"Hurry!" Kaitlyn gasped as she reached the top of the staircase. And she added with her mind, in case it might make more of an impression that way: Hurry.
From four different directions she felt acknowledgment, and an urgency just as strong as her own. Felt it with a sense that wasn't one of the ordinary five, but that was like seeing music or tasting color.
Telepathy was strange.
But sometimes comforting. Right now Kait was grateful for Rob's presence in her mind. It burned with a strong golden glow that warmed and steadied her. She could sense him in the next room, working fast but without panic, flipping through drawers and stuffing jeans and socks into a canvas bag.
They were leaving the Institute.
Not exactly the way they'd intended to, when they'd come to be part of a year-long psychic research project. Kaitlyn had expected to leave the Zetes Institute next spring with a band playing, a college scholarship under her arm, and her father looking on proudly. Instead, she was scrambling in the middle of the night to get her belongings together and get out before Mr. Zetes caught up with them.
Mr. Zetes, the head of the Institute, the one who wanted to turn them into psychic weapons and sell them to the highest bidder.
Only maybe now he just wanted them dead. Because they'd found out what he was up to and fought back and beaten him. Impossible as that might sound, with all Mr. Z's power, they'd won. They'd left him knocked out cold in the secret rooms of his San Francisco mansion.
When he woke up he was going to be mad enough to kill.
"What are you taking?" Anna asked, and her usually calm voice had a hurried sound.
"I don't know. Clothes—warm clothes, I guess. We don't know where we'll be sleeping at night." Kait repeated the last thought mentally, so Rob and Lewis and Gabriel could hear. Warm clothes, everybody!
A mental voice answered her, sharp as a knife and cool as midnight. And money, it said. Take all the money you can get your hands on.
"Always practical, Gabriel," Kaitlyn murmured and stuffed her purse into a duffel bag, recklessly piling jeans and sweaters and underwear on top of it. She took her lucky hundred dollar bill out of a jewelry box on the dresser and jammed it in her pocket.
"What else?" she said aloud. She found herself grabbing crazy things: a velvet cap with gold embroidery, a necklace that had been her mother's, the paperback mystery she'd been reading. Finally she jammed in her smallest sketchbook and the plastic box that held her oil pastels and colored pencils. She couldn't leave without her art kit—she'd rather go naked.
And her drawings weren't just recreation; they were far more important than that. They were how she told the future.
Hurry, quick, she thought.
Anna was hesitating, looking at a carved wooden mask on the wall. It was Raven, the totem of Anna's family, and it was much too big to take with them.
"I know." Anna touched the blunt beak of the mask once with graceful fingers, then turned from it. She smiled at Kaitlyn, her dark eyes serene over high cheekbones. "Let's go."
"Wait—soap." Kait dashed into the bathroom and snagged a bar of Ivory, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Nothing like as serene as Anna—her long red hair was in elflocks, her cheeks were flushed, and the strange blue rings in her eyes were burning smokily. She looked like a feverish witch.
"Okay," Rob said as they all met in the hall. "Everybody ready?"
Kaitlyn looked at them, at the four people who'd become closer to her than she would have imagined any people could be.
Rob Kessler, all warmth and color, gold-blond hair and golden eyes. Gabriel Wolfe, arrogant and handsome, like a drawing done in black and white. Anna Eva Whiteraven, her expression gentle even under pressure. Lewis Chao with his almond-shaped eyes glittering with anxiety, slapping a baseball cap onto smooth black hair.
Thanks to Gabriel's power going out of control, they were linked by a telepathic web. None of them would ever be alone again—unless they could find a way to break the link.
"I want to get something from downstairs," Gabriel was saying.
"Me, too," Rob said, "and I need Lewis to help. All right, let's get moving. You all right, Kait?"
"Just breathless," Kaitlyn said. Her heart was pounding, and there was a shakiness in every limb that made her not want to stand still.
Rob reached to take her duffel bag with the ruthless courtesy of his North Carolina lineage. For just an instant their hands touched; his strong fingers wrapped around hers.
It'll be all right, he told her in a swift private communication meant for no one else.
The feeling that flooded Kaitlyn was almost painful. For God's sake, not now, she thought and ignored the sparks that swarmed where he'd touched her skin.
"Be careful, you—healer," she said and started down the stairs.
Lewis kept glancing over his shoulder. "My computer," he mourned softly. "My stereo, my TV set…"
"Why don't you go back and get them?" Gabriel asked nastily. "What could be more inconspicuous?"
"Keep moving, "Rob ordered. At the bottom of the stairs he said, "Lewis, come with me."
Kait followed them. "What are you doing?"
"Getting the files," Rob said grimly. "Okay, Lewis, open that panel."
Of course, Kaitlyn thought. Mr. Zetes's files, the ones he kept in the hidden room here under the stairway. They were full of all kinds of information, most of it cryptic, some of it undoubtedly incriminating.
"But what can we do with them? Who can we show them to?"
"I don't know," Rob said. "But I want them anyway. They prove what he's been up to."
Lewis was running sensitive fingertips over the dark paneling on the wall. Kaitlyn could feel what he was doing, trying to locate the spring release with his mind. "It's not easy to perform on demand like this," he muttered, but then there was a click and the panel slid back.
"Mind over matter," Rob said, grinning.
Hurry, Kaitlyn told him sharply.
She didn't wait to see him start down into the dimly lit hallway behind the door. She took her duffel bag into the front laboratory where Anna was opening a wire cage.
"Go on," she was saying. "Go on, Georgie Mouse, go on, Sally Mouse…" She knelt to hold the cage by the open side door.