chapter seventeen

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The heavy sounds of footsteps and labored breaths made me glance up. Liam and I had been sent to the forest for patrolling and it had been uneventful until now.

Ruby stomped through the woods in a hasty and thoughtless manner, making my brows furrow. "Ruby? Hey, what's wrong?" She ignored my questions and tried to walk past me.

"Ruby, what happened?" Liam asked, both of us moving to stop the girl and get answers.

Tears streamed down her face as she continued walking. "I just want to be alone right now, please."

"Talk to us."

"No, please just leave me alone! I don't want to talk to you," she demanded, her voice quivering as she spoke. I gave the girl a once-over, taking in her disheveled hair, clothes, and the way she almost stumbled as she walked.

She was with Clancy, I concluded. It made sense. Before moving to go on patrol, I saw the girl walking to his office. My grip on the rifle I held tightened. I set my free hand on her shoulder. "Clancy did this?" I asked quietly. I glanced to Liam as his jaw slacked, clearing hearing what I'd said. "What exactly happened, Ruby?"

The girl wasted no time in grabbing Liam's hand and my own, her eyes glowing an orange color as voices infiltrated my mind and flickers of images of her and Clancy crowded my thoughts.

My blood ran cold.

"After I'm done killing him, we're leaving this hellhole."

I began to march my way back to camp, but Ruby grabbed my shoulder and spun me around, profusely shaking her head as she did so. "No," she pleaded, "let's just leave. Please."

   Clancy emerged from the shadows of the building as Ruby and I tried to shake Liam awake. It was like he was frozen.

   After the orange had convinced us to just leave, we waited until dark to get Zu and Chubs and then leave. Clearly our attempt at sneaking out failed.

   "Get out of his head, jackass," I spoke, anger lacing my tone.

   "No can do, Emily."

   "Clancy? He's with them. Well, shit. They're running us up," Chubs explained roughly, his eyes glowing a vibrant green as he looked around.

   The aforementioned boy stalked forward. "We got kids to round up. Lots of new recruits for my army."

   "Guys, we have to go now." Chubs pulled around Ruby's arm, begging us to move, but we stayed put.

   "I liked you, Ruby. I really did. So believe me when I say I am broken up about this. I'm just...trying to make this miserable world a place where we don't have to be afraid." Clancy stalked closer to us, making Ruby and Chubs push Zu behind us.

   "Yeah, well, you're doing a pretty shitty job," I snarked, my hands curling into fists as I spoke.

   Clancy only responded with a tight-lipped smirk before slapping Liam hard across the face. That was all it took for me to lunge at the boy, but arms quickly wrapped around my waist and held me back.

   "Imagine it. We could punish those who hurt us. We could be the ones leading! Oranges and multis are the most powerful. We deserve to be on top." Clancy looked between Ruby and I. "I only need for you two to realize that."

   He walked towards Ruby, allowing a soldier he'd brought with him to take over hitting Liam.

   "Go to hell," Ruby yelled at him, her eyes fading from their original brown color to a fierce orange. She looked to the man hitting Liam and forced him to stop.

   I watched as she made him aim the gun in his hand underneath his jaw. "Zu, lights! Emily, fire!"

   Chubs let me go in that moment as a gunshot went off and the lights began sparking, bringing us into a room of darkness. My skin crackled with fire beneath it as I channeled my ability and my eyes glowed a deep red. Facing my palms outward, I let flames emerge from my skin and cover the area in front of us, scorching anyone it touched.

   The room was filled with panic and chaos as Ruby and Chubs grabbed Liam and pulled the boy to his feet. I let my power dissipate and quickly followed the group outside, taking advantage of the situation we'd left behind.

   Using my telekinesis, I lifted Liam up from the ground, helping Chubs guide his somewhat unconscious body.

   "Oh, no," I breathed out. My eyes fell upon the large helicopter-like air transports that hovered in the sky above us. I'd seen those transports before, and what they contained made a sudden panic course through my veins. I turned to Liam, grasping his face in my hands. "Liam, wake up. You—you need to wake up. Come on." I glanced back to see soldiers sliding down ropes that came from the copters.

   Liam's eyes began opening and he soon regained a bit of consciousness and control over himself. "We need to move! Now!" I yelled at them, but by the time I did so, the people had landed on the ground.

   I could see the kids' faces heat up with fire as they prepared to use their power.

   Fire and destruction surrounded us in less than a minute as the kids continued to hit us with fire blasts. They soon began moving around the camp and towards us.

   "Get behind me!" I faced towards the reds, deciding that now was the time to quite literally fight fire with fire. My face heated up as my eyes glowed red. I could feel the heat in the back of my throat as I prepared myself before leaning forward and projecting a line of fire from my mouth.

   They didn't expect my ability, causing a few of them to get burned.

   Not sparing a second, I channeled the blue side of me and used my telekinesis to lift the remaining reds into the air and throw them into the side of one of the buildings.

   Another group of reds emerged from the smoke that began to cloud the camp, but before I could fight them, another shipping container flew over my head and smashed into them. I turned on my heel to see Liam collapsing to the ground as his eyes faded from a glowing blue to its normal one. "Liam!" I fell to my knees at his side while Ruby stepped forward. I looked to see what she was staring at.

   Clancy was forcing the kids to bow down to him as he walked straight for us, not bothering to even quicken his pace once we noticed him.

   "Get out of here!" Ruby said after she helped Chubs and I lift Liam to his feet.

   "No, we can't leave you!" he protested weakly.

   "I have to fight him! You can't fight him and Emily needs to get you out of here! I'm the only one that can!" she shouted over the noise. Ruby looked to me, her eyes glowing a bright orange. "Help as many as you can."

   I gave her a simple nod. "I will."

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