“Do you think you’re safe?” Domenic stopped his truck. CautionConcern. “These aren’t the best roads, and they only get worse from here forward. I don’t want to press my luck going further.”
I reached out with my improved Fate-sense, using the metal to screen possibilities as well as borrowing power from Chloe to speed the process. Near as I could tell, we could stay here for days without running into a single human being, though I wasn’t willing to trust my sight past a few hours.
“The coast looks clear to me.” If I wanted to be rid of them, this would be an ideal spot to dump the bodies.
ReliefSuccessCaution. “We might have more trouble in the fall, when it gets rainy out here.” The engine to the truck cut off.
I stretched, then snaked out from the tiny area between the seats and back wall. “Next time, stuff me in a luggage compartment, they have more room.” RegretApology. Good, the more you appreciate what I put up with, the better. I leaned forward so my shoulders brushed against both him and Chloe. “Ooh, I bet this place looks awesome in the fall.”
I spoke the truth; this view was worth the cramped half hour ride out of town. We sat on top of a small hill surrounded by larger hills, covered in thick layers of trees. Our hill was still above the tree line of the valley itself, so I could see all the way to the lake, itself so large I couldn’t see the other shore. The forest below us was so thick that the canopy looked almost like a lush carpet of grass.
AgreementAwe. “It is beautiful,” Cloe said. “And it’s charging up my powers faster, too. I guess this proves the theory that I get my energy from nature or plants or something.” PrideComfort. Wait, plants? RealizationSuspicion. Chloe tore her gaze away from the scenery for a moment. “Uh, yeah, I recharge way faster in nature. Like, out here, I think I recharge twice as fast as I do in the city.”
So she was fighting with a handicap and still fought me to a standstill. I’m the weakest person on the team. “I guess I’m all natural, then.” I leaned in her direction, so my cheek almost brushed hers. A burst of electricity jumped between us; she’d feel it, even if it caused no damage. “Just keep in mind I sun bathe in the nude, to avoid tan lines.”
UneaseDesireAnnoyance. Domenic cleared his throat in order to try to clear his mind. “You’re a shapeshifter, why would you need to tan?”
“I like naps, don’t feel temperatures, and I’m immune to cancer and wrinkles.” EnvyFrustration. “The better question is why do I bother putting on clothes?”
DismissalIrrelevantDiscomfort. Domenic opened the door to the truck, and I crawled into the front seat right after him. He tried to pretend he didn’t look down my shirt, just like Chloe pretended she wasn’t checking out my rear, but they only fooled themselves. Seducing them’s going to be easier than I thought.
FocusReluctant “Well, we have other things to worry about now.” ContemplationPlanning SupporEager. “We can’t use this hill or anywhere which faces it, too big a chance to get caught. We can dismiss the valley, it floods bad out here during the rainy season. And it’ll be easier to build into the hill with our powers, anyway.” He pointed to one of the less forested hills nearby. “How about that one? There’s enough of a trail that I can drive pretty close, and you can have a great view of the lake.”
The trail in question was little more than strips of dry dirt and rock where plants refused to grow. It was one of those flood zones Domenic mentioned, but by then our little base would be complete and we’d be coming here by flight rather than truck.
AgreeHope. “I’ll go check it out.” Chloe did something between a jump and flight to carry her over to the hill. I still hadn’t figured out how her flight worked; it wasn’t gravity control, but it wasn’t like anything else I could think of. For her, at least, flying felt like she was being pulled the way gravity did, rather than pushed by her power. For us, it felt like it should, with us being carried by Chloe and her power.
ApprovalSurprise. Chloe took little more than twenty seconds to decide she loved the location, while I didn’t care either way. My Fate-sense told me we’d be hidden, and that was enough for me. “It’s perfect!”
ReliefGlad. Tons of steel which had been disguised as a cover for the truck bed, rolled off toward Domenic. Orange lightning danced across the metal, which we now knew beat Domenic’s old record five times over. Chloe was back by the time it had wrapped itself into an easily carried ball. “Then the sooner we get started, the better.” He looked at the early afternoon sun. “Nanna’s not gonna be happy if I stay out past nightfall again.”
UncertainThreat. Chloe landed next to the metal, holding her hand near the metal, but unwilling to touch it. ApprehensionDread. “I’m not sure if I can touch it without blowing everything up like I we did before.”
AgreementFear. “Right,” Domenic looked at me. “Do you think you can, uh, do something to ground out the energy? You have more control over the electricity itself than we do.”
Hmm, he’s right. “Well, worst case I can just burn all the juice,” I said. Even with the hour or so I’d spent pouring power into the metal, I had less than ten minutes of my Fate-sense at its new maximum. Still, the novelty of being able to store power to use in the future was amazing in its own right. With some time, I hoped I could pump up the metal with enough energy that I’d be able to use my power for days at a time.
I dipped into my sense, checking the threads for a safe way for Chloe to handle the ball. A lot of threads ended with this hill going up in flames. Not quite the level of destruction we managed at the factory, nor even what we saw at the car lot, but enough. Hmm, why isn’t it as powerful as the car lot? We only had seconds of stored energy there. I glanced over at Chloe, and all the possible Fate-threads coming off of her. She seemed to have picked up some of Domenic’s ability to hide from my sight. Oh, that would explain it.
“Try stepping a little closer to the metal, and then see if you can drain power from it at range.”
UncertainHesitant. “Uh, I can try, I guess.” Chloe took a step closer, and her skin began to glow blue. Moments later, flickers of orange started to form in her aura, dancing across her skin like an enthusiastic, if tiny, storm. SurprisePleasure. “Woah!” Chloe cut her power off and took a step back. SheepishUncertain. “That was intense.” Her voice crackled from the power she’d absorbed and was, for lack of a better term, digesting.
AwkwardFocus. Oh, I bet it was. I clasped my hands together behind my back. “Well, it worked.” The danger from Chloe touching the metal had vanished. “You’re safe.”
DiscomfortRelief. Chloe reached out for the huge blob of steel, and only some minor sparks burst out. The metal wrapped around her hands, then she took off. DifficultHeavyFocus. Chloe took off, dragging the couple tons of steel along. An outsider would think it was effortless, but I could feel how our shared pool was running down the batter faster than we could replace it. It was nowhere near as much energy as I used for my Fate-sense, but that didn’t surprise me.
I looked over at Domenic. “So, ready to get dirty?” I jumped off the hill before he could say anything, and used my powers to surf my way through the dirt of the slope. It smelled nice out here, without the stink of chemicals that were everywhere in the cities. The metallic tang of fresh blood wafted from the distance; large, mammal, but not greasy enough to be human or pig. If I had to make a guess, coyotes bagged themselves a deer not too long ago. Move aside, amateurs, there’s a new predator in these woods.
Above me, Chloe made her trip back for Domenic on the hill. Now, I could have run and made a game of it, with them trying to hunt me down during an epic game of cat and also cat that left the forest a burning wasteland. I shifted the small amount of Domenic’s metal I carried into a clawed glove. Eh, that sounds boring. Let’s see how this construction game plays out first.
I managed to beat Chloe and Domenic to the base where we planned to build. It didn’t look bad; a steep hill that faced the lake but had enough tree cover to be invisible from almost any direction until you were almost right on top of it. Dom could even hide his truck under the canopy in the water trail. Nothing human would ever find us, unless they knew exactly where to look, and even that we could camouflage.
Domenic stamped his foot on a small flat spot near the top of the hill. “So, I was thinking we could tunnel down right here. Lots of space under the hill, so we aren’t pushing our luck with the water table, and being completely underground should give you a stable temperature year round. With a little effort, we can use the trees to hide some ventillation shafts. Just gotta find some exposed roots to work with.”
Chloe smiled and leaned against him. “And by ‘we’ you mean ‘me’ tunnelling down, huh?”
AmusedSheepish. “Well, I could do it, but we’d be working at it until next Christmas.” He kissed her on the top of her head. TenderSupport. I may have gagged a little. “So, should we get started?”
He broke the hug, and that’s when I stepped out from the trees. “So, now we shove a giant shaft into the ground? Kinky.”AwkwardDisquiet WorriedFocus.
Domenic stepped over to the metal blob. “Well, more like a spear right now. It’ll give me better control.” As he spoke, the metal shaped itself to suit his needs, as a forty foot long spear formed in his hand. Near the bottom, four long, thin hooks formed, reminding me of grappling hooks like I’d seen on television. He lifted it as if it was weightless, then speared the ground so it stood straight up. SufficientConfident. “Okay, give me a minute to get down below.”
Domenic began to climb down the hill, which displayed just how out of shape he was. He struggled just to make it to the bottom, and I couldn’t begin to imagine how the climb back up was going to go for him. “Okay! Just see how deep you can get it!”
SuggestiveEmbarrassed RealizationHumiliated. Ugh, I thought teens were supposed to be nothing but dirty jokes. Television has lied to me.
Chloe took to the air to grab the handle on top of the giant metal spike while I watched the Fate-threads. As long as we were careful, we had power enough to do everything, and if we didn’t we’d just have to rest for a little while and wait for a recharge. Hmm, that doesn’t look good. The threads looked like we’d have a lot of problems if we went down there.
“Hold it!” I took a couple steps forward, giving me a better look at the Fate-threads on this spot. “I think we should move a bit.” I stepped over a few more feet, toward the edge of our little clearing. “It looks like it’ll be a lot less trouble if we start here.”
UncertainRequest. Chloe looked back at Domenic; she wouldn’t let me take the lead, even though she knew my power which was good for things like this.
IndifferentAcceptance. “We’d better trust her on this!” Domenic called back at us. At least he knows how to listen. “It won’t mess up my plans either way!”
AgreementConfident. “Sure.” Chloe lifted the spear and swung it over to where I stood. The tip hit the ground not far away. “This good enough?”
I checked the new set of Fate-threads, and ate a chunk of our stored energy in the process. “Yeah, it’s a lot better, go for it.” The ground in front of me crunched, the way a cracker did when I had my super hearing active. Until then, I had never seen a power strong enough to punch through the ground like it wasn’t there. From what I knew, she ranked a high four on the scale, and might have been scary enough to get tagged a five.
Less than a minute after she started shoving the spear into the earth, she was eye level with me. PrideAssured. “Not bad, huh?” There was no sign of struggle or effort as she stood there; to her, this took no more work than those guys who push buttons that launch missiles that blow something up hundreds of miles away.
“Not bad at all. So what’s stage two of this plan?” I rank a low four, and most of that is because I work at being creative. I guess I get some credit, since she’d run out of strength in five seconds at this level without my help.
SuccessFocus. “Next I figure out where the bottom needs to be!” Domenic called up from below. He knelt on the ground, then lowered his face to the dirt. He was staring through the ground as if it wasn’t even there. “Okay, I think about three feet under is fine. Give me a sec…” He got to his feet, then began the climb up the steep hill. By the time he got to the top, he was breathing hard.
Sad. He can’t even climb a hill without getting tired. What does she see in him? I understood his power was strong, and it complimented mine and made me stronger which was useful, but he had nothing to offer Chloe that I could see. I need to figure out why she’s drawn to him if I want to control them.
He put his hand on the spear, and it returned to its full fluid state. FocusFailure. He looked up at me. “Uh, I think we need more power. If you’re not tired, that is.”
Well, I have been using my power almost nonstop since last night, I’m only standing because most of it’s been from Chloe’s battery. “Oh, you don’t have to worry about me.” Hmm, maybe getting him to worry about me would be the better tactic. I placed my hand on the shaft, just below his. I allowed my thumb to rub along his wrist. He acted like he didn’t notice, but I knew better. The electricity remained in the metal, rather than trying to electrocute him or going into the ground like one would expect.
GratitudeReady. “Thanks, I think that’s enough.” I could sense where the metal was underground, just like I knew where my hands were even if my eyes were closed, and I felt him form spiked and blades along the shaft. “Okay, Chloe, just turn it around once, then pull it up until the base is near my eyes.”
Roots and stone popped in the the ground as she twisted the metal pole, and with it tore the earth beneath us to shreds. She took flight, and ate through almost all our stored power to pull the pole out of the ground. The base slid up three feet, half what Dom asked for, and a pile of dirt spilled out. I could still feel the shape of the metal, as Domenic shaved some mass off the bottom, and pulled it down the tube from the exposed top, to wall off the cleared space at the bottom.
I took a breath, then pumped more power into the shaft before I could be asked. Now we’d tapped out everything Chloe and I had in reserve, and it took much longer to get things running again. Chloe gave another tug, this time expending everything in a single burst that, it turns out, got us a little further than the last one. I chalked that up to the the second time being hundreds of pounds lighter than last. We now had a metal tube in the bottom more than big enough to fit a coffin.
Attempt number three almost doubled the size of the tube, and on the fourth, the entire shaft was clear, except the rubble that spilled back into the hole. My muscles shook from the effort I’d put myself through, and my head was starting to hurt. I couldn’t understand why I felt so… weak.
Domenic looked at me, then down the shaft, then back at me. He sighed and stepped back. ConcernResignation. “Okay, I think that’s enough of that for now.”
UncertainConfused. Chloe didn’t seem to get it. “But we still haven’t built the rooms or got the well installed or anything.”
If she’s not giving up, then neither am I. I pushed what little power I had left into healing my weakened muscles. “Yeah, we’re just getting started.”
“You may be fine, but I’m tapped out.” DoubtSuspicion. Domenic gave a hard look at Chloe, but only for a moment before his stony gaze softened. ApologyDeception. “I miscalculated how much metal we’d need. If I thin out the walls much more, we risk the whole thing collapsing. We knew we couldn’t get the job finished in one day, anyway. My truck’s shocks weren’t designed to handle that kind of weight when they were new, and that was a decade ago. We don’t have the raw materials to keep going.”
He’s lying, and we all know it. I would have tapped my Fate-sense, there was a chance I’d kill myself trying it now. “Okay, since your crappy truck can’t take it, I guess we’ll call it a night. Come back tomorrow?”
TolerantPatient. “Yeah, sorry I’m driving a piece of crap.” He smirked at me. KnowingAmused. “Maybe next time, we can just take all the metal out here by flight and cut out the middle man, how’s that sound?”
Like a great way to make us dead. “People notice giant balls of metal floating through the sky. We’d get caught.”
SmugSuccess. “Then I guess we’re stuck doing it the slow way.”