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Authors: Maria Elizabeth Romana

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The Gifted Ones: A Reader

BOOK: The Gifted Ones: A Reader
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Contents

Front Matter

Prologue

Chapter One: Reading

Chapter Two: The New Kid in Town

Chapter Three: Room Service

Chapter Four: Disneyland

Chapter Five: Biology 101

Chapter Six: Scheming

Chapter Seven: Wonderland

Chapter Eight: Jump Seat

Chapter Nine: What Happens in Washington

Chapter Ten: Doo Drops

Chapter Eleven: Help

Chapter Twelve: Choose

Chapter Thirteen: Insomnia

Author/Publisher

 

The Gifted Ones: A Reader

Episode One of The Gifted Ones Series

 

by Maria Elizabeth Romana

 

Copyright 2014
Research Triangle Publications
A Division of At Your Command Computing, Inc.
Durham, NC, USA
TrianglePubs.com

 

License Notes

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and publisher of this book. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be resold or given away to other people, except as your ereader's lending function allows. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, then you should purchase your own copy (see
TrianglePubs.com
for sellers). Thank you for respecting the author's work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

The security guard at the front entrance gave Archer Orucov a polite nod and allowed him to pass. The fake badge, another masterpiece from his talented credentialing expert, had not even raised an eyebrow. More impressive than the badge, however, was the slate gray lab coat with its red and black embroidered logo. The uniform, a perfect replica of Food4Ever Industries’ standard issue, had been carefully fashioned for Archer by his personal costuming consultant. Now that girl was a true artiste. Between the badge, the coat, and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses he had stuck on his nose, Archer was as inconspicuous as any other scientist breezing in and out of the building.

He would have to stifle his impatience, however, if he wanted to continue blending in as he was forced to wait in line before passing through the metal detectors. Like Martin Eggleston, the rest of these mealy-mouthed drones were so annoyingly prompt in their arrival to work that they were overwhelming the capacity of the company’s multi-layered security system—a fact that Archer had been counting on. When the RFID chip on his badge correctly registered as a duplicate when he waved it over the scanner, he looked up at the harried guard behind the desk and shrugged. “Sorry, my fault. Double scan.” She barely glanced at him before pressing an override button.

Once past that point, he relaxed, maintaining a carefree cadence as he crossed the sparkling marble floors leading toward the labs and offices. As he strode past the first bank of elevators, he caught a glimpse of his own smug reflection in their shiny mirrored doors. Was it true what they all thought about him? What Lucy’s sister had spat in his face so many years before? That he was pure evil? He laughed to himself. No, of course it wasn’t. No one is pure evil, except perhaps those poor souls whose genes have rendered them incapable of empathy or human feeling. But everyone bears hatred for that which they fear. And everyone fears power and intelligence and cunning beyond their own. They would be foolish not to.

Still…even he had never hatched a plan quite so cold, so deliberate, and yet so ingenious that his foe had no means of escape. It wasn’t really sporting, was it? Unfortunately for dear Dr. Eggleston, Archer believed that all’s fair in love and war.

As Archer rounded a corner, he shifted his view downward, ostensibly studying a hand-held electronic device, to avoid making eye contact with a couple of chatty scientists. He lifted his head briefly as he approached the end of the hallway, mentally consulting the floor map he had committed to memory, then turned to his left. After counting two, three, four doorways, he stopped, waved the badge in front of a card reader, and entered the lab without a hitch.

He paused a moment, confirming that he was alone and verifying the layout. It was just as he’d been told. Modest-sized hyperbaric chambers lined both sides of the room and the back wall. An assortment of plant life blossomed in each glass case—vines, bushes, and saplings, all noticeably over-sized and bursting with colorful flowers, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Bright sunlight bathed the plants through the room’s high glass ceiling, carefully tempered with just the right amount of ultra-violet protection. He had to hand it to Martin Eggleston; the man’s work was on the cutting edge of biospherics. Too bad his Nobel Prize would have to be awarded posthumously.

Archer scanned the chambers, then selected one with a couple of dead leaves scattered across the bottom. He slipped his hand into the pocket of the lab coat and withdrew a plastic case. After a final glance over his shoulder, he popped open the case and lifted out a tiny clear plastic disk. He pressed the disk into the corner of the glass top of the chamber, then stepped back to assure himself that it was unnoticeable. Then he pulled out his tablet again and checked that the disk’s micro receiver was operating.

With the disk in place, he headed to the observation room to wait. The observation room was a level above and encased in soundproof glass, so he only had to worry about being seen, not heard, and he wasn’t all that concerned about being seen. At least not by Dr. Eggleston. If the good doctor happened to look skyward in his last moments on this earth, at least he would know who was responsible for making it so. Archer knew he wouldn’t be able to revel in that moment too long, of course; he would have to get himself safely out the fire exit on the back side of the observation room.

He glanced at the clock through the observation room window. Almost nine. He knew the painfully punctual Martin Eggleston would soon walk through the laboratory door to check on his precious plants, and he also knew that Lucy Eggleston would be on the other side of town, with no hope of fighting her way through Atlanta’s morning traffic for at least another hour. For the life of him, Archer would never understand what the lovely Dr. Lucy saw in her goofy glorified gardener.

Archer knew she had run to that little wimp only to hide from her true feelings. Perhaps they were feelings she couldn’t comprehend or was not equipped to deal with at the time. She was so young then, still in graduate school, still figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. Archer, of course, had tried to explain it to her, to explain that they belonged together, that he was the only man truly worthy of her love and attention. Together, they could have done anything. Still could. He and Lucy and little Elodie—kind of a Gifted Royal Family.

Granted, he was somewhat younger himself back then, and perhaps a bit awkward in his approach. He wrinkled up his nose a moment, remembering that fateful evening. Archer had planned it all out—roses, wine, and candles—the perfect romantic encounter. Unfortunately, Lucy had not seen it quite the same way. He shook off the memory of her anguish and tears.

Rapid movement in the lab below pulled him back to the present. Aha, the goofy gardener had finally come to tend his plants. Dr. Eggleston crossed the lab and began studying the contents of the first chamber. Archer debated about how long he should wait and observe his prey, but then decided he was simply being greedy. No one else was permitted in the biospherics lab, but there was no reason to be careless. He made a few quick swipes on his tablet and then focused on the third hyperbaric chamber, where the disk began focusing a tiny band of sunlight onto the floor of the chamber. It would take only moments for the heat from that band to cause a dead leaf to spark, and in that concentrated oxygen environment, only a spark was necessary.

The doctor was too engrossed in his experiment to notice Archer’s plan unfolding, as Archer had known he would be, so he supposed he would not have the thrill of seeing the doctor’s terrified face before he left. He was about to head toward the exit door when the doctor moved unexpectedly. He was turning back toward the door. Why?

Lucy!

Dear God, Lucy! What was she doing there? How had she gotten into the lab?

Dr. Eggleston appeared startled and angry as he turned to see who had entered, but she ran to him, and he embraced her. She was distraught, shaken, tearful. They began to speak in earnest.

Archer pounded on the glass. “Lucy, Lucy, GET OUT!” But of course, the room was soundproof. She couldn’t hear him. The couple were completely focused on one another and completely unaware of Archer. Archer grabbed his tablet and began punching in codes. No, no, stop it now! Abort! Abort! He had to shut down the signal. His eyes flew to the chamber with the disk. A tiny line of smoke was rising from one of the dead leaves. There was nothing he could do. He couldn’t stop it now. He pounded with all his might one more time. “Lu-u-u-uc-ee-ee-eey!”

More smoke. He could see it building, swirling, and they were oblivious. He had to run. He couldn’t stay. Just as he turned to go, Lucy glanced upward, in his direction. Her eyes flew wide with recognition. Archer spun on his heels, racing for the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One: Reading

 

Seven years later…

 

“El? Ellie?” Where had she gotten off to? Grace didn’t want to treat her sixteen-year-old niece like a child, but every time Elodie Eggleston disappeared for more than a few seconds, the fear would sneak up on her again.

“Here I am, Aunt Grace.”

Grace spun around to see Ellie just stepping back out from behind a street vendor’s stall. She breathed a sigh of relief, then tightened the thin sweater around her torso, bristling against the chill. March was almost over, but she wasn’t quite going out like a lamb.

“Omigod, you’ve got to see this!” Ellie waved emphatically to Grace, drawing her in. “This guy’s got an original set of the collected works of the Brönte sisters from 1907! Can you believe it?” Ellie pointed to a clear, locked case in the vendor’s stall, behind which could be seen a set of several antique-looking volumes. Ellie sighed, “How cool is that?”

Grace stepped up behind her, peered over her shoulder, and tried to sound enthusiastic, “Oh my, yes.
Totally
cool.”

Ellie made a wry face. “Okay, so not everybody gets as excited over old books as I do.”

The vendor cut in, “Well, I do, young lady, and I’ve got plenty more back at the shop on twenty-ninth street, if you’d like to look. Even a signed first edition of
Wuthering Heights
.”

Ellie’s jaw dropped. “No way.”

“Way.”

“And it probably costs a thousand dollars,” muttered Grace, interrupting the antique-book love fest.

The vendor looked offended. “Are you kidding me? It’s worth twenty times that! I keep it in the safe.” Then he smiled at Ellie. “Of course, I might take it out for the right customer…”

Grace groaned and pointed to the paperback in Ellie’s hand. “How much do we owe you?”

“Uh, that’ll be six thirty-four with tax.”

“That, we can afford.” While the vendor slid her card through his reader, Grace turned to Ellie and motioned toward a nearby coffee shop. “I think we need a coffee break.”

Ellie nodded her agreement, but then asked, “Can I ple-e-ease get a latte this time?”

“Oh, honey, those things are loaded with caffeine. How about a nice fruit smoothie?”

Ellie just laughed at what she probably considered overprotective behavior, then grabbed Grace’s arm and pulled her into the crowded shop. Most of the tables were filled, and there was a long line for ordering. Ellie gave Grace a little shove towards the line. “You go order. I’ll hover obnoxiously until someone clears out, and then jump on their table.”

As Grace stood waiting for their drinks to be prepared, she observed Ellie’s technique. Ellie stood by the window, looking nonchalant, but with her eyes darting about behind her thick lenses. With no apparent warning, she suddenly dodged through the crowd and pounced on a table just as its occupants stood up.

“Good eye, kiddo,” said Grace, as she set their drinks on the table. “I saw that move to get the table. Impressive.”

Ellie shrugged. “It’s easy. You just have to watch them and tune in to their intentions. You can tell when somebody’s gonna leave. Or when they’re mad. Or when they’re bored. Or whatever.” She unwrapped her straw and stuffed it into the frozen beverage. “Just like with the teachers at school.”

Grace was only half-listening. “What do the teachers do?”

“Well, you know, when they’re lecturing or giving you assignments or talking about a test, they give everything away. All you have to do is watch their faces, and you can see exactly what they think is important and what they’re gonna ask on the test and stuff. Then if you just focus on those things, you can skip all the rest, and still make straight As.” As soon as she finished saying it, she bit her lip, and added, “Uh, not that I do that, of course. I mean, the part about skipping stuff.”

BOOK: The Gifted Ones: A Reader
3.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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