Wildman darted between me and the guard.
“Stop!” My yell was strangled. I had to lower the gun; I’d almost pulled the trigger when he moved. My heart raced and sweat dripped down my back.
“Get me out of this thing,” Teddy said. He was straining at the bars of the cage.
Wildman had the guard on the floor, savagely beating him. He wasn’t moving, except with the blows that rained down with a strength that seemed to defy Wildman’s size and had everything to do with his fury.
“Just wait.” I holstered my weapon and rushed over. I didn’t want to touch him—who knew how’d he’d react? Wildman’s teeth were bared in a frozen snarl and his eyes were blazing slits as he battered the man on the floor. “Wildman? Hey. Stop now. He’s down.” I licked my lips. “You’re going to kill him.”
“Good!” His fist smacked into the guard’s slack face again, blood spraying across the gray stone floor.
“Not good. We have to finish and get out of here, remember? We have to destroy the machine.” My inkling was a fully blown realization now. Wildman had been here before. He’d seen this machine before, and he’d definitely known this guard before—and not in a good way.
I didn’t know why he came back when he’d seemed not to care before, and I hated this had dredged up so much hate and fear, but we needed him. “Help us stop them once and for all.”
His nostrils flared, but he got up from his crouch over the prone form under him. The guard wouldn’t be getting up anytime soon. I averted my eyes, unable to look at the man’s bashed in face anymore.
“Lock me in the cage, and then get ready to push the button,” I said. I stepped into the metal cage, shuddering when the door clanged shut, trapping me inside.
“What are we doing, Will?” Teddy asked. “Isn’t this exactly what the king wants us to do?”
“No. I’ve read all of Schvesla’s books—every word he ever wrote. He mentioned that he had to be very careful to trickle his power into the earliest version of the machine, or it would overload. He risked damaging himself every time he used it because of the feedback it would create. Think of it like a candle. A small flame can go out; too high of a flame will melt the wax too fast. The wick has to be just the right size to support the flame to give enough light without going out or destroying the candle completely. He mentioned he’d found a way to stabilize the process and make it safe for him as well.
“I’m guessing that’s you. Schvesla and Murci were inseparable. The king targets Beta and Gamma pairs, friends or people who have a connection like the twins. I’m stronger than any Beta I’ve ever read about, and you’re brilliant. You are capable of seeing paths in your mind no one else can follow, and you never forget anything.”
I stared deep into his eyes. “I’m depending on you to bring me back. To not let me fall completely.” I stretched my arm out of the cage, and he reached for me. Our fingers locked together. “Ready?”
He took a deep breath and nodded. “I’m ready.”
“Just stay calm, whatever happens. Okay, Wildman, we’re ready.”
Wildman didn’t say anything, but he must have started the machine. There was a hiss and a cloud of steam whistled from a valve on the top, filling the room with a sharp stench. Shit. I hadn’t thought about the noise; maybe the guard who’d surprised us was the only one close by. I’d have to hope we could complete our mission and get away before it alerted anyone else if he hadn’t been alone.
The metal around me hummed, a low vibration I could feel over every inch of my body. Wherever I touched it, even through my clothes, the metal lit up. Almost like a siphon, it sipped the power from my body.
Teddy groaned. “This feels bad. I can feel it, flowing out of you and into me.”
Squeezing my fingers around his, I said, “Just hold on. Hold on to me.”
I hadn’t realized the machine stabilized my power flow through him. I thought the surge would only endanger me. Clear as a bell, I knew what we were going to have to do, but I didn’t want to.
“Give me more,” Teddy said through clenched teeth. “Don’t let the machine take it. Send a surge; short it out.”
“You could get hurt.” My clothes were starting to cling to my body as sweat coated my skin.
“Do it anyway, before it’s too late. I’m ready, I swear.”
I stared at Teddy, needing to see him when we did this, even if it pressed my face uncomfortably against the metal bars of the cage, increasing the vibration and the glowing. “Okay. Just… don’t let go.”
“Don’t let go of me either.”
“Never.” I closed my eyes, letting out a deep breath, and relaxing the hold I kept on my ability. The metal flared even brighter, lighting up the room. The rods above us began to tremble, rattling above the machine which belched out steam.
“Not enough.” The cords in Teddy’s neck stood out
This was it. Do or die. For the first time, I really pushed. I strained to focus, sending more and more through the machine, through Teddy.
His eyes lost focus, and Teddy’s features went slack. I tried to call out to him, but my jaw was locked shut. Now that I’d forced the waves of power, it was cresting higher than I could control it. My head began to swim.
A loud grating noise echoed through the room, and then the rods began to fall. Steam blasted through the room, filling it like smoke, but Teddy didn’t move.
What had I done to him?
Way more going on now, right? More next week. Now go check out the other Briefers.