Saving the Cult (if not the World), Chapter Thirty-Seven

Saving the Cult (If not the World) "It's time." Manfield Lee knew he was good at sounding authoritative even when he didn't know what he was talking about - he'd turned a fortune into a megafortune doing just that, after all, not to mention running the Organization - but right now, he DID know what he was talking about. After all, it was just a date, wasn't it? And if the date turned out to be wrong, well, then he knew exactly what to blame it on, and that blame would fall on the scholars and the psychics, not on him. The other thing Manfield Lee knew how to do was to place the blame in very specific ways that were not him.

The geyser was still coming.  It was smaller, it was weak, but it was a category-2 hurricane instead of a cat-4. It was still going to cause a lot of wreckage if it was allowed to rip through the city.

Hurricanes.  I could stop hurricanes… I have got to do a lot more studying.

She took a breath and squeezed Ethan’s hand.  She lifted the shields to exactly where they needed to be, she braced her feet, and she pushed back against the wave of power.

Dylan grunted.  She barely heard it, just a sound somewhere off to the side of her consciousness.  Jackson made a sound that was more like a pained whine.

She had to stop this fast.  How did you stop something that was coming at you?  How did you stop it quickly?

She shaped the shield, bent it.  Ethan’s smell – he did have a smell – rooted her to the world.  Jackson’s sounds – they were not whimpers, but they were definitely not pleased sounds – spurred her on.  The fact the Dylan was barely making any noise at all now didn’t help.

There were people, dozens of people, and they were circling this thing. They were circling it, and that gave her a natural circle of power.  She used that, too, building on the strength of the ring shape, of the torus, until she could take the shield and turn it into a self-contained loop.  Nearly self-contained.  The power went in, and then it swirled about, losing momentum, until it had no more energy, but its energy – she could see what they had meant now – all of the energy it was losing –

she laughed out loud.  She could taste it.  She could see exactly where –

“Easy,” Ethan murmured.  “Easy now.  You want to remember that you’re here.  You want to remember that you’re here, you want to remember that you’re human.”

“Human,” she agreed.  “That’s – this is all human.  This is all humans being a little bit ridiculous.  This is all, this is all humans wanting power.”

She took a step back and let the shield hold itself now.  It took far less energy in this shape; it was practically being run by itself.

She smiled.  She had – no, no, best not to get too cocky, she was doing it.  She was holding it. She had to keep holding it.

She squeezed the hands to either side of her and checked on the people standing to her sides.  Jackson’s expression was one of relaxing concentration, as he realized – she thought – that she wasn’t pulling on the power as much.  Dylan’s was one of pain, damnit.  Damnit, how did she fix that?

“Easy.”  Ethan squeezed her hand.  “We’re not out of the woods yet.  You have to hold it there, ‘Lina; if you lose concentration, it’s going to wobble.”

“But Dylan,” she whined.  Whined.  She was saving the world – or at least a little corner of it.  She shouldn’t be whining.  Whining was for kids.

“He’ll be okay.  Just hold the shield steady, okay?”

She stole a glance at him.  He looked serious, firm; he looked like he was concerned. He looked a lot different than he had just a couple days ago.

He caught her looking and squeezed her hand one finger at a time. “Right now,” he murmured, “we need to keep this shield in place.  It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

She let herself really look at the shield.  It was almost a full torus; it curved back in on itself rather than making a circle, forming a sort of spiral the wave from the reactor was getting caught in, spinning in, wearing itself out in before it could even think to push outward.  It was a shining wall of blue with a wave of darker blue pulsing inside of it. It looked like an artist’s representation of the ocean.

“I made that,” she murmured, and then, “we made that.  We made that together, all of us.”

“You made that,” Ethan corrected. “We just handed you the paints to do it properly.”

She watched as the shield held, as the power inside it started to subside, as slowly, the remainder of the  – what did you call it? It wasn’t a meltdown – the remainder of the overflow trickled away.

She let down her shield slowly, carefully, almost an inch at a time. It was nearly as much work letting it go as it had been putting it up, and as she neared the end, she found herself slipping, the shield releasing faster than she wanted to.

“I – it’s going,” she warned, not knowing who she was warning, and Jackson grunted in acknowledgment.

Dylan didn’t make any noise she could hear.  In a few moments, she was going to take the time to be quite worried about that.

But right now, she held on to as much power as she could. She let it go as slowly as her mental “fingers” would allow, thinking of it like playing out a very thick, very heavy rope.

It went by feet and yards now instead of by inches, but she poured her energy into letting it go slowly, until the last bit of power released from her in a flood.

She collapsed to the ground as if her strings had been cut, not even managing to break her fall – but strong hands on both sides caught her, and she didn’t land nearly as hard as she ought to have.

“What did you do?” called a voice, even before Lina had managed to get to her feet. “Whatever you did, it shouldn’t be possible.  What did you do?”

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