A Soft Place to Land

13 Feb 2017
Part of Volunteers Collection

Soren is in town on a mission. Clari is in town for auditions. His goal is to provide protection. Hers is to believe that she doesn’t need any.

Chapters: 3
Words: 23,268

A Soft Place to Land

Chapter 2


Things come to a head as Clari and Soren join in the fray to save Gifted people from a surprise raid.

Chapter Notes:

Sample chapter note

Clari saw it first. Clari saw it all. She saw when Soren dashed to shield the lady who Clari was trying to hold back. She saw when the boy cried not to hurt his mom, not to hurt anyone. Before anyone, Clari saw the boy’s powers go haywire and trigger an explosion in one of the cars nearby. Clari saw another captive child scream and the ground beneath her give in.

Clari could only move just fast enough to pull Soren out of the way, and only because she was already cling to his arm at the moment. She had no time to warn the others, not even the lady behind her.

They landed tangled up with each other behind a huge slab of cement. It was chaos. People were running and screaming.

Soren recovered first, sat up and looked down at Clari, still sprawled in the ground, groaning. She had not let go of his arm.

He helped her up and quickly peeked over their hiding place to assess the situation. Some of the officers were still struggling to stand up. However, some of the people they captured were already being dragged towards one of the trucks. The two kids who must have caused the quake and the explosion were unconscious and being carried. People tried to go after them but this time, the officers didn’t go soft. They raised their guns and shot whoever was against them – everyone on sight who looked like they had an intention to stop them.

Soren was tugged back again, just in time to avoid the bullet that was no doubt aimed at his head.

He stared at Clari – that was twice now that she pulled him from danger. She stared back at him, and she was breathing hard.

“This is crazy.” she mumbled, finally letting go of his arm to bring her hands to her face. “Oh my God. OH MY GOD. I’M GOING TO DIE. I’m going to- WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO AND DO THAT?!”

Soren blinked. She was looking at him, teary-eyed.

“Why did you have to fight-”

Too late. Someone just rounded in on them, but this time Soren saw it coming. He pulled Clari behind him and moved quickly, knocking the officer’s gun out of their hands, incapacitating them and leaving them unconscious in the ground.

Before they could get attacked again, Soren looked around quickly. He grabbed an officer’s discarded shield and offered his hand to Clari. She took it without hesitation. He pulled her against him and both of them dashed towards a nearby alley.

The shooting continued, but they were in a relatively safer place. They leaned against the wall and slid down to sit on the ground, panting.

Soren looked at his companion to check if she was okay, and she looked back at him.

“Why did you fight back?” she asked, softer this time. “It provoked them and… and…” Clari trailed off, bursting into tears.

He sighed, biting his lip. He wondered where his mother was. He hoped they were fine. He took out his phone. His mother had been calling… but more importantly…

He nudged Clari, and showed him his phone again.

[ ‘I’m a volunteer’ ] the message read.

She looked at him with a confused frown. “I… know that?”

He shook his head, and her eyes widened in realization. He was a volunteer.

He continued the message.

[ ‘Supposed to protect them didnt know abt raid’ ]

Clari stared, and for the first time she saw the broken expression in his face. He ran a hand through his hair as he started tapping another message.

[ ‘Labs were expected tmr and for supply run only warned some to run too late for others’ ]

He blames himself, Clari realized. He was supposed to protect the… the special people, but he failed.

But no. Not really.

“Hey.” she said, tugging awkwardly at his sleeve. She was doing that a lot, she noticed. “You were able to save me.”

Soren stared, because Clari’s blue eyes had a faint golden glow to them.

He had no time to ask because she then stuck her head out towards the streets – only for what seemed like a millisecond before she turned back to him.

“Listen.” she said, then groaned at the mistake. “Sorry. Or… or read. Whatever it is you do.”

He nodded, bewildered.

“They’ve loaded the kids in the truck. They’re unconscious but they’re breathing. About ten more officers in there. Only four left firing, I think they’re warning shots. Most of the people have run or hidden or… died. Two vans still standing, one car down the street, apart from the two trucks. They didn’t get hit by the blast.”

Soren pointed at her eyes, vaguely gestured what he only hoped he interpreted as ‘What did you do?’

“It’s my… gift.” she said, closing her eyes and sighing. “I can see… better than most people. Perfect vision, zoom in and zoom out, and I can process what I see real fast so I can catch little details in one glance.” then she smiled sheepishly at him. “Pretty useless for fighting, huh?”

Soren shook his head, sending him a small smile. He can bet that Zoe and Duncan can find use for someone with super-sight – it would be invaluable for strategy.

But now was not the time to think of his teammates. They had to get out of there first, and maybe they can use Clari’s abilities to help them live through this.

They heard rushed footsteps nearby and both quickly stood to attention. Just then, another officer rounded the alley, but Soren was fast enough to pull Clari out of the way again and deliver a swift kick to the officer’s side. Then he landed a punch to the head to knock him out. Soren kicked the man’s gun away.

Clari looked to the streets again and when she turned towards him, she was biting her lip.“They know we’re here. And I think they saw my eyes.”

She wanted to cry again, Soren knew. She was scared. Obviously she had never been in a situation like this before. But she stopped when she saw Soren’s determined blue eyes and outstretched hand.

‘I’m here, we’ll get through this.’ is what Clari chose to hear, so she took his hand once more and let him pull her back into the street.

“There!” she heard someone shout as they dashed, avoiding another round of bullets with the protection of the shield that Soren held firmly in his other arm. “Unarmed, one male, one female! The female must be powered! After them!”

More gunshots, but they were able to hide behind an upturned car. Everywhere there were large blocks of debris from either the quake or the explosion. They have to get out of the town square, Soren decided.

Clari gripped his hand tightly. She had seen him take down officers who got close, but there was no telling what would happen if they just kept running, trying to avoid bullets. The shield would give way eventually.

This time however, Soren managed to grab a fallen officer’s gun. Clari watched him frown as he weighed it in his hand, not keen on the idea of using it, but she saw in his eyes that he knew he had no choice.

He let go of her hand to raise his phone again. His message was fragmented, but she understood.

[ ‘use power look where they are i will distract be quick’ ]

It wasn’t the best plan, but Clari nodded. “Are you… are you going to kill them?”

She knew it was not the time to worry, especially about lab officers, but she couldn’t help it.

[ ‘i try best not to kill’ ]

Clari nodded. She was not dying today. She was going to fight.

After a quick nod, Soren stood. He shot at them randomly and as expected, they shot back and didn’t notice Clari right behind him. She was down again in a split second, and he followed.

She spoke quickly, and he watched her lips intently. She also gestured the numbers, to make it clearer. “One behind the van, two by the truck. One behind the postbox. Three running towards the van, the blue one. No others in sight, but I wasn’t able to see through inside the vehicles.”

‘Got it.’ he nodded.

Soren wasn’t the best gunman in the team – the would be Valeria, but he can aim and shoot. At this distance, he had a decent chance of aiming true.

He was able to take down four officers – they weren’t the most excellent shots, but they were distracted anyway. But then one bullet grazed his arm and he had to duck again.

“Oh my God, are you okay?!” Clari exclaimed, and this time she did cry as she helplessly watched Soren grip his wounded arm tightly, applying pressure, trying to reduce the bleeding. She didn’t know what to do. “It’s-… It’s my fault.” she sobbed. “You don’t have to do this, just let them have me.”

He let out a sound that sounded a lot like a snort, and she only gaped as he smiled and shook his head.

‘No way. Never.’

Then Clari froze, quickly looking around as if to look for something. “I hear something-”

Soren blinked.

“It’s… beeping?”

Mentally, Soren cursed.


That was so stupid, Clari thought. Beeping? What else could it have been? She thought maybe they wanted her alive. Now she knew that if they can’t have her, she was better off dead.

Her eyes may be fast, but it took her several moments to realize that Soren had wrapped his arms around her, cradling her head protectively against his chest, maybe hoping that he still might save her as the explosion hit.

It was loud. Deafening.


Good. It was a quick death.


When she opened her eyes, there was smoke everywhere and ringing in her ears. But as it cleared, she looked up – Soren was fine, still holding her tight, and he was looking up to see an unfamiliar man standing over the two of them, eyes closed, teeth gritted in concentration, arms outstretched.

There was a faint, hazy glow around them – a dome. Everywhere, there were debris. They were in plain sight. When the shooting resumed, Clari held on to Soren in fear, but realized that he didn’t even move to try to avoid the bullets.

Because the bullets were not reaching them, instead they were bouncing off the dome.

It was a shield.

“That was close.” their surprise savior said, finally looking at them. He had dirty blonde hair, a kind smile, twinkling pale blue eyes, and a surprisingly ordinary face. Like an old friend who had come to visit. “Ready to run? Because we’re running.”

Clari looked at Soren. He only smiled a relieved smile at the other man and nodded. He helped her stand up and Clari felt a rush of guilt – he was the wounded one, and yet she was the one with shaking legs, needing assistance to get to her feet. But he held her tightly, and she found the strength to run.


The man led them to a nearby alley again, and this time before the officers could catch up to them, a strong wall shot up to block the opening. It separated them from their pursuers effectively.

Clari and Soren turned to see another person, a woman this time, taller than all of them. She had dark skin, dark pixie cut hair, and gray eyes that glowed slightly as she pressed her hands against the wall she just built. Clari could tell that she was keeping it firm and solid against any potential attacks.

“What happened?” the shield guy asked, the question directed to Soren.

Clari stepped back as he examined Soren’s wound. He helped him tear off a sleeve of his shirt to use as a bandage.

Soren answered in sign language and the guy did the same, but also spoke aloud. That left Clari listening to only half of the conversation.

“Yes-… Okay-… You’re sure?… I’m sorry, we really should have sent more people-… No-… No, Soren. You did good. We confirmed that they escaped successfully-… Yes, Feli did a quick sweep of the town, they’re all safe so far, except the ones caught in the square-… Yes, your mother is fine, she’s with her group… Mission’s ongoing, but we managed to get Dory’s team in on it, that’s how we got Ed, how we got here so quickly-… Now we need to get you to safety- What? Oh.”

Clari blinked when they both turned to look at her. Soren nodded at her while his friend looked at her curiously.

“Hi.” he said, smiling. “My name is Ross. That’s Garnet, over there.” he said, gesturing towards the young woman who was still busy maintaining their protective wall. Garnet spared a nod when Clari looked at her. “We’re volunteers, like Soren.”

“Clarisse.” she said, looking down. “I… I guess I’m like you? I have… abilities. I don’t know why the labs didn’t pick me up, though… not until I used my…”

“Gifts. We call them gifts. They saved your life, didn’t they?” Ross asked, voice calm, collected yet warm. “You’re lucky. But I think you understand that you can’t stay here right now.”

Clari nodded.

“We’re taking Soren to a safe place. You can come with us, you can both lie low until this dies down.”

She knew she had no choice, and this was an offer of safety. Soren had just risked his life to protect her, and he trusted these people – so she had to trust them too. “Yes, please. I’m very grateful.” she said softly.

“Of course.” Ross said, lifting a hand to pat her on the shoulder. He seemed like a person used to reassuring other people. It comforted Clari. “Now we have to get moving.” Ross took a phone from his pocket and sent a message. Then, he turned towards Soren again. “We’re taking you to one of Shin’s places. Rest up, recover, make a plan, wait until we come back from the rescue mission.”

Soren nodded, and winced at the pain in his arm. Now that the adrenaline has gone down, he was finally feeling it.

A few moments later, a large door-sized shadow appeared in one of the walls surrounding them. It was bordered by a swirling, purplish glow. From the darkness, someone stepped out. A brown-haired young man stood before them. He extended his hand towards the portal he came from and then closed it to a fist. At the gesture, the portal disappeared.

“Wow, Ren, you look beat. Never thought I’d see the day.” he said with a teasing grin, but Clari saw the worried glint in his eyes. He carried a backpack with him and he offered it to them. “From Feli. She got it from your mom. She says ‘be safe’.”

Soren nodded gratefully as he accepted the bag. He flinched visibly at the weight, so Clari took it quickly and slung it on her own shoulder.

“Ed.” Ross regarded the newcomer. “You know what to do.”

“Portal, coming right up.” the young man called Ed said, rubbing his hands together and concentrating. “He knows we’re coming, though, right? Shin hates surprises.”

Ross chuckled lightly. “Don’t worry, he’s expecting us.”

“Right.” at that, Ed touched the wall again, and a new portal appeared. He sent them another smile and with a flourish, said, “After you.”

Clari had never used a portal before – she didn’t even know they really existed. Instinctively she held on to Soren’s free arm. It made her feel safer, somehow. He looked at her and smiled in reassurance. Together, they walked forward.


The exhaustion of the recent events caught up to Clari all at once as soon as she stepped through the portal and found herself inside what looked like a small, modest studio type flat.

She suddenly found herself dizzy and losing her balance, and would have fallen backwards if not for the two pairs of hands that caught her by her arms and shoulders.

“We got you.” came from a deep but soft voice, and Clari tilted her head to see Garnet smiling down at her gently.

“Portals could throw you off if you’re not used to them.” Ross added, rubbing her back softly.

There was another person in the flat waiting for them, a tall but lanky bespectacled teenager with distinctly japanese features, pale skin and dark hair. He was quick to tend to Soren and usher him towards his flat’s couch.

“Bullet?” he asked Soren as he began unwrapping the torn sleeve that was being used as a makeshift bandage. Soren nodded and gestured something else. The teen chuckled and reached out towards the medical kit in the coffee table. “I always thought you were bulletproof, Ren.”

“Thanks for this, Shin.” Ross said, leaving Clari to Garnet. He headed straight for the small kitchen in the flat, grabbing a small basin from one of the cupboards and filling it with water.

“Don’t mention it. It’s good to have a use for this old place, anyway.” Shin said, helping Soren take off his ruined shirt. “But I’ll have to leave soon. Important stuff in the University. Can’t risk my cover.”

“Same here, we can’t stay too long. We’ve got a mission ongoing, and I already pulled Garnet, Ed and Feli in the middle of it. We have to get back ASAP. Will Soren be fine?” Ross asked as he returned with the water-filled basin and a small towel, settling both items for Shin’s use.

“It’s shallow, I don’t think it needs stitching. We just have to clean it and wrap it up.” Shin answered.

Clari let Garnet sit her down in one of the chairs in the small two-person dining table. Ed had closed the portal behind them, also going to the kitchen, but to grab some water from the fridge for himself.

Clari looked up when Garnet offered her a glass of water. “Are you okay?” the young woman asked, and Clari realized Garnet looked younger than she first thought. It must be her height. She was very tall, but looking at her face, she was clearly about eighteen.

“Yes, thanks.” Clari said, accepting the beverage. She drank it quickly before asking, “Where are we?”

“Shin’s old flat.” Garnet answered quietly. “Somewhere in… Bellmare, I think.”

Bellmare. Clari nodded. It’s just a bus ride away from Crestdale.

“I would’ve brought you to a safehouse, you know.” Ed said with a small frown. “But the nearest one’s still pretty far, and I’ve got a few more jumps to go before I’m out.”

Clari wasn’t sure she understood it, but she shook her head and smiled. “It’s okay, thank you.” She looked over to see Ross and Soren talking in sign again while Shin wrapped clean bandages on Soren’s arm. Shin spoke up as well, and there seemed to be an agreement between the three before Ross stood up and turned to the others.

“We have to go. Ed, are you good?”

“Yep, ready to go again.” Ed put his empty glass by the sink, then headed towards a nearby wall. He closed his eyes, concentrating.

“Garnet?” Ross asked.

The young woman nodded, and gave Clari’s shoulder a soft squeeze before she followed Ed.

Ross turned to Clari this time, and it surprised her when he actually got down on one knee so she wouldn’t have to look up at him. “Hey. I know it must’ve been a bit… too violent back there, and you look shaken, but you’ll be safe here. We can’t stay, we have an… ongoing engagement somewhere else, that we have to get back to. But Soren will be staying with you. He’s one of our best, he’ll look after you and he will answer any question you might have. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”

“I understand.” she said softly, voice weak from exhaustion.

“You should rest for now.”

Clari nodded weakly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” he said, patting her hand before standing back up. He said his goodbyes to Soren and Shin, before he followed Garnet and Ed through the new portal.

When Clari looked towards her remaining company, Shin was also cleaning up the first-aid kit. He talked as he stood up and took the basin of water back to the kitchen, then began moving around the flat. “Sorry I have to leave you guys too, but you should be fine here. It shouldn’t take Ross and the others long. Sonnet stayed here a couple of days ago so there’s food in the cupboard and in the fridge, plenty of drinks, and I’m pretty sure the bathroom’s still stocked. There’s no bed, just a mattress, but there are plenty of pillows and blankets on the closet.”

Clari listened intently. Shin was moving around too much for Soren to really read his lips and he wasn’t signing, too busy checking things and putting them in order, so she concluded that he was counting on her to get his message. He went to rummage the small messenger bag in a corner table and took out a key. He tossed it to Soren, who caught it easily with his good hand.

“The phone line’s disconnected, but the internet connection’s secure. Dory made sure of that. So you just plug in the modem and router if you need it.”

This last one, he directed to Soren, who stood up to see him off. He looked at Clari and gave a small smile and a nod of acknowledgement. “Please help him with the bandages if they need changing.”

He stopped by the doorway beside Soren, looking up at him. This time he also signed as he spoke. “I almost had a heart attack when they said you were in trouble, and alone. So don’t get in any more trouble, not on my watch. I don’t wanna die of a heart attack. At eighteen.”

Soren smiled and said something in sign. He reached out and ruffled’s Shin’s already messy, spiky hair before the young man opened the door and left.

As soon as the door closed, he looked at Clari, still sitting quietly by the dining table. He offered a small smile as he sat back down on the couch, wincing slightly. No doubt he had some bruises, aside from the bandaged wound on his arm.

“Um…” she started awkwardly. “Thanks. For saving me.”

He nodded, then raised a hand expectantly.

Clari blinked – was he asking to shake her hand? For her to come to him? He tilted his head now, eyebrows slightly raised. She still didn’t understand. Then he finally pointed towards her and Clari looked down- Oh. Oh, of course.

His backpack. She had been hugging it to herself all this time. And he had no shirt on, he probably had spares in his bag, and he was asking for it.

“Oh! Sorry!” she laughed shakily and stood up quickly to give him his bag. She sat on the couch next to him and helped him open the bag. He was trying to avoid using his wounded arm. The bag was filled with neatly packed clothes, some toiletries, a few energy bars… “Here, what do you need?” He reached out for a sleeveless shirt and she took it out, unfolded it, and helped him wear it. “Anything else?” she asked, feeling the need to fuss. He saved her, after all. This was the least she can do. “Food? Water! I’ll get you some water-”

He shook his head tiredly, patting her on the shoulder and standing up. She followed him to the fridge, where he opened the freezer and took out the ice tray. Before he could ask, Clari had already looked through the cupboards to look for an ice bag. She found one and brought it to him, but didn’t give it and instead filled it with the ice cubes herself. She handed it to him after.

He nodded gratefully as he pressed it to his side. Clari frowned. Right. He got kicked there, for the woman, for Clari. She wondered what happened to that woman. She hoped she made it out alright.

She was cut off her thoughts when he took his phone out and typed a message again.

[ ‘Do you want to change?’ ]

For the first time since their escape, Clari looked down at herself. Her blue skinny jeans were dirty and torn at the knees, her blouse was rumpled, her cardigan was torn at the sleeves, and she felt the bruises and scratches all over her body as well. She had no doubt her face was also dirty and her hair was a mess.

“Oh… I… guess so, but…”

[ ‘I still have some clothes you can borrow while you wash yours’ ]

Clari looked at him and smiled. “Thanks.”

He shook his head as if to say ‘don’t mention it’, and held up another message.

[ ‘You can shower first’ ]


Clari kept her shower quick. She would have loved a long soak, but she didn’t want Soren to wait too long. He must want to wash up too. He had more bruises and scratches than she did. There was a towel and a fluffy bathrobe in the bathroom. She chose the bathrobe and when she finished, Soren had laid out several clean clothes on the coffee table, most of them shirts and a few boxers.

He held up his phone again. [ ‘Pick whatever you want’ ]

“Thanks.” she said. She had been saying that a lot today. He stood up with a pair of cotton pants and headed for the bathroom to give her some privacy.

She chose a thin, plain white shirt and a pair of dark red drawstring boxers.

When Soren returned, towel draped on his shoulders and wearing the same sleeveless shirt now paired with loose cotton pants, Clari was sitting on the couch, wearing his shirt and boxers, and hugging her knees to herself as she watched the news on TV.

Of course. It had only been a little over an hour. The explosion and the quake during a “peaceful” government laboratory “search” in Crestdale. People and officers were hurt or dead. As always there was no coverage on the parents and loved ones crying for the people the lab troops took. Only some civilians saying that the “defected” people were better off in the labs, that they caused the trouble, look what they did to the town square, they do deserve to be locked up and corrected!

Clari curled up tighter and buried her face in her knees. She only looked up when she felt Soren sit on the couch, his backpack in between them. She wondered what he was thinking as he began gathering his clothes again and stacking them in a neat pile. When he finished with that, he leaned back against the couch and breathed deeply.

They were silent for a very long moment, just staring at the news reports in the TV, until they changed to a different event. Somewhere else, there was a city festival. There were bright, colorful floats in the parade. Clari looked away, and saw that Soren was staring down at his phone. He wasn’t typing. He must be thinking of what to say, or how to start whatever he wanted to say.

“Soren?” she called, but knowing he can’t hear her, she reached out and placed a hand on his arm. He turned towards her. “You know, I do think you did a good job. More of us would have been caught if you didn’t do what you did.”

He spared a small smile and nodded, typed and lifted his phone to her. [ ‘I’m glad they’re safe’ ]

She smiled back at the message. It sounded so selfless, and she did feel that he meant it fully. “So… you’re a volunteer. Do you have… a gift, too?”

He shook his head. [ ‘I’m pretty normal’ ]

“Um, no, you’re not. You kicked major butt out there.” she said, this time shifting so she can face him easily. He did the same, chuckling at her remark. “How old are you, anyway? I heard that the volunteers are pretty young, teenagers and people in their 20’s and early 30’s? Your friends looked pretty young, too.”

[ ‘I’m 20. Ross is a bit older.’ ]

“Twenty?! We’re the same age! How long have you been doing this?”

He shrugged. [ ‘Since 15 i think? I joined with my sister. She has a gift. She’s in a mission with ross and team rn.’ ]

“Fifteen. So am I right, those other guys… Garnet, Shin, Ed… they’re teenagers?”

[ ‘17 give or take. Theyre brave kids.’ ]

Clari looked down with a sad smile. “They are, aren’t they? All of you are. I’ve always heard of you guys. Volunteers. People who help us escape and hide from the labs… I always thought those people were very brave, but I didn’t need… I didn’t need your… assistance… before.”

He frowned, noticing that she was shaking slightly, and that she was curling up over herself again.

[ ‘It’s ok.’ ] he tried. He didn’t know how to comfort her, he didn’t know much about her…

“I had it so easy.” she said, sniffing. “I’m from the country, you see. Farm girl right here. And… and the news… so far they all seemed so far away? Like… they wouldn’t happen to us. The lab troops only went there once, I was a kid, and my parents were able to hide me somewhere in the farm. And my power is so easy to hide, too. I just have it, it’s there, in my eyes, constantly. They only glow when I focus on really using them, on… on maximizing it or something. I’m… I look ordinary. It’s easy to hold back and if I ever lose control, no one would even notice. I had it so easy.”

By now she was crying, and Soren said nothing, just switched the TV off, watched her and read her lips and tried to understand.

“I came here because… God, it’s so silly… I want to be an actress. I want to act, to sing on stage. I came here to audition for every part that would allow me to audition for it. My family thinks I’m crazy to come here, where there are searches and raids and people would turn me away anyway, once they know I’m one of the “defective” people… But I told them I’ll be okay, it’s easy to hide my powers. I came here and I thought it’ll be fine. I’ll be fine! Because unlike the others, I can blend in, I can hide! But… but today. There was no search for me, probably ’cause I’m new in town… but when I heard the labs were taking people, I couldn’t help but go there and see. See for myself, what they’re all afraid of, because I’ve never had to be scared of it. And then… and then that happened…”

She trailed off helplessly and sobbed against her knees, curled up into a trembling, sobbing ball. Soren reached out and rubbed her back comfortingly. He waited, patient, for her to let it out, before he offered her a small pack of tissues from his bag.

“I’m sorry for being like this… You already saved my life, and now I’m crying all over you too.” she laughed gingerly as she took some tissues to wipe her tears and blow her nose. She felt him reach out to pat her head and then tuck strands of her blonde hair behind her ears, and she laughed again. “You’re so sweet. I was just… I really thought I was gonna die back there and I can’t believe I’m here, safe, right now.”

He let her sob some more into the tissues, just gently rubbing circles by the side of her arm. It seemed to calm her down, and soon she was just hiccuping softly every now and then.

He finally lifted his phone again, and she rubbed the tears off her eyes to read his message.

[ ‘You look very tired. Maybe take a nap?’ ]

She wanted to say ‘no’, she didn’t need to take a nap, not when she knew there were still people in trouble, not after seeing those unconscious children loaded in the back of a truck, knowing their parents were worried sick… But what can she do? She did feel so tired, and her body hurt from all the running and tripping and falling earlier and… and there was nothing either of them could do until the others come and pick them up, right?

“I… I think I’ll do that.” she said softly.

They both took the mattress propped against the wall and settled it on one corner of the room. Clari found the blankets and the pillows easily in the closet. She also saw Soren take a pillow for himself and settle his bag on the floor by the couch.

The mattress and the pillow were soft, the blanket thick and warm, and Soren’s too-big shirt smelled faintly of chocolate and whatever cologne he used. She fell asleep easily.


Clari woke up to the sound of her phone vibrating against the floor beside the mattress. She sat up, still wincing from some of the bruises in her body and grabbed the gadget. It was her father, calling, but she also saw that she had six other missed calls, a lot of text messages and that it was… it was 4PM. She had slept for roughly 6 hours. She looked up to see Soren sleeping peacefully on the couch. His bandages were stained red now… they would have to replace those.

She cleared her throat as silently as she could before tapping the answer button on her phone. “Hello?”

“Clari! My girl, where are you? How are you? We saw on TV, about Crestdale, and your manager called because they couldn’t contact you-”

“Daddy, I’m okay.” she said, softly.

“They said you were in that town square, the explosion-”

“Yes, I was. But I had… help. I got out in time, and I’m fine. A little beat up, but fine.”

She heard her father sigh. “Thank God. We’re so worried. Where are you now? Are you sure you’re okay? Do we need to come get you?”

“No. No need, daddy.” she answered soothingly. “I’m someplace safe. Staying with… with a friend. Just a little ways out of town. I’ll stay here for a while until things calm down back there and then I’ll… I’ll carry on.”

“Alright.” he sighed. “They didn’t find you, then?”

She resisted the urge to break down and say ‘yes, dad, they’ve seen me and they might hunt me down from now on’. Clari only squared her jaw and answered, “No, dad. They didn’t. I’ll be okay.”

She told him to send her love to everyone, to tell mommy to stop worrying, that she was fine. Then she called her manager too, telling the man that she was alright, she got out of the scuffle before the explosion, and that she stayed with a friend nearby.

Clari also texted some of her co-workers who tried to reach her, saying much the same thing.

She heard a grunt and looked up to see Soren getting up. He winced from pain for a bit but was able to sit up and stretch weakly.

Then there was a grumble. From Soren’s direction. She looked at him and saw him smiling sheepishly at her, a hand over his stomach.

They both missed lunch.

Clari giggled and stood up. Her turn to do something now. “What do you want to eat?”


It was eggs, hotdogs, toast and some instant noodles for them. They were both starving and besides some cereals, junk food and apples, those were their only options. Clari questioned Shin’s choices… she thought he’d at least have some vegetables or rice, healthier stuff… but who was she to complain? Soren said that he was pretty sure it wasn’t Shin who stocked up the unit.

[ ‘he’s actually vegan’ ]


Thinking about it, Shin did mention something about someone else who stayed in the flat recently. Maybe that was it. Clari didn’t bother to ask.

They ate in silence, both too hungry to initiate conversation.

They both insisted to do the dishes. Clari won.

“At least let me do this.” she had said, and Soren proved weak against her stubborn glare and pouting face.

After that, there was nothing to do, but they still felt restless. They flipped through TV channels and found nothing to catch their interest. They discovered a deck of cards in one of the shelves but after one lame game of bridge, they gave up. They switched the modem and router on, connected to the internet, but still didn’t find it enough of a distraction. Clari found a magazine – she was good at reading, her abilities made her a speed-reader, but the magazine was about engineering, and she hardly understood the technical jargon. Soren flipped aimlessly through what looked like a thick reference book, filled with diagrams and charts.

She asked him why the flat was filled with all these engineering and technology reference books. He told her that Shin works on robotics and engineering research in a famous university.

“Work? Not study?”

[ ‘Studying as part of work. He’s kind of a genius. They pay him to work with them.’ ]

At that point, Clari suggested they replace Soren’s bandages, and he let her help him through it.

Soon they found themselves sitting beside each other in the couch again. Clari tried flipping through TV channels again on the hopes she’ll find something to interest her this time. After a while, when she looked beside her, Soren had dozed off again, hugging his pillow to himself. She smiled softly, lowering the volume of the TV. She had a lot of questions for him, but somehow she didn’t feel like asking. If she did, he’ll have to type his answers. They weren’t simple yes-or-no answers either, and Clari just thought that it might be too much trouble for him…

A thought struck her then. She picked her phone up, checked that she was connected to the wifi and tapped on her phone’s app store.

In the search bar, she entered: sign language.


Soren woke up when he felt someone gently shaking his shoulders. He opened his eyes to see Clari hovering over him, face anxious.

In the haze of sleep, he forgot himself and gestured, ‘What?’

She blinked at this, but answered anyway. “Someone’s knocking on the door.”

He sat up immediately and looked towards the door. He looked at Clari and raised a hand, pointed downwards, then pressed his hand to his lips, index finger up. She interpreted that as ‘Wait here and stay quiet.’ She only nodded as he straightened his shirt down and ran a hand through his hair before he headed towards the door.

On his way he grabbed a mop that was leaning on one side of the wall and hid it behind his back. Then carefully, he opened the door a crack.

Clari heard the muffled voice from outside say, “Put that away, whatever it is. You won’t be needing it.”

Soren let out a sigh and then smiled. He stepped back and opened the door to let their guest in. As soon as the girl – no, woman – stepped inside the room, Soren welcomed her with a warm hug. She was just as tall as he was, strongly-built, her hair only slightly longer than his, her skin only a shade lighter, her features just a more feminine version of Soren’s. To Clari, they could be twins. She must be Soren’s sister.

“I was worried sick.” she said, hugging her brother back tightly, before withdrawing when he stiffened and groaned. “Oh, shit. You’re injured. Sorry.” She went to close the door behind them and then laughed when Soren put the mop back against the wall. Clari watched a soft smile bloom on the young woman’s lips before she took her brother’s face in her hands and pulled him down only slightly to kiss his forehead. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Soren signed something, and she let out a chuckle before they hugged again. After that, she finally withdrew and stepped aside to address Clari. “Hi, you must be Clarisse. Ross told me about you and the… situation.” she said, stepping forward and holding out a hand. “I’m Soren’s sister. Kali.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Kali.” Clari said, nodding and shaking the other girl’s hand. She saw Kali eye her from head to toe, eyebrows raising slightly and lips quirking up into an amused smile. Kali looked at Soren and said, “I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

Soren blinked, looked at Clari, then back at his sister and frantically shook his head. Clari looked down at herself and realized that – of course – she was still in Soren’s clothes! “A-Ah, this isn’t what it looks like! My-… M-my clothes were dirty and torn from the… from what happened today, so Soren let me borrow some of his own!“

Kali laughed. It was an easy, friendly laugh. “I’m kidding! I just never get to tease Ren often. He’s such a good boy. And why’re we all standing? Let’s settle down.”

Soren checked the time before signing something to his sister. Kali nodded easily. “Yeah, sure. Go make some dinner.”

“I can help.” Clari volunteered, but Kali held her back with a look, and Soren shook his head at her before quickly maneuvering around the tiny kitchen.

“Ren’s got that covered.” Kali said, sitting down on the couch. She smiled at Clari. “You and me, we have stuff to talk about.”

Clari stared after Soren for another second, before meekly joining Kali on the couch. Kali gave her a moment to brace herself before the woman smiled and in a soft but firm voice, said, “So. Tell me what happened.”

Clari blinked, slightly confused. “What… I thought Ross…”

Kali chuckled. “Okay. Yes, there was a raid that went haywire. Ross took Garnet and Ed to help extract Soren, you happened to be there needing help as well, and they brought you both here for your safety. Now tell me how that happened.”

“I’m- I’m not sure, Soren was the one-”

“I’m asking about you, Clarisse.”

Clari looked at the other woman and swallowed. “Clari. That’s-… That’s how my friends call me.” she said quickly, before sighing. “I was just… I work in Andy’s, the burger place, in Crestdale. I’ve been there a month. It was a part-time job while I… err… while I try out for some auditions.”


“I wanted to be on stage.”

Kali studied her face carefully, and Clari could just feel the judgement coming. ‘Stage? Someone like you? As if they’ll give you a chance if they knew what you are. Silly girl.’

But Kali kept silent, and when it became obvious that Clari was waiting for a signal to continue, she nodded and asked, “Auditions. Right. So you’re new in town, auditioning and working part-time. And?”

“I was out, but too early for my shift, so I decided I’ll walk around… then people started gathering in the town square and next thing I know the officers from the government labs were there, and they were taking… people. Children. I knew I should’ve hidden. But… but I couldn’t help it, it was my first time seeing something like that up close, and I’ve never been found out before. The other officers didn’t seem to be interested in me either, so I figured I was still safe. I recognized some of the people there… There’s a lady from the same building I live in, and they took her son. She was going after him and was about to be hurt by the officers, so I tried to stop her. Then Soren defended us, and… and well, the fight happened and some of the children panicked, I guess. They lost control. There was the quake and the explosion. I was lucky I saw it happen, just in time to pull back, I managed to pull Soren with me. From there, I just… kind of stuck with him?”

Kali nodded again, in full understanding. “Ross told me you have super-sight?”

Clari shrugged. “I… guess. Yeah.”

“It’s a good gift.” Kali smiled. “I’m a canceller. If I will it, I can cancel the gifts of everyone in a certain area near me.”

Clari stared at the other woman in awe, nodding. “That’s… that’s amazing.”

A smile. “It’s useful.” Then her expression turned serious again, but still understanding. “Now, we think of what to do next. Our team just came from a pretty tiring deal, but Ross is having our hackers and some friends try and find out if you’re wanted by the labs.”

Clari bit her lip. She wouldn’t know what to do if that happened. Will she be living on the run for all her life?

“But even if you are, it will take a while for that to circulate. You’ll still have a couple of days before every station has your wanted poster in it. For now, we’ve confirmed that the lab trucks have left Crestdale. It’s safe again, and if you want to go back, you could. But we never really know when or if the lab trucks will return.”

Clari nodded grimly.

“I’m sorry, things will never be the same for you in that town. But you still have a chance to gather your things, say goodbye to your friends, if you do decide to leave. That still counts for something. Some people… they’re not so lucky.”

Clari glanced up at the woman, curiosity in her eyes.

“I know a lot of people like us who lose everything in a raid. Burned down houses, dead family.”

“Oh.” Clari bit her lip. “I’m-… I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Like I said, that should count for something. Do you have anywhere else you can go? Your family?”

“Yes, they’re… they’re in my hometown. They know I was in Crestdale, but they don’t know I got chased by the lab people. I told them I got out alright and I’m staying with a friend until the trouble’s gone down.”

“That’s good, at least. You still have a home.”

“I’m… I’m not sure I want to go back, though.”

“That’s alright, too.” Kali reassured. “If you’re lucky enough to not be wanted by the labs after this, we know some other cities that are still safe from the raids. Friendly ones. And we’ve got contacts in most of them so if there’s ever a threat, we can warn our people quicker. Have them make plans for their safety. We can help you move to one of those cities.”

“Thank you.” Clari spared a smile. “That means a lot.”

“It’s what we do.”

Clari looked down, thinking about it. “We? You mean, the volunteers? That’s what Soren said, that’s… you and Ross and your other friends. You’re part of it.”

Kali nodded. “Yep, that’s us. Never needed our help before?”

She shook her head. “It’s easy to hide, my gift. And back in my hometown, the labs don’t reach out much. I don’t know a lot about you guys.”

“That’s fair. We’re pretty discreet. We have to be.” Kali explained, sighing heavily. They were silent for a while.

Clari spoke up after a moment of contemplation. “So, um… you guys will help me settle someplace… safe?”

“Yes.” Kali nodded without hesitation.

“That’s if… if I’m not wanted.” the blonde started, brows furrowing. She swallowed, afraid to ask the next question. But she knew she had to. “What if… what if I am?”

“It’s still your choice. You can still live in cities, but you’d have to be careful, hide, move a lot… maybe change your name. We’d help you if you call.” Kali reassured her. “But also, we can take you to a safehouse. You heard of those?”

She nodded reluctantly. “In passing. They said there must be some place you take those of us who are hunted. And… and I also saw it on the news, a few years back… when they discovered a whole community and… raided a safehouse. It was horrible.”

Kali’s smiled dissolved then, and she looked away, lips drawn into a thin line. Clari drew back, horrified – Kali and Soren were around her age, Soren said they started at fifteen, so… God. They were already volunteers when that safehouse was raided. They could’ve been there for all Clari knew-

She was about to say something, to apologize, but Kali closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. Then she faced Clari again with a composed smile. “Yes. Right now there are still several safehouses standing. We’re very careful not to give them away.”


“Think about it, though, will you?” she continued. “You’re one of us. We’ll support you, whatever you choose.”

Clari met the woman’s warm, confident, piercing brown eyes and replied. “I will. And… and thank you. For this.”

Kali smirked. “Nah. It’s Ren who saved you. We were short-handed, he took this job on by himself and saved a lot people, and you. Everyone from home’s real proud of him.”

They looked towards the kitchen to see Soren frying some eggs and hotdogs (because that really is all that’s left in the little kitchen – they’d have to leave soon, or buy some decent food). Kali’s gaze travelled towards the table when Clari picked up her phone to put it back in her pocket. The woman caught a glimpse of the phone screen and smiled. “Aw, you wanna talk to him?”

Clari blinked at her and blushed – Kali had caught her studying sign language! She looked away gingerly. “I… I just thought-… It’ll be nice if- if I could, umm, understand… a bit of…”

Kali cut her off with a laugh. “That app is a bit mediocre, here, let me rec a much better one.” With that, she took her own phone out. The lockscreen, Clari observed, was a photo of Kali, Soren and an older woman who must be their mother, or a close relative. She saw the immediate family resemblance. Kali opened the app store in her own phone and searched for something before pointing it towards Clari. “This one. It’s better for beginners, and has all these nifty features…”


As they ate dinner, Clari learned several more things about the siblings. Kali was one year older than Soren. Their mom was one of the women in the charity. Kali told her brother that their mother was safe, and was very relieved to hear that Soren was, too. She couldn’t get back to him in time because some of the wounded needed their assistance. Kali talked about other people too, signing whenever her hands weren’t occupied with eating.

There was a boy named Tim who was really worried about Soren, but couldn’t go with Kali to visit. Someone called Feli will be staying with them for a while. Another someone called Dory was going to hang around, too. Ross – that name Clari recognized – feels very guilty for sending Soren to Crestdale alone and, according to Kali, he needs to ‘chill with all the team leader angst’.

It came as a small surprise to Clari to hear that. So Ross was the team leader? Yes, he did seem in-charge earlier, but it was a very… subdued kind of authority. Like he was only carrying out instructions in place of someone else, like he was only in charge for a temporary time.

Clari couldn’t help but compare him to Kali. Kali’s authority was solid, she was very calm and confident, and always seemed to know what to say. Clari actually thought Kali was some kind of leader figure in the safehouse, with how she talked Clari through things earlier.

There was something common between them, though. Clari noticed that they both had a steady, calming presence.

That was something Soren shared with them too. He looked gentle yet firm and reliable. To an extent, the others she’d met were a bit like that, too. They brought the promise of security with them.

Clari wondered if all of them were like that.

Or, recalling Kali’s grim expression a while ago as she remembered a fallen safehouse, maybe it was something they had to learn to be.

She couldn’t help but cling to it, somewhat. Right there, with them, she was safe. She felt safe.


It was late when Kali’s phone chimed, signalling a text message. She read it quickly and then smiled at them. “I guess that’s me.”

“You’re going?” Clari asked.

“Yep. I still have a stop after this.” the woman let out a breath and stood up. She didn’t really have anything with her other than her phone and wallet. Then she looked at Clari. “About what we talked about… Have you thought about it? We can wait, but not too long-”

“I-…” Clari started, but stopped at the first word. Then she looked at Soren and back at Kali. “Can I-… I don’t know if it’s okay, but… Can I go with you to your… safehouse?”

Soren blinked, but his face was merely curious, then he looked towards his sister to gauge her response.

Kali gave her a considering look. “May I ask why?”

“I’ve never… I’ve never really met others like us.” Clari started, her hands gripping the hem of the borrowed shirt that she wore. “And… um… I just want to… see how it is, for them.”

She bit her lip, wanting to say so much more but no knowing where to start.

But she didn’t have to say anything anymore, before Kali had broken the silence with a hum. “Hmm… Okay, then.” the woman said with an easy smile. “And I’m guessing you’ll need to stop in Crestdale to settle your businesses and get your things?”

Clari nodded hesitantly.

Kali laid a hand on Soren’s shoulder to catch his attention, and she started signing again. “Tomorrow, you two go to Crestdale. Do whatever needs to be done, then come home.”

Soren smiled and nodded, replying in sign.

Kali chuckled, then looked at Clari. “Soren will take you there. He’ll make sure you’re safe, and he knows what to do if there’s ever any trouble.”

Clari exchanged a looked with Soren and appreciated the gentle smile he sent her.

Kali leaned down to kiss her brother’s forehead, and left with a bright “I’ll see you both soon!”

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