Another circus, huh? Kaitlyn asked. She didn't know how she felt about the outside world anymore, but the thought of everyone staring at her was definitely appalling.
"I'll be with you," Gabriel said.
As the night had gone on, she'd gotten more and more of an odd sense from him. A feeling that ran beneath the thoughts they were sharing, that he was keeping away from her. Although it was tightly controlled, she recognized it as pain.
Gabriel, are you all right? I feel-are you hurt, somehow?
"I have a sort of headache. It's no problem. Do you feel it now?"
Once again, she had the sense that he was concealing something. But concealing it better.
"Okay, Joyce is telling us to come downstairs." After a moment, he said, "We're in the lab."
Yeah, time for the unveiling. Kaitlyn laughed silently, nervously. I wonder what they're going to think. I suppose I should act crazy.
"I think it's your best chance. Kait-I don't know how I can save you right now. The others don't like what the old man is doing-I think Joyce asked him to take you out this soon-but they're afraid of him. And I can only fight one of them at a time. "
Kaitlyn knew. Gabriel's destructive power operated most strongly when he could touch his victim, and it took time. He couldn't hold off Jackal Mac and Renny while killing Mr. Z, for instance.
And you're weak, she told him. From helping me, I know. I'm sorry. But we'll manage somehow-maybe they'll just put me back in the tank.
Then she realized something that made the blood start beating in her ears. Gabriel, wait, wait! Rob is coming. I forgot. She'd forgotten about the outside world. All you need to do is wait until he gets here, then he can help.
"It depends on what Mr. Z is going to do to you, whether we can wait. He's giving a speech now. On and on."
I don't want to hear it. Gabriel, you do know that Rob didn't 't mean the things he said at Marisol's house. He was mad at you. Hurt. And he felt betrayed. But that's because he really cares about you. You know that, don't you?
Even now, Gabriel refused to say it. But Kaitlyn had seen inside him too deeply to be fooled. Her question was rhetorical. Gabriel did know. His feelings for Rob were all mixed up with guilt and jealousy and resentment of Rob's effortless ability to do good and be good, and to go through life being loved. But Kaitlyn thought that Rob would be pleased with the feeling Gabriel had under that. He admired Rob.
Respected him. Would have liked to be somebody Rob could like.
But he does like you, Kaitlyn said again, and then she realized they were opening the door of the tank.
The clang was a different sort of sound than Gabriel's mental voice and she thought that if she had really been in silence all yesterday afternoon and night-maybe fifteen hours at a guess-she wouldn't have recognized what sound was anymore, and screamed in fear. She was spared having to fake that because they couldn't hear her.
Hands pulled at her, the touch as shriekingly dissonant as the door clang. Everything was so harsh. Her skin was so sensitized that even the gentlest pressure would have hurt, and these hands weren't gentle.
Then light struck her eyes. It both hurt and dazzled, confusing her. She couldn't really see anything, only the whiteness, with occasional shapes blocking it. Squinting helped a little, but tears still ran down her face.
It didn't matter; she was soaking wet everywhere. She could feel the harsh hands taking off the strait-jacket and weights, removing the mouthpiece. Then, just as she began to really see, she was turned around to face Mr. Zetes.
She was white and wrinkled. Her mouth hurt, she had cramps in her arms and shoulders, and her legs wouldn't support her. She was dripping all over the floor.
"She can't stand up," Joyce said crisply. "Bri, get a chair."
They put her in the chair. Mr. Z looked at her.
Now, what? Kaitlyn asked Gabriel. I don't think I can scream. Should I just sort of look vacant?
Try it, he commanded. Now that she could hear real voices, his telepathic voice seemed different. She knew it wasn't sound.
"Can you understand me, Kaitlyn?" Mr. Zetes was asking. "Do you know where you are?"
His expression was avid and eager. Like a connoisseur just about to take the first sip of wine, stopping to inhale the bouquet. If he thought she was crazy enough, he'd say, "Ahhh."
Kaitlyn tried to look mad. She gazed at him, doing her version of the human pupa stare. She wondered if she should try to say, "Muh-muh-muh"-but she was afraid she would do it wrong. Instead, she tried to smile the way Sasha had.
She saw in an instant that it wasn't any good. Mr. Z was an expert on insane people-he collected them.
His piercing eyes widened and then narrowed as he looked at her. Kaitlyn would have sworn she could see a red spark somewhere in their depths.
Then his white brows drew together over his aquiline nose and his mouth made a bitter, scornful line. He planted his gold-headed cane on the ground and stood tall, like some patriarch from the Bible. Except that he looked instead like El Diablo, El Gato, Satan.
"It's failed," he said. He looked at Joyce. "Why?"
"I don't know. I have no idea." Even Kaitlyn could hear the relief in the shaky voice. Joyce's hand on Kaitlyn's back pressed gently, out of Mr. Z's sight.
"This girl tried to destroy us. Not once. Time and again." Mr. Z's voice was shaking, too-with repressed anger.
Joyce straightened. "I had nothing to do with it, Emmanuel. I don't know how she came through like this.
But now that she has-"
Mr. Z's face had been undergoing a struggle-one instant molded by satanic fury, the next smoothing as it was suppressed. Almost like Claymation, Kaitlyn thought. But now he had himself under control. His lips curved in a smile of grim delight.
"Now that she has, we'll just have to try the other solution," he told Joyce. "The crystal will take care of her."
Kaitlyn felt a falling in her stomach. She looked at Gabriel, who was standing with Renny and Jackal Mac and Lydia, all in a row behind Mr. Z. And at that instant she heard: Kaitlyn? Kaitlyn, this is Rob. Am I in range yet?
Rob! Oh, thank God, Rob, you're early, thank God.
She felt the flash of Gabriel's response as well. Desperate relief.
Rob, where are you? Kaitlyn demanded.
At the end of the block. We were worried you might be in trouble.
We are! Rob, you'd better hurry.
At the same time Gabriel was saying, If you can make a distraction, I can try to get Kait out.
Then Kaitlyn snapped to the real world. Frost had darted forward and grabbed her hand, wrapping her silver-nailed fingers around it.
"Mr. Zetes, I know how she did it!" Frost shrieked, her voice thin and sharp with spite. "She's talking to them! She was talking to them just now, and she's scared they'll get caught because they're coming right here!"
Kaitlyn jerked her hand away as if she'd touched a live coal. Red fury exploded inside her and she kept pulling her hand back to get distance, and then she slapped Frost's cheek as hard as she could.
But Gabriel kept his head. She could hear him yelling a warning to Rob. Stay where you are! They just found out about you! Don't come near the house!
"Quickly," Mr. Z said, and his smile was more delighted than ever. He rolled the words in his mouth as if enjoying them. "John, Laurie, Paul-help
Kaitlyn downstairs, please. Everyone else follow. Hurry now. This should be very interesting."
Kaitlyn tried to fight Mac and Frost and Renny, but her limbs were too weak. She was more of a hindrance by just being limp.
Gabriel didn't fight, either-probably too many of them, Kaitlyn thought. But she didn't understand why he seemed to be hanging back, the last one down the stairs to the hidden room. She tried to get a look at him as they carried her down, but she couldn't see.
"I want to kill him myself!" Gabriel shouted from the floor above. Kaitlyn felt the pang of a new terror: What if the crystal had driven Gabriel crazy like the others? And it was just showing up now?
He wouldn't answer her. Because Frost was touching her? She didn't know.
"Come down!" Mr. Zetes shouted as he punched in the combination to the office.
Kaitlyn didn't want to go in there. Did not. She struggled with fresh strength as they carried her through the door.
Then the smell and the psychic feel of the human pupae struck her and she went limp.
They carried her past the crystal to the only piece of furniture in the room, a chair. Everyone else was crowding in. Mr. Z was herding them, gesturing them to pack themselves more tightly. Like somebody trying to fit more people into an elevator. Gabriel was the last. He stepped back to join the others who were lining the walls.
Then Mr. Zetes backed up. He stood, leaning both hands on his cane, looking at the doorway with anticipation.
"They won't come," Kaitlyn told him. Her voice was earnest; she just wished it was steady. "I warned them and they're too smart to come when they know you're waiting."
Mr. Zetes smiled. "Do you hear that, my dear? The kitchen door breaking."
Rob? Are you in the house? Rob, listen to me-don't do it. Stay away! Stay away!
But the imperious tone that had worked with him in the gym did nothing now.
This is my choice, Kaitlyn, Rob said. And Kaitlyn heard footsteps on the stairs.
Rob, go back!" Kaitlyn screamed aloud.
Rob came in. He was flushed and windblown, his hair a golden lion's mane, his eyes full of all the light of the sky. He had run down the stairs, but he took the step into the room calmly, face alert and purposeful, assessing his chances. Looking for Kaitlyn and the way to get her out.
"Leave," Kaitlyn whispered.
Anna and Lewis were right behind Rob. Stepping over the threshold and into the trap. Behind them was a girl Kaitlyn recognized vaguely . . . yellow curls and tilted eyes ... of course, it was Tamsin.
"A visitor from the Fellowship!" Mr. Zetes said. "We are greatly honored." He actually bowed over his cane.
He didn't move to shut the door. He didn't have to. Once they were all in, he nudged Parte King with his foot, not quite a kick.Kaitlyn felt power swelling out to hold the new arrivals in the room. As if a fence had been stretched across the open doorway. Rob stared at the lolling creatures on the floor, his face going pale under his tan, the light in his eyes fading with shock.And even as he stared, he was caught, his movements dragged into slow motion. So were the others.Like flies in flypaper, Kaitlyn thought. Gnats in a web."What did you do to them?" Rob whispered, looking slowly from Sasha to Mr. Zetes."The unfortunate pilot study," Mr. Zetes said blandly. "Don't look so alarmed. You'll find it isn't so bad after a while.""Muhhh," said Sasha.Rob tried to move toward Mr. Zetes-Kaitlyn saw the determination in his face, saw his muscles cord as he strained. But Sasha and Parte King were watching him. Their power surged up to hold Rob tighter.Kaitlyn could feel it happening as well as see it. Rob stopped fighting and stood panting."Ibu should have stayed away, Rob," Joyce said, in a voice that seemed on the edge of tears. "I wish you had; I really do."Rob didn't glance at her. He looked at Kaitlyn.I'm sorry, Kait. I blew it.Kaitlyn felt wetness spill from her eyes. I'm the one who's sorry. It's my fault we're all here. She looked at Tamsin, wondering if there was any hope. The people of the Fellowship were born to a psychic race, they had all sorts of ancient knowledge. Was there some weapon . . . ?But Tamsin's face undeceived her. Tamsin was gazing mutely at the two creatures on the floor, her lips parted with pity and helpless sorrow. She didn't even seem to recognize the possibility of fighting.Aspect, Kaitlyn thought. The philosophy of the fellowship nonviolence passive resistance.It wasn't going to get Tamsin very far here."I didn't realize that this morning would be so productive," Mr. Zetes said happily. He was doing everything but rubbing his hands, gloating. "These last two days have been splendid-just splendid. And now we'll finish up."He took a step toward Rob, unaffected by the dragging power of the human pupae."I'm going to leave you down here to get acquainted with my former students," he said. "I think in a short time you'll all be on the same level of communication -especially if I tie you in actual contact with the crystal. Contact is quite painful, especially in large doses in the beginning. But of course you know that already.""We can't just disappear," Anna said. "Our parents will come looking. My parents know about you already. They'll find out what you've done and then they'll kill you.""In other words, I won't get away with it," Mr. Zetes translated, still bland. "Go on, say it, my dear; I don't mind the cliché. But the fact is that I will get away with it. Literally, you see. I have many different residences across the country; even abroad. And the crystal isn't as much of an encumbrance as you might think. I've already brought it to the United States from a very far place." He looked at Tamsin as if this were a shared joke.She didn't respond. He shrugged very slightly and went on. "So, you see, I can take my crystal and my students wherever I go-and that's all I need. I'll leave you here, of course. In your parents' care."He gave his terrible smile.Kaitlyn was proud of her mind-mates. They stood in the doorway, snarled with invisible thread, but none of them broke down or showed any fear. Anna's head was high on her slim neck, her dark eyes proud and self-contained. Lewis stood squarely, fists clenched, his round face stern and unreadable. Rob looked like a young and angry angel.I love you, Kaitlyn told them. I love you and I'm so proud of you.A voice broke into her admiration."I won't go with you! I'll stay here with them," Lydia said passionately.Mr. Zetes frowned just a little. "Don't be ridiculous.""I won't go! I hate what you're doing. I hate you!" Lydia's elbows were at her sides, fists held shaking near her shoulders. "I don't care if you win this time; I don't care what happens to me; I don't care, I don't care- ""Be quiet!" Mr. Zetes said brutally. Lydia was quiet. But she shook her head, dark hair flying from side to side."You'll do as you're told," Mr. Zetes said. "Or you will be left here, and I don't think you'll like that." He looked at Joyce, his pleasure in the morning obviously spoiled. "All right," he said abruptly. "Let's finish, so we can get to breakfast. Take those chains off the boys and bring them over here."Kaitlyn's eyes went to the chains on Parte King and Sasha. They had one on each ankle. Which meant one for her, Rob, Anna, and Lewis each. Tamsin probably wouldn't try to fight.Then Kaitlyn looked up, because something was wrong. Joyce wasn't moving to obey Mr. Zetes. She was shaking her head."I'm not asking you to do it, I'm telling you. Joyce!"Joyce shook her head again, slowly and decisively, her aquamarine eyes on Mr. Z's face."Good for you, Joyce," Kaitlyn said. To Mr. Zetes, she said, "Can't you see? They're all turning against you. It's going to keep happening, too. You can't win."Mr. Zetes had gone purple."Disobedience! Disobedience and insubordination!" he shouted. "Is there anyone here who still understands loyalty?" The piercing eyes flashed around the room. Bri and Renny looked away from him: Bri glowering, Renny with his shoulders angrily hunched. They were both shaking their heads slowly.Mr. Z's gaze settled on Jackal Mac. "John! Take the key from Joyce and remove those chains immediately!"Jackal Mac obeyed. He started to feel all over Joyce's pockets for the key, but she slapped his hand away and pulled it out, slowly, staring at Mr. Zetes all the while.Shambling to the center of the room, Mac unlocked the chains from Sasha."Give them to me," Mr. Zetes said impatiently. "Then remove the others."When Mac did, Mr. Z looked at Rob. Kaitlyn could see that he was fighting to regain his smiling malevolence. But he couldn't do it. He was an angry old man taking revenge."Go ahead and struggle," he told Rob. "You won't be able to move. And when I have you chained, these boys on the floor will move you step by step until you touch the crystal. The great crystal, the last of the ancient firestones. Go ahead, take a look at it." He gestured at the obscene thing towering in the middle of the floor the crystal that shone with its ownmilky impure light. The machine of death waiting forthem all."The moment you touch it, your mind will start to burn," Mr. Zetes went on with some of his old fervor."In a matter of hours it will burn out. Like a gutted house. Your powers will remain, but you will not."Kneeling, he brought the chain to Rob's ankle. "And now . . .""I don't think so," Gabriel said.While Mr. Zetes had been talking to Rob, while the human pupae were busy keeping Rob tightly controlled for the chaining, while Jackal Mac was unlocking the other chains, Gabriel had been inching forward. Kaitlyn had seen it, but hadn't known what he could do. He was empty-handed. The pupae would stop any kind of a fight.But as Gabriel spoke, she heard a swishing snick. The sound she'd heard in Marisol's room and on Ivy Street, when his spring-loaded knife snapped out of his sleeve.Only this time it wasn't a knife.He was holding the crystal shard by its thick end, holding it underhanded, like a sword ready to thrust up.Its tip was only a foot or so from the giant crystal in the center of the room.Now Kaitlyn understood why he had been the last one downstairs. He'd been in Joyce's room, getting the shard."Don't close that chain," Gabriel said. "Or I'll put it on the crystal."Kaitlyn heard a metallic click and knew that Mr. Z had done it anyway. He straightened up to look at Gabriel. He was alarmed but not panicked."Now, Gabriel," he said, and moved a little toward him.Just a little. Gabriel stiffened. The tip of the shard quivered. Kaitlyn could see it reaching for one of the outgrowths of the crystal, like a stalactite and a stalagmite trying to kiss."Stay there!"Mr. Z stopped."Now," Gabriel said. "Everyone who doesn't want to die, step back."At the same time, Mr. Z was kicking the human pupae. "Stop him! Push him back against the wall."Parte King, the cricketlike one, rolled over on his side to look at Gabriel. Sasha turned his swollen white head. They were both smiling their face-splitting grins.Kaitlyn felt the power surge up again, sweeping around Gabriel like sticky running tree sap around a fly, turning to amber to hold him. She saw Gabriel start to lunge forward, then freeze in place, the tip of the shard only inches from a jagged outgrowth.Her throat swelled, and then she was shouting. "Come on! Everybody! If we all move at once- maybe they can't hold us."She stood, heard Mr. Z yell, and felt the drag of air. She fought it, shouting, "Get to the shard!Somebody get to the shard!"Then it seemed everyone was either trying to move, or trying to stop someone from moving. Bri was trying to move. Her glower had turned to a look of grim resolve, and Kaitlyn realized she'd finally decided which side she was on. Frost was stopping her, blocking her like a basketball guard. Renny was trying to move. Jackal Mac had abandoned the chains and was grappling with him in slow motion.Rob and Anna and Lewis were all struggling to get to Gabriel, mostly with their feet stuck to the floor, but occasionally managing a step. Even Tamsin was trying. Mr. Z was turning round and round among them, raising his cane, shouting. He couldn't deal with them all at once.Then Kaitlyn saw that Lydia was free and moving -slowly but steadily-toward Gabriel and the shard."Joyce!" Mr. Zetes shouted. "Stop her! She's right beside you! Stop her!"But Joyce shook her head. "It's time it was over, Emmanuel," she said. In an instant, she and Lydia were caught in the sticky air, too. Lydia still struggled on desperately.