Read Family Online

Authors: Robert J. Crane

Family (2 page)

BOOK: Family
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“Your father would understand,” she said, acknowledging the man even existed for only the second time since I’d known her. “This – all of this – it’s for your own—”

“You don’t care anything about my good,” I said sullenly, and stared back at her eyes. “You don’t care about me at all.”

She stared at me again, a long, uninterrupted silence between us, and I thought I caught just a waver, that certain something in her eyes, as it threatened to break loose. But after a moment it was gone, replaced by the implacable look of Mother, just as she was every time I went in – undeterred. “It’d be easier to think that’s true,” she said, voice husky. “But if it was, I’d let you out. You need to learn. Following the rules will save your life. Discipline will save your life.”

Her fingers came up and I saw them move through the slot, and it started to slide closed as I held myself together for only the seconds before it was shut, leaving the darkness to surround me. I began to sob, slowly at first, as one made its way out, then another, and another as I started to break down, great heaving emotions causing me to lay my back against the wall of the box and slide down, my arms wrapped around my knees as I sat in the darkness, alone – just like always.


Chapter 2




The rocket-propelled grenade hit our car with the force of a sledgehammer against an egg, waking me out of a sound sleep. We had been on our way back from Eagle River, Wisconsin, and I had fallen asleep. It had been a long day – and night, and several more of those before this one. I don’t know when I had passed out, but I knew that most of the sleep I’d had over the last few days had taken place in hotel rooms and cars, and I was lucky that I had abilities to heal that were above normal humans, because otherwise I would have had a permanent crick in my neck.

I felt the shock of the explosion reverberate through my head as the car, already swerving, was lifted from the ground and went into a sideways roll. I felt my body jerk to the side, my head hitting the window it had been resting against, breaking it as the roof crumpled above me as it hit the road.

Everything seemed to be at half speed, as though I could see the fragments of glass rush in front of my eyes in slow motion, pelting Andromeda, who sat next to me, and Scott Byerly, who was in the seat beside her at the other window. I saw Zack and Kurt in front of us, their heads jerked to the right by the motion of the car flipping, Zack’s hands still anchored on the steering wheel.

The car came upright again, all four tires exploding from the force of our landing. My seatbelt held me tight, snug against the soft leather interior, and my head smacked the headrest. When I blinked away the feeling of disorientation, I realized that the front of the car was smoking at the hood, and the windshield was broken, only shards left, like little pebbles all stacked together around the edges of the window.

It was Scott who spoke first, bleariness heavy in his voice. “What. The. Hell. Did we just set a record by hitting the world’s largest roadkill?”

I felt a stinging pain on my forehead, and when my hand reached up, I felt sticky blood, and my fingers came away with crimson adhering to the whorls of my fingerprints. “Roadkill doesn’t explode when you hit it,” I said. “That was an RPG.”

“Again?” Scott asked. “How many is that today?”

“Don’t stop to count now,” I said, fumbling for my seatbelt. “I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself when you should be fleeing for your life.”

“Do you…ever…” Kurt was talking from in front of me, but his voice was a rasp. “Just…get serious…for a minute?” I released my seatbelt and leaned forward, looking over the seat, which was tilted at a funny angle. Kurt was arched forward, pinned against the dash, and blood was running out of his mouth. His airbag had deployed but had already deflated, looking like a used white t-shirt that hung from above the glove box, and he was mashed against it.

“Never,” I said, and clicked the release for his seatbelt. There was smoke in the air, a chemical aroma that made me want to gag. And something else, too, as I turned my head to look at Zack. “Are you okay?”

“Who, me?” He shook his head, and slapped at his airbag, which was still inflated. “My car just got hit by rocket fire on a rural Wisconsin highway. I’m pretty damned far from okay.” His hands ran along the length of his body, as though he were checking for injuries. “But I think I’m uninjured, for the most part.” He kicked his door open and started to get out.

“I am also fine,” I heard Andromeda say behind me. “But the one behind me did not fare quite so well.” I looked back at Andromeda, wondering what she meant by that. Her sandy hair looked different than when I had met her, now that it was dry. She wore a tourist T-shirt that we had bought in Eagle River that had the name of the town etched on it along with a picturesque landscape reflective of that area of the northwoods, along with sweat pants.

I realized after a moment what she meant, and I cringed. “Scott, check on Reed.” I saw the blond man nod, and then lean over the seat to get to Reed, who had been sitting in the hatchback when we flipped.

“Not good,” Scott said as I tried to open my door and failed. “He’s hurt pretty bad.”

I breathed a curse, then kicked the door open, breaking it free of its hinges and sending it skidding across the pavement. I heard a noise in the distance, over the crackling of the flames that were beginning to grow under the hood of the car, a slow, steady, repetitive noise that sounded like the humming of tires against pavement when you’re in a car driving down the highway.

I knew, though, when I stepped out of the car, that it wasn’t that. The cadence was too high; it was cycling far too fast to be anything of that sort. It was something else, something that spun at a much faster rate than tires, something that was disturbing the air around it rather than beating against unrelenting asphalt. A helicopter overflew us, one of the old Hueys like the ones from Vietnam war movies, and it settled into a slow descent only a hundred yards in front of us.

The highway we had been on had two lanes, with woods running along either side past the small ditches that were placed below the sides of the road to catch runoff. There were buildings a mile behind us, a small town built on the highway, and there were a few mailboxes spaced out on the shoulder. One was only fifty feet from where I stood. “Mailboxes mean houses,” I said under my breath.

“They are no safe haven,” Andromeda said, slipping out of the car behind me to take up position at my side.

“We need to get these guys out of here,” I told her as I watched the helicopter continue its descent; the only thing slowing it was the power lines that ran along either side of the road. “Any house will do for now; at least it’s cover.”

Scott came around the crumpled side of the car, Reed on his back in a fireman’s carry. He passed the side where black paint was so streaked with gray scratches that the steel peeked out from underneath. It looked like it had been keyed by the most pissed-off ex-girlfriend ever. “They’ve got RPGs and no reluctance to use them; I expect they’ll blow the roof off a house in short order.”

I looked at him for only a second as I ripped Kurt’s door off. “Are you sure you should be moving him like this?”

Scott tried to shrug, a vain effort given Reed was draped over his shoulders. “Move them or leave them for the guys with guns and rockets.”

“They will not show mercy,” Andromeda said. “They have none in them.” Her brown eyes were distant, and I followed them along a line to the helicopter, which had landed and was starting to deploy men in black, at least six of them, their dark outfits making them look like ninjas, covered from head to toe as they were. Cars were backing up behind the helicopter, a small traffic jam forming thanks to their deployment.

“Sienna’s right. We go for cover and worry about how flimsy it is afterward,” Zack said, startling me as he came around the front of the car, speaking to me through the flames on the engine. The air was filling with acrid smoke, causing me to gag from the smell of it. He chucked his thumb at the military-style team that had begun to move toward us. “We’re not going to get help from the Directorate for a while, so we need to move.” He pulled his pistol and extended it in the direction of our attackers, who were closing. “No time for debate.”

“What about Jackson and Hodgkins?” Scott asked, referring to the agents that had been riding with us until we had gotten to Wausau, where we had dropped them off to rent a car.

“Probably an hour behind us,” Zack said. “Ariadne gave us orders to floor it to get home; they were supposed to obey the speed limits.”

“Kurt,” I said, changing the subject. “He’s hurt bad, but I can free him if you give me a few minutes.”

“No time,” Zack said, and gave me a gentle push. “We go now without him or we all die.”

“Did you call them?” Scott asked, already beginning to run toward the driveway, Reed across his shoulders. “Did you warn the Directorate?”

“I dialed their emergency number,” Zack said as we began a sprint toward the driveway. Behind us, I saw the black-clad men, goggles over their eyes. They moved quickly, for humans, but not so fast that I couldn’t outrun them.

“You think they’ll send M-Squad?” Every step Scott took stirred up dust and dirt as we left the pavement and the highway behind, the trees around us offering a sort of tunnel, lining both sides of the driveway. It felt like a perspective trick, elongating in front of me, stretching out into infinity, as though it would take forever to run it. We had left the fire behind us at the car, but it felt like it was still with us, the stinging smell, the heavy smokiness hanging in the air around me as I ran.

“Doubt it,” Zack said. “I think they’re still in Kansas. But maybe some agents.” He cursed as he hit a low hanging branch at the edge of the driveway. “Hopefully heavily armed!” He said the last words with emphasis, and when Scott shot him a look, he shrugged. “The line is still open; they can hear us at HQ.”

“Scott,” I said, and he slowed to look at me. “Zack’s not going to be able to keep up with us.” I felt my resolve harden. “We need to buy him some time.”

“How?” Scott shot back at me. “You want to try and stop some bullets with your face? Or did you forget you’re unarmed?”

“Yes,” I said, “I forgot that I’m unarmed. Can you try and stop them with your powers?”

“A torrent of water isn’t going to slow down a bullet. The only way I could slow them down is by surrendering and making them stop to fill me full of holes.”

“I like it,” Zack said. “It’s got just the air of desperation we’re looking for in a plan right now.”

The trees thinned ahead as we reached the end of the infinite driveway. The sun brightened overhead as we exploded from under the trees onto an open lawn. The green carpet of grass lay before us, leading to a house set off the driveway. Brown wood siding, a garage tucked neatly under the second floor, it was a rectangular box of a creation. I looked back to see the men in black entering the driveway. Their weapons were raised but they had yet to fire.

I ran, ran like hell, like I would have if Wolfe were nipping at my heels. The only thing holding me back from going all-out was the knowledge that I’d be leaving Zack behind to die, or worse, be scooped up by these Omega bastards and have who-knows-what happen to him. I saw blood staining the leg of his jeans, and it made me pause, slowing my run.

“Into the house?” Scott called back at me.

“Better ideas?” I asked, passing him as I ran up the three short wooden steps to the brown front door. “No? Breaking and entering it is, then.”

“Wait!” I heard Zack call as I kicked the door down open. He joined me on the front steps and I heard a little hiss beyond the panting from his run. “We need to be able to shut it,” he said.

The first of the shots whistled around me as I stepped to the side of the doorframe to let Scott pass. At least three bullets lodged themselves in the siding above my head, and another broke the glass peephole window of the door. “It’s still on the hinges. Get inside.”

I dodged in after Zack, slamming the door and leaning my back against it. Zack had dropped to one knee and was fiddling with the leg of his pants as I yanked open the door of the coat closet to the left of the entry. I grabbed a leather coat from inside and threw it over my uncovered shoulders, my tank top not exactly offering a lot of protection. For others. From my skin.

“They’ll surround the house,” Zack said, cringing, from the floor. He had lifted his pants leg and I saw blood, lots of it, more than just a superficial cut. I dropped to my knees next to him and his eyes found mine. “You need to get out of here before they do. You guys can get away if you run.”

“And leave you behind?” I said, forcing a smile. “I’m pretty sure I just got docked points in a training exercise a few days ago for not working with my team and leaving them behind.”

He frowned, and the soft light of the open curtains revealed more pain in his eyes, the skin wrinkled around them. I was reminded, again, of how handsome he was. Even when he ought to look like hell, he didn’t – he just looked good. “You left Kurt behind,” he said, but the words had no real sting to them.

“You told me we had no choice.” I heard someone slam into the door behind me; muffled shouts came from outside.

“You didn’t argue.”

I blinked away a little excess lubrication of my eyelids. “You’re not Kurt.”

“I can’t keep up, Sienna,” he said, and he let his hand brush my cheek. “They’re gonna surround the house and come in, and we’ve got one gun to stop them with. You’re all metas.” He pointed to Andromeda, then Scott, who was just beyond the living room, standing on the white linoleum in the kitchen. “Our pursuers are human. You can outrun them, easy.”

“Probably not their helicopter, though,” Scott said, looking around. “Whatever we’re going to do, we need to do fast.”

“We run,” I said, not breaking my eyes off Zack.

“Attagirl,” he said with quiet resignation. “Buy time for the Directorate to get here. Do what you have to do.”

BOOK: Family
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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