“You have four minutes, Llona,” Liam said through a microphone in my ear. His voice, like the ringing of a great bell, slammed against my already aching head.
The small plane’s engine shrieked, a high-pitched sound different from the steady hum of the last twenty minutes. Everyone had boarded a while ago to wait for take-off. It was a silent crowd, not one likely to converse with each other.
I shifted my weight in the plane’s cramped closet. I could’ve come out, because I’d just turned invisible, but I wanted to wait until the speed of the plane increased, covering any sounds the closet door might make when it opened.
It was shortly after Cyrus kidnapped my aunt Sophie from Lucent Academy that I taught myself to turn invisible. I’d practiced every day, sometimes for hours, until I could do it without the accompanying paralyzing weakness. And although the pain hadn’t gotten any better, I was able to increase the time I could maintain invisibility to several minutes. I’d accomplished all this in just a few short months since Christian’s death.
The plane lurched forward, picking up speed on the runway. I opened the door and peered into the plane’s small kitchen. Empty. Perfect. I quietly slipped out and closed the door behind me.
The front wheels of the plane bounced.
The cabin, as I suspected, was full of Vykens sitting in their seats, their backs to me, as if they were regular passengers. Most of them looked like normal humans, which meant they’d fed on Auran blood recently, but a few were in their purest form—facial features deformed and gray with moldy skin peeling back from their faces.
There was only one different from the rest—Jackson. He sat three rows up to the right of the center aisle.
With the Deific’s help, Liam had finally received a tip on Jackson’s whereabouts. It was the closest we’d come to finding out where Cyrus held Sophie captive. I glanced to my left, to the emergency exit. By the way the plane was vibrating, it was close to lifting into the air.
A Vyken stood and turned into the aisle to walk to the rear of the plane. I pressed myself against a seat to keep him from bumping into me. I had yet to learn how to let matter pass through me. That may be a trick only my mother knew.
After the Vyken passed by, I crept toward Jackson. He was staring down at his bloodied knuckles. How did that happen? Jackson used to be a Guardian. He, and a bunch of others who had followed him, had joined Vykens against the Auras months ago. I’d been training harder than ever to stop them all and restore the Auras to their former strength. The strength only a few knew about.
The plane lifted. Still plenty of time to make my move.
I reached down, careful to avoid touching Jackson, and undid his seat belt. He glanced to his lap, brows furrowed. I smacked the back of his head, hard.
He whirled around and stared at the Vyken behind him. “What’s your problem?”
The Vyken ignored him.
Jackson stood and confronted the Vyken again. “Hey, I’m talking to you!”
The Vyken lifted his gaze from the sports magazine in his hand. “I know Cyrus said we can’t kill you, but he didn’t say I couldn’t hurt you. Sit down, Guardian.”
Liam’s voice spoke again in my ear. “Hurry up.”
Several Vykens looked around. His voice, this close to so many of them, must have drawn attention.
Time to pay for your crimes, Jackson.
I drew my fist back and punched him in the face. His hand came up to his bloodied nose. “What the . . .?”
Several Vykens came to their feet.
I punched him again. He stumbled back toward the exit, arms outstretched as though to steady himself. Blood ran onto his chin.
“What’s going on?” he yelled.
I answered with a swift kick to his chest. It took just a second for him to recover before he started blindly throwing punches. “Someone help me!”
The others glanced around as if they didn’t know what to do.
I dodged Jackson’s fist and punched him again. He was in position. I took hold of the emergency latch and pulled it as hard as I could. The door flew open, sucking air from the cabin. Papers and all kinds of debris flew past me. Jackson scrambled backward, his eyes darting around until he was pressed against the wall separating the kitchen from the cabin.
The others stood alert, some in a fight-ready stance. But who were they going to fight? They couldn’t see me. No one could.
Grabbing Jackson, I spun him around until he was facing the open door; his clothes and hair whipped around violently. He stuttered a string of words I couldn’t understand.
His fear excited me, sending a wave of adrenaline through my bloodstream.
I was about to reveal myself to him, just so I could see the surprise in his eyes, but Liam’s voice sounded in my ear. “Get out of there—now!”
Jerking into action, I wrapped my arms around Jackson’s chest and jumped from the plane, spiraling into a black abyss.