TIME OF TREASONChapter 1A month ago Riley Cohen was a totally normal seventeen-year-old girl from Halifax, albeit one with a pissy attitude and a tongue that could slice titanium. And that was before she’d discovered one group of aliens had manipulated her genes and singled her out to prevent the world from destruction, and another group had targeted her for death. Now those very aliens who changed her genetics were on the other side of a thin plywood door and the only thing that was preventing them from barging through the flimsy barrier, grabbing her and her companions and slitting their throats, was silence.And luck. Although luck was pretty thin on the ground at the moment and if Darius didn’t keep Peter quiet, it was going to run out fast.Riley held her breath as she leaned against the bedroom door and listened with every fibre of her being. It was silent in the apartment hall on the other side of the door. She raised her eyes to Darius entreating him to do something.Darius Finn gave her a pointed look back. He was holding tightly to Alec’s squirming older brother; one arm around his chest like a steel band, pinning Peter’s arms to his sides, and the other tightly clamped over Peter’s mouth. Peter had stopped kicking a moment ago but the mental control Darius had over him was pretty limited, and if you could deduce from Peter’s darkening expression, dissolving quickly. If Peter made a sound, they were doomed.Alec knew it too. On Riley’s other side, he leaned around her and hissed in a barely audible voice towards Darius. “Do something.”“I am,” Darius mouthed.“Get us out of here,” Alec instructed.Darius raised an eyebrow and darted a look towards the hall on the other side of the bedroom door.“We can’t use our orbs,” Riley whispered sharply. “They’ll notice.” She swallowed against the lump in her throat. They were essentially trapped in Alec’s apartment. The Tyon Collective had traced their power signature and were on their way. Teleportation had no sound so they could be already here. The apartment was really small and any searching would be completed in minutes.There had only been seconds to hide. The instant the orb crystal in Darius’s hand began to buzz with the Tyon’s message he’d paled to a ghostly white, gasped a swear word under his breath and immediately stopped the healing he’d been working on with Alec’s unconscious father. He’d shoved Riley into Peter and Alec’s bedroom with an urgent command to wake Peter up before dashing down the short apartment hallway to the living room where Alec was sleeping. Riley hadn’t had a chance to even draw breath before she was thrust into Alec and Peter’s bedroom and came face to face with Peter. If there had been more time, they could have been out of the apartment and into the elevator before Logan and his army of goons were on them, but Darius had wanted Peter – heaven knows why – and he and Alec had had no choice but to race back to the bedroom where she was waiting with Peter and slam the door after them.Riley bit the inside of her lip and rubbed her wet palms against her jeans as she tried to stifle her ragged breathing. She took a quick look around. There was nowhere inside the tiny bedroom the four of them could hide. The space under the bunkbeds was filled with smelly sporting equipment and clothes and shoes spilled out of the open closet to the floor.Darius leaned over. “Psst, Riley.”Mindful to keep her hand off her orb, lest she send off a signal and doom them all, she reached over and touched Darius’s cheek with a finger. It was enough to establish the link. Shut him up, she silently urged with a sharp glance towards Peter.They’ll search this room any minute. Darius’s telepathic transmission was almost audible in its urgency. Use the window.Her eyes widened. Are you crazy? We’re on the second story. There’s no fire escape.Open it. Climb out.That might be fine for Mr. Super-Ninja-Tyon-Operative but she was not flinging herself anywhere without a safety net and tranquilizers. Riley glanced across the semi-darkened bedroom. The window was over the desk and was wide enough for any of them to climb through. That wouldn’t be the problem. The broken leg when they landed would.Alec is dead if they get him. Move.She threw a disgusted look at Darius before she turned and leaned up on tiptoes to whisper in Alec’s ear. “Darius wants us to climb through the window and jump.”Alec jabbed an accusing finger at his older brother but Darius merely raised an eyebrow and jabbed his chin in the direction of the window.Somebody walked down the hall, just outside the doorway.Heart in her mouth, Riley zipped over to the desk and as silently as possible lifted the scattered paperbacks up and dumped them on the lower bunk. Alec hopped up and squatted on the desktop. He pulled the screen off practiced ease. He gingerly put the screen on the floor and gripped the upper sill.“No sign of them, sir,” a man’s accent-less voice cut through the silence from the hall.Riley flapped her hands at Alec to hurry him.Alec leaned back to whisper, “roll when you land,” before he ducked through and disappeared from sight. Riley nipped into his vacated spot and gripped the sides of the window. Without looking down, she shimmied her legs through the opening. They dangled over nothingness. Don’t think about the distance, she ordered herself.In the hallway, the other bedroom door closed sharply. Galvanized, she pushed herself off the ledge and fell.The actual falling took a lot less time that she thought it would. She hit the hard ground and rolled into some bushes, more out of accident than intention. Alec’s hand grabbed her arm before the shock of landing had even penetrated her consciousness. He hauled her to her feet.“Run,” he urged.Her ankle hurt. Not enough to prevent weight bearing, but enough to slow her to a hobble. She glanced behind and upwards, just in time to see Peter, his legs flailing and an expression of pure horror in his eyes, fall, Darius’s arms still wrapped around him in a vice.She didn’t see them land but heard the impact. Focusing every ounce of her attention on keeping upright and ignoring the pain in her ankle, she tried to keep up with Alec. They ran down the weed-choked lawn and across the street. With every step, she expected to hear “that’s them” and feel the cruel hold of Tyon power wrap around her, dropping her to the ground like a sack of bricks.Riley followed Alec up a slight incline and into the shadow of another rundown apartment building. Between that and a midrise tenement block, a mall grove of spindly trees created a temporary hide-a-way. Alec ducked under the nearest branches, finding the worn dirt path easily in the gloom and disappeared. Riley plunged in after him. After only ten steps they exited to a cleared gravel space that had once been a children’s play area. No one would let kids play there now; the obscene graffiti alone would put most mothers off. The only positive part was that the park was out of sight from Alec’s balcony and would give them a second to catch their breath and plan. Although where they were going to go that the Tyons couldn’t find them, Riley had no idea.“Keep your hands off your orb,” she warned breathlessly as Alec’s free hand came to rest on the pocket that bulged with his small crystal ball. He sat in the only unbroken swing and wrapped his free hand around the chain. He gave himself a slight push.“Yeah, I know.” Alec sighed deeply as the toes of his shoes scuffed the dirt. “Logan will find me if I touch it.”Riley leaned up against the broken frame of the teeter-totter and waited for her lungs to catch up. She leaned off her tender right ankle. “You okay?”For a moment he didn’t answer. There was a small cut on his left cheek and a swelling over his right eye. And those were just the injuries she could see; the hidden ones were probably a lot more painful and would take much longer to heal, if he had experienced the same mind-gutting terror in the rip that she had. Add to that the strain of teleporting them back in time and it was a wonder he was still standing. “I feel like crap, actually.”“You look like crap, actually,” she replied.He gave a short laugh. “Thanks a bunch, Cohen.”“Any time, Anderson,” she replied as she nervously scanned the trees for movement. Where was Darius? They’d been right behind them. Had Logan looked out the window? Was he forcing Darius to tell him where they were, right this minute? She shoved the thought out of her brain. She would not give in to panic.“This is a totally bad idea, bringing Peter with us,” Alec muttered as he stared at his shoes. “Peter is the most stubborn person you’ve ever met. He’ll slow us down, refuse to believe Darius, and call attention to us. Just you watch.”“We don’t have any choice,” Riley sighed. “You heard Darius, same as me. Peter has the same gift. The Tyons will come after him, same as they’re after us. Your parents’ only chance for safety is if Peter is removed.”“I heard him,” Alec muttered. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”There was a rustle of branches and suddenly Darius burst into the clearing, dragging Peter along with his arm forced up behind his back. Peter looked as if he’d gotten off with the worst of the fall; both knees were filthy and his forehead was scraped. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, Peter’s outraged expression would have been funny.“We’re leaving,” Darius panted.Alec jumped off his swing. Two steps had him beside Riley. “Was that him?”Riley noted the break in his voice but kept her eyes on Darius.Darius gave Peter a yank to stop him struggling. “Scout party. Didn’t hear Logan’s voice and I doubt he’s with them, but I can’t be certain without using my orb.”Peter tried to yank his arm from Darius’s grip but despite the fact that Darius was the same height, but of a slighter build, couldn’t budge him an inch. His muffled shouts were inaudible but their meaning clear. So was the kick aimed at Darius’s shin.“Keep quiet,” Darius warned. “Kick me again and I’ll break your arm.”“He means it,” Alec said.Peter continued to struggle. His eyes locked on his brother’s face and shot daggers.“Where do we go?” Riley asked with a worried look back at the pathway through the trees. “They could track us down any second. We can’t stand around here all night.”Darius sighed. “The scouts aren’t the only problem. I’ve had two requests for information from Anna I haven’t responded to. When she catches up with us, there’ll be some tough explaining to do. I need to put as much distance as possible between us and the transport site. And fast.”“We should steal a car or something right now,” Riley suggested.Darius shook his head. “We can’t touch our orbs to unlock anything and only a fool would leave a car unlocked in this neighbourhood. We’ll have to hike on foot.”“There’s a bus every fifteen minutes,” Alec pointed out. “It goes right downtown. We could be in the middle of massive crowds in less than an hour.”“Great idea. Show us the way, Alec.” Darius yanked Peter’s arm back until he blanched with pain. “You will go with us. You will not fight me. Are we clear?”Riley shivered as Peter’s eyes widened and his limbs slackened as Darius’s control surged over him. It was amazing what he could do even without an orb. Alec turned and ran lightly away from the pathway, ducking into the dimness of the ring of trees on the far side of the playground. Riley followed.They burst out of the shade a moment later and circled another apartment building. There weren’t too many people, considering it was late afternoon, and the few that passed barely gave the four of them a second glance. Alec pointed to the bus stop, half a block down and across the street. With a quick nod of his head, Darius headed directly towards the glass enclosure where several other passengers waited.“Hope someone has some money,” Riley muttered.“We can just,” Alec began before he cut himself off. “Guess we can’t.”“No orb, no power, no free bus rides,” Riley ruefully agreed.They jogged across the street at the first break in traffic. Riley noticed Alec’s long look at his former home in the distance and the sudden agonized expression that crossed his face. “We fixed your dad’s arm and made a serious dent in his depression. I’m sure they’ll be fine.”Alec averted his eyes and said nothing. With a burst of speed, he tore ahead to the bus stop. Riley followed more slowly. She didn’t need an orb to feel his sentiments – now that her Tyon gifts had been activated she could feel strong emotions just being close to him. Swallowing the sudden lump in her throat, she crossed the short distance to the bus stop.There were three other passengers waiting. A woman in a hijab stood to one side and eyed their approach warily. A young couple engaged in a vigorous game of tonsil hockey leaned up against the graffitied walls of the bus stop and didn’t seem to notice anything around them. Riley avoided Alec’s eye as she entered the glass enclosure and hoped she wasn’t blushing.“I’m not going anywhere,” Peter said loudly. He tried pulling his arm free of Darius’s grip again. Clearly, Darius’s hold over Peter was fading too quickly.“And I told you, there was no point arguing. I am in charge. You will obey me. Like it or not.” Riley’s skin prickled with Darius’s words.“No, I won’t, you crazy lunatic,” Peter replied, but his voice wasn’t nearly as emphatic as it had been. The kissing couple seemed oblivious but the third passenger eased away from them with a dark sideways glance.“Do you want mom and dad to get killed?” Alec turned to face his brother, his voice low and insistent. “Do you? Because every minute we’re around them, we put them in danger.”“Alec,” Riley warned quietly, giving the necking couple a pointed look.“I think they’re occupied.” Alec faced Peter again. “Well, do you?”“Piss off,” Peter said and gave Alec the finger with his free hand.Alec took a step closer and his eyes narrowed dangerously.“Boys,” Darius interrupted, “please stop it now.”“Don’t tell me what to do,” Alec said out of the side of his mouth. He took a step backwards and Riley watched as his shoulders dropped down from near his ears as Darius’s control affected him.“Yeah, don’t tell us what to do,” Peter mimicked.“When you two are finished comparing sizes, we have a bus to catch.” Riley pointed. All of them turned towards the street. A lumbering city bus trundled towards them, its directional signal flashing. At the same instant, the orb inside her pocket buzzed. The vibration wasn’t pleasant and traveled down the length of her leg and up to her shoulder. She jumped. “What the..?”“Don’t answer that,” Darius warned.“I wasn’t going to,” Riley said pulling her hand away from her pocket.“No one touch their orb,” Darius ordered.Alec exchanged a tight glance with Riley.“What is it?” Peter looked at all three of them in turn. “Why aren’t you answering your phone?”“It gives our location away,” Darius said quietly, “and as I told you a few minutes ago, there are people out there that we definitely don’t want knowing where we are.”The bus slowed as it approached. The woman in the hijab quickly moved out of the shelter towards the curb. The kissing couple didn’t stir.Darius said quietly, “Everyone sit near a door, just in case we have to jump off quickly. Peter, you have your wallet so you’ll pay.”“I won’t,” Peter protested.“You will.” Riley saw Peter shiver as Tyon power, amplified somewhat by the physical contact, wrap itself around Peter’s remaining resolve.The orbs buzzed again, this time more insistent and painful. Riley gasped with the discomfort but prevented herself from yelping. She could feel the compulsion to pull out her orb pulsing through her. She clenched her fist until her nails bit into her palms.The bus ground to a halt with a squeal of air brakes and the woman in the hijab muscled her way onto it before the doors had fully opened. Alec quickly followed her and Riley dashed on board immediately behind him. She turned and paused on the step as she heard the commotion.Peter had ducked around the couple and with a sudden violent tug had pulled Darius off his feet. Darius’s grip on Peter’s arm hadn’t been broken but now Peter was stomping as hard as he could on Darius’s leg. Darius gave a vicious scissor kick and knocked Peter to the ground.“Are you getting on this bus or not?” The bus driver’s huge tortoise shell sunglasses slipped down her beaky nose. “Move it. I have a schedule to keep.”“Hold onto your Pampers, Grandma,” Riley muttered as she moved to put her body in the way of the doors.Darius got a hold of Peter’s neck and instantly the fight was over. Riley couldn’t hear what he said into Peter’s ear and she couldn’t read his lips through the filthy bus shelter glass but she did see the fight go out of Peter’s body as Darius hauled him to his feet. The kissing couple didn’t even come up for air as they passed. Filthy and disheveled, Darius literally dragged Peter up the stairs and onto the bus. He gave the driver his most charming smile and indicated with a nod towards Peter, “he’s got the fare.”Satisfied, Riley headed towards the middle of the bus. She slid into the seat beside Alec and gripped the metal bar on the back off the seat ahead of her. “You’re right,” she murmured to him. “He is a pain in the ass.”“He hasn’t even got started yet,” Alec replied with a sigh.
EDGE OF TIME
Nothing like a little shoplifting to get the blood pumping, Alec thought as he tucked the DVD down the front of his jeans. He picked up another from the display and pretended to be absorbed in the story outline. Sure it was a stupid thing to do and his father would kill him if he found out, but only losers backed out at the last minute. And besides, he really needed the money.
The music store was packed with kids on summer vacation. Overhead, coloured lights flashed with the heavy bass rhythm that throbbed through the soles of Alec's feet. Someone jostled him from behind as they pushed through the crowd. Stevie and Chin were waiting behind the rack of discounted television series, neither looking at him. He meandered in their direction, playing it cool, but it felt like everyone was watching him. Was that a plain-clothes security guard lounging by Heavy Metal? Alec halted and feigned a sudden interest in the CDs on the shelf next to him. Grabbing three, he held them up to his face to hide his gaze.
For several long moments the suspected cop did nothing, then headed off to the cashiers. Alec tossed the CDs back.
The DVD slipped slightly with every step. Any minute it was going to fall right down onto the floor. Alec shoved his hands into his front pockets and tried to unobtrusively grasp the edge of the case with a couple of fingers, keenly aware of how it looked. Time to change plans and just get out of there. The mall entrance was almost closer than Stevie and Chin anyway and there was no way the fat security guard lounging at the entrance would be able to catch him.
He turned to give Chin the signal he was leaving and caught a glimpse of the man out of the side of his eye. His heart gave a funny jump. There, behind Stevie. He glanced again, taking his time to make sure without being obvious.
He wasn't mistaken. It was the same guy. He'd noticed him outside his high school, at the park, and twice at soccer practice over the last few weeks. At least ten years older than Alec, of medium height and slim build, he didn't look like a cop, but that didn't mean anything. Something in the way he always seemed to be watching made Alec feel uneasy. Scarborough was a huge sprawl of cement and humanity. You hardly ever saw the same people day after day unless they worked or went to school with you, and even then you could easily miss someone. Was this guy following him?
Deliberately turning his eyes away, Alec put the stranger out of his mind. He had forty bucks to win. He glanced towards the mall. Twenty metres to the concourse. The DVD slipped even farther. He had to get out of there. Now.
Suddenly a most peculiar feeling slipped over his skin. Like the first icy touch of winter, raising the hair on his arms and neck with the slightest chill. Alec stopped walking. He looked up.
A punk with oversize jeans falling off his narrow hips and a hood flung up over his Blue Jays cap was slouching up the aisle towards him. His eyes were totally blank yet staring directly at Alec. The punk said nothing and no one around even seemed to notice him. Alec couldn't tear his eyes away. There was something odd here, something he should be...
When he was about three metres away, the punk stopped. He pulled his right hand from the pocket of his hoodie and slowly raised it. He pointed a small gun straight at Alec.
What the hell?
Part of Alec's mind screamed, run, but he couldn't move. He couldn't even open his mouth to shout for help. It was like something out of a zombie horror movie - too bizarre to even contemplate as real.
The punk's trigger knuckle tightened in slow motion. Suddenly Alec was tackled from behind. He hit the tiles with a thud that knocked the air out of his lungs. His chin glanced painfully off the dirty floor. A terrific bang thundered above, momentarily deafening him. Acrid gunpowder smoke filled the air. Somewhere someone screamed. It might have been him.
Strong hands pinned him. Alec squirmed helplessly. He couldn't even turn his head to get a clear view of his rescuer, but he knew with sudden overwhelming conviction that it was the guy who'd been following him around over the last few weeks.
"Hold still," the stranger hissed as he shifted slightly. His free hand shot out past Alec's nose. Alec saw a glass ball, the size of a small orange, which glowed with an almost blinding blue-white light, clasped in his fist.
There wasn't time to think about what his rescuer was doing. The punk wouldn't miss such an easy target again. This was it. Alec squeezed his eyes shut and held his breath. What a stupid way to die.
A brilliant white flash ripped under his eyelids the same instant the roaring blast thundered above him. His protector jerked spasmodically with a grunt but didn't lessen his grip on Alec's neck. It was all Alec could do not to scream. The rolling echo of the gunshot reverberated through the store. There were more shrieks above the blasting music, and several steps away, a dull thud as something heavy fell to the floor.
Alec opened his eyes, almost too afraid to see the blood and devastation. His rescuer scrambled sideways, easing himself off Alec's prostrate form. He slipped the glowing ball into his pocket, murmuring directly into Alec's ear in a soft Irish lilt, "Next time, Alec, they won't miss."
Someone is watching them... waiting...
Someone wants Alec dead.
And that someone can invade innocent bystanders, bending their will to his, forcing them to murder. That someone can travel through multiple dimensions, has powers beyond Earthly experience, and knows everything Alec knows.
Riley is a target too. The Tyons have come to Earth, looking for kids like Riley and Alec, who aren't even aware of their special genetic traits and don't know how to control them. It's a race against time. Do they have the edge needed to save themselves, and more importantly, the world?
Updated July 18, 2013, 7:15 pm