And it's back! This week's flash was inspired by the prompt: Use present, filet mignon, worm.
Fortitude Part 24
“What?” I asked Teddy.
“You’ve never done it to me, but you have….” He trailed off, biting his lip. All the color had drained out of his face, and now I knew why. We didn’t talk about that—ever. It was a rule between us. I could only imagine how scared people would be if they knew I could manipulate them and their behavior. Just a little, but if Schvesla’s machine amplified powers….
I couldn’t be sure that’s what they meant, though. What if they were fishing? Chester and Bart had not shown us an ounce of trust, and we had little reason to trust them either. I flicked my gaze between them. Teddy reached down and grabbed my hand.
“It’s exactly what you’re thinking,” Bart said. “Why do you think no one ever leaves the city? Why people accept the way things are falling apart around them without protesting the rich life the nobles have.”
Anna had hinted at corruption, but not things, nothing like this.
“Speak plainly,” I finally said. “If what you’re saying is true, about my parents and what’s going on, then you know Teddy and I aren’t a threat to you.”
Chester sneered. “Not a threat. You found us, didn’t you?” He glanced at Bart. “But we won’t be here for much longer, so what’s the harm? The king, and the nobles, suck all the power out of gammas and betas. Before, gammas weren’t considered special at all, just like how everyone in the city still views them. But one day, Murci got caught up in the power loop sequence in Schvesla’s machine and nearly blew its coils.
“A beta and a gamma, linked together, have a much higher power potential.” Chester leaned against Bart. “And those who wish to remain in power have no compunction against using Schvesla’s designs to steal it. They use it to control the people, to blanket the city in invisible waves of compulsion through the lines that were supposed to power the city’s electricity.”
The brothers had identical expressions of sorrow on their faces, pain etched in the lines making them seem far older than before. “They took our power, drained it all. All we have left is the link to each other, and we can barely feel that. One day, some of it might build back up again, but never what we had before.”
Bart leaned forward. “And they’ll do the same thing to you. To all the others just like us.”
“If you are a beta, and there are more out there, why didn’t I know about you? Why did I think I was the only one who’d been born?”
“They isolate us. How many friends and family do you really know well?”
Barely any. I’d always thought that was because I was superior, and others were jealous of me. But had my childhood all been some manipulation to keep me ignorant of my present fate to become nothing more than a pawn in the power games of others?
“What is being done to stop it? Surely, someone has a plan. The clues Schvesla left… why are we just now finding them?”
They exchanged another look. “No one has ever come here about the clues before. This is a sanctuary, a stop on the path to get betas and gammas who are rescued out of the city.”
“Rescue? After they’ve been all but raped?” Having my power stripped? I shuddered at the thought of the violation. “That’s all that’s being done to help people like us?”
Chester jumped up, slamming his fists down on the table. “The king has too much power; Schvesla tried to shut down his machine, then he tried to destroy it. But he failed, and they killed him and his gamma. If you fight back, they hurt your partner. You can’t imagine the pain, the fear—”
“Don’t.” Bart closed his eyes, his hands clenching into fists. His voice shook. “Please don’t.”
Chester dropped to his knees next to him. “I’m sorry.” He rested his head against Bart’s shoulder.
Teddy squeezed my hand. His eyes were wet, and he blinked rapidly.
“We met some people, outside the city, who could help you,” I said. Chester and Bart needed to get out of the city; just talking to us had shown the cracks in their psyche. They couldn’t help us. “I bet they’re where you’re headed anyway.”
Bart sighed. “We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t even know the identities of the men who got us out of that place. When we got here, we were given new clothes, weapons, and instructions.” He ran a hand over his hair. “No one has been here in days.”
They really were no help at all.
My watch began to chime. We were late! “Tomorrow, we’d like to come back. If you leave before then, will you tell the others about us? There’s something I need to see, but we have to get back now, or my family will get suspicious. I don’t want to get attacked again.”
I stood, pulling Teddy up with me. “We won’t tell anyone you’re here. Your secret is safe with us.” Hopefully, they’d believe us. Chester was still leaning against Bart, not looking up.
“If we can,” said Bart.
“How do we get out of here?” I asked. Chester’s knife had distracted me.
“I know,” Teddy said.
I was wary until we were both locked in my bedroom to change for dinner, wondering if we were followed or being watched, now that I knew more of the dark machinations of the king. Teddy and I were silent as we dressed, but we stayed close, even once we hit the drawing room and the banquet table.
Seated in a place of honor, my worm of a brother was surrounded by his friends. We were late, and the main course had been served. Filet mignon.
My family had definitely sold me.TBC
Do they have any hope of stopping the king now that they know his plans? More next week!!