Authors: Naomi Stone
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Copyright 2012 by Naomi Stone
Cover Art by Amanda Kelsey
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When a probability bomb exploded in the heartlands of the US, no one could have predicted the results. Chaos was the whole point of using a probability bomb. Everything and anything occurred that day, from rains of frogs to Red Sea-partings of local swimming pools to animals speaking in human tongues and some people turning to pillars of salt or fudge while others were gifted with strange powers. Thousands died. Scientists later speculated that, in keeping with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the observers influenced the effects. Ten years later the world had become a different place.
Rachel Connolly tried burying her head under her pillows, but it did no good. The beeping tone—the same made by trucks backing up—still pierced her skull from ear-to-ear—David’s ring tone. Why hadn’t she put the damn phone on vibrate before falling into bed so late last night?
She swung her feet around, sat up on the edge of her bed, ran one hand through the tousled curls falling past her shoulders and grabbed her phone with the other, just in time to catch it before it rolled over to voice mail.
“What is it?” she growled. Mornings sucked. Even when they arrived after noon she found it hard enough to maintain serenity before she’d had a chance to meditate and run through her yoga routine. She hoped no one else was home to be caught in her blast of grumpiness.
“The team needs you.” Her brother, the one person she could trust to stay impervious to her moods, acted as coordinator for Team Guardian.
“What’s up?” She stood, phone pressed to her ear while gathering clean underwear, loose slacks and a black top on her way to the bathroom.
“Hostage situation.” David rattled off the pertinent points. “Bomber, main offices of Capital Financing Company in Edina. Beaming the address to your specs. Why aren’t you wearing them? I had to wait for you to answer your goddammed phone.”
“Who wears their specs to bed?” Switching her phone to speaker, Rachel splashed water on her face, quickly washed up.
“What are you doing? We need you here now.”
“I won’t be effective if I don’t have a chance to center myself. And coffee—you’d better have a big one ready for me when I get there, and that means tons of cream and sugar. Now leave me alone so I can get some clothes on.”
“Fine, Sis. Don’t waste time. Lives depend on it.”
“Right.” He’d already rung off.
It took her less than five minutes to pull on her clothes and shoes, grab her specs, drag her hair into a sloppy ponytail, and dash out the door. She must look like crap. Until she donned the specs. Their cool factor made up for a lot. To heck with flashy costumes. Team Guardian wore inconspicuous street clothes and the virtual-reality computer-communications systems that looked like sunglasses. In addition to their other virtues they even protected her eyes from UV rays. It seemed like the whole city sported shades these days, gloom or shine, the Team’s specs having revived a fashion trend that had never really died.
She encountered no one on her way out. Good. Tamara would have given her a more-disappointed-than-angry look, at the very least, for broadcasting her peevishness at the phone earlier.
She picked up David’s transmission and blinked at the flashing red icon to open the message. It included the address of Capital Financing’s office out in the burbs. If he wanted her there so fast, why hadn’t he sent transporta—
Before she could open a channel to ask, Tom Stanton appeared at her side on the front steps of the huge old three-story house/ashram in South Minneapolis.
He grinned, face boyish despite the gray showing at the temples of otherwise sandy hair. “Need a lift?” He opened his arms, spreading the wings of his gray trench coat wide to reveal the trim, gray-clad shape beneath.
She returned the grin. “Hey. I guess they do need me—sending the world’s best teleporter.” Not only could he “lift” twice his own weight, but he also smelled nice. He must roll that coat of his in cinnamon toast, she thought, moving into his arms and clenching her eyes tight against the disorienting lurch of reality that sent them both miles across town in an instant. Lucky she hadn’t had time for breakfast—or lunch.
Too bad they hadn’t found a teleporter yet who could move through walls. Be nice if they could just appear behind the fricking bomber and knock him on the head. The scientists who studied such things said their teleporters didn’t actually bypass distance, but crossed it at near light speed in some frictionless state. They didn’t understand the phenomenon yet, or how the travelers could avoid collisions with solid objects in their path but not be able to enter or exit closed spaces except by the same means as anyone else.
Arriving outside a glass-and-steel building in a suburban office park, Rachel left Tom with a smile and wave. She spotted her tall, blond brother in his brown sports jacket, standing like a golden eagle among crows in the middle of a small group of police and SWAT members on the, presumably, safe side of a barricade of police cars.
David handed her a large to-go cup of coffee as soon as she made it to his side. “Mmm.” She took a deep swig while he turned her to face the main entrance of the building. He pointed.
“He’s got about a dozen people in there. The police are giving us this chance to go in before the SWAT. They’ve already had a negotiator on the phone with him. No luck.”
Rachel took a long deep breath, releasing it slowly. “Okay. Give me a minute here.”
“First, let me introduce your partner. He’ll be going in with you.”
“I work alone.” Rachel’s attention stayed on her breathing, keeping any annoyance, any emotional reactions under control in accordance with her well-practiced routine for inducing a state of inner peace.
“Not this time.” David understood her state. “Trust me. This guy will deal with the bomb—you deal with the bomber. This is Fluke. He’s a Probabilities Talent—just moved here from Chicago.”
The tall, well-built guy at David’s elbow raised one eyebrow quizzically. He looked more accustomed to aggravation and confrontation than to the feelings of serene compassion Rachel currently generated and projected around herself. Not a bad face that… She tamped down the stirring of her interest in his chiseled features, the finely turned lips surrounded by five o’clock shadow, and the dark eyes under shaggy dark hair. He wore his specs shoved back on his head.
Rachel extended a hand and let her benevolent smile encompass him. “A pleasure.” As usual in this state, she sounded abstracted, only half in the world of the others, the bulk of her attention turned to generating a state of peaceful serenity, building it up to project outward in an increasingly wider sphere.
Faced with this…interesting…man, it took some effort to stay focused on projecting waves of placidity like the laziest of all sleepy summer days wrapped in a dose of baby-curled-at-a-loving-mama’s-breast. She caught the spark of interest in the man’s eyes before David drew him aside.
“You feel it?” David, immune, asked Fluke. “That’s what’ll get you close. She’s a reverse empath, projects her feelings. She’ll shut down the bomber’s fear response, and the hostages’ too. No one will panic or do anything rash. You’ll be able to get access to the bomb to defuse it.”
~ * ~
Fluke—Franklin Luke Delano to his parents—stood pole-axed. He’d never experienced anything like this before. A man of intense passions—and he’d known everything from lust to fury to despair—he’d never known this. He felt perfectly at peace with himself for the first time in his life.
He studied her face in wonder. The serene angel with the dark red curls cascading from an off-center ponytail. Could he have been mistaken about that momentary flash of interest he’d picked up from her? Eyes hidden behind her specs revealed nothing now.
“Okay.” David spoke. “Time to move.”