Chapter Fifty-Nine

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Em was playing a dangerous game.

Any perceived act of rebellion was risky, and the last thing she wanted to do was put May at risk again. But the Loyals wanted to study her abilities. It wasn't her fault that she was too strong for their equipment.

They had been at it for hours, and Em was exhausted. The Loyal researchers had run her through a seemingly endless cycle of test scenarios: extreme heat, painful cold, perfect darkness, gale force winds. At one point they pumped some kind of gas into the room that left Em reeling through a psychological nightmare that took her hours to come down from. For every scenario, they told her to use her powers. They were trying to collect data on what she was doing on both a physical and psychic level to manipulate the world around her.

Unfortunately for them, the moment Em activated her power, their systems would overload. Even when she was flying high, she was still able to function just enough to overpower their machines. They tried changing the pressure in the chamber, but Em's body was built to soar — only when they removed the atmosphere completely was Em unable to obey their commands, and that was only because she passed out.

The data was useless.

She sat on the floor and leaned against the glass, watching the increasingly frustrated researchers brainstorm around a white board. The speaker system that allowed them to communicate with her and her with them was off, but even without the sound, Em could tell things were growing tense. Whatever it was they were trying to learn from their relentless torture clearly wasn't paying off, and Wyndam was losing patience.

Sober but exhausted, Em barely had the energy to keep her eyes on him as he paced the floor in front of her chamber. She could see that he was shouting at the researchers but her brain wasn't processing fast enough to read his lips. All she had to go on was context, like the sheepish flinching of the researchers, and the reluctant way they answered his barking, like they knew that no matter what they said, it would never be what he wanted to hear.

With gargantuan effort, Em raised her hand and rapped weakly on the glass with her knuckles. Wyndam was close enough that the light sound got his attention, and he turned to scowl at her.

"Hey," she said and watched him huff. He signalled to one of the white-clad researchers to turn the speaker system back on.

"What?" he snapped. His voice boomed in the sealed and confined space after so much perfect silence.

"What are we doing here, dude?" Em asked. "What do you want from me?"

Wyndam's eyes narrowed. "You don't get to ask questions."

"Well, someone's got to ask." Em shifted back so she wasn't pressed against the window and held her head up with as much poise as she could muster. "Because from where I'm sitting it doesn't seem like you've got a clue what you're trying to accomplish here."

"A pretty brazen statement from someone in your position."

Em sighed. "Listen, maybe if you actually talk to me instead of just barking orders, we could..." she hesitated. The words she was about to say brought an uncomfortable desire to vomit. "Maybe we could work together."

There was a beat of incredulous silence, and then Wyndam laughed. It was a dark and cruel sound that made Em feel dirty. Every so often she remembered that this man was supposed to be related to Jeremy, and her brain had trouble processing that fact. This was one of those times.

"Tell me, Starborn — if I told you I was endeavoring to understand your powers so I could, say, weaponize them, would you still be interested in 'working together'?" Wyndam made air quotes with fingers as he sneered the words working together. Em wet her chapped lips and forced herself not to look away. This was what she had been assuming he was after. It would be a lot easier to maintain his cult leader status if he could wield the power of the Stars. It was a power he didn't deserve — that he had no business having control over.

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