Sky stood frozen, her eyes darting from the gunmen to the boy. She hardly noticed when Nova and Roni's grip loosened. All she was focused on was Alex's fearful gaze, his useless struggle to escape the big, scary man. The little boy kept his mouth clamped shut, as though a single word will cause harm. Then his eyes fell on the body that lay dead at his failing feet, and his terrified expression only grew. "Doctor Levi! Please, wake up!" Sky could hear his voice breaking at the yells. He struggled more, tears swelling in his eyes, but but despite the effort, Alex clearly wasn't no used to this much physical exercise. Sweat was beading his forehead and his movements sluggish and flawed.
The goon holding him captive grunted as a stray foot kicked him in the leg. "That's enough, Boy!" He flipped the gun in his hand and jabbed the butt of it into Alex's little head. The kid's movement's ceased instantly. The goon grinned as he repositioned the weapon again.
"You see," Alphie spoke slowly, regarding the boy with casual malice. "This hospital is overflowing with kids who are about to die. It wouldn't make any difference if they were all to be killed." He shrugged, as though entertaining the thought.
Sky growled irritably. "What is it with you guys and blackmailing me by threatening to kill? It's really getting old!"
"I'm just doing my job, Girlie." Alphie stated simply as he dipped his red faded hat downward, shadowing his face further. Sky could see his grin. "Now Skyler Jennings, your response? You have two options. Try to fight us off which will result in all of these tragic, greedy kids dying, or come with us and there won't be any deaths."
"Yeah," Alphie's partner let out a careless laugh. "Except for yours."
These guys were insane! No way was she giving herself to these guys! But...Sky gave another glance at the boy, unconscious in his captive's grip. A twinge of guilt wrapped around her and tugged at her heart. She remembered the authoritative, happy tone he had when he explained the rules of his complex card game. She remembered the sorrow she'd noticed in the corner of his eyes when she asked about the car drawing in his room. Her heart ached. Alex didn't deserve this. Neither did the doctor deserve to lay dead on the ground, useless, lifeless.
"Sky, stop." Nova's voice eased its way to her from behind, and he placed a tentative, gentle hand on her hard shoulder. She flinched when she felt his hand reach her. She'd forgotten her friends were behind her. "Don't do it. There's always another way."
"Hush up, Boy!" Alphie growled. "Or I'll happily put a bullet through your brain."
Another way. Sky looked down, her fists clenched hard, her body trembling. There's always another way, he'd said. She closed her eyes, and drew a shaky breath. Then she looked up at the murderer with the faded red cap, and her dark, unreadable eyes met his. "Go to back to Hell where you came from." With that, the room exploded as gunfire pierced their ears, and Sky turned to tackle her two friends to the ground. She felt a familiar, tugging sensation in her stomach, and she squeezed her eyes closed as she wrapped her arms around Nova and Roni.
The next thing Roni knew, she was laying on the ground, pressed against Nova's chest as Sky lay on top of them both. Other than the sound of their heartbeats, (which Roni could hear very wells since they were so snug laying on the ground together) the room had gone a dead silent.
"Well, that was fun." In one swift motion, Roni darted out from under Sky and positioned herself crouched on the arm of one of the chairs that dotted the room, and took in her surroundings. Everything had gone to a complete standstill. Cap-dude had his finger wrapped around the trigger, but the only hint that he'd shot was the ringing in her ear from the sound. So...if he did manage to pull that trigger….then...how come the three of them were still alive?
"Uh, Sky, why aren't we dead yet? I have a feeling we should be dead," Roni stated as she turned her head to question her frined. Then she froze, seeing Sky and Nova still spiraled on the floor together. A grin spread itself across her lips. "A toast!" She yelled as she raised an invisible glass. "To the happy couple."
Red seeped into Sky's cheeks, and spread to the rest of her face. Roni guessed that wasn't a blush. "We aren't dating, Roni!" She growled as she heaved herself off loverboy, earning a few 'oof's and 'ow's from the heart-seer. "And we're not dead," She started as she brushed herself off. "Because I stopped us from dying." She bent down to grip Nova's arm and haul him to his feet. Nova fumbled around as he tried to regain his balance. "Look at Alphie.
"I did. They shot their guns, but we're not dead. You really need to do a better job of explaining," Roni cackled.
"Look closer, Idiot!"
"Fine, fine." Roni took a quick glance around the room half-heartedly, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. "What am I looking at exactly?"
Sky sighed defeated. "You seriously haven't noticed that we're the only ones showing any sign of life?"
"Yeah, because everyone else is either a dying kid, or dead goons. Care to explain more?"
With a sigh, Sky let go of Nova, making him fumble more. "I froze time. You me and Nova are in what I call a time pocket. When we're in this, nobody else can move, see, or hear us. So it's like we don't' exist. But we still have to be careful.
She was right. Everything was at a stand still. Not just the people, but the entire building. Roni could feel that eerie silence that walled around them whenever either of them stopped talking, just for a minute. Even that kid that Sky seemed so attached to was frozen in a thrashing position. The room looked like some real life panoramic photo. "Okay, so this...is somewhat cool. Not as cool as me, but, cool." She shrugged and raised an eyebrow as the dizzy Nova plopped into a chair. "What's the matter with you, Loverboy?"
"My head hit the ground again when Sky tackled us," He moaned and buried his face in his hands. "I'm going to need serious therapy after this."
"In the meantime, we get to laugh at how silly you look." Roni grinned helpfully at him.
"Shush." He rubbed his face before lifting his head and taking the time to look around. "Wow...Sky, you did this?"
"Yup," Sky mumbled as she made her way to Alex.
"So this is your secret power," Nova stated. He grinned genuinely at her handiwork."Sky, this is really amazing."
Sky froze mid step when she heard those words, and the genuine softness of his voice. She shook her head and continued walking. "It's nothing to fawn over. It's still new to me. I just discovered it about a month ago. Not long before...Martin got me."
Roni scoffed. "Yeah, that's typically how it goes. Usually when a kid gets new powers, Martin's not that far behind. Normally it takes at most a month before he's on your trail for the rest of your life."
"What about family?" Sky asked. "The ones close to you who don't have any abilities?"
Nova shrugged. "I guess we'll find out when we reach our destination."
"Whatever that is," Roni said absently. Then she glanced at Sky, who was now removing the gun from the kid's captive.
"Sky?" Nova asked. How is this all possible?"
The dark-skinned girl froze at that, before pulling the boy from the gunnman and into her arms. She regarded Nova with a blank stare. "I suddenly wake up with magic powers, and you're wondering how the heck it's possible? Look I'm still trying to figure it out myself." She threw the gun at Nova's feet in the center of the room. "Now are you going to help me or interrogate me?" Her voice simmered with anger, and continued before Nova could respond. "Roni, disarm those two over there." She pointed to Reggie and Alphie. "And careful. I wasn't able to stop time before they shot the guns. Their bullets are still there...somewhere in the air.."
"So they're just hovering around randomly?" Roni asked.
"Yeah. So be careful not to-" The albino disappeared in a white and black blur which darted around the room. Within a second she was standing in front of Sky, her hand out with three stray bullets piled up in her palm. Sky grumbled. "...Touch...them…." She whacked her own palm against her head in irritation. "You're an idiot. She's an idiot," she told Nova.
Roni smirked, and took Sky's hand to drop the bullets in them. "Now what, Boss?"
"Don't call me that. Ever."
"Fine Boss," She grinned mischievously.
"Go to Hell."
"I've been. It's a nice place. Could use some curtains, maybe a little less blood, but otherwise it's an atheist's paradise."
"Do you realize how much that sentence contradicts itself?" Nova butt in.
"It's not a contradiction, it's a paradox. Know the difference." Roni beamed and crossed her arms.
"There is no difference."
"Exactly! that's why…"
Sky tuned out their argument and returned her attention back to the boy in her arms. The man holding him captive was still in the position of pointing the weapon at what was now empty air. That would mean if he'd managed to pull his trigger before Sky froze time, the bullet would have already gone in one side of Alex's head and out the other. The good news was that the skinny little boy didn't have a hole going through his brain. The realization that Alex was unharmed made Sky sigh with relief and hug him gently, ignoring the uncomfort as his bones poked through the hug. She rubbed his arms where he'd been held, too, trying to ease the tension in his wrists. Alex may not have been able to feel the physical contact now, but she guessed that when exhaustion came over and she managed to unfreeze time, it would catch up with him.
"Sky?" Nova's voice infiltrated the silence which had arisen between him and his companion. They were currently trying to locate Alex's room, with the kid between them, his arms slung over their shoulders.
Sky glared up at him at the question. "What?" She demanded.
"How..." Nova gulped. "How come we- Roni and I that is- how come we're not frozen in time, just like everything else? I mean, wouldn't it make more sense otherwise?"
For a second, Nova thought she was going to shut him up again. Or worse, throw a punch at him. There was an uncomfortable pause, a moment of thought, before she shook her head. "I've discovered that...whenever something is frozen in time, it doesn't work. Like my laptop for instance. Or the TV...it's all completely frozen once Time stops. ...But if I manage to freeze it while i'm touching it, then they come into my little time pocket with me, and it works just fine then. I have to rewind the clock on my laptop a lot though..." She glanced up at him. "I've never tried it on people. I wasn't sure if it would work or not."
"...Gee. Thanks. Love being a magical guinea pig." Nova rolled his eyes and looked around. The red glow emitting from the three of them was cast onto the walls of the large hallway which led to Alex's room. He stole a glance at his friend though. Her heart's glow has dimmed just at the slightest since last he'd thought to look. The black tint within her chest was growing larger. Something about the way she carried herself, the tenseness in her muscles and the way her fingers curled, itching for a fight, made Nova's own bright red heart ache. Alex, on the other hand, he seemed...different. The base of his heart was a pure, dominatingly bright red, but when Nova took the time to squint, he could see thin cracks along the surface. And though his glow was bright, happy, it was still fairly dim compared to most that Nova had seen. However, considering their location, the fact that they were in a hospital, Nova couldn't help but feel a twinge of admiration for the boy.
"Really though," Nova started again, breaking the silence between them. "Thanks." He looked at her, his eyes gentle and calm. "If it weren't for you, we'd be dead."
Sky glanced at him, and her eyes hardened slightly under his gentle gaze. Her grip on Alex loosened slightly as she started to pull away. "Whatever. The only reason I did that was because I didn't want to die. Or Alex. Now shut up, before I seriously debate punching you."
"Right," Nova agreed. "Shut up. Keep waking. I have a follow up question for you."
"Aaand he keeps on talking."
"Do you have any idea where we're going?"
Sky wheeled on him. "Of course I do. Alex dragged me to his room earlier today wanting me to play cards with him. I know where it is."
"Really? 'Cause we've passed that mural of a monkey hanging from a tree about five times now."
"You…." She huffed, letting out the air from her puffed up cheeks. "Fine! If you know where to go so easily, then you lead the way."
"I've never even met this kid before now."
"Then don't keep telling me how to do my job!" She turned and marched down the hall familiar hall, leaving Nova to stagger slightly under the rest of the frozen little boy's sudden weight.
The heart-seer let out a deep sigh as he watched Sky as she retreated down the hall. He followed her, allowing a moment of silence to fill between them again. Then he breathed in slowly. "How come you don't wake the kid up?"
"Oh my gosh!" She stopped walking, her back still to him and her fists clenched. She turned to him to glare daggers at him. "Do you not understand the term shut up?"
"Look, the only one who knows where the kid lives is the kid. Can't you unfreeze time so he can show us where he lives?"
"No...to him, he was just held at gunpoint. If we were there when he woke up, he'd be asking us questions….questions that I don't know how to answer to a little boy who doesn't know anything about magic." She shifted her weight uncomfortably.
She didn't say it, but Nova got the feeling she was putting off starting Time up again for another reason. Nova studied her, before letting out a sigh. "Okay. We'll do it your way. Let's….just make sure we don't go down this hall again. That monkey gives me the creeps. Like it's staring into my soul or something…"
"You're one to talk, Loverboy."
"Great, not you too!" Nova whined as he trudged along behind Sky. But he couldn't help the slight smile that poke through. For the first time, a hint of laughter was audible under the thick wave of sarcasm in her voice. At least something good came from this endeavor.
When Nova and Sky arrived back in children's ward lobby, after finally finding Alex's room, they found Roni sitting curled up in a leather chair, pressing random buttons on the remote in attempt to get the stubborn T.V. working. She sat with her feet slung over one armrest as her back curled against the other while the goons Alphie and Reggie sat hogtied beside her. When she heard their footsteps echo into the large room, she jerked her head to look up, and beamed. "Yes! you're finally back!" She hovered off the chair and charged towards them in a blur, leaving her captives in the dust, and landed in front of them all in a graceful swoop. She crossed her arms as she grinned at them. "Soooo what took you guys so long?" Her eyebrows arched together as her beam twisted into a sly smirk. "You didn't take any detours, did you?"
Nova's cheeks reddened slightly at the question. "Well, no but we-"
"Not in the way you think, Albino." Sky grumbled and shoved Roni's face away from her, making her stumble slightly. Sky ignored it with a yawn and walked over to the two men. She crouched down and poked Alphie's cheek, her mind in seemingly deep concentration..
Nova's eyes followed her as he took a step closer to her. "What're you thinking, Sky?"
"I'm thinking," she spoke slowly. "I'm thinking we….need to get out of here as...as soon as…as….soon...as….." Her body swayed as she spoke, her words starting to slur together. "...Possible." She began to tumble backwards.
Darkness shrouded her view, gripped at her heart and tugged at her soul. Her hair swayed around her and brushed over her face as though fully submerged in an ocean of gentle waters. Cold air clasped her hands, producing a cold shiver that rolled up her spine and escaped through chattering teeth. Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts that swirled around her, dark, hopeless. A mangled sob choked her throat, tears trapped just behind her eyes. She wanted to scream; at herself, at the world, at something, but no words survived through her trembling lips. She yearned for the gentle brush of the touch of skin against her own; proof of an existence outside of herself, but was greeted only with the dark depression that overcame her heart. Hopeless, helpless, and utterly useless.
"Embraaace it, Dear One," A slithery voice cooed tenderly into her ear, a gentle whisper whisked into her head on a whim. A quick, shrill yelp broke its way through her throat and she whipped around in the sound it came, but there was nothing there. No sign of life or existence. Her feet were light, as though drifting aimlessly through the darkness.
"Where am I?" Her voice broke with depression and anxiety as her eyes searched and pleaded for the company. "What is this place!" She screamed and closed her inutile eyes. Her fingers tightened into fists, her heart beating itself against the cage of her chest, echoing chaotically from within.
"Why, do you not recognize it, Dear One?" The voice pressed itself into her, gently as though the pair of lips to which it belong was pressed positioned right against her ear. She spun around again to be greeted with the abyss of nothing. "This is you."
The chains of fear that had bound her, imprisoned her began to melt away as anger rose to the top. It billowed from her chest and spread warmth throughout her body, touching her fingers and her feet. Her eyes hardened as the wide shock faded. "T...this isn't me!" The snarl dug its way through the lump in her throat and forced it's way through her lips as her jaw ceased it's trembling rhythm. "How the heck is this me!"
"This is a fragment of who you are, Dear One. It is a reflection of what your soul has become."
"So you want to make me believe I've become dark and evil and cold? Yeah, no thanks! Why don't you show your face so I can punch you in it, instead of you just cowering behind my ear! And if you think you know my soul so well, then why don't you call me by my actual name!"
"And here is that infamous temper of yours, Dear One. Your walls are flaring up again, protecting you. Guarding you from ever feeling any more pain and suffering. Ah, but that is the question, isn't it? Does that wall of yours really keep the anger and the hurt out?"
"I don't know what the crap you're talking about!" She spun around again and again in search of any sign of life aside from herself."
"Or, Dear One, are your walls meant for nothing more than to barricade the darkness, to seal it away within you? Your anger, which has gotten you through so much. Have you ever considered it does more harm than good?"
"Why am I here?" she demanded. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Why the hell have you brought me to this place?"
"Oh, do you not recognize it?"
"No, that's why I asked." Her voice seethed through gritted teeth. "And what do you mean, recognize? I've never been here!" This voice was toying with her, preying on her emotions like a lion with a mouse. And she was still too useless to even figure out where the disembodied words originated.
To her greatest irritation, the voice merely chuckled at her helplessness with amusement. "My dear child, take upon further inspection, use your mind. The imagination you do not have. You see, we are not at. We are within."
She huffed, her drifting body tense, her feet kicking around in an attempt to feel at nothing. "Within? What the heck do you mean by that? What are we in some sort of endless void or some crap like that?"
Her temper earned her another brutally amused chuckle, which sent more chills rolling down her spine, chasing away the strength and warmth her anger had given her. She felt as though she had been engulfed by a vast pit of ocean, drifting in the center with no hope of floating or sinking. "No, my child. As I have been attempting to explain before you come to your rude interruptions, the only way to recognize where we are is by taking a moment to recognize yourself. This all is a mere reflection of you, what others sense, see and feel when you speak, engage. Converse. My dear, your soul consists of nothing but darkness and an apathetic cold."
If she were standing on solid ground, she probably would have stumbled back in shock. "T...this isn't me!" Her eyes hardened. Her arms were still crossed, but her fists clenched, tensing her body up even more than it already was. "I'm not this weak and pathetic! Now get me out of here!"
There was a pause, followed by a long, drawn out sigh. "Very well. You get your wish."
Everything changed within a split second and she felt a heavy gust of wind push against her as weight returned to her body. Her stomach churned. A loud scream escaped her lips as she felt the wind around her grab her and yank her into a free fall. She squeezed her eyes closed as her surroundings changed, the sudden appearance of color blinding her. She could still feel the light bleeding through her closed eyelids, causing another scream to forced it's way out.
The impact never came. She could feel herself hyperventilate as her pounding heart coursed adrenaline through her body. She wanted to scream again, to yell, but she forced herself to let the energy escape her in shaky inhales and exhales of breaths. As the initial shock of her body faded and her muscles relaxed, she noticed the softness and warmth of the hospital bed beneath her, and the light weight of blankets cocooning her.
"I'm okay," She said aloud to her friends. She sat up groggily she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. "I'm fine, I'm just…" Her eyes peeked open and she froze. "Just…what the crap?"
She was not in a hospital bed like she'd thought. She wasn't even in in the last building she remembered when she passed out. She was surrounded by bland, familiar walls and a dark hardwood floor that was flecked with various articles of clothing. She was wrapped in a blood-red quilt and white plaid sheets. Dresser drawers sat askew, hanging halfway from the holes in which they belonged, and overflowing with wrinkled up clothing. The tan walls were half-heartedly dotted with old movie posters and rock bands.
With a jolt of recognition she sat bolt upright in her bed. This wasn't the hospital she was in a second ago. This was her own bedroom.
After a minute of scanning her room for anything ary, she let out a frustrated grunt and fell backward so her head thudded against the pillow. Her heart still pounded against her chest in its escape attempt, and she could feel the sweat beading down her face. The sheets of her bed held the slightest hint of moisture, too. Great. Now she'd have to do laundry. Oh the joys of stripping the bed.
She shook her head and closed her eyes. Her brain throbbed painfully in her whirling mind. All the girl could process were flying omelets dancing with colorful playing cards in midair, cheerfully evading rock pebbles that flew around and around her head. She recalled the curly-haired nuisance and the pervert who claimed he could see everything that made her….her. She remembered the antisocial guard who threw the rocks at them, forcing them to stay, trapped and concealed. She recalled the little boy, the hospital, the gunmen….the doctor….they shot the doctor…. the doctor died...how could the doctor die?
All of it vortexed around her mind clear and foggy. Was it….real?
A scoff escaped her lips as she threw the blood-red blankets off her legs. Of course it wasn't real. She fell asleep. That's all it was. Too much sugar before bed, or TV, or something. Maybe she'd finally cracked and is now officially insane.
With a shrug of her shoulders, she shooed the thought out of her reach as she grabbed the phone on her dresser. Much to her dismay, the little screen didn't come to life with the electronic light as it usually did. She huffed and disposed of it by tossing it on her bed. Whatever. After a couple minutes, when she was finally ready to greet the morning with only slightly mild distaste, she trudged out her room and slid down the stair's banister. She stuck the landing at the bottom without tumble or stumble, much to her own surprise, and did her usual sweep of the house by peaking her head into her parents' bedroom. The room was stale and dark, with only a bit of natural light blazing itself against the wall from the window above the bed.
Okay, so either she'd slept in a lot later than she'd originally thought, or it wasn't the weekend, like she'd originally thought. Her mother always overslept at the end of the week.
The girl paused in her thought. "Mom?" Her eyes swept over the abandoned room one last time, before she stepped into the hall to glance around. "Dad? Hello, anyone home?" No answer. Panic started to build in her throat. She rushed down the hall and barreled d her way into the living room, only to promptly wham herself against the thick wall of a person. When she glanced upward, she was greeted with a metallic pair of cold, disapproving eyes glowering down at her.
"Sorry, Dad," she managed to mumble before pulling herself off him. She expected him to yell, to point out all her flaws from just that one incident. She expected the scold, but was instead greeted to silence. The girl glanced nervously up at her father, and her heart skipped a beat. There he was, standing over her with frozen, glossy eyes that seemed to look through her, rather than at her.
"...Dad? Hello is anyone home in that thick head of yours?" The girl clapped impatiently and waved her hand in front of his face to no avail. He was frozen in time. She took a step back from him.
"I'm going to find Mom. You just...hang in there." She knew her voice fell on deaf ears, but that wasn't anything new when it came to her and her father. She backed away, then jogged into the kitchen. Her mother stood standing over the oven, a gentle smile creating dimples in her cheeks. She stirred a pot of soup that filled the room with the aroma of thyme, basil and cooked vegetables which warmed the girl's darkening heart just slightly.
"Mom." She gave a sigh of relief and crossed over to her to sit on the counter beside the oven. "Something...something happened." her chocolaty eyes bore into her mother's glistening forest brown irises. "Dad isn't moving, either…." Her voice trailed off with a grumble. Her mother just as void as her father.
Anger swirled within her. "Whatever!" She fumed as she hopped off the counter. "This is completely useless!" Nothing about this situation was right! Oh sure, it's happened plenty of times that her powers would 'activate' without her consent, placing herself in a time pocket in which only she existed. And yeah, it freaked her out a lot. But this was different. Every time she sucked herself out of the timeline, she could feel this weight in the pit of her stomach, as though she were a pond someone tossed a rock into. That rock, she'd realized, is her anchor to stay grounded. She figured out that to release Time from her hold, she merely has to focus on that deep gut feeling, and picture the stone being scooped up and and rising to the surface. This time was different. Unlike usual, she didn't have that deep feeling in the pit of her stomach. Without her anchor, how will she pull herself back?
Suddenly she felt something hard clamp onto her her from behind and yanked her backward. She let out a strangled yelp as she felt the ground shift beneath her feet and felt herself land on the cold hard ground that was not her kitchen tiles. She was being dragged across the floor by that same invisible force. She screamed, she flailed. She cried bloody murder until her lungs ached. Her fists were flying until she felt cold, metal cuffs clamp around her wrists. "Let me go! Whoever you are let me go!" She bellowed hard as she felt herself being hauled to her feet by her wrists. Her eyes darted around wildly as she struggled, but her useless flailing ceased as a cold shiver trembled down her spine. Her heart nearly died, and her throat tightened.
Lying at her feet were two corpses, both of which cut open enough to see white bone peaking out in various areas. The remainder of their skin was caked in red liquid that glistened in the light and trickled to the ground to create a crimson lake which pooled around them. Their clothes were reduced to torn patches of fabric which were glued onto their skin. The corpses were unrecognizable, but Sky still recognized them. A gulp made its way down her throat and spread a numb pill throughout her body. She knew in her gut the truth she was so terrified to see. The corpses that lay at her feet belonged to that of her parents.
"Skyler Jennings." The voice that had whispered softly into her ear earlier was present once again. However, instead of a disembodied voice that murmured into her ear, it projected greatly through the small cell in which she was held captive. A tall, dark humanoid figure blocked her view of the door in front of her. It dwelled in the shadows, just out of reach of the light. All she managed to see of her guest were the piercing yellow eyes of a tiger, hungrily stalking its prey. "You are running out of time, Skyler Jennings. The Master grows more impatient with every passing minute. If you continue with this juvenile game of tag any longer, you may very well just lose those you hold closest to your heart. Sleep well, Dearie." Sky let out a scream as she felt her weight begin to take hold, and she fell into the dark abyss.