"He almost killed us! I can't believe you're defending him," Max Evans yelled, his bright blue eyes burning as he glared at Michael Guerin.
Michael leaned his head against the cave's cool limestone wall, trying to get a grip on the anger building inside him. Now wasn't the time to go off. Max was his best friend. There had to be a way to get him to listen, to understand. "Agreed, Adam almost killed us," Michael answered, fighting to keep his voice low and calm. "All I'm saying is that -- "
"There's nothing else to say," Max interrupted.
"And of course you're the one who gets to decide that, right?" Michael asked. "What about Liz and Maria and Isabel? Or Cameron? Can't they speak here?"
Cameron Winger, who had been sitting quietly against the wall, looked up at the others and spoke. "I don't want to be involved in your Psychic Friends Network discussion. It just doesn't involve me," she said.
No one said anything. Max looked furious.
Michael glanced around the circle. His eyes locked on Max's sister, Isabel. More than any of the others, she should have a little sympathy for Adam. Adam had lived out her worst nightmare -- he'd spent almost his entire life locked away in Project Clean Slate's underground compound, never even allowed to see the sun. Just because he happened to come from another planet. Just because he was one of them.
"It could have been you who grew up in the compound, Izzy," he reminded her. The color drained from Isabel's face, even her lips getting all pinched and white. Michael knew he was hurting her, but he forced himself to go on. "You, and Max, and me, we just got lucky. Our incubation pods were moved to the cave before the Project Clean Slate guys showed up at the crash site. We've always had each other. Adam grew up without anyone around who was...like him." Michael's words tumbled out faster and faster. "He's one of us. We've got to help him. There's got to be something wrong with him. He's sick or something. I know Adam. He would never have tried to hurt anyone -- "
"Michael, you knew him for what, three days when you were in the compound together?" Liz Ortecho asked, cutting him off. "I knew him about that long, too. And I liked him. I did. But who knows what the Project Clean Slate people did to him? Maybe they were able to turn him into some kind of living weapon or something."
"That makes no sense," Michael shot back. He could hear the anger in his voice, and he clamped down on it hard. The situation here could turn ugly...fast. He could feel it. And he wasn't going to let the group shatter because they couldn't come to an agreement about what to do with Adam. But he also wasn't going to allow anyone to create some new kind of prison for Adam, either.
That meant he had to be careful, to think before he spoke. Remember, Liz is a science head, just like Max, he told himself. If you want her on your side, you have to give her a logical argument. "Look, if Sheriff Valenti and his Clean Slate gang had brainwashed Adam to make him an alien assassin, they wouldn't have included 'kill Sheriff Valenti!' in the mental program. It wouldn't make any sense."
"Okay, you're right," she agreed. "But here's the thing." She twisted her long dark hair into a knot on top of her head, then immediately let it fall free. "For some reason, Adam tried to kill Max tonight. He did kill Valenti. And he torched the compound, which is pretty much the same as trying to kill all of us. Bottom line is, he's dangerous. And with his powers, we can't defend ourselves against him. Well, maybe you and Max and Isabel can. But he seems to have powers that are much more developed than yours."
"I've seen this episode before," Cameron announced suddenly. She shoved herself to her feet and wandered toward the back of the cave.
Michael wasn't exactly surprised. He'd only known Cameron for about a week, but she'd immediately made it clear she had zero tolerance for bull. In fact, there was something sexy about her sassiness.
"Why is she even here, anyway?" Isabel complained, not bothering to lower her voice. "Doesn't she have a home?"
Michael knew the answer to that one. Yeah, Cameron had a home in some other state. A home she never wanted to go back to. A home that was so bad, she'd agreed to submit to tests at the compound as long as Valenti promised not to tell her parents where she was.
But that was Cameron's story to tell. Or not.
"Adam said she was in a cell near yours," Maria DeLuca whispered. "Does that mean she's a..." She shot a glance at Michael. It was the first time she'd managed to look at him since she and the others had broken into the compound to rescue him. Michael knew she must feel strange -- there was definitely some unfinished business between them. Business Michael wasn't looking forward to finishing. Maria had told him she loved him right before he got captured. Since he'd basically been in prison, he'd gotten away with not saying much of anything in response to the L word. But now he was out, and sooner or later...
Later, Michael thought. Much later. Even for the most sensitive of guys, which he never claimed to be, now was not the time to deal with Maria and her feelings.
"Valenti was having one of the doctors do some experiments on Cameron," he answered. "She has some parapsychological powers. I don't know how or why or even what exactly. But I know for sure that she's not one of us."
"You mean, one of you alien freaks?" Maria asked, her head tilted like a curious dog.
Max snorted, then broke into a chuckle. Maria and Isabel started giggling. Yeah, Michael thought. This feels more like normal.
"Look, why don't we go around the circle and each say what we think we should do about Adam," Liz suggested. "No yelling. No interrupting each other. Everyone gets a turn. Then we make a decision."
"I'll go first. I think we should sedate Adam until we know for sure what his deal is," Max said. "Maybe I can get some info from the collective consciousness to find out a way to do it without hurting him."
The collective consciousness. Michael hadn't even had a chance to ask Max what it was like. Max had made the connection while Michael was in the compound. Michael knew that it was like tapping your mind into the mind and experiences of an entire planetful of people and that it would increase Max's powers tenfold. But how? Man, it felt like he'd been trapped in the compound half his life, even though it had really only been about a week.
Everyone seemed a little different somehow. Especially Max. He couldn't believe Max was talking about "sedating" Adam. He sounded like some kind of mad professor.
"You want to keep him blacked out? You? The guy who practically cries when he sees a sick mouse?" Michael snapped.
"I'm thinking about the safety of -- ," Max began.
"Enough!" Liz cried. "We said no interruptions. Max told us what he thought. I agree with him. I think we'd all be in danger if there was even the possibility Adam could turn his powers on us. Now, Michael, you go."
"I think one of us should be with Adam all the time," he answered. "And that's it. No prison. And no lobotomy."
"I never said anything about -- ," Max interrupted again.
"Maria, you're up," Liz said.
"Adam lived his whole life in prison," Maria answered. "I don't want to put him in another one. I think we should talk to him. Maybe he has an explanation for what he did. We haven't even asked him."
"We couldn't have," Liz reminded her. "He practically passed out as soon as he got out of the compound."
"After he burned it down, you mean," Max muttered.
"Wait a minute. We're breaking the rules again," Liz said. "Maria, are you done?"
"I just think he deserves the chance to tell his side before we do anything," she said. "No prison. No sedation."
"Okay, Isabel, you go," Liz instructed.
"I agree with Michael," she replied. "I think Adam just went a little nuts when he got back into the compound. Sheriff Valenti made Adam call him Dad. He acted like he loved Adam. Then Adam finds out Valenti didn't love him, that he was using him for his stupid little tests. I would have wanted to kill him, too. And burn down the place that used to be my prison. If I'd been kept there my whole life, I would do whatever it took to make sure no one ever put me back there again."
Isabel pulled in a deep, shuddering breath. "But it's over," she continued. "Adam knows he's safe now. We have no reason to think he'd do anything like that again."
"Except the rabbit," Max said. "He wasn't in the compound when he tried to kill it."
"It was a rabbit, okay?" Isabel shot back. "Yeah, they're cute with their fluffy fur and their big ears and their cotton ball tails. But face it, they're basically rodents."
"Forget the rabbit. What about Max? Are you saying Adam went so crazy in the compound, he didn't know he was trying to kill one of his friends?" Liz exclaimed, her voice tight with emotion.
"You said it was right after he incinerated Valenti," Isabel said. "Maybe Adam just lost control of his power for a second."
"No way. You weren't there. You didn't see him. He wanted to kill me, and he knew exactly who I was. He also knew torching the compound meant we'd all burn with it, and he was happy about it. He wasn't having some kind of post-traumatic stress reaction, if that's what you're thinking," Max insisted.
"And how, exactly, does one look with post-traumatic stress?" Isabel challenged her big brother.
"All right. All right. We've all had our turn," Michael jumped in before Max and Isabel could really start going at each other. "The majority says Adam doesn't need to be restrained at all. He just needs to be with one of us all the time."
"Alex didn't get to vote," Max reminded him. Alex Manes was over at the UFO museum, watching Adam. "I'm still concerned about the fact that we left him alone with Adam."
"Adam's practically in a coma," Michael reminded him. "Alex is perfectly safe."
"There's something else," Liz added softly. "I don't know if I should even say it, but I'm going to." She gave Maria a long, steady look, then turned her gaze to Isabel. "I think you two are being influenced by your feelings for Michael."
You two. That meant...Michael snapped his head toward Isabel. Did she have feelings for him, too?
"Oh, right. Love means never having a thought of your own," Isabel snapped. "I'm so sure that's why you agreed with Max, right?"
"I agreed with Max because I -- "
Michael tuned out the rest of what Liz was saying. He couldn't believe this. Isabel and Maria? What was going on? Isabel was like a sister to him. He glanced back at Cameron to see if she was smiling sarcastically, but she was nowhere in sight. He forced his attention back to Liz.
"All I'm saying is I'd like to hear your answers again after Michael makes some kind of choice between the two of you," she finished.
Michael shoved his hands through his spiky black hair and lowered his gaze to the cave floor. What was he supposed to do? Did Liz really expect him to choose? I'll have one Isabel, a Maria, and two Camerons to go, he thought. Speaking of Cameron...
Michael noticed a green-purple light glistening on the floor, and it was exuding a burning, evil aura. He'd seen that color only one time before. He sprang to his feet.
"What's wrong, Michael?" Isabel asked.
He sprinted to the back of the cave and turned right. There was Cameron sitting on the ground...staring wide-eyed at her glowing hands. In her hands lay the ring with the Stone of Midnight. Her face and the wall behind were an eerie shade of green.
A horrifying image filled Michael's mind. Maria lying unconscious on the floor -- pale, cold, and dying -- with that evil ring on a string around her neck. He wasn't going to let that happen to Cameron.
He hurled himself across the cave at her. Cameron jerked away in surprise, but Michael caught her arm and yanked, sending the ring flying across the stone floor. She flashed him a pained expression, as if her favorite toy had been taken.
"Don't ever touch that again," he ordered. He snatched up the ring and returned it to the metal box they kept it in. Next time he came out here, he was slapping a lock on the thing.
He straightened up and turned back to face Cameron. She raised her eyebrows in an I'm-waiting kind of way.
"The stone in that ring was stolen from our planet," he told her. "When you use its power, it sends out a signal to a group of...bounty hunters. Also aliens, but not like us. Let's just say that they aren't guys you'd want to party with."
"How do you know?" Cameron answered. "My taste might be on the kinky side, and I..." Her words trailed off.
Michael realized that tiny tremors were running through her body. He reached out and pulled her to him. She held herself stiff, her arms straight at her sides. He figured she was busy cursing herself for looking like a wimp. She prided herself on being tough.
Michael knew a little bit about that, so he didn't bother telling her that he'd do anything he had to for her to be safe. He didn't bother telling her anything. He just held her tight.
And a few moments later he felt her hands dig into the back of his jacket. Slowly the tremors stopped. And Cameron shoved him away. "The floor show's over," she called to the others without looking at them. She headed over to the sleeping bag Michael kept in the corner for the nights he couldn't deal with life as a foster kid. He thought about following but decided that would truly annoy her. Besides, they still hadn't agreed on what to do about Adam.
He turned back to his friends and found himself pinned by two pairs of blue eyes -- Maria's hurt, Isabel's challenging.
Oh, great. He cleared his throat. "So, what were we saying?" he asked.
"We were saying that you have no problem with the possibility that Adam might go off again and turn us all into a big pile of ashes," Max answered.
"How's this?" Michael suggested. "No sedation. Adam stays in the museum. Doesn't go out in public. One of us is always with him."
Max frowned. "I don't like it. At all. But it doesn't seem like I have much of a choice." He rubbed his face with his fingers. "The guards should be our resident aliens -- you, me, and Isabel. Two of us should be on him all the time. That way if anything...happens, we can combine our power and at least have a chance of dealing with Adam."
Michael nodded. He was afraid if he opened his mouth, Max was really not going to like what he heard. At all.
"I could go with that," Liz said, sounding reluctant.
"Me too," Isabel agreed.
"Yeah," Maria answered. "And while he's there, we talk to him about what happened."
Michael shot a glance over his shoulder at Cameron. She was stretched out on her side, facing away from them. "How would you feel about Cameron staying there, too?" he asked softly. "She doesn't have anyplace else to go."
"As long as there are always two of us on Adam, fine," Max answered.
No one else said anything, which Michael decided to take as a unanimous yes.
"Let's head back," Liz said. "I don't want Alex to be alone with Adam when he comes to."
"Good idea." Michael jumped on the big rock to climb out of the cave.
Max stepped over to him. "There's one more thing I want to say to you," he began, his voice low enough that only Michael could hear it.
Michael knew what was coming next. One of Max's I-love-you-man moments. "We're not going to have to hug or anything, are we?" Michael joked. "I mean, I'm glad you're still alive. You're glad I'm still alive. But we're guys. We -- "
"What I wanted to say is that I think you're wrong about Adam," Max interrupted. "And if he does anything to hurt anyone, I'm holding you responsible."
Alex glanced at his watch, then immediately returned his gaze to Adam. Not that the guy had moved for the past hour. When they got to the museum, Alex had practically had to carry Adam inside. He'd dumped him on the couch by the information counter, and Adam hadn't even twitched a finger since then.
Alex definitely wasn't complaining. It's not like he'd been hoping they could shoot some hoops or anything. Basically, he'd been hoping that Adam wouldn't toast him the way he'd toasted Valenti. And it looked like this was his lucky day. Yeah, Alex was going to get through this stretch of guard duty with his pale, freckled hide unsinged. The others should be back soon, and Adam would probably still be zonked.
The others. That meant Isabel. Well, he could cut out once they showed up. He wouldn't have to endure too many minutes of Isabel contact. It hadn't been so bad when the two of them were in the middle of breaking Michael out of the compound. When the walls were bursting into flames around you, you didn't have time to think, Hey, this girl running for her life next to me is the one who just stomped on my heart.
But now that they had all survived, Isabel really wasn't someone he wanted to spend any quality time with.
Not that Isabel wanted to spend any time with him, either. That was pretty much the reason she broke up with him, right? A girl didn't break up with a guy because she really wished they could spend more --
Oh, just shut up, you whiner, Alex ordered himself. She did you a favor. The girl's an ice sculpture, cold to the core.
And beautiful. And willing to do anything to save the lives of the people she loved. And --
A small squeaking sound jolted Alex out of his thoughts. The saliva evaporated from his mouth as he realized the sound was coming from the old leather of the couch. Adam was waking up.
Before Alex could make a move or even decide what move he should make, Adam rose from the sofa in one fluid motion. Why didn't I find the fire extinguisher when I had the chance? Alex thought wildly.
"So, Adam, uh, how're you doing?" he asked. "I thought we could go upstairs and watch TV. Maybe make some toast. I know you like toast, right?"
Oh, perfect. Of all things, I had to mention toast, Alex thought.
But Adam didn't answer. He didn't react at all. He stared straight ahead, his green eyes as lifeless as a couple of painted Ping-Pong balls. Lights on, but nobody home.
Alex had no clue what Adam would do next. Which meant it might be a very good idea just to knock him out right now. Alex took a quick glance around. There was a three-foot-high ceramic alien almost within reach. He could grab it, swing it up and around, and connect with Adam's head.
But if he did that, he better make sure to make it an out-of-the-ballpark swing because if Adam didn't lose consciousness instantly, he'd be able to heal himself in about two seconds. And then Alex would be doing his impression of the world's biggest piece of burnt toast.
"Or if you're not in the mood for TV, we could do something else," Alex burst out. "Like, uh, we could stand here and see how much sweat my body is able to produce." He tried to laugh, but all he could squeeze out was a weird barking sound.
Adam didn't seem to notice -- he was still in zombie mode.
Without a word, Adam turned on his heel and strode behind the information counter. He slid out one of the drawers and dumped the contents on the counter in front of him. His eyes flicked over the paper clips, scissors, tape, staples, pens, and rubber bands, then he swept everything onto the floor. Immediately he yanked out another drawer. Dumped it. Scanned. And swept the countertop clean again. Third drawer. Same deal.
Adam knelt down and flicked open the double doors of the big cabinet under the drawers. Alex took two steps closer and watched Adam yank out a half-empty box of museum maps, a couple of rhinestone-studded jumpsuits, a first-aid kit, and a bucket of cleaning stuff.
A low growl of frustration escaped Adam's throat. He thrust himself to his feet. Without hesitation he turned to the double row of bookshelves behind him. In an instant the complete collection of UFO books was on the floor.
This was bizarre. Alex was too intrigued to say anything. If Adam wanted to indulge in a little rock-star-in-a-hotel-room action, cool. Alex was up for anything that would keep Adam occupied until some kind of backup arrived.
From the bookshelves he worked his way down the closest wall, tearing each framed photograph off the wall and ripping open the back. That brought him to the little coffee shop. Adam felt under each of the tables and chairs and tossed the contents of the cabinets in the kitchen.
Alex just watched. He felt like an idiot. No, more like a wuss. Ray Iburg had loved this place, and Alex wasn't doing a thing to stop Adam from destroying it.
But Ray was dead, and Alex was hoping to live long enough to at least graduate. So he trailed after Adam like a pathetic little puppy, not saying a word as Adam worked his way to the front of the museum, darting from photo to photo, pulling the back out of each one. When the last one was on the floor, glass shattered, Adam bolted for the spiral staircase leading up to Ray Iburg's apartment.
Alex followed. He watched as Adam yanked the drawers out of Ray's dresser and dumped them. He watched as Adam shoved the mattress off Ray's bed and ran his fingers over every inch. He watched as Adam did an anticleaning job on Ray's closet.
It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to realize he was searching for something -- apparently something little. And something very important to Adam. Important enough to squeeze every toothpaste tube in Ray's bathroom. Important enough to empty every box of cereal in Ray's kitchen. Important enough to slit open every beanbag chair in Ray's living room.
Alex's stomach clenched as Adam hurled the last empty plastic beanbag skin to the floor. This was it. Adam had searched every inch of the place. Now what was he going to do?
He turned toward Alex and spoke for the first time since he'd gotten up from the couch. "I need to know where Ray Iburg would have kept anything valuable," he demanded.
Alex decided this was not the time to show any kind of intimidation. He stepped up to Adam and forced himself to look right into his empty eyes. "You've trashed his museum. You've trashed his apartment. Whatever it is you're looking for, it's not here, all right? It's not here!"
Adam blinked once. Then he collapsed into a heap on the floor, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Copyright © 2000 by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Michael: He's still having flashbacks of his escape from the underground compound. Only Cameron, the mysterious girl he met behind bars, seems to understand him -- and realize that the sheriff may be gone but an even more dangerous enemy is out there....
Cameron: She fell for Michael while in the compound...spying on him for Sheriff Valenti. Now she feels guilty, and wishes she could tell him the truth. But how can she be honest -- without losing Michael?
- Gallery Books |
- 176 pages |
- ISBN 9780743434478 |
- April 2000 |
- Grades 11 and up
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