I'm thrown to the ground before I can even turn around.
This isn't a part of the plan.
Officer Marco of squadron G has me pressed to the ground, curly black mustache an inch away from my face. I can smell his breath. Coffee flavoured, but the smell doesn't last long. He punches me and my brain does a three-sixty in my skull. Something snaps. Pain shoots through me like a bullet.
I can't help it, even though I've been trying to help it for a month now, even though Dad died for me to keep it a secret.
Marco flies off me, slamming into the wall with a crash. He hits the light switch on the way, and the room goes dark, only illuminated by the computer screen. Twenty minutes now, and it takes fifteen to get to the gates.
"W-what's the access code?" I demand, loosening my grip on his throat just enough so that he can speak.
"Don't kill me, please," he manages.
"What's the access code."
"G1ACCESS, all caps."
Really? My eye twitches and I tighten my invisible hold around the man's throat.
I'm shaking from the effort of keeping Marco up, and I'm dizzy from his punch. He stares in horror, trying to speak, but I've constricted his wind pipe. He can't so much as breathe.
His face turns purple before my eyes, eyes rolling up in the back of his head, and I realize the exact thing they were afraid we'd do is what I'm doing now. But I can't stop now. If they find out Dad wasn't the only one, if they find out his children had it too, then they could go after my family.
He goes rigid, then still, and I let him fall to the ground. I rush to the computer, take Poller's hand, and press in the access code shakily.
Finally, I press enter. A timer appears, counting down the minutes until the door opens. 17 minutes and sixteen seconds. If I run, I'll get there with a couple minutes to spare.
I turn for the door. I try not to look at Marco, but it's difficult, like trying not to stare at a horribly disfigured stranger. It's too gross to look away.
So my eyes flick towards him as I reach the door, and just as I do I see that the second worse thing to killing a man has happened: almost killing a man. He's pointing something at me, but before I crush his windpipe for good, he shoots. There's a pop and a sharp pain in the back of my leg.
I buckle, hissing, but when I look down there's no blood. It wasn't a bullet, something else. Poison maybe?
There's no time to wait. I get up and leave the room, limping towards the door out to G18.
By G17 I can feel the bleeding begin, but when I look down I see something strange. My blood is blue.
Yes, I'm telekinetic. It's run in my family for over half a century now, ever since the phenomenon started. Unlike common myth, my blood is not a different colour, though. I have no idea what's going on. There must be something in the dart that's making me see things funny, the poison spreading to my optic nerve.
I limp faster, on G16 now. This is one of the halls that runs by the cafeteria. The plan was that I'd leave the control room before Marco came back, but I don't know what made him return so damn fast. I made a few close calls, sure, but nothing that would—
The phone. What if someone was on the other line? They must have heard me come in and hang up, told Marco to come back.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
People are staring at me limping as fast as I can down the hall, also not a part of the plan, but my blue blood stands out on my orange pants like wine on a wedding dress.
A guard turns the corner and I freeze, standing stock still as they run towards me. It's all over. Either I use my power to get rid of them and completely blow my cover, or I allow myself to get caught.
But to my surprise, they run right past, down towards G16.
I never consider myself lucky, but I guess Dad is watching over me today.
I limp faster, ignoring the pain. I'm so close. All I have to do is get to the gate in G1 before 10:00. No, earlier. I'll have to get on the ship first, I'm just hoping that Quan and Helen are on time and ready to go. Even more, I'm hoping that they'll wait for me.
I know the only thing that is keeping them from ditching me now is that they can only leave at a certain time. But if I don't make it to that time... I'm screwed.
The leg isn't that bad anymore. I run with everything now, tears streaking down my cheeks from the residual pain. I have to keep going, though. I need to get to my family.
So I dash through the halls, praying to a god I never believed in, knowing that the next few seconds will determine my future. I have one shot at this.
I'm in G3 now, but raised voices echo around me.
"A-673Z! Find her!"
My blood runs cold. That's my prisoner code.
I'm alone in G3, footsteps thundering louder than ever on one side of the hall, and even louder on the other side. I'm cornered.
How do I get out? I look around, heart pounding, palms sweating, and then I see it. There's a vent high above on the ceiling of G3, too far up for anyone to reach. That is, too far up for someone who isn't telekinetic.
I unscrew the vent grate and hover up, folding my arms to my side. I fit in perfectly, and just as my feet slip in a pack of guards storm in. I screw the grate back on, my breathing echoing in the vent, my body hovering, warm dusty air rushing around me.
So close, but when I check my clock I see that it's 9:59. The gate opens in less than a minute.
I zoom through the vents, towards G1. Thirty seconds now. No time.
The engine of a ship rumbles nearby. Quan and Helen made it. But the vent is making a detour away from G1. I have seconds left before the gate opens. The gears are already slowing down, getting ready to let us out.
I have no time for this.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I blast through the vent and into the air hangar, shrapnel and cement dust flying everywhere. The door of the Hyperion 620 is shutting, but with a final burst of energy I fly through, tumbling onto the ground within. Quan shouts, Helen screams.
"It's just Vanya! Go, go!" Helen yells.
Helen's bloody fingers grab onto my shoulders and pull me up to my feet, shoving me into a seat. Her eyes are rabid, her hair matted with dried blood, her face pale.
I buckle myself in as she rushes to her seat across the small, beeping and flashing metal chamber.
And then my ears fill with the growling engine of the ship. The speed of takeoff presses me into my chair. I shut my eyes, expecting something to go wrong, expecting the ship to self-implode, but when the pressure ebbs my heart is still beating. I'm alive. We've made it.
I'm about to cheer, but Helen interrupts me. "We'll be okay for 15 minutes. Do you think that will be enough time?"
"More than enough. We just need to get to Xeron and then we'll be home free, get another ship, set out again, go to Chan Wu. Vanya, you okay, kid? I was sure you weren't going to make it. It was like you flew in or something."
I did. But if he hasn't put two and two together yet I'd rather keep it that way. Maybe he was too busy getting the ship ready to figure it out. Either way, I can't answer him.
"Vanya, snap out of it," Helen says. She snaps her fingers. "What's wrong, are you hurt?"
Why does she care?
"What happened to your leg?" she says. "Are you bleeding, did you get—"
She stops, and I look at her. She stares at my leg, eyes narrowing.
"W-what?" I manage.
"What's on your leg? It's blue. Quan, turn on the light. Look at her leg."
The lights switch on. I cover my eyes.
Quan hovers over me, the ship on autopilot, but I don't know why this is so important. Ships from IPCM could be setting out to kill us at any moment, and Quan gets up. Am I really being poisoned? Does he actually care that much?
Quan and Helen exchange a look, and then he says, "Odd. We'll get it checked out when we arrive in Xeron."
"Yeah, get it checked out."
Quan sits back down and so does Helen. They don't talk after that. Xeron is minutes away. I try to calm myself, but I can't believe we're out. It's unreal.
My leg throbs to the beat of my heart.
We land in Xeron several minutes later, settling down on an uninhabited prairie near Haifer, a small farming village in the interior of Galica, one of the many continents of Xeron. Dad gave me a book on the planet for my fourteenth birthday and I remember reading it avidly, always wanting to go there. Tameria, my home planet, is a hick town compared to Xeron. Xeron is all sky scrapers and neon lights. Yalina, the largest city, is visible from our little prairie enclosure, even though it's miles away. Even once I get out of the ship I can see the twinkling lights and ahead, like stars in the night sky.
Seeing it calms me. Maybe I am free. Finally, after weeks of worrying, after the disillusionment that flogged me after my dad's death, I am free. Now I just have to figure out what to do next. Number one, get rid of Quan and Helen. Our relationship ends here. I have to be on my own in order to find my family, and having two well known criminals hanging around me won't be good for my case if I run into trouble along the way.
But then, maybe I can still work with them a little longer. There's still the issue that our faces are going to be all over Xeron news in minutes, if we aren't plastered across TV screens already. There hasn't been a breakout from IPCM in years, and Xeron is the obvious place for us to go.
We stick out like a sore thumb in our orange jumpsuits and bright red space ship parked in the middle of a golden field. Maybe this wasn't the best place to land.
"Guys, shouldn’t we—"
I turn around to Helen and Quan but stop short. Both are pointing guns at me, emergency weaponry found in the shuttle. I turn into a statue, staring at them.
Well, this isn't good.
I raise my hands, eyes darting between the two of them. "U-um, guys. What are you doing?"
Helen sighs. "Sorry about this, sweetheart. We really wanted you to come along with us for the ride, but it's that." With one hand she points to my leg, the wounded one. It's stopped bleeding.
"I-I don't get it."
Quan sighs. He almost looks sad. "All the guards on IPCM carry tracker guns with them, just in case they think someone is about to escape. It injects micro-trackers into your bloodstream and turns the blood around the wound blue, making you more noticeable, but somehow you made it out without anyone stopping you. Everyone must have been too occupied with the dead guard in Helen's room."
My heart constricts. Trackers. This isn't good. This isn't good at all.
"B-but isn't there a way we can get them out?"
"Sure there is. I heard of a service in Yalina that uses a dialysis machine to take them out, but it takes a few hours, costs a fortune, and is sure to get us killed a long time before you're done. Either that, or you destroy the entire computer system that's connected to the nasty buggers. But that isn't an option either. So you see, it just isn't going to work out. Better kill you, put your body in the ship, and set it on autopilot in the opposite direction of Chan Wu. It will lead them off our tracks while Helen and I make our get-away."
"I'm tearing up a bit, actually," Helen says. She sniffs and pouts. "Won't you tell me why you got thrown in the can in the first place, since you're going to die anyway?"
Persistent, isn't she? I ball my fists, face getting hot. I expected them to turn on me, but not this fast. I mean really?
"You want to know why I got locked up?" I say. Tall grass quivers around me. Quan goes rigid. "YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY?"
The guns fly above my former partners in crime, as if they have wings. Then they turn on Quan and Helen. I don't wait to explain to them. I'm not as courteous as Quan, and in a much tighter spot too. Helen doesn't even have time to scream.
After I'm done I drop the guns and take a deep breath, turning away from the bodies.
Now what? If I'd just been a bit more diligent with Marco I wouldn't be asking that question. I'd know exactly what to do, go back to my family to evacuate them, tell them that we need to go into hiding. It's only a matter of time before the authorities figure out a telekinetic is on the loose, and when that happens they'll go for any relatives to make sure no other telekins survive. Everyone, aunts, uncles, mothers, brothers, sisters. Dead.
I can't let that happen.
The only problem is that now I'm being tracked. Finding my family is not an option.
Yalina twinkles in the distance, towers poking into the sky, so tall that they are visible over the horizon. It's a metropolis of such magnitude that is beyond my comprehension. I've only ever lived in a town of six thousand—this city is sixty million strong.
But somehow it seems like the right choice. Where else do I have to go?
After a quick change of clothes in the ship I begin to glide through the stalks of tall grass. At this point getting back to my family seems about as impossible as escaping IPCM without Quan.
But I'll find a way.