“It’s complicated, but the short version goes like this: we didn’t begin being creatures that spanned universes. We began as small reptilian creatures in a universe that may not exist any longer. We grew, changed, and after a time learned how to modify ourselves. We’d always had a small talent for existing out of phase, but we expanded it, allowing ourselves to move from one universe to another and connect to other versions of ourselves.
“You don’t have our DNA because we used another system, but your DNA includes genes the Abominators adapted from ours. They didn’t understand fully what they were giving your people. Training with Lee has strengthened your ability to use them. Try to look at yourself.”
I looked “down.” I put “down” in quotes because in a place with near-total darkness and no noticeable gravity, down is more of a philosophical question than reality.
I didn’t see a body.
What I saw were nearly transparent lines that reminded me of veins or nerves in medical illustrations. Maybe they were tendrils? It was hard to say. On the off chance that I might see more, I looked “up” and didn’t see anything—which meant that I wasn’t a cloud of tendrils.
It wasn’t impossible that I was a floating brain with tendrils. On the other hand, I wasn’t a lizard. You take the small victories where you can get them.
I thought back to her. “I saw lines—nerves, veins, or maybe tendrils? I don’t know.”
I felt calmness float toward me over the connection. “You’re not fully formed yet.”
“How long will that take?” As I said it, I looked around, trying to see either of the presences I’d heard talking. I didn’t see anything.
“It’s hard to say. Of the humans I’ve known, you’re the first to go down this path.” She stopped but then added. “We didn’t name our young until they were at least one thousand of your years old. We didn’t think they were developed enough to get attached to.”
“Oh.” I felt pressure on my body that moved from one side to another and felt that the presences were closer. “How do I get out of here? I think that they might have found me or they’re close to it.”
Kee sent the knowledge into my brain and I realized that it was easy. I hadn’t known it, but there was a sense in which I was holding on to his place. I needed to let go but hadn’t known how.
“Thanks,” I thought back to her. “We need to talk about this again soon.”
As I felt a sense of amusement cross the distance between us, a dark presence blocked out the stars. It was Small Thing as I’d dubbed it earlier.
Up close, Small Thing wasn’t so small. Its presence felt very large and as I realized that, I also realized that Big Thing dwarfed it. Big Thing was coming toward me from below.
I didn’t waste any time. I let go of the place, bringing my consciousness back into my body. As the darkness faded away, I heard Big Thing say, “I told you there was a child.”
I came to consciousness on the floor of the garage in Hardwick Industries. Above me and to the right was the hole Cassie had cut to let us in. To my left stood the shredded garage door and the remains of Rook’s robots—the almost human-sized humanoid-shaped ones that had entered as I fell unconscious.
None of them stood anymore, much less fought. A few arms still rolled across the floor away from Izzy who was taking a breath as if it were only moments since she’d finished.
I hadn’t been out long. It might have only been seconds.
Cassie stood a good ten feet behind Izzy, but in front of the burned and melted remains of I didn’t know how many robots.
As I took that in, Daniel used his connection to my mind. You’re back! What happened?
I thought back, Too long and too complicated to explain right now, but the short version is that I’ve got an extremely limited superpower that I just overused. Is the fight over?
Daniel shook his head at about the same time that not one, but four mechs stepped through the shredded garage door. I tried to push myself off the ground, but while the suit had all the strength necessary, my arms didn’t. They shook as I tried to push off the ground, sending me a few inches sideways.
I opened my mind to the power I’d learned to draw in and found myself with a splitting headache. I didn’t scream, but that was only because I had the sense to stop.
My mind felt like my body did on the day after a long workout with muscles I hadn’t exercised lately.
On the ground next to me, Daniel grimaced. That hurt. Don’t do it again. I think we’ve got this.
Closer to the door, Cassie aimed Mr. Sparkles at the first mech while Izzy flew toward the one next to it.
Out of paranoia, I turned my head to check on Victor and Rook. Surrounded by goo, Victor glared at me while Rook muttered to himself. He’d been covered in goo as well, something I didn’t remember doing and probably hadn’t. I’d given Kayla backup control over my bots though. She’d probably done it while I was unconscious.
Victor gritted his teeth and rocked a little in the goo, but couldn’t move.