Author’s Note: A different voice this time, but an important one who’s been very quiet so far, with good reason, of course.
A part of him figured he was dead, and he’d never felt anything quite like the weight crushing his chest at the moment, but if he were dead, would he feel pain? He supposed they might all end up in hell—he doubted any religious people would see what they did with the elements as natural or anything—or maybe on the other side of the barrier. That could be it. He could have gone on the other side of the barrier. That could be why he wasn’t dead when he swore he must have been.
He couldn’t move, and for the first time in more years than he wanted to think about, he couldn’t feel the earth, either.
Could that be what it was like to be on the other side? Was that why he didn’t feel right? Something had gone wrong, real wrong, if he’d ended up on the other side. He didn’t think the gaps were that wide, but then again, all it took was one broken mirror to control an element, and the elements were supposed to be some of the most powerful things on the planet.
He tried to remember their old conversations, pinpoint what they did know of the land on the other side of the barrier, but nothing came to him. I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. Those words were familiar enough, repeating far too often in any discussion of what they were and what they could do.
He heard something rattle, and when he got his head to turn, he saw the IV stand next to him, the line hanging down and curving up to where it connected to his arm. Damn. He should have known. He wasn’t on the other side at all. This was the agency’s doing, wasn’t it?
They’d had to sedate rogues before, ones they’d stopped with the elements only to have them start fighting again as soon as they recovered. Worst one was a fire elemental that decided the summer was a perfect time to set brush fires all through the state and laugh as the firefighters were unable to contain them. He kept trying to kill them as soon as he got enough energy, and they didn’t have a choice. Cress had lulled the bastard to sleep a few times, but that wasn’t enough to hold him, and Cress was at a breaking point when Moira had intervened with the drugs. No one asked her where she got them from, but it worked.
Stone should have remembered that, figured that was what had been done to him, but he was slow on the uptake at the moment. He’d blame it on the bullets. He knew he’d gotten hit at least once, enough to figure it was as good as over. Bullets and drugs. That was it. No wonder he couldn’t think or move.
If he could move…
Did they know enough about him to know he was earth? Did they know enough make sure that it was more than the drugs keeping him from the earth? If he could get near a window or touch the walls or floor, their little prison would never hold him. He was nowhere near Cress’ league—he would have flooded the room and broken out in the time it took Stone to figure out what was going on—but he knew how to manipulate things, and anything that had a bit of dirt or a connection to the ground was enough. Some things he could do with only line of sight.
If he got out of this bed, he was as good as out of here.
“I see we are going to have to increase your medication. What part of your connection allows you to overcome that, I wonder? With me, all it takes is a quick flush. Nothing stays in my system that I don’t want.”
Stone grimaced. That sounded like a water elemental, and he knew that Cress could do that—he and Occie always seemed to skip the hangovers everyone got stuck with—and that time the pollen had gotten the rest of them, a nice biological weapon manipulated by a rogue earth elemental, Cress just kind of shrugged it off and then took out the rogue on his own.
“Well, no matter. You’re going to remain our guest for a while yet. I have a very special task for you, and you have to stay put or you won’t recover.”
“Won’t… help… you.”
“Such gratitude. My people saved your life. Yours abandoned you.”
Stone shook his head. That was not how Cress worked. He was too damn loyal for that. Even if the team would have fallen apart then—he knew his sister well enough to know she would have gone to pieces after he went down and Occie would have been struggling even with her amazing control over her emotions—Cress would not have abandoned him.
“True, but perhaps they should have made sure there was no bringing you back from that first.”
Short of Cress suddenly developing the ability to manipulate lightning, too, Stone didn’t see how they could have. Maybe Moira and Sherwin could have forced air into his lungs, but that wouldn’t have meant he’d ever have started breathing on his own again.
Stone saw the man reaching for the IV, and he tried to pull his arm free, but his body was still too sluggish. He couldn’t stop him or get the damn needle out. Something about that bastard was familiar, though. Stone didn’t know how, couldn’t remember, but he did know that man.
He’d have to figure it out the next time he was conscious.