It was time. They needed to get set up; they needed to get ready.
Lina squeezed all three boys’ hands in turn and let Jackson steer, around to the side of the plant. “If we hadn’t been willing to do this, if we hadn’t been here,” he murmured, “I’m pretty sure they’d have let it blow again, without telling the city where they needed to evacuate. Because that simulation, that tells people they knew this could happen and how bad it could be, and they don’t want to admit anything like that.”
“Sounds like business as normal,” Ethan muttered grimly. “Are we sure they’re not related to us?”
Jackson and Dylan both snorted with no humor at all behind it. Lina no longer had any attention to spare for that. She was looking at the plant; she had looked at her watch. She was trying to visualize everything she needed to do, everything she had to remember with the power.
“Lina? Hey. Lina.” Jackson squeezed her shoulder lightly. “We’ve got your back. You’re not in this alone, okay? We’ll be right there with you. We’ll be holding the circle for you, okay? You just have to steer the power.”
“This is – this is insane,” she whispered. “We are – we are standing in front of a power plant that we know is going to explode in just a -” she trailed off as Yolanda, the prostitute, walked up to them. She looked different today, in comfy jeans and a loose t-shirt.
“Hey.” She waved. “Where do you need me? It’s just, there’s sort of groups of people here…” She waved her hand around.
“Yeah, I hear you there.” Lina wrinkled her nose. “Okay, here we go. Jackson, I think I should root it – here?” She gestured to a spot from memory, from the exec’s simulation. “It should be where the center of the blast hits. Yolanda, Jackson can get you set in place, okay? Thank you… thank you for being here.”
The hooker gave her a nervous smile. “Thanks for saving my life. All of our lives.”
Lina nodded again, trying to look more confident than the woman looked, more confident by far than she felt, more confident than anyone had any right to be in this situation.
“Catalina.” Her father squeezed her shoulders. “You’re doing great,” he murmured into her ear. And then, as the men and women from the Organization came closer, he stepped up to Jackson. “All right, put me where you want me.”
He spoke a little louder than he had to, loud enough that the people behind them could see what he was doing, putting himself in their hands. Lina smiled a little more.
“All right, sir. We’re doing Marlowe and Stowe here, Ethan’s leading that part, Ethan, and-” He caught Lina’s eyes and nodded to her.
She nodded back to him, closed her eyes, and held out her arms to either side. He had the ritual. She just had to handle the power.
First Dylan and Ethan. She hugged them a little closer to herself as she joined into their power. She felt Dylan like a net in one hand, Ethan like a steady rock behind her, and found herself smiling even more. There was chanting. She ignored it. It was power she needed right now, not words.
And they gave it to her.
It didn’t overwhelm her as much, maybe because she was getting used to it, maybe because she knew Dylan, Ethan, and Jackson were right there with her, that they had her back and they’d help her through this.
She snorted softly. Had it been Ethan who’d said something about summertime romances? It was like that, but on high-speed. Summertime partnership, friendship, something else. She wasn’t sure what else, but definitely, well, something.
Someone squeezed her hand. Ethan. “I’m going to go hold down the other side,” he whispered. “You’ll still know right where I am.”
“I still know where you are,” she agreed. And he was no longer holding her hand – but still there.
She began to lift the shield as soon as Jackson brought her two more people. She started very small, just a little disc right where the plant would start to bubble over.
Jackson paused between people to press his forehead to hers. “I’m right here,” he told her. “I will be right here the whole time. You’re doing great.”
He slid his power in with hers. This time, she could see how, as he brought her more and more people, he helped direct the power, like changing the wiring.
This was her.
This was people.
This was –
She stopped thinking. She pulled the power up exactly where she needed it, braced her feet, and shaped her shield, doing her best to roll the power right back into the power plant.
It didn’t look like a power plant.
The thought hit her just as the plant began to geyser green and blue light, spraying it up into the air with sputters and pops.
“Unf,” Dylan grunted. “I — I — got it. Got it.”
“Unh,” Jackson grunted in sequence, and then, a moment later, Lina echoed him.
“Oh.” The power spread through her, into her chest and out through her fingertips, out through her toes. She opened her eyes and there was power coming from her gaze, like a laser, like a lantern. “Oh, oh, shit.”
“What are you kids- oh, fuck.” Her father’s voice was very far away. “You can’t, the power, you can’t-”
He fell quiet, or Lina stopped being able to hear him. The geyser of power was hitting the shield, but at the same time, the power was hitting her.
It was like she was inside the shield, it was like she was standing in the middle of the geyser, it was like she was the geyser, it was like there was power coming into and out of all of her pores, bleeding through her veins and pumping in her heart.
It was like if she opened her mouth to scream, there’d be nothing but power.
She breathed in, and the power filled her lungs. She breathed out, and the shield pushed against her, wrapped around her. SHe wasn’t sure she was breathing, not for real, or if she was simply pushing the power in and out, in and out, like some sort of throbbing heart of blue and green and-
“Lina.” Ethan squeezed her hand. “Here, Lina. Here. The ground beneath your feet.” He pushed his hip against her. “The way I smell. The way Jackson’s hand feels in your other hand. The way your baby brothers smell in the mud. Got it? Got it?”
The ground beneath your feet. She wiggled her toes.
She felt the power rushing through her.
“This, the way I feel touching you.”
He squeezed her hand.
She let the power move through her, she let it pool in her fingers.
She opened her eyes.
“The way I smell,” he murmured. “The way I sound.”
“The way you-” She chuckled, and that, that was enough. She grabbed the power with both hands and steered it.Want more?