Alice’s mouth felt dry. She blinked her eyes, nearly overwhelmed by the red lighting and loud music. Things had been so quiet only seconds ago.
“I think she’s coming out of it.” The voice was female and familiar. Alice turned and saw tussled blonde hair atop a curious expression. “Here, drink this. The others said they had some wicked cotton mouth.” The girl held out a glass of clear liquid, presumably water.
“Thanks,” Alice mumbled. She accepted the offering, surprising at how cold it was to the touch. With two gulps she’d drained its contents and began shaking off the jumbled feeling in her head. She looked over and realized why the voice had sounded familiar. The girl it belonged to was Jill. She and Will were sitting at the booth with her, the others nowhere to be seen.
“It seems our teammate, Rich, took some offense to Nick’s questioning of his skills, thus he decided a demonstration was in order. You have our sincerest apologies,” Will said in his usual crisp tones.
“Right,” Alice said, staring at the table as things began to mentally realign. “Right, he put us in a dream.”
“It’s a bit more complex than that: a lucid hallucination would be a better term. But for current intents and purposes, yes, he put you in a dream,” Will explained.
Alice nodded. It was all coming back to her: Nick’s insults, the spa, the pedicure.
Jill didn’t notice, but Will saw Alice’s grip on the table suddenly tighten, her knuckles beginning to go white. She turned her face up and forced a contorted, half-mad smile.
“And where is Rich?”
“He’s with the others. They all went to the bar to get drinks. We volunteered to sit here and keep an eye on you,” Jill supplied helpfully.
“Thank you.” Alice rose from the table and began slicing her way through the room.
“Where-” Jill’s question was cut off as Will put a hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t. Let her go. Also, interrupt the security camera footage in this place if you can.”
“Because I’m afraid whatever she’s about to do is the sort of incident none of us want captured on film,” Will said cryptically.
Jill got the message and began working to kill the surveillance. She managed it nearly a full minute before things went completely batshit.
* * *
Everyone had just finished getting their drinks when Alice found the cluster. Vince and Selena noticed her approaching, but only Alex and Mary got any forewarning of what was about to happen. Even with that, neither had enough time to both process what was emanating from Alice’s white hot mind and react to stop her.
“Yeah, holding it isn’t that hard,” Rich said, he and Nick absorbed in discussion about the finer points of his talents. “Setting it up is the only part that takes much effort. After that it’s not much worse than-”
“YOU BASTARD!” Alice swung with all her might, cracking Rich squarely in the jaw and sending him tumbling to the floor. He was numb in surprise, trying to sort out what had just happened, when the toe of a red heel drove itself forcefully into his stomach.
“Do you think that’s funny? Do you think that’s FUCKING FUNNY?!” Alice’s voice spiked as she reared back for another kick. She felt someone pulling her back by the shoulders, noticed the stares of all the strangers around her, and proceeded willfully to not give any semblance of a fuck. She struggled forward and mustered all her power into one last blow. The hands holding her were strong, but in that moment Alice was a focused inferno just begging for release. Her long, elegant model leg slammed its foot into Rich’s ribs. There was a sickening crack from his torso; however, it was lost in the enormous crashing sound that filled the room.
Every suspended light within twenty feet of Alice came plummeting down simultaneously, shattering on the ground and sending the costumed partiers into a panic. Alice tried to get in one more shot in the confusion, her own mind not even registering the event; however, she found Chad suddenly standing in front of her. He didn’t make any movements to touch her, but it was evident anything she sent at Rich would be blocked. With the bulk of her rage spent and her target cut off from her, Alice finally felt the emotional weight she’d been trying to push back. The blonde girl in the devil costume slumped and began to cry soundlessly. She turned and collapsed into the shoulder of one of the people who’d been pulling her back, shaking gently as she lost her last shred of control.
“Nick, Vince, get Alice some fresh air outside. We’ll catch up in a minute,” Mary ordered. The two boys obeyed without comment. Even Nick was quiet, though whether it was the intensity of the situation or the tall blonde weeping freely on his chest that stayed his tongue was anyone’s guess. He and the silver-haired vampire gently escorted her out the door. Few people noticed her sobbing in the still-bubbling confusion, and those that did assumed she’d been struck by one of the lights.
Mary turned her attention to Rich, who was trying to lift himself from the ground while favoring his damaged ribs. Camille stepped forward and reached out; Mary saw in her thoughts that she was going to heal him.
“Don’t help him,” Mary snapped. She had to make a conscious effort not to ball her hands into fists. She didn’t need to lose her temper, too. They’d drawn far too much attention as it was; one more curious event could get them noticed in the wrong way and booted from the HCP.
“What the fuck was her problem?” Rich had blood on his teeth, probably from Alice’s first punch.
“Rich, I heard Alice’s thoughts when she was attacking you. I know what went on in her dream. Now, the reason I sent Nick and Vince out of the room is because if they knew too I’m afraid they might genuinely try to kill you.”
Rich stared up at her, the rest of his team involuntarily stepping closer to him. They were a unit, after all. That was fine; Mary didn’t need to settle this here and now. She only needed confirmation.
“I’m going to tell you what she was mad about, and so help me God, if Alex or I pick up one mental twinge that you had something to do with it I’ll make you regret the day you set foot on Lander Campus.” Mary took a breath and tried again to claim herself down. “In Alice’s dream she was approached by a man she didn’t know, who told her that he was a friend of her mother’s.”
“I don’t see the issue here,” Chad said, trying to curtail the escalating situation.
“Alice’s mother died when she was a baby. Yet this man, this stranger who appeared in the scenario Rich constructed for her, said she was still alive, and very much wanted to see her daughter.”
A burst of panic tore through Rich’s mind. It was a sensation heavy with fear, but the fear wasn’t of Mary or Alex. She wondered what scared him more than a pair of righteously pissed off telekinetics. She didn’t have to wonder long.
“I swear, I had nothing to do with that. I just stuck her in her subconscious. I didn’t add anything!” Rich objected furiously. Flecks of blood and spit flew from his mouth as he protested his innocence. His mind supported the story; there was shock and uncertainty at what could have gone awry.
Mary looked at Alex. “Anything?” Alex said nothing, but thought the word No. Mary turned back to see Chad hauling Rich to his feet.
“I’m very sorry for whatever Alice experienced,” Chad said calmly. “I hope you’ve seen that Rich had nothing to do with it, at least not intentionally. We are all still learning, and it’s possible for mistakes to be made.”
“As far as we can tell he didn’t know about it,” Mary confirmed.
“Good,” Chad said, resting his hand on Rich’s shoulder. “Because I’m certain no member of my team would intentionally do anything as horrible as playing on the emotional wounds of someone who had lost a parent.” Mary heard another cluster of fear-soaked thoughts scatter through Rich’s brain. She noticed that while Chad’s hand might seem to be there for support, his fingers were digging rather forcefully into his teammate’s shoulder. Given how strong Chad was, Mary had to imagine that was pretty painful.
“I can absolutely assure you that such a thing will never happen again, be it accident or otherwise,” Chad continued, his tone still perfectly neutral. Mary couldn’t read his mind, and she didn’t have Nick’s talents for seeing through people, but it was still plain as day in that moment that Chad knew exactly the same kind of pain as Alice. She hoped that Rich really was innocent as Chad believed him to be; otherwise he was likely in for a pretty horrible couple of hours.
“We should probably go,” Alex pointed out, breaking the discussion between captains. “We can still slip out like we’re scared, but if we stay much longer people are going to start asking about the fight.”
“He’s right,” Chad concurred. “Let’s call it a night.”
Mary agreed, and the group broke into clusters of twos and threes then headed for the doors. Rich tried to get alongside Camille, but Chad’s guiding hand kept him directly next to his captain. Together the boys headed out into the cold night. Everyone dispersed except for Mary, Camille, and Hershel, who found the two boys and Alice at the side of the black brick building. Together they piled into cars and headed toward home, finally ending what had amounted to another quite shitty Halloween.