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Flicker, Fade, Soar

Flicker

Fade

SOAR:

The story of a Superhero

By Zoe Wynns

To all those that wish to soar

I looked around our prison room. The walls were damp and smelled of mildew, and even if we got out of the cage, we probably couldn’t fit into the space between the cage and the edges of the room. I stuck my hand out from one of the iron bars and could barely touch the walls. There was no way anyone, even Ty or Etty, could squeeze out from them.

“So, how do we get out of here, fearless leader?” Ty squeaked to me.

Davies, who had been quiet since we got captured, said, “It’s obvious. We’re stuck down here. Never to get out or see daylight again.”

“Whoa, naysayer. Stop right there. We will get out. It’s just a matter of how,” Winnie told him.

But I couldn’t help silently agreeing with Davies.

“So… any ideas?” Cat asked us. “With all our brains together, I’m sure we can figure something out.”

“Right,” Josef muttered.

“Josef, you could maybe fireball the ceiling and the Flyers could fly us out,” suggested Winnie.

Josef tried. But we couldn’t see a single spark.

“Looks like Josef ruins all our hopes and dreams, again,” Lily said nastily.

We all settled ourselves into silent thinking. I tried to figure out a way to get out, but soon, I realized we were doomed.

But there was one prospect I hadn’t planned for.

These kids will have to be bold and smart if
they are to survive the challenges in store for them…
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Books by Zoe

Published in Shakespir (Thanks, Shakespir! You are amazing!)

Also read: Journey to the End by Zoe Wynns.

On Kindle Store.

Coming soon to IBook’s!

Copyright © 2016 by Zoe Wynns.

All rights reserved. Published on the IBook’s Store. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the permission of Zoe Wynns. All questions may be directed to [email protected] or [email protected].

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely coincidental.

Summary: Twelve-year old Rose disappears randomly, seemingly becoming invisible. Her parents decide to send her to a class called TOCS, where she learns that her fate is much more complicated than she ever dreamed. She meets new friends, learns what she can do, and even fights the greatest supervillain of all time! Read on to discover what happens to Rose and her friends.

I am thirteen years old. This is my second published book, and I am very excited about it. Please tell me if you find a grammatical or technical error, but know that I tried my best and I am very proud with the final product even though I know it isn’t perfect.

ENJOY!

EXCLUSIVE:

THE ELIAS PAGE!

At the very end of the story!

What was going on in Elias’s head during the story?

How did he feel about some of the choices Rose made?

Find out, but read the book first!

Print out this chart for reference during reading, or just have it here as a quick reminder throughout the story!

name age power position

Rose 12 Invisibility TOCS student

Lily 11 Emotionater TOCS student

Josef 12 Fireballer TOCS student

Jonah 10 Sparker TOCS student

Sandra 15 Glamour TOCS student

Ty 5 Twin-power TOCS student

Etty 5 Twin-power TOCS student

Winnie 10 Storm-maker TOCS student

Elias 12 Shrink/grower TOCS student

Cat 15 Mind-reader TOCS trainer

Ms. Walker 42 Healer TOCS leader/teacher

Nicole 12 Flyer Flying student

Davies 15 Flyer Flying student

Alexia 11 Telekinesis ??? (No Spoilers!)

Abomination ?? MANY Supervillain

Part One

Ugh. It had happened again. A disappearance.

One minute I was just fine. I was at my desk reading a new book that I was loving. It was easier to read than to talk to people, anyway. My mom had said she would come up to check on me and kiss me goodnight in a few minutes, and I was making the most of my time. I was on an exciting chapter. I gasped as the villain discovered the Super in his closet. I bit my nails as he tied her up and gagged her.

I fell out of my chair as an invisible force started punching me in the stomach.

Wait, that wasn’t part of my book. Darn, it was another disappearance. I groaned and curled up in a ball, trying to delay the inevitable.

My body started fading just like magic. Or, just like the Super in my book. She could turn invisible too.

Stop, I told myself. Supers are not real. You have an… issue, not a superpower.

Plus, the girl in my book could eat while invisible. She could talk and people could hear her while invisible. She could stop turning invisible and start turning invisible if she wanted to!

Oh well. I was already 100% gone now. Nobody could see me, hear me, or feel me. I was like a ghost that couldn’t speak.

I wondered how many of my few minutes that my mom said I could read during I had left. I tried to sit back in my chair, but I went through it and fell to the floor. Sighing (without a sound), I stood up.

I peered at my book. Without my hand holding it, it had flipped to a later page. I tried to shield myself from reading it, but I couldn’t help it. I looked.

The main character had died. I wondered how? That did not seem reassuring for my future. I tried to flip backwards to find out how it had happened. My hand went through the pages.

Very ghostlike. Also a bad omen.

I could hear footsteps on the stairs. My mom was coming. I willed myself to turn visible again, for this to be one of my five-minute disappearances and not one of my three-day ones.

Nothing happened.

“Rose?” yelled my mother, peering in my bedroom door.

I took a deep breath and focused on making a sound. “Here,” I said. Or rather, tried to say. Nothing happened. My nonexistent lips just moved soundlessly in the air.

My mom sighed. “Dave, she’s gone.”

I heard a thump from the living room. “Rachel, there’s nothing you can do about it,” my dad said heavily, having just sat down on the sofa. “She’ll return when she returns.”

Unknown to her, I followed my mother into our living room down our narrow hallway. We lived in a one-story three-bedroom house. The three were my bedroom, my parent’s, and a guest room. Not like I ever had any guests over. After I started disappearing, my parents pulled me out of school and started homeschooling me, to avoid questions that they couldn’t answer.

Because the truth was, they’d taken me to every doctor in the state. Literally. Not a single one could tell them what was wrong with me. Every time a new doctor shook his/her head and said the test results showed nothing, a new spurt of hope that I was a Super flew into my heart. But I crushed my own hopes time after time. There are no Supers. No Supers. No Supers.

My mom joined my dad on the couch and started sniffling. A tear ran down her cheek. “I hate this part. Waiting for a daughter that could be who-knows-where and could be out getting into all sorts of trouble while we sit here like idiots and believe her story about paralysis and disappearing.”

That hurt.

Dad stroked my mom’s hair. “I still think we should consider that woman’s letter.”

My heart stopped for a moment. I hadn’t heard anything about a letter.

“Dave, you know I don’t want to send her away,” Mom said sadly. But my Dad and I could both tell she was weakening.

“She says they could fix her,” whispered Dad. “She says she’ll not have this problem anymore after a five-year course.”

“But if she’s faking and all she needs is a good punishment?” my mom said softly back, collapsing onto the unused portion of the couch.

“We’ve got to believe her. She’s not the type to lie, she never has before,” Dad sighed, giving my mom a quick kiss and pulling her up into a sitting position.

“I guess if she’s just sneaking away, this Tribe of Cushioned Souls, or whatever the heck they called it, will beat that out of her,” My mom said, giving in.

“It’s the Tribe of Curable Souls, Rachel,” my dad muttered.

“All right. But if they try to keep her for longer than five years, I’ll take her right back home,” my Mom agreed.

My dad said nothing.

“How do we tell her?” Mom said eventually.

“Rachel, you and I know full-well she’s probably standing right over there,” he pointed to the corner where I was hidden and I jumped, “listening to every word we’ve said, the good and the bad.”

My mom sighed for what was probably the fourth time. “I guess. If she’s telling the truth.”

I ran to my room, jumped on my bed (but fell through it), and cried silent tears.

Three days later, after a good amount of crying, fighting, and finally forgiving (not wanting the weight of hating both my parents on my chest for five years), I waved a sullen goodbye to my mom and dad. Dad’s eyes were shining. Sadness, or joy?

“Now, remember, be polite, work hard, and I’ll miss you a lot,” Mom gave some last minute advice and comforts as a green bus pulled up to our driveway. She gave me a quick hug and my bad mood seemed to melt. “I’ll always love you, Rosey.”

My dad gave me a clap on the back but said nothing like my mother. “Try to fix that problem of yours,” he said gruffly. “See you.”

My sullenness reignited, I gave a last wave to Mom and boarded the bus, dragging my huge suitcase up the stairs.

The bus driver got up and helped me. “Let me get that for ya,” he growled, not unkindly. I supposed it was just his manner. I let him help me, and then trudged to an empty seat behind a teenage girl that was examining her fingernail color, in front of a boy about my age, I’d guess, and across from a girl with shockingly blonde hair.

I pretended the other three weren’t there and opened my book. It wasn’t as good now that I knew that Trillian Thymes, the Super with invisibility, was going to die.

But it was better than talking.

Luckily, I managed not to disappear during the ride. But I didn’t avoid talking. The blonde haired girl leaned across the aisle and tapped me on the shoulder. I jumped so high I lost my place in my book. Again.

“Oh, sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you,” she said brightly. She stuck out her hand. “Winnie, Winnie Joy.”

I awkwardly returned the handshake. “I’m Rose.”

“What’s your last name? I believe last names are an important part of who you are,” she told me.

“Rose Soar,” I muttered.

Winnie stuck out her tongue. “I would not want to see that.”

“See what?” I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.

“A Rose Sore, silly!” Winnie giggled. “That’s ok, though! There are worst last names. Like Butts. My best friend back home’s name is Mya Butts.”

“No, it’s spelled S-O-A-R,” I corrected her, giggling in spite of myself.

Winnie beamed. “Even better! Is that your issue? Do you spontaneously lift off the ground?”

“Nah, I disappear,” I blurted without thinking.

Winnie nodded seriously. “I storm.”

I didn’t know storm could be used as a verb in that way. “Uh, wow.”

Feeling like this conversation was one of the weirdest I’d had in a while, I opened my book again.

“Ooh! Trillian Thymes! I love her! But she dies.” Winnie covered her mouth. “Oopsie. Hope you already knew that.”

“Yeah, I did,” I muttered, trying to find the last page I’d read.

“Ok, since you like books so much, I’ll let you read,” Winnie smiled, settling back into her seat.

I felt a bit bad. I had kind of blown Winnie off.

Oh well. I’d have five long years to make up for my mistake.

We’d arrived at a place labeled “LOS.” It didn’t say TOCS anywhere.

Huh.

A large woman had met us in the lobby. “Hello, TOCS kiddos,” she smiled. “I’m Ms. Walker.”

“Welcome to TOCS,” murmured the bus driver, then gave a wave and returned through the doors we came in from.

Ms. Walker led us up three winding flights of marble staircases. “Don’t worry,” she called, “the place I’m taking you is where you’ll spend the majority of your time here, so don’t think you need to climb these staircases every day!”

Ms. Walker opened a nice glass double door, and led us into a large room.

It was basically a huge dome. Sparkling sunlight poured in from the ceiling, giving the whole room a warm glow. Marble floors glittered, reflecting the golden walls.

“This will be your practice area,” she told us.

“Practicing what?” Winnie asked. “Getting rid of our problems?”

Ms. Walker looked at us and gave a sigh. “It is that time again… the time where a new TOCS troop marches through those glass doors… to learn of their destiny…”

So far, Ms. Walker seemed nice, but a bit odd.

We all looked confused. She gave a laugh. “You’re not the Tribe of Curable Souls,” she said with disgust, shaking her head. Huh? If we weren’t TOCS, what were we? She came down the raggedy row we’d formed that led to the entrance to look all of us in our eyes. “No. No Cures here. Only practice.”

“Welcome to the Team of Challenged Supers.”

O. M. G.

I momentarily stopped breathing. I was a Super. A challenged Super, yes, but a SUPER! All my dreams of being part of this obscure and secret world had become a reality! And we were still TOCS. The words just stood for something entirely different.

“Shall we all demonstrate our Powers? At least, what we have shown so far?” Ms. Walker raised her eyebrows at our shocked faces, seemingly unaware of the excitement and disbelief in the air.

A boy raised his hand. He had sat behind me on the bus! He looked to be about my age. He had short, curly brown hair, and matching brown eyes. He was dressed in a sports jersey and bright blue tennis shoes. “Um, I’m Josef. Not like Stalin. Like J-O-S-E-F.”

A girl looked at him. She had dark skin, and tightly braided black hair that reached partway down her back. She yanked on the end of her braid when she spoke. “That’s exactly like Stalin.”

Josef grew irritated. “But I’m not like Stalin! I’m WAY NICER. Except for when I get angry. Then bad things happen.” He looked alarmingly delighted.

“Could you demonstrate, but take caution?” Ms. Walker prompted again, decidedly ignoring the debate.

“I can’t just…” he made a wide gesture, “…do it like that. Somebody has to make me angry.”

The girl who had made the “just like Stalin” comment raised her hand. Her braid swung from side to side. I didn’t recognize her. “I’m Lily. And I’m pretty good at making people angry.”

Ms. Walker smiled. “Go for it.”

Lily stared at Josef. Just stared at him. But suddenly Josef was fuming. “You make me SO MAD!” he yelled out of thin air.

A ball of fire formed between his hands. He threw it at her. She squealed and jumped out of the way, and it barreled towards a small boy that couldn’t have been six. He squeaked and toppled over. For some reason, the smallest girl fell over too.

“Oh, dear.” Ms. Walker shuffled over. She put her hands on the boy and closed her eyes. About five seconds later, the boy opened his eyes and stood up, a gaping hole in his shirt. The tiny girl stood up, looking fine too.

“Now I guess you’ve seen my power, healing even the most mortally wounded, unless they are already dead. Then I’m afraid I’m no help,” Ms. Walker told us with a touch of pride.

“That’s fabulous!” called Winnie. There were murmurs of agreement.

Ms. Walker laughed modestly. “Oh, don’t go saying all that. Now Josef, that’s quite the power. It seems it might be hard to control, though.” She turned towards Lily. “Especially trying to fend off an Emotionater that strong! Remind me why you are challenged…?”

“Oh, my anger Emotionation is perfected,” Lily said earnestly. “But the others… when I try to make someone laugh, they laugh hysterically and hyperventilate and die. When I make someone cry, they cry for five hours straight and either end up in the hospital with severe dehydration or die. When I try to make someone anxious, they are afraid of everything for the rest of their lives, even drinking or eating, and die. When I try to -”

“Ohhhh-kay, Lily, I think that’s more than enough,” said Ms. Walker testily, as the two youngest kids in the room, the fireballed boy and a tiny girl were crying and the others looked like they were going to develop lifetime anxiety just by hearing Lily speak. “Let’s move on to…” she scanned the room and I tried to hide, but I was lucky, her eyes landed on the tiny fireballed boy, “Tyler.”

“First of all, my name is Ty. Second of all, my power only works with my sissy,” Tyler said all in one breath.

“My name is Tylerette!” squeaked his sister. There was some laughter. “No, she is!” Tyler said defensively, putting an arm around his sister. His sister’s arm flew up too.

“I wouldn’t call that a power,” sniggered Josef.

“As you see, we can speak alone,” Tylerette (I had to agree with the laughers on that one) said, “but we have to share any actions.”

“So you won’t laugh every time you say Tylerette,” there was more laughter, “You can call me Etty,” the newly crowned Etty said.

“You know, Ty plus Etty equals Tyleretty! Wow! You both are the same person!” shouted Josef.

“Like, just shut up!” One of the older girls said.

“Someone have a crush on Ty?” crowed Josef.

“I thought you said you were nice!” Lily called.

“Like, I can stick up for myself!” The girl scoffed.

“Leave us alone!” Ty shouted. Etty nodded strongly.

Ms. Walker intervened. “Alright, chill, all you fiery little kids,” she chuckled at her own joke, looking at Josef when she said it. He scowled. “It’s time for either Rose -” she looked at me and I shuddered - “Elias, Jonah -” she looked at the remaining medium boys - “Sandra -” an older girl - “or Winnie, to show us your stuff.”

I hoped someone would volunteer and save me. Luckily, Winnie did. Her hair swished around and her blue eyes blinked innocently. “I’ll go!” she said cheerfully. “I can make it rain! But it usually pours! So beware!” She said this all as casually and as happily as if she had just been given a piece of pie.

“Can you demonstrate without drowning us all?” Ms. Walker chirruped equally cheerfully.

“Unlikely!” Winnie chirped back. “But I can try!”

Suddenly rain poured from the ceiling. I shouted, but it was lost in the downpour. Everyone covered their heads. Sandra and Etty screamed. Lily looked delighted.

I tried to turn myself invisible, but as usual, my efforts went unnoticed by whatever force controlled our Powers.

“Winnie, why?” Sandra moaned, attempting to shield her head from the storm but failing desperately. “I just did my hair this morning! Now I’ll have to style it again tonight in whatever bathroom this place has.”

“A pretty good one, Sandra,” Ms. Walker waded over to us. “Winnie, can you stop now?”

Winnie’s hands were up in the air and she seemed to be engaged in a battle with herself. “I’m trying, I swear I’m trying!” she yelled, succeeding in pulling one hand down and half-heartedly trying to yank her remaining one.

“Uh oh, watch out, Winnie!” I said urgently. Josef was staring at Winnie, and his eyes seemed to be glaring a crater into her.

Winnie looked over at him, but it was too late.

Josef shot a fireball at her, yelling, “It makes me mad when you try to drown us!” As soon as it hit its mark, (Winnie’s chest) the rain stopped, Winnie gave a little gasp and crumpled.

“Josef! Self-control, self-control, self-control!” Ms. Walker scolded, shuffling over to Winnie and healing her. But there was a gaping hole in Winnie’s shirt, right over her chest, and it wasn’t as easy to ignore this as it was with Ty, for… reasons. Girl reasons.

Josef started to giggle. Winnie just beamed and sloshed around in the water until her back was to him. “No problem. I’ll move.”

I gaped at his nerve.

Ms. Walker ran to a nearby room to find Winnie a shirt. I stared at the ground, watching the ankle-high water slowly filter out through a few floor drains. Poor Winnie. So positive, so weird, so… interesting. Maybe we could be friends. Her confidence could rub off on me.

I still didn’t want to go next, so when Ms. Walker turned to me, I gave her a pleading glance with my piercing gray eyes. She hesitated, then gave me the smallest of nods.

Ms. Walker turned towards the boys. “Let’s have Elias go, or Jonah,” she said. Elias nodded. He was an extremely skinny boy, with curly blonde hair that made him look a bit like an oversized baby. His eyes were deep brown. He had on, in my opinion, quite dressy clothes for the occasion, a nice polo tee and crisp khaki pants. “Alright, I’ll go. I shrink when I get nervous, and I grow when I feel confident. But unless I’m feeling those feelings, I can’t shrink or grow.” He looked horrified at Lily’s look of excitement. “Um, sorry, Lily, I don’t really want you to make me nervous because…” no more words were necessary.

Lily just looked even more excited. “I know, but I’m good at making people feel confident. About three-fourths of the time, they feel just perfectly confident and like they can do anything and nothing more. One-fourth of the time, they get overconfident, think they can fly, and d -” she cut herself off, not wanting to ruin her chances. Lily blinked irresistibly at Elias. “Please? You know Ms. Walker can heal you if need be.”’

Elias sighed. “Alright. Fine. Ms. Walker, can you be ready?” Ms. Walker nodded.

Lily clapped her hands together. “Yay!” She looked earnestly at Elias.

About ten seconds later, Elias had a grin on his face, and he started to grow. A lot. When he stopped, he was just as skinny, but also as tall as the domed ceiling.

Ms. Walker looked equally delighted with Lily and Elias. “Fabulous job, both of you!” she said. “Now Elias, come down now.”

He just kept grinning.

Lily said tentatively, “Um… yeah… my Emotionation takes about twenty minutes to wear off.”

Ms. Walker sighed. “Elias?”

Nothing.

She sighed again. “I guess we’ll just have to… keep going with the demonstrations.”

She looked up at Elias on the ceiling briefly, then turned to Sandra and the remaining boy. “Sandra or Jonah?”

Jonah, a bit of a plump boy with dark brown, straight, spiked up hair rolled his eyes dramatically. Not to judge a book by its cover (I loved books, so I loved that expression), but Jonah did not seem my type at all. Already.

He shoved his hands into his jean pockets before speaking. Did he think that looked cool? It looked dumb. He seemed to think he was too cool for school. Not to judge a book by its cover.

After the dramatic intro, Jonah finally spoke. “So, hi. I’m Jonah. And my dad was a Sparker for the League of Supers,” he said proudly. “I love my dad. He’s my best friend. But I hate my mom,” he scowled darkly. “Just because it takes me a little longer to Spark than most people, she insisted I go to this class full of losers.”

Like I said…

“Let me tell you how Sparking works,” he said before Ms. Walker could rebuke him. “I first turn my hands to the light.” He turned his hands to the sparkling sun that was shining through the glass of the dome. “Next, I close my fists.” He did this.

“And now, we wait for twenty minutes,” he said, keeping his fists tightly closed.

“You know, dear Jonah, to get into the League of Supers, you have to be fully charged in two seconds or less?” Ms. Walker said sweetly.

Jonah looked shocked. “But… but this is what happens if I even try after one minute!” He pushed his open palms outward, and there was a sizzle, a small yellow glow, and a pop. Nothing happened and the glow faded.

“Now, if you don’t think you belong here, and you want to go next door to where the other ten-year-old Sparkers are practicing, most of them can complete a Spark in twenty seconds. But if you think you’ll fit in, go right ahead!” Ms. Walker said cunningly.

Jonah, still shocked, shook his head.

I couldn’t help but hide a grin at his dismay.

Ms. Walker moved on. “Sandra?”

Sandra, a teenage girl with light brown skin and darkish, but super-long hair, scoffed. “Like, fine. I don’t even want to, like, be here, like, at all.”

“If you think we, like, like this place any more than you do, think again, Miss. Like!” Josef called, to laughter.

“Josef! Stop the constant teasing!” Ms. Walker shouted. Josef grumbled but did shut up.

“My name is Sandra, not, like, Miss. Like. So, chill, Josef, I won’t call you, like, Mr. Like if you don’t call me, like, Miss. Like.” She stuck her tongue out at him. I almost applauded.

“So, like, my power is Glamour. Sort of like, like – “Like, like?” Josef interrupted, grinning. Then he looked sheepish. “Sorry. Go ahead.”

Sandra shot him a glare and tossed her hair. “As I was saying before I was, like, rudely interrupted, about, like, half the time, it works perfectly. I can, like, make myself look like anything else to other, like, people. I, like, can make myself look, like, beautiful, or like a man-“You don’t need Glamour to look like that!” Josef said untruly.

Ms. Walker stalked over to Josef angrily. “Now you see here!” she barked. “You make one more rude comment and I will see to it that you never return to TOCS. Let the girl speak!”

Josef rolled his eyes, looking quite like Jonah when he first spoke. “I just want to have a little fun,” he muttered.

“Or I can, like, make other people look like whatever I, like, want,” Sandra said icily, staring at Josef the whole time. Josef mumbled something and backed down.

“But, like, the other half of the time, I try to make something look, like, pretty and it looks ugly, or, like, make someone look like the opposite of, like, whatever I’m trying to make them, like, look like,” Sandra admitted. “Should I, like, try on someone?”

Nobody volunteered. Finally Winnie raised a tentative hand. “Can you just try to make my fingernails pink or something? I mean, what’s the opposite of pink?”

Sandra shrugged. “The worst that could, like, happen is that your fingernails turn a color you don’t want. But it’ll, like, come out after a couple of like, hours. It always does.”

Winnie nodded. “Ok.”

Sandra concentrated. She lifted her left hand, made a sweeping motion, and in one smooth motion, pressed it towards Winnie. Ten little jets of pink light hopped from Sandra’s palm and settled themselves on Winnie’s fingernails perfectly.

Winnie squealed excitedly. Ms. Walker looked impressed. “Nice!”

“Can I try on, like, Josef?” Sandra smirked. Ms. Walker looked amused and said, “Sure.”

“Aw, no! She’s gonna try to make me bald or something!” Josef protested, looking truly terrified.

“Naw. I mean, like, do you want black hair?” Sandra asked. “I can try that.”

Josef looked a little better. “Maybe. Sure. I mean, it will come out if it’s bad, right?”

Sandra nodded.

She did the same motion, but one jet of white light jumped onto Josef’s hair. His hair turned completely and utterly white.

“Oops. Sorry. Like, opposite of black,” Sandra did not look one bit sorry.

“I look like an old man!” Josef screeched, patting his whiteness.

“You act like one,” Lily snorted. “A really senile one.”

“Ok, you all need to calm down. Good try, Sandra.”

I gulped. I knew what was coming. “Rose? Your power?”

I gulped again. “Um, yeah, hi. Uh, I’m Rose.”

Josef snorted.

I tried to ignore him. “So, yeah. I can turn invisible. Well, I can try. Whenever I try, I can’t do it, and when I don’t want it to happen, it randomly does. Um, and I can’t eat or feel or stuff. I can see and hear, but nobody else knows I’m there. And, uh, nobody can see me.”

“Obviously,” Josef rolled his eyes.

“Josef, shush your mouth. Rose, can you try to turn invisible?” Ms. Walker asked encouragingly.

“I can try…” I said uncertainly.

I focused on turning invisible. Very, very invisible. Can’t feel. Can’t be seen.

Nothing happened.

After an awkward five minutes, where absolutely nothing happened, Ms. Walker sighed. “Ok. We’ll try again later.”

But as she said that, the feeling came on that happened when I was about to turn invisible. But the punches felt about ten times harder than normal. “Wait…” I said. I was trying to say, “Wait, I feel it!” But I was too breathless from the punches.

At least the “Wait” was enough to get everyone to look at me. But instead of the norm, where I felt my body slowly fading into the background, my body faded into the background, but didn’t stop. It kept fading, and fading, and fading, and I felt myself falling, falling, falling, and the darkness started coming, coming, coming…

I woke up with a jolt. I sat up, breathing heavily. Winnie was standing over me, a worried expression on her face that changed to relief as I arose. “What happened?” I asked. I know, very movie-like, but I was feeling kind of muddled and that was all I could come up with.

Winnie started talking a mile a minute. “Well, Ms. Walker, after you fainted or passed out or whatever, Ms. Walker’s face went white, pale white, because you turned invisible for like one second and everyone was clapping but then you turned back and collapsed and everyone gasped.” She stopped to take a breath, but then she was off again. “And so, uh, yeah, she said, ‘Oh, no. Winnie, sit with her until she awakes. If she awakes.’ Like you were going to die or something!” Winnie laughed nervously. “But obviously you’re fine now, right! No need to worry! Don’t worry!”

Well, that was utterly useless because all I caught was the word ‘die’ and the nervous laugh. So, my inference? Not looking too good for me. I shuddered.

Winnie looked at me apologetically. “Sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you. So, go see Ms. Walker.”

I grimaced. I had a feeling that more bad news was soon to come my way.

Winnie walked off to her trainer, and I walked to Ms. Walker (ha).

Ms. Walker was sitting. She motioned to a chair next to hers. It was squishy and red. It felt unfitting for what was obviously going to be a painful talk.

“Sit,” she invited me.

I sat.

Ms. Walker took a deep breath. “So. You have Invisible Paralysis. Rare condition, Rose. I’ve only ever seen two others with it.”

I nodded. My condition did seem rare, and if it had to be summed up in two words, Invisible Paralysis would be the two.

Ms. Walker continued. “You have a small organ inside your brain. It is called your Power Core. It is the control center for your power,” Ms. Walker explained. “A failing Power Core is the cause of some unexplained deaths for non-supers. Their scientists have been stumped for centuries on what exactly killed them. We know, but Supers must stay hidden, so we kept our knowledge to ourselves.”

“The Power Core is made perfectly so that a power always makes just enough work for the Core. For example, did you have flying dreams before you knew you were a Super?”

I nodded.

“That’s your Power Core at work. It feeds on doing work, but not too much work. That’s why Invisible Paralysis is deadly. Your Power Core can sense that you can’t control your bouts of invisibility, so it goes into overdrive, trying to get you back in balance. It makes you ghost-like with all the effort. The fainting starts when it has nearly reached its limit. Soon after, it just gives up. Too much hard work. You know it’s given up when you start feeling utterly hopeless. After that, you probably don’t have a day to live. The only way is to find an exact Power Core match. You don’t have to have the same Power as the matcher, but they have to be your exact age, gender, and… not alive,” she finished solemnly.

“So, I’m dead,” I shuddered again.

“There is a treatment. It’s usually too late after you start fainting. But you look like a feisty one!” Ms. Walker encouraged.

I nodded determinately. “Ok. What are we waiting for? Let’s invisblefy – yes, I know that’s not a word – me! Who’s my trainer?”

“I’m your trainer.”

“Oh.”

So began a tough week of practicing. The “treatment” she’d been talking about was basically getting myself to try and control my invisibility so my Power Core could stop overexerting itself. To do this, I had to focus on the punchy-in-the-stomach feeling. It wasn’t pleasant, to say the least. But when I twice managed to focus on the feeling and turn invisible on my control, it was worth it for the victory in both our eyes as I turned visible again. But I also fainted twice. That was embarrassing, especially because one was in front of Winnie and Josef. Josef had stopped being full-out mean to me when he learned I might die, but a snicker still escaped after I awoke in a tizzy.

After my first week of practicing, I was headed to bed after a successful day. “You did well today, Rosey.” Ms. Walker smiled at me affectionately. “I think, if we work hard, very hard, for the next month or so, you’ll pull through!”

I smiled and hugged her. Without my mom around, Ms. Walker had really become like a mother to me. It was only a week into the program, but I already couldn’t imagine leaving her after five years.

“Is Trillian Thymes real?” I blurted without thinking. Somehow, my thoughts had gone straight from Ms. Walker to the book I was currently reading. I had almost finished it now.

Ms. Walker managed to turn her expression of shock smoothly into curiosity. “Why, yes. She was killed by the villain Zedyr, though.”

I gaped. That was the villain in the books!

“Did you know that non-supers know all this but they are publishing it as a book? A not-true book?” I told her breathlessly.

Ms. Walker shook her head, shrugging. “As long as they aren’t trying to get people to believe it, I think it’s harmless.”

With a grin on my face as I imagined my brave hero in real life (I tried to ignore the fact that she died), I walked to my bed with a bit of an extra spring in my step. I loved Ms. Walker (and Trillian Thymes), I was going to survive (probably, provided there were no distractions to my training), and I knew things were going to start looking up soon.

Uh, no.

A couple weeks later, I had a particularly bad practice day. I had fainted once that morning, and never been able to control my invisibility turning on or off that day. On top of that, Ms. Walker was the opposite of focused. She kept nervously checking the door, and glancing at the messages on her cellphone-like device.

When I finally managed to stop being invisible on command, I glanced at her, expecting praise. But she was anxiously checking the door again.

“Fine!” I exploded. “Fine! If you don’t care about my well-being enough to pay attention, then I don’t think I need to stay here any longer.”

Ms. Walker immediately focused on me. “Oh, Rosey, I’m so sorry. I just am so worried about the League of Fighting Supers!” she burst out. “They’re on a dangerous mission fighting a tough villain called Abomination. Some are close to death and could use my healing power, but all the Flyers around are on a vacation, and I’m not legally allowed to ask a non-League of Supers Super to fly me there!”

My annoyance vanished, to be replaced with sympathy. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Have any died?”

Ms. Walker sighed. “I’m not sure. Every time they manage to get a message through, it’s all fuzzy, and I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Can I do anything to help?” I asked anxiously.

She sighed again. “Thanks, Rose, but you’re not ready yet. But once we practice a little more, I know you’re going to be a great Super.”

If I survive that long, I knew we were both thinking.

I noticed everyone’s friendships were developing and leaving me behind. Josef and Jonah, the bratty J boys, were becoming fast friends. So were Winnie and Sandra. Lily and Elias, who could hardly be more different, were also tentatively becoming friends. Ty and Etty, well, they’d been together a while, and were so young, it was obviously hard for them to branch out.

And then there was me. I kind of liked Elias. He was sweet and polite and had a cool power. Maybe I should try to get closer to him. But I didn’t want to be rude to Lily. Ugh. Complicated. But I think Elias just liked Lily as a friend. Over the weeks, Elias had done some sweet stuff for me. He had brought me chocolate once after a tough day of training, and he was good for a heart-to-heart talk. Maybe there was hope for us yet.

That night after dinner Ms. Walker called a TOCS meeting. “We’re going to show our progress as a group. We haven’t had much group bonding time over the last couple weeks. Jonah, I know you’ve got your Spark time down to ten minutes, and I’m very impressed with Rose’s progress,” she said, smiling at me.

Well, alright. At least I’d get to go last.

“To be fair, we’re going to go in opposite order from the introductions. Rose?”

Crud.

Suddenly, an alarm sounded. Relief shot through me, followed by panic as Ms. Walker tensed up and shouted, “That’s the all hands on deck signal. The League of Fighting Supers has been captured!”

Everyone gasped simultaneously. Josef started to say, “What…” But the crazed Ms. Walker interrupted him, speaking directly to one of the trainers. “Cat, the emergency instructions are sent to your LeagueMessenger. Make sure you take special care for the directions for Rose!” Ms. Walker, not even bothering to wave, ran out into hall to join the floods of people rushing to save the League. Most of our trainers followed her, leaving only the one she called Cat, who maybe looked 16.

I was in shock. What just happened? Mostly, (no disrespect to Ms. Walker or Cat) I was wondering why Ms. Walker would leave us with this teenager while she ran out on us.

“Because all the members of the League of Supers need to leave and fight Abomination to save the League of Fighting Supers,” Cat said directly to me.

Wait, what?

Cat laughed at the shocked look on my face. “Sorry, sorry! I didn’t mean to freak you out. I’m a mind-reader.”

Oh. I nodded. “It’s all good. Cool power!”

Cat smiled. “Thanks!” She took us all in at a glance. “So. The Team of Challenged Supers, eh?” We nodded.

She held up a cell-phone like device. “This is my LeagueMessenger. As you may have heard, Ms. Walker sent me instructions on here on how to care for you guys until she gets back.”

Jonah raised his hand. “Wait. If you’re in the League of Supers and able to have that Messenger-thing, why aren’t you out there fighting?”

“I’m fifteen. You have to be sixteen to try out for the League of Supers, but since I want to try out for the League of Teaching Supers, I can start my training now by teaching you guys,” Cat explained.

“Wait. I thought there was only one League of Supers: the fighting one!” Winnie said, confused.

“Oh no. There is one overall League of Supers, which about 30% of the Super population is in. But there are lots of categories under it, The League of Teaching Supers, Fighting Supers, Scientist Supers, and even Mining Supers. I want to teach, so this is how I’m getting experience,” Cat told us. “30% of the Super Population is in the LOS, but only 6% of the Supers that try out for the League of Fighting Supers make it in.”

Well, that made more sense.

Cat made a shooing motion with her hand. “Everyone but Rose, go off to your dormitory. You can hang and talk or practice until 9:30, then lights out. I’ll send Rose up in an hour at 9.”

Josef shot me a look as he walked off that I couldn’t read.

Cat sat down on Ms. Walker’s normal chair and beckoned for me to sit beside her. I did.

“So,” she said. “Invisible Paralysis, huh?”

I was surprised. She was one of the only people I knew so far that didn’t act like I was a fragile china doll when she learned of my condition.

“Yeah, I’ve seen a case of this before. It’s kind of old news to me,” Cat said.

I had to remember to keep my mental guard up with Cat around.

“Yes, you do. Now, for the actual practicing part!” Cat said with an overly enthusiastic clap.

We had a good forty-five minute practice session. I turned invisible on command twice, and turned it off on command once. Cat congratulated me, and I was about to go up to my dorm when I heard a buzzing noise. Cat pulled out her LeagueMessenger. The screen said, “Incoming video chat from Jenna Walker.” So that’s what Ms. Walker’s first name was.

Cat clicked accept. “Hey, J. How’s it going over there?” she said with concern.

I heard crashing noises and screams from the screen. “Not… good,” a heavily panting voice that I could hardly recognize as Ms. Walkers came from the screen. “We are all captured now. An entire third of the population.”

Jeez. There were a thousand Supers in the population… so that meant Abomination had captured three hundred.

“Abomination is… so strong,” Ms. Walker panted. “He knows… how to drain the life out of us. I am… weak.”

“Jen? What do you want us to do, Jen?” Cat asked frantically.

“TOCS… only hope…” she gasped. “Don’t trust… girl…” I heard a crash, and a groan, and the screen went black with an error message.

“Jenna?”

“Jen?”

“J!”

Cat finally gave up and broke down sobbing. I was surprised and shocked at her strong reaction and that Ms. Walker was in that much trouble. I patted her on the back a bit as she got control of herself.

“She was my aunt,” Cat whispered eventually.

“Is. She is your aunt,” I said firmly, “And TOCS is going to save her.”

“Rose, it’s hopeless,” Cat said wearily. “Nine challenged kids taking on a villain that captured three hundred trained adults?”

I pushed above my own despair and shouted, “All TOCS kids who want to save the world and are willing to possibly sacrifice their own lives for it, come gather in the main room!”

Shuffling noises came from upstairs, but nobody emerged from the dorms.

I put my head in my knees. Cat was right. It was hopeless.

Suddenly, I felt a hand lift my head up. Cat, with hope in her eyes, directed my vision towards the living room, where an avalanche of bravery, in the form of eight little humans, stood strong, ready for whatever lay ahead.

Part Two

“We must leave immediately!” Cat said, after explaining to the rest of the students what was going on. “Men and women may die if we delay.”

Josef, probably feeling more confident now that his normal light brown hair had returned, pumped his fist into the air. “When we save the League of Supers, can we be on TV?” he asked.

“If we save the League of Supers,” Sandra reminded him. I knew she was being realistic, but did she have to make us feel so hopeless?

Winnie must have been feeling the same way. “When we save the League of Supers,” she said firmly.

Jonah groaned. “How are we going to get all the way to wherever Abomination is? Walk?” he said with disgust.

“No, swim,” Ty squeaked. That got a laugh.

Elias raised his hand. “Do you know where Abomination is, Miss Cat?” he asked politely.

Cat laughed. “Whoa, boy. First of all, it’s Cat. Don’t add on a Mrs. until I’m married. Second of all, yes, I actually do.”

“How?” Etty asked curiously.

Cat held up her LeagueMessenger. “Villain tracker app. It has the hideout of all our major rivals plugged into its database.”

Sweet!

Cat smiled at me. “It is, eh?”

“How far away is it? Could we even walk there, or would it be too late by the time we got there?” Lily pointed out the obvious flaw in plans.

Cat looked thoughtful. “It’s about a day’s walk, two hour fly, or thirty second teleport.”

“The flyers are coming back from their vacation tomorrow,” I broke in, knowing this from Ms. Walker. “We could get a good night’s sleep tonight and wake up early to fly there. Plus, then we have probably ten other kids on our side.”

Cat nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Try to get some sleep, guys. We’re not going to do well tomorrow if we’re tired.”

Everyone nodded, but I caught Winnie whispering something to Sandra nervously. I didn’t think anyone was going to get much sleep tonight.

I trudged off to bed. I didn’t expect to fall asleep quickly, if at all, but as soon as I got into bed, I drifted off. It had been a long day.

The next morning, I was up at seven. Most of the girls in the dorm were awake as well. Only Etty snored on.

“Somebody, like, wake up Ty in there!” Sandra yelled at the door that connected the boys and girls dormitories.

We heard groans, and shuffling noises, and Josef slammed open the door. “We were all still asleep, genius. Thanks a lot.”

“Cat said we needed to wake up early to leave to save LOS,” Winnie reminded him.

“Well, wouldn’t she wake us up if we needed to leave?” Jonah grumbled blearily, coming to the door.

Just then, the door opened and Cat peeked in. “Hey guys. I’ve contacted the Flyers on their way back. They’re running a tad late, and won’t be here until ten. You guys can go back to sleep if you want.”

Josef and Jonah gave us a glare. “That sounds fabulous. Thank you, Cat,” Josef spat.

“You’re, like, so welcome, Josef,” Sandra said sweetly.

“We weren’t thanking you,” Jonah muttered darkly.

“Now, now, Jonah, you know we need to work on our team unity,” Winnie scolded him lightly, trying to hide a sly grin.

“Who said anything about a team?” Lily broke in.

I spoke up, “We do need to have a team and a team name. Like Winnie said, we have no chance of beating Abomination and rescuing the League of Supers if we don’t know how to work together,” I pointed out.

Everyone looked thoughtful.

“Um, the LOS Rescuer Squad?” Lily giggled. This was shot down from all angles.

“The Linked TOCS kids?” Etty tried.

“That would really only work for you and Ty,” Josef said what was running through all our minds.

“But it was a good thought!” Winnie added kindly.

“The Sparks?” Jonah said slyly.

“You’re the only Sparker here, Jonah!”

“Like, The Abomination Busters?” Sandra asked.

We gave this some thought.

“The Team of Awesome Souls that are going to Kill Abomination? Or TASGA?” Josef butted in.

“We’re already TOCS!” Ty said.

“I think the Abomination Busters is the best one out of all those,” I concluded.

“Ok, ok, I’ve got it. The Abomination Busters of Coolness, or ABC!” Winnie said excitedly.

“And, we’ve got a winner, folks!” Lily said in an old-timey announcer voice.

“When the flyers get here, they can also be part of ABC, right?” Elias asked nervously, always the sensitive one.

“Of course,” said Winnie soothingly.

“Next, we better elect a leader,” I said, knowing that this mission would be a lot easier if we had someone like Winnie or Elias to follow.

“Ok, how about you, Rose?” Sandra said, staring at me.

I flushed, completely caught off guard. “What? Me?”

“Yes, you!” Etty squeaked.

Ty nodded his agreement. “All votes for Rose?”

To my astonishment, all hands flew into the air except Josef’s and Jonah’s.

“They don’t want me as leader,” I said to the room as a whole.

Sandra raised her eyebrows. “Hold on, before you feel, like, too bad about yourself, let’s see, like, who they do want as leader. All votes for, like, Josef as leader?”

Josef sheepishly raised his hand.

“All votes for, like, Jonah?”

Jonah pointed to himself.

“Yeah,” Sandra said, “I don’t think, like, either one of them would make, like, a good leader, do you?”

“But what do I do as leader?” A thousand thoughts whizzed through my mind, primarily how I was likely to mess up and fail and send them all to their deaths.

Suddenly the door creaked open. Cat poked her head in. “You hardly need to worry about that, because I’m going to be the one responsible for their deaths when and if they do happen, and I’m going to put all my power into making sure they don’t.” Cat smiled reassuringly at me.

I took a deep breath. “Ok. I’m the leader.”

“Don’t go getting a big head,” sneered Jonah.

“Don’t go worrying about missing your dad while you’re away fighting, Jonah,” Cat sneered back.

Jonah turned beet red, and everyone howled with laughter, knowing that Cat was not lying about what she saw in his mind.

“So, the Flyers arrived about two minutes ago. They’ve gotten situated. There’s a bit of a problem, though. I’ll let you guys come out and hear about it.”

The ABC TOCS troops marched out of their dorm with a renewed sense of purpose.

There were eleven Flyers in the training room when we walked in. I counted, hope swelling in my heart.

“There’s an issue, TOCS students.” The biggest Flyer stepped forward. “We have nine Flyers licensed to carry Supers under eighteen on their backs.” The eight other largest Flyers stepped forward.

My heart sunk again. I saw the problem. “But neither one of these students is, are they?” I sighed, looking at the remaining two almost toddler-sized Flyers. The leader nodded sadly.

“Couldn’t they both work together to carry the last person?” Winnie asked. I nodded at this smart idea.

“They’re not legally allowed to!” The largest girl explained, a little exasperatedly.

I pondered this.

A couple minutes later, I still had no amazing brainwaves. But Elias’ face was slowly brightening, and then he grinned. “I have an idea.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was on the back of the largest girl who had spoken earlier, Nicole. I was amazed to learn that she was my same age, and had always been big for her age. Ty was on Davies, the biggest Flyer of all who had spoken earlier. The rest of the TOCS students and Cat, except Etty, were on other Flyers.

“Let’s see if this works,” Davies said, pushing off from the ground and hovering three feet in midair with Ty still on his back.

To everyone’s astonishment, Etty, though nobody was carrying her, flew three feet off the ground in Ty’s exact same position.

We all cheered and clapped Elias on the back.

After filling the Flyers in on everything from Ms. Walker’s call to now, we began the most amazing ride of my life. As we rose high above the clouds and soared, the wind rushing in my face seemed to strip all my worries away. The bliss of the blue, blue sky and the blazing sun that it seemed I could reach out and touch made me forget everything else.

Well, almost everything. One issue had been pressing on my mind ever since we’d decided to rescue the LOS.

I was worried about my Power Core. I knew this rescue mission was a break in training that I might not be able to afford. But I knew that saving the League of Supers was very important. Ms. Walker thought I was strong. It probably couldn’t hurt to take just a day’s break.

But if it was fatal to take just a short break, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t think I would be able to find a Power Core transplant. I assumed nobody would die during the battle. And even if someone did, they would have to have my exact age and gender. I wouldn’t wish an early death on anyone my age, nor did I think there were many people here that fit that criteria. I felt selfish for having a tiny twinge of hoping I could find a transplant. That was horrible. I didn’t want anyone to die.

Including myself.

So getting back to training quickly was my only option. After the battle, I would make sure everyone left quickly.

A blast of cold blew my thoughts away. We were riding through a cloud! “Hold on tight,” yelled Davies from up ahead.

He didn’t have to tell me twice. I wasn’t normally scared of heights, but the misty chill, and the way I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face scared me to death! I gripped Nicole so hard she had to patiently ask me to let go so she didn’t lose all circulation in her shoulders.

My now-damp chocolate-brown hair waved wildly in the wind.

Suddenly we broke out of the cloud, to an astonishing and terrifying sight. A huge rock was looming in midair, right in front of Davies, who was in the lead. “LOOK OUT!” all the Flyers yelled as one. Obviously, Davies was skilled, because he expertly dodged the rock within a centimeter, yelling, “Flyers, follow me!” The rest of the Flyers swerved around the rock in the same close proximity. Nicole was no different. I shut my eyes tightly.

“What the heck was a boulder doing in the sky?” yelled Lily, her tight, dark braid thumping up against her back over and over as her Flyer made the tight curve.

“I don’t know, and I don’t think I want to know,” Josef muttered, looking nearly as scared as I was.

“Telekinesis, probably. Not my favorite power in the world, obviously,” Nicole told us calmly. “Very dangerous for us Flyers.”

“And for the rest of us, apparently,” called Winnie. “That was a close call!”

I was embarrassed to ask what telekinesis, but to be fair, I had just learned I was a Super a few weeks ago. “Um, what is… tele-whatever?” I asked quietly, my face a little flushed.

Elias answered me, “It’s moving things with your mind, Rosey-Posey.”

I smiled at him. Things were going well with Elias and me. “Thanks, Eli.”

I heard a stifled giggle from Jonah, and a bit of a growl from… Josef? I looked over and saw Josef staring at Elias with anger on his face. Josef had gotten better at controlling his anger, so Elias should be safe from fireballs, but why was Josef angry? Did he… like me? No. NO. Not Josef. Josef was mean, sometimes funny, RARELY funny, had gorgeous brown chocolate eyes that matched my hair…

No, wait. I didn’t like Josef, did I? No, of course not. I liked Elias, he liked me, and that was that. I refused to think of Josef anymore and gave Elias a grin.

Then I turned my thoughts to the issue at hand. “Um, who do we know that can move things with their mind?” I asked.

Silence.

A Flyer spoke up. “Davies, this is it. This is about where Abomination’s hideout is. We could go down and see who is controlling that rock, and whether or not it’s Abomination.”

Davies was silent for a moment, then he gave a crisp nod and hurtled into an air-dive. Ty hung on for dear life. Nicole kindly floated to the ground, which was good, because I would have barfed if she repeated Davies’ dive.

We all settled onto the ground and dismounted our Flyers. I took a couple moments to look around. We were in a sort of forest, with trees and bushes spaced widely apart. A thin layer of leaves and pine needles coated the ground. If we attempted to sneak up on the girl, the dead leaves could make a crunching noise, but otherwise, there were lots of good trees and cover if we wanted to make a stealthy approach to the figure ahead.

There was a definite person a couple hundred feet away from us, and from the looks of her, she was in total concentration mode. But she looked too small to be a supervillain.

Cat looked at all of us. “This could be a trap, be careful. Abomination could have sent the little girl here to trick us.”

I hadn’t even seen Abomination yet, but I could tell he was a tough one.

I led ABC slowly and carefully through the semi-forest. Everyone was in stealth mode, and we were making progress. It gave me such a surge of pride to see ABC moving with such skill. None but the best trackers would be able to tell a single person, let alone twenty (other than the mysterious person in the distance) were in these woods.

We finally got close enough to see the girl. Her face was crinkled in concentration, but it was still beautiful. She had long, flowing red hair with a small braid at the front. Her face was a sea of freckles, her eyes pools of green. She wasn’t a large girl, maybe a little shorter than me.

I knew, as leader, I was expected to make sure this unknown girl was safe. To do this, I needed to observe her for a few moments. So I motioned the rest of ABC to hide, and I crouched behind a tree myself. Unexpectedly, Josef came up and hid behind the same tree as me. He flashed me a grin. I gave him an uncertain smile back.

The rest of the Flyers and TOCS kids took up positions behind bushes and trees, and we observed the powerful child that made my power seem like a joke.

Her hands, with jagged nails, flew through the air in a complicated motion. The rock in the air moved in the exact direction her nails did. And then she just put her hands down. The rock started falling. “Brace yourselves in case it hits the ground!” Nicole mouthed to us.

But when the rock was inches from the ground, the girl’s hands shot out like a snake capturing its prey. The rock hovered in midair, and then she slowly lowered it to the ground, where it landed with a thud that shook the earth around her.

“Oh, man. I’ve only known one Telekinesist, and the biggest thing he could control was a book. And a paperback too!” Josef whispered to me.

Oh man was right. If the mystery girl was against us, we were dead. Quite literally.

The girl controlled the rock into the air again, but this time it was directly over most of TOCS, including the tree where Josef and I hid. Josef looked at the rock, then looked at me. “Do you think she’ll drop it again this time?” he said quietly and nervously.

Winnie nervously bolted behind a tree that was further away.

Ty started running, and Etty obviously had to follow.

Elias whimpered and shrank.

I felt a rush of anger at Elias. He could have pushed away his fear, grown, and pushed the rock away from all of us.

Cat ushered the rest of the TOCS kids and one Flyer that was in the fall zone behind trees that were out of the danger area.

Josef tugged at me urgently. “Rose, we’ve got to get out of here. Move it, slow-bones!”

But I couldn’t. I was frozen with fear. I was staring at Alexia as the sharp nails moved faster through the air, pushing the rock towards the ground faster, and faster…

And suddenly there was a yell from beside me, and Josef shot a fireball… at the rock! He’d only been able to do it on people before. The rock shuddered for a moment, and then exploded.

Part Three

The force of the explosion made me stagger, but Josef was there, and he caught me, but the earth rumbled and we both fell. I cut my arm on a sharp rock, and pain shot up my arm. Then smaller rocks started raining from the sky.

I finally found my footing, and I pulled Josef away. We both ran for our lives, but a larger bit of rock fell right in front of us, and I tripped over it, flying in the air for a moment, and then hitting the ground hard. A small rock fell on my head, and stars exploded in my eyes. Giving up on running, I crawled into a ball, protecting my head with my hands. Josef put his body over mine, shielding me from the torrent.

Finally, no more rocks fell. Blood ran down my arm and fell onto the rock-covered forest floor.

Josef slowly got to his feet. He looked shaken. “Didn’t mean to hurt you, Rose.” Then he laughed a little. “But I did save your life. Why am I apologizing?”

Oh, Josef.

“You almost killed me in the process, though!” I said, half angry, half relived, giving him a shove that conveyed those emotions perfectly. “There were much easier ways to save my life! Like pick me up and carry me…” I was lost in the fantasy of what that would be like for a moment.

“If you were a little faster, you wouldn’t have needed me to help you anyway, Rosey-Slowey,” Josef glared at me. I couldn’t tell whether or not he was kidding.

Josef winced and rubbed his back.

“You OK, Rose and Jo?” Cat came over, a concerned tone in her voice.

“I’m… well, actually, not really. Are there any bandages around here?” I changed my mind and decided to tell the truth. The time for heroism would come later.

“I have some,” an unfamiliar voice said. I looked up, and there was the mystery girl! She grinned at me, revealing white but slightly crooked teeth.

“Who are you? You almost killed us!” I yelled.

“Sorry, but I didn’t know you were there. I was in the zone. Anyway, I’m Alexia. Alexia Hayes. I’ve been training to try and kill Abomination for forever. He killed my mother.”

Her eyes filled with tears, but she immediately collected herself.

“Looks like you guys are just the stroke of luck I was looking for,” the newly named Alexia said. She had recovered extraordinarily fast from her tears, and she seemed to be glowing with joy and happiness. She reminded me of Winnie straightaway.

“What?” Ty squeaked, coming up.

“Let’s just say I happened to overhear your conversation in the sky. Weren’t a couple of you talking about wanting to defeat Abomination?” Alexia asked us shockingly.

“How on Earth did you know that?” Jonah shot back at her.

“I’m a TeleEcho!” Alexia told us, beaming.

Oh, boy. Another Super word I didn’t know. But Cat’s jaw had dropped, and Davies looked stunned.

Alexia looked around at us. “You know, when Telekinesists can hear out of the objects they are controlling?”

Whoa.

Josef looked at her, then looked at me. “TeleEchos are even rarer than Healers! One out of a hundred Supers born are Healers. One out of fifty are Telekinesists. But only one out of five hundred are TeleEchos.”

Good gosh. This girl really was special. What else had she heard up in the sky?

But special or not, my arm hadn’t stopped bleeding, and she had bandages. I was about to speak, when Josef said, “So, about those bandages…” Everyone laughed.

“One moment,” Alexia grinned. “Looks like some nasty bruises and cuts!”

“That you caused,” I muttered. But she had admitted it was an accident, and we were obviously on the same side. I trusted her for now.

Alexia went back to the area she was practicing telekinesis in. She grabbed a sports drawstring back, and came out with a wad of bandages. “Hey, you!” she called to us. Everyone looked startled. “No, the one in the pink shirt with black stripes.”

That was me. Oh no. I didn’t like new people. But I was the leader of the ABC. I could meet a new person every once in a while.

“Yes?” I called back.

“Can you come help me carry back some of this?” Alexia yelled, dropping half the bandages in her arms.

“Sure,” I replied easily. A true leader was helpful and bold.

I jogged over and took half her load. “Thanks,” Alexia said gratefully. Then she lowered her voice to a whisper. “Look, I know you like Eli, whoever that is. I’m a super matchmaker. Want me to pair you up?”

I felt a surge of annoyance. “Where did you hear that?”

Alexia gave me a sly smile. “Remember, I’m a TeleEcho.”

A few hours before, I would have agreed. But now, I wasn’t so sure. Who rescued me from the rock (even though he almost killed me again in the process)? Josef. Who shrunk and hid? Elias. But I had no proof Josef liked me, and I didn’t even know if I liked him. He was still mean to everyone, even me. Elias was sweet, and a safe choice.

What to say?

“Uh…” I pretended to drop my load and bent to pick it up, stalling for time so nobody in TOCS would hear us. “Uh…”

“How about you tell me later, Rose. Pretty name, by the way.”

“Uh, thanks. But…”

Alexia interrupted me. “You can tell me after you’ve seen my mad matchmaking skills. I am quite sure Sandra likes that big Flyer, what’s-his-name. Davies, that’s it.”

“Wait, what? Sandra, liking anyone? Other than her girlfriends?”

“Yes. She whispered it to Winnie on the flying trip.”

“Oh boy.”

“Oh girl, you will be begging me to pair you up next after you see this seamlessness,” Alexia misinterpreted my hesitation. “I promise you, I’m top-notch. Now, bye-bye!”

We’d arrived back at the place where ABC was gathered. I handed a big bundle of bandages to Josef, who accepted them without a sound. He seemed to be in a great deal of pain.

“You ok?” I asked.

Josef rolled his eyes. “I will be.”

A little deflated, I walked over to Elias. “Will you help me put on these bandages?” I asked.

Elias, without a word, wrapped my arm in the bandages.

“Thanks,” I said, equally softly, even more deflated.

I was twelve, I supposed. There would be time for relationships later, though I felt doubtful a boy would ever like me after I’d seemed to ruin the great start I’d had with two possibilities. For now, I needed to focus on training my Power Core. I guessed that if I started to feel hopeless, I was in trouble, because that meant I was dying, but I had felt fine so far.

I noticed Davies was a little removed from the rest of the group. He seemed to have something in his hand that he was reading over and over. Sandra was blushing over at the other end of the area TOCS and the Flyers were in. She had some flowers in her arms, and was talking excitedly with Winnie. Meanwhile, Alexia watched with satisfaction from the other side of a tree. It seemed her matchmaking process had begun.

I grinned, just because Alexia seemed so satisfied. Her Winnie-like happiness was contagious.

Cat walked up to me. “Hey, leader,” she grinned.

Smiling, I gave her a small wave.

“I’ll admit this was a much-needed break from our worries, but we have to consider that the LOS is captured right now, and members may be dying from their injuries.” Cat looked serious. “We need to make a plan.”

I thought for a moment. “Do you know where Abomination’s hideout is?”

Cat pulled out her LeagueMessenger from her pocket. She pressed a few buttons, then looked confused. “Yeah, the coordinates are listed. They say Abomination’s lair is right here, actually. Weird.”

“Maybe…” I started to voice an idea, but then realized that a small rock was hovering in midair right next to my ear. “Alexia!

I spun around. Alexia was near the rest of ABC behind me. She was staring right at us, and her hands were in the air, unmoving. When she noticed me looking at her, she lowered her hands quickly. The rock fell to the ground with a small thunk.

Alexia grinned sheepishly at us, then she ran over. “Sorry for eavesdropping, but…”

“You have got to stop doing that!” I roared, interrupting her.

Alexia’s grin vanished. “Look, I’m sorry. Really, I am. But I know how to get into Abomination’s hideout.”

My annoyance vanished as fast as her grin. “Oh, really? How do you get in? And how on earth did you figure it out?”

“I’ve been around here for years, Rosey-Posey.” Alexia flashed me a sly smile when she said that. I silently fumed. She was using Elias’ nickname for me.

There was silence for a moment.

“So, where is it?” Cat said eventually.

“I’ll show you, but first, gather your ABC together. If anyone isn’t watching when I do this, they won’t be able to see where to get in. That’s the way my- I mean, Abomination programmed it.”

What did Alexia cut herself off from saying? I tried, but couldn’t think of a logical explanation. My worst enemy? No, why would she not want us to know that? My… my what? I had no idea. But Alexia was helping us, so we owed her one. It couldn’t have been that important.

I called ABC to me, saying “Alexia has discovered the way into Abomination’s hideout! Come here, and watch closely.”

The members of ABC trotted over. “Where is it, Lex?” Winnie asked.

“Right here, Win,” Alexia responded, grinning, pointing to a tree.

I ignored the fact that Alexia and Winnie already had nicknames for each other, and peered at the tree.

Alexia laughed, then tapped one, two, three times on the trunk’s base. A little box with numbers popped out. Alexia tapped in a code, and the tree trunk vanished, leaving a yawning tunnel.

I gaped. “Uh, how did you know how to do that?”

Alexia shrugged, looking mildly uncomfortable. “There’s only so many combinations that you can make on one of those things.”

“There are MILLIONS. Don’t tell me you just happened to plug in the right code, and you just happened to know how to tap three times on the tree trunk, and you just HAPPENED to have just been here for years, just waiting for someone perfect to come along and help you ‘defeat’ Abomination. There’s something you’re not telling us, Alexia,” I shot back at her, putting my hands on my hips and feeling like a true leader.

Alexia had been growing increasingly more uncomfortable the whole time I was speaking. “Rose, my mother was my everything. When Abomination killed her, you really can’t imagine how I felt. I was willing to do anything for revenge, even wait years.” She jumped into the tunnel, holding onto the edge so she wouldn’t fall yet. “Coming?” And without another word, she let go of the edge and disappeared.

“Arrrgh!” I muttered mutinously. “Why is she acting so awkward? There’s something she isn’t telling us. There’s got to be something she isn’t telling us.”

Cat put her arm around me. “RoRo, she’s a kid. She must feel awkward with all these people bombarding her with questions. And who knows? Maybe she is hiding something. But we…” Cat seemed to change her mind. “Actually, Rose, you’re the leader. You decide if she’s trustworthy or not,” Cat said, crossing her arms definitively and giving me an encouraging smile.

Oh, man. Decisions, decisions, decisions. It made it all the more awkward that Cat was staring directly at me, obviously reading my mind. Cat, please get out of my head, just for one minute while I think.

“Fine, Rose, but I don’t think you get it. I can try not to focus on your thoughts, but everyone’s thoughts around me are always in my mind, ambushing me and covering me and giving me no peace,” Cat confided. “Except for TeleEchos. I couldn’t read Alexia’s mind at all. It was weird. I guess she has a certain kind of mind that I haven’t encountered yet. Sorry, guys. I know it would be a big help if I knew what Alexia was thinking.”

“Now, Rose, instead of reading your mind, I’ll focus on somebody else’s thoughts while you deliberate.” Cat proceeded to turn towards a nervous-looking Etty. “Let’s play a game, Etts!”

Now that I had peace, I could decide properly. Alexia was on our side. I could tell. The tears that welled in her eyes when she said Abomination had killed her mother, the way she brought bandages for our wounds and tried to play matchmaker with us, it all showed she was planning to make friends. But what was she hiding? “My…” what?

And how did she know the exact way into Abomination’s lair? Coincidence, like she said, or something infinitely more sinister? Well, either way, we had to get into Abomination’s hideout, so I’d decide whether or not to follow Alexia after we emerged from the tunnel.

I took a deep breath. “We will follow Alexia down the tunnel,” I announced.

A chorus of cheers and muttered protests followed my words.

“It’s too big a coincidence! What if Alexia could be leading us into a much bigger trap down here?” Jonah yelled.

“She gave Josef and Rose bandages! What villain have you seen do that?” Sandra challenged.

Jonah had no answer for that.

“Ready, all?” I said before anyone else could raise a protest, and I jumped down the tunnel.

I slid on the slightly damp stone, in a slow incline. I heard screams and loud voices behind me, echoing loudly in the tunnel. The cool stone carried me along for about a minute, and then it flattened out. I tried to scoot forward on the stone, but it was just too flat.

The voices got louder.

Suddenly, I felt a body careen into me. “OOF!” our two voices said at once.

I turned around. It was Elias.

“Sorry, Rosey-Posey,” Elias said to me. “Didn’t expect you there.”

A familiar shriek echoed on the tunnel, coming closer and closer to us. Elias looked backwards towards his friend sympathetically. “Almost there, Lil!”

Lily, screaming quite loudly, came shooting down the last inclined stretch and bumped into Elias, who bumped into me, sending me sliding another couple feet down the straightaway.

I looked at Lily, surprised. “You alright?”

Lily sat up, brushing off her now-wet blouse. “Fine. Just… claustrophobic. Can we move on? Please?”

I agreed, and we set off, crawling on all fours, a trickle of water soaking our pants and the hard stone scraping our knees and palms.

We crawled for about another minute, but finally, Elias saw the light up ahead. “Guys, I think we’re almost there!” he said excitedly.

We crawled faster.

Finally, we emerged, blinking, out of the tunnel. “Woo-hoo!” Lily said loudly.

“Lily, I’m excited too, but we’re in enemy territory,” I reminded her. “We need to stay quiet, alert, and stealthy.”

I realized that wasn’t going to happen when Ty and Etty bundled out of the tunnel, shrieking with joy and tumbling over and over on the ground.

“Guys, shush…” I tried to say, but then Sandra and Winnie crawled out, chattering loudly.

I sighed and gave up, waiting as Josef did an entire front roll out of the tunnel, and the rest of the Flyers and Jonah made their not-so-stealthy entrances.

When everyone had arrived, the ABC gathered in a loose knot around me, talking loudly with each other, I called for order. “You guys realize that we’re in Abomination’s hideout right now?”

“Actually, we’re not,” Cat spoke up, gesturing around us. I hadn’t even looked around yet, but as I noticed that we were in a small, muddy room with a low ceiling and damp floor, I saw her point.

“But where else could his hideout be?”

“Maybe up that ladder…” Josef said sarcastically, pointing to an extraordinarily obvious ladder at the other edge of the room.

“Oh.” I flushed red. “Ok, then. Onward, ABC!”

I led the climb up the ladder. The rungs were rotting wood, and they didn’t feel very stable. I was glad, after about seven rungs, when we made it to the top.

And what a sight awaited us!

A huge building was looming in front of the ABC, probably a minute’s walk away. It was probably fifty feet tall at least, with random turrets and branches on the building, all a sterile silver. It was the most eccentric building I’d ever seen, and it looked less like an evil hideout than maybe a potato chip factory or something.

In front of the building was a carpet of pine needles, with pretty big rocks jutting out every so often, and a couple lone trees.

“Now that is the way to build an evil lair,” laughed Nicole.

“I entirely agree,” Davies nodded. “If I had to be evil, I would definitely have a hideout exactly like that. Not that I’m evil.”

Sandra flirtingly pushed him. “Don’t pretend, Davies. We all know your heart is cold.”

Davies made a mock sad face. “Sandra, you know my heart melts for you.”

Oh boy. Well, I guessed they were older, they could be boyfriend girlfriend if they wanted. I laughed to myself. Looks like Alexia wasn’t lying about her matchmaking skills.

Suddenly, as if summoned by thought, Alexia popped out from a nearby tree. “Hey!” she grinned. Sandra screamed a little. So did Winnie.

“Not expecting that, I’ll say,” admitted Davies, looking more than a little pink. “How much did you hear?”

Alexia just grinned, and walked the rest of the way over to us. “So, I see you decided to follow me after all. Congrats on the bravery! Now, guess what I discovered while I was down here?”

“What? Oh wait, let me guess. You magically, in thirty seconds, figured out where LOS was being kept.” I was so done with Alexia. Unless she had a really good answer to her ‘guess what,’ we were on our own for now.

“I’ve been down here before. You know, watching and spying. And LOS is right through that first door over there. Dumb place to hold captives, right?” Alexia ignored my jab.

I hated that we were possibly so close to LOS, yet possibly so far. “Alexia. I just don’t know if I can trust you.”

Alexia shrugged. “K. That’s fine. See you around.” She started walking towards the door where she had said LOS was being kept.”

Oh, fine. I had seen firsthand how trustworthy Alexia was so far. “Fine!” I said exasperatedly. “We’ll follow you.”

Alexia grinned. “Ok.”

We started walking and chatting. Davies and Sandra hung near the back, talking softly. Alexia caught my eye and motioned me towards the front.

“Now, you see how amazing and seamless that was?” Alexia said mysteriously. “Don’t you want to learn my secrets to get the guy?”

On one hand, no.

On the other hand, heck yeah!

But there was no time to give her an answer, or to even think further about my response. Alexia’s face went slack for a moment. It looked like she was about to cry. Then, she gave me a quick smile and jumped away.

“Alexia, where are you going?” Winnie asked from behind, confused.

Suddenly, I stumbled over something, a long, thin metal rod on the ground. I heard a whirring, and suddenly my feet left the ground. Somebody screamed.

I realized we were being lifted up into a huge metal cage. All of ABC was in the cage, though Alexia was not.

“Alexia! Help! What’s going on?” I screamed through the iron bars.

“I’m sorry!” she said, with a pained look on her face.

The truth hit me like a ton of bricks. I was wrong. So, very wrong. Alexia had betrayed us.

So I said so. “You lying, filthy, traitor!” I screamed. My heart and head hurt with each word.

“Yeah!” Josef said, then threw in a few swear words.

“Josef!” Cat said, but her heart wasn’t in the scolding. Cat looked like she’d quite like to repeat a few of those words herself.

A few seconds later, as we were lifted higher and higher in the cage, the whole ABC was screaming insults at Alexia that made mine look like a compliment. Alexia’s face looked quite as pained as if she was the one being lifted into the metal cage. “You’ll understand later! I had to!” she yelled.

“Right, you had to, like, sell us out, you liar! Makes, like, so perfect sense. Wonder how much Abomination, like, paid you?” screeched Sandra.

Suddenly, I heard an extremely alarming sound. It was like a rumble, mixed with cold humor that the creator of the sound probably found in killing people. It took me a moment to realize it was a laugh.

A huge thing stepped into view. It was like a human, but nine feet tall, with deliberate modifications. It had an iron leg, a mechanical arm that seemed to have every weapon imaginable sticking out from it, and one red, pupil-less eye that swiveled around, finally coming to rest on Alexia.

“That’s Abomination,” Cat whispered.

Abomination gave Alexia a bit of a hard pat on the shoulder. “Good work, daughter,” he growled. I shivered as his words sunk in. It was hard to imagine our friend Alexia, the sweet, helpful, girl that had given my bleeding arm a bandage being remotely related to that monster.

It was hard to believe, though, that she was lying to us. I really thought she was our friend. I realized with a jolt that even though I had only known her for maybe an hour, I would miss her. I would miss her matchmaking skills (now I wouldn’t know if she could have gotten Elias to like me!), I would miss her Winnie-like smile. But she was a traitor. No need to miss any of that.

I thought she was my friend. That phrase hung in my head as we were lifted over the oddly-shaped building and then dropped into a deep room below one of the flat surfaces on the ceiling. We hit the ground with a slight jarring thud. There was a bit of sky left above us, but it was just out of reach, as the top of our metal cage seemed pretty solid, made up of bars even closer together than the ones on the sides.

I looked around our prison room. The walls were damp and smelled of mildew, and even if we got out of the cage, we probably couldn’t fit into the space between the cage and the edges of the room. I stuck my hand out from one of the iron bars and could barely touch the walls. There was no way anyone, even Ty or Etty, could squeeze out from them.

“Great. Just great. Why on earth Rose trusted Alexia, I will never know,” Jonah grumbled.

Then, of all people, Josef spoke up. “Leave her alone, Jonah. We all trusted her.”

I was shocked to silence. Just when I thought Josef was back to his old ways, he surprised me again.

Then Cat spoke up. “Thanks, Josef.”

We left it at that.

“So, how do we get out of here, fearless leader?” Ty squeaked.

Davies, who had been quiet since we got captured, said, “It’s obvious. We’re stuck down here. Never to get out or see daylight again.”

“Whoa, naysayer. Stop right there. We will get out. It’s just a matter of how,” Winnie told him.

But I couldn’t help silently agreeing with Davies. A feeling of hopelessness was settling itself in my stomach. We were never getting out. We were stuck, and it was my fault.

“So… any ideas?” Cat asked us. “With all our brains together, I’m sure we can figure something out.”

“Right,” Josef muttered. Looked like his short friendliness was too good to be true.

“Josef, you could maybe fireball the ceiling and the Flyers could fly us out, like you did with that rock,” suggested Winnie.

Josef tried. But obviously fireballing a non-living thing was a one-time occurrence, because we couldn’t see a single spark.

“Looks like Josef ruins all our hopes and dreams, again,” Lily said nastily.

Elias rolled his eyes but said nothing to defend Josef.

We all settled ourselves into silent thinking. I tried to figure out a way to get out, but as I had already assessed most of our possibilities, I realized we were doomed.

But there was one prospect I hadn’t planned for.

Suddenly, we all heard a loud clanging from above. It was Alexia, standing on top of our cage with a wrench in her hands!

“You!” Etty pointed at her.

“Yep,” said Alexia, fiddling with one of the bars on top of our cage. She wrenched it off, leaving a big enough hole for any one of us to get through.

“What the…” Lily murmured.

Alexia motioned us upwards. “Come. Run. Escape. I’ll tell you where LOS really is next.”

I was not making the same mistake twice. “Ok, missy. One: You lied to us. Two: You handed us over to Abomination. Three: You’re expecting us to just blindly follow you when you could be leading us into an even worse trap?!?” I pointed out.

Alexia sighed. “Yeah, I knew you’d doubt me. Wasn’t I a good friend, though, to all of you? It was necessary to lead you down here. You see, I needed to stay on my Dad’s good side for a bit longer, so…”

Nicole interrupted her. “Yeah. About that. How on earth is that monster your father? He looks more like an experiment that went badly to me.”

Alexia sighed again. “That’s actually about right. Ok. I guess I’ll have to tell you my story.”

“I was born to Rick and Alyssa Hayes. A happy couple turned to a happy family. Seven years of uninterrupted bliss.” She looked to the sky, caught in the memory.

“But then Dad decided he was bored with the same old life. He told my mother he was leaving his job as a LOS scientist to do some experiments on his own. Mom thought little of it. Dad had always loved to experiment.”
“One day Dad came home different. Mom and I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but she did some detective work, and found out he was working on a plan to make himself a cyborg. Phase one was to give himself a robotic heart.”

I gasped in spite of myself.

Alexia looked at me. “I know, right? Then she found out what Phase two was: Give himself a robotic brain.”

Cat gave a sharp intake of breath.

“Obviously Dad knew that it could go horribly wrong. So he sat me and Mom down, oblivious to the fact that we already knew basically his entire plan. He said he would always love us and remember us, but for our own safety, he couldn’t live with us anymore.”

“We had to stop him from altering his very being with robotics. So Mom crept into his lab that night. But she was too late. The procedure was already done.”

Alexia hiccupped. “My mom d-didn’t know it. She stepped out from hiding and started pleading with him to change his m-mind. But his new brain had a g-glitch. He temporarily forgot her. All that registered was that a s-strange woman knew where his lab was, and knew his p-plans. So he k-k-killed…”

Alexia could not finish the sentence. She broke down into tears. If she hadn’t been twenty feet above us, I would have given her a hug, despite still having doubts.

We allowed her two minutes to calm down. Then one of the other Flyers said, “That doesn’t explain why he became a super villain, nor why he thinks you are working with him.”

Alexia wiped her eyes. “I know. I’m getting to that.”

She took a deep breath, and continued. “When Dad figured out what he’d done, he went crazy. Literally. His robotic brain went insane and he forgot everything, even his name. The only thing he remembered was that he had a daughter, and that he was extremely angry about something. So he vowed that whoever stood in his way from then on, he would destroy.”

Alexia took another shuddering breath. “You see how dangerous it would be to let him know I hated him for what he did to my mom. So I came to him, told him I was his daughter, and that I would help him. But I always vowed that when the time came to rebel, I would do so, no matter the cost.”

She finished up with, “When Abomination started destroying entire cities, the LOFS took notice. So from then on out, they’ve been fighting him. When LOFS came and tried to take him down and was captured, I cringed but forced myself to stand beside my Dad. When the whole LOS got captured, I knew it was soon time to take action. But not until you guys got here did I do anything against him.”

“Well, I still don’t see why he’s so dangerous,” Jonah scoffed. “Couldn’t 300 highly trained Supers fight one robotic weapon arm and whatever Power he has?”

“AbominationtakeshisvictimsPowerCoresandtransplantsthemintohimself,” Alexia said all in one breath.

“Wha?” Josef furrowed his brow.

Cat seemed to be the only one that’d caught that. “Wait… he kills people… and steals their Powers?” Cat whispered.

Alexia nodded grimly.

A horrified silence settled over ABC.

“Ok. We can continue this conversation later. Now, you need to get out and save the world!” Alexia reminded us.

I hopped on Nicole’s back. Everyone else boarded their Flyers, and we whizzed out onto the roof of the building.

Now that we were in a little less danger, I really took in Abomination’s hideout. We were right next to one of the weird branches sticking out from the ceiling. The branch was in a curly pattern, and it seemed thick enough for one or two people to fit inside, assuming it was hollow. I put my hand on it. The metal was cool and hard to the touch.

There were trapdoors every few feet on the ceiling. Some were circular, some were rectangular.

Alexia, tiptoeing, led us to one of the trapdoors in the ceiling. “In there,” she mouthed.

Davies reached for the trapdoor, but I held a hand out to stop him. “Wait,” I said softly.

I looked deep into Alexia’s eyes. She looked back at me searchingly. “I can understand your doubts. Now all you can do is let go of them,” she whispered to me.

I looked at her green eyes. I saw honesty, and I saw her trying to convey bravery to me.

I opened the trapdoor.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the contents of the room. There were two cages in the room, one holding about twenty people, and one holding a lot more. “LOFS,” Alexia pointed to the first, “And the rest of the League of Supers,” she motioned to the other.

My momentary surge of happiness faded when I saw the state of the Supers in the cages. Many were unconscious, though LOFS seemed to be in the worst condition. There wasn’t a single one of them without a visible injury.

But with a reigniting spark of joy, I noticed Ms. Walker, though not looking her best, conscious and trudging around the cage, healing countless Supers, and looking longingly over at the other cage at LOFS who obviously needed her Power. I pointed her out to Cat, whose face lit up.

Alexia whispered loudly, “PSSSSST!” Every Super looked up hopefully, but their expressions turned to alarm when they saw us with Alexia.

“TOCS kids and Flyers! Get away from her!” Ms. Walker hissed.

“No, it’s ok! She’s on our side!” Lily called down. “She’s here to rescue you!”

Ms. Walker still looked skeptical. “After getting us here in the first place?”

“We’ll explain later. But right now, we need to get you out of here and defeat Abomination once and for all!” Elias told them.

A few gave halfhearted cheers. Alexia shushed them. “I’m glad you’re happy, but stealth is key now.”

Alexia wrenched open the top of their cages, and the Flyers flew people out of the cage. Ms. Walker immediately went over and Healed the LOFS, who thanked her in murmured voices.

“Ok. We’ve got a bit of an issue. Abomination let me know his plan, if you guys somehow escaped, was to use his Water Power and make a tsunami to try to drown you. So. We need to…” she trailed off as loud footsteps sounded. “Ok. Quicker plan. Always swim upwards, and don’t swallow any water. I’ve got to go.” Alexia scurried off.

Abomination came out of one of the many trapdoors, saw us, and gave a wide grin that gave me the chills. “So. We have escape artists on our hands, hmmm?” he growled.

I frantically tried to remember the things Alexia had said, and turn invisible for good measure, but Abomination raised his hands, and the water came too quickly… and then everything exploded into salt and cold.

I was sinking down, then a wave came and I was flipped upside down and knocked against a body. My lungs burned. Wasn’t I supposed to be able to hold my breath for longer than this?

Apparently so, because I saw the ABC struggling all around me. They seemed to have breath left. I looked around, and it seemed that everything was blue.

Then there was fresh, sweet air for a moment. I gasped and choked and tried to breathe and look around, but instead of breathing air, I breathed water, because I was back underwater. Which way was I flipped now? I closed my eyes. The water stung them so fiercely I felt like red-hot daggers were being poked into them.

And then another wave hit and I was flipped every which way again. I tried to swim upwards, but I hit hard, cool metal. Ok, that was downwards. New plan.

My lungs burned even more fiercely. Black started creeping in on the edge of my vision. I closed my eyes. Salt water leaked out of them and joined the thousands of water droplets that were dancing around me.

I turned around, ready to swim upwards, and another wave hit, sending me spiraling into another body. I opened my eyes. It was Lily, and she was sinking towards the bottom, eyes closed, and face gray. I tried to grab her wrist, but all the strength had gone out of me.

I swam hard, upward, but yet another wave hit me and I hit the metal floor with a sickening crunch in my arm. I lay there, starting to float upwards, pain shooting from my lungs and my arm, giving out desperate signals to my brain to breathe in something.

I couldn’t take it anymore, so I sucked in water. I coughed and choked underwater. I had failed at Alexia’s rules.

The blackness pressed in closer, harder, as I sunk to the depths of the water. It was hopeless…

No! I said to myself. I am the leader of the ABC, and leaders do not give up! Even as my vision dimmed another three shades, I pushed off the metal floor, clutching my arm, and went up… up… up…

And I burst the surface of the water, choking and hacking. I sucked in sweet, sweet air. The water was draining all around me, so I dragged myself to dry land and lay down, letting the darkness within me take over.

Part Four

“Rose?” Someone was saying. I opened my eyes blearily. The pain in my arm had vanished. I sat up and looked at Cat, who was leaning over me.

“Oh, good,” Cat said. “I didn’t know if you were unconscious from the water, or sleeping after fighting it.”

“Both,” I attempted to smile, standing up shakily. Since I wasn’t feeling much up to talking, I painted the picture of my struggles in my mind.

Cat looked at me. “Can I…” she nodded at my head.

“Yeah,” I said.

She searched my mind for a few moments, then looked at me. Her brown eyes seemed to pierce me. “Are you ok? Really?”

I shrugged. “I mean, I’m still a bit tired and dizzy, but I know I will be.”

“No, I mean… with… other things.”

I must have looked confused, so Cat elaborated, “Your… ah… Invisible Paralysis?”

“Oh!” Things had been so busy I had almost forgotten about my looming fate. “Uh… um… I don’t really think the training was finished before I was rushed off here.”

Cat seemed troubled, but nodded and left it at that. “Ms. Walker came by while you were resting and healed your arm.”

“I need to remember to thank her,” I said, flexing my only slightly sore arm.

“Hey! I found Lily! But she doesn’t look too good…” Nicole said, pulling an ashen Lily out of the remaining six inches of water. Lily’s face was gray, her breathing shallow and fast, and slowly stopping.

My heart practically stopped beating. I should have tried harder to get Lily out when I saw her underwater!

Everyone gathered around, then parted to make room for Ms. Walker, who ran towards them.

I walked towards them, passing Josef, who was just sitting up. He looked confused. “What’s happening over there?” He asked, in a completely non-teasing, honest way.

I decided to say, “I think Lily’s hurt.”

Josef stood up, then wobbled, almost falling down again. Almost involuntarily, I grabbed his hand to steady him. “Thanks,” he said, letting go.

Josef saying thanks? Gosh, what was happening to the world?

Josef seemed to realize this, because he turned red and said quickly, “I hope her big mouth hasn’t killed her like I always said it would, opening underwater and trying to talk even then.”

That was more like it.

We walked over there together. Ms. Walker had put her hands on Lily and closed her eyes. Elias, a worried look in his eye, was checking for a pulse, obviously worried about his friend.

After a few tense minutes, Ms. Walker stepped back and said, “Ok. I think she’ll be ok now.”

Sure enough, color was draining back into Lily’s face, though she didn’t wake. With a relieved grin, Elias stepped back.

Lily woke a minute later, to a chorus of cheers. She looked around, confused. “What? What happened?”

Everyone laughed and Elias explained what happened to her. An embarrassed look blossomed on her face, then she laughed. “Yeah, I should have said something earlier. I’m a worthless swimmer.”

We saw someone running towards us. “Alexia!” I shouted. She waved worriedly at us, but when she got closer and could see that we were all there, she broke into a grin.

“I’m so sorry I ran off on you like that!” she said breathlessly, red hair waving wildly. Her green eyes searched my face. “Are you ok?”

I nodded. “Lily was almost not, though,” I told her.

Alexia sighed. “I had hoped you guys would be able to avoid that.”

“At least she’s alive and well now,” I looked on the bright side.

Alexia gave me a nod, then got down to business. “We need to make a battle plan for fighting Abomination. The good thing is, I know him. I know his weaknesses, and I know most of his battle plans. But we will all need to work together perfectly, or else we’re all dead,” she said seriously.

“Cheery thought!” grimaced Winnie, walking up to us. “I’m sure that this bunch will just get along fine and dandy throughout the battle, though,” she sarcastically added, motioning to where Josef and Lily had broken out into an argument, Jonah had thrown a non-charged Spark at the ground in frustration but still managed to start a small fire, and Etty, in an attempt to stomp out the flames, had both her and Ty on the ground in agony. Meanwhile, Sandra sneakily turned Josef’s eyes hot pink from behind him. She noticed us watching and gave a sheepish wave.

“Sandra!” I chided her, walking over, Winnie and Alexia behind me. “Really?”

She gave a sheepish but pleased shrug. “He was, like, telling Lily that her new, like, hair I did was stupid.”

I hadn’t even noticed that Lily’s normal tight braid had an orange streak in it. “I didn’t notice! I was too caught up on the whole Lily-just-basically-drowned thing. Why orange?”

Sandra blushed. “Orange is, like, the opposite of, blue,” she mumbled.

I raised my eyebrows at her but didn’t comment on her failed attempt at her power.

Suddenly, I heard a growl. “You all survived?” I started to shiver. I hated that voice.

Abomination appeared on the roof, a snarl on his lips. “You must not live! You are all ruining my quest for revenge!”

Winnie stepped onto a nearby rock. “Why, though?” she called to him.

I groaned. “Winnie…”

The super villain’s one vile red eye swiveled and came to rest on Winnie. And then, a malevolent smile formed on Abomination’s wicked face. He laughed his growly laugh again. “Child, you know not of such matters such as revenge.”

“Nope, like, you’re right, she doesn’t!” Sandra interjected, stepping up on another rock. “And that’s why she’s such a, like, good, kind, fun, positive girl. She would never hurt, like, a fly! You know nothing of, like, this innocence. You… wait, maybe you do, before you, like, changed.”

Abomination looked confused. “I was always like this.”

Alexia stood on a final rock, the highest of them all. “No, you weren’t. You can change, right here, right now, back to how you were before. You can be my dad again, different you may look. I’ll never again have a mom, but at least you could be there for me.”

Abomination looked confused for a moment. “Mom? I had a… wife?”

Suddenly, he started crumpling to the ground, moaning, “No! No! Stop! Don’t do it!” He rocked violently, finally lying still on the ground.

Silence reigned for a few moments, until Josef said, “Uh…”

But what he was going to say next, we never knew. Abomination rose up from the ground, an eerie smile not quite reaching his eyes. “I know who I am now,” he said softly, slowly walking forward towards Alexia.

Alexia stumbled backwards, quite nearly falling off her rock. “Dad… who are you? What are you?”

Abomination looked at his only daughter. “I am Abomination, the world’s greatest villain. I have no wife. I have had no other life. This is my life. Stand with me, Alexia, love. Help me fight these monsters that call themselves Supers,” he spat.

I looked at Alexia, willing her to stand strong, to not give in to her father that was not her father anymore.

I didn’t need to worry. Alexia looked Abomination directly in the eye and said, “You don’t love me. You don’t even know how to love anymore. You did, once, but those days are over. If you won’t leave us be, then I’ll fight for my real family, the ABC!”

“Yeah!” most of us chorused. I was touched.

Abomination was quiet. Then he rose up to full height, walked up to Alexia, and got within an inch of her. She leaned back.

“Then you are not my daughter anymore,” he hissed, and shoved her off the rock. Alexia fell a good ten feet and lay there, still.

There was a moment of quiet while ABC’s anger built, and then we roared and came at Abomination with all we were worth.

The final battle had begun.

Part Five

Ms. Walker immediately rushed over and healed Alexia, but she was still vulnerable. Alexia’s leg had snapped clean in two, and it was still sore once she’d been healed. Winnie helped her limp over to take shelter by a rock, but Abomination was throwing Sparks at us, and unlike Jonah, his charged in two seconds.

From what I’d learned, a Spark was similar to a ball of light. It could start fires, form lightning bolts that did even more damage, or if it hit directly in the chest of its target, kill instantly. Luckily, during the battle, this never happened, it only hit other body parts, which took a few minutes to kill, and in which time Ms. Walker could normally heal the victim.

Right after knocking Alexia off the rock, Abomination tried to catch us all off guard using Dark Bubble, which was a part of the Power of Dark Magic. He made a certain motion with his hand, and a bolt formed. He threw the bolt on the ground near all of the ABC, and it knocked anyone near it unconscious for a full hour, unless Ms. Walker healed them, which she normally did.

There was no time for a battle plan, it was more of a don’t-be-killed thing. I hid behind a rock, turned invisible (usually succeeding, yay) and went up to Abomination, throwing him off balance, to make way for Alexia’s power of telekinesis.

After a bit of this, Abomination started to get really angry, throwing so many Sparks around that it was impossible to go anywhere without being hit. “What do we do?” screamed Winnie, promptly being hit by a Spark. Ms. Walker quickly healed her, but then she sprawled to the ground being hit with a Dark Bubble.

Oh no. There was no way everyone could survive without her power of healing for a full hour.

“What now?” yelled Josef, dodging a Spark that would have hit his head.

I took cover behind a rock. “I don’t know! We just need to survive until she wakes up,” I sobbed. This was a nightmare.

Abomination threw a Spark at the rock I was hiding behind, and it exploded. Pain shot through my body as I was thrown in the air and I landed hard, pain flooding all my senses. I lay there, trying to regain my wits.

“Rose!” Somebody was calling. I blinked. “I’m OK!” I yelled to whoever was wondering. I was ok. I just needed to rest for a moment.

I dragged myself to where Josef was hiding. He flashed me a grin, then, anger in his eyes, shot a fireball at Abomination. Abomination roared and stumbled backwards.

I stood up, a bit shakily. Actually, more than a bit. As I was about to fall again, Josef caught me around the waist, promptly shooting another fireball at Abomination. He let go after a long moment. “Even now,” he said breathlessly. I smiled as I remembered how I helped him get up after the water battle.

I turned invisible (three tries, but I did!) and kicked Abomination in the back of the knee, then ran as he stumbled and nearly fell.

“So close, R!” Winnie yelled at me, blood running from a cut down her face.

“You ok, Win?” I ran to her and examined her injury.

“Stupid every-weapon-on-the-face-of-the-earth hand,” Winnie tried to smile, then grimaced as a fresh wave of blood ran down her cheek.

I ripped off a sock and threw it at her.

“Thanks, Rosey,” she breathed, clutching it onto her face.

The normal Winnie would have checked the sock to see if it smelled or at least made a joke. Hard times.

I came up to Abomination, invisible again. But (darn) as soon as I reached his feet, I felt myself becoming visible.

He roared and picked me up, holding his knife hand inches from my face. I shuddered so hard I was surprised that alone didn’t make him drop me.

Abomination grinned in my face. It made me shudder harder. “Well, well, well. The little invisible bugger,” he snorted.

Just as he was about to toss me to the ground a lot harder than the first time, I felt a wave of heat as one of Josef’s fireballs hit Abomination in the chest. Abomination growled and doubled over in pain, dropping me. I landed on my feet, luckily only about two or three feet from the ground. I regained my balance and ran.

“We’re seriously all going to be dead by the time Ms. Walker awakes,” I gasped to Sandra (she was the closest one), noticing a long, thin cut down my leg.

Sandra looked at me. “Maybe. But we’ll all keep fighting, and in my opinion, that’s the best way to go down.” She smiled weakly.

I agreed with Sandra, but hey, I’d rather not go down at all. So I turned invisible again and kicked Abomination in the leg again mechanically.

Over and over and over it went. I was exhausted, and felt dizzy from all the blood I’d lost (the bandage on my earlier arm injury had torn off almost as soon as the battle started).

Just as I was readying myself for another go, Nicole took a deep breath and said, “I have an idea.”

“Is it dangerous?” Davies asked anxiously, flying a foot in the air to avoid a Dark Bubble.

“It’s our only hope!” yelled Nicole, flying out from behind her wall and zooming towards Abomination.

“Oh, no, Nicole, don’t!” A Flyer groaned. “Don’t!”

Too late. Abomination sent bolt after bolt at Nicole, but with her obviously superior flying skills, she dodged them all.

I watched, awestruck.

She was about to reach Abomination to kick him in the head when he hit her stomach with a Spark. She froze in midair for a moment, suspended, then crashed to the ground, landing in a heap, eyes closed, the color slowly leaving her face.

Abomination laughed.

“Oh no!” yelled another Flyer.

Davies rushed to Ms. Walker and violently shook her. She did not wake up. Nicole stayed as still as ever.

All the TOCS kids and Flyers ran towards Nicole. The other Supers continued the battle.

Tears streaming down his face, Davies gently picked up Nicole, lay her near Ms. Walker, and put Ms. Walkers hand on her.

Nothing happened.

If Nicole could just hold on until Ms. Walker woke up… I lay a hand on Nicole’s chest. Not good.

A Flyer came towards us. He stopped when he saw Nicole’s unmoving body. “Nikki?” he gasped.

Soon, the whole TOCS and all the Flyers were gathered around Nicole, murmuring words of encouragement and hope. “You can pull through, Nikki. Just hold on for one more minute.”

I heard a yell from the battlefield. Abomination had stepped directly on top of a LOFS Super.

“Ms. Walker, wake up, we need you!” Cat wailed, shaking her aunt.

“Where’s Jenna? We need Jenna to heal Ali!” yelled a LOS Super from the other side of the battlefield.

“Jenna is unconscious!” I screamed to whoever was yelling, tears splattering my own face. “A kid Flyer is dying over here too!”

Ms. Walker slowly woke up, but, not knowing the urgent situation, she just sat up blearily. “What?”

“Heal Nicole! Heal Nicole now!” Davies said urgently, putting Ms. Walker’s hand on Nicole.

One of the Flyers that was monitoring Nicole looked up, her face drained of color. “Too late, Davies. She’s gone. Forever.”

It started to rain. The rain mixed with my tears as the last bit of life drained out of Nicole. I had hardly known her, but I thought we could have been friends. And nobody was supposed to die today. Today was supposed to be a day of victory and triumph. Even though the odds were impossible, I’d never really thought that we’d lose, anyone would lose their lives.

“Ali’s dying! Where’s Ms. Walker?” the same Super that yelled before came over holding a young woman with quite a few obvious broken bones and injuries.

“She’s right here,” I said dully, motioning to Ms. Walker. Ms. Walker looked stricken, bending over Nicole, trying to heal her, even though it was too late. It was always too late, and I saw that now. Too late trusting Alexia, she’d already planned to trick us, though in the end it worked out. Too late becoming more than friends with Elias, his sights were already set on Lily. Too late killing Abomination, even if we ended up doing it, because no matter what now, we had lost. We had lost Nicole. And that haunted me.

The rain picked up. It was impossible to see Abomination or any other human being, even your hand in front of your face. I stumbled a few steps and fell down, my knees scraping the dirt.

I sobbed, kneeling there on the ground. Josef came up to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Hey, girl. What’s going on? I thought you hardly knew Nicole.”

“Exactly, but I could have,” I gasped. “We could have been friends. We could have had a future. What did she want to do with her life? I’ll never know. Nobody was supposed to die. Nobody. No Supers, no Nicole, no kids, no nobody!” I sobbed all the more that I didn’t care about my terrible grammar.

Josef knelt down to my level and gave me a long, calming hug. Weirdly, this helped. A lot. I hugged him back as my tears and the downpour slowly dried up.

I heard a yell from the battle field. “Kids, can we please get your help over here? You worked together amazingly.” I looked towards the voice in astonishment. It was a League of Supers member, wanting nine messed-up kids to help them? Wow. How wrong they were.

Or were they?

I remembered how we worked together on the battlefield, all nine of us, like a well-oiled machine, with only a few weeks of training. I remembered our laughs together, and how we knew each other’s deepest, darkest secrets.

Anyone would want a group like that helping them.

So with the last bit of strength I could muster, I yelled, “TOCS, to me!”

The Flyers looked surprised, but I think they knew that this was our time. This was time for The Team of Challenged Supers to show what they had. The time for ABC unity would come later.

It was time for TOCS to prove that they had what it took to be real Supers.

We ran over to Abomination with the strength of tigers. Even the League of Supers got out of our way.

Winnie struck Abomination with lightning.

Josef shot fireball after fireball at Abomination’s (robotic) heart.

Ty and Etty confused Abomination with their twin movements.

Jonah matched Abomination’s Sparks in midair.

Sandra turned Abomination’s feet the same color of the grass so he got tripped up.

Lily attempted to make Abomination feel sad and surrender.

Elias turned small and dislodged some of Abomination’s mechanical parts.

I turned invisible and followed any or all of their powers with a good kick to Abomination’s shins.

These were my unique and (in their own way) powerful friends, and if as Sandra said, we all “went down,” this was the time to do it, with TOCS by my side.

And suddenly, it seemed Abomination couldn’t take it anymore. His steps faltered, and he roared, and fell to the ground, unconscious.

There was a moment of silence, and then we all started screaming.

Winnie high fived Josef, and hugged Elias. She looked surprised for a second, then shrugged and gave Lily a kiss on both cheeks. Everyone laughed, and smiled, and temporarily forgot that we had lost Nicole.

As soon as the last high-five was slapped, a tall, thin man came up to us. “Congrats!” he said. “That was worthy of the League of Supers. I will have my eyes on you when you are of age.”

Then his happiness changed to worry in an instant. “How is Jenna? Is she OK?”

“I’m OK, Miles,” a weak voice said from behind. We all spun around. It was Ms. Walker, supporting Ali!

“Al!” An elated voice called. The man that had brought Ali over to be healed ran and caught Ali in his arms, and they kissed.

Miles grinned at Ms. Walker, and they hugged.

“Wow, two happy couples reunited,” Winnie said, raising her eyebrows. “Never seen Ms. Walker’s husband before.”

“How can you make jokes at a time like this?” demanded Davies, walking up.

“That wasn’t a joke, but I’m sorry if it offended you,” Winnie told him, a surprised tone in her voice.

“I’m so sorry about Nicole,” said Elias in a small voice to Davies.

Davies let out a sob. “She was the best sister anyone could ever ask for.”

Oh. That made things about a thousand times worse.

I was feeling utterly awkward, and again on the verge of a breakdown. So I walked over to where Miles and Alexia were having an argument. “But you can’t!” She paused for as a second as Miles said something. “I know, I know!” Alexia said back exasperatedly.

As I came closer, I could also hear Miles’s calm voice. “Alexia, you know if we hesitate any longer, he will wake up, and we’ll have to start all over again.”

“I know,” Alexia said again. Then she covered her face in her hands. “Ok. Do it.”

My eyes widened. They were going to kill Abomination.

I heard a flash, then a groan, and then it was all over.

Suddenly, a feeling of hopelessness hit me like a wave, so fierce I stumbled and fell on my bottom.

“You ok, Rose?” Cat asked.

“I just feel so hopeless…” my voice trailed off and my eyes widened.

Oh no.

Oh no.

Oh no.

Everyone gathered around me. “Her Power Core,” Cat said sadly. “It’s failing.”

That was the hopelessness I’d felt all day… It wasn’t just a poor attitude. It was my Power Core. I hadn’t been as strong as Ms. Walker hoped. I might have survived if we’d worked nonstop, but the battle… and the whole LOS being captured…

The ABC all stared at me as the world started to fade. I wanted to say something to them, to let them know I had a good time at TOCS, to thank Cat and Ms. Walker, to let Josef know I wished there was more time for it all, but there was no time, and I gasped trying to get the words out. But no words could express my love for all of them. Just like with Alexia, they had become my family.

Would I rather have the short time I had with TOCS and then die, or rather never meet the TOCS kids that I’d come to know and love, and live? I knew I should be noble and choose the first, but to be honest, I was hoping to have a long, happy life. And it’s not like I had a choice, anyway.

Pain started building in my head, so fierce that I felt like my head would explode. I tried to struggle, to hold on as long as possible, but there was that sensation again, of someone punching me in the stomach, and I fell backwards, sending a new spark of pain to my head.

The physical world faded entirely and I was at the mercy of my mind.

Pictures started playing in my head as the pain built further. Josef. Winnie. Cat. Ms. Walker. Josef again. Josef saying thanks to me. Josef defending me against Jonah. Josef shooting a fireball at the rock for me, the sparks like fireworks in the sky. Josef looking into my eyes…

Of all the things to think about during dying, I was thinking about Josef? Somehow, this seemed right, and I tried to hold the picture in my head for longer, but I couldn’t.

The pain finally reached its max. I couldn’t take it anymore and I didn’t think I could hold on any longer. I tried to think happy thoughts, but all I could think of was the pain, building further… and further…

And then the pain stopped and I had one moment of blissful peace before everything went black.

Part Six

I was floating somewhere in space. Wait, not floating, flying. How was I flying? I had never been able to fly before.

I heard a murmur directly in my ear, “There.” I recognized that voice. But my mind felt so fuzzy and light that I couldn’t quite detect the memory. Was it my mother? Did I even have a mother? Who was I? Where was I? What was happening?

“Now, all we can do is wait,” the same voice whispered. I reached out, trying to reach the soft voice that seemed so gentle. And then I was falling… falling… falling…

And then I landed lightly on a hard floor. Whispers were all around me. Who was it?

Memories started hitting me like baseballs. Whap. Welcome to TOCS… Winnie, Cat, Sandra, Jonah, Ty, Etty, Lily, Elias, Josef…

Whap. I was fighting Abomination… Nicole’s lifeless body…

Whap. I was dying… my Power Core was failing…

Then how was I lying on a hard ground if I was dead?

A bright light hit me in the face. I moaned. My head pounded.

An excited murmur arose from the voices in my head. Or were they in my head?

No sooner had I had this thought than I became fully aware of my surroundings. My eyes sprang open and most of the pain disappeared.

A cheer arose from the voices. I rubbed my throbbing head, attempting to sit up. “What? What happened?”

“That’s her cliché,” Josef’s voice said. I looked around. The whole ABC was sitting around me.

“How am I alive?” I whispered.

Davies stepped up. “I will be the first one to say, that I am glad that at least one good thing came out of Nicole’s death.”

“I have her Power Core?” I yelped.

I said this, and a warm glow eliminated the last of the throbbing from my head. “But… how?”

Ms. Walker stepped up to me. “I know how to take Power Cores from one place to another.”

I looked at her with awe. “You saved my life!”

She shook her head. “Not necessarily. Some people take better to Power Core transfers than others. It takes a good, kind, giving, selfless person to be able to give a Power Core, and the same kind of person to be able to receive one. You and Nicole both had these qualities, so, in a sense, you saved your own life.”

“So, what happened to my invisibility?” I asked, trying to turn invisible. Nothing happened.

“It’s gone,” Ms. Walker told me calmly.

“Gone…?” I whispered. “I’m powerless?”

“We didn’t say that, now did we?” Cat took a step to stand in front of me, grinning. “Try jumping as high as you can in the air and focusing on a warm glow from the inside.”

A spark of hope wormed its way inside of me as I jumped. I didn’t have to do a single thing. The warm glow caught me and lifted me up. I was flying!

And I had to say, I liked the glow much better than the punchy-in-the-stomach feeling.

Nearly Five Years Later

It was the TOCS graduation ceremony! I had figured out a way to stay in TOCS, after all, after discovering I was only able to fly for five minutes at a time. But in the past years we’d fixed that up, and I was ready to put my power to the test in front of my parents.

Ms. Walker had taken the parents of all the TOCS students, at least the ones that didn’t already know what the class was for, into the hallway before the ceremony was due to start. She had very calmly told them that their children were Supers, and that they had spent the last five years perfecting their special talents. Ms. Walker told me later that my parents were the most surprised and proud of all, and they were so worried when she told them about my two-minute death.

The graduation ceremony was in a spectacular building. Ms. Walker had figured that we wanted a break from the TOCS area (yep) so she took us to a nearby chapel called Avis. There were stained-glass pictures of various scenes on the beautiful arched walls, and as I waited backstage for my turn to demonstrate my power, I took in the beauty of it all.

Winnie looked at me as I waited. Our friendship had grown leaps and bounds since the battle. Now Lily, Sandra, Winnie and I were inseparable.

“I’m excited to finally see your display, Rose,” Winnie teased me. I had been refusing to show her my performance over the last couple weeks, and she had been getting increasingly frustrated with each day. But now that the day was here, she seemed to forget her annoyance.

“Yup, I’m excited to see yours!” In return, Winnie hadn’t shown me her final routine either. “You nervous?” I asked seriously.

Winnie shrugged, then gave things her signature positive spin. “A bit, I guess. But it’s just parents out there. No biggie. Even if we fail, they’re so happy to see our faces again they won’t notice.”

I heard lots of cheers from the crowd. Jonah, who was up there now, must have done well. I hadn’t even been watching, so preoccupied with my conversation.

Jonah ran backstage, face red. I was worried he had messed up and was embarrassed, but he grinned and then swiped at his cheeks.

“The heat from my spectacular five second Spark!” he yelled, striking a rocker pose.

I heard laughs from in front of the curtain. “I think the audience heard that.”

Jonah’s cheeks got a tiny bit redder.

Winnie took a deep breath. “Ah. Ok. My turn.” But she made no move to leave the safety of the backstage. Clearly, she was more nervous than she’d let on.

I put a hand on her back and said all I needed to say. “You go, girl.”

This gave her the push she’d needed. Winnie nodded once and then ran onstage. I peered my head out from a crack in the curtains.

Winnie lifted her hands, ready to make it rain.

Nothing happened.

Murmurs traveled fast through the crowd.

Winnie took a deep breath and lifted her hands again.

Bam! Water poured from the ceiling. Gasps and claps rose up from the thunder.

Winnie directed a lightning bolt towards a piece of wood on the stage. Boom! A fire that was immediately put out by the drenching storm.

After a couple more minutes of spot-on techniques, she finished with a huge thunderclap. The rain lifted, and Winnie had an aura-type glow around her. She seemed perfectly content.

I wondered for the first time how her power felt. A warm glow like my flying? A more painful feeling, like my invisibility? But looking at Winnie’s blonder-than-blonde hair falling around her face and her expression of bliss as the cheers rained down, I knew that I’d never felt anything like her power before.

I smacked Winnie five as she walked back through the curtain. “You were awesome!”

It was my turn next. In another time, namely, five years earlier, I would have been petrified to walk up onto that stage and perform, if even only for adoring parents. But not anymore. I was ready for this.

Was I?

Winnie looked at me. “You’re strong. You’re brave. How could you die and be here right now if you weren’t both those things?”

That was all she needed to say. I turned my head towards the goal and my body followed.

Scattered applause sounded as I walked onto the stage. I turned to face the wall.

Music started playing, starting out slowly. I spun around, flying into the air as I went, then hitting the ground with a flourish.

I twisted and turned in the air as the beat picked up, flying higher and higher and higher and performing amazing feats in the air.

I did backflips, front flips, and a spectacular leap into the crowd, where everyone gasped when I caught myself just in time.

I jumped, I leaped, I twirled, I kicked, I was Rose, and I had the feeling I was discovering myself for the first time.

The music drew to a spectacular close, and I did too, twirling and flinging my arms out wide, feeling finally and utterly free.

The applause was so deafening I could hear no sounds except it, until a warm glow inside me started slowly burning, drowning around everything around it and letting me know I’d done well.

I rushed backstage. Winnie squealed and hugged me. We jumped up and down like five year olds. “You were Awesome with a capital A!” Winnie told me after we’d broken apart. “You looked so blissful at the end with everyone’s applause washing over you.”

“Poetic,” I laughed. “But you looked the same way!”

Winnie looked surprised. “Really?”

“I guess that’s the way our Powers work. They love being used, they really do,” I said thoughtfully. “I suppose that’s their little reward.”

Winnie nodded. “My power feels like complete relief. When I’m building up for a huge storm, it’s like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, but as soon as I let it go and make it storm, it’s released.”

“Eeeh…” I grimaced, “that doesn’t sound pleasant to me.”

Winnie shrugged. “I’m used to it, and it feels so good when it’s released.”

We shared another hug. “I’m going to find my parents,” I told her. “Even though they seemed not to love me above all, I know they loved me and I miss them.”

“Remember the plan,” Winnie said mischievously, winking.

I waved goodbye, smiling, and vanished into the crowd.

I searched through old and young, through tall and short, through brown hair and blonde. I finally saw a middle-height middle-aged woman with the exact same shade of chocolate-brown hair as me, having an animated conversation with a tall middle-aged man with spiky hair and my exact same piercing gray eyes. My mom and dad!

I ran to them, wildly waving. “Rose!” my mom yelled, giving my dad a small swat and turning his head so it faced me. His eyes lit up in the exact way I remembered and he picked me up and swung me around as if I was a baby again and not a 16 year old girl whose birthday was fast approaching.

“We’ve missed you so much, baby, we really have,” my mom whispered, tears in her eyes.

“We’re so glad you’re coming back to us,” Dad said happily, giving me a real hug.

Then my mom looked at me. “We have big news! I’m going to have a baby girl! You’ll be a sister, Rosey!”

I was thrilled! “When is she due?”

“A few weeks. Your mother’s doctor didn’t want her to come to this ceremony, but she basically ignored him and came anyway,” Dad said, laughing.

I gave them both another hug, then said, “Can I hang out with my friends this afternoon?” Before the ceremony, we had all conspired to convince our parents to give us one more afternoon of hanging out before we went our separate ways. This was the plan Winnie had spoken of with unnecessary glee.

My parents looked at each other. “All right,” my mother said finally. I jumped up and down and ran to tell Josef.

But before I could reach him, a voice that I knew and loved said, “Yo, Rose!”

I searched the crowd until my eyes landed on a familiar face.

It was Alexia! I screamed and hugged her tight.

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever!” I yelled, shoving her a little. “Why don’t you ever visit the poor old people in TOCS?”

Alexia had moved into the League of Supers building, and was taking a class with advanced Telekinesists. We saw each other most weeks, but seeing her then made me realize I hadn’t seen her in a couple months.

“Too many stairs,” Alexia grinned.

I laughed. It seemed like a lifetime ago that nine scared children were ushered up the marble stairs to a large room, and been told that they were Supers. It was hard to believe those same nine kids were the complicated and amazing people we were such close friends with today.

“Hey, Lex, what’s going to happen to you?” I asked her seriously. As far as I know, she needed an adopted family.

She smiled. “It’s all worked out. I tried out for the League of Fighting Supers yesterday…”

“And…?” I prompted, her grin already giving away the answer. And

“I MADE IT IN! I’m the youngest LOFS member in over a CENTURY, did you know?” Alexia yelled. Everyone stared at her, but in typical Alexia fashion, she ignored it.

I gave her a huge congratulations and we talked for a minute more. She was going to live in the LOFS dorms, while making constants visits to my house, she promised.

“I’ve got to go, actually,” Alexia said, looking at her LeagueMessenger. I felt only slight jealously. “The LOFS need me back at headquarters.”

I hugged Alexia tight, and she scurried off.

Now that I’d seen Alexia, I felt ten times happier (which hardly seemed possible, considering my level of joy already), so I ran to find Josef.

I had a good feeling about this talk.

Things were a bit complicated with me and Josef these days. We were super close friends, but I desperately wanted him to ask me to be his girlfriend. It was cool that he’d gotten a lot nicer to everyone, but he’d still kept his sense of humor and love of sarcasm and pranks.

Josef saw me coming towards him and beckoned to me, pulling me into a nearby room.

We stared at each other for a minute. “Awesome performance today,” Josef finally said, taking a step closer to me.

I nodded, feeling my face slowly turn pink. “You too.” He had thrown fireballs around Lily onto a wooden board and didn’t hit her once. I think it still gave him immense satisfaction to be so close to harming her.

We stood there in silence for a couple moments, Josef’s hand inches from mine.

Josef suddenly blurted, “Willyougooutwithme?”

“Yes!” I said breathlessly, so relieved. “I’ve just been waiting and waiting for you to ask me!”

Josef leaned towards me. “I was just trying to get my courage up,” he admitted.

I looked into his eyes. Was he going to…?

Suddenly I heard a very stifled giggle outside. I looked around the room we’d picked. There was one large window in it. As I looked, Lily, Sandra, and Winnie peeked into it, and ducked down below and collapsed into giggles.

I touched Josef on the shoulder and motioned to outside the room. Josef listened for a moment, eyes wide, then he narrowed his eyes angrily, but they still had their signature twinkle in them.

“They are so dead,” Josef whispered.

I laughed and pulled him towards the door. “One, two, three!”

We burst open the door. The three girls stared at us, eyes wide, and then everyone started laughing hysterically.

“I’m so glad he finally did it,” Winnie gasped after we could catch our breath.

“Well, yeah, me too,” I said with feeling.

“Come on, let’s get the rest of TOCS together and spend one more afternoon together,” Lily said happily, walking towards where the rest of our group was gathered.

But for some reason, this made Winnie stop in her tracks. “Actually, guess what. This might not be our last afternoon together. Guess where I live,” Winnie said excitedly, turning to me.

A thought dawned on me. “No… In North Ashdon Neighborhood?”

“YES!” Winnie squealed, and we jumped up and down together. “This is the first of many fun times!” I said happily.

Sandra looked at us and laughed. “Nobody cares that I also live in North Ashdon, do they?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

We all but screamed as we imagined the fun times that were yet to come with us girls.

“Well, I don’t,” Josef said, looking at the ground, dejection in his voice. But then he allowed his eyes to grow wide. “I live in South Ashdon Neighborhood!”

“Awesome!” I yelled, giving him a quick hug, laughing. Always the prankster. “I’ll walk to your house anytime I want!”

As we walked out the door to head to a café we found in town, we found out that Lily lived a couple towns away but was going to my same high school, same with Elias. Ty and Etty lived a few hours away, so we promised to write and stay in touch with them. Jonah lived near an hour away, but not quite. We vowed to get together with our entire group again soon at a meeting point between the places.

Cat caught up with us at the door and asked if she could join us. Uh, yeah! Without saying another word, she stared at Winnie, Sandra, Josef and I, and declared that she was Winnie’s next door neighbor. Winnie laughed, a tad bit nervously. “No secrets now, I guess,” she said awkwardly.

Cat grinned. “Don’t you worry, I’ll never tell anyone what I see in your mind.”

Since Ms. Walker was Cat’s aunt, Cat decided to have Ms. Walker and her husband Miles come visit for a few weeks. “She’s hoping that little Nikki is born by then so she can come and visit,” Cat said, looking directly at me.

My heart gave a little jump. “You read my parent’s mind to find out what they were naming my baby sister, didn’t you?”

Cat didn’t deny it. She just smiled.

I threw my arm around Josef and struck up a conversation with Lily when in truth, my mind was on that fateful day five years ago when a good girl lost her life. I was glad that a tidbit of her would live on, though, both in my Power Core and in my baby sister’s name. And I knew this was what Cat was thinking of when she told me what she’d found out in my parent’s mind.

We made it outside into the bright sunshine. I smiled, letting the warm glow surround me. True, in past years there had been times when I had wished I could have my invisibility. But now I knew who I was. I knew that I was not meant to be afraid and shy. I wasn’t meant to hide from the light anymore. I was made to soar.

The End…

Or is it?

Keep watch for the sequel, coming soon!

Acknowledgments

Thanks to my mom for her just plain awesomeness. Thanks for reading my edits, giving me friendly feedback, and always pushing me to try new things, in writing and out of it.

Thanks to my dad, of course! He was the one who convinced me that Tribe of Curable Souls sounded way better than Tavern of Curable Souls. I agreed in the long run, though I keep saying Tavern accidently when I tell people about my story!

Thanks to Luna Hou for being the best editor that ever walked the face of the planet, at least to me. She gave me feedback and critiques about this book so nicely that you’d never even know I messed up! Luna, you are great. Thank you so much!

Thanks to all my friends and family for giving me promises to download this book once it has been published, and giving me buckets of support along the way.

Thanks, guys! You pushed me to be my best, and let me know when I truly wasn’t. I know, I know, everyone says this, but I truly couldn’t have done it without you.

Now turn to the next page for some exclusive goodies!

EXCLUSIVE: The Elias Page. What really went on in his head when Rose dropped him? Find out now!

Elias:

It all worked out in the end, I suppose. I had Lily, and Lily had me. No hard feelings between Rose and I, and now, after it all happened, five years later, we’d even managed to be friends. But, and I could never tell Lily this, every time I saw Rose with Josef, the embers of a fire of jealously rose inside of me. Was it wrong to want Rose, even now?

I didn’t know, and that’s what worried me.

Rose didn’t understand. I didn’t try to shrink when that huge rock was hovering over our heads. Shrinking was just a natural thing for me. I’d only been working for a couple weeks on my power, OK? I didn’t quite have the shrinking/growing on command thing down yet.

And when Nicole died so abruptly, Rose was majorly upset! I knew it would be the perfect time to comfort her and make her realize who the right one was for her, but Josef got to her first. If Josef had left well enough alone, Rose would have been comforted ten times more by me. She would never think about Nicole ever again, I would have her so peaceful!

They all say I’m so sweet, I look like a baby/angel, blah blah blah. Well, guess what? I’m older now. My curly hair has straightened out. My innocent look has developed into the look of a teenage boy-going on man. My sweet nature has stayed the same, but I’m allowing myself to think thoughts now that would never have entered my mind five years ago. Like how I’d love to wipe the knowing smile off Lily’s face when she told me why it was good I didn’t get together with Rose because it would never work out, we were both too sweet, and whatever else she said after I zoned out.

So, looks like I’m with Lily, and Rose is with Josef, at least for now. But watch out, Josef. I’m coming for you. There are years and years to figure all this relationship stuff out, and I plan to make good use of those years. I like you, Lily. And I can tell that you really like me. But every time I see Rose’s deep, gray eyes and chocolate brown hair, a little something inside of me awakens. I will have her someday.

But in the meantime, I’ll go on being everyone’s sweet little angel that looks nothing like an angel anymore. But someday soon, this angel is growing wings of fire.

And I sure hope Josef is ready for that day.

FAQ on the next page!

Frequently Asked Questions… Answered!

Spoilers

Q: Why did Elias and Rose fall out?

A: Rose did at first want to be with Elias. But her questioning started when Josef saved her from the rock. Elias just shrunk and did nothing else. Rose knew she needed a brave boy to balance out her shyness, and Elias just wasn’t that boy. Through the rest of the book, she struggles between choosing the two boys, and she decides to lean more towards Josef when it seemed Elias has his sights set on Lily to be more than friends. Also, their relationship could never work out, all their arguments would just go like, “I don’t know, what do you think?”

“I don’t know, what do you think?”

So Rose makes her final choice of Josef. A good choice, I say! 

Q: Can you explain Invisible Paralysis again, and how Rose survived it?

A: Invisible Paralysis is a condition where a Super cannot control when they turn on and off their invisibility. The Power Core, a small organ near the brain, controls the Powers for all Supers (and all non-supers too!). When the Power Core senses that the Super that it is inside of cannot control their Power, the Power Core works extra hard trying to help the Super control it. But no organ can survive overworking, and the Power Core is no exception. Unless the Super trains extra-hard to learn how to turn their invisibility on and off, their Power Core will get over-exhausted and die. Once their Power Core has died, the Super will start feeling hopeless, and they will die within the day.

Rose survived this because she found a Power Core transplant. This means that a person who died during the battle (Nicole. Sorry, warned you there were spoilers!), had her exact same age, and her same gender, and her Power Core was still usable. Ms. Walker knew how to transplant Power Cores from one place to another, and so Rose survived on Nicole’s Power Core, losing her power of invisibility, but gaining the power of Flying!

Q: Will there be a Sequel to Flicker, Fade, Soar?

A: Of course! The author (me) is going to participate in Nanowrimo, a contest where authors try to write 50,000 words in November. I will likely finish the sequel, which main focus will be on Nikki, Rose’s little sister, during the contest, or soon afterword’s. That book should be posted on IBook’s just like Flicker, Fade, Soar. It is unnamed so far, and might be free, might be a dollar. We’ll see!

Keep watch! This book should be updated when a title is available for the sequel.

I hope you enjoyed Flicker, Fade, Soar!

 

 


Flicker, Fade, Soar

Twelve-year old Rose has an issue. A big one. She turns invisible randomly, unable to speak or be heard or do most normal activities until she reappears, also randomly. Her parents decide to send her to TOCS, a class that will fix her problem. But what is in store for Rose at TOCS is beyond what she ever dreamed. She'll fight villains, rescue heroes, and maybe, just maybe, if she's lucky, she'll become a hero herself.

  • ISBN: 9781370042746
  • Author: Zoe Wynns
  • Published: 2016-10-11 00:05:13
  • Words: 24600
Flicker, Fade, Soar Flicker, Fade, Soar