I’m going to go crazy. I try to focus on the page in front of me, but the words seem to blur together and my eyes skip from one sentence to the next without really registering anything. Ugh. How long’ve I been studying? I know I had a time bubble up for an hour, starting when I got to the library. That is, it was an hour inside the bubble; outside it was only about fifteen minutes. Then I had to let it go or risk an even worse headache than I already have. Since then it’s been . . . how long? I can’t remember; it feels like hours.
Movement catches the corner of my eye. I look up hopefully. Yes! I wave and call as loudly as I dare, which means I’m really just talking at a normal volume. “Saxon! Hi, Saxon!”
Saxon glances towards me, then abandons her cart of books to walk over to my table. “Hey, Rebecca.” She glances over the notes and textbook scattered in front of me. “Another history paper?”
“I wish,” I groan. “Those are fun. This is chemistry. Also known as torture.” I wrap my fingers in my curls and tug miserably. “Oxidation numbers will be the death of me. And don’t even get me started on compound nonclamenture. Just don’t.”
“You’re the one who brought it up.” Saxon raises an eyebrow. “Anyway, did you need something? You look like you’re pretty busy.”
“Exactly.” I wave a hand at the chair across from mine. “I am in desperate need of a distraction. Please. If I have to study this any longer, I think my brain is going to explode.”
“That might be interesting to see.” Saxon grins to let me know she’s teasing and sits down. “I can’t talk long. I have work to do, you know.”
“Ten minutes. That’s all I need.” Hopefully. “And if it’s not, I’ll . . . I don’t know. I’ll help you shelve books or something.” I shove my chemistry notes aside. “So. Life. How’s it going for you?”
“Pretty well.” Saxon shrugs. “Nothing’s new, really.” She glances over my notes again. “Maybe you should ask Lannis to help you with this stuff, since she’s apparently some kind of genius.”
I huff. “You’re supposed to be distracting me from chemistry, remember?” I rest my elbows on the table. “Did Grant tell you about that big archery contest he went to last weekend?”
“Yeah. I said he should’ve entered; he probably would’ve d-”
Saxon is cut off by the muffled but still unmistakable sound of a gunshot. It’s rapidly followed by two more. We trade a look, then jump up and run for the library’s front entrance. Wide windows border the doors on either side, providing a clear view of the restaurant across the street.
The patio seating area, usually filled with cheerful, chatting customers at this time, is chaos. Some people are running for the restaurant doors; others are running for the gate out to the street. At least two are on the ground, bleeding. In the middle of it all, a man in a nondescript sweatshirt with a black bandanna around his face like a villain in an Old Western is holding a pistol and taking aim at another person. I can tell he’s yelling something from the way the bandanna moves, though I can’t hear the words.
Behind us, the librarian gasps, “Oh my goodness,” and runs back to the desk, probably to call 911. I glance at Saxon. “Starlight would do something.”
“You say, like I wouldn’t.” Saxon puts a hand on the door. “If I distract the shooter- or take him out- can you take care of the people who’ve been shot?”
Take him out? I’m not sure how Saxon thinks she’ll do that; I mean, we’ve had no training! But I nod all the same, pulling my jacket hood over my hair. “I can do that.”
“Great.” Saxon puts her hand on my shoulder, glances around to make sure no one’s watching, and then-
We’re there, behind the shelter of an overturned table. Saxon’s invisible, but I feel her hand linger on my shoulder for a moment before she dashes off. I wonder what she’s going to do but know I don’t have time to wonder. There’s a person, a young man a few years older than me, on the ground a few feet away, bleeding, unconscious. Staying low, I dart over to him and kneel, deliberately not thinking about the amount of red on the pavement or the coppery smell of blood. The wound’s a few inches too low to have hit his heart, thank God. I press my hands over the hole and pour the healing power- not out of me, because it doesn’t exactly come from inside, but through me, and into the man’s body. I focus it carefully, healing from the bottom of the wound up so the bullet will be pushed out by the flesh as it knits together.
A flurry of shouted curses catches my attention, pulls my gaze up from the man I’m healing. The shooter has doubled over as if someone kicked him in the stomach; a moment later, he stumbles to the side. Saxon. Of course. I didn’t know she could fight, well, at all, but then again, she did say something at the last meeting . . .
The man I’ve been healing moans quietly. I look down at him, pause the flow of the power, and lift one hand from the wound. It’s healed down to a reddish mark- more than good enough when my purpose is just to make sure he doesn’t die. I knock the bullet off of the mark and onto the ground and am about to dash to the next person when he mumbles, “‘Who’re you- superhero?”
I barely know what to say, so I just go with the first thing that pops into my head: “I don’t know. I’m just . . . a sort of angel, I guess. In the right place at the right time.” Before he can say more- or take a good look at me- I dash towards the next person.
Two more shots blast the air, and I lunge for the next table, dropping to the ground. He noticed me, he noticed me, and now he wants to kill me- oh. No. The shots, I realize, weren’t aimed anywhere near me. The shooter is more or less upright again, though he doesn’t look very steady, and he’s shooting wildly, apparently hoping he’ll get lucky and hit his invisible opponent. I silently send up a prayer for Saxon’s safety, amend it to the safety of everyone in the area, and continue on to the next victim.
She’s a woman this time, in her thirties, again hit in the chest but in a different part. I cringe, seeing the white of bone showing in the wound. Again, I press my hands over the hole, pour the healing power in, knit the flesh and veins together, push the bullet up. The power borrows my energy as it passes through, draining me- but I can’t stop; there’s still more people to be saved. Thankfully, the patio is mostly deserted by now- besides me, only Saxon, the shooter, and the few people too injured or scared to run remain.
The next person I go to is already dead. She looks like she was trying to crawl away towards the safety of the restaurant when shock and blood loss overtook her. I cringe again, wishing I’d been here sooner or that someone else would’ve noticed her and helped her, and move on.
As I reach the next person, I hear a clatter and another flurry of angry curses. I survey the man’s injuries with a glance- another bullet wound, this one dangerously close to the heart- and start the flow of healing energy once more before I look up. The shooter’s lost his gun; Saxon must’ve knocked it from his hand at last and then kicked it several feet away. He’s trying to get to it, but I can tell from his movements that Saxon is doing everything she can to stop him, and he doesn’t seem to know where to hit back. I watch the fight, not really comprehending because I’m so focused on the healing. Saxon lands blow after blow, I’m guessing both punches and kicks, darting around the shooter like a whole pack of wolves after a bull moose. The shooter, in contrast, hits wildly at empty air- though occasionally a lucky blow thwacks into Saxon.
Then his head snaps to one side. He sways a moment, then topples to the ground. I wince at the crack of his head against the pavement- even if he is a murderer, that sound is painful. A few moment’s later, Saxon’s rough invisible-voice comes from just over my shoulder. “Almost done?”
“‘lmost.” I’m mumbling myself now, my head spinning from weariness. “This guy’s-” I check- “good enough.” I pull my hands away. “Just one more left, I think.”
I stumble over to the final lady and repeat the healing process one last time. I don’t have the energy left for a full healing, but I do the best I can, and I think she’ll live. I stand, swaying. “Ok. ‘M done.”
“You bet you are.” Saxon grabs my arm. “Let’s get you home before you fall over.”
Teleportation feels weirder when you’re exhausted. Recognizing my front porch takes a few minutes, during which Saxon fishes my key out of my pocket and lets us both in. “Can you make it to your room on your own?”
I nod, leaning against the wall. “My stuff’s at the library.”
“I’ll get it. Relax.” Saxon goes visible again. “You sure you’re ok?”
“Fine. Just tired.” I manage a smile. “You did great back there.”
“You too.” Saxon gives me one last worried look, as if reassuring herself I’m not going to fall over in the front hall, then turns to go. “See you later.”
“Later.” I wait until the door shuts, and then I stumble into the living room and collapse onto the couch. In minutes, I’m fast asleep.