Escape was inches away, but just as Auralux dove towards the portal, the swirling mass vanished into thin air. Auralux ended up sprawled awkwardly on the ground with the mist angrily trying to envelop her.
“Prophet!” She was clearly panicked but trying to seem in control.
“That’s not going to happen!” I yelled at the voice.
“Open a portal!” Auralux yelled.
“I’m trying!” I snapped back. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make one open. None of my powers were responding. The closest I’d felt to this was when I fought Shard. Every nerve in my body was in overdrive with energy threatening to tear me apart.
What did It do to me?
Mutinous powers weren’t he only thing that was suddenly an issue. I could feel a headache starting, but it was like a mental pressure was building. The Presence was forcing its way further into my mind. It was like when the Anarchist paralyzed me but magnified a thousand times over.
Auralux scrambled up, but the mist clawed at her with dozens of ghostly hands. She was in a full-blown panic trying to use her powers to no avail. I had some idea of what she was going through; all her life she’d relied on her powers, and now when she was in danger, they had abandoned her. That must be terrifying.
This wasn’t the time to think about it; I had to find a way out of here. Auralux was practically useless until she got her powers back. Though, I didn’t think they would be able to get us back even if they were working. This was all on me.
I couldn’t let the Presence take any more control. I was dealing with something I didn’t understand, but fighting the Anarchist gave me experience in the mental battle department. Then again, I had used my powers to throw her off, and something told them that wasn’t an option here. Think—how do I get out of here?
My arm suddenly reached for Auralux, and I barely managed to throw off its aim with a burst of determination before a blast of energy exploded out of my palm.
Auralux swore in Russian, “What are you doing?”
“It’s trying to take over!” I yelled back, wrestling my arm back to my side.
“Then fight it!”
This was different than what the Anarchist had done. That was subtle, nefarious. This was…like a constant flood, but gentle. It seemed like it only wanted to borrow—and not hurt—me.
I was tired of things trying to take me over and make me do things against my will. Maybe this was where my power came from, but they were mine, damnit.
Listen to me you fucking PA system, I am not killing Auralux. Let us out or you’re going to have to fight me every second from now on. If you let us leave, I won’t ever bring her back here. Deal?
I couldn’t say I was that surprised—the Presence seemed to have a one-track mind. To drive the point home, I felt the it try to take more control. Fuck that.
Then get out of my head!
I focused on my hands and tried to take control of my energy. Every time my emotions ran high, like with Shard, I seemed to have more control; hopefully this time wasn’t any different. It had a good hold, but Its progress started to slow the more I fought it.
Still, I wasn’t winning yet. There had to be a way to…to…piss it off or something! Come on, Nate, think! There had to be…Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the trees looming in the swelling mist. Bingo. The Presence freaked out the second the Anarchist showed up, like a snarling animal backed into a corner. Time to wreck its home.
Before the Presence could figure out what I was doing, I stopped trying to hold my energy in and fired a beam into the trunk of a tree at full strength. Dead wood exploded into splinters as the tree fell. The Presence exploded with anger and shock I could feel reverberating inside my skull.
I fired again, and another tree crashed to the ground. “This is your plan?” Auralux yelled.
“Let us out!” I ordered.
To prove my point, I took aim at another tree. I paused for a second and the Presence took me up on my offer. It shrank away, releasing its hold and taking my powers away again.
The mist rolled back from me and Auralux who seemed to be pulling herself together.
“Now what?” She asked.
If my powers were gone—or they were at least working like normal…I reached out and reality faithfully fractured into the swirling mass of a portal.
“Go!” I said.
Auralux didn’t hesitate to jump through and leave the Forest behind. I didn’t waste even a second following behind her. I let out a sigh of relief when the lab came into view again. Everyone who was in the lab, and seemed to be panicking, all stopped to look at us in surprise.
Just when I started to relax from the adrenaline of our encounter with the Presence, I saw a wall of blue racing towards me faster than I could react. The blast did reach me exactly. I was thrown clean off my feet by the force of it, but It didn’t exactly hurt.
Even though the blast had taken me by surprise, my energy suit was already manifested by the time I hit the ground. But how?
I shot to my feet and looked for the origin of the attack. It didn’t take me long to find it. Auralux looked a skeleton surrounded by translucent, glowing skin.
At least her powers are working, I thought.
“What was that?” She shouted angrily.
The other members of the Union seemed to instantly shift from worried to battle ready. A wave of cold swept over the room as Cryos’ hair rose into the air. It took a second for Erin and Adam to decipher the scene, but I saw a comforting red glow and a hidden knife ready to back me up.
“Zoja, what is going on?” Kapitan questioned, his voice almost understandable with the thickening accent.
“It was a trap!”
“What? No, it was an accident!” I objected.
“Everyone, stand down!” Hollands barked. For such a reserved man, his voice carried enough authority to make even North Guard look surprised. “I won’t have sanctioned heroes coming to blows; especially here.”
He glanced at me, and I could see what Adam was talking about when I asked him where the “Grey” nickname came from. It was like storm clouds were swirling in the director’s eyes. “Prophet, stand down.”
I nodded and let the energy fade. Auralux didn’t seem to be as willing.
“He tried to kill me!”
“That wasn’t me!”
“Get your subordinate under control!” Hollands shouted at Kapitan.
The Russian shouted at her, but she didn’t back down.
She stared daggers into me for a few more seconds before her glow faded and color returned to her skin.
“Now then, what happened?” Hollands asked with order at least sort of restored.
“Once we went through the portal, Prophet attacked me.”
“For the last time it—”
“—I’ll get to you in a minute. Erin, escort Mr. Peterson to the common area,” Hollands ordered.
“What?” I asked, offended he didn’t seem to be taking my side.
“Come on,” Erin said, putting a hand on my shoulder and steering me towards the door.
The only thing I could think of on the way back to the common room was if Auralux really though I attacked her on purpose. She was upset, and she had every reason to be, but…still. It wasn’t my fault. All of this looked bad, especially since I was still trying to earn the team’s trust back.
I pushed open the door to the common room a bit harder than I meant to.
“Jesus, dude. Take it easy,” Erin said.
I dropped onto a couch and looked at the others apologetically. “Sorry,” I muttered.
“So, what happened? You guys just popped into your little pocket dimension and what? You got jumped?” Adam asked.
“Not exactly…” I said.
“Then what?” Erin asked. She didn’t sound accusatory or angry.
“Well, there’s this…voice I hear sometimes when I go to…you know, the other dimension. It usually doesn’t say much, just a few one-word sentences, but when Auralux showed up it seemed to snap.”
“You didn’t say you heard voices,” Erin said.
“Yeah—it’s not usually something I like to brag about.”
“Hey, it’s fine. We’re all a bit strange,” Adam said, giving me the first smile I thought I’d ever seen him crack.
“And, the…voice attacked you?” Erin asked, a bit confused from my story.
“Not exactly, not physically or anything. It seemed to shut off Auralux’s powers, but then it turned mine back on, and tried to force me to kill her.”
“Shit, dude,” Adam said. “Like, it took you over?”
“And she blamed you for it all,” Erin said, putting the pieces together.
“I mean, she heard the voice too; said it spoke in Russian for her. I don’t even know Russian!”
Erin sat down on a chair across from me, appearing lost in her thoughts. “I’m sure Hollands will work it out,” She finally said, not sounding convincing.
“Hey, Nate. Test over already?” The three of us looked up to see Corey and Whitney walking in with Miracle
“Yean, but not for a good reason.”
“What happened?” Corey asked, the tone of my voice tipping him off.
“Something took me over when we went into the other dimension and tried to make me hurt Auralux.”
“Is she okay?” Miracle asked with sudden alarm.
“Yeah, she’s fine, just pissed,” I replied.
“Well that sucks,” Whitney said.
“Hm. Yes, that sounds like her,” He said. “I should probably get back to my team, thank you both for showing me around.”
“Hold up,” Whitney said, hurrying after him, “I’ll walk you down there.”
The rest of us just kind of sat in silence for a bit until Erin spoke up next, trying to change the subject, “How do you know Miracle?” she asked Corey.
“Oh, he graduated the academy the year before we did. Whitney and I were good friends with him. He hung out with our group most of the time.”
“What are his powers?” Adam asked.
“Uh, I’m not really sure what it is technically, but he as an Anomalous he calls ‘freedom’. He’s like Houdini on steroids—he can break out of pretty much anything. “
“That’s it?” I asked, not really impressed.
“It’s more useful than you think,” Corey said. He sounded a bit defensive, like I’d insulted his friend. “He can get out of more than just traps and restraints. It’s like he’s always lucky when he’s trying to avoid something or dodge out of the way of an attack. That sort of thing.”
“You’re saying he’s really good at keep away?” Adam asked.
Corey let out a chuckle, “Yeah, he would be.”
Before the conversation could go any further, I heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Whitney appeared at the door, back way too soon to have gone all the way to the testing area. Then I saw why with Hollands following a few steps behind her.
“The Union managed to talk Auralux down, but they though it best to go home and let her cool down a bit more. We did end up getting some useful information about the shared nature of your powers, though.”
It wasn’t like Hollands to beat anything around the bush, but he was giving off some strange vibes. “And that’s it?” I asked.
Hollands sighed,” No. I am going to need you to come with me, Mr. Peterson. The rest of you are free to what you please.”
“Then we’ll come with Nate,” Corey suggested.
“Besides that,” Hollands said with a roll of his eyes. He motioned for me to follow so I picked myself up off the couch and exchanged a confused look with the rest of the team as I followed Hollands into the hallway.
“So, what’s going on?”
“Despite my advice and the team’s vote to allow you in, the decision to let you remain a sanctioned hero after the incident with the Gold Diggers was not a popular one to some people.”
My stomach turned a bit at the mention of the villain team, “Like who?”
“In this case, the Director would like to have a word with you.”
“I though you were the director…”
“I am the director of AID: Argus Investigation and Detainment. It’s Mr. Duncan that wants to have a word.”