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from Apparent Power by Dacia Arnold

Copyright © 2021 Dacia Arnold

Chapter Seventeen

Valerie pulled the heavy blanket to her chin, savoring the comfort. Caleb rustled next to her, and she pulled him into her arms, nestling him against her. She smelled his hair and looked around the dark room. She had no idea where she was but accepted the illusion of safety. Silent tears soaked into her pillow. She did not want to wipe them away for fear she would wipe away the grief she felt for her husband and any semblance of who she used to be.

“Are you alright?” Kevin asked from the chair across the dark room. “I was keeping an eye on Caleb. You’ve been asleep for a while. Poor buddy was pretty upset and wouldn’t leave you. There might be some cereal in the bed somewhere, too.”

Valerie kissed her son’s head. She was so stupid to put Caleb and everyone else in danger. She held no other regrets about attacking Lucas.

“I’m sorry, Kevin, for everything. He must have been so scared.”

“Well, you missed all the real action. Dr. Jarrett got his ass beat by some dude. Whatever technology controlled the room was disabled. The whole place went black. Then all we could see were bolts of lightning shooting through the room. I’m guessing the other guy was another DiaZem. They fought for a while until the barrier was restored and Jarrett’s goons shot the guy.” Kevin stopped.

Valerie sat straight up in bed with her hand over her mouth. “Is he okay? Where is he?” Her heart pounded for fear of breaking all over again.

He squinted at her and answered, “I’m not sure what they did with him. Do you know him?”

“August,” she answered, embarrassed at her reaction. “Doctor August Wilkes. We were together when everything started. Not together, like in the biblical sense. He was the doctor on shift at the ER. We didn’t know what was going on then. Have you heard from Madi at all?” She tried to change the subject.

“Yes and no,” Kevin sighed. “She’s alive. When we first arrived, they were still trying to maintain the lie that we’d all be released. I called to check on her. She said she couldn’t handle being apart and couldn’t wait for me. She checked out. Said she was going back to New York and she had made a mistake even coming to Colorado.”

“I’m sorry, Kevin. I could punch her in the face if you want. How is Dad holding up?”

“So, this is going to sound strange, but he grew his leg back.”

“What?”

“The process started when he regressed in age. Once he got here, he told Lucas where you were under certain conditions. Lucas finished the progression. He’s as good as new. He seems pretty at home here. He and Lucas have meetings once a day, about you I’m guessing.” Kevin slumped back in his chair. “He doesn’t tell me much, just reassures me this is the best thing for us right now.”

Valerie could feel her face getting hot. She trusted her father, but having him conspire with Lucas was infuriating. Her older brother wore his emotions right on his sleeve. Valerie would need to do a better job at masking her suspicions.

“Bathroom?”

Kevin pointed across the room at a closed door.

She moved as quietly as she could, shut the door behind her, and flipped on the light. There was a marked contrast from the simple room she had seen before. Though it maintained the stark white of the rest of the facility, floors and countertops were marble. The towels hanging on the wall were thick and soft. There was even a large TV mounted behind the sink displaying the time, date, and the weather outside of the facility. There were other announcements as well: menus for the day and mealtimes, a schedule for live updates, and times when phones would be available for use. Just before she turned back to the sink, a picture of her came across the screen.

Please welcome Valerie Burton to the Denver Facility. You will treat her with reverence and respect as your DiaZem. She will assume her seat on the World Council alongside her DiaZem partner, Lucas Jarrett. We ask you to maintain order and peace during her time of transition. All your concerns will be addressed in the coming weeks. Thank you.

“Russell,” she said out loud to herself. “Valerie Russell.” She pulled her badge off and threw the card and lanyard across the counter.

Her white shirt had a black burn hole on the right side of her back, revealing smooth, unblemished skin. She had healed while she slept. She also realized that the energy emitted from the men fighting might have lent itself to her aid.

Valerie considered the deep-jetted tub situated in the middle of the room. The idea of soaking seemed bizarre and inappropriate, but if she could not relax now, she feared she might never have the opportunity again. Caleb was sleeping with Kevin there watching him. She turned on the faucet and held her hand under the water until she was satisfied with the temperature. She pulled what remained of her shirt over her head and stood again in front of the mirror. Her hands slid over her abdomen, giving no hint of the tiny life within. In the moment she had attacked Lucas, Valerie had not given a thought of its safety or if the shock could harm her child. She had no idea how far along she even was, and if her genetics were strong enough to protect the babe.

“I need you, Scott,” she whispered and wrapped her arms around herself. The tears came again, and she removed her remaining clothing and slid into the hot bath. She took a breath and submerged herself. The weightlessness loosened any tension left in her body. The heat of the water helped her focus. She needed to come up with a plan, and fast. To ensure her family’s safety in the immediate future, she had to appear agreeable to Lucas’ plans for her. She did not know how long or how far she would be forced to comply. She feared she would never get the opportunity to fight if she did not start immediately. A smile spread across her face under the water imagining August blacking Lucas’ eye.

Valerie came up for air with an idea. If Lucas could watch her, then she could trace the video feed and do the same, like how she used the speaker to call for help at the resort. If there were cameras everywhere, tracking August would take little effort. She looked at the mounted TV. The screen went dark as she traced the electrical wires to the camera in her bedroom and displayed the feed in front of her. She was comforted by the ability to see her son sleeping, like using a baby monitor. In the same turn, she was sicke...











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