- 2016, Italy.
“Our target,” Leonard Hargraves faced his team in his human form, “is Freddie Sabino, alias Bloodstream.”
Pictures of the man that the Psycho used to be appeared on the screen, right next to the bloody abomination he had turned into. Short black hair, a tired face aged by stress, brown eyes… an unremarkable man for a terrible destiny.
“Born 1980 in Otranto, Italy, to a fisherman and a housewife, Freddie Sabino married young, dropped out of college when his girlfriend expected a child, and then joined the Otranto Polizia Municipale; the only job he ever had. His wife abandoned him for another man before Last Easter, leaving him to raise two young children alone. A daughter, Len—perhaps a shorthand for Lenora—and a son, Cesare.”
In short, there was nothing special about the man. If the apocalypse hadn’t happened, Freddie Sabino might have lived a normal life. Put money on the side, watched his kids go to college, perhaps marry again.
“Though the Alchemist sent Wonderboxes to families or isolated individuals, a few Elixirs ended up in the hands of law enforcement on Last Easter’s eve; usually because they were mistaken for drug batches or letter bombs. When the apocalypse began and Genomes rampaged in Otranto, Freddie Sabino stole two Elixirs from his police station and fled the city.”
They would never know to whom these Elixirs had been sent, before the police confiscated them. Perhaps if they had reached their intended owners, a great many tragedies could have been averted.
“We know Sabino was active as a Psycho as early as 2009.” Leo showed his team a phone picture of a bloody monster boarding a rusted car, alongside two children no older than twelve. “Reports indicated he has traveled with his children since the late 2000s, though his son was only confirmed as alive in 2012.”
Someone among the audience raised a gloved hand. Leo responded with a nod. “Yes?”
“Do the children have powers too?” Mr. Wave asked. The oddest member of the group, he was a creature of living wavelengths, and rarely took things seriously. “Mr. Wave is not going all out on kids, even if they’re Genomes.”
“The kids are powerless,” said Mathias Martel. The sixteen-year-old teen had insisted on joining the Carnival after his mother’s dementia, determined to complete her work. He had proved invaluable as an information gatherer, though not as much as Pythia.
Ace nodded with a dark look on her face. “He would have killed them if they were Genomes.”
“Nothing indicates that they are complicit in their father’s crimes,” Leo continued. “According to Pythia’s psyche report, Bloodstream remains violently protective of his children even in his current state. However, he also keeps them dependent on him through social isolation, gaslighting, and physical abuse.”
Leo had seen many similar cases in London; far too many. These fathers convinced their children the world was out to get them, and that they could only rely on their kin.
“We must ensure the children’s safety, especially that of Len Sabino, but I will come back to them in a few moments.” Leo continued his exposé on their target’s capabilities. “Bloodstream is a Green/Blue type. His Green power grants him complete control over his blood. He can reshape it into weapons, create tentacles, restructure his body. His Blue power turns him into pure information. It might have allowed him to enter computer systems, had he remained a pure Blue.”
It would have made him easier to kill.
“But as it is often the case with Psychos, his two powers mutated to form a unique synergy. Bloodstream became his blood, literally. Each of his blood cells hosts his consciousness, allowing him to reform as long as one remains. Nothing short of disintegration will slay him.”
“We need your flames,” the Cossack guessed.
Leonard nodded. “Which leads us to his ghastliest ability; the reason why he has remained undefeated for so long and accumulated a four-digit body count. If Bloodstream’s blood cells enter another human’s circulatory system, then he can take it over. Like a virus, he will overwrite foreign cells’ information with his own. Your DNA, your mind, your memories… If Bloodstream touches you, you are worse than dead.”
Leonard marked a short pause for emphasis.
“You are him.”
“What do you think?” Shortie asked, as she wiped sweat off her forehead. Her clothes had turned black and dirty, but she looked at her work with pride.
Standing on the boathouse’s pier at her side, Ryan didn’t share her enthusiasm. “That it will be a miracle if we reach Spain, let alone the USA.”
The boathouse smelled of rust and decaying paint, its ceiling threatening to fall apart any moment. The ten meter-long vessel floated in a water pond with direct access to the Tyrrhenian Sea, a pineapple-shaped, clunky mass of metal. The machine’s shape and rusty brown color scheme reminded Ryan of the Ictíneo II, one of the world’s earliest submarines.
It didn’t inspire confidence.
Len pinched him in the arm in response. “The Laika will work fine,” she said. “We’ll reach America in twelve days according to the autopilot.”
Ryan squinted at her with skepticism. “The Laika?”
“Like the dog the Russians sent to space.”
And they wanted to go to the USA? She would never fit in. “You do know she died midway through the mission, right? You’ve condemned us all!”
Len tried to pinch him in the arm again, but Ryan saw it coming. He dodged her vicious attack, and responded by grabbing her by the waist and treacherously kissing her on the neck. Her skin was soft to the touch, and she let out a cute gasp of surprise.
“Riri, not here,“ she whispered in protest, putting her hands on his own.
“Just a kiss,” Ryan asked, begged, his lips moving to her cheeks. “Come on, we deserve it. We’ve been working on this thing nonstop for weeks.”
“Riri, you’re insane…” Len whispered, but she didn’t fight him back either. Eventually, she gave in. “Okay, but five minutes tops.”
They made out for fifteen, her hand in his hair, his own on her back. Len tasted of oil and saltwater, but Ryan didn’t care. He wouldn’t have stopped for anything in the world. But like all good things, it was over too soon.
“That was foolish,” Len said while breaking the embrace, though her blushing cheeks disagreed.
If she had let him, Ryan wouldn’t have stopped at mere kisses.
Their first night together had been a logistical nightmare. First, they had to find pre-war pills which hadn’t expired, and unused condoms. Then they had to wait for her father to wander away, so he wouldn’t catch them in the act. When the right moment came, Ryan and Len realized they had no idea how to proceed. Nobody taught them the finer details, so their kisses and touches had been horribly clumsy.
But they figured it out. For a moment, Ryan and Len had been alone in the world. Two halves made one.
Ryan wouldn’t have stopped at one night, but her father never let them out of sight for long anymore. Not since the Carnival started hunting his clones. The two teens had to settle on furtive kisses and caresses, always fearing discovery.
The situation made Ryan die a little inside each day. Len’s father was always there. Always between them. Always ruining their chance at happiness. Always causing them trouble.
And now, that insane maniac had decided the ‘family’ would leave Europe altogether and migrate to America. What logical process Bloodstream went through to reach this idea, Ryan would never understand. But he didn’t leave his charges any choice.
Porto Venere had been a small coastal town before the apocalypse, a few colored houses built next to long piers. The locals had abandoned the place long before their group moved in. It was isolated enough that nobody would locate their hideout, but close enough to Genoa for supply runs.
Though Ryan himself was the only one who left the house nowadays. Shortie spent her time working on her submarine, while her father hid in their temporary home. The Carnival fell on them whenever Bloodstream went out in public, but Ryan could slip out unnoticed, if he took precautions.
“Can you bring back oranges and citruses, if you find any?” Len asked Ryan, as he prepared to leave the boathouse through a small door. “We risk scurvy with our current reserves.”
“I’ll do what I can,” he said, before freezing at his hand reached the door lock. “Hey, Shortie…”
“You said everything on the sub is automated? No manual controls?”
“Yeah,” she said with a sigh. “I can do a lot with my power, but scavenged boats aren’t the best source of materials available. I had to sacrifice some features to make the whole thing work.”
“What if we have a problem on the way?”
“Well, the sub will automatically redirect to the nearest shore. Hopefully, Dad will protect us in the meantime.”
Ryan looked over his shoulders, their eyes meeting. “It’s your dad I worry about.”
Len bit her lower lips, and crossed her arms. “Riri, I… my position hasn’t changed."
Ryan had tried to convince her to run away with him a dozen times already. To leave her father stranded on the shore while they fled across the sea. Bloodstream might have an uncanny ability to locate his daughter whenever she wandered off, but he couldn’t swim across the Atlantic either.
But Shortie wouldn’t listen. Ryan could argue and scream all he wanted, yet she remained stubborn as a mule. “They’ll keep coming after him,” he warned her. “As long as he lives, they will never let us go.”
“They won’t pursue us across the sea,” she replied stubbornly.
“I heard their leader, the Living Sun, can fly at supersonic speeds and even in space,” Ryan countered. “It will take us days to cross the ocean, and hours for him.”
“But they didn’t find us yet.” They had hidden well, true. “They can’t find us, Riri.”
She meant it as a statement, but it sounded like a fervent prayer instead.
Truthfully, Ryan wondered if it would be a bad thing if the Carnival cornered their ‘guardian’ and slew him for good. However, he was worried they wouldn’t stop at Bloodstream alone, since people had seen the family travel together. Ryan and Len might be flagged as the Psycho’s accomplices, and face the same punishment.
And yet, he couldn’t help but dream of a sun falling down on Bloodstream at night.
Ryan opened the door with a sigh, and moved through the rest of the building. He guessed it had been a boat club once, where rich people could store their ships, watch soccer on TV, and relax in restaurants.
His shrilling voice chilled Ryan to the bone, making the boy freeze in place.
The young teen followed the voice to the house’s dining room. Bloodstream slouched on a tattered sofa, right in front of the TV. This was the last clone, as far as Ryan could tell. The Carnival had hunted them so relentlessly, that the group had to flee civilization altogether.
“Come here,” the Psycho said, gesturing at a spot to his left. Ryan reluctantly obeyed, his kind and well-adjusted stepfather pointing at the TV. “It’s Power Rangers. You remember Power Rangers?”
The TV’s screen had long turned into shattered glass, but Ryan indulged the delusional Psycho. “I remember, Dad.”
“You were so obsessed with this series, that you always pestered me to buy you toys,” Bloodstream said, shaking his head. “I… I wish I had the money to back then. I really wanted to make you happy, Cesare.”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Ryan lied, going through the motions.
“No, it’s not okay,” he said, moving his head closer to his captive’s ear. “Your sister is sick, Cesare. She’s very sick.”
A shiver went down Ryan’s spine. “Len looks healthy to me,” he protested.
But the Psycho didn’t listen. “She’s sick, Cesare. All of us who took this poison, we’re all sick. The disease is in us. It drove the whole world mad. I think they put demons in these bottles. I know, because I dream of Hell.”
“You… you dream of Hell?”
“A Green Hell. I wander its wriggling womb at night. The floor pulsates like your heart, the walls have mouths and eyes. And the air… I feel a thousand microscopic flies move into my lungs as I breathe. Even the water looks back and speaks to me. Hell is alive, Cesare. It’s an infestation. Satan distributed these bottles to poison the whole human race with his brood.”
Ryan said nothing, knowing better than to talk back to Bloodstream while he was raving nonsense.
“You know what cancer is, Cesare? Your grandma died from it. It’s insidious, cancer. It grows inside of you, it intertwines with your organs like a tree’s roots in fertile soil. You have to be careful about removing it, or you destroy the whole garden.” Bloodstream patted his adoptive son’s shoulder, as if congratulating him for winning a soccer game. “I’ll find a way to operate on your sister one day. Make her healthy again. I’ll figure something out, don’t worry.”
Ryan remained still, clenching his fists. As he knew… it was only a matter of time before he looked at his own daughter for sustenance. The Psycho hadn’t fed in weeks, and his lucidity kept degrading.
“If you and your sister die, I don’t… I don’t know what I will do. I love you. I… love you both so much.”
Bloodstream started sobbing, holding his head in his hands. Ryan didn’t know how to react, so he said nothing.
“I’m sorry, Cesare,” Bloodstream said, the fluid making up his body shifting like a raging sea. “I’m sorry… I couldn’t… I just wanted to protect you both, and I… I ruined it all. Now Len is sick, and… and I’m sick too. I’m sick, Cesare.”
“It’s…” Ryan looked at this deluded, sobbing monster. He wanted to hate him, to strike him in return for the years of fear and abuse, but… but in that moment, he didn’t fear Bloodstream anymore.
He pitied the man inside.
“You’re all I’ve left,” he whimpered. “Your mother is gone. Our house is gone. I just… I don’t know what to do… that place, it’s calling me. One day… one day I won’t come back, and… your sister...”
“I…” Ryan winced in a mix of pity and disgust, a warm feeling filling his innards. He carefully raised a hand, putting it on the bloody monster’s shoulder. He was warm and slippery to the touch. “It’s okay. I’ll protect Len, I swear.”
The physical contact seemed to soothe Freddie Sabino, his outer layers becoming as peaceful as a Japanese pond. “I’m sure your mom is waiting for us on the other side of the ocean,” he said, with a shaking, hopeful voice. “She... she always wanted to go to L.A. She’s waiting for us there, you’ll see. We’ll start over. Make everything right.”
“Yeah,” Ryan lied. He felt like reassuring a child with cancer, telling him he would go to Heaven. “It will be alright, Dad.”
And for a brief moment, he believed it. Ryan lied to himself so well, that for a second, he thought Bloodstream could improve. That the man inside could reassert control; that Ryan could call himself Ryan, not Cesare; that he could marry Len, build a house near the sea, and raise children in peace. A simple dream, for a simple person.
The dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
Bloodstream looked at the broken TV, as if suddenly inspired. “If you die,” he said, his voice no longer shaking. “If you and your sister die... I’ll kill everyone.”
Bloodstream said that so softly, Ryan found it almost soothing.
And then the young teen understood the words, and they chilled him to the bone.
“I’ll kill everyone, and then I’ll kill myself,” Bloodstream continued, lost in his delirium. “A world where children can die… it’s just not worth existing. We’ll all be together on the other side. It can’t be hell if we’re all together, right?”
Bloodstream didn’t say a word after that confession. He spent his time on the sofa, looking at the shattered screen with a frightening intensity. A psychotic shooter mentally preparing himself for the crime.
And Ryan went right back to hating him.
He was angry at himself too, for pitying that monster even for a second. For thinking that things could turn around, making him forget all the horrors Bloodstream inflicted on his family and countless others. if there had been a man inside that bloody head of his, the monster had devoured him years ago.
Ryan hesitated for ten minutes to leave the house, worrying that he might return to find Len dead at her father’s hands. He always felt this way whenever he left these two alone. One day it would happen.
The fresh air outside didn’t bring him any comfort, as he walked towards his bike with a bag on his back. A thought gnawed the teen’s mind like a worm in an apple.
Len would never make it to America alive.
Ryan could feel it in his bones. The proximity, the isolation… her father would lose control. He would weep and regret, but he would do the terrible deed. If not during the trip itself, then on arrival.
He was a ticking time-bomb, and one day he would go off.
Bloodstream had to die. For Len’s good, and everyone else’s.
Ryan opened his bag, and examined the Violet Elixir he always kept inside. Thankfully, Bloodstream only detected Elixirs inside Genomes’ blood; but that meant he would know the second his adoptive son used the potion on himself.
The liquid swirled inside the syringe as if alive, a promise of power and freedom. Perhaps it could give Ryan a power stronger than Bloodstream’s? Unlikely, but… what else could he do?
A second sun flew across the skies, answering his prayers.
The Carnival’s screen shifted to a graphic representation of the possession process. A drop of blood infected an adult man, spreading through his veins like an infection, devouring the organs from within.
The skin soon ruptured to let the lifeblood out, and Bloodstream was born again.
“He will infect your blood like a virus and restructure your body into a clone of himself. In fact, we believe he did it so often that his current body isn’t the original one.” A tense silence followed Leo’s explanations, as his team digested the information. “All his copies share his powers and form a loose hive mind, like a larger body’s cells.”
“So if Mr. Wave kills half of them at once, the other half will fear him?” The boastful Genome slouched on his chair. “This is Mechron all over again.”
“Not quite, but close,” Leo confirmed. “To get rid of him, we must destroy all his copies and leave nothing behind. Not even a droplet. Each time we ambush a clone, I will incinerate it and Stitch will sterilize the area afterward. Fortunately, Bloodstream is a lone wolf Psycho. Unlike people like Adam the Ogre, he lacks a support network.”
“He is a pack of his own,” the Cossack said.
“Yes, and his clones never moved more than one mile from each other, perhaps to maintain their hive mind. If we isolate Bloodstream’s doubles from bystanders, we can eliminate them one by one. Like a scalpel cutting out a tumor before it can proliferate.”
“Do we know where they are?” Ace asked. “I didn’t find any intel in Pythia’s data.”
Mathias nodded, having successfully followed their trail. “The family travels across Italy in an irregular pattern and never stays in the same place for long, but they were last sighted near the Alps.”
“Once we engage, we must pursue Bloodstream relentlessly and keep him away from populated areas,” Leonard said.
“Does his power have any limit?” Ace turned to face Stitch. “Did you finish examining the biological samples we could find?”
“I did,” the plague doctor confirmed with a nod. “I was waiting for this meeting to fact check the intelligence our leader had gathered.”
Leonard smiled. Though the Carnival was a tight-knit group, they operated in individual cells and only gathered in one place for debriefings or large operations. This structure allowed each member a great deal of flexibility, and made the group highly resilient. Members might die, but someone would always survive to revive the Carnival.
“First of all, he can only control his own blood,” Leonard explained, showing pictures of Bloodstream bisecting an Augusti Genome with a crimson, crystallized axe. “He cannot telekinetically control your blood, unless he infects you first. Neither can he generate mass out of thin air, which is why he needs hosts to duplicate himself.”
“No voodoo doll mumbo-jumbo then?” Mr. Wave asked. “Mr. Wave hates those.”
“I had enough with Manic Plague,” Ace agreed with a shrug.
“Next, he can only manage a few clones at a time, with a highest recorded peak of ten doubles. If they break that limit, the clones start absorbing each other to reduce their numbers, probably to reduce the risk of them developing individual thoughts. He can only affect humans, so—”
Stitch raised his hand.
“Sir, with all due respect,” the doctor coughed. “You are wrong.”
Len was selecting which books to bring with her to the sub, when the explosion resonated outside.
The whole boathouse trembled, a metal panel falling on the Laika and bouncing off its hull. The Genius stumbled and lost her grip on her books. Some safely fell on the pier, but her copy of Lenin’s The State and Revolution sank into the pond, to her horror.
“What’s happening?!” Her father didn’t answer. A smell of smoke and flames came from the sea, carried inside the boathouse by the wind. “Dad? Dad?”
Someone opened the boathouse’s door with a backpack full of canned food.
“Riri?” He looked exhausted, as if he had run for miles. “Riri, what’s happening?”
“We have to go,” he said, catching his breath. “They’re here. The Carnival.”
Her worst fear had come to pass.
Another explosion echoed in the distance, like a bombardment. It’s his last body, Len realized in panic. If they kill him now… “Dad—”
“Is delaying them,” Ryan said, grabbing her books off the floor. “We have to go.”
“Go? Go where?”
The Genius looked into her boyfriend’s eyes, and she understood.
“No,” Len said. “Maybe Dad will beat them.”
Many tried to kill him, but he had never lost. Her father always came back, always beat the odds. He had fought the Augusti, raiders, and heroes, and he defeated them all. The Carnival would fail like the others.
“We have to run, Shortie. They’re too numerous, your father can’t beat them all.” Ryan leapt on the sub, carefully moving towards the hatch. “Activate the sub, your dad will catch up to us in minutes.”
Len wanted to protest further, but the sheer panic in his voice convinced her. She followed her boyfriend, opening the hatch and slipping together inside the sub.
It was a cramped place, with only three rooms: one at the back for the machinery, one for stockpiled supplies, and the living space. Len had sacrificed space for efficiency, keeping only a bunk bed next to a small porthole and the sub’s control panel. It had taken them days to find a computer to scavenge for the screen and keyboard.
“How did they find us?” Len asked, typing on the computer while Ryan put her books and his food in the storage room. “Did they follow you?”
“I wasn’t careful.”
Something in his unapologetic tone made her pause. She interrupted her work to look at him, and immediately saw the guilt in his gaze.
“You didn’t care to hide,” Len accused him. “You led them here.”
He didn’t even deny it.
He… no, he could… he couldn’t have… “Riri…”
“Len, your father is sick,” he said, his gaze firm. “He’s sick in the head.”
“I know,” she hissed, grinding her teeth, “I know that, but—”
“But nothing,” Ryan interrupted her. “If we don’t flee, he’ll kill us. He’ll kill you.”
“He won’t,” she protested, though some part of her wasn’t so sure. “We… Riri, I had my Elixir for weeks, and he never…”
“Not yet,” Ryan said, a dark look on his face. “Not yet is not never, Shortie.”
“So you will let him die?” Len trembled with rage. “You will strand him on the shore, and let the Carnival slay him?”
“Len, I…” Ryan tried to find his words. “We don’t need him. I can make you happy, Len. We can start again, just the two of us.”
“How?” she asked, shaking her head. “We can’t defend ourselves.”
“You’re a Genius, and I have my Elixir. We can take care of ourselves.”
“This is madness!”
“This whole plan was madness from the start, but that’s the best we have.” His hands reached for her. “Len—”
“Don’t touch me!” Len hissed, her back against the porthole. Ryan froze, her rejection hurting him as much as it hurt her. “Why? Why?”
“For us!” he snapped. “For us!”
“For you!” Tears formed in her eyes. “You want me all for yourself.”
“I want you alive!”
His words made her flinch, as if he had slapped her.
She looked at Ryan’s eyes, and saw the concern in them. She had been mistaken; he didn’t do it for himself, but for her.
He loved her, as much as she loved him.
A part of her wanted to do as he said. To drop everything and take that submarine to the sea. To go on an adventure around the world, just the two of them.
But each time… each time she looked at the monster her father had become, she remembered the kind man he had once been. How he always smiled at her and her brother, her real brother. How he was always there after Mom left, always consoling Len when she cried in her bed. Sometimes, the man reasserted himself, and in these brief moments, his daughter felt hope.
“Please, Ryan. I… as long as he’s alive… as long as he’s alive, there’s a chance he can heal.”
In spite of everything… In spite of everything, Len couldn’t bring herself to hate her father.
“Not without him,” Len said, avoiding his disappointed gaze. “I’m sorry, Riri… not without him.”
His intense, baleful stare made her shiver. His hands trembled, his teeth grinded together, his face twisted. Len saw the anger, the disappointment, the sadness, flash through his face.
And then came the resignation.
“Put on the autopilot,” Ryan said, while moving towards the hatch. “If we’re not back in twenty minutes, your father and I are dead.”
“Riri, if I put the autopilot on, I can’t disable it.”
“If you stay, they might kill you,” he said darkly, “They might kill us all, just to make sure Bloodstream is really gone.”
It was always the same pattern. When people failed to kill Len’s father, they came after Ryan and her. It was always their family against the world.
“Ryan,” Len whispered, as he was halfway through the open hatch.
“Ryan, please come back.”
He looked over his shoulder. “Live, Len,” he said before exiting the sub.
Len activated the autopilot, put on the timer, and waited.
Leo frowned. “What do you mean, his power has no upper limits?”
“After analyzing the samples we gathered, I confirm that our target is not limited to human hosts. Anything with a circulatory system can do, including the entire animal kingdom.” The doctor marked a short pause. “Nor does he seem biologically limited in the number of clones active at once. Both ‘restrictions,’ I’m afraid, are purely psychological.”
A shiver went down Leonard’s spine. He fought the urge to turn into a living sun again, to chase away the fear. If Stitch was correct, then…
“But why would he keep only a dozen doubles?” Mathias asked with skepticism. “Especially if they share a pseudo-hive mind? Why do they even attack each other? I could understand if each clone was independent, but...”
“Because he hates himself deep down,” the Cossack guessed laconically. “What he has become.”
A part of Freddie Sabino wished for death. His psychological traumas crippled his power, preventing him from making full use of his unlimited potential.
Ace exchanged a glance with Leonard, her face white as milk. She had understood the danger too. “Stitch, be honest,” she asked the doctor. “If he goes all out, what will happen?”
“He will become a pandemic,” Stitch confirmed. “Since he can infect others through blood projectiles, Sabino will devastate Italy within days unless quarantined. If he assimilates birds or fish, then the ‘Bloodstream plague’ could infect the entire Earth’s biosphere within months. Only Genomes with abnormal bodies like Augustus will survive.”
There it was. The extinction event Pythia warned them against.
Bloodstream wouldn’t just destroy all life on Earth; he would become life itself.
A deathly silence followed, quickly broken by the unflappable Cossack. “The trigger is his daughter’s death? Not the brother’s?”
“Pythia couldn’t explain it either,” Leonard confirmed. Her data only held broadstokes information. The future was ever-shifting, and other Genomes often interfered with her visions. “But if Len Sabino dies, her father will trigger an extinction event.”
“We can assume our target will lose all psychological restraints and go on a rampage,” Stitch explained.
“He will hate the world more than he hates himself,” Ace whispered sadly.
Stitch nodded in agreement. “And according to Pythia’s prophecy, Len Sabino will perish unless we intervene.”
The Cossack crossed his arms. “He has to die. No matter the cost.”
“No, not at any cost,” Mr. Wave protested. “No touching the children.”
“Besides sharing your moral concern, our only advantage over Bloodstream is that he doesn’t understand the full extent of his abilities,” Leo said. “We must slay all the clones in a short period, and move the children to safety. Ace, you will focus on evacuating the wounded to the infirmary. Stitch, Mathias, you stay in the reserve.”
Mathias Martel immediately protested. “But—”
“No buts, young man. Haven’t you heard? Your range is too short, and if he hits you once, it’s over.”
The battle was still ongoing when Ryan exited the boat club.
He didn’t have to look long to locate the battlefield; he just had to follow the smoke rising in the skies.
His plan had been simple. Take no precautions during the supply run, make sure the Carnival’s flyers noticed him, and let them follow him back to their hideout. Ryan worried they might have expected a trap if he approached them directly, but his scheme had worked like a charm.
At least, until now.
This plan was insane. Ryan knew it from the start. It was a hare-brained plot born out of frustration and desperation, one last attempt to get out of an impossible situation. But Len refused to budge, even after he forced her hand. And now, he had set the dominos, and couldn’t undo their fall.
This could only end in tears.
Ryan looked at his Elixir, at the strange power in a syringe. It had caused so much pain, and yet created so many wonders. Maybe Bloodstream had been right, and it was the Devil’s work. Maybe it was a gift of the heavens.
But whether it came from above or below, that substance was Ryan’s only hope.
He slammed the syringe into his arm, and prayed for a miracle.
The world turned purple, and Ryan ran.