“Places, everyone,” Dylan commanded.
Lina hadn’t been into theatre, hadn’t really been into anything dramatic or performance based, and had ended up joining business club just to have an extracurricular on her college applications. She wasn’t sure what a conquering hero was supposed to walk in like.
“Shoulders back,” Jackson murmured. “That’s it. Smile a little, if you can. You’re tired and that’s fine, but you’re happy you saved lives, right? There you go. It’s like going into a charity ball, except right now you’re doing what our moms and dads do, they just don’t know it yet. The cameras are on you; don’t give ‘em anything.”
“Way to give me a panic attack,” she murmured back at him, but she did what he told her. The cameras are on you. She could do that.
Also, they were walking right into a huge group of adults in such a way that they were admitting they’d broken a rule people had just been rioting about.
Lina had definitely done “I’m too cool for your rules” before. Even gotten away with it a couple times.
The first person to notice them was one of the robed guards. Lina recognized her — Joann Jenson — at the same time the woman stepped forward towards them. “You aren’t supposed to leave the campground.” She sounded the sort of angry that normally meant worried. “Where have you been?”
“Saving your lives,” Jackson told her. “Stopping the first wave of the end of the world.”
“Also, grocery shopping.” Lina couldn’t help it; she’d blame it on the tiredness if she had to but the truth was it was just kind of funny.
“Saving — what?”
“Please let us through,” Jackson continued, calm and collected. “Catalina needs some rest, and we’ve got,” he checked his watch, “11 hours and four minutes until we need to be back down there.”
“You can’t leave again.” Jenson looked at the two of them as if they were insane. “The campsite is locked down. Locked down means you can’t leave.”
“I saw the riot,” Lina agreed. “Ma’am, I need to sleep. My friends need to sleep. And then we need to go back down there and be in position before the next wave.”
“Look, I know that you have—” she stopped herself, or the sudden flood of other people stopped her.
Lina started to take a step back, stopped herself with the mental image of a camera catching that, and put up her left hand lazily while her right hand caught Jackson’s. A very low shield, more like a decorative wall, appeared stretching out in front of them towards the camp entrance and beyond.
She shouldn’t, she knew. She needed her power. She had to save the world again in 11 something hours. But she pushed the shield slowly apart so that people found themselves backing up, nudged on the ankles by a low blue wall of light.
She started walking forward as soon as the path was wide enough for the shopping cart. A man she barely recognized grabbed her arm. “Why did you get to get out? What were you kids doing?”
As if she was in a dream, Lina released Jackson’s hand. She pressed the ball of her free thumb to the man’s forehead. “Saving your life. You’re welcome.”
Like a benediction, she picked several other people as they walked forward — the ones being the most obnoxious, the ones grabbing her, the ones who looked like they were going to start another riot. She could hear Ms. Jepsen behind her, holding people off like a police escort.
She stopped her thumb a centimeter from her father’s forehead. “Saving your— Dad! Who’s with the boys?”
“Your mother. Catalina, what —” He looked down at the wall and stepped over it carefully. “Nice work. “Saving lives?”
“Hello, Mr. Bosch, sir. Catalina raised the shield—” Jackson’s voice, all of a sudden, carried. Almost everyone had fallen quiet, Lina realized — and almost everyone in the camp was here.
That was a little creepy.
“-down there at the bottom of the hill, where it could stop the first wave of energy from the power plant and send it down into itself. She saved a lot of lives today, sir, including everyone here.”
Jackson sounded absolutely, completely sure. He looked around the crowd. Maybe one in ten of them knelt down; of those, maybe one in five were baring their necks.
Lina walked forward. “Dad — Dad, we need sleep, and food, and then we have to go back down there. The next wave is going to be just under 12 hours from the first. Okay?” She looked at her father and made a gamble to rely on him in a way that she’d rarely tried and even more rarely been successful at. “Can you make that happen?”
Her father looked back at her. “You’re sure, Catalina?”
“We were there, Dad. We were there and I held it back.”
“You’ve never said anything about this. About powers.” He gestured down her little path, so she took the cue and kept walking, pressing her garden-wall shield out just a bit further so they could walk three abreast.
“To be fair, you never said anything about belonging to a cult looking to survive the end of the world.”Want more?