One: 71:58:57Edit

Syria Benice Listine-Jones stood looking out her top floor hotel room balcony at the town below.

It contained a newly rebuilt town hall, a still partially demolished church, a new McDonalds, a daycare next to a hardware store, and a single school. Syria could also see the long stretch of houses, some rebuilt, some still charred and burned, some completely gone. She let her gaze travel east and saw a building not that far away from the one she was standing in. The building used to be a reform school. Then, as she looked farther out, scanning the length of the highway her eyes finally came to rest on an inactive nuclear power plant.

This was Perdido Beach, a town that, for the mundanes, seems to have lost its sense of logic. For Syria, on the other hand, the town seems to have only become more logical.

Sighing, Syria trekked back into her hotel room, shutting the balcony doors behind her.

She breathed in the smell of the room, a heavy, bleachey,  Windexey, smell from the sanitizing of the room that had occurred a few days before. A hotel room full of parentless kids could get messy. Now and then Syria uncovered small things the cleaning crew had missed, cigar butts behind a couch, a small faded red stain next to the sink, a bullet hole in the balcony floor.

Syria sunk into the leather recliner in front of the flat-screen TV and turned it on. A stern looking brunette reporter was standing just outside the Perdido Beach City Limits. Syria noted how disgusted the reporter looked, having to stand there, so close to a possibly still radioactive, blood-bathed freak town.

“This Thursday will mark the second anniversary of the beginning of the Perdido Beach Anomaly.” Many pictures of different children filled the screen. Syria was able to pick out five of them in a heartbeat, Sam Temple, Caine Soren, Diana Ladris, Brittney, and Drake Merwin. “Two years ago everyone over the age of fourteen was zapped out of the town and a mysterious dome came down around the perimeter of Perdido Beach, cutting the forsaken children off from the world. In three days we will be holding the memorial for those who died at the newly rebuilt Perdido Beach town hall. Sam Temple will also be speaking out for the first time at the-“

“Don’t remind me!” Syria groaned shutting off the news report. She stood up, her nervous dread returning.

It was in three days and she still hadn’t found the Prince, or the missing Gemini. How had so much precious time escaped her? There were less than seventy-two hours left.

She ran her slender caramel-colored fingers through her thick gold-blond hair. She could do this. She’d helped ultimately save Sam, and even Caine, at the last minute dozens of times. What made her think she couldn’t do it now?

Syria started throwing her few personal items into her bags, a bottle of detoxin for venom bites, her spare clothes, a hair brush, a golden cross necklace that technically wasn’t hers. Then she made sure everything else was with her. Her jade necklace was still tied around her throat, her katana slung across her back, a throwing knife in its sheath at either side of her hips, and a revolver tucked into her waistband. She still disliked the feel of the cool handle against the small of her back. If it wasn’t for its importance she wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place.

The phone rang.

Syria ignored it. It was probably for the owner. Most likely some tourist or Anomaly Enthusiast that wants to book a room before the memorial.

Then she saw the Caller ID. SM PHSYCIATRICS printed in blocky letters flashed across the hotel phone’s screen. Syria lunged for the phone. She picked up on the fifth and final ring.

“Stephanie?” Syria asked.

“Syria! I almost thought you wouldn’t pick up.” The voice on the other end was calm and gentle, dripping with the kind of cautious kindness that only physiatrists and teachers could master.

“Stephanie, what’s wrong? What can’t wait another five minutes?”

Syria heard a sharp intake of breath. “It has to do with their therapy.” Stephanie began, “I can’t be there, you know, because of the conference. You’ll have to take my place.”

“Why can’t Eliana do it?” Syria tried to suppress the incredulousness that tried to work its way into her voice.

“She’s going as well.” That was all Stephanie said, as if those four words were going to make Syria agree.

Syria slowly let out her breath. She didn’t have time for Stephanie’s games. “Less the seventy-two, Stef, this’ll only waste precious hours, minutes, seconds.”

“Or save time!” Stephanie argued. “Get them to trust you, to help you. Then it’ll all go by faster!”

There was a long pause where Syria didn’t say a word. Stephanie had a point she decided. “Fine, I’ll go.”

“Thank you.” Stephanie replied before hanging up.

Syria threw the phone onto the recliner. It bounced off and then slid under the TV stand. She didn’t bother picking it up as she walked out. Her footsteps were muffled in the carpeted hall. Good, she needed absolute quiet while she was seething.

First she plays Maia’s overseer, then her hunter, and now Stephanie’s shrink. God, what’s next? Even though angel blood ran in her veins Syria was feeling anything but holy.  

Something was wrong.

Maia's colorless eyes flicked open. She sat comepletely still and listened again, regulating her breathing so that her breaths were shallow and practically nonexistent. There was nothing for a very long time. Maia was just about to let out a sigh of relief when she heard it.

A soft little fluttering sound.

Then a second.

It was a heartbeat, no doubting it. It was very weak and faint like it belonged to a dying creature.

Or a freshly ressurected one.

{Are you afraid older sister?} Maia froze. Her back went rigid and she hardened her mind. The voice in her head was not her own. It belonged to something that had died long ago, or so she believed.

{Do you fear me, sister?} The voice itself sounded like nails on a chalkboard, vibrating through Maia's mind. She clenched her jaw.

{I fear nothing, naive little brother.} Maia shot back.

She heard the voice cackle, an ugly sound that was similar to vomiting. {Such strong words. You always were the toughest of us. But I feel that you should be afraid. If not of me then of her. I am being reborn, sister.}

{That turned out beautifully the last time.} Maia taunted.

{This time I will not have a human body. I will a body of a being much more superior.}

This caught Maia's attention. {And what being is that?}

{Now, now. I can not ruin the suprise, can I? You must wait and see.}

{Wait! Brother!} But the voice had dissapeared leaving Maia shaken. He was lying, he had to be. But even as she thought it Maia knew it was just wishful thinking. The Gaiaphage was truly back.

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