3412 Abby Ln
“God, just look at you, Andy!” Brian stared at his elder sibling, eyes wide with apparent shock, his cheeks still glistening with tears and a slight quiver in his voice. “You’re so…. feminine.”
Amy batted a stray bit of hair away from her face, regarded her brother between pursed lips. “Please don’t call me that, it’s Amelia now.”
“Right,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m sorry, I always figured you must have transitioned, but I mean seeing you like this is another thing entirely.”
Amelia bit her lip and forced a smile on her face. “Just stick with the right name and pronouns and we’ll be fine.”
“Of course.” Brian nodded, and pulled away, eyes taking in his surroundings for the first time, eyes somehow growing wider when he took in Serena still standing nearby. “Wh-where are we?”
“Somewhere safe,” Amy answered, rising to her feet.
Serena rushed forward, enfolding her eldest son in her arms. Brian stiffened, but soon returned the gesture. When mother and son broke away, Brian slipped from the side of the bed. He wobbled on his feet, but braced himself on the nightstand to the right of the bedside.
Serena wrapped her hands around his shoulder to provide support. “Your muscles may have atrophied, maybe you should lay back down.”
Brian clenched his jaw and shook his head. His eyelids slid closed and he took a deep breath. It was almost as if someone flicked a switch. His back straightened and he stood, frame rigid. When his eyes opened again, he released the air from his lungs and stepped forward. He moved with no sign of frailty or the least bit of trouble.
“What? You don’t think Amelia’s the only exemplar in the family, do you?” He asked, gazing about the room, taking in the shocked expressions of his sibling and mother. His eyes briefly scanned over the sleeping form of Kruhl, but he only pressed his lips together and sighed.
Amelia furrowed her brows and folded her arms over her chest. “Ashley, the person who found you, said she tracked you down through the AEGIS database. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s Psionic Strength?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “That’s what the representative from AEGIS figured too.”
“Psionic strength?” Serena arched an eyebrow. “That’s not an ability I’ve ever heard of.”
“You’ve heard of telekinesis, right?” Amelia asked. “That’s more or less what it is, Brian’s just using it to strengthen himself.”
“Except, that seems to be all I can do,” he pursed his lips and frowned. “I mean I tried the other stuff, but it just doesn’t come.”
“What about you? Last time I checked your retrocognizance doesn’t let you enter people’s minds.” His gaze fixed on the agent, a frown creasing his mouth.
“I was exposed to something,” she said, meeting her brother’s gaze. “It happens sometimes to AEGIS personnel.”
“So you’ve got freaky mind powers now and you work for AEGIS?” He asked eyebrows disappearing into his bangs.
“Yes, to both, but it’s not just mind reading. I’m faster, stronger, I can levitate things, and before Ashley found me I’d just gotten done healing a gaping stab wound in our friend’s abdomen.” She nodded toward Kruhl without actually looking at her.
“Holy shit,” Brian blinked. “Sounds like you—”
Brian jumped, craning his neck around to glance across the room. Amelia followed his gaze and locked gazes with Kruhl. The once-king was sitting up and had slipped her feet over the bedside. Her sleepy gaze took in her surroundings with a dull, dispassionate stare. She glanced down at her abdomen, then back up at the agent and pressed her lips together in a tight frown.
“How?” She asked, peering back down at her uninjured belly, fingers tracing over the fabric of her oversized nightgown.
“It’s a long story,“ Amy glanced around and shook her head. “I think it’s time we all sat down and had a long chat.”
“Well,” Ashley said, slipping into the living room with a lengthy sigh. “I have contacted AEGIS, they’re mobilizing a unit out of Salt Lake and they should be here within five hours.”
Amy nodded, but didn’t say a word. Instead, she clasped both hands and closed her eyes. Salt Lake was a good two and half hour drive from Tondzaosha, five hours was more than reasonable considering the preparations they would need to make. In fact, it was much sooner than she’d expected.
“Thank God,” Amy said and leaned back into the sofa before glancing back at her younger sibling. Brian, though he pretended otherwise, was still very weak, he’d scarfed down the turkey sandwich and tater bites their mother had prepared for them and kept sneaking cursory glances at Amy’s half-finished sandwich.
Both Amelia and Serena attempted to usher him back to bed, but he’d outright refused. With his abilities, there wasn’t much they could do to keep him in bed without calling upon her own considerable powers.
Amelia sighed and grabbed the plate and set it down on the coffee table between them. “Here, have at it.”
Brian barely blinked before snatching up the sandwich and crammed half of it into his mouth.
“I would have made you another sandwich, Brian.” Serena swooped in to retrieve the now empty plate.
Brian shrugged, a sheepish grin spreading across his features. “Eh, why waste good food?”
Serena rolled her eyes and slipped out of the room, only to return a moment later standing in the doorway.
“Ugh, so,” Brian asked. “AEGIS, huh? I guess they pay pretty good money.”
Amy smiled and nodded. “I do all right for myself. It helps to be the youngest Special Agent in Charge in AEGIS history.”
He met her gaze, but didn’t answer. His mouth parted as if to speak, but he soon clenched his mouth shut again.
Amy pursed her lips, but didn’t press him. She knew her brother was having a hard time knowing what to say. Hell, she was pretty much in the same boat. After they’d had their little powwow about Leoffa things had gotten a fair bit more awkward.
“I’m sorry,” she said at last.
“For what?” He blinked.
“Leoffa went after you because of me, if I hadn’t—”
“Hey, no, no, no,” he rose to his feet, nearly tipping over before he lurched forward and slipped onto the couch beside her. “People do nasty shit all the time, what Leoffa did to me is on her and only her. Don’t go blaming yourself.”
Amy ground her teeth. “I should have been there, Brian. I always assumed it was better if I put my past behind me, but if I’d kept in contact, she wouldn’t have been able to pull one over on me or at the very least I would have gotten to you sooner.”
“It’s possible,” he agreed. “But you had no way of knowing what would happen.”
“Don’t you think you’re being hard on yourself, Amy?” Ashley asked, seating herself on the opposite her friend. “What that woman did to your brother was terrible, but you can’t blame yourself.
“We need to figure out our next move. She gave you twenty-four hours to get out of town. She must have something big planned.”
Amy glanced at her brother, brows furrowed in concentration. She worried for him. She wasn’t sure they had expelled the shadow of Leoffa from his mind, and he had no recollection of ever being captured by the sorceress. Even his memories of what she did to him, while within his mind, were fuzzy.
“I have a theory,” the agent said after several long moments of reflection. “I think Odalrik wanted me for a reason. It’s possible she was after my retrocognizance. I had the sense that she was looking for something and if Leoffa has it…”
“Okay, say you’re right. What would she have been looking for that would be so important?” Ashley asked, arching an eyebrow.
“I could think of one thing,” Kruhl said from the corner, her yellow cat’s eyes gleaming in the darkness. “It would explain almost everything.”
“Before Reesha banished Odalrik, he was rumored to possess a gemstone imbued with incredible power, called the Crystal of Ban-Sher’i. I ordered his keep searched after we defeated him, but none of my people could ever find it. If he had it on his person when he came to this world, it’s possible Leoffa stole it from him. Only a magic-wielder with a powerful foci like a staff could make use of it. If Leoffa possessed it, and she had no staff with which to wield it…”
“Perhaps she could not use it,” Amelia nodded, a few more puzzle pieces clicking into place. The staff Leoffa had wielded within Brian’s mind had been no more real than the sorceress herself. The only time Amelia had seen her with an actual staff was after she had defeated Odalrik. It was very possible she had not possessed one until then.
“Is there any reason you didn’t mention this until now?”
Kruhl shrugged. “I never believed it existed.”
“And if it exists?” Serena asked from the doorway. “How dangerous is it?”
Kruhl’s lips curled into a sneer. “All I know is that Odalrik was said to fear its power.”
“Oh, hell, I do not like the sound of that at all,” Ashley said with a drawn-out groan. “So Leoffa may or may not have this magical crystal, and nobody knows what the goddamned thing can do. How does this help us?” Ashley eyed the siblings and then Kruhl.
Amelia leaned back in her seat, hands running through her long locks. “It doesn’t… at least not yet.”