace and Sutar say, “Sorry.”
A section of the wall is broken down by a curved horn. Donovan grits his teeth to keep the wall erect. His legs wobble as a maul smashes another hole in the wall.
“We’re coming in!” one of the agents beyond the wall shouts.
“It’s only a matter of time!”
“Stop stalling, brats!”
“Guys…I can’t keep this up…much longer,” Donovan wheezes, though the fear in his voice is apparent. “Wallace…can you shock…those guys?”
“Two at most. Takes too long to charge, power down, and recharge. Pocket lint isn’t the most reliable source of electrical energy. Then there’s–”
“Shut up! I’ll do it!” Sutar interrupts and surges to her feet. Misty green light wafts from her hands. Her talks with Nuria come back to her and she aims her palms at the wall of soil, the importance of oxygen concerning both their blood cells. She inhales oxygen and feels an unfamiliar wave of energy travel from her mouth and straight to her hands at stunning speed. She sprays the mist forward and the pressure of the blast causes the short teen to stagger. She lathers the entire wall with her green mist. A chorus of pained screams ring through the holes in the wall.
When she finally exhales, the wave of energy leaves and takes a chunk of her physical strength with it. Her legs buckle but Wallace catches her at the shoulders. “Drop the wall, Donovan.”
Donovan groans but obeys. He falls to the ground as his wall collapses, crumbs of soil covering him and his classmates. However, stuck to the separate chunks of soil on the ground are three of the seven Pure agents gathered in the greenhouse; full-grown cacti have them glued to the chunks of soil. The agents stuck are the ones with the curved horn and maul, as well as one whose arms are coated with spotted brown fur, has a tail of the same color, and small fangs. Two of the four standing- both women- possess a whip and pike.
“Oh, crap,” Sutar says, practically winded.
Donovan laughs breathlessly. “This sucks.”
Sutar finds herself without even enough energy to flinch as Wallace hands her over to Donovan.
Sutar suffers a chill as he stands before her and Donovan. “But you haven’t–”
“I know but I’m all that’s left of us.” Wallace raises his palms and activates what he’s charged up until now. The traces of electricity he beckons don’t even produce a flash.
“Is that supposed to scare us?” asks one of the two in the rear that showcase no powers. Her other teammates extricate the agents stuck to the cacti and they look even more murderous than the banging and threats suggested.
“I was hoping,” Wallace argues weakly, unable to keep from shaking.
The seven agents all rush in at once. Wallace and Donovan shut their eyes while awaiting death but Sutar opens her eyes wide and screams at the top of her lungs. The agent with the curved horn aims for her to put an end to the noise. He adds to it a second later.
A pair of hand claws parry the horn by piercing it horizontally and vertically. Sutar’s stunned silence jars Wallace and Donovan, bringing all three to witness Roy stopping the horned agent in his tracks. Roy’s muscles shift with sharp, yet fluid motions from top to bottom as he whirls and slams the agent against the heart tree in the corner. His display of strength stuns not only Sutar but the other agents, also. She didn’t join them often but whenever she watched tv with her classmates and Roy, he never seemed so…solid.
Is it an Ohaida thing?
The agent carrying the maul shakes their stupor and raises it menacingly. The maul’s sliced apart down the path Aven’s scythe travels along his torso. The agent with the spotted fur grinds to a halt when both Ohaida students turn on them.
That’s a yes!
Sutar ducks when the glass behind her shatters. She watches with only one eye open as Koren lands between Roy and Aven. The white cat leaps onto the spotted agent’s shoulders and somersaults forward to slam them against one of the cacti.
The flood of Ohaida students continues when the whip and pike wielders attack.
Evic slides in out of nowhere and snaps the pike’s shaft with his bare hands then sends the wielder through the glass with a palm strike. Lauron catches the whip aimed at Evic barehanded, the end cutting into hand for each time it wraps around. She cuts through the whip with her broadsword then tosses it like a javelin. It slices the agent’s whip arm clean off. She hollers as she clutches her bloody stump. Lauron knocks her out cold by slamming her plain-looking scabbard against her temple.
“Enough of that,” Lauron says. She collects her broadsword and joins the boys to stare down the last two agents.
Okay, so either something in the Ohaida genetic makeup makes them all incredibly violent when provoked, or these guys just all had a bone to pick? I’m not averse to sticking around to learn which it is.
Sutar manages to stand again when those agents decide to retreat. However, she’s forced to duck one more time when they come flying toward her. They crash through the glass, adding two more holes besides the one Koren made. She lowers her eyes to the table holding her medical gear, a small clear pillbox nestled between blood samples and her centrifuge. Her sun seeds.
Sutar stays down as a winged warrior in black strolls in, a torrent raging behind them.
Aven smiles and says, “Should’ve known you’d be out here, too.”
Koren snorts. “She was the first on the front lines. The professors chased her out there.”
“So much for getting all the credit,” Lauron whines dryly.
“You guys okay?” Roy asks the Sulublei trio.
“Yeah…thanks,” Sutar says.
“You didn’t thank us,” Wallace reminds sourly.
“All you two did was trap us in a corner. Roy and the others saved our lives. Why aren’t you thanking him?”
“Do I wanna know?” Roy asks and Donovan shakes his head.
“Is anyone hurt?” Tyra calls out.
“Save your power,” Aven says. “This is going to be a long day. We have to go and seque–”
“Who put you in charge?” Lauron challenges. “I already have nine K.O.s to my name!”
“That’s not so hot,” Koren counters. “I have five, and I got ‘em without a teammate!”
Sutar blinks, suddenly painfully aware of how her constant arguments with Wallace have been seen. A great, pointless annoyance.
“You two aren’t in charge because of those,” Tyra says with a daunting level of authority, pointing at their wounds. Koren’s cut on his arms from his leap through the glass, as well as the contusion on his tail. Lauron’s hand still drips blood, and then there are the bruises on her face. “The two of you put bravado ahead of tactics, and that’s why you two are already hurt and Aven has yet to be. And if his authority isn’t enough, as one of only two student government representatives here, I nominate him to call the shots. Lauron, disagree if you want, but nobody will listen to you over him.”
Sutar stares at the tense air between the two young ladies. Lauron looks about to burst while Tyra exudes confidence as obdurate as an iceberg. Rather than charge forward and sink, Lauron bows her head slightly and calms down.
I guess it takes a personality like that to harbor Nuria’s attention. Wow.
“What’s the game plan, Aven?” Tyra says.
“The idiots from The Pure won’t be satisfied by random destruction forever. Eventually, they’ll move to the dorms en masse. Some of you have probably seen previews of that. We need to keep them away from the dorms as long as possible. So, we’ll sequester in the corner of the library closest to the security tower. Pan’s headed to the tower roof now and she’ll cover us from above.”
Wallace steps forward but Sutar puts a hand over his mouth, expecting his argumentative nature to cause another delay. He licks her hand to get it off.
“It’s not just us. They’re after Neth, too.”
Sutar stops in the middle of wiping her hand on her pants.
Aven narrows his eyes. “Are you sure about that?”
“The ones who came to Sulublei House mentioned it.”
“Okay, then. Change of plans. All of you will go to the library and I’ll go protect Neth.”
“Why alone?” Tyra asks.
“Why you?” Lauron says.
“Because Tameri told me where Neth is,” Aven declares. “If that isn’t proof enough that I’m in charge, too bad!” He directs that last part to Lauron’s stirring jealousy.
Sutar now realizes the depth of events unfolding, as well as the detrimental presence she brings in her weakened state. She’s never ingested her sun seeds as a source of power before, but if there was ever a time, she elects it to be now. She looks down at the full-grown cacti with a clinical perception.
If I can do that on a whim, then what I can do while fueled by sun seeds should be even greater!
She swallows a pair of sun seeds, her energy returning to her moments later. She stashes half of the remaining seeds into her left pocket.
“Why alone?” Tyra repeats.
“Because that’s what The Pure’s doing. The widespread damage is to spread us thin while a small force hunts down Neth. To avoid attention, it’s likely just one person per location they suspect him to be hidden away at. I’ll keep him alive!”
Aven dashes off and shouts one final thing over his shoulder. “Make sure to pick a spot that Pan can see you from!”
Pan stays still behind a few bushes, navigating safely around outside the campus’s onyx fence. The last few Pure agents march away from the security tower as she vaults the fence. She pops two Nadolol pills then replaces the bottle into her back pocket. The rear doors to the tower are padlocked. While theft and pickpocketing are skills she spent her childhood mastering to annoy her parents, lockpicking was too tricky.
Pan thinks for a moment, lowers her recurve bow, and forms an energy arrow the size of a pen. She sticks the arrowhead through the lock, melting clean through it, and the hatch clicks. The archer panics when the chain noisily clatters to the ground. She can’t shut the doors fast enough. She trains her bow and a normal length energy arrow on the doors, waiting a few minutes for foes that never come. She takes a breath as she moves on.
Enough stalling. Aven needs me upstairs ASAP!
Pan quietly waltzes down a long hallway past many offices and comes to a large communications center. She almost loses her lunch when she glimpses the carnage before turning away. Still, the sight of dead FHA security guards and Pure agents, blood on the walls and floor, desks, and keyboards, and the rampant static from the large screen in the front will haunt her for a lifetime. Then it worsens.
Is this what Rum went through?
The thought of Rum dead and alone paralyzes her. Tears sting her eyes, so she shuts them and shakes her head. She begs the vacuity she made friends with to drag away the image but it refuses. As her bow starts to slip from her fingers, the imaginary Rum corpse glitters blue as tiny electric sparks pop around his body. He rises in Pan’s mind, staring at her with gentle disappointment.
“Tsk tsk. What happened to my Pan?”
What? Pan shrieks at her imaginary boyfriend. You can’t speak here.
“Be glad I can. Someone’s gotta talk sense into you.”
“Just because you think I’m dead, which you’ve never confirmed, gives you no right to quit. You know I wouldn’t quit on you. If you did, I’d be saying that instead.”
Shut up! You’re not Rummy!
“No, but do you want to see me again?”
Of course, I do! But you’re not him!
“Then get up those stairs and fight! He’ll be waiting on you!”
Pan snaps her eyes open out of frustration and finds she’s face to face with the stairwell to the roof. She squares her shoulders, swallows hard, then slams her palms against her cheeks.
Sorry, Rummy. I freaked out a little but I’m back! Your Pan is here to stay!
Pan ascends the flights of stairs with renewed focus and vision. She’s no longer going up there to snipe enemies, she climbs to ensure she reunites with Rum. The plodding heartbeat thrumming in her chest means she’s ready to fight tooth and nail for that vision. The light pouring into the dark stairwell burns her eyes for only a second. Once she exits, two streams of heat penetrate the left side of her abdomen.
Even before looking down, Pan feels the heat leaving her body, shivering as she gazes at two arrows piercing through her. She hollers as one reverses direction and rips through her again and into Ra’am’s hand. She clutches her bleeding stomach as she and her bow tumble down the stairs and slam into the wall. Her cries of pain don’t last any longer than her eyes remain open. The last thing she feels before that is a sweeping cold sensation all over her body.