Gasoline

"We are at war. We need only the best. And sometimes the best come from the worst of us."

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2. Chapter One

“Sleeping?”


“No.”

“Eating?”

“What they force me to.”


“Behaving?”


“No.”


“We’re working on that,” Zuberi added gruffly. He fixed his good eye on me and added, “We’re working on all of it.”


I rolled my eyes. “Sure, listen to him. It’s my life, but listen to my warden.”


Doc laughed. The sound was calming; it was one of the reasons I liked Doctor Connors. Like Zuberi, he didn’t treat me any differently. And I knew that I was different, so it just meant that bit more.


I twisted my wrist idly in my cuff. Reason number two I liked Doc—he never chained me to the therapy sofa by both wrists like the other doctors.


“Alright, any pain concerning your eyes even with your regular pills?” Doc asked.


“Some,” I admitted, reluctantly. “Usually the hours after my contacts are fitted.”


He nodded, adding a few more notes to the sheet in front of him. “I can prescribe some anti-inflammatory pills for that—“


“No.”


“No?”


I shook my head. “No more pills.”


The look between my warden and my doctor didn’t go unnoticed, but I held my tongue. The cocktail of medicines the staff forced down my throat already made me feel off-centred enough without adding heavy duty pain pills.


“Okay, so another dosage of regular painkillers for after the new contacts are issued,” Doc hummed. “We agreed on upping the amount of sleeping pills taken but removing the range of brands taken, correct? Good.” He swirled his pen into a signature on the lengthy prescription and slid it to the opposite end of the desk. Zuberi folded it neatly and tucked it away.


“Let’s go, then.”


The cuffs were merely a precaution for when I was in close quarters with someone. Designed by the same company that created my specialised contacts, they contained elements which dulled my...uniqueness. Wrist chafing, I allowed Zuberi to manhandle me to my feet and escort me to the door.


“See you next week, Doc,” I called cheerfully over my shoulder.


The door shut with a chuckle. “Goodbye, Levi.”


“When are you gonna stop treating everybody like they’re either your best friend or your worst enemy?”


I shrugged. “In my life, people always fall into one of those two categories. Why bother waiting? I’ve got good intuition for a reason.”


The gruff warden rolled his eyes. It amused me now to think that when I’d first been placed in the compound and been assigned Zuberi, I’d barely even made eye contact with him. Dressed head to toe in black, the six foot six African giant with his grey dreadlocks didn’t exactly say kiddie-friendly, though. We’d worked in silent synchronisation for months until the day of my first Incident.


Incidents were what were written down in my file as ‘consequential mistakes.’ Not that they always were.


The horse-shoe compound served as more of a segregated village than anything else. I’d found that funny—a completely separate town for only a handful of people. Not that it didn’t have its uses; here, being enhanced wasn’t the problem.
Controlling the enhancement was.


 The glass corridor we strode along backed the main courtyard. Sophia and Brooke danced around one another, the ball blurring between the two of them. Identical twins, the two of them were often impossible to tell apart, in looks and in personality. The only thing that really kept them separate beings was that Sophia was generally sunnier than blank-faced Brooke.


Today, they were both dressed in matching tennis outfits. I paused and pushed open the door onto the courtyard.


“You two do know you’re playing the completely wrong game for those outfits, right?”


Sophia turned to me, her grin spreading wide. A tight curl fell out of her hasty bun and she said, “That’s the point. We’re throwing people off the scent.”


“The scent?”


Brooke shrugged. “We don’t want to be too predictable, Fletcher.”


I nodded as if I understood. “Right. Have either of you seen Tom?”


The twins glanced at one another. “I saw him in the lounge about half an hour ago.” Calling my thanks, they waved and resumed their, what could only be called, blur of a basketball game.


Inside the corridor, I found Zuberi watching the amplified nineteen year olds. He shook his head and said, “Out of everyone, those two are the ones that freak me out the most.”


I raised my eyebrow but didn’t say anything.


Within the compound, I shared my living space with six other people. Three girls, three boys, all arriving at the EAC within two months of one another. The twins weren’t the only siblings; the eldest, Ivor, had a silent younger brother named Junior.


At twenty, Ivor kept us all more or less in check. The owner of the Enhanced Ability Compound had demanded that the wardens were there for escorting only, not for a power trip. It hadn’t taken long for a family-like bond to develop between the seven of us and the wardens were rendered almost completely unnecessary.


The living quarters were my favourite part of the EAC. Separated by double doors, the main bland corridor expanded out into an enormous lounge area, furnished with an open-plan kitchen, living room and stairway up to the dorm rooms.


Feet poked up over the sofa arm. I wrinkled my nose and crept closer. Only one person would wear socks that ratty—and with Buzz Lightyear on them. Gently, I ran the tip of my index finger over the arch of the lengthy sole and Thomas snatched his foot away.


The lanky teen pushed his headphones off his mop of blonde curls and groaned, “Go away, I’m trying to channel inner peace.”
I snorted. Thomas’ talent lay in invisibility, shielding himself from others, but it had never come easily to him. Tests told him he needed to be in a state of absolute calmness to have even a hope of turning a fingernail invisible.


“Inner peace, huh? How’s that going?”


He rolled his eyes and rubbed at his face. The kid was lengthy in all sense of the word; at only seventeen, it was clear he was still in the grasp of puberty and his limbs didn’t let him forget it. Standing at six foot, his slim frame served him awkwardness in bucketfuls. He was Amora’s favourite target of bullying, and his poof of blonde curls didn’t help.


Spread-eagled in running shorts and a DC superhero shirt, he leaned over to the glass coffee table and grabbed his glasses, sliding them up his long nose. Squinting, he said, “Where were you? Nobody’s seen you since this morning.”


“Doc. I needed my pills in a new order,” I shrugged. “Old stuff wasn’t cutting it.”


Thomas rubbed sleepily at his face and said, “Really? I thought you were sleeping now.”


Sleeping had always been an issue for me, even as a child. Back then, however, it usually came to me more than half the nights. But when I was moved into the EAC when I was fourteen, it became impossible. Different drugs in different dosages didn’t make much impact. The latest instalment however had made something of a change—now, I could usually sleep about one or two hours a night.


Sitting up, he scratched at his flat stomach. “Want something to eat? Junior nabbed some stuff from the staff room. They get much better muffins than we do.”


I laughed, stealing his place on the sofa and resting my arm behind my head. “Sure. Remember I only eat white chocolate and raspberry muffins.”


From the kitchen, Thomas laughed.

 

***

I woke to the feeling of rocking.


My hand pushed in the direction of the disturbance and hit something hard.


“Ow!”


The voice was unmistakeable.


I groaned, resting my head back against my pillow. “Jesus, Ivor.”


The bedside light flickered on. Illuminated, Ivor gripped at his nose and scowled down at me. I think that was the first time I’d ever seen him look down at me in my whole life.


“You smack me one and its, ‘Jesus, Ivor’? How’s that fair?”


I sat up, yanking the duvet up to cover my bare chest. “It’s four a.m. Tell me what you want before I throw you out the window.”


He rolled his eyes, wincing as he prodded his bruised nose. “Myles wants us to do an early Trial.”


“What? Since when?”


“Since ten minutes ago. Dude yanked me from my bed and told me I had to get all you cretins up.”


Myles was something of the pack leader. He didn’t have any abilities, other than his incredible indifference to catastrophic situations and amazing intolerance toward anything remotely fun. Out of everyone, I clashed with him the most, but I couldn’t blame him for not liking me. I’m shockingly irritating after a while.


Pulling on a shirt and black jeans, I ran a hand through my hair and joined the others in the living area. Before I’d even pushed open the door I could hear shouting.


“You stole it! It was in my half of the wardrobe—“


“Since when?! I ordered it in! It’s mine!”


The twins.


Amora, Ivor and Thomas all stood watching the girls arguing in the kitchen. Ivor looked like somebody who’d seen it a million times before, Amora looked amused to the point of it being suspicious, and Thomas—well, Tom just looked uncomfortable standing close to Amora.


Someone that made my skin crawl was Amora De Angelis. One of the earlier inmates to the compound, her twisted, sadistic nature had never sat well with me. She revelled in the torture of others. I’d learned early on to stay away from her, which seemed to be easier for me that most others. That probably had something to do with her tall frame, gorgeous face and more than generous assets.


I stood at Tom’s other side and asked, “Amora’s work?”


He nodded. “Oh yeah. They’ve been arguing for—“ He checked his watch. “—about half an hour, now. I’m surprised you didn’t hear it.”


“I got my room soundproofed, remember? I couldn’t cope with it anymore after the high heel situation two years ago.”


Thomas winced at the memory, his crooked nose wrinkling.


A blur sped past us and I sighed, taking a step back. Sophia shrieked as her sister disappeared—seconds later and she was gone too. Invisible streaks of air crashed around the room, chasing one another and knocking things to the floor. A lamp wobbled precariously near the end of the table, but before any of us could reach for it, Brooke shot past and pushed it back up.


Ivor leaned back against the wall and sighed. “We might not even be doing an afternoon Trial at this rate. Speaking of, where’s Myl—“


 Both blurs shuddered suddenly into the twins. Gripping the scruffs of their necks, Myles held them just above the ground and growled, “Do I even want to know what’s going on?”


Brooke scowled at her sister. “Someone stole my top.”


“I didn’t—“


Myles shook them both, hard. Fixing his scowling eyes on us, he said, “Amora. Give the girls the top back.”


Amora’s eyes widened, but she huffed and pulled the top from her back pocket. Dropping it at her feet, she swiped her long, blonde tresses over her slender shoulder and popped her gum. “I didn’t realise it’d be such a big deal. Sorry.”


I fought the twitch making me want to frown. Amora was extremely talented in the field of making apologies sound like something very different.


Brooke swiped the top up and disappeared in a shot of warped air. Sophia brushed herself off, her face smoothing into calmness. She glanced around guiltily. “Uh, sorry about the mess. We’ll clean it up.”


Myles rolled his eyes. “Don’t bother. That’s what we hire cleaners for.”


Brooke shot back into the room and slid her hand into her sister’s. A silent exchange of pitiful looks passed between them and I glanced away. The twins could be a little bit creepy at times; I just pretended not to notice.


“Being up at this hour’s practically child abuse, M,” Amora chewed, crossing her arms confidently. “Care to share why you felt the need to ruin my beauty sleep?”


Thomas muttered something under his breath that sounded like, ‘God knows you need it’ and I almost choked.

 

“You’ve been asked by the government to complete a taped Trial. It’s not my place to argue.”

 

My ears perked. Give him his due, Myles didn’t beat around the bush. But a taped Trial? For the government? They hadn’t dabbled in matters as common as the compound since they funded its creation—and that was purely because of who my parents are.


Even Ivor looked interested. “Why?”


Myles tugged at the neck of his shirt. “The country has a proposition for you.” He paused, and his black eyes slid to the narrow coffee table in the centre of the lounge. “All of you.”


Thin, turquoise smoke rolled over the glass table. It cleared, leaving behind a dark haired young boy. He blinked once. A strand of hair fell in front of his eyes and he pushed it back so that it was slick to his head, like the rest of it.


Myles sighed. “One day I’m not gonna call you out on that, kid, and you’ll miss the entire briefing.”


Junior simply went to stand beside his brother, who proudly yanked him against his hip and rubbed his knuckles against his head. I winked at the kid as he rolled his eyes.


A phone buzzed in Myles’ pocket. Plucking it out, he answered, “What?” All seven of us leaned in, trying to make sense of the humming on the other end. Myles nodded and said, “We’ll be right there.” Hanging up, he snapped, “Get ready, crowds are starting to arrive. Put on the jumpsuits you’re given in the Jeep and for God’s sake, don’t whine about having to get changed in front of one another.”


“Woah, woah, woah,” I butted in. “Crowds? What crowds? You said we were being taped?”


“Hardly likely for the government to miss a chance to glean money from the British public, Levi. They’ve practically turned it into a family event.”


Brooke snorted. “A family event? We have somebody who can set someone on fire without even clicking her fingers.”


Myles just shrugged. “Not my problem. Get your asses in gear before I kick them.” With a flap of his long coat, he pressed his phone to his ear again and disappeared through the double doors.


Amora narrowed her cat eyes and blew a bubble, before muttering, “I don’t like it. Nobody’s bothered with us for years. They want something.”


“It’s the public,” Ivor sighed, heaving Junior up onto his hip. “When don’t they want something.”


Wardens marched us down the bland hallways. Amora and her warden, Darren, walked in front of me. For Thomas, I made sure to occasionally clip her heels with my feet.


We weren’t prisoners. We’d been told that every day for months after arriving at the compound. We were free to come and go as we pleased—but straying out with the steel fences encircling the EAC triggered awkward questions and enquiry forms. I’d learned, after asking more times than I could count, that it was easier to just live my life out within these walls.


We need to think about protecting the public, Ivor had told me when I was sixteen. This is the only way they can keep telling everyone we’re all the same. That we don’t exist.


Night air nipped at my face as we were escorted outside. It was far too cold to be anywhere near summer—maybe it was closer to November? I didn’t keep track of the months in the compound. There wasn’t any need. They told us when it was Christmas and that was all I really cared about.


Shivering, I desperately regretted only shoving on a t-shirt.


“Cold, baby boy?”


I scowled down at Amora. Cuddling up to me, she winked and held her hand up. A tiny ball of auburn exploded in the centre of her palm, spitting out fiery embers. It threw her face into a lukewarm shadow, highlighting the perverted grin that spread across her face. “You’re welcome to join me. I don’t mind sharing.”


“Thanks, but I’d rather share a bed with Myles.”


Amora wasn’t fazed. Winking, she replied, “You won’t always be like this. In the end...” She leaned in close and pressed her lips to the shell of my ear. “They always come running.”

 

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