Honor lay in the center of the enormous bed. McKinley had told her that the mattress was stuffed with feathers. It was softer than anything she’d ever slept on in her life, and the lilac scented silken linens felt like rose petals against her skin. Honor heaved a sigh of resignation. The wall mounted digital clock read 0523. Honor had remained awake throughout the night trying to think of a way out of the underground apartment McKinley had trapped her in. The difficulty lay in the fact that until now, her gifts, while born of Scientist attempts to exterminate her people, had always been enough to see her out of difficult situations. All she had left now were her wits and her will. Honor felt naked.
Honor closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. She could hear her thudding heart slow to an impossible ten beats per minute. When she felt ready, Honor tried for the seventh time to reach out. She imagined her psyche as innumerable undulating ribbons. They writhed in her head like snakes. She sent them out away from her in all directions, overlapping and intertwining. There had to be a chink in the asomatous field through which she could slip out. If she couldn’t find a way out of McKinley’s trap, she had to try to lead someone in.
As with the other times each ribbon whiplashed back to her after butting against the field, leaving Honor with the equivalent of a mental welt. Honor mused that she’d probably have a headache for days. As the last of the ribbons came back to her, Honor decided to leave the fruitless endeavor and try to sleep. She turned over onto her side. The last ribbon to return moved sluggishly and felt stretched, as if the end was stuck. Honor allowed her mind’s eye to travel the length of the ribbon to the surface of the shield. It appeared as an enormous electric golden orb with her at the center. When she reached the end of the ribbon she saw that indeed, the ribbon was stuck. It had caught in one of the chinks that Honor had been so sure was there. The ribbon could not pass through however, because it was too large.
Honor stretched the ribbon, thinning it, and pushed it through the chink. She didn’t have to go far. Taha’s consciousness waited at the boundaries of the field. His own consciousness must have found the chink and waited for Honor to do the same. Communication wasn’t easy, however. Honor’s battered consciousness recoiled with each of Taha’s frantic attempts to communicate, making it difficult for her to understand anything he said. When Honor’s throbbing head caused her ribbon to falter, she felt suddenly buoyed and Taha’s thoughts cleared to a coherent steady stream. Taha’s ribbon, stronger and more substantial than hers, acted as an insulator as it wrapped around her ribbon. His voice was as strong and clear as if he was standing right in front of her.
“Where are you?” Taha asked.
“Somewhere underground.” Honor sensed Taha’s confusion. “McKinley has me trapped in an apartment at least a couple of stories below the mansion.”
“I told you he was a freak.” Honor could tell that wherever he was, Taha was smiling. “Sorry,” he murmured.
“He’s created some kind of field. I’m caged in here like a rat and I can’t use my powers.”
“Sure you can.” Taha’s response sounded distracted. “You’re talking to me now, aren’t you?”
“Yeah but---“ Honor’s voice trailed off. Taha was right.
Sounding even more distant, Taha said, “All you have to do is keep trying.”
“What are you doing?” said Honor trying to draw Taha back from whatever was distracting him.
“Trying to find the source of this shield.”
Even with Taha’s support, Honor’s strength was quickly ebbing. “I can’t hold on much longer. Are you and Airun okay?”
“Yeah. For now. I think McKinley is too preoccupied with you to be worried about us, but that won’t last for long.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I can hear him. His thoughts are like sirens.” Taha sounded as if he was smiling again. “For instance, he’s sleeping right now, and yet when I listen closely, I can hear him repeating your name over and over. What a total freak.”
“Speaking of sleep…”
“Right,” said Taha, “you better try to get some. I think I may have been able to find a way through.”
When Taha released Honor, she was already on her way to sleep…unfortunately for her McKinley met her there.
Airun was standing over Taha when he opened his eyes, concern etched on his face. “What happened? One minute you were talking to me, the next, you were gone.”
Taha sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. He was smiling hugely. “I finally reached Honor. She says that McKinley’s got her trapped in an apartment in the cellar.”
Airun’s eyes lit up. He snapped his fingers. “He’s had crews of construction workers and scientists going in and out of the cellars for months. I never knew why though.”
“Yeah, well now you know. He’s got the place dampened by some kind of shield, and Honor can’t use her powers to get out of the place. She was barely able to communicate with me.”
Airun shrugged his shoulders. “You’ll think I’m a jerk for saying so, but I’m not really worried about Honor. It’s us, I’m worried about. Actually, it me, I’m worried about. I don’t have a gift and that makes me very disposable.”
Taha leaned forward and closed his eyes. His fists were clenched at his sides and sweat broke out on his brow. His breathing quickened.
“What now?” asked Airun as he paced the floor of their 10x8 foot cell. This made the third time in the last few hours that Taha had blinked out. It unnerved Airun. He had no idea what was happening.
When Taha spoke, his eyes were still closed. “You’re right to be concerned.” Taha’s eyes flew open but his deepening brow hooded them. “McKinley is awake and he’s got plans for you.”
Truth refused the blanket Siti offered him. “I’m cold, yes, but it’s not a problem.”
Siti said nothing to this, but Truth could see disbelief on her face. She pulled her sweater closer around her shoulders. Since the previous night when Truth announced that he could no longer feel Honor, Truth had undergone a transformation of sorts. He became like a human refrigerator, his skin as cold as ice. Waves of chill cascaded off of him.
“What I mean to say it is that this feels right. It feels normal.” Plumes of steam billowed when he spoke. “I feel more powerful.”
Siti glanced at Seraph and Michael who stood in the opposite side of the tent. Each of them were dressed in black and each carried a knapsack with their weapons. “So this means that you’re able to…”
Truth flexed pushing his shoulders back and his chest out. “…more than ever.” Truth chuckled, his voice seeming to emanate from a well. “I’m ready to confront McKinley once and for all.” He closed his eyes and cocked his head as if listening to some distant voice. “I caught a ribbon of Honor’s thoughts earlier. Her voice was so quiet and distant.” Truth smiled. “But she’s okay, right now. Scared though.”
“We have to plan how we’ll go about this, if we’re to be successful.”
Truth shook his head. “No. If you plan to help get my sister back, then follow me. Otherwise stay out of my way.” Truth walked out of the tent taking the cold with him. For a moment Siti felt relief, not just from the cold, but also from Truth’s frozen temperament.
Seraph placed a hand on Siti’s shoulder. “How do you want to proceed?”
Siti smiled gratefully at her friend. She’d always been able to depend on Seraph and Michael. This time, she feared they would be of little help though. No one could control Truth, and he was turning out to be just as impulsive as Honor. In fact, she feared he was even more dangerous than Honor. A small voice in the back of Siti’s mind whispered that none but an evil person drains the warmth from a room. But her more reasonable self countered that whatever Truth was, and she was beginning to think he was an aberration, it was not his fault. He was the result of Scientist connivance. “Why not use it against them?” murmured Siti. She met Seraph’s confused gaze then said with resignation, “I suppose we had better follow. There is more than Honor and Truth at stake.”
Seraph glanced at Michael who nodded in agreement. They all shouldered their packs and followed the trail of cold.