Staying Invisible

I’m currently working on Empowered: Hero, the final novel in Mat’s story, and one thing that she is concerned about from the start is what happened to the sister she left behind, Ella’s twin, Ava. Ava, who was there for Ruth when no one else was. Well, I’ve written a flash fiction story set during the previous novel, Empowered: Rebel, when two visitors arrive at the apartment with unexpected help, and, moreover, an unanticipated insight about Ava.

Staying Invisible

(Copyright 2019) Dale Ivan Smith

I wished so hard I was Empowered. If I were Empowered, I’d find a way to save my grandmother. Stupid, because chances are I wouldn’t have a power that could save her, but I’d go work for the Hero Council and get them to help her. My sister Mat was Empowered, but she’d refused, and went rogue instead.

Ruth coughed again, a deeper, scarier sounding cough this time. I put down the pot scrubber and went down the hall to her bedroom. The room smelled like rancid bread. The Thalik’s disease ravaging her had turned ugly. We’d used up the supply of the experimental drug the government had provided for Ruth last month, now she grew sicker each day. Damn them for stopping the drugs.

I lifted my chin and forced myself inside the room. She was my grandmother, and I was the only one left to take care of her.

“Ava?” she asked, her voice a low croak.

“I’m the only one here, Grandma,” I said, then immediately regretted it. It wasn’t Ruth’s fault she was dying from a mystery disease that had no cure.

I knelt beside her bed. Shrunken, she looked like a mummy. Her white hair, which just a couple of months ago had been thick, now had mostly fallen out, leaving only patches so I shaved it once a week.

“Water,” she said. Water was all she asked for. You’d think her bedpan would be filled to the brim, but Thaliks kept her dehydrated.

I poured her a glass, and lifted her head to help her drink.

“Are Mathilda and Ella back yet?” Her gaze pleaded with me to tell her they were. But I wouldn’t lie to her. Not ever.

“No, grandma,” I replied, trying to keep the resentment out of my voice. Mat and Ella should be here to help. Instead, they were on the run from the law, supposedly doing Big Things.

The doorbell rang and I jumped and went down the hall of our tiny apartment to the front door. I squinted to look through the peephole.

A forty-something man with a shaved head and a blond woman with an eyepatch, both in black suits with white shirts and thin black ties waited outside. Their look screamed Support, the people in charge of looking for rogue Empowered, like Mat and Ella were. There’d been a parade of them coming by every so often, for the last year, but it had a been a couple of months since the last ones. I didn’t recognize these two.

I unlocked the door.

“Ava Brandt?” The man asked.

I nodded.

“I’m Thomas Winterfield and this is Irene Zhukova.” The woman’s icy blue eye looked me over, her face expressionless. “We wanted to ask you a question about your sisters, Mathilda and Ella Brandt.”

Mat. It was always a question about Mat, but never before Ella about.

“I don’t know where they’re at,” I said, and started to push the door closed.

Winterfield pushed against the door. “We know,” he said. “That’s not what we wanted to ask.”

Zhukova cocked her head. “Did you know that our remote viewers cannot see you?”

I shivered. “You’re not supposed to be spying on normal humans.”

“Officially no,” she said. “But matters of security override protocols.”

“What do you mean, your remote viewers can’t see me?”

“Just that,” she said. “You are invisible to them.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked. I swallowed.

“So that you understand you have potential value to us.”

She reached into a pocket and pulled out a small ampule box embossed with a gold X and the medical symbol. The experimental Thalik’s drug.

I swallowed. Took the box from Zhukova, my fingers trembling.

Winterfield looked at me levelly. “Do your sisters care about you and your grandmother?”

I wanted to shout, hell no, because it sure didn’t seem like it.

I closed my eyes, resentment fading. I’d been so angry with them, especially Mat, but she was my big sister. Off saving the world, or maybe destroying it.

I opened my eyes and returned his gaze, not blinking. “Of course, they do.”

“Good. Because we do, too.”

He handed me a business card. It was on plain white paper, the cheap kind, not the cream thick card stock all the other Support agents had handed me. It didn’t say Support. It just had a number on it, no names.

“Call us if you need help.”

“Don’t tell anyone about this,” Zhukova added, her tone steely.

“Do I look like I’m five?” I snapped.

A hint of smile played around Winterfield’s lips.

“What?” I demanded.

“Mat’s like you,” he said. That stopped my irritation cold.

Not, you’re like Mat.

“Yeah, we both have short fuses.”

He shook his head. “Strong,” he said. “Thanks for your time.” They turned to go, leaving me standing there looking like an idiot with my mouth open. Winterfield turned back. “Stay strong,” he said. “And stay invisible.

The two of them disappeared down the stairs.

Stay invisible. From who?

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