I peel my face off of the car’s dashboard, groaning in pain, my head spinning. When had I fallen asleep? At least the car isn’t on a road. Or in a ditch, for that matter. I must have parked it while I was half asleep. Thank goodness for common sense. If I had crashed, I’d probably have died. And just like that, Chamberly would be lost forever. No one would come for her. No one would care.
There is a rustle, and I instantly snap to attention. I duck down, slouching low in the seat, and catch a flash of pink out of the corner of my eye. Slowly, I relax and hop out of the car, rounding the back.
As I near the back, there is a soft yelp, and another flash of pink. I reach out, grabbing for it.
The girl’s quick, but I’m quicker. I snatch at her, catching a handful of pair. I hear her shriek, and something pulls against me. I yank back, eliciting another loud shriek, and pull the girl into view. She struggles, but I’ve got her this time.
The girl I pull into view is the smallest and scrawniest thing I’ve ever seen. Her hair is a neon shade of pink today, providing an interesting contrast to her fair skin and brilliant green eyes. She should be afraid- I know how hard my face is- but instead she giggles.
“Heey,” she laughs, as if we are old friends, “can you let go of my hair? This hurts.”
“No,” I say sharply. “You’ll just bolt like you always do. Now why are you following me?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this girl. For weeks now I’ve caught glimpses of her somewhere close to me. Never much- a flash of neon hair, or green eyes. But enough to know that it’s her who’s following me. No one else dyes their hair as brightly as she does. I’ve never been able to catch her before before today.
She giggles again, but her expression turns serious at my question. “Well, you’re the only one… like me that I could find. You’re good at hiding and staying off the radar, so when I follow you, I just copy you, and it makes me good at it too. Kind of like a fish hanging around a shark, you know? Like, the fish kind of gets protection and-”
She keeps talking, but I zone out her words. Like me. She’s like me, and is following me for protection. She thinks I can protect her. That’s laughable. I can’t even protect my own sister. I couldn’t save her when the soldiers came to take her away, and I won’t be able to save this girl.
“No,” I say, cutting her off mid sentence. Her mouth snaps shut, and for a second is completely silent as she stares at me.
“But… you’re Psi, right?” he asks warily. Of course. She’s never seen my ability.
Psi. What we call the freaks. The mutants. And yes, I am one.
This has been going on for six years. Perhaps longer. ‘This’ is a disease that has ravaged the country, infecting kids from the age of 10 to maybe my age. Many kids die. Some live. Chamberly and I lived. And so we became Psi.
The disease did something terrible to the survivors. Each kid was cursed with an unpredictable and powerful ability- abilities that are classified into five colors: Red, orange, yellow, blue, and green.
Greens are the most harmless. Their abilities make them smarter in one way or another, whether it’s photographic memory, instant code-solving abilities, or a million other things. Greens are also the most versatile.
Yellows control electricity. They can short-circuit machines, or even possibly shoot lightning at their enemies. Thinkings of yellows, I think back to that day where Chamberly had been taken away. That explosion. The metallic smell. Chamberly was- no, no not was she’s still alive, I mean is- a Yellow. Or at least, that’s what I assume.
Blues can move and lift objects with their mind. The girl that I’m holding is probably one. I’ve seen her lift boxes and food without touching them before. From what I can tell, Blues can lift objects that are several times their body weight- within reason.
Then of course, there are the rumors of Oranges. I’ve never met an Orange, and sometimes I wonder if they even exist. The rumors say that they can read your mind, or control your mind, or some other junk like that. I don’t know how reliable these rumors are. Everything I know come from other Psi kids, who evaded being taken to camps. That’s where Chamberly is now. Assuming she’s even still alive.
And then reds… I shake my head slightly, shuddering. I divert my mind from that topic, ignoring the internal heat that rises within me at the thought. Quickly, I divert my attention to the girl. Her head is cocked curiously, waiting for my answer.
“Yes, I am.”
She relaxes again. “Then maybe I could-”
“I said no,” I reply. “You’ll have to find yourself another shark to follow. I’m now anyone you want protecting you.” My tone is stone hard and leaves no room for argument, but this girl will not be deterred.
“Neither of us will make it on our own,” she insists. “But if we stick together, then are chances are twice as good.”
“It would be twice as dangerous,” I correct.
“You never know when it would be useful to have a second pair of eyes around,” she presses, “to watch for Psi soldiers and skip tracers.”
“The answer,” I say firmly, “is no.”
She cocks her head a second time, her expression a little like a kicked puppy’s. “You think I can make it on my own?” she protests.
I snap at her, some of my internal heat boiling over into anger. “I couldn’t save her, and I won’t be able to save you when they come for you either!” I release her hair, and push her away from me.
She opens her mouth, maybe to ask what I mean, but I stop her before she can.
“Get out of here, kid.”
“Kia,” she whispers. Then she’s gone, in a flash of pink hair.
I blink, confused, before realizing that she had told me her name- and also that I’d never asked.
But why does it matter? Hopefully, she won’t come back. The only way she’ll stay safe is by staying far away from me.
I mutter a soft curse under my breath and turn back to the car. It’s time to leave.
I nearly make it back to the car, when a glint of light catches my eye. Instinctively, I duck down, flattening myself against the side of the car. Slowly, I let my eyes travel up towards the roof of a nearby building, where I saw the glint in the first place.
At first I see nothing. Then there is another glint, and a small movement- really just a slight shift- obvious enough to draw my eyes to it. Then my eyes focus on the dark figure, and the gleaming barrel of the gun they hold.
My breath catches in my throat. A skip tracer. This car is the only thing between me and a rain of bullets.
Skip tracers are people that hunt down kids with abilities like mine, and bring them to the camps for cash rewards. This racer might not kill me- but if I’m caught then I’m as good as dead.
I grit my teeth, feeling heat rise within me. I want to destroy this tracer- eliminate them so that they can’t hurt anyone else ever again. But it’s too dangerous. I’m lucky I haven’t been spotted yet. My best option is to sneak away now, before they see and shoot me.
I slowly inch backwards, each step taking me further away from the car. I’ll have to find a new one, I guess.
For once in my life, luck is with me. The skip tracer doesn’t see me. I slip away, only pausing to mutter a soft thanks to whatever had given me a break. I am free. This is more than I deserve. And it is more than what some- like my sister- get. But for now, I must focus not on my luck, but on survival. I need to live, so that Chamberly will have someone to come for her.
Because in the end, freeing Chamberly is all that matters. I’ll free her, or I’ll go to hell trying. Whichever comes first.