Chapter 28:

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Man with an Objective

Perfect World


CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: THE MAN WITH AN OBJECTIVE


A few days had passed and vacation was going well so far. Christmas day was just around the corner, and everyone was chipper, bringing my mood up as well.


I had decided to go into the city and see what sales I could find. You never know what you’ll find during the holiday sales.


“Yeah, that sounds good,” said Gary when I told him my plan. “James and I can have a guy’s day out. We can meet for lunch somewhere if you want.”


“Okay,” I said happily. “Is Derek going with you, too?”


“He has to babysit,” James replied hastily. He was obviously overjoyed that he didn’t have to deal with Abby’s husband.


“Have fun,” said Abby as we were putting our shoes on. “I wish I could go, but I have a bunch of stuff to do. Here, you can use the van, Krystal.”


Abby tossed me the keys.


“Thanks,” I said with a smile.


“No problem,” she replied.


“Bye, Anna,” said Gary, picking up our daughter and giving her a hug.


“Bye!” she said as I gave her a kiss on the cheek.


Gary took his parents’ car with James as I got into Abby’s minivan. Looking around, I realized just how neat she kept it. I always imagined Abby as being the neat and organized type, so it didn’t surprise me much. Certainly, it was easier for her to do than for me, since I wasn’t naturally organized.


In the city, I drove around a parking garage to look for a spot. I had assumed it was going to be very difficult to find a place to park, so it came to no surprise when I ended up parking on the fifth floor. On foot, I took the elevators down to the ground level.


The streets were bustling with people when I made it outside. Since I didn’t exactly have a particular shop in mind, I picked a random direction and walked down the sidewalk. Shops were filled with customers picking out Christmas gifts, and I quickly merged with the flow of pedestrians, checking out any stores that caught my eye.


One of the stores I wandered into happened to be a candy store. I gazed up at the walls and shelves full of candy and goodies, making my mouth water a little. Fighting back the urge to buy food compulsively, I continued browsing, looking only for anything I found especially interesting.


There was a display for boxes of chocolates on sale. As I looked at them, I remembered the box of chocolates that Brittany had. My heart sank as I thought about the awkward conversation I had with her a few days prior. No doubt Brittany was an amazing person, and I admired her in a strangely affectionate way, but sometimes she was just weird. What was she talking about when she said that she had so many questions? Why was she in Florida? How did she even find me? There’s no way it could’ve been a coincidence that she ended up in Florida as well, in the same spot at the same time as me.


Pushing that thought aside, I left the candy store and joined the pedestrians on the sidewalks. I hadn’t been shopping for very long, and there were so many more places for me to go. My intentions were to buy at least one thing before going back to Gary’s parent’s house.


Without warning, a deep feeling of discomfort loomed over my head. It was really strange; I felt as if I was sensing something nearby. I stopped walking abruptly, causing the person behind me to almost run into me. After apologizing, I quickly glanced around. My eyes landed on a city bus that had just stopped to let some passengers off on the other side of the street. Whatever was giving me that bad feeling was on that bus.


The bus had finished unloading and drove away. Across the street stood a man with blonde hair brighter than mine. The instant I saw him, the sense of uneasiness faded, but I knew he was trouble. At first glance, he didn’t appear too unusual, but upon further inspection, I realized his clothes were unique. They seemed to be similar to something a SWAT team would wear, only simpler and less obvious. A small backpack was strapped tightly to his back by large, sturdy harnesses. He wore a small band around his head that appeared to be a high-tech computer, but could easily pass as a sweatband at first glance. From where I was standing, I could see that he was using it to scan the area. Holographic images and indicators were appearing in front of his eyes. People were giving him very curious looks as they attempted to avoid him.


Not wasting another second, I started walking. I had no idea what kind of technology that man was using, but I wasn’t about to walk up to him and ask about it. For the time being, merging back in with the crowd and avoiding attention was my best course of action.
That uneasy feeling drifted back into my heart. No doubt it was coming from that man. I wanted to look behind me to see if he was following me, but I kept going straight. I didn’t have to see with my eyes to know he really was following me … or at least looking for me.


However, I was more frightened by my ability to sense danger like that. It had been confirmed a long time ago that my special abilities didn’t come from Soulpower, but I didn’t want to be reminded about that. The last time I had “sensed” danger, it was due to something really bad that required the use of my special powers, and I hated using them.


[Heartfire.]


That word flashed into my mind, catching me by surprise. Without thinking, I swiftly dipped into a pawnshop. Once inside, I attempted to clear my head. I had heard that word before, but I couldn’t remember where or when. All I knew was I hated that word. I forced myself to recall what it meant. There was great importance and meaning behind it. Maybe if I thought really, really hard to remember ….


A strong vision flickered in front of me, making my temples throb and my breath seize up in my chest. Almost immediately, fear trampled me. That was the first vision I had seen since I was a teenager. I saw an angel in the new vision, and she looked familiar. Far too familiar for comfort.


“Hello.” The friendly shopkeeper greeted me with a smile.


“Oh,” I said, “hi.” I wiped my head. My face felt warm.


“Can I help you look for something?”


I shook my head and tried to return a smile. Coming back to my senses, I whirled around to see a sword hanging on the far wall of the pawnshop. Almost impulsively, my wallet was out and I found myself paying for the sword. At least I bought something when I said I was going to. When I walked out of the shop, I quickly discarded the paper bag and held the sword tightly in my hand. Although it was still in its scabbard, I felt a much better sense of security. It didn’t matter if people were looking at me like I was strange.


Grasping the sword with the price tag dangling from its pommel, I headed straight back to Abby’s minivan, keeping an eye out for any sign of that man. The uneasy feeling had faded, but I was still on my guard. Relying purely on your soul was never a good idea because it can prove quite unreliable at times if you didn’t know how to process what it told you. That was something I had learned over ten years ago.


The walk back to the parking garage was uneventful, but the tension remained as I entered the building. I glanced around, taking note of the darker area and various places for a person to hide, and I tried to remember where the elevator was. I needed to get to the fifth floor to get back to the minivan.


“Excuse me.”


I stopped dead in my tracks. The voice that called to me was a man’s. Getting a tighter grip on my sword, I turned around to face the person behind me. Not to my surprise, I saw the man with the high-tech equipment standing there. I stared at him, not letting my guard down the least bit. That familiar energetic feeling built up inside me as my soul prepared me for the worst.


[Just like old times.]


He appeared to be in his mid-thirties. Up close, I could see that he wasn’t particularly muscular, but had a fairly normal physique. His dark green eyes looked straight back into mine.


“Forgive me, but may I have a moment of your time?” His tone was very polite, but his face was hard with an all-business fixture. When I didn’t answer, he said, “My name is Kevin. I work for a special operations organization, and it is very important that I have your cooperation.”


I didn’t bother to say something. Instead, my eyes were locked onto him. The negative vibes pummeled me, but I had no intentions to run. A part of me actually wanted to hear what he had to say. A part of my soul was sensing a familiar energy coming from the man … an energy that reminded me of Gary when he used his Soulpower.


“I need to ask for your name,” said Kevin straightforwardly.


“No,” I instantly replied quietly.


“Please, it is important to have your cooperation,” said Kevin in the same dutiful tone. “That is all I require of you.”


“No,” I repeated.


Unfazed by my stubbornness, Kevin took a few steps closer to me. I could see the equipment he was wearing in detail now, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. There was no telling just how technologically advanced it was. Just what was going on? Why would somebody be wearing such equipment, and why would he be asking me for my name? Special operations organization?


“Who are you?” I asked dully. “Other than your name, I mean.”


“I am sorry,” said Kevin, “but I have told you everything I can at this point. Unless you cooperate, I cannot provide any further information.”


“I’m not interested,” I told him quietly.


“I’m not asking you,” he said bluntly, taking out a small handgun, “I’m making you. Either you cooperate, or I will need to take drastic measures to find out your identity.”


Kevin pointed the gun at me, and I stared at it with a blank expression. My powers prevented guns from harming me the way they usually penetrate a target, because the bullet is disconnected from the shooter’s soul and loses all of its special energy, a key factor in harming a person with soul-related powers. From my perspective, he was aiming a toy at me.


“I already told you,” I said, “I’m not telling you anything.”


“This is your last warning,” said Kevin, aiming the gun directly at my shoulder, indicating that he wasn’t going for an immediate kill. “Either you cooperate, or I will be forced to use appropriate measures. I have been assigned my mission and am not afraid to use this gun.”
Still, I said nothing. We stared at each other for a few moments in silence. Sweat began to build up on my forehead. Even though I knew I was safe, it was intimidating to have a real gun pointed at you by a complete stranger.


“I apologize for this,” said Kevin finally, “but you brought this upon yourself.”


The loud bang of the gun rang through the parking garage. In the blink of an eye, I felt a rush of energy flow through me. When it disappeared, I could feel something on my shoulder. Kevin watched as I picked the bullet out of my shirt to look at it. It was flattened as if it had hit a bulletproof wall. I let it roll out of my hand and clink on the cement ground. There wasn’t so much as a dent in my skin where it had hit me.


“It didn’t hurt you?” Kevin asked. However, he didn’t sound nearly as confused as I had imagined he would.


He lowered his gun and looked at me with narrowed eyes. His expression was hard to read as he remained in a ready stance. Holographic images and texts began appearing in front of his face, which he studied closely. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I realized that he was probably scanning me.


“Guns don’t work on me,” I told him, matching his straightforward tone.


The holographic display disappeared as he put his gun back in its holster. His face had gone back to the dutiful, hardened look.


“Very well,” he said. “I already got the readings on your abilities. May I ask you to come along with me, Krystal?”


A lump formed in my throat.


“How do you know my name?” I asked, feeling a little frightened and confused.


“I will explain everything when we get back,” Kevin told me, “but my scanner picked up your energy readings when you stopped my bullet, and it matched your identity in the database.”


“Where do want me to go?” I was trying to sound demanding to hide my slowly growing confusion. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”


Kevin sighed, then took out another gun strapped to the other side of his waist. Aiming it at me, I remained glued to the spot I was in.


“The adverse feelings you are getting from me are caused by uncertainty, according to the readings I’m picking up from you,” he said as more holographic images appeared in front of him. “I can assure you that I have no intentions of harming you or putting you in any danger whatsoever. Doing so will go against my objective. However, I will be required to do what it takes to complete my mission.”


He sounded more like a soldier than a thug, but I still couldn’t trust him. There were too many things I didn’t understand about the situation, and Kevin was unwilling to fill me in unless I played along first. I had no other choice but to just leave and ignore him.


“I’m not listening to you,” I said flatly, turning around to walk away. “I have to go now.”
That seemed to have pushed Kevin one step too far. I took only a few steps when he realized that I was beyond negotiations.


“You misunderstand me,” he said, sounding a little aggressive at this point. “You are required to cooperate, no exceptions. I’m going to take you with me whether you like it or not!”


I spun around quickly just as he pulled the trigger on his gun. Unexpectedly, the gunshot sounded completely different than a normal gun, and a bright pulse of light came flying right at me. Before I could dodge it, the blast hit me and blew me backwards, slamming me into a big cement pillar. Falling to the ground, I quickly avoided another blast. Thinking quickly, I sprang up and ran as fast as I could through the parking garage, making my way for the rear exit.


As soon as I made it out to the street, another blast of energy was coming my way. I swung my sword around and knocked the attack into the sky. The force of the energy pulse shattered the sheath covering the blade and made me stumble. Looking back, Kevin was a good thirty yards away from me. Thinking he was far enough away for me to get a good head start, I was taken completely by surprise when he charged at me with lightning speed, grabbing me around the neck. In a split second, he slung me around and slammed me into the side of a building.


I regained stability and blocked a punch from him. I grabbed his arm and flipped him forcefully behind me by flinging him over my head. He smashed into an SUV and was unable to move temporarily. Using this to my advantage, I took off down the street on foot. There was no way I could get away from him in the minivan through the traffic.


When I rounded the corner, something powerful slammed into me from behind, knocking me down. Kevin had put a strong grapple hold on me and attempted to subdue me. Struggling to get free was proving quite difficult.


“Listen to me,” he said calmly. “This can all be avoided if you just do what I say. There’s no sense in fighting.”


Ignoring what he said, I powered up a lot of my energy. Once I had a good amount charged, I unleashed a large shockwave from my body. The force severely loosened Kevin’s hold on me as a nearby traffic sign was bent back by the energy, and I was able to easily break free.


I spun around to strike him with my sword, but the outfit he wore was completely invulnerable to the attack, apparently being a type of armor. Before Kevin could react, I filled my sword with energy and quickly counterattacked using it like a baseball bat, striking him and sending him reeling backward.


I continued running through the city as fast as I could, dodging startled pedestrians and honking traffic. Kevin didn’t seem quite as strong as me, but he sure was intent on catching me. Just what kind of technology was he using? The gun he used was anything but an ordinary one, and furthermore, it could hurt me. Maybe if I took the gun from him, he’d be unable to hold his own against me.


A blast of white energy flew past my head, whizzing past my ear and blowing my hair. It hit the side of a building, exploding and taking out a large portion of the wall. Kevin must have increased the power on his gun. Turning to look for him, I was greeted with a blast to the chest. The force was much more powerful and painful this time, exploding so brightly that I was completely disoriented as I flew through the air and crashed into a car going through an intersection. Other drivers slammed on their brakes and collided around me, shards of plastic and glass bouncing around on the ground. Picking a direction, I got back to my feet and ran out of the mess.


Kevin ran in front of me and attempted to subdue me again. Moving faster than him, I avoided his hold and snatched his gun. However, Kevin reacted much quicker and differently than I expected. Instead of admitting defeat, he attacked me with a series of powerful punches and kicks. Out of slight panic, I fired the gun without thinking. There was a big explosion directly in front of me as I blasted a crater in the curb, blowing Kevin away. To my surprise, the explosion had absolutely no effect on me, but just went right through me. Did that mean the gun didn’t hurt its user?


Not missing a beat, Kevin flipped back onto his feet and assaulted me again. I struggled to prevent him from getting his gun back, but he eventually overpowered me and took it while simultaneously putting me into an uncomfortable hold. Aiming the gun directly at my face, he cracked a small, but warm smile.


“You’re a lot stronger than I expected,” he said. I wasn’t sure if he was complimenting me.


“You too,” I replied.


A roaring fireball came out of nowhere, heading straight for us. Thinking fast, Kevin flipped around and blocked the fireball with what appeared to be a wall of energy he put up with his hand. To my great relief, I saw Gary come running up to me with his fists engulfed in fire.


“Are you all right?” he asked me quickly.


“Yeah,” I said, trying to smile.


Gary glared at Kevin with a look I hadn’t seen him wear in years. Kevin kept his gun aimed at me while keeping an eye on Gary. More holographic images were displayed in front of him. The headgear he wore must’ve been projecting them.


“Who the hell are you?” Gary demanded.


“I’m not entitled to tell you,” Kevin replied, using the same business-only tone he had used on me.


“His name’s Kevin,” I said. “He wants me to come with him.”


“Come with you?” Gary continued glaring at Kevin. “For what?”


“I don’t know,” I told him. “He won’t tell me.”


“She needs to come with me,” said Kevin. “It is my objective to bring her back. I do not intend to harm her or anyone else. You need to trust me.”


“Sorry, can’t do that,” Gary replied, getting into fighting position. “Krystal, we have to be very careful not to hurt any people when fighting.”


Looking around, my heart sank upon realizing there was a significant number of people watching us. They weren’t doing anything, just staring while standing in the way, unaware of the danger they were potentially in. Would they remember this event?


“Right,” I said.


Before I knew it, Gary leapt at Kevin, engaging in combat. Joining in, the two of us overpowered him, knocking him around like a ragdoll. He was much tougher than I had anticipated. Although we were giving him a decent beating without trying to kill him, he seemed mostly unharmed.


“He doesn’t seem to be very hurt,” said Gary.


“I think it’s his equipment,” I said. “He’s using advanced technology. It’s probably protecting him.”


Kevin regained his balance after being knocked down and stood his ground. I knew he understood our fighting capabilities were too much for him, but he still possessed that determination to complete his objective.


“We can’t let our guard down,” Gary told me. “He’s probably waiting for the right time to strike, which is why he isn’t backing down. We don’t know how much experience he has with fighting like this.”


Kevin clutched his gun in both hands and began folding it in a peculiar way. I wasn’t exactly sure what he did, but he eventually transformed it into a sword with a long, glowing blade made of the same energy as the gun blasts. While assuming a combative stance, I could sense a swell of Soulpower coming from him. The air around him began to ripple. With great speed, he launched himself at us, swinging his sword with incredible skill and power.


Using my newly bought sword and Gary using his fists, it took both of us to hold Kevin back. He was much more skilled with the blade than the gun. Gary narrowly avoided a terrible blow to the head, resulting in the car parked behind him being cut in half. Understanding that this was not an easy battle anymore, Gary and I began using the higher end of our skills. We flipped through the air, using just about anything to bounce off of. Kevin was able to jump extremely high, catching us in the air and attempting to slam us into the ground. It was extremely tricky to engage in midair combat with him, as he was very agile and had a much different fighting style than anyone else I’d ever fought.


I grabbed Kevin by the leg while we were about fifty feet in the air, then smashed him into a building. Gary waited on the ground for Kevin to fall down, but he gained balance and brought his sword straight down. Although Gary blocked it, his Soulpower clashed with Kevin’s energy sword, causing a large shockwave that blew them both away. The sidewalk and street cracked underneath us.


Shielding myself from the explosion, I didn’t notice Kevin coming at me. Before I could react, he punched me in the face so quickly that I swore it made a sonic boom. I felt blood shoot out of my mouth as I flew helplessly backward. As I lied crumpled on the asphalt, I thought that he might’ve broken my jaw or knocked out some teeth. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, but it didn’t make me feel much better after I spit out mouthfuls of blood.


Gary did his best to take Kevin one-on-one, but was quickly overwhelmed. Kevin’s speed and power had increased substantially. I stumbled back to my feet and prepared myself to jump back into the brawl.


Gary and I continued our aerial assaults, avoiding causing damage on the ground as much as possible. As effortlessly as we jumped off buildings and soared through the air, Kevin did it better. I pushed my abilities to their limits, the first time I had done so since our final battle against Night Stallion years earlier. Kevin was forcing us to use our full strength. What started out as Gary and I holding back to avoid causing damage soon became us using our full power just to hold Kevin off. Pedestrians watched in awe as we rampaged down the streets. They had no clue how hard it was to avoid them.


Kevin’s sword ruthlessly came into contact with the left side of my face while I was more than twenty feet in the air. I let out a short scream of pain as I flipped backwards straight at the ground. By the time I noticed just how badly my face was cut, a sickening crunch and sharp pain signified that I had made contact with the road, landing headfirst. My vision blurred for an instant, coming back into focus just to see Kevin soaring straight out of the sky at me. I braced myself for the worst. However, a beam of white light came to my rescue, striking Kevin and slamming him against a building. He fell helplessly to the ground.


I looked in the direction of the light beam and saw James standing on the opposite side of the street. Flare Blade was shimmering beautifully in his hands. Not bothering with small talk, he gave me a quick smile, then forcefully attacked Kevin. Gary and I immediately joined in, once again gaining the upper hand.


Obviously struggling at this point, Kevin began taking a more defensive role against us. Despite that, he was very careful and precise with his actions, effectively blocking our assault. His attacks, much less frequent now, were still powerful and accurate. I knew that if his endurance outlasted ours, then he would eventually get the best of us. Still, Kevin wasn’t nearly as formidable as Night Stallion had been, and I believed we were far from defeat.
At least, that’s what I believed.


“This is ridiculous,” said Kevin, wiping the blood from his mouth. Though he was losing, he was giving little sign of frustration.


“Just leave her alone!” Gary growled angrily. He was blood-soaked and slightly out of breath.


“Yeah!” James chimed in heroically. “You have no idea who you’re up against!”


“As a matter of fact,” said Kevin, “I happen to know exactly what I’m up against, Mr. Rionah Luminae.”


Gary and James looked as shocked as I was.


“What did you just say?” My voice was weak as it tried to escape my mouth.


“How do you know that?” James barked, pointing Flare Blade at Kevin. “Who are you?”


“I cannot say until Krystal cooperates,” Kevin replied.


“No,” I said, shaking my head.


As if expecting my answer, Kevin disengaged his energy sword, folded it back into a gun, and strapped it back to his side. Thinking he had given up, I didn’t expect what happened next when he pressed his hands together, as if praying. I felt another surge of energy from him as his power levels climbed even higher. I couldn’t believe that he was getting even stronger.


“What’s he doing?” James asked, fighting back fear.


“I-I don’t know.” Gary tensed up, readying himself for whatever was coming.


A horrible feeling bubbled up inside me. Kevin seemed to be using Soulpower after all, but it was different from Gary’s and Dexter’s. It seemed raw, yet much more refined and simplistic than ordinary Soulpower.


The small backpack Kevin wore opened up, and four large, orange holographic formations quickly emerged from it, protruding out in different directions. Within seconds, I realized that they were limbs; two arms and two legs. Each one was roughly fifteen feet long. To my horror, the holographic limbs were in fact physical objects. Kevin began to glow bright orange as he was fused to the monstrosity, controlling it entirely with his mind. He looked possessed as the holographic-looking limbs straightened up. Gary, James, and I found ourselves being loomed over by a twenty-foot monster.


“Oh, crap,” James squeaked. “Does anyone know what this is?”


“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Gary replied nervously, maintaining a fighting stance.


James swallowed hard. The three of us stood in place, waiting for Kevin to make the first move. We had no idea what we were up against, and that put us at a major disadvantage.


“We have to be careful!” Gary ordered sternly. “Try to learn his attack pattern before looking for a weakness!”


Without warning, Kevin leapt into the air. His new legs allowed him to jump much higher than before, and we scrambled to avoid being crushed as he came down. I took cover behind a trashcan, knowing that it wouldn’t serve as very good protection. Ignoring Gary and James, Kevin quickly discovered my hiding spot and came after me. Just as Gary had said, I avoided fighting, carefully watching the movements of the monstrosity. Any brave witness nearby had decided that it was their cue to flee, as everyone was now running from the scene.


Dodging the gigantic foe proved nearly impossible, and I constantly received powerful blows from it. Kevin’s massive equipment moved incredibly fast as he easily tore up the streets trying to pursue me, punching through buildings like they were cardboard and digging into the pavement like scooping up sand. Gary and James tried their best to stop him, but were swatted like flies.


Gary’s flames around his hands started growing brighter, consuming nearly his entire arms now. The strenuous fighting against Kevin was making his Soulpower grow stronger, but Kevin’s monstrosity was so powerful that it almost completely masked any improvements in Gary’s fighting. Even as Gary charged up and unleashed a massive flame attack I had never seen, Kevin remained unscathed amid an inferno that heated up the metal signs and posts until they glowed red hot. Why was he so intent on catching me? What possible reason could he have for wrecking half the city just for one person?


James attempted to climb up the holographic-looking legs and disable the machine. Kevin used his massive mechanical hand to grab James and slam him into a store with horrifying speed. The entire front part of the store was demolished just by James’s body alone. I stopped to see if he was okay, but didn’t have any time to find out.


A quick punch from the huge fist seemed to crack every bone in my body. My fingers finally lost their grip on my sword as I fell helplessly to the ground. In an instant, I could feel giant fingers wrap around me. Large amounts of energy flooded into every inch of me, feeling like thousands of lightning bolts stabbing my body.


The grip tightened. I struggled just to breathe, but to no avail. The pain was becoming unbearable. Just as I thought I was going to pop, Kevin stopped squeezing any harder, keeping me inches from death. It was somewhat assuring that he didn’t want to kill me. However, it was becoming more apparent by the second that he had won.


Without warning, the hold on me was released. The gigantic orange, holographic-looking limbs shattered like glass and immediately disappeared, like a computer monitor dying just after pulling the plug. Gary had picked up my sword and had thrown it like a spear, stabbing through Kevin’s backpack and shutting down his system. I could feel the rustling of wind for a few seconds as I fell back to the ground, unable to hold up my tired arms to brace for impact. Just before the imminent collision with the sidewalk, Gary caught me in his arms.


“Are you all right?” he asked me. Blood dripped from his face.


“Yeah,” I choked. “James?”


“He’s fine,” he said. “Can you walk?”


“I think so.”


My feet touched the ground as Gary stood me up. A little wobbly at first, I quickly regained balance. Kevin was lying on the ground with James’s foot on his chest and Flare Blade at his throat.


“Don’t move!” James barked angrily. “I swear to God I’ll cut your head off!”


Gary and I hurried over. Gary told James to back off, then picked Kevin up off the ground.


“Get out of here,” Gary told him gruffly right to his face. “I’d better not see you again.”


Kevin stared at Gary with a blank look. Glancing at me, he spun around and ran off, not saying a word.


“Who was that guy?” James asked me, slumping over as his tiredness caught up to him, “and what was with his … STUFF he was using?”


“I’m not sure,” I replied, “but … I think ….”


“Let’s get outta here first,” said Gary. “We’ve drawn way too much attention.”


The three of us hurried off as fast as we could. I had no idea what was going on or where we were going, but at least there was something I understood above all else: Kevin had failed his objective, whatever it was. Considering the effort he had used to force my cooperation, it was very possible that he’d be back eventually. Chills raced through me as I thought this.


“I have to tell you guys something,” I said as soon as we were alone in a dirty alleyway on the other side of the city. A rat was chewing on something, perched on a rail on a staircase, staring at us. I thought it was cute, but the oily fur was gross.


“Vision, right?” said Gary quietly. “The angel girl?”


I was a little surprised at first, but it wasn’t the first time we had shared visions.


“Yeah,” I replied.


“You saw it, too.” James scratched his beard with a concerned look on his face.


“We’ve never seen this one before,” said Gary.


“I have,” I said. “I’m not sure when, but I know I’ve seen this vision before. Kinda like déjà vu.”


“The angel?” Gary asked, looking at me directly.


“You know who it looked like?” James asked me. He looked at me intensely. “Gary and I think we know.”


I thought about it for a second before replying.


“Me.”


“Or Anna,” said Gary quietly.


“Well, Krystal looks like Anna,” James added, “but yeah, that’s what we saw.”


Gary didn’t say anything. The rat finished what it was eating and scampered away. I wiped my mouth with my hand and looked at the smeared blood.


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