Virtual (Chapter Eighteen)

Jane and John quickly raised their hands at the men. They held that pose for a couple of seconds before looking at their hands in shock and confusion.

"What are you doing?" Melissa Warndale asked with a bemused smile. "Are you trying to conjure fireballs or something to throw at them?"

All around, the men laughed. They all extended hands to the teens and, one by one, flames appeared above their palms. As they created supernatural flames, the men transformed into half-beast forms. There was a cat, a dalmatian dog, a fox, a crocodile, and an iguana.

The trio gaped at their captives in stunned silence. Jane and John were especially dumbfounded since it was their powers that were useless at the moment. How were those guys able to transform when Jane and John couldn't even cause a puff of smoke to appear? Aren't dampeners supposed to be like double-edged swords?

"Surprised? I'm sure you are. Those wristbands you now wear are dampeners specially designed to send signals directly into you nervous system to cancel out psychic powers," Warndale explained. "It works just like a regular dampener. The only difference is you're the only ones who'll be affected by it since you're the ones wearing them. Meanwhile, me and my boys here are free to use our powers without any interference."

For a demonstration, Warndale, herself, transformed. Tim and the others had no idea that Warndale was not human, so imagine the surprise they felt as they watched her ears become long and pointed as bat wings sprouted from her back. The color of her skin shifted from slightly tanned to stark stone blue. Tim had seen a creature like the one Warndale was transforming into once before. He never got the name, though.

"No way," said Jane. "You're a gargoyle?"

"You must be surprised," Warndale said, baring her fangs in a smile. "Gargoyles are private creatures so they rarely ever reveal themselves, even to their own kind. That's one of the main reasons we're called such rare creatures, even though there are probably thousands of us still living in this world. Neither Jared or I realized that the other was a gargoyle until an accident caused both of us to shape shift. I remember our days together fondly. They were the best of my life before Jared was taken from me. And it was YOUR FRIEND'S FATHER WHO TOOK HIM FROM ME!"

Tim wasn't sure whether it was because she was a gargoyle or maybe because of the room, but her voice was loud. Like stadium speakers loud. He had never seen a non-human so livid. Her blue skin was practically red. She breathed deeply for a few minutes hunched over. Tim was afraid she might attack him and the others at any moment like a wild beast. But she calmed down, eventually.

"You don't seem surprised," she said, straightening up and shifting back to her human form.

"When we figured out who you were, we dug up on your background," Tim said. "We saw the news article and a pic of the scene. Hanako's old man was in it. Knowing how he used to get food on the table, it wasn't hard to guess that he was the one who did in your boyfriend. And knowing that, the reason why you kidnapped her and Ben was so obvious that me saying it out loud would make me Galactic Chancellor of Obvious. Let them go. The guy you want is dead. Even if she's his daughter, she's got nothing to do with what Yamamoto did to your boyfriend."

"And what makes you think that they're alive?" Warndale said. "For all you know, I could have killed them myself already."

"Well, when I learned about the nasty surprises you added to your security programs, I figured that you probably liked the kind of payback that involves a little bit of suffering," Tim replied.

"While I'm sure that's common enough knowledge that a former CIA agent, even a boy like you, could learn, that can't be all that you based your guess on my kind of revenge on," Warndale said. "I suppose that granddaughter of Emperor Tech's owner found her way to you."

"She might have told us a few more details while we were on our way over here," Jane admitted. "Doesn't mean she's here with us though."

"Nice," said Warndale. "Trying to throw me off with a casual remark. I'll admit it. You almost had me convinced. Almost. I already know your friends are outside in a van where I'm sure you've got some kind of nerve center set up. One of them is sure to be that girl. Her 'mad skillz' as young'uns these days would put it, are too impressive for them not to use her. Shall we see how they're doing?"

As she spoke, a white screen lowered from the ceiling. The projector, also mounted from the ceiling, lit up while the lights around did the opposite. On it was a black and white image of outside the building. People were rushing out of screen as the camera zoomed in on the white van. One person in black calmly strolled over to it, a stark contrast to the others around him.

A feeling of dread rose inside Tim as he watched the hooded person step right in front of the van. He pointed a finger up toward the van. And then there was something like a camera flash from the person's finger that overtook the whole screen.

"That is . . . You know, I can never remember his name," Warndale said, pushing her tongue against the inner wall of her cheek while looking up thoughtfully. "Well, he's human. He was born with a rather interesting psychic power. You know how water can be converted into plasma and that can cause damage? Basically, he's a human plasma gun. Knowing that, you can guess what he just did, can't you?"

Tim felt his insides twist. He prayed that everyone was alright as he watched. But hope plummeted when he saw beads of something suddenly appear all around the van. If all of them became plasma bullets, the van and everything in it were sure to become Swiss cheese.

He turned toward Warndale with his mind racing. There had to be something he could do. Maybe he could try to persuade Warndale to stop the person outside. No, with the way she was smiling, he doubted that she would really listen. Or she would listen, but still let it happen anyway, if everything Emily said about her was true. Maybe he could force her to stop the shower of plasma. As soon as he tensed at the thought, however, he was roughly picked up off the ground by the collar of his shirt and thrown back. He hit the floor and slid across just short of the door before being picked up again and back onto his feet. The animal men pushed him roughly forward again toward their boss, but this time, they kept their hands firmly on his shoulders and arms.

"Sorry, but there's no chance you're going to get the jump on me," said Warndale. "I've waited a long time to pay that man back for what he took from me and NO ONE is going to ruin it all. Especially not some soft brats trying to play super spy heroes."

She turned back to the screen, pulled out her smartphone and dialed a number. As she waited with the phone to the side of her head, on the screen, the human plasma gun reached into his back pocket and pulled out his own phone. Once the phone was to his ear, Warndale said: "Do it."

Almost at the same time, Warndale and the human plasma gun put their phones away.

"No!" John cried out. He tried to break free, but the grip of his captors was too strong. He and the others could only watch as the man on the movie screen raised his hands high into the air and then let them drop to his sides.

The water drops became stars in the air and flew toward the van. They reached the van, but before they pierced through the van, the van lit like a light bulb. There was an explosion of energy that flung the hooded figure off their feet and against the car in front. Before the screen was overcome with white noise, the viewers caught a glimpse of glass cracking and shattering.

Warndale frowned as she looked up to the flickering lights. She put the phone to her ear again and spoke.

"Hello? It seems we have a problem outside. Oh, you noticed. Really? All the windows? You don't say. Well, be dears and go check it out. Don't worry about witnesses. After that alert we sent out, there shouldn't be any. So don't hold back. I want them turned to ash."

Turning back to Tim and the others, she said to them: "I apologize, but I'm afraid that's all the time I have to entertain you. I'm a very busy woman." Then, to her men: "Please send our guests to their rooms."

"Come on," said the iguana man, roughly pushing Tim toward the door. "Let's go. And don't try anything funny, otherwise . . ."

He didn't finish that sentence, but the gun he pulled out was enough of a message for Tim to understand. And thankfully, the others also decided to go quietly.


Willow saw blood coming from both Mack and from Emily. Time suddenly slowed. Everyone was shouting. Daiki and Roger were body slamming against the door. And her friend and someone she just met this day were bleeding. Pressure squeezed her head. Tension rose up her throat. It was obvious to her that if nothing was done, they were all going to be killed. She could sense it. Her psychic powers practically screamed "We're all going to die!" to her over and over again. No! She didn't want that. She didn't want to die! But more importantly, she didn't want Roger and the others to die. She had to do something.

She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something. She had to do something.

The fear became panic. And the panic became power. The hairs on her arms went rigid as the power inside her, power that she had rejected, power that saved her life one time, swelled from within. She could not control or contain this power. Nor would she if she had control. Instead, she let it out.

As she screamed, light enveloped everything. Energy surged out explosively. Behind her, the windshield and side door windows became twinkling shards and powder sprinkling over the pavement. Sparks snapped from the computers' hard drives. And the rancid smell of burnt plastic made its presence known.

She could hear the noise. And when she calmed down a bit, she could tell what was the cause. This wasn't the first time her powers saved her, after all. Back then was also a near-death experience where her survival instincts must have kicked in. When she opened her eyes, she saw Emily shooing Roger away and then barking something in Japanese to Daiki.

Daiki, after nodding to Emily, rushed over to the front of the van and pulled Mack into the back. Willow felt sick to the stomach when she saw how much blood was pouring out of the grown man. She nearly lost hold of her powers again and looked away from the messy scene to stop that. Daiki hissed and seemed to be muttering to himself, probably commenting on the gore.

Roger, in an attempt to make himself useful, glanced out the window.

"Uh, guys?" he said. "We've got more company."

Willow glanced out and saw figures approaching through the van's side mirror. They were definitely not human.

"Oh man, it looks like they're backup for the laser freak," Roger remarked. He also saw the beast men coming. "We have to get out of here!"

"Right," said Emily. "Go help Daiki with Mack."

"No," the man groaned. He just roused and was feebly trying to push Daiki away. Daiki snapped at him in Japanese and continued to keep his hand on the wound. Willow could see a little bit of blood flowing in reverse, returning into the man. "Don't worry about me. Get out of here."

"No way," said Roger as he lifted Mack's feet. "Even Ben wouldn't leave anyone behind. Come on. Let's - !"

Before Roger could finish that sentence, there was a loud thump. A mound popped out from the ceiling,as if something heavy landed on the roof of the van. Footsteps could be heard above.

Then a deep voice shouted: "Come on out! We have you surrounded. There is no escape!"

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billybuc 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

Just wanted to stop by to see if you lost your touch. You haven't!

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vkwok 4 months ago from Hawaii Author

Thanks, Bill! I really appreciate it!

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