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from Apparent Power by Dacia Arnold

Copyright © 2021 Dacia Arnold

Chapter Fourteen

Valerie held Scott’s arm and rested her head on his shoulder in the back of the package truck. He stroked her hair with his free hand. She was almost complete. Having her husband by her side made the entire journey seem trivial. She was minutes from reuniting with her son and would have time to rest. With Scott, she could figure out how to take on the CDC and free the rest of her family.

With no windows in the back compartment, the only light came from strips at the seams of the door. Griff was snoring, and there was no doubt Hyka was napping as well. Jack and Major were in the cab wearing their new blue uniforms, navigating to the resort.

“I’m so sorry,” Scott whispered in the dark and kissed her head. “I had no idea you were in danger. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay home with Caleb. I had to wait an entire day to get the word you were alright. They had me take a train to get the affected in Kansas and said I could pick up Caleb and meet you when I got back. I can’t believe I helped them.”

“They were hoping you would lead them to Caleb. I am thankful for Gia. Did I tell you my dad hired her? Remember how I wanted the other nanny, but she declined at the last minute? I’m just glad everything worked out in the end.” Valerie smiled and found her husband’s hand. “How lucky are we? I love you more than anything.”

“I love you so much.” Scott kissed her hand.

She held him tighter as the truck turned into the resort parking lot. When the vehicle stopped, Major and Jack got out of the cab and walked around to open the back to release the rest of the team. Valerie had a renewed sense of strength. The fear which had gripped her during her trek washed away. When she stepped out of the vehicle, the afternoon sky was thick with clouds threatening rain. Her journey was over, and she welcomed the weather. The parking lot was quiet, and just a few cars were in the lot. No one came in or out, and there was no power to the massive building. The sliding doors stayed open and warm and humid air blew from the inside like the building was breathing. There were a few people in the lobby who disappeared when they noticed the men in blue uniforms.

“This way.” Valerie led the team in a jog to the farthest corner of the hotel. She knew where she would find Caleb. The clue was so smart, and she had no doubt what Gia intended to convey with the French birthday card. Valerie ran down a hallway that opened into a giant atrium. A stream running through the hotel was stagnant and lightly smelled of algae. She followed the water around to a bridge. The artificial island hosted a cluster of restaurants like Little Paris where she had taken Gia for her birthday. The restaurant was empty, and with a quick once over she decided there were no more clues.

“The room is on the third floor. 356.” She found the stairs, heart pounding, and ran up as fast as she could. 395 was the first room. She sprinted down the balcony of rooms overlooking the restaurants and the stream. She flew past each room until she came to the right one. Her heart sank to her stomach. The door was open. Without bothering to knock, she pushed the door to see Gia face down on the bed.

“Gia? Oh, Gia!”

At the sound of Valerie’s voice, Gia lifted her head. She had fresh blood coming from a cut on her lip and a significant bump on the side of her forehead. Tears poured down her face. She shook her head to Valerie. Caleb was not there.

Valerie collapsed on the floor as Griff walked in and lifted the girl from the bed. He held her tight, brushed her hair aside to examine her head wound and kissed her mouth.

“They took him and just left. They must have planted a bug in the house. They knew where we were. I’m so sorry. I tried to stop them,” Gia cried to Griff.

Griff rocked his fiancée and reassured her.

Valerie watched the two in disbelief. She had been so close to him. Caleb was in this room just minutes before she arrived. She was numb. Scott stood next to her in the doorway, his eyes heavy with defeat. He moved across the room to a sitting chair, picked up Caleb’s security blanket he carried everywhere, and held the fabric to his chest. When he turned to her, the sadness in his eyes broke Valerie’s heart.

Lights in the room sprang to life, music could be heard down toward the island, and the pumps moved the water in the stream. Valerie stood up, confused. A loud rumbling came from overhead.

“Planes,” Major said, entering the room. He stopped and looked at the two on the bed.

The sprinkler heads popped down from the ceiling and sprayed water all over the room and everyone in it.

“No,” Major whispered. He looked at Scott just as the electricity exploded into the room.

“Valerie, stop,” Jack yelled over the volume of the surge.

“It’s not me!” As the words left her mouth, Scott was hit by the electricity, then Griff, then Gia who was still in his embrace.

Valerie screamed as Scott fought the pain. She reached out to him, trying to pull the energy away, but the current carried on through her and continued the path to the couple on the bed. She tried to control the power, but could not. She wrapped her arms around Scott and held him as tight as she could. What felt like an eternity was over in fifteen seconds.

The current, sprinklers, and all power stopped at once. Still screaming, she lowered Scott’s weight to the ground. Major fell to his knees at the sight of his dear friend embracing the young woman on the bed. They heard more screams coming from outside the open door behind him. Jack held Hyka out on the balcony ...

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