A few streets away, Kate Stevens sat on a bench in her garden and contemplated revenge and how to get it when Ophelia had some sort of superpower. If only someone else had seen it, she could have reported the girl as potentially emerging. If she could get anyone to listen to her she still could, except the fact only she’d seen it would get her the same problem and she didn’t need that. No one needed that.
She stared up at the darkening sky. “I’m not emerging, am I?” she whispered. “I mean, the powers would be cool but I kind of like being sane and those people don’t strike me as sane.” She shook her head. “I’m sure I’m not, I’ve been seeing things like that my whole life after all and I don’t think Ophelia is either.” She thought back to the one emergence she’d seen. “No. This felt different.” She kicked her feet against the grass and imagined giving Ophelia the hiding of her life, but she knew it was just a fantasy. If she tried, she’d end up being thrown again or worse. She didn’t want to contemplate worse. She needed to find a more subtle form of revenge, but she knew that she didn’t do subtle well at all.
If you want revenge, Kate, I can help. Even though the voice was in her head she somehow knew it was came from behind her even though the entrance to the small garden was by the house. She leapt up and spun around to find a dragon facing her. It was small, barely more than human sized â€“ but she had an inkling that was because it wanted to fit in her garden â€“ and it had brown scales and rich brown eyes. She’d seen the stories of dragon sightings in the run up to the Pulse, of course; her mother had been raving about them. But she’d never expected to see one and she was pretty certain it was a bad thing, so she began to back away.
“Don’t be afraid, Katherine.” His form twisted and shifted into that of tall, semi-reptilian winged humanoid with the same scales and eyes as before. “I’m not your enemy.” His voice was soft and reassuring. “We do have one in common though.” He raised one clawed hand palm up an a small image of Ophelia hovered over it. “I thought perhaps we could help each other.”
“Help how?” Kate’s instincts screamed at her to run but her curiosity and anger got the better of her.
“Well, she’s likely to cause me problems and you have certain gifts that make you interesting to me. That’s why you’re the only one who sensed what happened this morning â€“ you sense things most people can’t. I can strengthen that and make you strong enough to face her â€“ I’ll even teach you subtlety if you want. It’s more fun than battering someone into submission. Say yes and you’ll have more power than you can dream of. And you get to not have to go through the mess of emerging â€“ which you will, eventually.”
It was enticing and she caught herself opening her mouth to agree before she got herself under control. She shook her head and scowled at him. “Why should I trust you? What’s the catch?”
“There’s no catch, I promise,” he replied then chuckled at her sceptical look. “Well, maybe just a small one. If you ever decide to renege on our deal I’ll take my power back – which won’t be comfortable for you but shouldn’t do any permanent damage. I can’t see it happening anyway.” He circled her before stopping in front of her. His eyes met hers and she felt her resolution go the same way her fear had. “All you have to do is say yes.”
Kate struggled to hold onto her distrust. “I-I don’t trust you,” she whispered even as she took an unwilling step towards him. “I really don’t.”
“I know. You’re far to bright for that – even if you do seem to switch your brain off half the time. I dislike stupidity, so we’ll have to work on that.” She had a bad feeling that her mental struggles amused him. “But you’re going to accept anyway, aren’t you?” He reached out and stroked her hair with one hand.
She tried to flinch away but couldn’t. All she could do was stand there and shiver. She should say no. She should run away. But somehow, the offer was too enticing.
“Yes!” She looked into his glowing brown eyes and gave in. “Yes, I will.”
“Good girl!” The purr in his voice became more pronounced. “You won’t regret this, I promise.” He lifted one elegant claw to her chin and tilted her head back. She thought he was about to kiss her and opened her mouth to protest. Instead, he pressed his fingers to her temples and she felt power pouring into her – so much power. She barely had time to register it before it overwhelmed her and she lost consciousness.
He caught her as she collapsed and continued pouring power into her until he’d finished before lowering her gently to the ground.
“No.” He frowned down at Kate, who was whimpering in her sleep as his power began reshaping her inner self to better handle it. “You won’t want to renege on our deal – that’s why I chose you. But it won’t do for your parents to find you like this.” He picked her up and they disappeared from the garden in a swirl of bone dust and reappeared in her room.
As he placed her on the bed he frowned again at the sight of tears leaking between her lashes. Why was it hurting her? He’d been careful, so it shouldn’t be. He stroked her forehead but a quick scan revealed no signs that he had botched the empowerment nor any other obvious source for the pain and taking the energy back at this point would be bad for her. Better to let it settle first and see what happened.
“I’ll have to keep an eye on that. I don’t want you losing your mind on me.” He reached down and stroked her hair, then sighed as he realised she was unaware at his attempt at comfort. He gave her one more concerned look before vanishing in a swirl of metal dust.
When she awoke later that evening Kate might have written it off as one of the strange dreams which always preceded migraines like the one which was pounding in her skull but for the pulse of power which could feel deep inside her which hadn’t been there before.