I knew the drug was fading from my system by how fast the words jumped to my tongue. How clear they were, despite the dry ache in my throat. “You like leering at unconscious girls, do you?”
The bag of fluid jumped from his hand, slapping against the rubber mat. The truck’s engine roared as it picked up speed. I felt the flare of its electric current as it flowed through the body of the truck, but I couldn’t tap into it. Not with the layers of rubber insulation between it and me.
The man’s light landed on the wet spot the drug had left on my side.
“You sneaky little bitch,” he said in disbelief.
“Call me a bitch again and I’ll show you how hard I bite,” I said.
“That’s some mouth you got on you,” he said. “I’ve a mind to put it to good use, freak or not. Maybe I’ll keep you awake, just to hear you scream.”
He laughed, and that shadow that lived in me, that small, dark corner of my heart that made me feel so ashamed when it demanded more, began to shift inside me. To rise.
How many people have to die because of you, before you’ll do something?
I stopped thinking. I shut down the carefully conditioned serenity. I let Mel and all of her lessons be carried out of my mind on a wave of anger.
Then I started to laugh, too.
The sound was haunted, ragged. The man sucked in a sharp breath as it reached him.
“Stop it,” he barked, lurching over to me. His light washed out my vision, but I refused to shut my eyes to escape it. He stepped onto my ankle, and I had to bite back a cry of pain as he leaned his full weight on it. A dare, a threat.
“I think it’s funny, too,” I told him. “Really, truly funny how much your friends up there must hate you.”
He was close enough for me to see his eyes shift, to confirm what I’d suspected: they thought the drugs would be enough. That the handcuffs would take care of the rest.
“What the hell are you talking about?” he demanded.
“They trapped you in here with me, didn’t they?” I said. The cut opened on my lip as I smiled.
“Shut the fuck up,” he growled, storming over to the back of the truck to retrieve the drugs. At the force of his words, Priyanka began to stir again, her bag still empty, waiting to be changed. “I can’t kill you, but I can use these last hours to create your perfect hell. So try me, you freak bitch.”
“What did I say about that word?” I asked.
I felt for the charge of his ear comm and seized it. Even with a throbbing head, it took only a second of focus to pulse it, to fry the small circuitry inside its plastic shell.
“Fuck!” he screamed, clawing at his ear. A thread of smoke wove between his fingers as he tried to yank it out.
“They lined everything with rubber to protect themselves and the truck. But they didn’t even tell you to leave your electronics with them.” I lifted my cuffed wrists. “They made you think I had to actually touch you in order to hurt you, didn’t they?”
His free hand went for his belt, to the White Noise device.
It was nearly impossible to explain what I could do to anyone who hadn’t experienced it themselves. Most of the time, it was important to pretend that I didn’t have the power at all; that I couldn’t hear the song of electronics buzzing and vibrating against my senses, or feel the buried electrical lines growling beneath my feet.
It was frightening—it had always been, from the time I was a child. The vastness of that power. The innate charge inside my mind only ever wanted to connect, to join and complete those nearby circuits.
I reached out for the batteries. They reached out to me.
The device exploded in his hand. A hot shard of plastic landed on my shin as he fell back, stunned by the sound, the pain. But I wasn’t finished, not until I had the battery of his phone in my mind’s grasp.
“Say you’re sorry,” I rasped out.
The battery exploded inside his uniform pocket. The fire caught on his black pants, traveled up his side, to his neck, to his face, to his helmet. He screamed so violently, falling to the ground to try to roll the flames away, I was shocked the others didn’t stop the truck. The heat spread out through the rubber and melted it beneath him.
I sucked in a breath and sat up. The darkness pushed toward me from all sides, coated in smoke. I forced myself to stay upright, to watch.
The man writhed and groaned, trying to drag himself to the door. He was within arm’s reach of it when his body gave one final tremor and collapsed. The fire burned until it couldn’t, trailing out in thin, glowing veins across the rubber mat. As the last flame went out, the only thing left to me was darkness—darkness, and the sound of the wheels against the road, keeping time with my own driving heartbeat.
I jumped at the sound of Priyanka’s voice.
The girl turned slightly to the side, jolting as the dry IV line tugged back at her. She jerked her bound hands forward, ripping the empty bag from its strap.
“Here, let me do it,” I said. Easier said than done. My ankles were locked together by loops of zip ties. I had just enough range of movement to get my knees under me and inch over to her.
The chain linking my handcuffs clicked and strained as I pulled off her tape in one go, ignoring her sharp “Shit, ow!”
“That’s what hurts?” I said in disbelief. The man’s helmet light was still glowing against the wall beside her. I’d made sure not to fry the device, thinking we might need to use it. Now it only illuminated her collection of cuts and bruises. Seeing them seemed to wake up my body to the reality of my own injuries. For a second, the pain took my breath away.
I shook my head, trying to clear the throbbing as I removed the IV line from Roman’s arm.
“I’m adding it to my list of complaints,” she muttered.
Roman let out a soft sigh as the needle
slipped free, but he didn’t immediately rouse like I’d hoped.
I tugged down the bag of yellow fluid, turning it toward the helmet’s light to try to find some kind of label. About a quarter of it was gone. It looked like he’d gotten a higher dose than both Priyanka and I had, and I didn’t know how long he’d be out, or if we’d have to try to break out of the truck without him.
It would be easier. I couldn’t stop the thought from welling up in my mind. One less person to potentially have to run from. One less reason to question my gut.
But also one less person to fight off the people who had taken us.
I released a hard breath. Who was I kidding—I was never going to leave either of them behind to the mercy of these people. For one thing, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the eye again. If there was even the slightest chance they were innocent bystanders, then I was going to give them the exact same chance I had to get out of here.
“Where the hell are we?” Priyanka asked, the words slightly slurred.
The thick curtain of her wavy black hair fell over her shoulder as she propped herself up on her elbow and, finally, pushed herself fully upright. The drug was clearly still working its way through her system; she had that slightly glassy look of someone whose brain was caught up in a fog. Which meant that I had an opportunity.
In another time, and in a very different world, I would have felt guilty for trying it, but this was life or death. And I was going to make it out of this truck alive no matter what.
“I’m a little more concerned about who took us,” I said evenly. “Did you recognize any of them?”
“Why are you asking me that?” she said, reaching her bound hands up to touch a spot on her cheek where a new bruise was forming. It was the size of a fingerprint. “Shouldn’t you have some sort of catalog of bad guys we can work through? Who are the idiots who are always out screaming on highways and at speeches with signs?”
“You mean Liberty Watch?” I said.
“If they’re the ones who think that you Psi should make up some sacrificial army, then yeah, Liberty Watch.”