Everyone was still looking around them in wonder and agitation when Dr. Brite’s voice filled the air once more. “Suppressor adjustment starting.”
Raven shifted her feet. She wondered how it would feel to once again be able to use her Illusion magic. The girls in her group seemed tensed, everyone collectively holding their breath.
“Suppressor adjustment complete. You may begin your mission,” Dr. Brite said.
Raven frowned. She didn’t feel anything different, and then it slammed into her. It felt like a vice around her chest had been released and energy surged up her body. She could breathe again. She opened her eyes, not even realizing she had closed them. All around her, the world felt more vibrant, the sounds sharper, like all this time her life had been muted. Now she understood why everyone called it Rush. Her entire body vibrated with her magic, a sweet song that reconnected her to herself.
She raised her hand and concentrated. Water flowed into her hand forming into a ball. She couldn’t stop smiling. “Awesome!”
“Wow, you can summon water too?” Jean said.
Raven nodded. “It’s easier if I have water already, but I don’t need it. Maybe because it’s pretty much everywhere.” She stretched the water out, forming it into the familiar water whips she used in her permit testing.
“What about you? I didn’t get to hear what you can do,” Raven said.
A wide grin split Jean’s face and she reached down, touching the ground. She tapped her finger and then quickly backed away. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”
A small part of the ground exploded and Raven leaped back. “Whoa!”
Jean put a hand on her hip. “Guess I have an explosive personality.”
Raven laughed and shook her head, sending her water to slide over the area in case a fire started. Jean pouted at her, but their attention was pulled away when the ground began to shake. They toppled to the side, grabbing a hold of each other.
“Was that an earthquake?” Raven said, eyes wide as she looked around, wondering if this was part of the Reality therapy.
Jean shook her head and nodded to Mary. “That’s Mary.”
Mary had a satisfied smirk on her lips. “Still the coolest.” She stomped her foot again and another vibration rippled through the ground shaking them.
“Could you quit that,” Jean complained as she nearly toppled over.
Mary just laughed.
Raven shook her head, not bothered by it. She could understand wanting to use your magic after so long. She looked around to see Cindy watching, her eyes narrowed. Raven looked curiously at her, but Cindy turned away. A little confused, Raven let it go. She looked around. What Raven didn’t see was Ava.
“Hey, where Ava go?” Raven asked.
“I’m here,” a voice said behind Raven.
Raven twirled around, her eyes wide. Nothing, and then slowly Ava began to appear again. “Whoa, you can become invisible?”
Ava nodded and then vanished again.
“Someone’s shy,” Mary said.
It was kind of weird to have one of their group invisible, especially since it seemed like Ava was planning to stay that way as long as possible.
“Okay everyone,” Cindy said stepping forward. “Remember, we’re here to get the supplies so let’s focus.”
They all nodded. While they had been all testing out their magic had the other team already started gathering supplies? The girls must have been thinking the same thing because everyone looked at each other worriedly. Only Cindy seemed completely calm.
“Don’t worry guys, because you have me,” Cindy said with a wide grin. “My Core power isn’t as flashy, but it’s the most useful in this type of situation.”
Raven looked at Cindy with interest.
She grinned. “Luck.”
Raven blinked. She had never heard of an ability like that. “Luck?”
Cindy nodded with a smirk and leaned back, gesturing to a small crevice she was standing by. Curious, the girls hurried over and their eyes widen as grins spread across their faces.
“Are you for real?” Mary said.
Right where Cindy had been standing was a backpack with ECI Supplies stamped on it. Jean jumped in the air in celebration and not too far from Raven, Ava’s disembodied voice let out a weak cheer. Raven shook her head.
“Want to do the honors, Raven?” Cindy said.
Raven blinked and then shrugged. She sent her water over to grasp the handles of the bag and tug it towards her. Once it was close she took the backpack and put it on. Surprisingly, it was sort of heavy.
“Are the supplies real or images of the scenario?” Raven wondered out loud.
Cindy shrugged and looked at the other girls.
“It’s a massive mindfuck,” Mary said. “They mix things in with the scenario, so who the hell knows what’s real and what isn’t.”
“Pretty much,” Jean said.
“All right,” Cindy said and started walking. “Enough gabbing and let’s move. Raven, you stay with me.”
Raven nodded and hurried over to Cindy. As soon as she stepped forward she fell down, thrown off balance by her backpack. She tried to catch herself but instead skidded across the ground. “Ow,” she said, pushing herself up.
Cindy shook her head and reached out and helped Raven up, while Jean and Mary giggled behind her. Raven felt heat rise up in her cheeks.
“You’re probably not used to the room,” Cindy said and patted her on her back. “Stick close to me and I’ll help you out.”
Raven nodded, still a bit embarrassed at her clumsiness. They started moving again. It didn’t take them long to find the next supply backpack. On the way, Raven had fallen and skinned her knee, banged her elbow, and run into a pole. Was her balance off because of the illusion around her? But none of the other girls around her seemed to be having trouble. That could have been experienced, but Cindy had only been there a week from what she had told Raven.
As Raven tripped and fell again, she slapped her hands against the ground, catching herself. Cindy reached out and helped her up.
“You’re really bad at this,” the girl said, amusement dancing in her orange eyes.
“Yeah,” Raven said, standing up and with a sheepish smile.
Cindy gave her a reassuring pat on the back before her eyes widened and a wide grin spread across her face. “Oh! Another one.”
She shot forward, climbing across some of the debris to a nook where the strap of a pack rested. Raven watched her distractedly. Something wasn’t right. She turned things over in her mind. She wasn’t the most graceful person, but she had never been this clumsy. Turning over her experience since the scenario started, Raven knew things were a little off. She didn’t feel disoriented or even off-balance, but she kept tripping and running into things. A sinking suspicion started to build in her as she watched Cindy tug the backpack from out of the debris.
“Luck, huh?” Raven said softly.
“You should be careful,” a voice said beside her.
Raven jerked and as she did Ava faded back into view.
“Ava, could you not do that?” Raven said exasperated.
“Sorry,” the tall girl said.
Raven gave the girl an easy smile. “It’s okay. You just took me off-guard.”
Ava nodded slowly but stared at Raven.
“Uh, yes?” Raven asked, prompting the girl to speak her mind.
Ava shifted from foot-to-foot and looked over her shoulder at Cindy then back at Raven. “You should be careful,” she repeated.
Raven automatically followed her gaze, watching Cindy. Something caught her eye as she did. Instinctively, she started running towards Cindy. She shot out a stream of water just as something lurched at Cindy. Her water hit, knocking the attacker into the debris. Cindy stumbled back in surprise.
A flickering green checkmark appeared above the attacker. “One attacker disabled,” a robotic voice stated.
Raven climbed up the debris to Cindy. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just stay beside me,” the girl said, clamping her hand around Raven’s wrist.
Raven’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Are you-“
“All right!” Mary’s voice boomed and there was the sound of an explosion.
Raven’s head jerked up to see that Jean had taken out an attacker who had went for the pack on her shoulders. A red X appeared above the attacker. Raven was too far to hear if another robotic voice said anything. Mary was a few feet away from Jean and flanked by four attackers. The attackers were dressed in jeans and dark gray hoodies that cast most of their faces in shadow. They were big, but didn’t have any weapons.
“We need to help them,” Raven said, looking around to see where Ava was, but there was no sign of her. It was probably for the best. She wasn’t sure what the girl would be able to do in this situation.
“Let’s go then,” Cindy said, jerking Raven forward, but as she did Mary’s voice pierce the air.
“Rumble,” Mary bellowed and slammed her foot on the ground.
The vibrations surge through the room, stronger than they had been before. It knocked down their attackers, but as it did Mary suddenly dropped. Raven’s eyes widened. She was only given a second to worry when the debris under Raven and Cindy collapsed, throwing them from their perch.
Raven only had a moment to act. She called forth a surge of water to wrap around them. Her suppressor tightened around her finger, shoving down her magic as it automatically regulated it. Raven gritted her teeth, struggling to bypass it just enough to finish shaping the water. The water swept underneath them, dragging them over the debris and redirecting their descent in a smooth curve instead of the harsh drop they had been heading in. It didn’t completely cushion their fall, but shifted their momentum so when they hit the ground it was with a soft thump.
Cindy coughed beside her and pushed herself up. “Shit.”
Raven’s entire body felt sore and her clothes were soaked. She pushed herself up. “I hate suppressors.”
Reaching out, she pulled the water from her clothes or tried to. She was only able to remove some of the water, before the suppressor clamped down, shutting off her magic. Well, at least she had gone from soaked to just damp. She glanced over to check on Cindy to see the girl staring at her with a mixture of disgust and anger. Raven’s eyes widened.
“Do you think you’re some kind of hero?” Cindy growled out.
“What?” Raven asked, confused.
“I didn’t ask for you to save me,” Cindy spat out.
Shock ran through Raven. It was like Cindy was a completely different person. “Why are you so angry?”
“Why are you so fucking oblivious?” Cindy snapped back.
Raven stiffened and balled up her fist as more of her suspicions came to the surface. “You’ve been using your magic on me, haven’t you? All the tripping and clumsiness, it was you?”
Cindy smirked. “Looks like you’re not a total idiot.”
Raven felt anger surged through her, but more than that was confusion. “Why? What did I do to you?”
Cindy narrowed her eyes and took a step forward. Then stopped. The girl stared at Raven and Raven stared back, not backing down.
“Hey, guys, I could use a little help here!” Jean shouted.
Cindy shook her head and abruptly turned to head over to Jean. Raven watched her go and she felt her anger grow. What was going on? What did she do to make Cindy turn on her? Or had she singled her out from the beginning? It explained the awkward almost uncomfortable way she acted around Raven.
It was all a lie.
Rage surged through Raven and she balled up her fist, her nails digging into her palm. Tick Tock’s voice seemed to whisper in her mind. She could teach them a lesson. Show them who they were playing with. The horror of that thought shook her out of her anger.
There’s something wrong with me.
She swallowed down the fear that swirled around her. The darkness that seemed to curl at the edges of her mind frightened her. She needed to focus on the present, not these thoughts. She shoved it all down and hurried to join her team.