Grayforce

by Yasmine Bolden, age 16
Grayforce Through her writing, Yasmine Bolden strives to highlight the African-American experience within her storytelling in order to add some flavor to the children’s fantasy and sci-fi genre that she voraciously consumed as a little girl. A budding thespian, she enjoys guiding young writers on their paths to finding their own writing voices, learning about why we humans act the way we do, and testing the limits of her jazz-tinged singing voice.

“Amina tried to keep a hold of her phone, but the pull of Cam’s telekinesis was too much for her. Her smart phone slipped clean out of her dark brown fingers, past her cornrows, and into Cam’s lap.”

“Hey, who’s Rose?” Cam asked. Amina looked up from her phone at Cam, seatbelt unbuckled and craning his neck from the backseat to peer over her shoulder. She giggled and turned off her phone with one hand, swatting her cousin away with the other.

“Cameron, sit your behind down and put your seatbelt on,” Amina’s mom said, eyes never leaving the road. “I know you know better.”

Amina stifled another laugh and pushed her round glasses up.

Cam hung his head, sliding back into his seat. “Sorry, Auntie E.” Amina listened to the click of his seatbelt as her mom turned the radio’s volume down.

“Why’d you turn it down?” Amina asked. “What were they talking about?”

Mrs. Jackson sighed. “Some members of Catch 88 robbed a restaurant in the next county over.” She shook her head and muttered something under her breath. “I’m not interested in hearing that right now.”

“It would be so awesome to actually meet Catch 88,” Cam said. Mrs. Jackson’s eyebrows shot up and Amina gasped in mock horror. “If they turned to the good side,” he quickly added. 

“Buuut,” he said, twisting his wrist, “I’m more interested in whoever Rose is.” 

Amina tried to keep a hold of her phone, but the pull of Cam’s telekinesis was too much for her. Her smart phone slipped clean out of her dark brown fingers, past her cornrows, and into Cam’s lap.

“Ugh, I think you’ve gotten too good at doing that,” Amina grumbled. Sometimes, she wished that she had mind manipulation like Cameron and Deterge, the wicked queen supreme of the criminal three-person posse Catch 88. Other times, she was grateful for her own gift, no matter how bothersome it could be every now and then. 

“Yeah, no thanks to our training classes.” Cam deftly unlocked Amina’s phone and went straight to messages. “Like, how the heck’s a genealogy project going to help us hone our abilities?”

“Genealogy project?” Mrs. Jackson asked, turning into the bursting mall parking lot. 

“I’ve got a genealogy project due next week,” Amina said, adjusting her glasses again. “And you know what would help? Maybe some more info on Aunt Deandra? I’ve got plenty of info on dad’s side of the family, but-”

“Nope,” Mrs. Jackson said as she turned the car into a teeny parking space and yanked out the keys. 

Amina sighed. She hated going behind her mother’s back, but the family tree part of the project she was supposed to present to her homeschool cooperative super training class was going to look pretty weird if she didn’t have any information about her mom’s side of the family. What she was about to do… well, it was the only way to get the details she needed. Besides, maybe she’d be able to figure out what had gone wrong between her Aunt Deandra and her mom  – and maybe even fix it.

Amina watched her mom get out of the car. It seemed like she was moving through water- couldn’t she hurry up? She was really trying to go about this without abusing her ability, but her mom was making it so hard. If her mom didn’t always somehow know when she was trying to dig through her mind, Amina would’ve probably jumped right in without hesitation.

“Are you planning on getting out of the car sometime this year?” Cam asked, poking her in the back.

Amina rolled her eyes. “Very funny, Cameron Lesley.”

Cam’s eyebrows scrunched closer together, making Amina’s cousin look like he’d glued a furry caterpillar to his forehead. “No, but really. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine!” Amina said, grabbing his arm and jogging to catch up to her mom. “Come on!” Excitement jiggled in her stomach alongside the guilt and unspoken worry she’d swallowed down.

As they walked towards the mall’s entrance on a fading crosswalk, Mrs. Jackson rattled off a list of rules. Practical ones like no talking to strangers, no using their abilities, etc. She seemed to be mostly preaching to Cam who grinned the entire lecture. Ironic that this time around, Cam would be playing the role of angel child. Well, hopefully. Cam could always tease a smile out of her, but Amina knew he was also thoroughly capable of turning heads for all the wrong reasons at all the wrong times.

“I’ll text you when I’m on my way back, alright?” Mrs. Jackson said, capping off the speech with a kiss on Amina’s cheek. “Be safe.”

 Amina nodded, then watched, toes itching to get moving as her mother strolled a bit further down the massive hallway sooo slowly. Finally- finally!-  Mrs. Jackson disappeared around the corner, probably on her way to get her nails done.

As soon as Mrs. Jackson was out of Amina’s line of sight, Amina turned to Cam, eyes still glued to the coffee shop window that faced the mall interior.

“Okay,” she said, trying to keep the giddiness out of her voice. “You stay here and keep watch for my mom. If she comes back, just… I don’t know, distract her, I guess.”

Cam nodded. “Should I pretend to choke on my mint latte?”

“Ugh, Cam, no,” Amina said. “And give me back my phone. Please.”

Cam handed her phone back to her. “So when will I be meeting this ‘Rose’ ?”

Amina shrugged. “Rose is my debate class partner. I put her name down so it would look like I was texting a friend instead of my aunt.”

“Alrighty then.” Cam paused. “Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, I applaud your planning, this really is phenomenal, but what if she-”

“It’ll be great,” Amina said. “She’s my aunt. I should be close as close to my mom’s family as I am with my dad’s.”

Cam nodded. “ ‘Cause if you weren’t we wouldn’t be buddies, would we? If anything goes down, though, remember, she’s your family, not mine. I’ll come in there and,” he mimed clocking someone in the head with a bat.

Amina began walking towards the shop. “Sure you will,” she said over her shoulder. 

“Haha, you think I’m playing!” she heard him call after her.

Amina entered the coffee shop and scanned the large yellow-colored space. There were plenty of people, but Amina knew she was looking for a woman in a gray sweatshirt and jeans. That was what her Aunt Deandra said she’d be wearing over instant messaging. Amina had wondered if her mother was secretly in contact with her aunt, as she’d found a box full of Aunt-Deandra related stuff, including a conveniently current phone number, under her mother’s bed after FBI worthy snooping.

The strong smell of coffee undiluted by sugar curled inside of her nose. How could people actually drink this stuff? Soft chatter, occasionally broken by the sound of awkwardly loud laughter, provided some nice white noise. Amina forced herself to relax.

After a minute of searching, her eyes landed on the gray sweatshirt. The woman, her Aunt Deandra, was sitting alone at a booth in the far corner of the restaurant. Her hood was up and the sweatshirt was enormous, hanging off her body. Her auntie looked cozy. Amina liked cozy.

 She adjusted her glasses and strode over, clutching her phone. As she slid into the booth, she grinned. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

The woman, whose face had been obscured by the hood until now, looked up. To Amina’s delight, she shared her mom’s high cheekbones, rounded nose, and nearly black eyes. “Oh, we’ve met before. You were just a baby.”

Amina opened her mouth to say something else, but Aunt Deandra interrupted with, “Is Estelle around?”

Amina shook her head. “Well, see, I have a family tree project due for my training class, and it wouldn’t have felt right if you weren’t part of it. Estelle, er Mom, just dropped me off to meet with you…” 

Amina let her voice trail off, hoping her Aunt Deandra would put the pieces together herself.

“It doesn’t seem like Estelle to send you here alone to meet up with me,” Aunt Deandra said, rubbing her neck. “Is she nearby?”

Amina squirmed. Aunt Deandra sounded… almost panicked. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. Amina wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but obviously, this wasn’t it. She could still fix everything, though. “Mom doesn’t know. I wanted to surprise her when you joined the family again.”

Aunt Deandra’s carefully waxed eyebrows furrowed before she laughed. “Of course. Just like your mom to say that I left the family.”

“Excuse me?” Amina asked. She glanced at the coffee shop entrance doors, where Cam was casually browsing on his phone. No Mom in sight.

“Did she tell you that I left the family?” Aunt Deandra asked. “That I didn’t want to be involved in her life anymore?”

Amina snapped her focus back to her aunt. “Kinda, yeah. She never talks much about you.” Sometimes, when her dad was working late and she and her mom were cleaning up the kitchen together, her mother’s lips would loosen from exhaustion and a good meal. Those were the nights she experienced her aunt in snippets and stories.

“That makes sense. It’s a shame you had to contact me without her knowledge.” Her aunt grinned with beautiful gleaming teeth. “A girl should know her auntie, right?”

Amina nodded eagerly. “Yeah, that’s why I’m here.” She quickly added, “Oh, and the family project, too.”

Aunt Deandra laughed. “Right. You thirsty, baby?”

Amina nodded. She had almost forgotten they were in the coffee shop! For one sparkling moment, she and her aunt had been laughing together.

As soon as Aunt Deandra returned with the iced lemonade Amina had requested, and a mango smoothie for herself, Amina pushed her glasses up, saying, “Can I start with the questions?”

“Sure,” Aunt Deandra said before taking a sip from her smoothie. 

“Well, why did you leave the family?” Amina asked.

Aunt Deandra’s smile evaporated. “I didn’t leave. I was forced out because I decided to do whatever it took to get the ability training I needed.”

Amina tried to hide her excitement at hearing that she, her dad, and Cam weren’t the only supers in her family. “You’re a super?”

Aunt Deandra nodded. “You didn’t just get it from your father’s side of the family.”

Wait…

Amina readjusted her glasses. “Uh… how do you know I’m a super?”

Aunt Deandra sipped her drink before looking around the coffee shop. “You know, you’re something extraordinary, Amina. What if I told you that there is a group of very, well, special people who used to be just like you? Being kept from the real way their abilities worked.”

Amina gripped her drink. This was starting to feel wrong, like she’d been tricked. She knew she hadn’t; she’d sought her aunt out and she’d arranged the meeting, but… her stomach was doing a funky flip-flop, I’m-not-happy dance with improvised choreography.

“What if I could introduce you to these very special people? They, in a way, know you already. Do you want to know them?” Deandra continued, stopping every now and then to take a sip from her drink and pull her hood tighter around her face. Her movements were so measured, so… practiced.

The warning lights flashed full force in the back of Amina’s mind. She shouldn’t be meeting strangers, but… they were her aunt’s friends… and her aunt wasn’t a stranger. Right?

Amina’s phone pinged. She ignored it. “Um, who are these people?”

Aunt Deandra swallowed. “I shouldn’t say.” She gestured towards a man in a black suit, his nose inches away from his cellphone. “We don’t know who’s listening.”

Amina knew that she shouldn’t use her ability in public. It wasn’t quite illegal but if she removed her ever present glasses now, the coffee shop-goers would get panicky. People didn’t like to be reminded that supernaturals lived among them no matter how commonplace abilities were. Then again, she didn’t normally meet up with mysterious estranged aunties, so, slowly, she slipped her glasses off.

She blinked as her eyes, uninhibited by her glasses’ vision modification lenses, swept over her Aunt Deandra. Her vision wasn’t as clear now, but she could see much more than her eyes alone could tell her. Any warmth she might have harbored towards her aunt drained right out of her chest.

Aunt Deandra sighed. “You know who I am now, don’t you?”

Amina clutched her phone to her chest and struggled to slide out of her seat. “I… I should go-”

“Amina, wait,” Aunt Deandra said, her voice still low and relaxed. “Don’t make me-”

“No, no, I have to go. This is wrong, I shouldn’t, you’re-” Amina’s words tumbled all over themselves.

Aunt Deandra snapped her fingers right as Amina slid out of the booth.

The yellow of the walls began to swirl. The people stretched like multi-colored spaghetti.

Amina tried to move, but her legs were lead and her tongue suddenly felt glued to the roof of her mouth. Of course, she thought. Short-term reality warping

“You’re Hypatia,” Amina breathed. Her voice sounded like she’d gone on a helium breathing spree and tied her tongue in triple knots.

Aunt Deandra nodded. “I am. Listen to me. Your mother isn’t going to get you the help you need to properly use your abilities. Only Catch 88 can do that. My parents refused to send Estelle and me to a proper super-learning institution, and-”

“How is Catch 88 a proper learning institution?” Amina asked, her voice climbing octaves as the temperature in her cheeks rose. “You guys mug people and rob banks and do… do bad people stuff!” What, did her aunt think she was stupid? And she’d mentioned her mom being denied the opportunity to go to the training school- what the heck was that about? Her mom had the supernatural abilities of a soda can!

Aunt Deandra frowned. “I’m not involved in most of the criminal activity. But you’d be surprised what Deterge and Clepsydra, despite their lawless lifestyles, can do for you.” She paused, then added, “It’s only going to get worse. You can’t control what your mind wants to see, can you?”

Amina didn’t want to answer, but her face must have betrayed her, because her aunt continued with, “Those glasses you wear in order to suppress your psychometry are only going to help your abilities strengthen. Eventually, they won’t work. Your mind will build up a resistance to the medication due to constant use. Matter of fact… I bet you’ve even seen into someone with the glasses on once or twice.”

Amina felt like cold fingers were doing the Irish jig on her neck and arms. Her aunt was right. It had only happened once or twice… but it had happened. That was how she’d learned that back-of-the-room Bailey in her SAT prep class had been late to class that one day because his bike had broken down, and that her dad secretly wanted to grow a beard. Harmless things. For now.

The yellow swirls shrank back into their normal form. The coffee shop reformed around them as people shrunk back to normal size. Her aunt’s reality manipulation ended. No one seemed to notice that reality had just been stretched out, stopped, and then smooshed back together by the invisible hands her aunt’s mind.

“Whoa,” Amina breathed as chilled air rushed through her lungs and the sounds of people around them returned.

“Imagine. You wouldn’t have to wear those glasses to control your psychometry.” Aunt Deandra- Hypatia– said. Her voice sounded far away and bluesy, like it belonged in the middle of a sultry jazz song playing from down the street. “You would be able to filter out whose information you want to know and whose you don’t at will.”

Amina was about to say that she’d think about it- then make a run for it- when Cam slunk over to their booth. Amina forced herself not to announce her aunt’s super identity. 

“Sorry to interrupt, Amina’s mystery aunt! Amina, your mom just texted me. She’s coming since you haven’t been answering your phone. We should go meet her outside so she won’t see,” he gestured with his hand towards Aunt Deandra.

Amina sucked in a quick breath. “Okay.” She looked at her aunt. “Is there somewhere I can meet up with you when I make the decision?” She wouldn’t join her wacko aunt in becoming a criminal, but she sure would be making all the right phone calls to the local authorities as soon as it was safe. Right? Criminals hurt people and enjoyed it. She pressed her clammy palms to the legs of her jeans.

Aunt Deandra shook her head as she looked over her shoulder. “You can’t get back into contact with me. It’s not safe.” She glanced at Cam, then back at Amina. “Choose.”

Cam snapped a finger in front of Amina’s face. Amina jumped.

With a flick of his wrist, Amina’s phone shot into Cam’s waiting palm. “Amina, let’s go.” He waved the phone a few inches from her nose. It pinged once, twice, then three times as her phone showed her the notification for missed calls and (probably ranty) text messages. 

Amina turned back to Deandra, trying hard to erase mental images of her mom, hands on her hips, give her the talking to of a lifetime for teaming up with a gang of super thugs. It wasn’t for real! She would go with her aunt and then call the police. They’d find Deandra that way.

But Deandra wasn’t looking at her anymore. She was scowling. Her eyes were fixed on a spot behind Amina’s head. Amina froze, sure that her mother was standing right behind her. She slowly turned, breathing deeply. In. Out. In. Ou-

Cam’s mouth fell open. He looked like he might drop dead on the spot. 

“Let’s make this quick. Hypatia, where’s my money at?”

Amina’s eyes finally landed on the person behind her. 

Deterge was even taller than she looked on television. Her short black hair framed her white mask. A bulky looking white and gray bodysuit concealed the rest of her body. It looked like she’d never been to fashion school and had designed it herself. 

Amina shivered. She’d studied Deterge for her current events class, but she’d never encountered any textbook information on Deterge having temperature manipulation abilities. Despite that, Amina felt cold radiating directly from the super. She was an unregistered super, so for all anyone knew, she could turn her eyes fifty million different shades of violet and see into the future with them in addition to her infamous telekinesis. If she could see into the future and was able to anticipate police raids, maybe that was why she never got caught. 

Deterge repeated her question. “Where’s my money?”

Aunt Deandra stood up. “I don’t have it. I have something better.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Amina could see people diving under their booths and tables, pulling out their phones, and snapping photos with flash. A baby cried.

Deterge crossed her arms. “Even after all the extensions I’ve given you? Pathetic… but not unexpected. I thought this might happen. This actually works out nicely.” She turned to her ‘audience.’ “What I’m about to do to this woman is nothing compared to what I’ll do to any government official who dares try to suppress us. Catch 88 will not stand for the suppression of our gifts, and we will bend-”

Aunt Deandra crossed her arms, too. “I’d forgotten how much of a drama queen you are. Are you going to accept my offer or not?”

“No,” Deterge snapped. “Give me the money.”

Under normal circumstances, Amina knew Cam would be live streaming this super-exchange via his mom’s Facebook profile. Instead, his eyes looked glazed as he gaped at the criminal super in white.

Aunt Deandra’s mouth opened and closed without a single sound, kind of like a fish’s.  “I don’t-”

Deterge snapped her fingers. Every drink sitting idly on a restaurant table exploded. A spray of ice-cold lemonade hit Amina’s right cheek and eye. People screamed.

“Now, you and I both know that I would like to blow you up just like I did those beverages. But I won’t since Catch 88 needs more than one competent member. So, if you don’t give me the money right here, I’ll have no choice but to do the next best thing.” Deterge said this like she was talking to an inattentive preschooler. 

“Which is?” Aunt Deandra asked.

Deterge turned to Cam. “Who is this?”

“He’s not involved,” Aunt Deandra said, rolling her eyes.

“Then he’s perfect,” Deterge said. She slid out of the booth from behind Amina and grabbed Cam’s wrist. “I know you know him.”

“I don’t,” Deandra protested, although she didn’t seem all that determined to save him. 

Amina screamed, “She doesn’t! Cam doesn’t have anything to do with Aun- Hypatia, she doesn’t know him.”

Deterge paused. She chuckled. “Did you say aunt?”

Aunt Deandra swore. She glared at Amina with the kind of look that seems to turn your insides to stone. 

Amina shrunk back from her aunt. “I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

“Oh, don’t apologize. I met you here because you have a chance to help your auntie out,” Aunt Deandra said. She looked back to Deterge. “What if I let you train Amina? You can let the kid go, I’ll have half the money by Saturday in return.”

Amina could not make her mouth move. 

Deterge tilted her head. “I don’t know… how long would she train with me?”

“Train? She doesn’t have to train.” Aunt Deandra said breathlessly. “You said you were raising an army. Amina’s your first soldier.”

“W-what?” Cam squeaked, not even bothering to struggle against Deterge.

Deterge shook her head and laughed. “Not gonna work, I’m afraid. Now, if you don’t have the money-”

“She can see into people’s minds, Alice.” Aunt Deandra said. Deterge flinched, probably at the use of her real name. “Where else are you going to find a natural-born spy? I am giving her to you.”

“I didn’t agree to that,” Amina heard herself saying.

Deterge grabbed Cam’s curly hair. “You’ll agree if you want him to live.”

“You wouldn’t kill a child,” Aunt Deandra snarled. “You haven’t reached that level of stupidity.”

“Haven’t I?” Deterge threw Cameron across the room. He went flying, hitting a nearby chair, landing limbs akimbo on top of it. He was very, very still. The man under the table next to the chair yelped and scrambled away. 

Amina screamed, heat pushing up into her chest and face. It felt like someone was holding her underwater. She was breathing, but whatever she was taking in wasn’t keeping her alive.

Her mind kept shoving Deterge’s stats in her face over and over and over. Then, she realized that though Deterge had the power to end everyone in the coffee house, and maybe the mall, Amina now had her real name and age and everything. Plus, something was brewing deep in her gut. Would she be able to use it?

She heard Deterge swear colorfully and hit the floor.

For once, her psychometry wasn’t just a bunch of nobody-cares facts that threw themselves at her in a flurry of color and sound. Everything was black and white, purpose stark. Her mind was an arrow, already locked on bullseye- a deep black tunnel leading into what looked like color. It knew where to pierce the skull and allow her inner eye to peer through. She could feel her mind scanning through Deterge’s, scraping through memories like they were file cabinets. 

Amina imagined her mind had arms and that Deterge- Alice Jennings, actually- had file cabinets for memories. She used her mind arms to rip a cabinet straight out of the shelving. 

She heard faint screaming in the distance, and for a moment, her arms weakened, and she could feel Alice/Deterge fighting against her.

Amina dug deeper, punching through the soft gray folds of Alice’s mind and pushing through the tunnel. She was swimming deeper into a clear pool of some kind of juice- ew, she thought, ignore that– deeper and further until she touched on a flaming red file cabinet. Her motions were slowed by the surrounding juice, but her arms still worked through it, grabbing hold of the filing cabinet and yanking. Someone was pulling in the opposite direction. Amina knew she couldn’t win and her stomach begged for her to stop. It rolled and flopped. She ignored it and examined the cabinet, holding on to it like it was the last morsel of food on earth.

Names, memories, all kinds of bits and bobs floated in the cabinet. Her mind’s hands pulled at the random objects. They crackled under her touch. Hearing them crinkle felt good.

John Jennings. Johnnie. Melanie Jennings. Little Mellie, Jennifer Jennings, Little Je-

“Stop!” she heard someone screech.

Amina blinked. The cabinet scraped against her hands before falling away. Her mind screamed in pain as it was ripped from Deterge’s. Searing heat danced along her forehead and temples.

She stumbled back, the world spinning around her in circles and ovals and craziness. Something warm leaped up from her chest and into her throat, filling her with a sour, gushy feeling. Her cheeks were furnaces on the verge of overheating.

Her vision, which she hadn’t realized had been missing until now, cleared. No matter how many times she swallowed, the gushy feeling in her throat wouldn’t subside.

Deterge writhed on the floor. She wasn’t covered in blood, or even scratched. Her hands clawed at her mask, scalp, and hair, trying to reach for something she couldn’t touch. Amina’s mom lay next to Deterge, groaning. When had her mom gotten there?

“Johnnie!” Deterge wailed. “Johnnie, I’m sorry!”

Amina stepped back. She had to get away. She had to get away from what she’d done.

The people who’d hidden themselves away under the coffee tables began to emerge as Deterge slowly stopped squirming. A few darted out of the open door, dragging crying toddlers and children behind them.

“Is she dead?” someone called out. 

She’s dead, she’s dead, her brain screeched. Amina’s hands shook. Did the people know she’d killed Alice? Had she killed Alice?

Arms wrapped around Amina from behind. Her aunt was saying something to her. 

“How did you do that?”

Amina shook her head. She didn’t want the credit. She didn’t want this. “Make it go back,” she whispered.

“What?” her aunt asked. “Make what?”

“Time! Make it go back, I can’t, I have to fix it and you have to do it because I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Alice! Make it go back!”

“I can’t,” her Aunt Deandra said. “But listen to me, Amina. You could make a lot of money using that gift of yours. If you did what I think you did, you-”

“No!” Amina screamed. Her mom. She needed her mom. Her mom would be able to wash this away, hold her tight and away from the world. “Let me go, I want my mom!”

The only signs her mother showed of hearing her was lifting her head. Her dark curls obscured her face.

Aunt Deandra’s voice sliced into Amina’s ear. “Forget about your mother, Amina. You and I, we can get your friend the help he needs and then train you. You have a gift, something so wonderful that you have to learn to use it properly. You can’t go on having a normal life with powers like yours.”

“You’re not my mom! I want my mom now!” she yelled. She stomped down on her Aunt Deandra’s foot. Hypatia, momentarily surprised, released her. Amina ran towards her mother, sneakers gripping and releasing the floor over and over.

Mrs. Jackson raised a hand. “D-Deterge might come back to her senses, honey. Stay where you are.”

Amina obeyed, eyeing Deterge. 

Then she remembered her cousin. She couldn’t just stand there.

She rushed over to Cameron, who was moaning and rolling around.

“Everyone put your hands where we can see them!”

Amina’s stomach dropped. Police threw open the coffee shop’s double doors and clambered in, shouting directions as their hands traced their gun holsters. 

Amina raised her hands high over her head, craning her neck over her shoulder to see Detege being apprehended. Her Aunt Deandra gave her one last look even as police surrounded her before pressing her palms together. Space folded in on itself, swallowing Aunt Deandra before popping back into place.

She didn’t care. Let her aunt warp away like she’d done nothing for now. Amina was going to find her. She knew what her aunt looked like, sounded like. It would only be a matter of when, not if, she and the police captured her. 

“Amina,” Cam groaned. “Amina, what’s… what’s going on?” 

Amina focused on Cam. Her mind immediately jumped into his, gathering facts she already knew. That had always happened without her glasses. But now, her mind was hungry to slice and tear Cam’s memories like they were gray putty erasers. That…that was new.

“Just- just relax,” Amina said, more to herself than to him.

Amina must have been making her I-can’t-see squint face, because Cam scrunched up his face and snapped his fingers.

Amina’s glasses knocked straight against her face and landed on Cam’s chest. Cam groaned. “You’re welcome,” he croaked. He hesitated before asking, “Your… your aunt? Where is she?” He tried to sit up, eyes darting around the coffee shop.

“I’ll find her,” Amina vowed, feeling silly with her hands still up in the air.

But first, she would train. She would petition her parents to send her to the National Training Institution, and if they refused, she’d run away somehow.  However it happened, she needed to get her powers in line before she destroyed somebody’s mind the way she had Deterge’s. She needed to rein in whatever in her had felt good as she crinkled Alice’s memories into badly burnt and churned pain.


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