Huh. Someone must have decided to let me sleep in. The sun was turning my peaceful little world pink, whereas usually I got up when it was still dark. I tried to remember how the meeting at MC had gone, but I couldn’t. I frowned, and retraced what we had done in my head. Agent Brackley had led us through corridors, through a door, and . . . oh. Red-hot anger coursed through me. The little traitor! My eyes flew open, and I tried to sit up, but I was restrained. Looking around, I saw that I was chained to the wall in a smart wooden briefing room. Had the situation been less dire, I would have rolled my eyes. Imbeciles.
I blinked, and waited for the chains to atomise. They didn’t. I frowned, and blinked again, and a wave of panic coursed through me. I didn’t know how, or why, but my powers weren’t working. I was defenceless.
All my life I have felt above other people. I never felt trapped, because nothing could contain me. I was never bored, because I could float out of my head and go wherever I wanted. Now? Now, I was just like everyone else.
I began to struggle against my bonds, but stopped when a door to my left opened. My eyes followed the man who walked through it until we were face to face.
Agent Brackley laughed bitterly.
‘You know, I hate you. From the moment you took my position and embarrassed me in front of everyone, I hated you. An FBI agent, beaten by a fourteen-year-old girl! You don’t deserve your powers, and now?’ He raised his hand and flicked the side of my head with his nail, then smiled. ‘You don’t have them.’ He strode away to the middle of the room, raising his voice so I could still hear him.
‘That nifty device on your pretty little head is called a cortical inhibitor. It’s a prototype, of course, but we are manufacturing more. Mutants,’ he spun on his heel to face me. ‘are unnatural. You cannot live in peace with humans, so you must be eliminated. But the government,’ he was fiddling with something in the middle of the room. From what I could see, it was a metal chair of sorts. ‘Views this as too drastic. So it is my job to contain you. You are a beacon of hope for mutants, River. A little girl with such immense power, trying to free them all! But take away hope, and what do you have?’ I was shaking now. Agent Brackley grinned, an insane, maniac’s grin.
‘Nothing. Bring him in!’
The door opened once more, and someone was pushed through. Ishmael. His hands and feet were bound, and his wings- his beautiful, perfect wings- were bent and bound. I could see red veins start to throb in front of my eyes. Ishmael turned to me and smiled reassuringly, as though he were fine, but gave a heart rending cry of pain as Agent Brackley grabbed his shoulder, dragged him to the middle of the room, and heaved him onto the chair. Ishmael’s hands were strapped down, his ankles tied, and Agent Brackley snapped away the back of the chair. The veins that had been throbbing behind my eyes began to seethe. I concentrated all my energy on one spot, letting nothing distract me from what I was doing. Agent Brackley was holding a crude saw now, and placing it against where Ishmael’s wings were attached to his back. I squeezed my eyes shut, drawing energy from reserves that I didn’t even know I had.
There were two noises in the next three seconds. The first was screams of pain from Ishmael, and the second a small, insignificant sounding pop. Later, I wondered if Agent Brackley registered the fact that my cortical inhibitor had blown up, before his bones were shattered, and his brain compressed into pulp. The room shook, and random walls started disappearing. My chains had cracked open, and I stood with my head thrown back.
I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I had risen into the air, or that the building had de-materialised. My power throbbed like a beating heart, sending waves of energy out across the city. My head felt like red-hot tongs were tearing it apart, and my eyes were hot. Never once in my life had I turned my power on myself, but floating fifty storeys in the air, with the power of a god, I began causing my skin to contract. I wanted to die. I had to die, because I couldn’t live like this.
‘River.’ My wild eyes flew open. I knew this person, didn’t I? Strong arms grasped my shoulders. ‘River. Stop this. This is not you. We can go home now, River. Let go. Hold onto me.’
My vision blurred-whether with tears or unconsciousness, I didn’t know- then my world went black. I was with Ishmael. I was safe.