The RV lurched forward. The rocking of the vehicle knocked Valerie into Jack. He caught himself and pulled her up to her feet, searching her eyes to make sure he had heard her correctly. He had.
“What do you mean?” Jack demanded, his grip tightened on her arms.
Valerie shrugged free of Jack's grip and balanced herself.
“I wanted the RV to run, and I wanted the man dead. I panicked and focused my energy on him. Well, some of the energy grounded through Hyka. I saw the tiny spark in the man’s chest, making his heart beat, and then I took the spark.” She searched Jack’s face for understanding. The gunshot had forced her abilities to manifest and, like the lights in the cabin of the RV, her awareness of the power had become apparent. Valerie could see and feel so much more than she was able to articulate. She could see the energy moving through each person, to her, and out to the RV. She could finally focus on the energy inside, manipulating it to her will.
“Dear God,” Jack cursed.
“You’re a weapon,” Hyka stated from the dining table. Her head was propped up on her hands like she was watching television.
Jack and Valerie both looked at her for an explanation. Hyka smacked her lips at them and rolled her eyes.
“If they get you and pair you with another DiaZem, they will use you to kill everyone in the Midwest. Right now, I bet you could kill an entire city. They are so nervous about pissing you off and taking your kid because they don’t know how much you know, which makes you dangerous.” Hyka shrugged.
Valerie unbuckled the holster she carried on her leg, set the gun and carrier on the bench, and slid them both toward Hyka. The fear of using a weapon seemed to dull in comparison to what she could do without one. She wanted to disconnect from everyone’s energy, but they had to keep moving. She stayed plugged into the RV’s electrical system with little effort. Like breathing, she was aware, but doing so was involuntary.
“A weapon,” Valerie said to herself as she sat. She remembered the slimy smile plastered on Lucas’ face. She laughed at his title: Head of Research. Valerie needed to hone abilities and fast. She had just killed a man and could have accidentally killed Griff, too, had he been in the RV. She looked up at Hyka.
“The only way I can explain this is we are a part of one battery. You collect energy by pulling the electricity from everything around you. When you do this, you render the object useless. If I reach out to someone for energy, I can convert the energy back into whatever I want. I complete the circuit. But I’m also an entire circuit by myself? I still don’t completely understand.”
“Good thing you aren’t more emotional. Seems like you can only perform when you’re about to lose your shit.”
Valerie knew by now that Hyka was helping, in her own way, by appearing unimpressed as usual.
“I don’t know how to control when I use my powers. But when I release a conductor’s stored energy, I rejuvenate them, make them younger, heal them, too. Maybe the only time I let my guard down is when I panic. I don’t make a habit of trusting people or reaching out for help,” Valerie admitted, trying not to sound insensitive.
Jack sat in deep concentration. The longer he sat, the more upset he got. His worry showed on his face. Griff maneuvered the RV in the direction of the highway.
“Dr. Jarrett said I could power an entire region if I were in proximity to another DiaZem. I know right now I could power more than just this vehicle. Not much actual electricity is needed since vehicles run on gas. I can keep everyone from pulling the energy put out by the alternator.”
The possibilities started running through Valerie’s mind. She could find Scott and Caleb. Then, with the help of her friends, they would run. With their collection of skills, they could find a rural homestead and live in peace, away from the threat of the CDC. She would do anything necessary to preserve the lives of the people she loved, but she would have to start leading them in that direction now. Convincing them would take a lot of work.
The RV accelerated as they reached the on-ramp to the highway then slowed. Traffic was moving, but only just. Only one northbound lane was open. There would be little room left for escape if circumstances called for them to evade.
The overall mood in the RV was positive. Hyka flipped through channels on the TV looking for the latest in CDC propaganda. Jack sat staring out the window as Griff merged into traffic and joined the unaffected population on the road. Major left his post in the front to join them, leaving Griff to drive.
“You did it, young lady,” Major said in his Southern accent. There was a twinkle in his eyes, like a child on Christmas morning.
Valerie, however, was not thrilled about their conflict ending with a fatality. In the moment of the shot, she had rationalized the circumstance had come down to life or death. She gave Major a weak but appreciative smile. His wounds were still pink but had almost healed.
“You look a lot like your mama, you know,” he said after studying her for a couple of seconds.
“Thank you.” Valerie regretted not ever knowing these people before they became her friends. They all seemed to know her far better than she knew them. She would have had an easier time rallying them to her plan if she knew them already.
“Your pops is the most honest SOB I have ever met. Got him into trouble a lot, but you have to respect a man who will risk insubordination before jeopardizing the welfare of his soldiers. He was a smart man. Always stayed five steps ahead of the enemy. I see a lot of that in you. You’re a quick one, Mrs. Russell.”