i actually got it.

wow, life is so crazy. (in an extremely good way ;)) i have been really busy lately, and i guess i’m just going to spill the beans about something that i’ve been wanting to talk about but hoping to get pictures of it that actually look good first but haven’t been able to. but i guess i’ll just get pictures later. but i’m really excited to talk about it, so here we go.

guess what. i actually got it. a cello. that’s right. i got my cello! :) i am like... super super super happy about this. :) i actually got it awhile ago (is it possible that it’s been a month...? i don’t quite remember...) but i was hoping to get pictures of it. (which... never happened. well, actually, it did, it’s just they weren’t very good quality and i was like, “um... no.”) ;) anyway, it’s so amazingly awesome to finally get my cello after having this dream for awhile. :) it’s so much fun to play! :) the cello itself is just so amazing, and then i have this bow... yes, a bow. this is me - “i like have a bow!” haha :D i was really excited about that part, because i think that bow’s are just so cool. ;) i really love the sound that the cello makes, and i love making it myself. (fun fact about the cello/bow - before playing with your bow, you have to rub rosin on it. it’s like this white and kind of sticky stuff.) anyway, i am soooooo super happy about this!!!!!!!! :) i can’t wait to play in the hall of the mountain king one day. :) (by the way, i seriously love eighth notes on this thing. like.... aaaawwwwwwweeeesome!) :)

it’s kind of interesting, how fast time flies. i kind of feel like it’s still the beginning of the year, and it’s like april. almost may. (i can’t believe it’s almost may....) and then it’ll be june. like summer. (i think i’m going to pass out... JK haha :D) it’s soooo crazy how time flies, especially when you’re busy. it’s like, “whoa, weren’t we in january?” i think it really just shows that we really don’t have all of the time in the world, and we should be seeking God every single moment of every single day finding the purpose that He has for us. :)

ok, this is seriously awesome.... we have flowers. i just noticed them the other day. just another sign that spring is kind of sort of officially here. :) (i love spring. <3)

so, guys, what’s what your favorite fruit? :) have any of you ever had strawberry pie? because in my opinion it is, like, amazing. what’s some of your favorite pies/desserts? anything new been happening your way? i’d love to hear about what’s going on for you guys. :)

hope you have a great day! :) God bless! :)

be a hero,
anna

take a deep breath

you’re walking outside. the air is perfect - a mixture of warmth with the tiniest of a breeze. the trees are all around you, but they’re not closing in. you’re on a path, well-worn by deer and forest animals. and then you stop. and close your eyes. and you don’t say a word. and you just listen.
swhhhhhh swhhhhhh
it’s the birds.
swhhhhhh swhhhhhh
you open your eyes, watching for them. they flutter between the trees, their wings like a blur. you hear a pecking sound - possibly a woodpecker? you walk under one of the trees, trying to make them out between the branches. there’s one - up at the time. its color looks dark from where you stand, and you can’t quite make it out. what kind is it? you don’t know. you just listen.
swhhhhhh swhhhhhh
you move out from the tree, your eyes towards the sky. you watch in the branches, trying to detect the shape and color of the birds as they go about on the branches. there! there’s one. you squint, trying to make out its features. it’s orangish. you rather wish you knew what kind it was, but you don’t. you watch it, moving its quick little head. then it flies off with a flutter, several more birds flying up from the tree and taking off. you turn and watch them, practically black against the blue sky.

you stare up, and take a deep breath. this is it.

spring’s here.

The Unusuals - Book 1


The
Unusuals


























Maddie





“…And that concludes our history class for today…”
       The rest of the class was busy shutting books, packing backpacks, and getting out of their before Miss Paige could assign another page of homework. Sometimes teachers do unpredictable things like that.
       “Come on,” somebody whispered behind me. I thought for a moment that it was for me, but then realized the person had been talking to somebody else. Ugh. Why did I always think it was for me? Maybe because I always imagined I had a friend when I didn’t. 
          Some things were like that. I should’ve known that it wasn’t for me. That would be the day when Madeline Ann Fletcher made some friends. Man.
         “Madeline Fletcher.” Miss Paige stopped by my desk, stray papers, old wrappers, and a tissue full of gum held in hand. “Was there something that you wanted to ask me?”
       “Um, no,” I answered, shrugging and trying not to look like I was lying.
       “Oh.” She shrugged, reaching underneath my neighbor’s desk and coming up with another wad of gum. “Well, I just supposed you wanted to ask me something since you were hanging around.”
         “Oh, no, of course not,” I shrugged. “It’s just…”
        She sent me a look. “Yes…?”
      I was about to say something, but then I stopped myself. “Well,” I started, “nobody really calls me Madeline. It’s always Maddie. It always has been.”
        “Oh,” she smiled. “Well, I can quickly get that changed. And if you ever try out for a sport and they’re announcing your name, I’ll make sure they say Maddie instead of Madeline.”
     “Oh, that’s alright…” I tried, but she was already off.
       “No, no, it’s quite easy to change it,” she rambled on. “And about your last history paper…quite wonderful work. I think that you might have some writer’s blood in you.”
       “Oh, really?” I asked, trying not to act too concerned.
         “Yes,” Miss Paige smiled. “All about those Indians…really, I was really believing that I was right there by their side. I think that you should consider becoming a writer some day.”
        Humph. Like that would happen. Miss Paige knew nothing about any of my worries. I could tell, but not by any means that you would be thinking of. I looked away when she glanced over at me.
         Was there was something, Maddie?” she whispered.
          “No.” Then I got up, grabbed my books, stuffed them in my backpack and started out of the classroom, not looking back.
        What would she have done if she knew that I knew what she knew?

The hours seemed to push into each other. I sat at my desk in my room, tapping my pencil against the table and occasionally chewing on the end. Thoughts of history were filling my head. And Miss Paige’s comments—I could be a writer one day; I should consider it; I shouldn’t dawdle in class; I could be a talented writer.
      I glanced at the wall, full of my memories that I couldn’t quite piece together yet—words that I remember; drawings of people’s faces that I can still see; places that hide behind my eyes; feelings that I can still feel welling up in me; touch that I can still feel.
        I shook my head.  I didn’t like the feeling of not remembering. Especially when my parents—the people downstairs—acted as if nothing had happened. I was sure that something had. What, I didn’t know.
        I ran a hand through my dark blonde hair, agitated that my thoughts were so disturbing, even to myself. My dark blue eyes sought out something that was familiar to my current life on the board. There wasn’t anything. It was just filled with my notes.
       “Ugh,” I muttered. “What is with me?”
        I finished the history report and, deciding that I couldn’t keep it off any longer, stood and stared at the corkboard. I looked at the pieces of school paper that I’d scribbled on. I’d even scribbled on a napkin, sometimes.
       Words…faint as a breeze.
        Jenny…Willow…my friends…I had friends? Not that I remembered. Madeline…self defense…Patricia…betrayal…loss…never again…What did these words mean?
       People’s faces…barely there, but certainly there.
        Brown hair…blonde hair…black hair…red hair…blue eyes…brown eyes…green eyes…hazel eyes…gray eyes…almost violet eyes…tanned skin…pale skin…scar on cheek…How did I know these faces but could not be names to them? It didn’t make sense.
         Places…fading away.
         Parks with benches and squirrels…training arenas with dummies and swords…the high seas, pitching and rolling…water, cold and frothy, swallowing me…forests, enveloping me in their earthy touch…I hadn’t ever seen these places, yet whose memories were these?
         I shook my head, stopping myself before I continued. Who was I kidding? It had to be that I’d just created all of this. Mom was always saying that I spent too many days in books. Could I have made up this whole thing by myself?
         And yet I knew it was real, at the same time. It was the weirdest thing, as if I was at battle with myself against the reality of the memories that rose and tried to take over me.
         “Maddie?” Mom’s voice drifted up the stairs. “Maddie!”
          “Yes?” I answered, holding a hand to my forehead. It felt hot.
       “Come on down! We’re about to watch Tangled…”
      “Oh, OK,” I replied.
       I looked at the notes and drawings again. Then I headed off down the stairs before my mind could convince me otherwise. What on earth was going on?









Sonya





“Sonya Hertfordshire, dead at age thirteen and eleven months,” I muttered to myself, clutching carefully to the railing of the roof of the New York building that overlooked the passing train.
       The wind blew my short curly and poofy brown hair around my head as my greenish brown eyes watched the coming train. I smiled to myself. When my friends saw me launch myself off, they were going to think I was a goner. But would I show them.
       I heard the sound of the train and quickly took the piece of paper out of my bag that hung around my neck. I quickly folded it into the shape of wings, and then made a copy. I held one in each hand, and spread out my arms.
      “If I didn’t know you better, Sonya,” snorted the voice of Tad Wilhelm from behind me, “I’d think that you were going to throw yourself off the roof!”
       I turned, smiling at the fourteen year old. “Oh, dear, Tad.” I smirked, to show how sarcastically I’d said that. “I’m afraid that you don’t know me very, do you?”
          Tad’s brown eyes grew huge. “Sonya, what on earth are you planning?”
         “None of your business!” I yelled back at him over my shoulder, yelling over the wind. “You’ll soon see!”
          I could see the train, zooming towards me. I quickly finished my procedure with the paper—taking the string out of my bag and making holes with my fingernails in both of the paper. I quickly connected the two pieces of paper and then held them each in one hand. The string went across my back, not taut, waiting.
         When I spread my wings out, finally the string was taught. The train was almost underneath me. If I didn’t take my chance, it would be gone, just as quick as Tad could snap his fingers.
        I jumped.
        “Sonya!” shrieked Tad.
         And then I was flying. I looked over at my creation. The string had turned into tough and solid nylon cord and the paper had turned into propellers that thrust me forward. By moving what had been the paper just so, I could easily direct which way I was going.
        I thrust hard downwards, and with a thump I landed on the train. The speed of it took my breath away and made me lie down flat on the train’s cold, hard metal roof. I could hear Tad’s whooping, faraway in the distance.
        The train was heading right for the tunnel, like I knew it was. I rolled over the side of the train and thrust myself off. My invention caught me and I was off flying again through the air.
         I flew back to where Tad was still shrieking his head off and collapsed on the roof, panting in exhaustion at the effort that I’d put into it.
         “What on earth was that?!” he cried. “You just like jumped off a roof and then you were like flying and then you were on the train and then you weren’t and…!” he stopped, looking at the nylon and propellers. “That’s strange,” Tad whispered. “I could’ve sworn that that was paper and string…”
        “It was,” I answered with a smile, letting go of the propellers and unwinding myself from the nylon. “But I made it into what I wanted it to be.”
        “That’s crazy,” Tad laughed.
        “It’s true,” I snorted.
        “Well…” Tad trailed off, looking out into the distance as if he could still see me flying. Then he frowned and looked back at me. “You know, you’re the craziest person I know, Sonya. Trusting yourself to the air…it’s not something many orphans on the run would do.”
     “Oh, man, you make me sound so horrible,” I chuckled. “Orphan on the run indeed.” I stood up and patted him on the back, none-too-gently, either. “I’d say that you’re lucky to have had your parents. I still don’t see why you left.”
        He shrugged. “Ah, they were just getting plain annoying.” He rolled his eyes. “And they wanted me to date some girl from Tampa would was as ugly as a smashed peach. And she was so smug. You would’ve hated her, Sonya.”
        “How lucky I didn’t meet her,” I snorted sarcastically. “Hey, you can keep the stuff. I’ve got to go and meet Kelly. We’re going to see if Georgie’s got any donuts left for supper. Maybe we’ll bring a few back.”
         Tad laughed. “OK, I’ll let you go by yourself if you teach me how to change things into other things.”
        “I was born with it,” I shrugged with a smile. “What’s there to teach?” then I took off running, my bag swinging.
       I met Kelly—a girl who looked the part of the bad girl with a black tank-top, black shorty-shorts, black tights, and big black boots with blackish brown hair with streaks of both pink and red—outside of Georgie’s Donut Shop in a quiet part of New York where usually you’re never bothered. A favorite spot for new families to live.
          “What’s the scoop?” I questioned as I ran up, panting and blowing my side bangs out of my eyes. Kelly had helped me hack off some of my hair to help me hide from my horrible guardians.
       “Georgie’s about back from his daily rounds,” Kelly informed me, her gray eyes peering for the little white truck that would appear at any moment. “If we’re lucky, hopefully he won’t have given away yesterday’s stale donuts yet.”
      “Probably to some charity,” I snorted.
       “Shush,” she said. “I think I hear Georgie coming now.”
         We waited behind the trash barrels just inside of the alley between Georgie’s Donut Shop and a toy store that had been shut down for decades. Kelly was so tense, so ready, you’d expect her to steal from the donut man, not ask politely for stale donuts.
     Finally, Georgie’s donut delivery truck came into view. The old man parked the truck and started for the alley with the stale donuts. He always left them in the delivery van and then dumped them in the trash. If you were really lucky, you got them at all. If you were lucky, you got them before the trash.
         “Georgie!” Kelly put on her best smile, which I could sometimes find dazzling. Like right at that moment. “I don’t suppose you have anymore donuts to spare?” she had that playful smile that just made you want to go and talk to her about something—anything.
         “Well, of course,” answered Georgie, doffing his donut cap and smiling at us, revealing his mouth full of missing teeth. “Here you two lovely misses are.”
         Lovely misses my eye. How about lovely strays? Sounded better. And definitely more true. What would be truer? One ugly stray (me) and a beautiful stray (Kelly). At least, that’s what I thought.
         Kelly grinned and took the donuts. Georgie even offered to put them in a bag, but Kelly declined. We ran away from Georgie’s, running towards the abandoned house where our “group” stayed.
      “I think we got some good ones this time, Sonya,” Kelly smiled, reaching into the bag and pulling out one of the donuts. She took a big bite into it, and gooey jelly spilled out onto her chin.
       I reached for one but she frowned and pulled back. “You can eat them with the rest,” she told me, frowning. “I did all of the work, so that’s why I’m having one beforehand.”
       I rolled my eyes and followed the girl through the abandoned streets. Kelly wasn’t noticing, but I was getting this feeling that we were being followed. Call it a knowingness, a sixth sense…call it whatever you want. But I knew we were being followed.
      “Hey, Kelly,” I started. “I think we should hurry.”
        She gave me a look. “Why should we, Sonya? It’s not as if we’re in any danger.”
       That’s what she thought. I wasn’t so sure. That feeling was creeping up on me again…I shivered.  I didn’t like that feeling. It was as if…
         “Well, well, well.”
          Kelly gave out a small squeak and stepped backwards, right onto my foot. I yelped and glared at her. And then I looked in front of us. And behind us. And on all sides.
       We were surrounded, by older boys dressed in black. I groaned—I knew exactly who they were.
      The Yorktown Gang. The worst, ugliest, and meanest gang in the whole place. And they were eyeing Kelly’s sack of donuts. And licking their lips.
     “Kelly…” I hissed out of the corner of my mouth. “Kelly, hand them the donuts.” I was trying to stay calm, but couldn’t quite make myself sound calm.
        I knew Kelly didn’t want to. And I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to. What on earth was I going to do?
     “Kelly!” I snapped.
     “You should listen to the pretty one,” said one of the gang members. “She knows what she’s talking about. Just hand over the donuts, Goth.”
       Kelly’s eyes were darting. I almost groaned, as if reading her mind. She was going to try and make a break for it. And I knew that it wasn’t going to work.
        “Kelly…” I warned.
         And that’s when it happened.










Maddie





“We’re going to go into the city, Maddie,” Mom announced, pulling a sweatshirt over her head. “I’m thinking that we might stop at some of those stores that sell those really cute clothes…”
       “You really do grow so fast, Maddie,” Dad agreed, looking for his car keys (he was trying to hide it, but I knew him too well to know that he was looking for something, and since there had been no mention of the keys, I assumed those were what he was looking for).
       “Do you want to come with us?” Mom continued, turning off the light switches and making sure that the fish weren’t too riled up by the change of the level of light in the room.
        “Sure,” I shrugged, sighing. “Why not? Nothing very interesting ever happens here. And New York City is the place for new experiences.”
        Dad sent Mom a look at the sentence “nothing very interesting ever happens here.” I wasn’t going to ask what the look meant, but I could tell that they were concerned. Probably about me.
          “Maddie…” Dad started.
       I sighed. “What? Are you going to make me stay home?”
      “Well, no…” he admitted.
      “But are you sure you really want to come with us?” Mom interrupted. “It might be much more interesting here at home. Surely there’s something you would rather do here…”
       “Actually, I really have my heart set on going to the city,” I announced, slipping on my flats and grabbing my purse. I looked at both of them. “I suppose you don’t mind, do you?”
        Dad and Mom sent each other looks again.
       “Well, we’d be happy to have you,” Dad managed. “Come on, guys—we’re not going to have any time if we keep on dawdling around here.”
      We all piled into the car and Dad took off for the city. I watched carefully out the window as we passed car after car. Maybe one of the cars would spark a memory. Hopefully it would.
      I’d only once before talked to my parents about the weird things that were always coming up in my life. They’d acted as if I’d just told them my elaborate plan to take over the world.
        “Honey!” Mom had shrieked. “Come here quickly!”
          “What?!” Dad had cried. “What’s wrong!?”
       Mom quickly filled him in on the situation. Then they’d both given me horrified glances and sat me down to a very, very long talk. I’d only been ten. That had been four years ago, and many things were different now.
      1) I never told them when new things came to me, 2) I never felt comfortable sharing things with them because I was so scared of what they would do, and 3) I had started to think that maybe these people weren’t really my parents.
      It had started with some of my memories. But in this way, it had been a dream. I had seen a woman with my same dark blonde hair and dark blue eyes, wearing weird black clothing that fitted her tightly.
        Next to her I had seen a man with blue eyes and brown hair, wearing the same black clothing. Both of them were good looking. Both of them faintly looked like me.
        And suddenly I had the most faintest idea; only starting as a trickle, and then coming in as a flood. I was sure that they were my parents. I was as sure as the sun shines every day and the moon rules the night’s darkness.
         I glanced out the window now. How different everything seemed now. And I thought about the thing that I’d never told them about—the thing that I’d used against them for years, though it wasn’t my fault since I’d been born with it.
        “Are we almost there?” I asked, leaning forward and peering between the two front seats right through the windshield, watching the cars rushing towards us and then disappear behind us.
        “Just a little bit longer, Maddie,” Dad promised. “Just be patient.”
        I sighed and sat back down. “Sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to be patient, you know.”
        “Yes, we know,” sighed Mom.
         I frowned. I was almost tempted to do IT, but didn’t. “Mom,” I started, “Dad. Why are we really going to the city? I mean, for reals?”
       “What do you mean?” queried Mom, applying some mascara. “We’re going to go shopping. Didn’t I tell you that before we left the house?”
       “Well, yes,” I replied, “but that’s what you want
 me to think.”
        Mom and Dad exchanged looks.
        I shrugged and looked out my window. “I’m almost positive that you two have something else up your sleeves. Perhaps to leave me in some coffee shop while you two go off and have some date in a tiny little cafĂ©.”
          Mom laughed nervously. “Maddie, we’d never do that to you and you know it. We’d never leave you.”
         “Well, I’m sure you’d come back,” I continued. “But maybe by then I would’ve run off, thinking that you’d left me for forever, and weren’t ever coming back…” I watched Mom’s and Dad’s expressions.
        I could easily tell that they were horrified by the whole idea and couldn’t think of what would put such an idea into my mind. I wanted so much to break my own Rule, but I didn’t.
        “But,” I started, “of course you’re probably not. You’re probably going to do exactly what you said and take me shopping somewhere in a tiny little shop where nothing interesting ever happens.”
       “Maddie…!” Dad cried.
        We were silent for the rest of the trip to New York City. I just wished now that I’d actually broken my Rule for once in my life and done IT.

“Maddie!” cried Mom. “What about this shirt? It’s the same color as your eyes. I think it’s beautiful. You should go and try it on. Please? For me?”
         “Mom,” I sighed, “that’s the ugliest shirt I’ve ever seen. If I was caught wearing that, they’d ban me a loony and then I’d really have no friends.”
         Mom frowned. “I don’t think so. I think it’s a beautiful shirt and I’m sure more people would talk to you if you wore it. All of those clothes that you wear…” she shivered.
           “Mom,” I started, “how about this one?” I held up a green shirt.
        “Oh, no!” Mom shook her head. “That clashes horribly. You can’t wear that. I wouldn’t hear of it.”
        Right.
        I sighed and leaned against the wall as Mom continued to sift her way through the clothes racks. I watched the huge window and overlooked the street. People just kept on walking by, not even paying attention to signs or other people.
           And that’s when I saw it—a girl, fleeing down the street, dodging people with an expertise that I would’ve loved to have possessed. Her short hair flew as she ran, faster and faster, away from seemingly invisible pursuers.
       That’s when I saw who was chasing her.  A gang of boys that all looked older than her, dressed in black, and had that creepy look that told you to stay away.
      The girl was still within my view. Desperate, I did something that I’d vowed I’d not do unless it was completely necessary—I broke my Rule.
        I closed my eyes and lifted my hands to my head. It was as if my fingers stretched out from my body and reached into the girl’s head, bringing out strings of letters that turned into words. I quietly read the words.
       They’re going to catch me…and what about Kelly?...no, she’s gone…I’m dead…will I ever be safe?...nothing’s ever right…I am going to die today…
        “Maddie!”
         I zapped out of it. And now you know my secret.
       I can read minds.






Sonya



This is what happened:
 At right that moment, Kelly darted off. Somebody grabbed her, and there was one shrieking cry—“Sonya, run!”—and then she went limp.
        I didn’t look back. I flew off into the other direction, dodging the boys who surrounded us. They stared at me, surprise registering on their faces as I wove expertly through the maze of waste beyond.
      I was starting to tire out. I knew that I still had some paper in my bag, so I quickly found a place to hide temporarily—behind a trashcan—and then pulled out the paper.
       “Hurry, hurry,” I urged myself as I took out a pen and drew a squiggly dragon on it.
      The second I was done, the dragon came off the page and came alive, standing up and blinking at me. I took a deep breath and then started to speak.
        “Grow,” I commanded, “and then go and attack those boys.”
        Grabbing my bag, I took off running. By the screams and shrieks behind me, I knew that the dragon had done what I’d commanded of it.
        My strength was renewed by an urgency that I was about to get beaten…or worse. There was always death. And these gangs weren’t too partial to people who got away from them.
         I dodged, ran, wove, dodged, ran, wove my way down the street as I came into a more populated area of the city. People were everywhere, giving me stares like I was a thief as I rushed to get away from the gang.
       That’s when I felt it.
       Fingers, reaching into my brain, icily cold.
       I could almost feel where they were coming from as my head whipped around. The fingers pushed out from a clothing store just back up the street. I glanced around quickly, and then thought in my brain, Get out of my head, you creep!
        The fingers withdrew immediately. I quickly ducked into the clothing store and hid behind a rack of clothes. The gang rushed past without seeing me. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked for the cold fingers.
       A girl around my age with dark blonde hair just past her shoulders and dark blue eyes was trying not to bring attention to herself by a clothing rack. She glanced over her shoulder now and then at me. And at that moment I knew she was the one with the cold fingers.
        Glaring, I walked over to her, hissing, “What were you doing in my brain?!”
        She seemed startled. “I…I don’t understand.”
        I looked her straight in the eyes. “I felt your fingers,” I told her. “I knew that you were reading my brain, my thoughts. Why were you doing that? Why would you reach in and look for yourself? How could you?!”
         “I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she tried, looking frantically through the clothes. “You’re creeping me out. What you’re saying is ridiculous.”
       “Really?” I hissed.
       She looked back at me. “If what you’re saying is true, then you’re accusing me of mindreading.” She turned away. “That’s obviously out of the question. Nobody can read minds. That’s something from a sci-fi book.”
      “Fine,” I muttered. “If you’re so scared…” I grabbed paper and a pen out of my bag.
      The girl watched me closely. She frowned in confusion as I drew on the paper. Finally, I finished the shirt that I knew would look perfectly right on the girl. The second I was done, the ink separated from the paper and shirt flopped into my hands. It was the girl’s exact size.
      I handed it to her, hissing, “Here. Now you know what I can do. I know that you can read my mind. I felt your icy cold hands as they reached for my private thoughts.”
     “I…I…” she couldn’t speak a word. Finally… “Who are you?”
        “Sonya.” I continued to glare. “And who’re you?”
         “Madeline,” she answered, followed quickly by, “But everybody calls me Maddie.”
        “So, you’re a mind reader.” I folded my arms.
        “Yes,” she answered, nodding. “And…and you can just…make things out of like drawing things?”
         “Whatever I make can come alive,” I answered. “If I make origami, it becomes what I’ve created. If I draw or paint, it comes alive.” My eyes bored into her. “Sometimes even my words.”
     “But how’s it possible?” Maddie whispered. “How is it possible for either of us? Both of the things that we can do are crazy. I just don’t understand.”
      “Me, either,” I answered. “But that’s why we’ve got to find answers.” I slung my bag over my shoulder. “So far, you’re the first person I’ve met that has a talent that’s…shall we say, unusual.”
        “So you think there’s more?” Maddie was staring at me in surprise. “Like…lots more of us?”
       “Madeline Fletcher!” a woman yelled from across the store. “Get over here right now!”
    Maddie cringed and whispered to me, “We’ve got to meet again. I’ve got to know what’s happened.”
        I frowned in confusion. “Happened?”
        “Maddie!”
         Maddie’s blue eyes begged. “Please. Please say that you’ll meet me again.” She quickly scribbled something on my paper before I could stop her. “That’s my address. Meet me tonight at midnight.”
       Then she rushed off to the woman, who I guessed was her mother. I looked at the piece of paper again. Then I looked back at the pretty girl that was disappearing quickly through the racks of clothes.
        I had made my decision.
   I was going to see this Maddie girl yet again. Tonight, at midnight.














Maddie



Okay, so I admit it—I was kind of scared and intimidated by this Sonya girl, even if I had been the one to invite her to my house and not the other way around.
         I almost couldn’t contain my excitement—and fear—throughout the night. Mom and Dad finally announced that it was time for bed and we all separated to get ready for sleep.
       I brushed my teeth and all that good stuff, and even changed into my pajamas (even though I’d contemplated on staying in my clothes and just hiding underneath the covers when my parents came in to say goodnight).
       My parents came and went. I waited in my bed, holding my breath. Finally, the sound of their murmuring died off and was replaced by Dad’s snoring and Mom’s occasional shouting bouts (don’t worry—they always happened).
       I scrambled out of bed and fumbled in the dark with my clothes. I slipped on shoes and grabbed a flashlight, starting for the door but then deciding on going out the window. It took a few more precious minutes to slowly ease open the window without a creak.
        My window was right over the back porch’s overhang. I quietly slipped out onto it and nearly went sliding all the way off and onto the ground. I caught myself just in time on the windowsill, muttering to myself about my own clumsiness.
        I walked to the edge of the overhang and tried for several minutes to think of a way down. I finally lowered myself over. Of course then I was hanging by my hands for a few minutes before I could get the courage to let go, after which I landed with a loud “oof!” on the hard ground.
       I went as quietly as I could towards the old oak by the driveway (when I say as quietly as I could, you can tell it wasn’t that quiet—for goodness sakes, there are leaves where I live).
       And then I settled down by the tree and waited.
      And waited.
     And waited.
     And waited.
     And then finally I nearly screamed as somebody grabbed my arm.
        “It’s OK, Maddie,” hissed Sonya. “Seriously. You ask me to meet you at midnight and then you nearly scream right when I get here.” She blew hair out of her pretty face.
       “Sorry,” I whispered.
       “So now what?” queried Sonya. “I didn’t come all the way from New York City just be stared at.”
        I quickly looked away. “Um, I think we need to find out who we are.”
        Sonya snorted. “Sonya Hertfordshire, age thirteen and eleven months.”
       I gave her an exasperated look. “You know what I mean! Who we really are. And how on earth we can do the things that we can do.”
       Sonya sighed. “Yeah, well, how’re we going to find that out? It’s not as if the answer’s going to be written right before us.”
        “Well,” I admitted, “I don’t quite know.”
        “Then what on earth am I doing here?!” Sonya hissed, eyes ablaze.
       A twig snapped loudly. Sonya looked at me, and then beckoned with her head towards where the sound had come from. I just shrugged. I had no idea what it was. As if I was supposed to. Humph.
         To my surprise, Sonya grabbed my arm and pulled me behind the tree. She got on her knees and started crawling towards where the trees were clustered close together. She tugged at me to follow. I sighed and did so.
       Only when we reached the trees did Sonya stopped. She sat with her back against one of the trunks and panted, as scared and terrified as I was.
       “I have no idea what that was,” Sonya whispered, “but I don’t think it was good.”
      “How do you know?” I frowned in confusion.
        Her eyes darted. “I just get this feeling. Call it what you like. But I feel as if we’re being watched, even now. I don’t like it. We’ve got to get away from here.”
        “But wait, my parents…” I started to protest.
        A screech filled my ears. I heard Sonya’s words plain enough—“Run!”
          I didn’t protest.
          We ran off along the field, towards where more forests took over for us. Sonya rushed right inside of the earthy darkness. I was hit by the memory of the forest, but pushed through after her.
        “Don’t stop!” Sonya yelled over her shoulder, dodging and weaving through the trees as if they were the people of New York City that I’d seen her dodging and weaving through earlier that day.
          I didn’t think we’d ever stop. The trees didn’t stop Sonya as she kept on going. We met a small stream and she just jumped over. Not wanting to be left behind, I followed her lead.
     Thunder rumbled up above the treetops in the sky. If the trees hadn’t been there, I was sure that I would’ve seen lightning. A few moments later fat raindrops plopped on my head. A few moments later than that huge raindrops were flying rapidly down at us. But still Sonya didn’t stop.
         When we finally did stop, we both collapsed behind one of the many trees. I glanced around, panting, and realized that I was dreadfully and horribly lost. What on earth was I going to do?
         “What was that back there?” I whispered, pushing my hair out of my eyes.
          Sonya’s eyes were full of fear. “I  don’t think I want to know. But I know that it wasn’t good.”
        “Do you think it was like bad guys?” I whispered, fear creeping it’s way like an unwanted bug into my stomach until it was a maze of knots.
       Sonya shook her head, eyes wide and scared. “I think it was something else. Something more…unearthly. I can’t name it. But it’s not good.” She turned to me. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
       “But…but what about my parents?” I stammered. “They’re going to wake up and find me gone! Come on, this can’t be real. I’ve got to get back.”
      “Maddie.” Sonya’s eyes pulsed slowly. “This is real. This is happening. If…if you go back, I just know something bad is going to happen. If you go back, you might be, like, signing a death warrant for your parents.” She shook her head and glanced around. “We’ve got to get out of here. We’ve got to get back to New York.”
      “New York?!” I cried. “It’s in the middle of the night! I’ve never like been in a big city by myself! Are you crazy!? We could get lost or mugged or…”
        “It’s OK,” Sonya assured. Her eyes were bright. “I’ve lived on the streets all my life. You’ll be safe with me. But you’ve got to stay by my side. There’s no use for straying kids in New York City.”
         I snorted. “You can say that again.”
         Sonya’s head snapped up. “But I won’t. Because the big city only gives you one chance. You’ve got to be careful. To learn. And that’s the only reason why I’ve even survived that long.”
        She got to her feet and looked around, getting that stealthy look again. She glanced back at me, a playful smile on her face that I was guessing was her signature.
      “You coming, Maddie?” she asked.
      I didn’t know what else to answer. “Yeah.”








Sonya



We traveled all night. I didn’t want to stop for fear of whatever was chasing us catching up with us. As we neared New York, I started to finally feel as if we were losing them. I took a deep sigh of relief as Maddie and I were finally walking on the sidewalks.
        “Can we stop now?” Maddie begged, yawning terribly. “I’m so tired. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed up all night. I’m totally exhausted.”
       “We’ve got to keep moving,” I answered, my eyes darting. “If you have anything that you don’t want to be stolen on you, you’d best keep your wits about you.”
         She gave me a look like “oh, thanks for telling me that NOW” and carefully patted her pocket. I didn’t ask what was in there and frankly didn’t care.
       “It’s just a stone,” she assured at my slight look. “I have a stone in every pocket of all my pants and skirts and everything. I don’t know why. It just makes me feel more…I don’t know. Maybe secure?”
          I shrugged. “I guess. Though I don’t know what a rock could do for you.”
       “They’ve just always seemed so strong to me,” Maddie shrugged. “I have no idea why. It’s kind of weird.”
       “Well, don’t worry about it,” I suggested. I grinned. “Besides, nobody’s going to want to steal a stone from you. They might as well pick one off the street!”
       Maddie glanced at the street and saw that there were, indeed, several pebbles sitting in the cracks by the sidewalk. Well, at least I’d assured her.
       “Where exactly are we going?” she questioned as we continued through the crowd.
       I smiled and tugged at my rough and ragged denim jean jacket that I’d had ever since I could remember. I barely took it off. In fact, I didn’t.
         “Where did you get your clothes?” Maddie asked curiously, giving a glance at my outfit.
       I looked down at myself—second-hand tank top underneath the jacket, short jean shorts with leggings going out from underneath them, and worn-out old sneakers that I’d taken out of a trash bin a couple of weeks ago because my feet had gotten bigger. My hair was free and always had been.
        “Oh, just here and there,” I shrugged. I definitely didn’t want to have to into detail all of the swapping and trading that goes on between people on the streets, the giveaways from charities, the digging in the trash bins and all of the other things that I’d gone through. Seriously, this kid would’ve gone beserko. That’s just why I shrugged it off.
         “Where’d you get yours?” I returned, thinking that it was probably polite to do that. Of course nobody in my “normal” community did anything like that. They would’ve looked at me like I was crazy.
        Maddie shrugged. “Here and there. Mostly big name stories. You know. The usual.” I wasn’t going to point out that her usual was my unusual.
         “Hey, Sonya!” somebody yelled from behind me.
       Maddie and I turned and I groaned inwardly as Tad ran up to me, panting from the exertion of running to catch up with us (seriously, we’d only been the walking. This guy really needed a workout).
          He gave a quizzical glance at Maddie and then turned back to me. “Um, Sonya? Could I maybe like talk to you for a few minutes?” He gave Maddie a glance. “In private?”
        “Oh, yeah, sure,” I said, moving away from Maddie and starting towards the alley. I glanced back at Maddie to make sure she was OK. She seriously looked out of element waiting for me on the sidewalk, getting pushed aside by millions of people.
        “What’s up?” I asked Tad.
        “Well…” he trailed off, looking away. Finally, he looked back at me. “Could you show me about you did that earlier? You know, with the thing and how it changed into something else…?” Tad looked almost afraid to go on. I felt bad for him.
         “Oh, yeah, sure,” I smiled easily, taking paper out of my bag and starting to fold.
          “Wait.” Tad put his hand on mine to keep it from going any farther. “Just a sec. What on earth are you making? You’re not like making a Tad destroyer or anything…” he paused. “Right?”
     I laughed. “Tad, what’s the matter with you? You’re acting as scared as a rabbit.” I patted his shoulder. “Look,” I said, “I’ll be really easy on you and just do an origami dove. It’ll be right in its element here. Just relax. Man.”
       I quickly folded it with expert hands. As I finished the last fold it suddenly transformed and flew off. Tad watched it go with mesmerized eyes, as if he still couldn’t believe what he’d just seen.
         “I can’t believe it…” for a second I thought I’d imagine him whisper it. But, no, he had. He looked at me, smiling. “So it’s true, then.”
        I shifted, suddenly uncomfortable. I didn’t like what he’d said. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. “What do you mean by that?” I demanded.
      Tad took a step back, a sly smile on his face. “You’re an Unusual,” he said simply.
      Then he started to walk off down the alleyway. My head whipped around to where Maddie had been standing.
       She was gone.






Maddie



had no idea who the guy was—Sonya’s boyfriend, some weirdo—but I could tell right away that I wasn’t wanted. As they went off to stand in the alleyway together and talk in hushed tones, I found myself bored and scared at the same time.
       What had Sonya meant about the things that had chased us were like unearthly? That was just a creepy thought. My perfectly aligned world seemed to be crashing down around me with every second that passed.
        But then, my life had never been normal. For goodness sakes, I could read minds!
         That’s when it struck me.
         Why not read the guy’s mind?
         What had Sonya called him? Tim? Tad? Yeah, that was it. Tad. I’d never heard of it before, but I guess it was OK. I closed my eyes, my invisible fingers reaching out and pulling the words out of Tad’s head. My mind’s voice read them to me.
         …She won’t know what hit her.
        I pulled back at the thought. Who won’t know what hit who? I shook my head, confused. Quickly, I reached back in, hoping that Sonya wouldn’t notice that I was reaching for a mind.
       …And the other girl won’t suspect anything, either. It’s just as he said. Sonya really is an Unusual. And it’s my job to go and reel her in. I just wonder if the other girl’s an Unusual.
          An Unusual? What on earth was an Unusual? I realized with a horror that he was talking about us. As in Sonya and I. We won’t know what hit us? We weren’t suspecting? This didn’t sound good. In fact, it sounded like he was trying to kill us.
         My first thought was to bump into Tad and pull Sonya away as quickly as possible. But she was busy making an origami dove. I glanced around. Two people, with sweatshirts over their heads so that I couldn’t tell if they were a boy or a girl, were staring at me from across the road. Their faces were totally hidden, and they wore black pants and black shoes, too.
         One of them titled their head up. Blazing red eyes flashed out at me, and all of a sudden I felt the need to run for my very life. I told myself not to panic, though—they’d only notice that I was leaving.
         They were getting closer. I quickly took off walking in the opposite direction, my thoughts straying a little farther from Sonya than one could hope of me.
      “I’m going to die, I’m going to die,” I whispered to myself nervously as I glanced over my shoulder. The two people in the black sweatshirts, to my surprise, were splitting up. And, the stranger part? They weren’t even heading for Sonya as I’d feared. They were each going around the buildings on either side of the alley.
         What on earth were they doing? I thought about reading their minds, but I had two reasons that I didn’t really want to do that. 1) They were out of my sight, and I’d never read somebody’s mind that I couldn’t see, and 2) they were so creepy that I was afraid that maybe they’d be able to find me by my prying fingers. Sonya had, and I could hardly call her “creepy”, though “unusual” was a good word for her. But then again, I guess it was a good word for me, too.
         I was freaked out as I felt myself disappearing in the crowd. It soothed my nerves, but also freed my mind up for the questions that I’d been trying to ignore—what about Sonya? Is she still alive? Is she going to be OK? Am I going to be OK? What on earth was Tad thinking about? What does all of this mean? What on earth is an Unusual?
          I was scared out of my wits. My head hurt, and I rubbed my forehead carefully with my scared and trembling hand, my eyes closed as I tried to concentrate and bring myself to turn around and look for Sonya.
         And that’s when I felt it—the presence of a hand about to grab my shoulder. With an instinct I didn’t know I had, I ducked down and did a roll on the ground, coming back to my feet and panting wildly.
         I whipped around at the sound of an unearthly screech. It was one of the people in the black sweatshirt. The red eyes blazed at me. My heart was stuck in my throat; I was too scared to scream. A few people gave us looks and then a teenaged girl cried,
     “Oh my gosh, look at that guy! His eyes are red!” Exactly my thoughts.
        The rest of the girls with her started to either scream, cry, dial their phones, point, or yell. The person in the sweatshirt quickly started to run forward.
       I screamed and ran to the side as the person swiped for my shoulder and missed. I pushed through the crowd, my heart beating wildly against my chest as I pushed for a way to get out of there—to be safe. But the word “safe” seemed to be very far away from me.
           “Move out of the way!” came a raspy voice from the person in the black sweatshirt. “Get out of the way, and you won’t be hurt!” people screamed as they were pushed roughly aside, landing on the rough pavement and some even on the road, just to be pulled by others in the nick of time.
          I ran towards a crosswalk. The sign for not walking was on, but I couldn’t let the guy catch me. I started to run across the street, people yelling at me to stop. The cars were scarily close as I ran for my life, my feet pounding on the pavement. Somebody hollered for me to get out of the way, but everything seemed to be drowned out.
         My feet hit the sidewalk again and I took off, not looking back, pushing past people as I ran for what I was sure was my very own life. This wasn’t some movie. This wasn’t some book. This wasn’t some video game. This was real, and unlike a video game, I only had one life to spare and I wasn’t going to lose it that easily by taking stupid risks—if I could help it.
          I rushed past another alley, my breathing loud and my side aching. An arm shot out and grabbed my arm, pulling me into the dark depths of the alley. I screamed, but then a hand clamped itself over my mouth. The attacker held me to them, pulling us against the wall as the person in the black sweatshirt thundered past.
       About five minutes later, the person finally let go.
        “Don’t scream!” cried the girl’s voice.
          I squinted as a flashlight turned itself on right in my eyes. In front of me were four girls, all different but yet the same. They wore different kinds of street clothes, unlike I’d been expecting.
       The girl who’d spoken, my attacker, was looking at me pleadingly. Well, up at me pleadingly, should I say. She was about three inches shorter than me and skinny, with soft hair that had all kinds of different colors in it (and I was pretty sure it was all natural). Her brown eyes were pleading.
       “Um…uh…who are you?” I finally managed to get out.
       “I’m Madeline,” the girl in front of me said quickly. “This is Jess”—here she pointed to the girl with long light brown hair whipped up into a ponytail at the top of her head and with blue eyes and bright clothes –“this is Willow”—here she pointed to a girl with short dark hair and dark eyes wearing clothing that kind of looked like mine –“and this is Darrion, who we call D.” There was only one girl left, a girl who was the tallest of them all and shared Willow’s dark features. She had this sharp, smart look about her face, an almost elfin look that I kind of liked.
             “But…but who are you exactly?” I stammered. “I mean like why are you here and why did you just grab me off the sidewalk and help me hide from…?” I trailed off, not really knowing what that thing had been.
          Madeline glanced over at Jess, who glanced over at Willow, who glanced over at D, who had been staring at me with a curious look the whole time.
      “It’s because we’re all Unusuals,” D said with a smile. “And we have to all take care of each other. It’s part of the code that’s been with us since we were born.”
       “Wait, what…?” I gave the girls a look.
       “OK,” said Madeline, “so I’m Madeline, and my talent is self defense.” She struck a karate pose, and then relaxed again. “That’s why I’m on this mission in the first place, even though I’m only eleven.”
        “I can run really fast,” grinned Jess. “It’s so much fun. But Madeline still thinks hers is the best.” She rolled her eyes and tucked her hair behind her ear.
       “I can turn invisible,” explained Willow, demonstrating for me. She gave a sly grin and winked. “I’m here to help look for your partner, Sonya. We were told that she’s been monitored by the Masterns since she was really young.”
        Before I could ask anything about what on earth Masterns were and why on earth they were calling Sonya my “partner” and who on earth had told her, D popped up right up.
        “And I can like hunt and track really well.” She cracked her knuckles. “I’m not that bad in a fight, either. Willow and I are sisters, and partners, too.”
       “What’s a ‘partner’?” I questioned.
       Madeline stepped forward. “See, all of us Unusuals, when we were born, were partnered up with another Unusual so that wherever we were, we could always find another one of our kind. It’s kind of homing device, and draws the partners together.” She shrugged. “It’s always best for partners to work together.”
      “Madeline and I are partners,” admitted Jess. “For the longest time, before we found Madeline, it was like my heart was torn out of my soul. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. And then we found her.”
        Madeline sighed. “OK, so let’s skip the monologue.” She turned to me. “Maddie, where’s Sonya?”
      “Wait, how do you know my name?” I whispered.
        Madeline rolled her eyes and gave Jess a look like “this girl is hopeless and I should know because I share her name!”. Then she turned to me and explained, “We’ll explain later. Now, tell me where Sonya is.”
      “I…I don’t know,” I admitted.
       Madeline’s eyes grew serious. “You had better hope you do. Because otherwise she might already be dead.”





Sonya



ran out onto the sidewalk, my eyes wildly searching for Maddie.  I felt that feeling—something wasn’t right. I turned around and saw the person—they were in a sweatshirt, wearing all black, and coming right towards me, red eyes blazing.
        Before, I could stop it, the memory flashed into my mind.
      “Don’t take her!” I screamed. “Don’t take my mother!”
         “Shut up!” yelled the person, red eyes blazing.
      “I want my mom!” I sobbed, tears falling down my cheeks and drenching my shirt. “Give her back! Give her back! I’ll do anything! Please!”
        The man came towards me, eyes hard. He kneeled before me and grabbed my shoulders. Our eyes locked. “There is no need for you in the world anymore,” he hissed to me. “This project as failed. And because of this you must be subjected to be alone by yourself for the rest of your life.”
       “NO!” I shrieked. “NO! GIVE HER BACK!”
       “Take her away!” directed the man, getting off his knees and walking away.
         “NO! Please!” I begged.
         The red-eyed man came forward and grabbed me. That world was lost forever.
     I snapped out of it and turned, running for my life. If I was caught, I knew that I would be dead before I could call for help or even think of Maddie one last time.
          I was an expert at this. I had often wondered when I had been younger how I could be, when one day I’d just woken up on the streets of New York, not remembering anything but equipped with the ultimate skills of survival.
        Slowly, some of it had come back to me, mostly in fragments and scenes, like the broken-up pieces of the things that I created by ways that I didn’t even know.
       “Sonya, come here,” commanded the man—the same man that had taken my mother away from me.
       I came and stood before him, waiting for his command.
       “You shall go and swim to the other side.” The man pointed across the huge lake still containing glaciers. The other side was more than a mile away. But he wasn’t going to accept defeat.
        Of course Odessa was the best at this. She was already flexing herself to dive in at his command. But he had asked me to do it first, because he knew I was the second-best swimmer to the other girls.
       I dove in, the icy chill tingled up my back. In moments I was numb. But for some reason, when I reached the other side, I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t even cold anymore.
       The man met me on the other side. “Very good, Sonya,” he told me. “Very good.”
        I shook my head to clear it as I ran. Some days the memories were clearer than others. Sometimes I wondered if somehow they were just dreams that had drifted in on the evening breeze and somehow found themselves haunting my eyes.
          The only other name that I had to tie myself to anything was Odessa. That was the only time in any of my memories that a name came up, in that one. Odessa was a swimmer? What did that have to do with anything? It didn’t make any sense. I was totally confused.
       I practically dove through a couple who weren’t moving, pushing my way and running as fast as I could through the crowd. I ran across streets, weaving in between cars and people, jumped trash cans, flew over cars, and pulled myself around corners as I went, faster and faster.
           As I flew down the sidewalk, I felt the strangest sensation. Slowly, an invisible hand slipped itself into mine. I felt it. It was real, real tough skin, real fingers. But I couldn’t see it. I shook the thought out of my head and continued to charge around the street.
        As I ran, I grabbed a piece of paper and a long roll of string out of my pocket. Fumbling with it, I quickly formed the paper into what looked like a hook and attached to the string to it. As I tossed it up at the pole on the top of the apartment building coming up, the string turned into tough nylon cord and the paper turned into a real hook, attaching to the pole.
        As we, me and the invisible person, ran forward, I swung us up by the use of the rope, pulling the rope up with us so that we would leave the person in the sweatshirt behind on the ground. We finally reached the top and I dropped the rope and collapsed on the roof, though surprisingly I wasn’t exhausted like I’d thought I’d be.
        “Be still,” whispered what seemed to be the wind that was picking up and blowing my hair every which way.
           I hugged the roof as I heard the person’s footsteps pounding below. The person with the red eyes’ pounding footsteps soon wore off, and I finally turned around.
        Out of no where appeared a girl with short dark hair and dark eyes. Her pretty face questioned me as she tilted her head, folding her arms.
         “So you’re Sonya?” she whispered. “You’re better at your talent that Master predicted.” She rubbed her arms like she was cold and glanced over her shoulder down to the street. “The grappling hook certainly was amazing. It’s good I found you when I did.”
         “Who are you?” I demanded, my hand going to my bag. I was so used to pickpockets, I couldn’t help but wonder if the girl was a thief of some kind.
       “My name is Willow,” she explained, eyes kind. “We are of the same kind.” She hesitated, and then whispered, “We are Unusuals.”
        “That’s what Tad called me,” I whispered in horror, the wind sending a chill up my back. I looked at Willow, my eyes piercing. “So…so that’s what you can do? Turn invisible? Like I can change things from other things?”
          “Yes,” nodded Willow. “And we’ve got to get out of here.” She glanced around again. “Not only are there the Wraiths, but there’s a bad feeling in the air. I think that the Masterns might be coming.”
         I knew better than to question the girl. She seemed to know what she was doing, and I didn’t have that bad feeling that I did when something bad was going to happen. Like with Tad.
            Willow grabbed the rope that I’d made and wrapped it around herself in a makeshift seat-sling. She beckoned for me to come over to her. When I did, she wrapped me in the rope, too. Then she lowered us down to the ground with amazing speed.
       “This way,” commanded Willow, starting off down the sidewalk as if she knew exactly where she was going.
         I quickly followed her, not wanting to get lost. I had a good feeling about Willow, and I wondered if she would lead me to Maddie. I sure hoped she would. I couldn’t help but be scared for Maddie’s safety.
       “Your friend is with the rest of the squad,” Willow told me over her shoulder as we walked among the crowds. “She’s safe, I promise.”
       “You mean Maddie?” I asked hopefully, keeping up with her easily.
       “Yes,” nodded Willow. “She will be safe. Madeline is an expert in self defense, and D isn’t that bad in a fight, either.”
        For some reason, these names seemed familiar, even though I was quite sure I’d never heard them before in my entire life before this point in history.
        “Are we almost there?” I questioned.
         Willow turned and gave me a sly smile. “Just wait, Sonya Hertfordshire—you haven’t seen anything yet.”





Maddie



The wait was horrible. I almost couldn’t stand it. The other girls just stood around waiting. Madeline and D looked about ready to jump into a fight at any moment with hands already poised.
         “When will Willow get back?” I whispered to Jess.
        She raised an eyebrow at the question but glanced away as I continued to press her with my eyes. “Oh, I don’t know,” she admitted. “Willow will take her time, but make sure that she gets the job done. She doesn’t do things wrong. She likes to do things right the first time and not have to go back later.”
        I guess that was a good quality to have in a person, but not necessarily when you’re being chased by whatevers in black sweatshirts with glowing red eyes…!
         “What on earth were those red-eyed things?” I whispered to Jess.
          She seemed more than willing to tell me and quickly popped up with my answer. She just seemed like that type of person who will tell you everything—if you’re a friend. “That was a Wraith,” she explained. She shivered. “They’re one of the creepiest. Though I’ve always hated the gargoyles.”
        “Masterns are the worst,” Madeline broke in. “They sometimes even scare me, and that’s practically impossible, of course. It’s always best to try and stay out of their way as much as possible.”
        “Unless our mission takes us towards them,” pointed out Jess.
        “Well, of course we wouldn’t avoid them then,” snorted Madeline. “I was talking about other times. Like avoid New York? Always. Masterns love New York.”
       “Yeah,” agreed D, her eyes darting. “Master even thinks that maybe their like headquarters is somewhere here. Just waiting for us to find it.”
       “But of course we have other things to do,” Madeline said quickly. “Like find the rest of the Unusuals, of which you and your partner are the last,” she added to me.
        Jess nudged her. “Well, sort of.”
        Madeline sighed and looked away. I saw tears in her eyes. D patted her shoulder to comfort her. I gave Jess a glance, but she wouldn’t return it.
         To my surprise into the alley, just at that moment, ran Sonya. In the blink of an eye Willow appeared by her side, holding tightly onto Sonya’s hand as they ran.
         “The Masterns were still chasing Sonya,” explained Willow quickly. “If we don’t leave quickly, they’ll follow Sonya’s scent to here. And then we’re all goners.”
         “Finally!” Madeline cried. “We’re going to get out of this dump. OK, everybody touch shoulders like Master showed us. Willow, Jess—show Sonya and Maddie how to do it.”
         Madeline stood in the middle of the group. Jess stood in front of her and put her right hand on Madeline’s left shoulder. D stood behind her and put her right hand on her right shoulder. Willow put her right on D’s left shoulder, and urged Sonya to put her right hand on D’s right shoulder.
       Jess beckoned me over and told me quietly, “Just put your left hand on my right shoulder. It’s really easy, and it’s instantaneous. I promise there’s no pain.”
     “No, what…?” I trailed off as Madeline’s voice cut through the air.
        “OK, everybody!” she yelled. “Ready?”
          I glanced over my shoulder to see Madeline pull a gray stone that pulsed a low blue glow. It fit snugly in the palm of her hand as she held it out, closing her eyes and whispering something.
         “She isn’t like saying a spell or anything, right?” I whispered to Jess.
          “Shh,” she warned. “And no.”
          “Close your eyes,” directed Madeline, a smile on her face. “We’re about to go for a ride.”
     I barely blinked, and when I opened my eyes again my surroundings were totally different. No longer was I in the New York City alley, but in some kind of round metal room with a tall roof.
        “You’re back!” welcomed a voice.







Sonya



turned at the sound of the voice. In front of us was a boy with black hair and piercing green eyes with a slim, athletic form. He wore normal street clothes that didn’t look quite right instead of a huge metal room.
       “Zane.” The girl with the hair of all different colors stepped forward. “Where’s your dad?”
      That’s hardly what I was expecting to hear. More like “where is the Master” or “greetings, weird-boy” or something else. But not “where’s your dad?”. I mean, how normal is that?!
        Zane shrugged and pointed down a hallway that I hadn’t noticed before because of its angle. “He’s in his study. He’s been watching through the Glass since you guys left. He told me to greet you guys and the newbies.” I didn’t like being called that.
        “I’m Sonya,” I said, stepping forward. Maddie seemed almost scared by my boldness, as if she was seriously freaked out by everything that was going on.
       Zane had an almost amused smile on his face. “I already knew that. It’s not as if there’s an Unusual that my father didn’t know about in the first place.”
        “Stop making her sound stupid,” snapped Willow, much to my surprise. “She didn’t know. She obviously didn’t like being called a newbie.”
         Zane bowed. “My apologies.”
         I glared. I didn’t like him. A bit. A wit. A whatever.
        “And you’re Maddie?” Zane glanced towards my friend. She hesitantly nodded.
         (OK, so it’s like, well, duh, if you said you already knew everybody’s name, what was the point?! Dude, I want to wring your neck!!).
         “Come on,” urged the girl with the different colors of hair, “let’s go. I can’t stand introductions.” She strode off down the hallway, with us following.
        “Who’s that?” I whispered to Maddie as we followed behind Willow and another girl with light brown hair and beautiful bright blue eyes.
         Maddie glanced at me. “Who? The girl who was just speaking?” I nodded. “That’s Madeline.”
         I smiled. “Pretty easy for you to remember that, huh?”
         She nodded, and then told me the names of the other girls. (I already knew Zane’s name, unfortunately.) “There’s Jess, who’s walking with Willow. And then there’s Darrion—but everybody calls her D. She’s the last one.”
         “I gathered that.” I glanced ahead down the metal hallway.
         Our shoes clacked on the sterile floor as we head towards a huge door that looked more like a door into a bank vault than a door into a study. Zane walked forward and put a combination in, and the door swung open.
           In front of us was a big room made of—surprise, surprise—metal. A man sat on a metal chair in front of a desk that faced a window. I glanced out the window, but couldn’t see anything except what looked like swirls of different colors. Weird.
       “Dad,” called Zane. “The squad’s back, and Sonya and Maddie are here.” Just the sound of him saying our names made me want to kick his shins.
         The chair swiveled around slowly. A worn face stared back at me, with huge silver eyes full of sadness. The man’s bald head had the most scars I’d ever seen on anybody. The man was dressed in white robes and sat cross-legged on his chair.
         He smiled softly, but he still looked so sad. “Welcome, Unusuals.”
       Zane and the rest of the girls bowed respectfully as the man rose to his feet. I quickly followed their lead, and Maddie followed mine.
    “Rise, there’s no need for that,” he urged. It was only now that he was standing up that I realized he used a cane to walk.
         “We got them, just as you told us to,” commented Willow, her eyes locking with the man’s. “They’re the last of the lost Unusuals in the world.”
        The man sighed. “Yes, Willow. You all did very, very good.” He turned towards the window. “I’m afraid, Sonya and Maddie, that I don’t have time to explain things.” He turned back towards to us. “D, Willow? Will you two please show Sonya and Maddie to their room?”
        “Of course,” nodded the girls.
         The man nodded, that sad smile still on his face as he went back to his chair and sat back down. The rest of the kids retreated and I followed, even though I wanted to stay there as long as possible and watch the man, around who the mystery all seemed to swirl in a whirlwind.
          “Come on, Sonya,” urged Willow in a whisper.
          I only nodded and followed them.

“This is your guys’ room,” announced D, stopping in the metal hallway and opening up the door. “We haven’t gone in it yet. The only people who have been in it are Master and…” D quickly caught herself. “Master,” she managed with a smile.
        “We’ll see you guys later,” Willow promised, starting off down the hallway where she was quickly followed by her younger sister.
       










Maddie



The inside of the room was huge. The ceiling went up about two hundred feet and rounded into a dome made of one-way seeing glass, and the room was also roughly two hundred feet across.
       “Have we got the right room?” queried Sonya, not staring at the ceiling but at the things on the floor.
        The floor was made of metal (surprise, surprise) but was covered in rugs of all kinds—rag-rugs, Persian rugs—so that it almost looked as if there was just a carpet.
         Then there was the weirdest thing with the beds. The beds themselves were huge, about twenty square feet. A river went around both of the beds and connected them in the center. Because of the water, the beds were raised, and stairs met at the foot of the water and went all the way up to where the comfortable-looking cotton sheets were.
         Gauzy clear curtains hung on the corners of the tall canopy of the bed. The size of the bed was like the size of my whole room back home. I thought with a pang that I probably wouldn’t be seeing home any time soon.
          A huge stone table was  beyond the beds. Two stone chairs were pushed up to the table. I noticed with confusion the many stone shelves on the sides of the room. Other than all of that the entire room was rather empty.
         “OK, this is creepy,” Sonya announced. “It’s like totally empty! And the beds are huge! Like giants’ beds! How big do they think we are?!”
          “I think it’s called style, Sonya,” I replied, kneeling down by the small river. I carefully slipped my hand underneath the clear waters and watched as they trickled softly over it.
        “I’ve seen lots of style,” she assured me, “but I’ve never seen anything like this! This is like Greek or Roman or something. Or maybe like Creepy.”
           “ ‘Creepy’, if you didn’t know,” I sighed, getting up, “isn’t a civilization.”
         She glared. “I knew that.”
         “So which bed is mine and which is yours?” I wondered out loud, crossing the bridge that went over the little river between the beds.
          “Wait, so you’re actually going to sleep in one of those?” she looked from me to the beds and then back to me.
         “Yeah,” I shrugged. “So what?”
          “They’re huge,” she pointed out.
        “Yeah…?” I gave her a look.
        “And they’re huge.” She kept on looking between me and the beds again.
         “Oh, for goodness sakes, Sonya!” I cried. “Is that all you can say?” I started walking up the steps up to one of the beds. There was silence behind me and then Sonya started to follow.
          “I think I’d get lost in the bed sheets,” Sonya snorted sarcastically. But her eyes were wide with wonder. I don’t think she’d ever seen anything like it before.
        “Have you ever slept in a bed before, Sonya?” I asked. “Like a real bed? Not on the streets or anything, or a bed that you made.” I glanced down at the huge bed spread out before me. “A real bed like this?”
        “No,” she admitted, her eyes not meeting mien. “At least, not that I remember.” She shook her head. “It’s all sort of blurry. Ah, but you probably think I’m crazy.”
         I shook my head.
         And that’s when it hit me like a bullet.
         Jenny...Willow… I had no idea who “Jenny” was, but I’d just met Willow. Madeline…self defense… She had said herself. Her ability that made her an Unusual was her astounding ability to fight.
        These are the people that my memories are from.
         I didn’t know how, but somehow these people were connected to my memories. I shook my head. I had to figure out everything. I noticed that Sonya was shaking me and saying something, but I couldn’t hear it.
        And then I finally could.
       “Maddie!” she was screaming. “Are you OK?!”
        I was on my back on the floor. I blinked, my head feeling funny. Sonya muttered something underneath her breath and then yelled, “Somebody! We need help!”
        The door burst open and several people cam running through. Zane led the pack, running quickly across the room. Behind him was a girl around twelve with bright eyes, wearing a headband, and carrying a book underneath her arm. Then there was an older-looking girl with dark blonde hair and dark blue eyes. Another girl with dark blonde hair and dark blue eyes, holding a rabbit, followed her. Four other girls ran up, too, and I noted that one of them wore a skirt all the way down to their feet and yet another was wearing a Speedo swimsuit with volleyball shorts thrown on over it.     
         “What happened?!” demanded Zane, kneeling beside me. He glared at Sonya. “What on earth did you do to her?!”
        I wanted to say that I was alright, but I couldn’t move. I tried so hard, but nothing happened. Sonya’s eyes were full of worry for me and boiling anger towards Zane as she explained,
        “I don’t know. We were just talking and all of a sudden she collapsed and started convulsing. And then all of a sudden she just went still.” She glared at Zane. “And I didn’t do anything! Why do you have to assume that I did something?!”
        “Maybe because you were the only one here!” Zane snapped at her.
       “Zane, just shut up!” cried the girl with the rabbit. She hefted the rabbit over and continued. “You’re making my head dizzy by all of your arguing.” She quickly knelt down next to me, plopping the rabbit in Sonya’s lap (much to her surprise). “She looks fine,” the girl reported. “I think she’s just had some shock. She might’ve had some memories.”
       “How can you be sure, Hannah?” asked the girl with the headband.
          Hannah shrugged. “I just know. I guess it’s like with the animals. Master always said that I was good at that kind of stuff. I guess he wasn’t kidding.”
        “Jenny,” started the older girl with dark blonde hair, “didn’t Laura have convulsions, too? Afterwards I thought she said that she had just remembered something.”
       The girl with the headband nodded. “Yes, I have it right here.”
        And there was the Jenny.
        Jenny handed the girl something. “It’s right at the top, Noelle.”
            One of the girls, a girl with blonde hair and flashing hoop earrings, snorted. “Guys, stop talking about me like I’m not here. ‘Laura this and Laura that’. You’re acting as if I don’t exist!”
        “Sorry,” apologized Noelle, occupied with the sheet of paper.
       “We should get Maddie onto the bed,” suggested the girl with the long skirt. “Maybe it’ll help her to recover or something. You never know.”
       “You’re right, Ruth,” nodded Zane. “I think I can carry her.”
       “I’ll carry her.” Sonya stepped in front of him and before anybody could protest, she picked me up and placed me gently onto the bed. It felt good not to have the hard cobbles underneath me anymore.
           The other girl, not the one with the shorts, but the last one, a girl with dark brown hair and a pixie nose with freckles, turned towards Ruth.
        “Can you fetch a pitcher? Maybe we should like dab her forehead or something.” She glanced over at Hannah. “Hannah, what do you think about that?”
        “It might help to revive her,” Hannah admitted.
         Ruth turned towards the door and touched her head. A few seconds later a hovering pitcher flew through the doorway, heading towards us. It landed gently in the dark haired girl’s hands.
        “Thanks, Ruth,” she smiled.
        “No problem, Hadassah,” the girl winked, wiping her hands off. “I do need to practice that. It might’ve been kind of rough or something.”
        “Well, there’s no scratches like last time!” grinned Jenny. “You can be glad about that.”
        The girl, Hadassah, took the cloth and dabbed it on my forehead. It was like I could finally breathe or something, because suddenly I sat up and started to wheeze.
       “She’s alive!” cried Noelle.
        “Yes!” cried Ruth.
        “Are you OK?” asked Sonya, her eyes searching my face. “I mean like really OK? Maddie, don’t lie to me. I can see right through lies.”
           I nodded. “I’m fine. I could hear and see everything that just happened, but I just couldn’t move. I have no idea why. It was the weirdest thing ever.”
         “Shock,” Zane supplied.
         “Shock is strange,” admitted Laura. “I sure didn’t like it when something like that happened to me when I first came here.”
        The girls slowly started to trickle out of the room, talking about lots of things that I didn’t understand. Zane and the girl in the swimsuit with the volleyball shorts stayed, however.













Sonya




couldn’t help but stare at the girl. I knew here from somewhere, but from where I didn’t know. I knew that I hadn’t seen her while I was in New York. This was really troublesome.
       “So you’re sure you’re alright, Maddie?” questioned Zane.
         I glared. “Yeah, I’m sure she’s alright now. She’s not like dying, is she?”
       “I’m fine,” managed Maddie.
       “I’m Odessa, by the way.” The girl extended her hand towards me.
         I couldn’t believe it. I was dumbstruck. Odessa. The one name I could always remember. And here she was, standing right in front of me.
       “Sonya,” hissed Maddie.
        That broke the spell and I quickly shook her hand. “You probably already know that I’m Sonya.”
        “Yeah,” she nodded with a smile, pushing her hair behind her ears. “Yeah, I did.”
          “Everybody knew who you guys were,” snorted Zane. “It’s not as if we haven’t known about all of this for like forever. You guys are the newbies.”
        “Will you please stop calling us that,” I muttered loud enough for everybody to hear.
        Zane blushed. Whether it was what I’d said or the glare that Maddie was giving him had provoked it, I don’t know. I personally hoped it wasn’t the latter. Uck.
          I mean, I had to admit that Maddie was really pretty—like, gorgeous pretty. But that didn’t mean that Zane had to go all gaga over her, did it…? Oh my word, this was making me sick just thinking about it.
          Then don’t! My mind screamed at me.
          “Well,” started Odessa, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving! If you guys want, I’m already going down to the cafeteria. We could all like buddy-up or something.” She grinned eagerly.
       Zane chuckled. “You’re just hungry because you’re always swimming.”
        Odessa snorted. “Yeah, and you’re never hungry, because you’re always sitting on your lazy bum all day.” She glanced over at me. “So you guys want to come?”
        I smiled. “Sure.” I glanced over at Maddie. “You up to it?”
       “Oh, yeah,” she nodded. “I’m pretty sure I can walk now, too.” She took a wobbly step towards me, and I quickly braced her before she fell over.
       “I’ll go get a wheelchair,” Zane offered, quickly hurrying down the steps.
        “I really don’t think I need one,” admitted Maddie as we started down the steps. “Let’s just go to the cafeteria. When we’re not here, I’m sure Zane, if he’s smart enough, should be able to find us there.”
       Odessa grinned. “You’re absolutely right. But I personally don’t think he’s smart enough.”
       I laughed with her.

The cafeteria was a huge room with lots of tables and chairs. It seemed kind of empty, considering it was just the thirteen of us girls in there eating.
     Madeline, Jess, Willow, and D all sat at one table together. Jenny, Noelle, and Hannah were at another. Ruth, Hadassah, and Laura made up the third table.
       There was a counter like a school cafeteria’s counter, where a robot of some kind was dishing up some food. I blinked in surprise at the sight of it. It definitely was not what I’d been expecting.
       Odessa smiled at my reaction. “The new arrivals sometimes are surprised by Mamie,” she shrugged. “But she’s just a robot. There’s nothing to fear.”
         I smiled at her confidence. We quickly got some trays and held them out for Mamie to scoop in. Tonight’s dinner was spaghetti. I’d heard of it, but I’d never had it before. At least, not that I remembered.
        “Come on,” urged Odessa. “Let’s go to the table in the corner.” She pointed to one that was farther off than the others.
         We quickly walked over and sat down. I was fearing the arrival of Zane, but as of yet I hadn’t see hair or hide of him. Maddie was just slurping a noodle into her mouth when Odessa turned to both of us and said,
        “Now, what is that you guys still don’t know?”




Maddie



“What on earth is this place?” Sonya asked right away. “And like who exactly are we? And why were those things chasing us? And who are all of you guys? And how’d you find us?”
       Odessa took a deep breath. “This place was a place that had been designed for people like us—Unusuals—from the start. Unusuals are what Master has decided to call the people that he’s found who have unusual gifts unlike any other.”
       “And who were those guys?” I prodded, leaning forward.
        Odessa smiled at my boldness. “They were working for the Masterns.”
        “Who are…?” Sonya’s eyebrow was raised.
        “They might be what you could call the evil Unusual,” she shrugged. Her eyes flashed. “Except that they’re far from Unusuals. Unlike us, they’re totally devoted to themselves and to the evil inside of them.”
        “And…?” I was leaning as far forward as Sonya was.
          “I should probably start at the beginning,” Odessa sighed. She closed her eyes for about a minute. And then suddenly they flicked open, and her tale started.
      “Professor Angus Flight had been studying Unusuals for years. Their records hide deep in old and sacred libraries all over the world. He saw a prediction that had taken place over a thousand years ago—that girls, all over America, would suddenly be born as an Unusual.
      “Usually when an Unusual was born,  there was only one at a time. But several, and all at once? This was something that the professor could not possibly overlook.
        “He got hundreds of grants, built a huge training and living center, and assembled a team to go out for the Unusuals. Of course, just like normal humans, Unusuals have parents, too—special parents. All of them have to have an Unusual in their bloodline somewhere.
        “As you can imagine, the parents weren’t too happy at the idea of giving up their daughters.
        “ ‘Are you kidding?’ they asked him with a snort.
       “And when he made it perfectly obvious that he wasn’t, they refused him. But Professor Flight wasn’t going to give up so easily. And, unfortunately, he used blackmail to take the girls from their parents, one by one.”
       “So, wait.” Sonya held up her hands. “So that dude we just saw back in that room was the professor and he just went and kidnapped us?”
      “Just a sec, Sonya.” Odessa frowned slightly. “Just listen to the story.” 
       Sonya didn’t look like she wanted to do that.
     “The government soon heard of this, and quickly gave the children back. However, that night something happened. All of the girls were kidnapped.”
       “By who?” I burst.
       “Maddie!” cried Odessa.
    “Sorry,” I murmured.
    “Anyway, so the government went and eventually found them—in the hands of a man who called himself Mastern. They quickly took them away, but the man swore that he’d always try and find them.
      “The parents of the children finally consented that to give the children over to the government to be protected and trained, slightly like superheroes, I suppose you could say. They chose for the job an ex-marine man by then name of Sam Bloom.”
        “And he’s the man that you guys call Master,” finished Sonya in a whisper.
        Odessa nodded. “It’s a form of respect for us. Since he’s ex-military, it was just natural for him to expect for that from us.” She frowned and shook her head, as if it hurt. “But even after that, something happened, too.”
     “What?” I whispered.
     “Somebody had betrayed this place,” explained Odessa. “Even though it was the original training center that Angus Flight set up, we never thought that we’d ever be in danger. But someone had twisted the mind of someone who was close to us—somebody who none of us ever expected.”
        “Patricia,” whispered Sonya. She seemed surprised at even herself.
       Odessa looked at her. “Yes, her name was Patricia—Patricia Bale. We always called her Trisha, though.” Her eyes grew dreamy. “She had an enchanting voice, one that made you do everything it told you to do unless you were trained against it.” Her face hardened. “And against us she did use it.”
      “What happened?” I whispered.
        “With the help of the government,” Odessa explained, “they sent Trisha and the forces, which had identified themselves as the Masterns, away from us with a good beating. The Masterns slipped away with a trace.
          “But the government had decided that we weren’t safe anymore. The program was disbanded, our memories were swiped, and we were sent out into the world, into the caring hands of trained workers.”
        “But I was out on the streets,” Sonya sputtered.
       Odessa sighed. “Your case was a little different. Your new parents were attacked, and you escaped. Apparently your parents were attacked even before you’d gotten out of your swipe-sleep, so you hadn’t even met your parents. You’d only heard them being attacked, and quickly left. In your situation, you might’ve even forgotten more after that and just woken up somewhere.” She paused. “However, we don’t know if you were asleep while your parents were taken from you. We just don’t know.”
        Sonya looked heartbroken.
        “Anyway.” Odessa cleared her throat. “Sam heard of the attacks and quickly went out to go and find us. He found Jess first, and just went out from there. He brought all of us back here to the center, where it was still slightly familiar. As he told us our stories, slowly all of our past started to just slip into place.”
        “And now you remember everything?” I questioned, frowning.
         Odessa nodded. “Yes. As time as gone on, little bits of memory have all come together and slowly weaved the whole picture inside of my mind. It’s like that for the rest of the girls, too.”
      “And soon it’ll be like that for us?” whispered Sonya.
       Odessa nodded. “Yeah.” She paused.
      At just that moment, Zane came into the cafeteria pushing the wheelchair. Sonya smiled playfully.
       “And who’s Zane?” she grinned. “Some kind of baby wraith?”
         Odessa burst out into snorting fits of laughter that soon turned into all out hilariously funny laughter that bounded throughout the cafeteria.
        “Oh, dear,” I smiled quietly.



Sonya



Even as she’d said the words, it was like everything had fit into place. I remembered that horrible memory of my mother being wrenched away from me by the red-eyed person. If I had seen them, then how on earth could I have escaped from them? From what I had heard, a wraith had taken my mother.
        And even as I watched Odessa laughing her head off, I couldn’t get the thought out of my brain. Those memories that I’d had—they were real. I wasn’t crazy. And now everything seemed to make sense.
         “What’s so funny?” demanded Zane as he rolled up to the table.
        I shrugged, smiling. “Oh, nothing. Besides, you probably wouldn’t understand it much, anyway.” Which brought more snorts of laughter from Odessa.
        Zane frowned and turned towards Maddie. “Well, here’s the wheelchair. If you need anything else…” he trailed off, a hopeful smile on his face.
       “Oh, no, that’s OK,” Maddie said quickly, flashing a smile. “Thanks for getting the wheelchair. I’m not sure if I’ll need it now, though. But thanks anyway.”
        His face fell. “Oh, yeah. OK. That’s cool.”
         I leaned over to Odessa and whispered, “So then Zane’s Sam’s son? Like how on earth did that happen? And where on earth is Zane’s mother?”
        Odessa glanced over at Zane. He was busy talking to Maddie. He wasn’t even noticing that Odessa and I were whispering to each other.
      “Zane isn’t Sam’s actual son,” she hissed back to me quietly. “He adopted him. Sam’s never been married, and probably never will, either.”
      “But how on earth did Zane end up here with Sam as his guardian?” I wondered.
      Odessa hesitated, and then explained, “Lots of us don’t even know, either. I think Trisha knew, but she didn’t tell me anything, despite…” she caught herself. “She didn’t tell me anything. But Zane and Trisha were friends when they were younger.”
        “How old is Trisha?” I questioned in a whisper.
        “By now she’d be sixteen,” Odessa explained. “Nearly three years older than me and nearly two years older than Zane. Trisha was kind of like Zane’s older sister, since she was one of the oldest Unusuals here.”
         “And what does Zane think of her now?” I whispered.
         Odessa looked down at the table. “He hates her. He believes that when she betrayed the rest of us, she betrayed him personally. Now that he’s lost his older sister, I think he’s been trying to find a new one.” She glanced over at Maddie and beckoned with her head.
       I’d been thinking more of the girlfriend-boyfriend thing, but maybe Zane wasn’t like that. Maybe he really did just want a sister figure.
        “But why’s he been so me to us since we got here?” I queried, frowning. I hesitated. “Well, mean to me.”
         Odessa sighed. “Trisha was really spunky, really bold, and really confident. Just like you, Sonya. When he meets people like her, he tries to push away. He doesn’t want to get hurt again.”
      Doesn’t want to get hurt again. The thought echoed through my head.

“Mom!” I screamed, sitting up in the bed, sweat streaming down my back and freezing in the cool air into a sticky mess. Panting, I glanced around. I could faintly see Maddie’s sleeping form in the other bed. She hadn’t woken up.
        I couldn’t get back to sleep. Every time my eyes started to close the dream started to take over me once again. Finally, I threw the covers off and ran down the steps towards where I’d set my clothes.
       We’d been provided with pajamas for the night, and Odessa had assured us that in the morning there would be new clothes. I didn’t really want to part with my old clothing, but hey. They kind of stunk.
         I pulled on my old clothes (they’d have to do for now) and sat down by the bridge, my knees pulled up to my chin. I shivered whenever I thought of the dream. Just closing my eyes, I relived it.
         There were screams, shrieks coming from downstairs. I groggily opened my eyes. Everything was dark. I didn’t remember a thing. A feeling of loneliness haunted me. The screams and shrieks were getting louder. I realized that they were coming below, from the downstairs of the house.
       I quickly glanced around the room for a weapon. Instead, I caught sight of some clothes. I quickly threw them on over the thing pajamas that I was dressed in.
        I was about to start for the window when the door burst open. A person with blazing red eyes strode into the room and grabbed my arm in a grip of iron. I gasped as pain seared up my arm and spread through my body.
        The thing hauled me down the stairs. There was a kind looking woman and a caring looking man who were being held by two ugly, deformed beings. I wanted to scream myself but couldn’t. Both of them were covered in horrible scars like they’d just been beaten.
       I was drawn to the woman. And, before I could stop myself, I cried out, “Mom!”
        The woman’s eyes were full of tears as she tried to fight her way over to me. But they held her back. They whipped her with the searing-hot fire whip. She cried out in pain and collapsed to the floor.
       And then they started dragging them, pulling them away from me.
             “Don’t take her!” I screamed. “Don’t take my mother!”
         “Shut up!” yelled the person, red eyes blazing.
      “I want my mom!” I sobbed, tears falling down my cheeks and drenching my shirt. “Give her back! Give her back! I’ll do anything! Please!”
        The man came towards me, eyes hard. He kneeled before me and grabbed my shoulders. Our eyes locked. “There is no need for you in the world anymore,” he hissed to me. “This project as failed. And because of this you must be subjected to be alone by yourself for the rest of your life.”
       “NO!” I shrieked. “NO! GIVE HER BACK!”
       “Take her away!” directed the man, getting off his knees and walking away.
         “NO! Please!” I begged.
         The red-eyed man came forward and grabbed me. That world was lost forever.
       My eyes flipped open. Finally the memory had found itself. Surely the people had been the Masterns. They were saying that the project that the government had tried to do to keep us safe had failed. And obviously they’d planned some kind of horrible torture for me.
       But my dream-memory didn’t go farther than that.
        I walked across the bridge and stood next to the far wall. I placed my hand on it, and all of a sudden I heard a grating sound. A door swung open, and there was a flight of colored stone steps that led down to a beautiful balcony that overlooked a green valley with a flowing, magical-looking waterfall.
      There was a small pool situated in the colored stone. Flowers and exotic plants stood in beautiful terracotta pots at various places. And that’s where Willow found me awhile later, folding the leaves of one of the plants into a perfect small boat that sailed across the water, changing into wood the second it touched.
       “Hey, you OK, Sonya?” she whispered to me, sitting down next to me on the stairs down to the pool and pulling her knees up to her chin.
       I shrugged. “I don’t know. I had a bad dream.”
       Willow sat up quickly. “Was it about your past? Like a memory?”
         I nodded.
         “What happened?” she whispered, leaning forward, her eyes earnest.
        I told, told her everything. Willow’s eyes filled with tears as I described the whole thing. I did it exactly as it came to me, as if I was an expert at telling stories.
        “And that’s all,” I finished, a silent tear falling down my cheek.
         “Sonya,” she started quietly, “that’s so horrible. I’m so sorry.” She rubbed my leg comfortingly. “How on earth did you escape from them?”
        I didn’t even wipe the tear off my face. “I don’t know,” I answered quietly, staring into the distance. “I just don’t know.”













Maddie



“Maddie,” whispered somebody. “Maddie, it’s time to get up.”
          I flicked open an eye and saw Jenny smiling at me. She gave a shy wave and clutched her book to herself before striding over to my head.
        “It’s almost time for breakfast,” she admitted. “And then Master will have to go and put you through some tests to see how much of your former talents that you’ve lost.” She flashed a grin. “Don’t worry. It won’t be hard. He just wants to know where to put you on the squad.”
       I frowned, still groggy from sleep. “Squad? What squad?”
       Jenny sat down on my bed, ready to explain. “Well, see,” she started. “The Masterns—I know you know about them, because Master sent Odessa to tell you guys more and stuff—they cause more trouble than you know.” She paused, and then went on. “We’re like the only people who can stop it.”
       “What do you mean?” I whispered, sitting up in bed.
       Jenny’s eyes flicked around the room, before she answered, “The Masterns, ever since Trisha’s betrayal, have been taking whatever they’ve wanted. They’ve got powers beyond belief, just like us.” She glanced over at me and tilted her head. “We’re kind of like preventers. Master named us the Warrior Squad.”
       “Sounds cool,” I admitted. I glanced towards where I’d left my clothes. In the place of them were another set. “Hey,” I frowned, “where’re my clothes?”
          “Oh.” Jenny sheepishly got up and put her hands behind her back. “We had to get rid of them. They stank really badly. Anyway, these are some new clothes. You’ll like them much better, I promise.” She hesitated, and then said, “I’ll leave so that you can get changed. Meet you outside the door!”
        Then she skipped off down the steps, over the river, and out the door. I sighed and got out of the bed, going over and examining the clothes.
         There was a cute blue shirt that matched my eyes, dark jeans, and black boots. I checked the shirt for a tag, but didn’t find anything. However, I did find a note attached to it. I quickly read it.
        Crafted by Sonya. Third edition, 1000th style. Enjoy.
        Tears came to my eyes. It was obvious that Sonya had made this before we’d all been separated, before she’d lost her memory. She probably didn’t even remember this shirt. And 1000th style? Good night, girl! She seriously had some time on her hand before our brains got swiped.
         I quickly slipped on the clothes and ran my fingers through my wild hair, starting down the steps and going out the door. Jenny was waiting for me, just as promised.
        “You look great!” she grinned. “Come on. I think we’re having your favorite this morning for breakfast. Freestyle eggs, bacon, and toast!”
         I didn’t ask how she knew what I liked. I didn’t even dare ask what “freestyle eggs” were, and just assumed that that meant that Mamie would cook whatever kind of eggs that you wanted. I just hoped so.
         Jenny and I walked into the cafeteria. Zane and all of the girls—except for Willow and Sonya—were gathered at the tables. Zane was sitting by himself over in the corner, playing with his food.
       “Hey, Maddie!” grinned Madeline from one of the tables. “You guys want to sit here after you’ve collected your food?” she grinned and put on a British accent. “That’d be fabulous, love.”
        Jenny giggled. “Sure, Madeline! We’ll be right there.”
        “Bring some more ketchup, will ya?” D yelled after us.
      We quickly got our food and sat down at the table with the others. The conversation drifted from everything to boringness back to everything again. I drifted out of it.

I stood outside of the metal door once again, all nervousness and no calm. The vault-like door was waiting, stone silent and cold. I shivered in the cool air.
        There was a grating sound and then the door swung open. Out stalked the bald man with the large silver eyes that I realized was Master, or Sam, or ex-marine dude. Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice that he was still wearing the white robes.
         “Maddie?” he smiled gently.
       I nodded.
       “Where’s Sonya?” he questioned. Right after he said it, he closed his eyes and smiled. And then his eyes flipped open. “She’s already with Willow in her workshop,” he explained. “You might not have known it, but since I’ve taken care of you girls, all of your Unusual gifts had rather rubbed off on me. When you’re nearby, I can use them fully. I was just making sure of your mindreading skills.”
       “But I’ve never read anybody’s mind who wasn’t in my sight,” I blurted.
       He smiled, but it was a sad smile. “But you have, Maddie. It is just not in your memory.” He started off down the hallway. “Come along.”
         I quickly skip-hopped to catch up. “Sir,” I started, “what shall I call you?”
       “Master works for me,” he replied. He smiled that sad smile again. “Of course, that’s to my face. To the other girls you can call me Sam or, your version, ex-marine dude.” He grinned at my horrified face.
         Our shoes clacked on the floors. Master led me in a confusing maze. It was like I would never get out. I was getting dizzy and was about to ask when on earth we were there when we stopped outside of one of the many thousands of doors all along the metal hallways.
          “This is the door to your workshop,” Master explained. “Go inside, and you will find everything.” He started to leave, but I quickly grabbed the sleeve of his robe. He turned and raised an eyebrow.
       “Master,” I started quickly, “Jenny said something about a test or something. But you’re just going to like send me in there…?”
       “Yes,” he nodded. “It is your test.”
        And then he was gone.
        I sighed and turned back to the door. I closed my eyes, reached out, grasped the handle, and threw the door open. I couldn’t believe my eyes.




Sonya



“This place is incredible,” I whispered, barely believing it myself.
       I stood in the middle of a huge room. Unlike the other rooms, which were all metal, it was made of a comforting dark wood carved in beautiful swirling designs all over the floor, wall, and ceiling.
         Shelves were everywhere, full of everything I could ever think of to design things. Huge wooden tables were throughout the room, full of half-finished projects made by the old-me.
         The roof went up really, really far into a dome made of beautiful colored glass that sprayed a rainbow of colors across the floor and moved with the sun.
           A winding wooden staircase led up to the second floor, where more shelves and tables were. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Other than being the most beautiful room I’d ever seen in my life, it was the most incredible place I’d ever been, too.
         “I’m glad you like it,” smiled Willow. “Now I’ll be leaving. If you need anything, just send a message.” She winked. “I’m sure you’ll find a way.” And then she walked out of the room. I could hear her shoes clacking as she went off down the hallway. I couldn’t help but wonder what her workshop looked like.
         I quickly went up to the one of the shelves and eagerly looked at its contents. I finally grabbed a huge stack of paper and some tape, plopping down them on the table.
        I quickly began to construct, bettering my design as I realized what I’d done wrong. I didn’t know how long I’d been in the room. I worked, for what seemed like forever and yet only a second.
        Finally, I was done. I held it out in front of me. It was still paper. I took a deep breath, and then dropped it and jumped on top of it. The second that I’d dropped it, it’d transformed.
        It’d transformed into a flying skateboard of sorts. It whooshed off into the air. I easily directed it by turning my body different ways. I never thought of falling as I flew through the room. I didn’t even know anybody else was in the room until I heard somebody scream.
        I nearly lost concentration but didn’t and landed safely, though my skateboard kind of got scratched up a bit as it hit one of the wooden tables. I turned to see who on earth had disrupted my building.
         “What…what on earth was that?!” cried Hadassah. Now her eyes were glowing. “That was totally awesome! And I should know. I remember like all of the old things that you made before we were separated.” She grinned. “It seems like you’re getting even better designs up your sleeves.”
         I shrugged and picked up the skateboard, holding it underneath my arm. “You want me to make you something? Maybe a flying skateboard?” I couldn’t keep the grin off my face.
        Hadassah was grinning, too. “Ah, I don’t know,” she pretended to shrug. Her face burst into a smile. “Actually, I was wondering if you were going to change clothes soon.” She looked me up and down. Then she shrugged. “But I guess you could design some yourself. I mean, you designed all of the clothes that we’re wearing. Even Zane’s and Masters.” She grinned. “You’ll remember more as time goes on.”
      “I’m sure I will,” I nodded. “I think I might change.”
       “That’s a good idea,” she agreed. She paused, and then, “Hey, actually, I was kind of wondering if you make me a hairclip really quickly? I kind of lost my old one.” She looked away sheepishly.
        I quickly made her one and handed it to her, and she quickly went out. Then I designed myself a new outfit—tank top with loose zip-up sweatshirt, dark jeans, and flats—and made myself a brush, too, so that I could quickly run it through my hair.
       I glanced at one of the clocks that I’d noticed was on the wall. I knew that I’d probably made it, when I was younger. It was already around suppertime.
      I smiled, putting my hair up into a ponytail. “I guess good things really do happen to me,” I whispered, and then headed off for the cafeteria.








Maddie




“My workshop was amazing!” I declared to Sonya at dinner that night. “Here, I’ll try to describe it—it’s like made of beautiful colored marble, and there’s pillars holding up this huge roof with painted fairies and stuff on it. In the middle of the ceiling there’s this beautiful tree, took. Anyway, so like there’s all of these tables and chairs and everything, and on the shelves are all of these tools to help me to strengthen my mindreading skills. At the far end of this room there’s a special machine that Master says I can hook up to at any time and I can even read anybody in the world’s mind! Isn’t that so awesome?!”
        “Way!” agreed Sonya. And then she went on and told me all about her room. It sounded just as awesome. I just hoped that I’d be able to see it sometime.
           
During the next few days, I went to my workshop and only left for the meals or to go back to sleep. We always saw the other girls at meals, but after them we were all in our workshops.
       I don’t think any of the rest mind that all of the others never spent time with them unless it was at meals or they saw each other at night because they were Partners.
         I didn’t know how many days had passed by. When I was in my workshop, working at my mindreading, it was like a hundred years passed but then as if it had only been a second. I lost all knowledge of time.
         Though I always found out what day it was whenever I went and read Jenny’s mind. Her mind wasn’t my favorite mind to read, though, so I didn’t get the time as much, anyway.
       I’ll admit it.
       My favorite mind to read was Madeline’s.
       Why? Oh, because it was just so way too funny. Sometimes she’d be thinking a British accent, and other times she’d be thinking about the other girls, and everything was just hilarious.
         Oh crumbs! Madeline thought. Oh, stop dropping that sword!
        I couldn’t help it. I read her mind mostly every day.
       But it was the day that she caught me that trouble really started brewing.

If Jess says one more thing about how Sonya’s new skirt for her was “so awesome”, I think I’m going to puke, Madeline thought to herself as I read her mind. I mean, it IS pretty, but…come on. I wish that Sonya would work some more on those swords.
      I pulled more words out of her brain and read them carefully.
       That’s so weird, she was thinking. I know that I just started training myself against people reading my brain, but I feel like I’m getting the symptoms… I should’ve pulled out right there.
        But I didn’t. Why? I don’t know. But I didn’t pull out. Oh, how I wish I had.
        GET OUT OF MY BRAIN, YOU CREEP!!!
           My ears shrieked in protest and I quickly pulled out, covering them. A few minutes later enraged footsteps were flying towards the door to my workshop and the door was thrown open.
         Eyes blazing, Madeline raced into the room. Glaring, she pointed an accusing finger at me. “You!” she screamed. “You were reading my mind!”
        I slid off the table that I’d been sitting on and stuck my hands in the back pockets of my jeans. “Yes,” I answered quietly. “I was.” I paused, and then started on the big babble. “I’m-so-sorry-Madeline-I…”
         “Don’t ever do it again!” she cried, and then stomped out.
         She didn’t look at me much after that. I didn’t think she’d ever forgive me for reading her private thoughts. I’d have to watch myself more. I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid. Of course she should be mad. I felt like an idiot.
      “You OK, Maddie?” Sonya asked me at supper that night.
        I just shrugged. I couldn’t speak about it.
       









Sonya



“Sonya,” smiled Willow, walking up to me and sitting in the seat next to me. “I know you guys haven’t totally seen all of our abilities or anything…but Master was wanting to have an open Practice tonight. He thought you might want to come.”
      “What about Maddie?” I questioned, glancing over at my friend who was obviously trying to not catch Madeline’s eyes. I had no idea what had gone on between those two, but I didn’t think I wanted to find out.
       “She’s supposed to be there, too,” Willow nodded. She smiled gently. “It’ll be OK, Sonya.” And that’s when I realized that I’d been digging my nails into the table.
        “Sorry,” I murmured, shaking my head. “It’s just that dream…”
       “It’s OK,” Willow assured me, sitting down next to me. She pushed her hair behind her ear and looked away. “It was like that for me, too, when everything was still so confusing at the beginning.”
        “Somehow it just doesn’t make sense,” I whispered.
        She glanced at me. “What doesn’t make sense?”
         I shook my head. “Just everything. I think we’re all missing something.” I blinked. Slowly, something came to me. I looked up slowly, my eyes locking on Zane’s figure. “It’s him,” I whispered.
       “Sonya?” Willow’s voice was on the edge of panic. “Sonya, are you OK?”
        “I’m fine,” I assured her, managing a smile for her sake. “So I’ll see you tonight at the Open Practice?”
          Willow hesitated. “Yeah. See you.” She slid off her seat and walked off. But I knew that she was disturbed.
         But then, so was I.
       Something was going on around here. And it seemed to center around Zane—the boy that hated me and vied for my Partner’s attention as his new sister.
        “You can’t hide for long,” I muttered, narrowing my eyes. “I’ll find out soon enough.”

I didn’t have a very hard time finding the training gym. I’d actually been past it several times, just not gone in. As I started to open the door, I saw Maddie coming down the hallway.
       “Hey, Maddie,” I smiled.
        She nodded, but didn’t say anything. I frowned. There was something going on between her and Madeline, and I didn’t think that it was pretty.
        “You OK?” I asked her, still feeling duty as her friend—and Partner—to make sure that she was fine.
         Maddie shrugged.
         I sighed, my hand falling off the gym’s handle. “Maddie,” I started, leaning forward. “We all know that something happened between you and Madeline. Can’t you just get over it?”
         “But she was so mad,” she whispered. “I…I didn’t mean any harm.”
         I smiled. “We all know Madeline. She’ll forgive you after awhile. That’s just what’s she like. I’m not sure exactly what you did, but you obviously hurt her deeply.”
        Maddie managed a smile. “Thanks, Sonya.”
        I nodded. “Now come on. Let’s go show the others what we can do.”
       Inside wasn’t really what I was expecting.
       For some reason, I’d actually pictured like some kind of gym, like the gyms that I saw basketball players on the glimpse of TV that I’d seen.
     Instead, it was a big room made of cement. There were bleachers with real seats, though, on either sides of the room, but they were totally enclosed.
        When I realized we might’ve been in the line of fire, I grabbed Maddie’s arm and rushed us into one of the bleachers. I saw D and Hannah sitting together in the middle of the bleachers and made my way over.
        “Hey, Sonya!” grinned D. “How’re you?”
        “Great.” I sat down next to her, and Maddie sat down on my other side.
          “Why the sad face, Maddie?” Hannah was glancing around both D and I and was looking with a concerned look towards my Partner.
           “It’s…about Madeline,” whispered Maddie. She locked her hands behind her neck. “I’ll be fine.”
            Hannah didn’t look quite convinced, but she didn’t push her luck.
         “Welcome, Unusuals,” came Master’s voice out of some invisible loudspeakers. “Tonight is our Open Practice. Up first we have Laura.”
         The door slammed as Laura came out of the bleachers on the other side. She was wearing a pair of cute jeans, some boots, coat, scarf, and hat. I wondered why on earth she was wearing that when all of a sudden she lifted her hands and snow started to whirl around her rapidly.
        “Wha…?” I couldn’t tear my eyes off her. She looked like a snow fairy, directing the flurry of flakes with her hands and sometimes even her eyes.
        “She kind of like controls winter stuff,” explained D, pulling a chocolate bar out of her pocket and biting a big hunk out of it. She stuffed the wrapper back into her pocket. “She’s really awesome.”
           Laura demonstrated her powers for a little bit longer, and then stopped and bowed. Everybody clapped, and she went back into the bleachers. Next, Master called out Noelle.
          The girl came out smiling. The girl with the skirts, Ruth, followed her out. All of a sudden this big chunk of cement that I hadn’t noticed before was lifted by an invisible force and started to fly towards Noelle.
        Maddie’s eyes grew wide and she screamed, “Noelle, look out!”
         I was so horrified I couldn’t get anything out, especially not a whole sentence like Maddie had been able to do. The cement hit her, and I was sure that everybody was going to be crying. I could already see the funeral…
         Maddie was crying hysterically on my shoulder, but D was actually laughing at us. I glanced up and saw that Noelle looked perfectly fine, if a little bit dirty.
       “It’s OK, Maddie,” I said. “Look! Noelle’s fine!”
       “She can withstand any force,” D quickly explained. “Even if something crashed down on her, she wouldn’t be hurt. She’s that strong. Her power rocks!”
        “And now Ruth may do her power again for us,” announced Master.
         Noelle left the gym for the bleachers, leaving Ruth out there by herself. She closed her eyes and touched her hit. The cement block again lifted off the ground, hovering. Then it flew and hit the opposite wall, shattering into a thousand pieces.
        “She can move things with her mind,” Hannah’s voice broke through the performance.
        “Hadassah, please come out,” came Master’s voice.
          Hadassah came out of the bleachers on our side (I hadn’t even noticed she was there) and went out. But instead of walking to the center of the ring, she flew. I was so surprised I almost fell over.
       “Surprised, Sonya?” chuckled D.










Maddie



wasn’t paying much attention to the performance. I was more busy trying to think of what I’d do if Master went and called me out, instead of thinking of Madeline, thanks to Sonya. I supposed I’d just have to go and do my gift. Mindreading.
        After Hadassah was done flying around, Hannah was called and went out. To my surprise—and Sonya’s obvious horror—they let loose several wild horses into the ring. Hannah had them trained under five minutes to where they were trotting around her and responding to cues.
       “Her gift never fails to amaze me.” D shook her head. “I sometimes wish I could work with animals as well as Hannah can. She’s amazing, isn’t she?”
          Sonya just nodded.
          Then Jenny came out. Master asked her a series of questions that even the smartest person wouldn’t be able to answer. But Jenny answered them without even blinking.
        “She’s really smart,” D explained. “That’s her gift. Intelligence. She’s even smarter than like Einstein or any of those other guys.”
          I knew everybody else’s gift—Jess’s speed, Willow’s invisibility, Madeline’s self-defense, D’s tracking, Odessa’s water gifts, and of course Sonya’s making things into coming alive—so I kind of tuned out, thinking of what I’d do. And how I’d make it up to Madeline.
          And then suddenly I had an idea.
         “Maddie, it’s your turn.” I didn’t even flinch at Master’s voice, quickly getting up and starting for the door of the bleachers.
          I went out into the center of the gym. I glanced at the faces through the glass of the front of the bleachers, locating Madeline’s face. I gave a small smile.
        “I’m going to need somebody to help me,” I started. “Madeline, would you please come out here and help me?”
        Madeline’s eyes grew angry. But Master’s voice said, “Madeline, please join Maddie in the gym.”
         Madeline angrily burst out of the bleachers and came to stand before me, huffily crossing her arms. I could totally understand what she was feeling.
         And then I did something I’d never done before.
       Instead of taking papers out of Madeline’s head and reading it, I pushed my own papers—my own thoughts—my own words—into her head.
      Madeline, I’m sorry.
      She looked up in surprise. Obviously she hadn’t been expecting that.
        I should’ve never read your thoughts before. I hope you can forgive me. I understand why you’ve been mad at me. I’ll never read your mind again, unless you want me to.
        Now I did start to read her mind, pulling the papers—her answer—and reading them carefully with my eyes screwed shut to concentrate.
       Maddie…I’m so sorry, too. And I forgive you.
      I smiled, and then started to insert thoughts again. Come on, you’ve got to think of something else that I can actually tell everybody else.
      She nodded. OK. She paused, then… I can’t wait until Sonya makes more of those swords. I really need some, but I can understand that she’s been pretty busy lately.
        I was surprised, but quickly repeated it out loud—“Madeline’s thinking, ‘I can’t wait until Sonya makes more of those swords. I really need some, but I can understand that she’s been pretty busy lately.”
         Everybody clapped. Madeline smiled, and I smiled back.
        I had gained a friend.


Sonya



“You were great, Maddie!” declared Zane as we walked down the hallway. Of course he was ignoring me. As usual. “I was truly impressed.”
        If I had been Maddie, I would’ve been reading his thoughts. I could just imagine what he was thinking—oh, I love Maddie so much; and I hate that jerk, Sonya! Yeah.
         “Thanks, Zane,” managed Maddie, here eyes ahead. She was staring at the cafeteria door, probably starving from working so hard on mindreading in the Open Practice. She’d seemed to be working really hard, because it’d taken awhile for her to translate Madeline’s thoughts.
          Either that or she was looking for some way to go and escape Zane. I hoped it was that one, even though the other idea was reasonable. But it was kind of hard that my Partner actually seemed to tolerate the kid. Uck. I did NOT like that kid.
          I was so bored by being ignored that I took a piece of paper out of my pocket and started to mold something. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to make, but it ended up being a flower, which immediately sprang to life after I’d finished it.
        I wasn’t sure why I’d done a flower. I really didn’t. I glanced over at Maddie and Zane, and suddenly I really just wanted to be alone.
         “I’m going to go ahead,” I told them. “I’ll see you guys later.”
          “OK,” smiled Maddie.
            I took off running down the hallway. I didn’t stop until I’d reached our room. I slammed the door behind me and sprinted across the bridge to the far wall, placing my hand on the stone.
          It grated open, revealing the balcony that I’d found earlier. I went down to the pool and sat beside it, hugging my knees. I felt tears in my eyes, but didn’t know why. It didn’t make any sense.
       “I’m alone,” I whispered. And it really felt like it was true.
        For awhile, it seemed as if maybe Maddie and I understood each other, but now…I don’t know. She was too busy being friends with Zane and making up with Madeline and her mindreading…I tried to connect, but it was like she just wasn’t there.
         I glanced out over the valley with the waterfall, wondering faintly where this was, even. I wiped away my tears and stood against the railing, just staring. I stood like that for a long time.
        “Hello, Sonya.”
          I turned suddenly. The dark-haired dark-eyed figure of Tad stood in front of me, dressed in strange black clothes. I quickly reached into my pocket for paper to do something—anything—but he quickly came over and grabbed my arm.
        “Get away!” I cried, throwing his arm off and running to the far side of the balcony. Come on, Willow, I begged. About now would be a great time to show up! Somehow her and D’s room must’ve been connected to this balcony, too. I groaned. But they were at lunch.
        “Sonya.” Tad’s eyes were hurt. “That’s no way to treat your old friend.”
       “How did you get here?” I demanded. “And why are you here? You’re not supposed to be here.” My eyes were blazing. “You’d better leave.”
       “I’m not leaving yet.” Tad sauntered over to the railing, looking out. “Wow, nice view.”
       “Thanks,” I muttered. “Now what on earth are you doing here?!”
        Tad turned. “I came to get you.”
        I frowned. “What?”
        “You just don’t get it, do you, Sonya?” he sighed, shaking his head. “You know, after I saw what you could do that day, I knew that something was…unusual about you. So I went to go and get answers.” He looked up. “Sonya, the Masterns gave me answers.”
        I drew back. “You’ve been in contact with the Masterns?”
         He nodded. “Yes.” Tad chuckled. “What, you think we’re the bad guys?”
       “They are the bad guys!” I burst.
       “That’s just what you’ve been told,” Tad pointed out, eyes hard. “I know that the Masterns aren’t bad. Sonya, you’ve got to listen to me. That guy? The one they call Master? He’s deceiving you all.” He leaned closer. “He’s going to kill you all.”
        “It’s not true!” I cried. “Tad, you’re lying to me! Master has taken care of us and protected us from the Masterns. They were trying to have Maddie and I killed!”
       “No, they weren’t,” Tad corrected. “They were trying to rescue you. It’s not their fault that they might look scary.”
       I shook my head. “This is all wrong.”
       But then I remembered my thought—something isn’t right here. I’d thought it myself, and now Tad was just confirming it. Was Master even the good guy? Or was he really the bad guy, it’s just that he sounded like a good guy because of a web of lies?
        Tad saw me hesitated and jumped right in. “Sonya,” he started. “I know this is hard to understand. But you know me. You’ve known me lots longer than any of these people. Please, trust me. Let me show you that the Masterns are the good people.”
          I looked up. “Tad, you’re right.”
          He smiled.












Maddie



“I wonder where Sonya is,” I commented. I glanced over at Willow. “Did…did you see her come in to the cafeteria here?”
        Willow looked up from her plate of food. “Uh, no. I’ve seen most of the other girls, and of course you and Zane, but I haven’t seen Sonya yet.”
      “That’s strange,” I whispered. “And she said she’d meet us here.”
       “I bet she’s somewhere just practicing,” shrugged Zane. “She’s pretty dedicated.”
       That was the nicest thing I’d ever heard Zane say about Sonya. And suddenly, I really wanted to read Zane’s mind. My brain’s fingers reached out, pulling Zane’s thoughts into my own.
         Surely nothing bad could’ve happened to Sonya…she’s too capable, just like Trisha used to be. She’ll be fine. I guess I’ll just have to play “tough-guy” for Maddie’s sake.
         “Listen,” he said out loud, “it’s going to be OK. Sonya’s too capable for anything bad to have happened to her.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “Trust me.”
       He was thinking, I just hope she goes for it. I have to get her distracted, and then I’ll have to go and look for Sonya. Just to assure Maddie, of course. It’s not like I’d go searching for Sonya just because…well, yeah…
        “Could you maybe search for her or something?” I played up. “Please? I’m really worried about her.”
        Zane quickly stood up. “Yeah, of course. I’ll be back.” Then he took off jogging across the cafeteria.
       The second he was out the door, Willow leaned forward and whispered, “You were reading his mind, weren’t you?”
        I nodded.
       “What was he thinking?” she whispered.
      I chuckled. “None of your business.”
      Willow just grinned and continued to eat her food.

After I finished my food, I started out through the hallways. I remembered what Master had said about me being able to read peoples’ minds who I couldn’t see. I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes.
        My hand searched the facility. I thought that maybe Zane had left the place, when all of a sudden I’d caught up to him. I almost couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to accidently lose my concentration and not get anything, I quickly delved into Zane’s brain, reading his thoughts.
       This isn’t good. Sonya’s not even on the balcony, and Willow said that she’d been out there the other day. She’s not in her workshop, or her room. Where on earth could she be?! Ugh, this is so frustrating.
         Apparently, he hadn’t gotten very far. This couldn’t be good. And there was only one person I could think of to turn to. Master, of course.
       I quickly ran to Master’s study. I paused outside the door, wondering how it worked. I had kind of forgotten how it’d opened before. I carefully wrapped on the vault-like door.
       To my immense relief, it opened up. Master was on his chair, staring into the weird glass again. I slowly approached his chair, not saying anything.
        “Master,” I started quietly. “Master, Sonya’s missing. And I’m really worried.”
        Master didn’t answer. I leaned around him and saw that his eyes were closed. Was he asleep?
        Suddenly, his eyes flew open. “Maddie,” he whispered. “Thank you for coming to me, so that I could use your ability.” He turned towards me. “I know where Sonya is.”
        I caught my breath. “Where? Hiding in her workshop? In the gym?”
        Master didn’t answer, getting up and using his cane to walk towards the door. Sighing in exasperation, I sprinted in front of him.
     “Master,” I started. “Please. She’s my Partner. Where is she?”
      His eyes were far off. For a second, I thought he was going to completely ignore me. Then he glanced at me and answered bluntly,
       “She’s with the Masterns.”








Sonya



had been amazed that Tad could just zap from one place to another, just like Madeline had. However, instead of putting hands on shoulders, we’d had to hold hands. Once we landed, I quickly broke the bond.
       “So?” I started. “This is it?”
        We were in a black skyscraper of sorts on an island just off New York City. The glass was tinted, and I could barely see through it on our side.
       The whole instead of the room was made of some kind of black stone flecked with white, giving it an eerie appearance. The only furniture was hard, modern, sleek, and black. All in all, the room was cold. Very cold.
       “Yes,” Tad agreed. “This is it. Please follow me. I’ll lead you to Masterns, and he’ll explain everything to you as he explained to me.”
       We went off through a door and down a hallway. There were guards at every door—guards dressed in all black with flaming red eyes. I realized that they were wraiths. But for some reason, I wasn’t scared as I had been when they were chasing me. It was almost comforting to know that they were actually on my side.
        “This way,” Tad directed.
        “So, Tad,” I started. “Do you have a gift, too? Are you an Unusual like me?”
         Tad shrugged. “I suppose you could say it. I’d never thought it was anything unusual, but when I met Mastern, he showed me that it was amazing, and that when it was mastered, I could do anything.”
         I stopped. “So, what is it?”
         Tad paused. Then he looked with, smiling slyly. “I’m charming,” he replied.
         I mulled over this as we went up a flight of steps, ending in an open room. A man in a long black robe with a hood was standing, staring out the glass towards New York City.
      “Mastern!” Tad called. “It’s me, Tad. And I brought Sonya.”
        The man turned, and flipped off his hood. I had been expecting something who was wraith-like, but what I was met with was something rather unexpected.
        The man looked very, very old, probably in his eighties. His eyes were a piercing blue, cold like the stone of his skyscraper. But for something reason, I liked the eyes and felt drawn towards them.
        “Sonya,” the old man whispered. “Welcome. I am Mastern.”
         I went forward. “Thank you, sir.”
       “I suppose you want an explanation,” Mastern started, strolling over to a sleek, black table and sitting down on it. “Please, take a seat.”
         I did, and Tad took a seat next to me. Mastern played with a single marble that was on the table. I thought that it would fall off, but every time he pushed it, it didn’t. It was weird, like a mind trick.
          I suppose Sam never told you that I could create things, too, came Mastern’s voice inside my head. Or that I had taught myself to read minds, like your friend Maddie.
         But how can you have you two abilities? I thought.
         Mastern received the thought. Because I taught myself them. Just like I have taught myself to do other things. But my original gift was crafting things that aren’t alive into things that burst alive. Just like you, Sonya.
       So you have my gift? I almost couldn’t believe it. Somebody else who finally understood me!
       Yes, Sonya, I do understand you, agreed Mastern. I understand you better than any other Unusual out there. And that’s because we share the same power.
      But how do I know that you’re the good guy and Master’s the bad guy? I wondered.
       I shall tell you a story, Mastern announced. Once, there were two brothers. The younger one was different than the other—he was an Unusual, skilled at making things alive out of something that is not. And the older boy was jealous. The older brother shunned his younger brother, never speaking to him because of this jealousy that consumed him every moment of his life. The older brother thought that he had to be better in everything to make up for it. But nothing was enough.
       The younger boy continued to bloom in training himself to use his unusual gift. Soon, he was a master. This just made his older brother more jealous. The older brother joined the marine core and soon rose up in the ranks until he was a general. The younger brother stayed home and continued practice his gift. He soon learned of other people who were like him—other Unusuals. He went to look for them, but found them in the hands of an evil man named Angus Flight. He rescued the kids, and tried to return them to their parents. But the parents didn’t want them. They called them trash.
       But then the government got involved. They said that that the younger brother couldn’t keep the kids, and that the parents wanted them back. By then, his older brother had come out of the army. Being a general, and trained in all sorts of military arts, he was asked by the government to hold them prisoner. They didn’t even give them back to their families, who, indeed, had wanted them back by now.
       The younger brother tried to get them back to take them back to their families, but the older brother had hidden them well in the homes of others. The younger brother went searching for them, but all of the families had been killed, and the kids were missing.
        The younger brother hunted for them, trying to find them to rescue them and bring them back to their families, but it was so hard. By the time the younger brother would find the spot where they’d been, they’d already been picked up by the older brother and hid in a new spot.
         And now I shall reveal my secret, Sonya. I am the younger brother, and Sam Bloom is my older brother. He has always envied me. Can’t you see it? He only keeps you for himself. After he’s done with all of you, he’ll kill you—just like he tried to kill me.
       I looked up at me. “But, if that’s all true, then we’ve got to warn the other girls.”
      Mastern shook his head. “They will not listen to me. Sam has poisoned their minds for too long.”
       “But what about Maddie?” I pointed out. “She’s been there as long as me. We’ve got to at least rescue her.”
       “She, too, believes with all her heart that I am in the wrong and that my brother is in the right.” Mastern turned to a blank wall on the far side of the room.
        Suddenly up flashed a picture of Maddie standing with Master. Her eyes were angry as she burst, “We’ve got to go after her! Storm Mastern’s lair! We’ve got to kill him!”
      The screen flashed back down. Mastern glanced over at me. “See?”
       I shook my head. “But…but they might come here. To get me back. They think that you’re keeping me prisoner.”
         “Then we’ll hide, or fight.” Mastern sighed. “It’s not fun to fight those who you love even though you’re betrayed, but it’s got to be done.”
         “I can make them understand,” I promised. “I know I can. They’ll listen to me. They know me.”
         “They’ll never listen to you,” came a hard voice from the other side of the room.
        I turned, and there was the most gorgeous girl I had ever seen. Her blonde hair was upswept. Her blue eyes dazzling. Her pale face perfect.
       She strode across the room. “They’ll never listen. I know.” And then she walked out.
       “Who was that?” I whispered.
       Tad stared after her. “Trisha.”








Maddie



“We’ve got to go and get her!” I burst. “I bet they’re torturing her right now!”
         “On the contrary,” answered Master, “they’re just entertaining her. They’ve told her lies to make her believe that we’re the bad guys and they’re the good guys.”
        “Which of course isn’t true,” broke in D with a snort.
        “And now Sonya believes that she must tell you to come and join her,” finished Master. “She thinks that you’re all in danger, and that I’m going to kill you.”
        I frowned. “How do you know all of that?”
       Willow looked up at me, whispering, “Because it’s exactly what Trisha told us when she betrayed us.”
         Silence reigned in the room.
         “I always knew she was trouble,” muttered Zane over in the corner.
        “If you hadn’t been so rude, maybe she would’ve never left us that night when we were going to the cafeteria!” I snapped. “You haven’t been exactly helping!”
       Zane looked speechless.
      “And besides,” started Jess, “you’re hardly a lamb yourself. You remember what happened to you before Master found you? I was the first one, so I know. And don’t you dare try to lie to get out of it!”
        “That’s behind me,” huffed Zane.
         “It can always come back,” Madeline retorted, glaring at him.
         “Wait.” I looked at them. “What?”
           Zane sighed. “I’m Angus Flight’s son. You know. The guy that had you guys locked up in the first place?”
         “I didn’t even know that,” muttered Laura.
         “I guessed it,” answered Jenny.
         “You would’ve,” chuckled Noelle.
         “The point is,” broke in Master, “is that we’ve got to get Sonya back. Without her…well, she’s more dangerous than any of you know.”
        Jess cried out and fell over. Madeline’s eyes grew wide as she immediately went to her Partner’s side. Jess’s eyes were wide open as I imagine mine were when I’d remembered something.
        “Go help Jess,” Master commanded.
         Ruth and Hadassah quickly ran over to help.
       “Girls,” started Master, “there’s something unique about Sonya that I’m not sure any of you will quite understand. She’s…special, should I say.”
         Jess sat up slowly. She glanced around at the other girls, and then back up at Master. “Because she shares Mastern’s gift,” she whispered.
        Master nodded. “Yes, and he’s taught himself Maddie’s. I have no idea what other gifts he’s taught himself. But because he was naturally born an Unusual with Sonya’s same gift, together, the two of them could destroy the world.”
         Silence.
         “But…but Sonya wouldn’t do that!” I burst. “I know Sonya. She wouldn’t destroy us, let alone the world! You know that, too. You all know it. She’s too nice. That’s just not her.”
        “I agree with Maddie.” Madeline, surprisingly, came to my side.
       “So do I.” Willow stepped up.
       “And me.” We were joined by D.
       The rest of the girls eventually took sides with me.
       “I’m afraid it’s all too true,” sighed Master. “Though her heart’s good, minds can easily be deceived. And not only that, but they have a Charmer.” 
        “A what?” D was glancing from us to him.
        “It’s Tad, isn’t it?” I queried.
          Master nodded. “Yes. And Charmer’s can convince mostly anybody of anything. And with him on Mastern’s side…let’s just say that I’m not so sure that Sonya’s heart can prevail over that.”
       “But she’s got to!” cried D. “Otherwise we’re all going to die!”
        “No,” glared Madeline. “We’re not going to die. We’re going to fight.” She glanced hesitantly over at Master. “Right?”
         “Yes, but it’s not just them I’m worried about.” Master was twitching.
         Zane glanced up at us. “There’s Trisha.”
         Master nodded. “Trisha’s more dangerous than ever. Her powers have gotten stronger as she’s gotten older, and now she’s practically invincible. If we go now, she’ll make us go and dance around her like puppets.”
        “I hate her,” glared D.
        “We’ll have to train ourselves to resist,” explained Master. “We don’t have that much time, so this is going to rush things. But we have to learn. Otherwise walking in there will be suicide.”
        “So how do we learn?” whispered Ruth.
         Master’s eyes looked at us all. Then he smiled. “That’s what I was hoping to hear.”







Sonya



Somewhere, a beautiful voice was singing. My body was limp. I was lying on something hard. My eyes closed, and I couldn’t lift them. I couldn’t even speak.
      “They are not your friends,” sang the voice. “They do not care about you. They are your enemies, and all enemies must be destroyed.”
        I wanted to open my eyes, wanted to move, but I couldn’t. The voice kept on singing, the words that came out slowly becoming solid truth in my mind.
       “Sam Bloom is the ultimate evil. Only you and Mastern can stand against the evil and save the world from this dark shadow that has come across the land. Together you shall destroy the evil. Together you shall vanquish your enemies. And together you shall rule, so that none of your enemies shall ever arise again.”
       And suddenly it was true.
       “The girls at the facility are evil. But the worst of them is Maddie Fletcher. She does not care about you. She has betrayed you. She is your enemy. She is evil. She must be destroyed, along with the rest of them.”
       And it was fact.
      “Patricia Bale and Tad Wilhelm are good. Mastern is your friend. All of them and their friends are good, pure, and just. They are your friends. They care for you. They have not betrayed you, but rescued you from those who would lie to you and take your life away from you, and to use you for their own purpose. Together, you shall destroy the evil. Together, you shall destroy Sam Bloom, known as Master. Together, you shall destroy the girls. Together you shall destroy Madeline Fletcher.”
         It was my mission.
         It was my resolve.
         It was fact.
         It was my life.
         And it was burned into my brain for forever. It was truth.
        And then finally my lips moved. “I will destroy them,” I whispered.

My eyes flickered open. I sat up, and saw that I was dressed in a black suit with tall black boots. My hair was pulled away from my face. A bag was at my side, full of supplies.
        I was ready.
        I saw Mastern standing by the window, staring out at the city. Slowly, he turned, smiling softly.
        “I’m glad to seed that you’re awake, Sonya,” he whispered.
        “When will we move?” I questioned.
       “I’m glad to see that you’re eager, my apprentice,” he murmured. “Please, come here. I will show you my plans.”
        “Yes, Mastern,” I answered.
          











Maddie



Master had me stand beside him so that he could fully use my ability. Then he instructed the rest of the girls in the room through joint-brain connection. Even I heard his voice.
        You must not fail to think of this firewall. By thinking of this firewall, you will have built it up. The more you think of it, the stronger it will become, and the more it will just exist.
          I could feel the firewall building up in my brain. It was strong, and I knew it. I was eager to go after Sonya, but I knew that I had to wait. I had to wait for the others to get strong, too, so that they could even start to resist Trisha’s enchanting voice.
         
We practiced almost every minute of the day, though Master made sure to carve out time to eat and sleep and to practice our talents, too, so that we wouldn’t forget all of the extra things that we’d taught ourselves.
          The more we practiced, the more I wanted to go after Sonya. I knew that I didn’t have to wait long. It was only a few days more. But the endless hours that I’d always spent in my workshop, when they only seemed like a second, suddenly started to feel like hours again.
        I wanted so badly to go out after my Partner. I felt as if half of me had been chopped off, and suddenly I understand what Jess had been talking about, how it had been like before Madeline had been there.
       Master seemed to understand that it would be hardest for me. As I walked through the halls, Master came up to me. We both stared at the blank and empty wall for a long time.
       “I know this is hard for you, Maddie,” he whispered. “But you’re pulling through it, just like I knew that you would.”
       I glanced up at Master. “You know that Sonya’s not evil, right?”
        Master sighed. “Yes, I know, Maddie. It’s just that the things I see in the Glass are…disturbing, to say the least.” He sighed again. “I’m afraid to say that Trisha has used her powers on Sonya.” Master turned to me. “When you next see Sonya, she will not be herself but a making of evil. Do not show mercy if you have to protect yourself.”
         I covered my mouth. Don’t show mercy? Did he mean that I was supposed to go and kill her?
       “Yes, I’m afraid so, Maddie.” Master’s eyes were full of tears. “Though I would hardly say we’re going to put you out there on the front line. Your gifting is more of an intelligence sort than a fighting sort. We’ll leave most of the fighting to Madeline, D, Willow, Laura, Hadassah, Noelle, Ruth, and Jess. You’ll stay behind with me, Jenny, Hannah, and Odessa.”
        I kept on forgetting that he could use my power around me.
       “However, Maddie,” started Master. “We’ll try to restrain her and bring her back here. If I get her back here, I’m confident that I’ll be able to restore her to her old self.”
         I started to sob. “Just don’t kill her. Just don’t kill her.”
        At that moment, Master seemed more like my dad. He wrapped me in a hug. We stood there for a several more moments until I could get my crying under control.
       “Thanks,” I sniffled.
       “It’s going to be alright, Maddie,” he assured me. “Just look above. The Creator’s always watching, waiting for your prayers.”
         Then he walked off.
          God, if you’re there, please let Sonya live.

“Maddie!” shrieked D. “Maddie, come quick!”
        I ran into Willow and D’s room, where D had somehow smuggled in a TV. All of the girls were huddled around it, watching it with fixed eyes. I quickly grabbed a seat and started to watch it, too.
       A news reporter came onto the screen, looking slightly nervous. “There have been several sightings of several strange people flying through the air. This morning, one of the biggest skyscrapers in New York was hit by a enormous rock…” the screen switched from the news reporter to a skyscraper that looked like it was missing half of itself, while the man’s voice continued “…that was seemingly propelled by a girl in strange black suit flying around on some kind of flying skateboard.” 
       Hadassah gasped. “It’s got to be Sonya! When I went into her workshop around when she first got here, she was flying around on something like that!”
      The news reporter continued, “She was followed by a man in a robe on a similar device. Meanwhile, on Wall Street…”
       D clicked the TV off and turned to look at us. “This can’t be good,” she whispered. “We’ve got to tell Master.”
           I stood up. “He already knows. Come on.”
     







Sonya



“Good job, Sonya,” praised Mastern. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
       “I couldn’t have done it without your teaching,” I answered.
        We were walking through the hallway of the skyscraper. Trisha had just come out of the room up ahead and joined us in walking up the steps into the room where something big had happened…but I didn’t remember. And it didn’t matter, anyway.
        “And Sam is playing right into our hands,” Mastern continued. “He’ll bring his group of girls up here, and we’ll destroy all of them.”
        “As you wish,” I nodded.
        “Of course they’re not match for any of us,” agreed Trisha. Her eyes sparked excitedly. “With my gift, I’ll have them doing our own bidding.”
          “Which, of course, is part of my plan.” Mastern spread out large piece of paper on the sleek black table. “If everything goes according to plan, then we’ll have everything blamed on them. When the authorities put them in jail, there’ll be nothing to stop us from going and killing the president and ruling all of America.” His eyes sparked. “And that’s only the beginning. After America, there is the whole world. And they won’t put up much of a fight when we make the Americans look like complete idiots. We’ll see how they like it for a change.”
         “Of course,” I agreed. “For forever, they have destroyed us. Now it is time for us to destroy them.”
        Mastern smiled. “I like your thinking, Sonya.”
        “Nothing can stand against us,” Trisha agreed. “Are you sure you’ve got it all planned out?”
       “I’m sure,” nodded Mastern. “Sam will send in all of the fighters first. That’ll leave the rest of them vulnerable. Trisha? You and Tad will go and get them under your control. Sonya and I will take care of the fighters. The wraiths and the gargoyles will be on your command. We’ll keep all of the guards at their posts, just in case Sam does something that’s not in the cards.”
        Trisha nodded. “I’ll go make sure that Tad’s ready.”
        “Oh, and Trisha,” started Mastern.
          She glanced at him. “Yes?”
         “Bring Maddie and the boy, Sam’s ‘son’ back alive,” he directed. “Sonya will take care of them.”
         Trisha smiled. “My pleasure.”
         “And,” he added, “bring Odessa.”
          She nodded and walked off.
         “I will do whatever bidding you ask of me.” I bowed to Mastern.
         “I know you will, Sonya.” Mastern’s smile was sly. “I know you will.”









Maddie



“We’ve got to move quickly,” Master told us, striding towards another door on the far side of his office that I’d never noticed before. “Don’t fall behind.”
          The other girls behind me hesitated like I did, and then we followed him through the door. We were in a room that was full of black suits.
       “Suit up,” he directed, “and grab whatever else you’re going to need.”
         We all grabbed clothes and went towards changing rooms that were on the other side of the room. I didn’t grab anything else, but several of the other girls grabbed weapons like small pistols and such.
           Master stayed in his normal clothes, hobbling along with the cane. We all followed him. Madeline strode up beside me, two pistols stuck in her belt.
         “We’ll take something that I haven’t showed any of you since you’ve come back,” Master announced. His voice was saddened as he admitted, “Sonya made it.”
       When he opened the door, I saw we were in a cave of some kind that looked pretty much like a cave, except for the fact that the floor was really smooth and that the ceiling went up really high. The whole place was huge, and it had to be.
         Because everywhere, there were transportations of all kinds. Master went towards one that looked like a star ship, pushing a button. The opened, and we all hurried inside.
        “I’ll pilot it,” he assured us. “Hadassah? Will you copilot for now?” I had a feeling that might’ve been Sonya’s job, since she’d created this thing.
          Hadassah nodded and took the seat beside him.
        Odessa sat next to me, surprisingly nervous. I reached out and touched her arm. She jumped, breathing out a nervous breath of air.
       “You OK?” I queried.
       “I’m…I’m fine,” Odessa assured me. “I just feel…well, I guess you understand.” Her eyes flicked away.  “You don’t have a Partner at the moment, either.”
        I frowned. “You don’t?” I’d never really thought about it before.
        Odessa took a deep breath and shook her head. “No.” She looked up at me. “Because Trisha’s my Partner.”
      I was stunned. Odessa was Trisha’s Partner? And visa versa? I couldn’t believe it. Poor Odessa! Having to hear all of those girls talking about it…I gulped.
      “I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
      “It’s worse only when people talk about it,” she admitted. “Or if I have to see her. Then the ache hurts worse than anything I’ve ever imagined.”
         I touched my side. “It’s like that for me and Sonya, too.”
        The craft jerked as we started to lift into the sky. I glanced up towards the cockpit, where Hadassah was clicking switches and Master had his hands firmly on some sort of steering wheel.
         “I guess this is kind of like the last battle of the Unusuals,” I whispered. “We’re all here. If we get killed…it’ll be like there’ll never be any more Unusuals. Ever.”
         “There’ll be more,” Odessa said. “There’s always more. I guess…I guess it’s God’s way of showing how something as power as gift can be used for evil or for good.”
       “So you believe in God, too?” I asked.
        She nodded. “I do.”
       “Could we maybe talk more about that later?” I questioned.
        “Why not now?” Odessa tilted her head. “Do you know where you’re going if you die today?”
        “Uh, the earth?” I guessed.
       She shook her head. “You’re going to hell, Maddie.”
       “Then tell me about God,” I begged. “Please.”
        She smiled. “Sure.”











Sonya



“They’re coming!” yelled Trisha over the wind into the cell phone from the top of the skyscraper.
        “Good!” Mastern answered back. “I’ll make sure that Tad’s ready.” He turned to me. “Go and get Tad.”
        I nodded and went off down the hallway, heading towards Tad’s room. Finally, these people would arrive. The people that I needed to destroy. This Sam Bloom and Madeline Fletcher, and these girls.
        I knocked commandingly on Tad’s door. It opened. Tad stood before me in a black suit like my own. But unlike my confidant air, he was nervous.
        “Mastern requests your presence,” I told him. “Come on. They’re almost here.”
         Tad followed me back down the hallway. We reached the room, and Mastern looked up as we ascended the steps. He smiled as I came over to stand by him.
       “I’m glad you joined us, Tad.” Mastern spoke back into the phone, “Trisha, give the coordinates to the gargoyles and then get down here.”
      “Yes, sir,” she answered. Then she hung up on him.
         Mastern turned to Tad, and I turned with him. “We’re about to have the War of the Unusuals, and I can tell you it isn’t going to be pretty. And we will win.”
       “That’s…that’s just it.” Tad nervously wrung his hands. “I’m not…not quite sure that this is the right to do. You know, killing the president and everything.”
       Mastern sighed, and then opened his phone and dialed it. It hadn’t reached Trisha’s phone yet, and so Mastern spoke to Tad, “You know,” he started, “I always did hate traitors.” Trisha must’ve picked up her phone, because then Mastern started speaking, “Trisha, I need you down here. We have an emergency code #5.”
       “I’m on it,” she answered.
         A few minutes later she arrived. Slowly, Trisha’s eyes closed, and then out of her mouth came the most beautiful sound that I’d ever heard in my life. But I was steeled against obeying it, so it didn’t effect me.
         But Tad wasn’t.
         Tad’s eyes started to glaze over as Trisha’s voice became even more haunting. Then slowly he started to fall until he hit the floor. Trisha stopped singing and came over, picking him up and thumping him down on the table. Then she started to sing again.
         “Mastern is your master,” she sang, “there is no other that you answer to. You work for him and for him only. Only his voice do you answer to. You are his warrior.”
         Then she stopped singing. A moment later, Tad sat up. He looked towards Mastern, and quickly got up, bowing.
        “Mastern,” he whispered.
         Mastern just smiled. “Good job, Trisha.”
         She just smiled evilly.
         Mastern turned towards the window. “Now—onto war!”




Maddie



“We’re here,” Master announced. “Everybody get ready. The landing might be a little bouncy.”
         We landed with a crunch and skidded several hundred feet before stopping. I unbuckled and came up to the cockpit to see where we’d landed.
        Master had landed us on a small island about a mile away from another island, where a huge skyscraper made of black stone flecked with white rose up.
        “The clever fox,” whispered Master.
        “What?” queried Hadassah. “Wait, is that magnetic stone?”
        “Yes,” answered Jenny from in the back. “Using that, Mastern knew that we wouldn’t be able to locate him, or even read his thoughts.”
       “Thanks for letting us know,” muttered Madeline.
       “Are we going to get going?” questioned Jess. “I don’t like just sitting here.”
       “Just a sec, Jess,” assured Willow.
       “OK,” started Master, “you all know what your different squads are. The fighters will go ahead and the rest of you will stay with me here at the ship.”
       “You mean we just have to wait here?” I couldn’t imagine it. “But from here I can’t read anybody’s mind!”
        “But our girls aren’t going in the fortress,” Master chuckled. “No, we’re bringing the battle out here, where your power will be most helpful and I’ll be able to use it, too.”
      “So can we go?” asked D, who looked about ready to race off.
       “Hold your horses,” suggested Noelle.
       “We’ll be leaving soon enough,” pointed out Laura.
        “Yes, you may go,” consented Master.
       “I’m I apart of the fighting squad for this mission?” queried Hannah.
        Master shook his head. “You’ll stay with us. We might need your help.”
        Hannah nodded.
        “Too bad Sonya wasn’t here,” muttered Odessa. “Then we just could’ve had her build something to destroy the whole skyscraper and everybody in it.”
        “But she’s the reason we’re here,” I pointed out.
          “Exactly,” nodded Master. “Now our job is just to wait.”
        But that’s not all I was going to be doing. I closed my eyes, my brain’s hands shooting out like the roots from the trees. They searched for the particular brain that I was wanting—D’s brain.
          Oh no! There’s Sonya!  D thought.
          I quickly looked out the window. I could barely see somebody flying around on a flying skateboard flying down towards the island that we were on.
         Oh, stink! She’s coming right for me! This couldn’t be good. Where’s Madeline?! There she is! I was pretty sure at this moment D yelled something, because then her next thought was, Thank goodness Noelle got in her way just in time! That was so hilarious that Sonya just bounced off!
         I wished I’d been watching out the window. Though I hardly wanted to see Sonya get hurt, I would’ve felt horrible if she’d injured D.
         I switched to a different brain and found myself at Willow. Thank goodness D’s alright! I had a feeling that she was staying invisible. I’ll have to wait to get my own hit in.
        Just then, there was an explosion and I was flown off my feet.








Sonya



I was mad that I hadn’t seen that one coming. I knew that Noelle was the strong one. But now it was time for her to get out of business. Permanently.
        I reached into my bag and pulled out a piece of paper. I quickly made it into the shape of a knock-out dart, and then it quickly changed into it. Swirling around, I threw it right at Noelle. I couldn’t miss. And I didn’t.
        “NOELLE!” somebody screamed. It was the fighter, Madeline. Noelle’s Partner, Laura, also ran up. Then she turned to me, glaring.
       Laura shot thousands of ice shards my way. I quickly opened up another piece of paper and drew fire, which quickly came to life. I thrust it in a mighty blast of flame towards the ice shards, which quickly melted, raining down on Laura.
         Then I made another dart and threw it at her. She went limp. Madeline jumped up, making a karate pose. Her eyes were burning fire.
       “Come down here and fight, you sissy!” she yelled. “I’m not afraid of you!”
        I just smiled and took another piece of paper out of my pocket, slowly floating down as I did. Madeline smiled, as if she’d just gone and won the fight.
       “This is more like it!” she cried. “Now you’ll see what it’s like to get yourself beaten!”
       I just smiled. My creation was done, and so was my whip. I landed on the ground, snapping the whip as I did. Madeline’s eyes wavered a bit, but she still kept her brave pose.
        I started forward, and whipped her feet out from underneath her. She jumped back out and threw a kick at me, which I dodged, returning a snap that again took out her legs.
        Then I went and snapped towards her face. She cried out in pain like a small child, crying her eyes out. I snapped again, and she flinched, trying to get away from the pain.
        I came closer, snapping the whip again and again until she didn’t move anymore. Then I turned to the other girls there. All of a sudden, I was punched in my face and I fell backwards.
        Willow appeared above me, hands ready in a karate pose. I lifted my whip but she disappeared, and the whip was yanked out of my hands. I jumped up and immediately under my feet was my skateboard. I flew up into the air, off  the ground where I knew that I would get beaten up Willow and Jess being there.
        Soon, I was sending more the of the darts. I just barely missed Jess, but I caught Willow, who dropped to the ground. D cried out in anguish, but she soon followed.
        A glance towards the ship told me that Trisha and Tad had succeeded in getting into the cockpit. I could hear screams and yells coming from inside. Our plan was working, and they couldn’t do anything to stop it.
         




Maddie



“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Sam Bloom and his sniveling bunch of baby girls,” came a sneering voice from the doorway of the craft. “What’re you going to do now? All of your warriors are outside.”
         “Girls!” cried Master. “Get behind me! NOW!”
         They didn’t hesitate, but I stood right beside him, starting to read Trisha’s mind. But she was blocked. This couldn’t be good. Trisha smiled evilly at me.
       “Naughty, naughty.” She shook her finger in the air. “Was somebody trying to read somebody else’s mind without asking? Isn’t that against the rules?”
       Slowly, Trisha closed her eyes, and then she opened her mouth. Zane, who’d been quietly sitting in the corner by himself this whole time, yelled,
        “Trisha! No!” 
         But the magical sounding song escaped from her mouth. I took a step backwards. She was stronger than I’d expected. Her song pecked at my wall, trying to break through, but my wall held strong. I smiled to myself and stepped forward, surprisingly everybody else and myself as I karate kicked Trisha down.
      “Whoa,” whispered Zane.
      “Are you next?” I demanded of Tad. “Or are you going to surrender peacefully?”
       His eyes were blank, so I just punched him and knocked him out. I glanced back at the other girls. “Come on—help me get these goons in here.”
         Trisha started screaming and yelling, trying to get away from us. But with me, Jenny, and Hannah holding her, she wasn’t getting anywhere. We placed her in one of the seats and buckled her up, placing Tad as far away from her as possible. Odessa made sure to watch him extra carefully.
        “Good job, girls,” smiled Master.
         “But…but it’s not possible…” whispered Trisha.
        “Patricia Bale.” Master stood right in front of her, eyes hard. Suddenly, they softened. “Patricia, what have you been doing?”
         “I’m living my life like I was meant to!” she retorted. “I wasn’t going to live my life locked up in some ‘facility’ where you could just run my life and make me do whatever you pleased!”
         “You were free to go whenever you wanted,” he pointed out. “The facility is just there to provide protection for Unusuals who have no place to go.” His eyes bored into her. “Just like you.”
         “I don’t need your help!” screeched Trisha. “I don’t need anybody’s help!”
        To the surprise of all of us, Odessa came over and slapped Trisha—hard—on the cheek. “Stop it!” she screamed. “Just stop it! Once, we were Partners. Once, we were friends. And then you broke that bond, Trisha. It wasn’t me, or anybody else. It was you. You are the only one here who’s making their life miserable! I have lived life without you, and every second of every single day I have felt that pain that comes from being separated from your Partner. I so wanted you to come back. And now? I see that it was good that you left. If you hadn’t, you would’ve just left later, and I probably would’ve been by your side. We’re not Partners. Not anymore.” And then Odessa walked back over to guard Tad.
        We were all silent.
        “So,” whispered Hannah, “are they still Partners?”
          Tears were in Master’s eyes as he shook his head. 
          Odessa had broken the bond.
          Odessa was free.
          “So,” started Jenny, “what’re we going to do with these prisoners?”


Sonya



was expecting it when Hadassah flew up into the sky to join the battle. When Ruth started throwing rocks my way, it wasn’t hard to dodge them. And if I’d wanted, I could’ve created a wall in the sky. As it was, Hadassah was flying towards me with fury in her eyes.
         I quickly took paper out of my bag and started making dragons, sending them off to go and attack Hadassah. They quickly went. Though small, I knew that they were deadly dangerous. Though instead of their normal venom, I’d given them that special venom that just made them pass out. I wanted them all to be alive when they got send to jail, so that all would suffer.
         And now I turned my attention to Ruth.
         As fast as she threw rocks, I created more and them back at her. Finally, she had to duck behind some of the piles of rocks that she’d created so that she wouldn’t be hit. I called some of the dragons who’d long since bitten Hadassah and sent them after her.
         Now all that was left was Jess.
         She’d been hiding somewhere, and when she wasn’t hiding she’d been running around so fast that I didn’t have anything to aim at. I was going to have to be creative with this one. And then I had it.
      “Come!” I called to the dragons. They quickly clustered around me. “Be as fast as Jess. And bite her. Now go!” They flew off, my instructions fresh in their minds.
           I heard her scream, and then knew my mission was done. I was rather proud of myself. I hadn’t even had to come and get Mastern to come and help me drive them off.
          Sonya, come back quickly, I heard Mastern’s voice. I’ve just got the authorities coming to pick up the others. We’ve got to get out of here quickly.
          OK, I thought.
         I flew up to the skyscraper’s roof. On top was waiting Mastern’s aircraft. He was smiling at me as I came towards him.
        “You haven’t failed me.” He smiled. “I’m proud of you.”
        “Sorry to break up the tender moment,” snorted a voice, “but hands up.”
          I turned in disbelief. There, standing in front of me, was the entire squad, with Master standing next to them. His eyes glared right at Mastern. And then his face sagged.
         “Why, James?” he asked. “Why did you have to do all of this?”
        “You don’t get it, Sam!” yelled Mastern. “You just don’t get it, do you?! This is my destiny! You never understand that! Never! And you never will!”
       “I’m sorry,” whispered Master. “I’m so sorry.”
      He put his hand forward. And then Mastern fell limp. I stared, terrified, at the squad.
       “What do we do with her?” questioned Madeline. “Pluck out her eyes? Tie her to an anchor and drop her in sea?”
        Maddie pushed through the girls and came forward. “No. Heal her.”




Maddie



“You totally missed it all, Zane!” declared D. “So there we were, fighting against Sonya. But she was just so tough! And then she had us all knocked out. And then while you stayed back and watched Tad and Trisha, Master came and pulled us all out of the coma thingy-badiggy, and then we all warped up there…! Man, it was just so awesome! You totally should’ve seen Mastern’s face, dude. You missed it all.”
      “So I keep on hearing.” Zane rolled his eyes.
       I laughed. “Yeah, and now we just have to wait for Sonya, Trisha, and Tad to come out of rehab.”
       “I don’t think Trisha’s ever going to be the same, though,” whispered Odessa. She glanced up at us. “Now that I’ve broken our Partnership, I have a feeling…like now I have a new Partner.”
       “That’s weird,” I commented.
         She nodded. “Yeah. Now I feel like I’m having more memory flashes…it’s so strange. I can almost get her name, but not quite…”
        “You already almost know the name of your new Partner?” Zane looked impressed. “That’s got to be good. By the way, Dad told me that actually you always have a Partner, it’s just sometimes that your bonds get broken and everything, but then you get a new Partner.”
        “Alyssa!” burst Odessa. “Her name’s Alyssa!”
        “Hey, I’d love to chat,” I told her, “but I’m going to go and check on Sonya. OK?”
        “OK,” nodded Zane. “Bye, Maddie.”
          I left the room and went off down the hallway. It’d been a full three weeks since our battle with Mastern, Sonya, Trisha, and Tad. But still the three kids were in rehab. Master had given Mastern over to the authorities, so I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be hearing from him any time soon.
      I went down the complicated twists and turns of the hallways to where Master had shown us was the mini hospital. More robots like Mamie the cafeteria robot floated around inside the room.
        I pressed my nose against the glass to watch the robots working in the room full of switches and buttons and tubes and IVs. There were three beds, in which the motionless Sonya, Trisha, and Tad were.
         I watched Sonya’s expressionless face. She looked so perfect, just lying there, like she was Snow White. I felt a pain deep in my side, and wondered why. Wasn’t my Partner right here? Why was I feeling the pains?
         I wasn’t sure why, but I brushed it off. I glanced at the robots, who were busy fixing things on the far side of the room. The site would’ve looked really strange if I hadn’t been around this stuff for nearly a year now.
        I thought of my old school, and Ms. Blair, and my parents, and it all just seemed so weird. Back then, I had a haunted memory. I even thought that maybe I’d like to a be a writer or something when I grew up.
        That stuff seemed too normal now. I didn’t want to become a writer. Do you really want to know? Because I already was something—something that seemed so much more important than just being a writer.
        I was an Unusual.
        And I always was.
        And I always would be.
         I glanced back down at Sonya. I blinked—was it me, or had I just seen her cheek twitch?
      “Nurse!” I screamed through the glass. “Nurse!”
         The robots turned around, frowning at me. I knocked against the glass and pointed to Sonya, who had started to move her hand. The robots quickly rushed over, just hovering over her as if they were going to give her open-heart surgery.
        I kept on squealing and pounding on the glass until one of the robots opened the door into the room to tell me to be quiet, but I just slipped inside and ran to Sonya’s bedside.
        Slowly, she blinked. Her beautiful eyes stared up at me. And then, slowly, the corners of her mouth lifted into the smile that I had wished to see for what seemed like forever.
        “Maddie?” she whispered.
        “I’m here,” I assured her. “And I’m not going to leave you.”
         “What’s going on?” Sonya slowly sat up, looking around. Finally, her eyes rested on Trisha and Tad. Her face suddenly looked sick, and she looked at me. “I remember everything,” she whispered.
       “It’s OK,” I assured her. “We don’t hold it against you. You were under Trisha’s influence.”
        She smiled. “It’s kind of what I said to you about Madeline, huh?”
         I grinned. “Yeah, I guess so. How’re you feeling?”
        Sonya shivered. “A little achy, I guess.”
        The robots shooed me out of the room, and then I ran off the hallway screaming and whooping. That attracted the rest of the girls and of course Zane.
          When I told them the whole story, we all ran back to the room together. When we got there, Master was already there, talking to Sonya. She was nodding, her face very serious. But that quickly changed as we all rushed into the room.
        “SONYA!” cried Zane, much to all of our amusement. “You’re OK! I thought you were going to die!”
        Jess burst out laughing. “I didn’t know you cared!”
           Zane looked down. “Well, uh, I don’t want anybody to die.”
          Madeline grinned. “Mmm-hmm.”
          He glared.
          And then everybody started to talk at once. I laughed along with them, smiled along with them, but for some reason it was like I was just watching this from a distance.
          This was my family. These girls were my sisters and Zane was my brother and Master was my father. And everything would turn out just fine.
         “We’re the Unusuals,” I whispered.

To be continued

And if you're a little lost as to all the girls and their powers...

Maddie—mindreading
Sonya—things that she makes come alive
Madeline—self defense
Jess—speed
PB—Patricia Bale—enchanting singing
Jenny—extremely intelligent
Willow—invisibility
OD—Odessa Demo—water
Noelle—withstand, strong
Hannah—animals
Laura—winter
Ruth—move things with her mind
Hadassah—flying
Darrion “D”—tracking/hunting/survival

PLEASE DO NOT COPY. Enjoy! :)
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