Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2042982-Little-Atlantis-Chap-15-18
by mik
Rated: E · Draft · Sci-fi · #2042982
It's his destiny to restore Atlantis. Does he dare face off with evil Bellator?
Little Atlantis
Chapter 15
    Love, Desire and, Envy
        Fogging the heart with desire rather than love, spawns envy.

        “Have you settled in okay?”  I asked turning to Warren at dinner.
        “Yes, Tim was kind enough to show me around.”
        “I’m sure he’ll be glad to have the company.  We tried to get him to stay in the castle, but he was more comfortable in the ring.”
      “Yes.  I’m sure the luxurious splendor of the castle was too intimidating for his kind.  Now I, on the other hand, would much appreciate accommodations in the castle.”
        I glanced up, ignoring his blatant attempt, at getting inside the castle.   
      “His kind,” I questioned.  “What do you mean by his kind?”
      “Oh, you know.”  Warren said filling his plate.  “The poor uncivilized limited intelligence, mountain man type.”
        My gasp of indignation finally grabbed Warren’s attention.  “Must you degrade everyone?  Do you really feel that superior?” 
      “I call em the way I see em.”  Warren muttered unfazed by my irritation.
Turning to Lila and Hal, I did my best to ignore him.
      “If I could have your attention,” he called five minutes later, clanking his spoon on a glass.  “I’m officially requesting membership in your team or group?  Whatever you call yourselves.”
         The roar of strident voices grew loud.  I leaned forward, raising my hand to call for quite.  “But you said we were kids, who didn’t know shit.”  I muttered.  “Those were your words.  Why would you want to join a team you thought so little of?”
        Before he could respond Lila stood, letting her angry gaze touch each face at the table.  We fell silent.
      “Steve,” she said meeting my gaze.  “I respect your judgment, but Warren can’t be a member of our team.  “We don’t trust him.”  She stated letting her gaze settle on him. 
      Hal added, “To take on rogues, we need to trust everyone on our team.” 
      Warren stood brushing a hand down his jacket, like it was a five thousand dollar suit.  “I appreciate your opinions, but you really can’t afford to push me away.  It’s true; I don’t think your team is up to snuff.  But that can be fixed with proper leadership and training.”
      Rising, I turned to face him.  “Can you provide that leadership and training?”
      “Steve, what are you saying?”  Hal thundered looking very close to losing his legendary cool.
      Warren let his gaze bounce around the room, “I can see you’re all offended.”
      “Oh you can see that?”  Lila questioned.  “That’s good.  I was beginning to think you couldn’t see at all.”
      “Listen.”  Warren boomed.  “You’re all hiding here in your pretty, pretty castle waiting on visions to tell you what to do.  That’s insane.”
        Lila leaned toward Warren, “Don’t you worry about what we’re doing?”
      Warren shrugged flicking dirt from his fingernail. 
      “You have an elemento who uses only half his power.  Tim, while terribly strong, can’t make a move without someone telling him to.” 
      “And Penny, your key the one you’re pinning all your hopes on.  I’ve never seen anyone less battle ready…she can’t even follow orders.  In fact she brings nothing to this war, as far as I can see.”
      “But most importantly you’re relying on visions.  And not even good ones, your stubbornness will get you all killed.”
      The room erupted again.
      “I’m sorry if the truth hurts.”  Warren added.  “But that’s not just the way I see it.  It’s the way things are.  This team is a long way from being ready to face rogues.  You don’t even have a plan.”
        Hal, mister calm, cool and collected snarled.  “Oh you mean like your ridicules plan to trap Bellator in a sinkhole?  With plans like that, we might as well give up and sign the world over to the rogues.”
        Imagining this turning into a repeat of Warren’s arrival, I interrupted.     
      “We need to discuss this alone, you understand.  The decision to add a member has to be agreed on by everyone.”
      “Sure, sure,” Warren said motioning us on, seeming completely unconcerned over the outcome.  Either he was really sure of our decision or he was a very good actor.  I was betting on the latter.
      “Oh just one more thing,” He added.  “I’ll want my daughter Juliet to join us; of course, it’s not safe for her out there anymore.  Sense you ruined my plan to end Bellator.  I’m sure he’s searching for her.”
         Lila cringed at the word safe.  She knew my need to protect would grant him and his daughter a permanent place in our sanctuary.  Leaning toward Warren with menace she said, “You should have thought of that before attempting such fool hardy plan.” 
      “Bellator is a vengeful ass,” Warren continued.  “So naturally here is the safest place for her.”
      I turned to Warren ignoring Lila’s hissing menace.  “Of course she’s welcome to take safety here.  As are any Atlantian’s you know.  That is after all, the point of Atlantis, a sanctuary for our kind.”  Giving Lila a hard stare I added, “A person doesn’t need to be a team member to take sanctuary here.”
      Warren nodded excusing himself to go collect Juliet.
      I entered the library with reluctance, struggling to keep my voice level,    “Look, I never asked to be leader.  I don’t have a clue how, and some of the stuff he said, makes sense.  Maybe he could help.”
         “Warren’s not interested in helping anyone but himself.”  Lila ground out in anger. 
         I caught her gaze, “Well…I don’t know what to do, and you could all die.  I don’t want anyone dying, especially because I believed a vision.”  Shrugging I said.  “I can’t be the reason Atlantis falls, besides he’s right.  We are a long way from being ready.”
         A familiar fog danced across my vision.  Stepping over to the glass, mom’s face materialized. 
      “Warren should join you.  He will keep the team on its toes, if only to prove him wrong.  You don’t have to like him.  But know this…when you need him, he won’t let you down.”  She insisted, “Steve, hear me when I say this…only by trusting the visions can you win, you must lead.”
        The vision faded and the room became deathly quiet.  Everyone avoided my gaze, staring at books or out the glass, anywhere but at me.  I could feel tension coiling inside like a snake, but had no idea what to say.
         Finally Hal broke the uneasy silence.  “I trust your mother Steve, if she says let him in.  He’s in.”
         I heard lots of grumbles but no one spoke against Hal or the vision.
I wanted to scream, No!  I can’t lead, I don’t know how.  But like everyone else I kept my doubts to myself.
      We all turned at the sound of a soft female voice in the grand hall. 
The raven-haired woman gliding down the passageway bore little resemblance to Warren.  She was tall and both had deep brown hair, but the similarities ended there.  She appeared around twenty-five, the flashy Hollywood type, as plastic as a Barbie doll.  No matter her looks, she’s just another person I’m responsible for.  I thought.
         She wore tight jeans, with a frilly see through blouse.  Quickly redirecting my gaze, I noticed Penny didn’t look happy.
         Warren draped his arm around her shoulders saying.  “Juliet.  I’d like you to meet the gang.”
         Lila rolled her eyes groaning.           
      “Steve,” Warren said turning to me.  “Juliet’s a visionary like you.  She helped me set up that little trap, your bunch ruined.”
         Reminded of Warren’s unflattering opinion of visionary’s, I feel a ping of sympathy for her, sticking my hand out I said.  “Glad to meet you.” 
To my shock, she pulled me into an overly intimate hug.  My face burned with embarrassment.  Quickly pulling free, I peeked at Penny. 
        She glared with animosity; I’d never seen such hostility from her.  Oh…this is going to be great, I thought, unconsciously rubbing my rib.
         Juliet didn’t hug, shake hands, or even greet anyone else.  Turning her back to the room she asked.  “So dad, what’s your next move?”
         “Next move,” I repeated.  “Are you planning something Warren?”          
         He chuckled, “You didn’t expect me to sit here, and hide did ya?  We’ll talk later?  Come on Juliet let me give you a tour of Atlantis?” 
         Penny voiced her concerns first.  “I don’t know which is worse, Warren or Juliet?”
         I scoffed.  “Don’t be silly.  It’s Warren no doubt.”
         Hal glared at his back.  “Yeah, he thinks were a bunch of clueless jumpers.”
         Lila blew out her breath.  “Ass,” She grated with fury.
         I jammed a hand through my hair, feeling responsible.  “Wow.  I never thought I’d be saying this.  But Hal, you and Lila, need to mellow out.”
        Lila continued to glare at Warren’s back.  “He may be older, more in tune with his powers, but he’s a first class jerk.”  She grumbled.
      “He’s part of the team now.”  I said without feeling, trying to be the voice of calm, “For better or worse.”
      “You heard him.”  Lila blasted, “He’s planning something…like he’s in charge.  He thinks he can just walk in and take over.”
         Penny shrugged against the glass she leaned on.  “He’s hoping his daughter can give him control.”
         “What,” Lila blared.
         “He thinks Juliet can win Steve’s affection.  Giving him control through proxy.”  Penny replied without feeling.
         I blew out my breath with unease.  “That’s ridicules.” 
         “Yeah well, ridicules and him go well together, like believing he could dump a lake on Bellator’s head?”  She reminded.  “You saw the way Juliet grabbed you.  That was intentional.  Don’t be surprised when it happens again and again.”
         “Are you saying, you can read their thoughts, like Bellator?”  I questioned.
         “No.”  She answered.  “More like their emotions and hers are gyrating all over the place…for you.”
         “I’m not interested.”  I gushed, red with awkward embarrassment.
         “Oh I know.”  Penny answered.  “I’m just warning you, she’s out to make you hers.”

         I stood in the library staring out the glass worrying about Penny’s warning.  Hearing someone behind me, I pasted on a smile I didn’t feel.
Juliet crossed the room, gaze darting in every direction with unconcealed excitement. 
         I groaned inwardly.  “Hello.”  I said, pretending I didn’t wish I were somewhere else.  “A fellow reader, I see.”
         Her eyes glowed.  “Oh, yes, I’ve never seen so many books, in a private collection.”  She purred like a kitten, stumbling over her own feet and somehow ended up in my arms. 
        Tilting her head back she gazed at me from beneath long dark lashes, and I realized with a groan, Penny was correct. 
        My gaze lifted from her sultry stare, to catch a glimpse of Penny leaning against the door. 
        “Juliet.”  She sung softly, her voice fighting to conceal her laughter.  “You’ve got to be careful; these smooth even floors can be treacherous.”   
        Awkwardly I stood Juliet on her feet, shooting a frayed glance Penny’s way.  “Excuse me.”  I said.  “But I believe I promised Penny a walk around the rings.” 
        Penny glowed with inner laughter, “why yes you did.”  She answered, tucking her hand into the crook of my arm, though she knew it was a lie. 
I tried to convey, with my gaze how relived I was for the rescue.  “We don’t have the moon down here, but I think I know something just as good.”  I murmured. 
      Jealousy had Juliet turning a glare on us, plopping down in one of the many chairs scattered throughout the library, her soft-spoken.  “Penny,” stopped us.  “I’ll do that, be careful I mean.”  She purred, shooting daggers with her eyes, “But you should watch your step too.”

Chapter 16
  Betrayal, Trust and Anger
      Trust is earned, betrayal usually leads to anger. 

    Once through the door I whispered.  “Was that a veiled threat?  Did she just threaten you?”
      Penny laughed.  “That was predatory female speak for, I’m after your man.”
      “What?”  I asked in disbelief. 
      Shrugging Penny moved into the courtyard turning her attention to the water, “every time I come here.”  She twittered with excitement.  “I feel like one of the people Moses led out of Egypt and this,” She gushed indicating the conformed water, “Is the parting of the red sea?”
      My gaze followed the water, curving around nothing, forming a wall only to curve again and flow overhead, held in place by nothing but Hal’s mind, finally flowing back to the ground, creating a fifteen-foot wide passage between the buildings ringing the castle.  Penny headed toward one of the many benches lining this passage, lost in her fantasy about Egypt and Moses.
      I had verily taken a seat next to her before the fog of a vision took over. 
    “You’re getting a vision, aren’t you,” she asked. 
    I nodded.  “How odd,” I mumbled.  “It’s Warren, he’s strolling the castle messing with Hal’s displays.  He seems riveted by Hal’s collection of art and history.  Of course he has no clue their evidence of Hal’s extensive travels in search of knowledge.”  I whispered.
      “He’s examining the Tibetan art in the grand hall.  I don’t like the way he’s fingering everything.” 
    “He’s moving on to the dining hall now, staring at the...  It’s a good thing the Native American art is locked in cases.” 
      “Remind me to scrub the table before serving dinner, Warren just ran his hand over the surface admiring the rare African zebrawood.” 
      “Oh here’s a shock, his knowledge and respect doesn’t extend to ancient musical instruments.”
      He just entered the mat room.”

      “Well…what’s he doing now?”  Penny inquired.
  “He seems fascinated by Hal’s Buddha statue.  He’s chuckling over some private thought.”
      I moved to the conformed wall of water and said.  “Let me transfer this vision, so you can see and hear.  Tim just joined Warren; he’s surprised to find him in the mat room.”
           “Figuring on doing some exercise,” Tim asked.
      Warren glanced over his shoulder.  “No.  The only muscles I need are in my fingers.”
      Tim nodded.  “Hal says a healthy body is the best way to peace and happiness.”
      Warren sneered.  “I’ll bet he does.  Tell me something.  Do you people ever do anything?  I mean.  How can you take out Bellator in a mat room seeking happiness?”
      Tim nodded in understanding.  “We move when Steve has a vision.”  He answered.
    “Right,” Warren sneered again.  “You have no plan or strategy.  You just sit around waiting for visions.”
    Tim narrowed his eyes.  “We have a plan, waiting for visions of jumpers, is the plan.”
    Warren rolled his eyes.  “My foolish boy, that’s not a plan.”
    “Of course it is.  It’s called gathering forces,” Tim informed Warren.
    “Clueless!”  Warren sneered.  “All of you, simply clueless.”
    “Back home we have a name for folks like you.”  Tim said in a quiet voice, which was somehow more intimidating by its softness.
    Warren turned smiling.  “Brave warrior or just leader?”
    Tim smirked in a very good imitation of Lila, “No…we call em stump people.”
    Warren shook his head.  “That doesn’t sound very fitting.  Not for a leader.”
    Tim widened his smirk.  “It ain’t.  It’s what we call small people.”
    “Small people,” Warren repeated.  “But I’m not small.  I’m six-two.  I know it’s not as tall as you but it’s certainly not small.”
    “Stump people ain’t small in body, they’s small minded.”  Tim explained.    “Stump people are rotten, shooting gnarled roots of bitterness up to trip good folks, just like you’re doing.”
      Warren glared at Tim.  “You don’t like me…duly noted.”  He said stepping out onto the west courtyard.
      Tim followed.  “It ain’t gonna work.  The folks living here is what you call enlightened.  Your stump views won’t trip anyone Warren.”
      Giving Tim a scathing glance, Warren moved a couple paces away.
      “I ain’t one to bother with folks like you.”  Tim added stopping Warren’s retreat.  “But I ain’t gonna sit by whilst you upset Lila, and the others.”
      Warren turned, a sneer on his face, “Ohhh,” He said.  “Isn’t it really Lila you’re concerned about?  I see you hanging on her every move.  Tell me.  Does Hal know you’re sniffing after his wife?”
      Tim moved too fast for Warren to react.  His hand snaked out lifting him over his head with a snarl, hurling him twenty-five feet past the courtyard, before he thought.
      Immediately forming a bubble to protect him from the water, Warren drifted back.  Keeping a wary eye on Tim’s extremely thin retreating back. 
    Juliet walked across the courtyard.  “You just had to piss him off, didn’t you dad?”
    Warren nodded.  “Yeah, he’s a fresh mouth punk.”
    “He’s also one of the strongest people here.  If you’re serious about taking over the sanctuary we’ll need him on our side.” 
      Warren sneered.  “He and Lila will be a problem.  No doubt.  But don’t you worry I’ll think of a way around them.”

      Ending the vision I sighed.  “I’m sorry.  I have to let Lila and Hal know his plans.”
      Penny nodded.  “Yes…go.”
      Walking away I felt torn.  It was wrong to keep the second vision a secret from her.  But losing her to Bellator was something I couldn’t allow to happen.

    “Lila,”  I asked glancing around.  “Did you tell Juliet and Warren?”
Before she could answer, Juliet breezed through the door, Warren right behind.  I took one look at her tight mini skirt and midriff-baring shirt, and turned away.
      Lila groaned.  “Really, that’s what you chose to ware.  We’re trying to slip in and out unnoticed.”
    “Maybe you are.  But I never go unnoticed.”  Juliet answered.
    “Ever heard of bad attention?”  Lila grumbled.
    Juliet glared.
    I shook my head, not my problem.  “You don’t have to join us.”  I say over my shoulder.  Hoping they wouldn’t go.
    “Oh please Steve.”  Juliet purred.  “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.  By the way, where’s your shadow?”
    “Penny’s not going.”
  “Too scary for her,” she asks
    Lila moved toward Juliet with murder in her eyes.
    Stepping to block her path, I say.  “Lila we don’t have time for this.  We have a female time bender who accidentally froze time in down town Miami, she’s freaking out.”
    Lila nods to Juliet.  “Later.”  She threatens.
    Juliet smiles a tight little smile that never reaches her eyes.
    Hal turned a piercing stare on me, totally ignoring Lila and Juliet the way only he can.  “Let’s go back to Penny not coming?”
    I fidgeted.  “She wasn’t feeling up to a trip.”
    Hal stared me down and Lila stormed, “I know Penny wouldn’t miss a mission, much less one that includes her.”  She said jerking her thumb toward Juliet.  Getting in my face she grates.  “What’s going on?  Why are you leaving her out?”
    My gaze touched on Juliet’s scantily clad figure and I wondered if I was doing the right thing.  “I thought it best, she stay here.”
    Lila frowned.  “You thought it best.”  She repeated.  “Did she, and does she know, you’re taking answers along?”
    “Did you just call Juliet, answers?”  I asked not even pretending I didn’t know who she meant. 
    “Yeah, she’s that person.”  Lila grouched.  “Always answering questions you don’t ask, but can’t give you a straight answer on anything important.”  Shaking her head in frustration Lila growled.  “Stop changing the subject.”   
      I threw my hands up in defense.  “I love her.  Okay.”  I blurted.  “I don’t care how much flack she gives me.” 
      Lila softened immediately.  “You better learn to love flack, because Believe me there will be non-stop flack, if you plan to keep her from missions.”
      I nodded with a grimace; just grateful Lila didn’t ask if Penny knew again.
Lila’s gaze drifted over to Juliet, eyes narrowing.  “Watch yourself.  That girl is trouble.”  She said.
      “Agreed,” I grunted.
      “Okay, listen up everyone.”  Lila said.  “Because Tim and I move at the speed of light, we operate outside time.  That means we won’t be affected by the time freeze, and you won’t either, as long as you remain tethered to one of us.”  Turning her gaze on Juliet and Warren she added.  “Let go and we leave you behind.”
      Nodding at Lila I added.  “This mission is simple, grab the girl, and bring her back, any questions?”
      No one spoke.
      Hal and I grabbed Lila’s hands and she blinked…a nano second later Tim appeared with Juliet and Warren.
      I’ve seen a lot of amazing things since meeting Lila and Hal but none as amazing as Miami in freeze mold.
The girl hunkered down on the sidewalk holding her head was too freaked, to appreciate the wonder of it all.  Blinking to her Lila said.  “It’s going to be okay.”
      Still clasping Lila’s hand, Hal kneeled.  “What’s your name?”  He asked in a calm voice.
      She seemed so tiny and golden huddled on the sidewalk, frightened and unaware she’d frozen Miami.  She appeared no older than fifteen... 
      Raising her head she whispered, “Sumer, my names Sumer Erra.”
Staring at her face, I was stunned by the golden hue of her hair, skin, and eyes, like a bit of the sun glowed inside her. 
      “Okay Sumer.”  Hal said in a very soothing voice.  I need you to take a deep breath and try to calm down.”
      “But, but.  Look.”  She wailed pointing to cars and people frozen in place.
Maybe she did know.
    “I promise, it will be okay, all you need to do is focus on your breathing, and everything will go back to normal.”
    “Really,” She squeaked.
    “Hal we don’t have time for this.”  Lila warned.  “Bellator could show up at any moment.”
      But Hal already had the girl breathing in time with him.  I could see minor changes in the people and cars and knew it would be only seconds before the freeze wore off.
      Hal extended his other hand.  “Take my hand Sumer and I will help you.”
      The girl reached for his hand at the same time I felt the air thicken.  He pulled her to his side and Lila blinked.

      The girl was screaming and struggling to get lose the minute we materialized in Atlantis.
      Hal stepped back raising both hands in the air.  “No one’s going to hurt you.  I’m sorry I grabbed you that way…”
      “Bellator,” She wailed spinning around looking for him.
      “You know about Bellator?”  Hal asked.
      “Yes.”  She said trembling.  “He got my sister.  I don’t know why he’s after us, but he took Beth.  She knew he was coming, she saw it in a vision.  We tried to hide, but he found us.”
        Penny stormed through the door.  Gazing pass the girl trembling in the center, to glare at me, “You went on a mission?”  She demanded.
I nodded.
      “Lila how could you go without telling me,” She accused hurt making her voice ruff.
        Lila shot a glare at me.  “I was told you were aware.”  Lila said.
Penny turned her angry gaze back to me.  “You lied?”
      “Well, not exactly.”  I mumbled.
      “You made the decision to leave me behind…lied even.”  She accused.  “You can at least have the integrity to admit it.” 
      “Okay.”  I said.  “I intentionally left you behind, for your own safety.”
      “How dare you?  You don’t get to make decisions, for me.”  She stormed.
      “I thought Steve was the leader?”  Juliet interrupted glancing around the room… 
        “He is.”  We all chorused.
        “Well I’m confused.”  Juliet said wrinkling her delicate little brow.  “If he’s the leader, doesn’t that by definition mean he gets to make decisions for everyone?”
        The silence became deafening, before Penny fled the room.
        Lila never glanced up.  “Hal you got this under control?”  She asked.
        “Yes.  Sumer and I need a little time.”  He answered.  “It will go a lot smoother if the rest of you leave.”
        Storming for the door Lila bellowed, “Steve, a word.”
        Recognizing the tone, Hal said.  “Lila honey, you need to…”
        She turned on him with a piercing glare.  “Don’t you dare tell me to mellow out?” 
        Tim patted my back whispering.  “Stay strong,” before turning to Hal and asking, “Can, I help?”
        “Yeah,” Hal answered, “As long as you stay calm.”
        I followed Lila dragging mt feet and wishing I could trade places with Tim. 

Chapter 17
    Regrets, Sorrow and compromise
          Sorrow weighs the soul; regret stains it, only compromise restores.
      “Lila.  I understand you’re mad, and in hindsight I see where misleading Penny was a bad idea.  But…well it’s too late to do the right thing now.”  I admitted.
      Lila pinched the bridge of her nose, translation.  “You’re sorry I’m mad…not for your actions, and you will say just about anything to placate me right now.”
      I looked back at the dining hall wishing Hal were here.  Shrugging my shoulders I asked.  “What do you want me to say?”
      Frightening anger reformed her normally magnificent face.  “Steve, you’re acting like a leaver.”  She stormed staring me down.
      I backed up a couple steps.  “What’s a leaver?”  I squeaked wishing for Hal again. 
      Her glare had me wondering, if death was a lot closer than I’d like.
      “A leaver is a foster home that makes a big show of caring.  Going through all the motions, but never really caring.  We call them leavers, because they’re so easy to leave.  Most homes are leavers.”  Lila said.  “I never thought you would be.”
      I stared at the floor, shame coloring my face.
      “Just fix this.”  She ordered, “And Steve.  Don’t ever lie to me again.”
      I started to say I didn’t really lie.  But the look in her eye had me biting my lip. 
      Half an hour later Hal found me pacing the library, “I don’t know how you do it.”  I declared.  “Lila is one scary lady when she’s pissed.”
      Hal chuckled.  “That’s why I never piss her off.”
    “I have no clue, what to say to Penny.”
    “Start with, I’m sorry, and end with, I’ll never lie again.”  Hal said, “And Steve.”
      “Mean it.”
      I turned at the sound of heavy footsteps, shocked to see Lila literally pushing Penny into the room.  Hal quickly slipped out.
    To my shock and horror Lila shut and locked the door.  “Damn these castle doors.  Who thought it was a good idea to make doors that could only be unlocked with a key?” 
      Lila’s voice drifted through the locked door, along with Hal’s chuckles.   
    “Neither of you is coming out until you talk…so start talking.”
    Penny glanced at me and shouted for Lila to let her out. 
    “She’s gone too far this time.”  I grumbled.  “Lila, when I get out of here, I’m going to-” I paused thinking about how scary she was, and ended with a lame.  -Be soo mad at you.”
    Penny sneered.  “Am I to understand you don’t like other people taking away your right to choose?”
    I stepped away from the door and started pacing.  “Sorry, but I wasn’t trying to take away your rights, I was protecting you.  This is different.”
    Penny leaned against the door glaring at me.  “Oh how convenient,” She grated.  “You take away my choice and it’s somehow noble, but Lila takes away yours and it’s what, arbitrary?”
    I stopped pacing to stare, “Convenient hell.”
    “You want to know what would be convenient.  It would be convenient if you weren’t the number one target for every rogue out there.  Hell, it would be convenient if rogues didn’t exist.  Then you would be safe.  And I wouldn’t feel this crushing pain at the thought of losing you.” 
    I could hear the little boy begging his mother to hide, in my voice.  But I was beyond caring, “But nooo...You are the number one target and I can’t bear to lose you.”
    “What makes you so sure you’re gonna lose me?”  She demanded.
    My gaze darted around the room, like an animal caught in headlights, caution finally returning.  “I don’t know,” I said and started to pace again.
    Penny stepped in front of me, blocking my path.  “That’s not true.  You know, you just don’t want to say.  Steve, look at me.  Did you have a vision of my death?”
    “No!”  I exploded in shock.
    “Then why are you so sure you’ll lose me?”
    “Because Bellator hates me,” I cried.  “I’m supposed to stop him.  You’re the key but somehow…I’m responsible for his demise.  He won’t let me keep you.”  I said defeat weighing me down.  “He’ll take you away just like…”
    Penny pierced me with her gaze.  “Just like what, Steve?  Go on say it.  Just like your mother.  You’re afraid he’ll take me away, just like your mother.”
    I swallowed, “Yes.”  I said letting my gaze drop to the floor.
    Penny leaned in peering into my eyes.  “I’m not your mother and Bellator is not, all powerful.”
    I shook my head.  “He’s powerful enough.”
  Penny whispered.  “I care about you too.”
  I crushed her to my chest mumbling.  “I’m sorry,” and meaning it.
  Penny pulled away, moving to stare at the coral reef.  “We need to work this out.” 
  I sat beside her fear coloring my view.  All the beauty of the seabed changed before my eyes.  The intricate patterns of yellow, pink, and green made by tiny pins and stars appeared sharp and deadly.  The blooming neon green powder puffs no longer seemed soft and squishy but foreign and dangerous.  The hair like tendrils floating above the coral became razor sharp, in my view.  They took on a deadly intent, waiting to tangle and snare some innocent, just as deadly as Bellator.  I followed the waving curl of a swirling ribbon.  Reminded of a bow wrapped present, festooned with ribbons.  Only these ribbons cut deep, like the rogues.
    “I know you’re worried.”  Penny said pulling me from my nightmare, “But your solution is unacceptable.  You’re driving a wedge between us.”
    “I nodded toward the seabed.  You see beauty in the coral, huh?”  I asked.  “That beauty only hides the deadly purpose of its design, just like the rogues.”
    She nodded, undeterred.  “You know what I see?”  She asked, “A prison.”
    My gaze shot to her face.
    “I’m imprisoned in a fish tank.”  She whispered.
    Squirming, I replied, “You’re safe here.”
    She looked up with a humorless smile.  “Yes, I get that.  What I don’t understand is you locking me away in your pretty, pretty prison, while professing to care.”
    I cringed.  “This is a sanctuary not a prison.”
    She waved her hand at the water, “Really, because I don’t see a difference.  Do you?”  She asked. 
    Dropping to my knees I took her hands in mine.  “It’s because I care.”  I answered nodding at the water.  “I’m trying to keep you safe.  Blame the rogue Penny.”  I begged staring imploringly into her eyes.  “Do you have any idea, what it did to me, seeing Presidio’s arm around your throat?”  I asked.  “They’re not going to stop attacking, not until your dead.  I can’t live without you.”
    “This isn’t right and you know it.  You have to let me go.”  Penny whispered.
    I felt sick, “But it isn’t safe.” 
    “It isn’t safe for the others either.”  She said.
    I stared at the water.  “Mother’s first vision of Atlantis came not long after my third birthday.  Did you know that?”  I asked not waiting for an answer.  “Her vision saw me here, with dozens of Atlantian’s.” 
    Penny sat up straighter obviously anxious to hear about the original vision.
    “This vision was different from others.  Everything was vague and wispy.  Mother couldn’t make out details, except Atlantian’s were working together.”  I turned gazing deeply into her eyes.  “Atlantian’s hadn’t worked together since the fall.  You know about the fall of Atlantis, don’t you?”  I asked.
      She nodded.
    “It was years later before mother understood why this vision was different.  It wasn’t set.  The events could change.” 
      Penny tried to jerk her hands free.  “You mean all this could be for nothing?”  She asked.  “I could have walked away from my family…for nothing?”
      I grimaced holding her hands tighter.  “Don’t think that way; you’re saving them regardless of anything else.  But...you can die.  Then, where would we be?” 
    “I protect you.  Not only for myself, but the future isn’t safe without you.”  I lamented.  “If I fail, it’s not just me who suffers, the whole world suffers.  The loss of the key is equivalent to giving Bellator the world.”
         “Lace and lies.”  Penny said trying to break free of my grasp.
         “What’s that mean?”  I demanded.
        Penny stopped struggling to stare into my eyes.  They’re both full of holes.”  She grumbled.
      “You think I’m lying?”
      Penny turned her face away whispering, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
      “Fine,” I said dropping her hands.  “It doesn’t matter, if you believe me or not.” 
         Penny met my gaze.  “You can’t force me to see things your way.”
      Bringing my hand up to brush the hair from her face, I gently caressed her skin.  “You have to be safe.”  I mumble. 
      She turned to stare at the water, refusing to be sucked in by the emotion in my eyes.
      “You’re the key.”  I continued.  “Something you do.  I don’t know what, seals the future for all Atlantian’s.  Mother told me over and over again, the importance of the mission after you jump.  She said I must let you do the mission your way, or all could be lost.  That’s why; I’m keeping you safe, at least until you jump.” 
      “Did she say, lock me up?”  Penny demanded.  “Or did you decide that on your own?  Don’t you see?”  She insisted, “She was warning you against locking me away, because she knew.”
      I hesitated, no longer sure.  I couldn’t separate my feelings from my duty.  Rising from my knees, I stepped away.  “I know this feels confining and you want to go with the others.  But I have to keep you safe.”  I insisted. 
      “You’re afraid and I’m suffering…for your fear.”
      I stared at the water.  “I never believed in mother’s vision.”  I mumbled.  “I knew she did.  But I threw it all back in her face, refusing to believe.”
      Penny’s intake of breath told of her shock. 
    “We lived with my grandmother, when I was little.  They would have screaming matches regularly.”  I said lost in the memory. 
    “The arguments always ended the same way.  Mother shouting, the rogues would come and kill us all, the island couldn’t protect us forever.    She’d storm out and Gram would disappear into her room crying.”
    “Your Gram…she didn’t have the sight?”  Penny asked.
    “No.”  I said bitterly.  “I couldn’t stand to hear her cry…so I’d lay my head in her lap and cry too.  She’d tell me it wasn’t true, that we we’re safe and I shouldn’t listen to mom.  It took years for me to realize, she was only trying to sooth my fears, believing my tears were from fear.”
      “In anger at how she hurt Grams, I set myself against mom.”  Hanging my head I continued, “After a while it became habit to take the opposite side on everything.  Realizing this mom packed me up and moved us away.” 
“I wasn’t there when Grams passed, and once again I took my anger out on mom, stubbornly refusing to listen to any mention of visions, powers, or Atlantis.”
      Penny wrapped her arms around me.
      “I didn’t understand.”  I moaned in despair.  “The truth was Gram’s greatest shame.  A rogue attacked her.  Mom was the product of that attack.  That’s why Gram would get angry every time she brought them up.  She needed to pretend they weren’t real, because she was scared.”
      “You we’re a child.”  Penny reasoned. 
      Finding her with my gaze I said.  “I hid in the water.  When she” -my voice broke “I never listened to her, refusing to believe; do you understand?  I hide like she said, and a few feet above my head he killed her.”  I whispered. 
      “I can’t let my hiding, be about staying alive.”  I squeaked my gaze begging for understanding.”
      Penny nodded.  I could see she understood the boy forced to witness horrors beyond his years, even if she couldn’t understand the man still controlled by them. 
    Tears rolled down her cheeks.  “Steve, I understand.  Really I do, but you’re doing to me, what your mother did to you.  How do you think I’ll feel if something happens to any of you, while I’m safely hidden?” 
      I gasped, truly seeing this from her side for the first time.  “I’m sorry.”  I whispered my thumbs wiping tears from her cheeks.   

Chapter 18          
Romance, Love, and Stars
         Romance sheaved in love can burn brighter than the stars.
      Lila unlocked the library.  Sumer, Hal, and Tim followed her inside. 
         “Sumer,” Hal said.  “This is Steve, the leader of our group.”
         Sumer smiled shyly.  “Hi.”  She said rocking on her feet.
         I found myself mesmerized for a moment by her golden aura, shaking free; I extended my hand saying.  “Hello.  Sorry about all the confusion earlier.”
         Tim hovered, his stance tense like he expected her to faint at any minute.  She was so small, he towered over her. 
         “I know it’s impolite to ask a lady her age.”  I said.  “But I’m wondering how long till you jump?”
         Red embarrassment gave a strange sunset glow to her golden skin.  “I’m twenty.”  She said dimpling, I jumped months ago.
         Tim’s face split in a wide grin.  “You don’t look a day over fifteen.”
         The sunset glow deepened as Sumer met his gaze.  “Yeah, I know.” 
         “Could you explain what happened with your sister Beth?  If it’s not too painful,”          I asked.
         She turned her golden gaze back on me, eyes glistening with moisture.  “Beth was twenty-two.  So she’d been having visions for a while.  We managed to stay ahead of Bellator and his gang for the past couple years.  Then she had a vision of an elemento with a safe haven in Miami and we headed out to find him.”
         Lila set up straighter in her chair, “In Miami?”  She questioned.
         “Yeah,” Sumer said nodding.  “The vision showed him mounting an attack team.”
         I noticed Lila and Hal exchange glances.  “What’d this elemento look like?”  Lila asked.
         “I’m not sure.  I never actually saw him myself, you understand.  But Beth said he was tall with dark hair.”  Sumer answered.
         I nodded, turning to Hal, “Sounds like another team is gearing up to attack.  We should try to make contact.  Maybe you and Lila could look into that.”
         Hal gazed at Lila.  “Yeah, we can do that.”  He said.
         Penny came in and the conversation turned to clothes and such
Tim, Hal, and I headed for the outer ring.  “You want me to assign Sumer a room in the ring or castle?”  Tim asked.
         Hal chuckled.  “She’s so small and delicate; you should put her next to you.  In case she needs help with anything.  Also, try to keep her away from Warren.”  He said giving Tim a weird look.
Tim nodded and blinked away.
“What was that about?”  I questioned.  “And why keep her away from Warren?”
         “Really dude?  You’re seriously asking why; keep a sweet innocent girl away from a fowl hate spewing mongrel.”  Hal questioned, not waiting for an answer.  “Besides, I think that boy’s crushing on her.” 
         “He’d be good for her.”
         “Yeah,” he agreed, “Loves in the air my friend.  When are you and Penny gonna make your romance official?”
         “What?”  I blurted.
         Hal laughed, “Too soon?  You’re not scared of commitment are ya?”
         “No, of course not,” I replied.  Quite proud, my voice didn’t squeak.
         Hal smirked.  “Of course not,” He said, mimicking me.
         “I just want to make sure Penny knows what she wants.”
         Hal clapped a hand on my back.  “Steve, trust me.  That girl has already picked out what kind of flowers she wants at your wedding.” 
         “Really, because I don’t get that,” I mumbled.
         Hal chuckled again.  “I’m not surprised.”
         “What’s that mean?”
         “It’s just that you…well; you’re a bit of a perfectionist.  Always waiting for everything to be just right, believe me, everything will never be just right.  And life’s too short.  Don’t let love slip away.”
         “Nothings slipping away…  Is it?  Am I losing her?”  I squeaked in terror.
         Hal shook his head.  “No.  You’re not losing her.  I’m just saying why wait.  You love her.”
         “Are you sure, I’m not losing her?”  I reiterated. 
His affirmative nod had me expelling my breath in a whoosh, “I’ll think about moving things along.”

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