"Ready, kid?" Malcom asks me the next day as we sit on the couch together, pretending not to notice each other. If anyone saw us conspiring, they'd know something was up. I nod discreetly and he hums to himself. "Brave, stupid, but brave."
I realize it's a compliment, but I don't want it. Not right now.
I have one thing on my mind and that is saving Dalton, and the rest of the world while I'm at it. All I need to do is follow the plan. I stand slowly, stretching my hands over my head and then I fake a shiver. "I'm going to go change into something warmer." I announce to no one in particular, getting a chin nod from Pedro and Lance over in the study.
Malcom keeps his eyes down while I walk over to my room and I sit on the foot of the bed. I need this to work. If I can't get them to agree, or worse, they've already done it, we'll be sunk and all of the careful planning that Malcom and I did will have been for nothing.
I slow my breathing, counting the beats of my heart to relax myself. I can do this.
Everything is going to work out because it has to.
I picture the lab, the man and woman bickering.
It takes longer than I wanted, but finally the tingles start in my fingers and toes and I take a deep breath before opening my eyes.
I hear a man's deep gurgling cough and snap my eyes open.
"Dalton." I gasp, seeing him wrapped in wet chains on the floor in the corner of the room, slumped against a wall with holes banged out through it the size of fists. He clearly put up a fight. I run to him, trying to touch him but he can't hear or see me and my hand just passes right through his strong arms. He coughs again, gagging on something they've got shoved down his throat.
"I had a feeling you'd be back."
I jerk away, looking behind me and find the red haired woman staring down at me, a coy smile in place. "I came to see you." I tell her, then glance around.
"He isn't here." She tells me, explaining the scientist's absence. "Even he has to feed eventually." She narrows her eyes at me. "Why are you back?"
"I told you." I straighten my back, tying not to look scared and trying not to focus on the sounds coming from Dalton. "I'm here to see you."
"Why?" She hisses softly, drawing out the word.
I take a small breath, needing to make this quick. "I want to trade." I tell her quickly. "Me for him."
"No." She whispers, leaning in. She's taunting me. Like a predator.
"You haven't heard me out yet." I insist.
She waves her hand in the air. "As much as I'd love to keep you, little astral girl, I can't." She sighs sadly. "We need him."
"I could be the one you're looking for." I won't take no as an answer. "He's strong, but that's all." I lie. "My ability is much stronger, and I'm much more...cooperative." I let a poker face take over, a mask of total coolness. Like we're discussing the humidity and not my life. "It would be a shame to let me slip by. My blood could be the answer." I see it in her eyes, she's on my hook. "And if not, use me as you will." I shrug. "Anyone could become your monster. You don't need him."
She looks around, her glowing eyes deep in thought and she tilts her head. "The others will be cross." She mutters to herself.
"What helps your cause the most? A strong man to be used as a monster, or a girl with real powers that might even be the key you've searched for. Your people are getting restless, aren't they?"