“Phew, glad he’s finally gone. That guy talks way too much!” Brandon walked over to Adam and Emma, starting to laugh. Adam’s gloomy expression ended this quickly.
“Brandon, why would you… Why did you do that?”
“I already said! Didn’t you hear!? I want to learn more, and I think it would be the best place to do so!” Brandon patted Adam’s shoulder, walking by him.
“I’ll talk to you more about it later, okay? Relax for right now. You’ve got a lot you have to do starting tonight.”
Before Adam could say anything, Brandon walked by him and approached Emma.
“Hey, uh… So, I need to apologize.”
Emma looked at him, curiously. “What for?”
Brandon hesitated for a moment. “Well… I know about your back.”
“I mean, who doesn’t? I’ve told you guys all about it before. I was in the freaking hospital for months as a kid after all.”
“I mean, yeah. But…” Brandon sighed. “I know a lot of the details. It was kinda an accident how I found out… So I’m sorry about that. But I do know that electricity messes with you. And I ended up using my Ability like that with you nearby. So, I’m sorry if it hurt you.” He chuckled. “I guess it’s a good thing I’m going to Unity, huh? This Ability won’t mess with you whenever I use it.”
“I…” Emma tried to think of a response, but could not. “I… T-Thanks for sticking up for me. I was kind of scared after he heard me. But you and Adam sticking up for me… It made me feels safe.” She turned away.
“So, thanks! And… whatnot.” Emma pulled out her phone. “I gotta update my sis on everything—unless you want to do that, Mom—”
As Emma looked back, she and Brandon watched as Pam embraced Adam without hesitation.
“I’m… I’m so sorry, Adam…” Tears were falling rapidly from Pam’s face. “I swore to myself that I would protect you… as if you were my own child. But I couldn’t do anything but stand there! Why… after all of this time… am I—”
“Pam—” Adam calmly pushed Pam away from him. “It’s not your fault. I’m an adult now. I knew the risks, and it was my fault I lost my cool. Now, I’m being punished for it. Although, this honestly what was going to end up happening anyway.”
“But…” Pam tried to dry her eyes. “I don’t want you to be alone… with whatever you do. This is what Rizzo does. He plays these games. I think he believes forcing you to be by yourself would hinder your growth, so you wouldn’t become a threat to him. I doubt he actually does want you to grow.”
“It’ll be okay either way,” Adam reassured her. “And besides… Do you honestly think I’m going to listen to him? I’m not going to be alone.” He stepped a few feet away from the group, looking off toward the woods.
“I’m tired of that. I’ve put myself in a situation where I had nobody beside me before… and you think I’m gonna let someone else force that upon me? Hell no. But don’t worry, none of you guys will get involved.” He turned back to them, giving a wink and a cocky smirk in Brandon’s direction.
“After all, he specifically said that I can’t be with any living human being.”
Brandon had no clue what Adam meant, along with everyone else. A few seconds later, it hit him.
“Oh! Oh, you’re right! Haha! Take that, rules!”
Pam, Emma, and Thomas were clueless as to what the two were talking about. Adam approached the teary-eyed woman, giving her a confident smile.
“I’m going to put an end to all of this.”
Pam could not believe what Adam had just said, for the words matched ones that a young girl had told her once before.
“I’m going to put an end to all of this.”
She could not help the tears that had started to form once more.
“Becca… Your will is still here, isn’t it?”
Thomas gave Pam a pat on the head, then turned to Adam. “That’s great and everything. But, kid, how are you going to do that with a missing hand?”
“Huh?” It took Adam a second to realize what Thomas was referring to. A quick glance down his right arm made him understand.
“Oh.” The World Mirror’s aura formed around the stub. A few seconds later, Adam’s hand had begun to reconstruct itself.
“Woah, you can heal yourself!?” Emma watched the event in awe. “What even is this Ability?”
“It’s called the World Mirror,” Adam answered. “It’s got a lot more to it then one would think.”
Thomas analyzed the Ability carefully. “It’s true. After all, Abilities are always phantonic based. And they determined that it’s not. Just what is it?”
“That’s one thing I’m trying to find out.” Adam stretched out the hand that had finished forming. “It’s related to the Ouderkirk Royal Family in some way, though.”
“What?” Pam could not hide the concern in her voice. “How do you know that?”
Adam sighed. “Charlotte’s an Ouderkirk. She doesn’t have memories aside from knowing the World Mirror’s important for something. Oh, and she’s also a ghost by the way.”
The group was speechless. Adam walked over to Brandon and flicked his forehead. “Come on. Before we do anything else, I’m hungry. Let’s go to Mona’s. I’m getting myself an applesauce burger.”
As Adam started to walk off, Brandon looked at the others and shrugged. He then followed close behind.
“You know, I keep telling you that thing is disgusting! Even the people working there give you a weird look when you order it!”
“Well, maybe they shouldn't have it on the menu, then.”
Emma ran up to her mother, squeezing her tightly.
“Come on, mom. Let’s leave those two weirdos to their thing for now. How about some coffee?”
Pam let out a long sigh. “Yeah… Yeah. I think I need one right now. Want some, Tom?”
Thomas nodded nonchalantly. “Sure. Even I’m burnt out from all of this.”
Carl’s eyes opened, staring at the stained gray ceiling above him. He sat up, the creaking of his worn out bed echoing through the almost empty room.
“Glad to see you awake, Carl.”
Carl looked off to his right, where there was a tiny wooden table. There, a man sat in the shadows, moving a glass of whiskey around in his hand; the ice’s clatter was the only noise at that moment.
“Oh, hey. I’m hoping it went well?”
“Yeah.” The man sat the glass on the table. “He was able to siphon the Ouderkirk girl’s power from what was left in your body. It worked.”
“Oh?” Carl grinned. “Excellent. So that test wasn’t in vain after all.”
“That’s right. In fact, it was good that things ended up this way. That creature you created would have never found the seal.”
“Oh? Yeah yeah yeah? Interesting! We finally found it?”
Carl could hear a small chuckle come from the man. “Yes. Although, it was where we originally thought it was all along.”
“Is that right?” Carl started to laugh. “After all that testing we did! That sure is remarkable! Although, this does raise the question…” He stood up from the bed and began to pace around the room.
“What exactly were we catching on the radar, then?”
“That’s still an important piece. I believe it to be a sort of key that we need for the seal. Seeing as though even between myself and Jason, we were unable to crack it open.”
“A key that moves around? Who exactly created this seal in the first place?”
There was a moment of silence, to the point where it almost became awkward.
“A powerful man. One that we still don’t have a chance against. Which is why we need this power.”
Carl chuckled. “Works for me. I’m just here to learn everything I can. I have no limits to the knowledge I want to obtain. See what I did to my body? I’ll do anything for the truth!”
“The truth, huh?” The man picked up the glass of whiskey, hesitated, then took a sip.
“The truth is something nobody should really strive for. It’s not worth it.”
“I can’t believe you two!” Charlotte was wagging her finger rather violently toward Adam and Brandon. “We’ve been trying so hard to keep these things a secret, and you two just go and reveal it all like that!?”
“Well, to be fair—” Adam caught Charlotte’s finger. “You also revealed yourself to people last night as well.”
“That was different! People were in danger! That wasn’t the case for you! You just had to keep your cool, and you wouldn’t be in this situation!” Charlotte sighed, taking her finger back from Adam.
“...From what you said though, I see why you did it. It still sucks.”
Brandon cautiously tiptoed forward. “Glad to see you full of energy. You looked as though you were going to die on us earlier—oh, wait… Yeah. You’re already—”
“Brandon. Are you sure you want to join Unity?” Charlotte asked with slight worry. “You know what goes on there…”
“I know.” Brandon scratched his head. “But, to be honest… As we trained these last few weeks, it wasn’t really doing much for me. It just felt like extreme exercise. I didn’t get any closer to learning more about my Ability or how it works. If I go to Unity, where they’re experts… Well, hopefully, that’ll help.”
Charlotte frowned. “I just wish I remembered more… Maybe I would have been able to teach you properly.”
“Don’t worry about it! One of the reasons we’re doing all of this, to begin with, is to figure out your memories. It’s all good.”
The three heard a cough come from the kitchen. Jerry stood in front of Adam’s stove, mixing up some food in a pot. The smell of meat and spices and started to fill up the house.
“Not much of this is good, Brandon. Now, before the others get here, and before this beef stew is done…” Jerry sat the spoon he was using to stir the food down on the counter. “Adam, here’s my gift to you.”
Adam reached out his hand as Jerry handed him what appeared to be a flash drive. It was silver in color and didn’t seem like something that would be too expensive to purchase.
“What’s on it? Did you find out anything?”
“I did not.” Jerry sounded frustrated. “It turned out that I certainly could have hacked into things very easily. Yet, I would have been caught. What you have right there is a little thing I created. I call it a ‘god drive.’”
“Uh, all right.” Adam analyzed the device more, attempting to figure out what was so “godly” about it. “What’s it for, though?”
“It’s just a simple flash drive on the outside. However, I added my own personal touch to how it can work. If you plug that sucker into any computer, it can rip the data right out of it without an issue. That’s what we need to do. It’s too difficult to gain the data wirelessly, but if we use that right at the source, it’ll give us everything.”
Brandon took the god drive out of Adam’s hand to look at it. “How the hell did you get it to do that?”
“You really think you can understand, even if I explain it to you?”
Brandon sighed. “Fair enough.”
“Anyway. I’m sorry this is all I can do…” Jerry started to tap the counter in an agitated manner. “I don’t know enough. If I had the proper knowledge, you wouldn’t have to dive right into enemy territory. But, this is the only way at the moment.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Adam put his hand on Jerry’s shoulder. “You’re still going to college, I’m assuming? You’ll absorb all that clever stuff quickly.”
“Yeah… There are areas I really need to work on. I realized that as the process kept taking longer and longer.”
“See, Adam?” Brandon wrapped his arm around Jerry. “He and I both have to work on our own thing. But we’re not abandoning you for a second! We’ll be back stronger and smarter than ever before!”
“That reminds me—” Jerry calmly moved Brandon’s arm off of him. “You’ve gotta talk to your dad about all of this. He assumes you’re still going to New Age with that soccer scholarship.”
“Yeah, please don’t remind me.” Brandon groaned. “And what I’m planning on actually doing isn’t gonna help the situation. But—that’s all right. I’ll get it to work. Oh, right—” He turned to Adam. “I’m assuming Rizzo’s not gonna allow you to attend classes while this whole thing’s happening?”
“I wasn’t planning on it anyway,” Adam responded. “I’ve got a cool superpower, and I’m teaming up with a ghost to conquer evil. Pretty sure school isn’t as important right now.”
“That’s right—” Charlotte walked up to Adam. “I’ll be there for you. Whatever direction you end up going, I’ll follow.”
“You know, that is a good point.” Adam looked at Jerry. “Where should I even go to obtain this information? Somewhere in Nexus?”
“Nah, that’s too risky. Nexus City is pretty high-tech when it comes to security. However, you may have a good source in Minuet.”
“That close?” Adam put his hand on his chin. “Where in Minuet exactly?”
“The library.” Jerry picked up the spoon and checked on the stew. “Our high school simply connected to Minuet’s library through that underground tunnel, to save them from building a library of their own. However, what I did end up finding out through my digging…” He reached into his pocket and took out his phone. After some swiping, he showed the others a map that seemed to show multiple pathways.
“You wouldn’t need an underground map this convoluted for one simple tunnel. There’s more down there. And it’s being covered up. Whenever I tried to look into it, the information definitely meant to lead me away from it. I feel like it could be something to investigate.”
“I mean, sure, it sounds interesting. But even if there is some sort of information source down there, would it have stuff we actually need?” Adam asked.
“I have a feeling it very well could. You know what happened right next to Minuet all those years ago, right?”
“Of course I do. The incident with the Fisher family?” Adam paused. “...It’s where my mom lost her life, after all.”
“Yeah… Unity fought so hard and investigated for so long after the fact. Information wasn’t as easy to move around two decades ago, even with phantonic technology starting to boom. They had to have a base of operations close enough to the site where they could work easily. No public records ever state where that was, so… This is my theory of where it could be.”
“Right. Pam didn’t want anything to do with the case after it happened, so she wouldn’t know. Besides, I’m ‘supposed to do this without help,’ so I can’t ask her. Rizzo could find out if I did.”
Jerry looked on the counter, picked up a bottle of spices, and poured some into the stew. “I’ll do my best to avoid Rizzo’s eye, cause I want to see the data you hopefully end up obtaining. I’ve also… been really curious about something.”
Jerry stirred the stew slowly before putting the top on the huge pot. “The guys you encountered… They had some really state-of-the-art tech on them. And after what I heard today… I’m really concerned. They could track your power, Adam. Remember? That’s how they found you in the first place. And seeing as though your Ability isn’t phantonic based… Just what kind of technology do they have on their side?”
“That’s true…” Adam sat down on the couch, stretching out. “I’m gonna have to watch out for those guys as well. After last night, they’re definitely trying to do something.”
Adam felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He took it out to see what he had received. It was from Faith.
“Win and I are all good. We’re about to head back. I heard Jerry’s making stew? I can’t wait! But… Yeah. I heard everything for Em. We need to talk later, please.”
“Uh oh, that’s not good,” Brandon said, gazing at Adam’s phone from the other side of the couch. “Whenever a girl says ‘we need to talk’ it doesn’t end well.”
“Well, obviously there are things we have to talk about, after what happened today.” Adam attempted to shoo Brandon away. “And don’t look at my phone. I might have secret stuff on here.”
“Huh? What would you have to hide?” Brandon suddenly gasped. “Does she send you nudes!?”
Adam poked Brandon’s face to shut him up. Charlotte grabbed Brandon by the neck, pretending to choke him.
“Cold, cold, cold—”
“Adam, is that what we’re going to try first? Seeing if there’s anything in Minuet? Once you leave tomorrow, my advice is getting started right away.” Charlotte let go of Brandon, whose teeth were starting to chatter.
“That’s probably our best bet. I don’t have enough control over the World Mirror yet as to where I can move as freely as I want to. Along with that… If I do get caught, I’ll probably get the normal punishment of trying to, you know, break in somewhere to steal something. Considering this top-secret info as well, it’s not gonna be a pretty sentence.”
Brandon shrugged. “I mean, the law says you’re supposed to join Unity if you have an Ability, right? And you’re already not doing that, so might as well go break other laws!” He laughed sarcastically. “That’s not good advice… But anyway. Do you think Rizzo has ulterior motives for forcing you to do this?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Adam responded bluntly. “Although it could be a valid argument that my Ability could mess with the development of others, I know there’s something more. Could…” He paused. “...Could he know about what happened to me? Like… how being alone can mess me up?”
“I’ll go kick his ass right now!” Brandon cracked his knuckles. Charlotte held his shoulder to calm him down.
Adam held his chin. "And it's just a hunch, but Rizzo was acting like... someone else was with him? Someone we couldn't see? That's how it seemed."
"Huh?" Brandon asked incredibly confused as he didn't notice anything.
"Just... I don't know. Something to think about."
Jerry walked over to his laptop on the nearby chair and picked it up, flopping down on the seat. “Stew just needs a few more minutes. And, yeah. Anything that seems suspicious, we should investigate. I'm not sure how we'd investigate something like that at the moment. This situation is odd, to say the least... I wouldn’t drop your guard for a second, Adam. Actually, that goes for all of us. Anyone connected to Adam could be used to Rizzo’s advantage. This all… seems like some strange game to me.”
Brandon smirked. “Well, good thing I’m good at games!”
“I think it’s more serious than that, Brandon.” Adam sighed. “...Look. I’m sorry, guys. For getting you dragged into this.”
“Don’t be,” Brandon reassured Adam. “It was my decision to show Rizzo my Ability in the first place. I got myself wrapped up in this, to be honest.”
“I think it’s a good thing you did,” Jerry stated. “I feel like those of us close to Adam, who don’t have any ‘value’ in Rizzo’s eyes would be in more danger. With an Ability, you’re more valuable. Luckily, or unluckily, I know Rizzo. He’s aware of my talents with phantonics, and even said I’d be instrumental some day. I think I’m okay? Let’s hope.”
Charlotte started to walk toward the door. “Adam, I took some of the money I gave you. I’m going to head to the store and get some supplies I think we may need. Just relax for now. I’ll be back in a few.”
“Oh, all right?” Adam leaned over the couch to look at her. “You’re actually gonna go to Ann’s though—”
Before he could finish his question, Charlotte had walked right through the door.
Brandon walked up to the door, trying to figure out how exactly Charlotte pulls off her ghostly powers.
“Hey. Do you think she even knows how to use a doorknob?”
A few minutes later, Adam sat on his bed. He was going through various things that he had found under the bed. The envelope that Pam gave to him had already been placed in a backpack he was preparing.
Jerry peered around the doorway, knocking on the wall. “Stew’s all ready. I know you just went to Mona’s, but feel free to come get a bowl.”
“I’ll be out there in a few.” Adam gave Jerry’s a smile and a nod. As Jerry left, his expression grew gloomy.
“Can… Can I do this? Just up and leave? Everyone had just re-joined my life recently, and already I’m abandoning them. What is Rizzo going to end up doing? Not just with me, but with them. I can’t let him hurt them…! But… How can I stop him?”
Adam held his head in frustration, feeling a headache come on.
“I should rest, but I don’t have time for that right now! What do I do!?”
He glanced at the doorway, where Faith stood. She gave him a warm, gentle smile. Although—he could see the concern in her eyes.