Chapter 3: Motives

            “You may want to sit down for this one,” Danny commented, waving towards the grass. Roman looked skeptically at the ground.
            “I’d rather stand, thanks.”
            “Whatever you say.” Danny shrugged. Roman couldn’t help but want to strangle Danny. Roman had a short temper, but his temper was at its high-point whenever Danny spoke.
            “All right,” Sarah started, clasping her hands together. “You know those two guys that you and your friend saw yesterday on your way home from school?”
            “What?” Roman started. “So you all do know each other! I mean—Hal told me that that boy that you hang out with wanted me to walk home, and then those two showed up and—”
            “You mean Cole? Yeah, he was tired of the subtle method. But you were walking home, anyway, right?” Roman nodded. “Anyway, you know those two? Their names are Jacob and Millo. And they live with us at…well, they live with us.”
            “You were about to say something,” Roman said accusingly. “What was it?” Danny chuckled as Sarah bit her lip.
            “Come on, princess, you might as well tell him if he’s joining.”
            “Joining what?” Roman demanded.
            “Getting to that,” Sarah dismissed. “As for your first question: at the mansion.
            We sent them to check you out. They’re both brothers. Jacob was the older one.”
            “Why would they need to ‘check me out’? What for?”
            “To see if you were a Genedeaue,” Jace grunted, leaning against the side of the helicopter.
            “Am I the only one that likes the subtle method?” Sarah sighed theatrically.
            “Genedeaue,” Danny corrected. “It’s spelled like it’s French, but we never pronounce it that way. Really gets on Millo’s nerves.”
            “Yeah, and Millo was the small one,” Sarah told Roman. “Jacob can tell whether people are Genedeaues or not, and Millo can tell what kind of Genedeaue they are.”
            “You lost me at ‘Genedeaue’.” Roman crossed his arms, irritated.
            “You know, you’re not very good at the non-subtle method,” Danny sneered at Sarah. “You should leave that to us, next time.”
            “I should also leave the job of human shield to you, but we don’t always get what we want,” Sarah replied coldly.
            “Ooh, burn.” Danny laughed and licked his lips.
            “Oh yeah, and Danielle here has a really rare power like me and Sarah,” Jace grunted sarcastically.
            “Yeah, any help, Jace?” Sarah pleaded.
            “Roman, Genedeaues have powers. Each power is different. You’ve got a power. We all have powers.”
            “Exactly how much popcorn butter did you three drink before coming here?” Roman asked, alarmed at the thought of being alone in a field with mad people.
            “We’ve got proof,” Danny argued smugly.
            “Um, I’m not sure if I want to see anything of that sort right—”
            Before Roman could continue, Jace lifted up his shark’s tooth, placed his thumbs on either side of it and pressed down. There was a popping noise and the top fell off of the tooth and landed with a thud in the grass. Roman’s eyes grew wide.
            Danny chuckled. “Dude, it’s a fake.”
            Inside the half that Jace held, there was a caramel-colored, misshapen rock with a glowing light that beaconed on and off. Jace reached in and took the stone out. Roman wondered if it was some kind of drug, or how it had been made to glow otherwise.
            “What is that thing?”
            “We call it a Bermuda gem.”
            “Bermuda? You mean like the Bermuda triangle or like Bermuda shorts?”
            Sarah smiled. “We mean exactly like the Bermuda Triangle. You see, there’s one section, near the south of the area, that can never be picked up by satellite, and that’s the area that no one’s ever come out of. That section has an island. We just call it ‘the Island’. Anyone who’s ever tried to come up with a name disappeared.”
            “Out o’ thin air,” Danny concluded.
            “So we thought it was best not to try and name it. No one’s ever made it out of that area or off of that Island, if they make it that far. The typical story, electricity goes berserk and dies, nothing that floats stays afloat, et cetera, et cetera. And that’s why no one’s ever come back out of that particular area. No one except Genedeaues.”
            “And…what does that rock have to do with this? If you’re going to hurt or kidnap or kill me, at least don’t waste my time with pointless anecdotes.”
            “First,” Jace grumbled, “we’re not going to hurt you. Second, Danielle, get an empty soda can.”
            “Why do I have to get it?”
            “Because I don’t like you. Now go.”
            “What if there aren’t any empty ones?”
            “Then pour one out. And don’t waste time drinking it; Kyle’ll get worried.”
            Danny disappeared inside the helicopter and reappeared a moment later. He opened a bright-red can and poured its contents out onto the grass. The soda vanished from sight a moment later as it sunk into the soil. Danny presented the can with mock importance, getting down on one knee and holding it out with both hands.
            Jace ignored Danny’s joke, holding up the caramel-colored Bermuda stone. He looked straight at the can. Then, instantaneously, an equally caramel-colored ray shot out of his gem and hurled into the can.
            Roman gasped. When the gem stopped producing the ray only a moment later, the can had rusted over. Danny straightened up and crushed it with the slightest reflex of his hand, turning it into a thin, ruddy powder.
            “Well, as you can see, Jace’s power is being able to rust things,” Danny explained. “This might actually come in handy if robots ever try to take over. Until then, it’s pointless.”
            “How ’bout I rust a support beam’s hinges while you’re on it?”
            “Someone sounds bitter.”
            “HOW THE HELL DID YOU JUST DO THAT?” Roman nearly screamed.
            “Oh calm down,” Sarah sighed. “No need to curse. Jace’s first power is being good with machinery, by the way. It’s sort of rude not to ask. Anyway, that was Jace’s rusting power. He can do that because he has his Bermuda gem. He can do the first because he’s a Genedeaue. Genedeaues can go to the Island and get their gems, which are only found on that island. Non-Genedeaues don’t have any powers or gems. When Jace dies, then his gem will crumble into nothing visible or tangible. It’s pretty much impossible to destroy gems any other way.”
            Roman took this in without interruption. He felt like saying something or challenging her somehow, but couldn’t think of any way to. If he tried to open his mouth, he would start to stutter. The stone had obviously not been a drug, but that didn’t mean that everything that they were saying was true.
            “So if I’m a…Genedeaue? Yeah, if I’m that, then what do you want?”
            “Well,” Jace said, placing the top back on his fake shark’s tooth and hiding the gem from sight, “considering what we just showed him, we should probably get on with the point before he gets scared again and runs off.”
            “Fine.” Sarah shrugged, though she looked slightly exasperated. “Bottom line; there are good Genedeaues and bad ones. The bad ones think that they’re better than regular people and want to take over and blah, blah, blah. Since being a Genedeaue is genetic, that would actually work if they wanted to wipe out all other humans and just have the world to themselves. But lately we’ve spent too much time trying to kill each other for them to get very far. And then we have to try to stop them. They are who we call the Strayers. We call them that because they’re always crossing lines—”
            “All right, that’s a little too fast, Sarah,” Jace interrupted. “How about we give him some time to ask questions?”
            “Hey, she’s doing a better job than I could,” Danny said sincerely. “So I must be atrocious.”
            “Oh, shut up.”
            Roman interrupted them, “Save the world? Isn’t that a little too cliché to believe?”
            “You’d get used to it. Basically, we want you to join us. We can answer any other question you’ve got on the way to the mansion…”
            “I haven’t decided whether you’re all crazy or not, let alone committed to anything,” Roman snapped. “And you want me to go with you three, all total strangers, in your helicopter, to your house?”
            “That’s the plan. It’s perfectly fine, there’s about twenty of us living there…Mr. Kyle’s pretty much the leader, and Jace is second in command. Danny and I are just students. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the same mentor. There’s been a shortage of trainees lately. Our base in Katy is just the main training center in North America. There are other places all over the world…”
            “Yeah, again, why should I join you guys, if all of this is true?” Roman demanded, raising his eyebrows challengingly, half hoping that they would give him a reason to believe that this was true. He wasn’t sure if he really just wanted to do something with his life, or if he only wanted to know that he hadn’t been a fool for following Sarah this far.
            “Because, idiot,” Danny straightened up from where he had been leaning against the helicopter, walking toward Roman until their faces were inches apart, “anyone that wants to stay alive will join either the Strayers or us or already have their gems. Anyone that’s on their own or trying to live normal lives or become bank robbers or whatever need to have their gems because the Strayers see them as threats if they’re not part of their cause. You need your gem to defend yourself if you want to live on your own. To get your gem, you need to get to the Island. To get to the Island, you need a plane or a boat. Do you think that you can get an adult, who would die anyway, to fly or navigate you into the middle of the Pacific—”
            “Atlantic,” Sarah corrected.
            “—Ocean for no reason? And you’re a little too young to fly a plane or drive a boat, don’t you think? We learn how to fly the planes that we get from who-knows-where, and you’d get automatic protection from the Strayers. You don’t have to stick around after you get your gem, you know. And it’s not like the training costs anything. Some kids stay with their parents while they go through their training if they live nearby. But, considering you live at an orphanage, our mansion might be a step up for you, don’t you think?”
            Roman was about to punch him when what Danny was saying sank in. If everything was true, then it might be a good idea to listen to them. They might be telling the truth, or they could be crazy, or they could be lying. It would be possible to set something like this up. There might have been something else that rusted the can, or maybe that ‘Bermuda gem’ had some sort of technology inside of it. He had to get more proof. If he had to choose between his pride and his life, then he would have chosen his life.
            “You said that you two have magic powers, also,” Roman started. “And that I have a power from being a Genedeaue. So show me your powers.”
            “It’s not magic,” Jace grunted.
            “That’s a matter of opinion, Jace,” Sarah argued. “We’ve got no scientific explanation.”
            “If it were magic, then where are all of the pixies and unicorns?” Danny questioned snidely. He backed up to lean against the helicopter again, leaving Sarah to glare at him.
            “Mine can’t really be shown.” Danny held up his arms like he was surrendering. “But Sarah’s is slightly more prominent.”
            “At least tell me what your power is,” Roman growled.
            “He knows how to annoy people,” Sarah replied.
            “No.” Danny shot dagger-eyes at Sarah. “I can just tell this…it’s like a field, sorta. Like a field of irritation. I know what makes them tick.”
            “Well, that still doesn’t mean that you have to use your power on everyone,” Jace sighed. “Roman, here, probably already considers you a pest.”
            “Not like it’s a surprise.” Sarah crossed her arms.
            “That, I can believe,” Roman agreed, getting slightly anxious. “So, Sarah, what’s your power?” he asked, turning to her.
            “I can read peoples’ eyes,” Sarah answered tonelessly, looking him directly in his eyes. “I can tell if they’re lying, happy, anxious, scared, sad, sincere, or anything else.”
            Roman automatically knew that she was being sincere. It would explain why he had the feeling that she could read his mind. He could’ve questioned her to see if she knew if he was lying or not, but didn’t need to. Either way, she could’ve used some sort of psychological trick on him if this was fake. Coming from this, he knew that they were likely to be telling the truth about everything. For once, curiosity burned deep inside Roman and left him too permanently scarred to refuse.
            “The bad Genedeaues are called the Strayers, so what’s your side’s name?”
            “We like to think of our gems as lucky charms,” Sarah told him, losing the intensity in her eyes. “They keep us and every other Genedeaue safe, from random things like guns and liquid nitrogen as well as the Strayers. And the mentors always talk about this rush that they get when using their powers. So we’re proud to call ourselves the Talismen.”

            Roman only remembered Caleb, Kayla, and Mrs. Haldrige when they were out of sight of the field. He silently cursed himself for this, but was otherwise preoccupied by the thousands of questions bouncing around in his mind. When Sarah had mentioned Genedeaues being resistant to guns and freezing from liquid nitrogen, she had been serious. Most of the way things worked, like how no one could name the Island anything besides the Island, was a mystery to the Talismen. If someone tried, they would mysteriously disappear. If someone insulted the Island, they would meet an unfortunate end, as well. And when people came back from the Island, they could hardly remember anything after they had passed into or out of its boundaries. Jace couldn’t recall anything besides what he had seen from his nightmares. He said that the ‘gremlins’ were the most commonly recalled things from his trip.
            From the inside, the helicopter seemed larger than on the outside. There was a door in the back of the compartment, the one that they had used to climb in through, and the one opposite to it. It didn’t look like any helicopter Roman had seen on TV. There was carpet, which was a salt-and-pepper style shade of pale blue and gray with a leather-looking baseboard. There were eight regular car seats, two rows, four columns, each with cup holders and armrests. The seats were even the same turquoise color that was used in Mrs. Haldrige’s car. The controls were at Roman’s far left, near the end of the compartment. There were the usual driver’s and shot-gun seats at the controls. Jace sat down in the driver’s and Danny took the one next to it. Sarah said that she liked sitting next to the window because the sights were amazing. The trip, overall, would be luxurious. This was the only Talisman helicopter, according to Sarah, and the back room was for storage. Next to the door that led to the back there was a trashcan, and a cooler was on the other side. The cooler was where the soda had come from, and the first place Danny had gone before taking off. The doors were automatic, and there was air-conditioning. Roman only remembered that they were on a helicopter when he looked out the window and saw the afternoon traffic far below them. The hum of a car engine and the flickering of the propellers didn’t sound much different to Roman when he was considering how this could either have been amazing or stupid.
            “How long have Genedeaues been around?” he wondered.
            “As long as anyone can remember,” Sarah answered.
            “If guns don’t work on Genedeaues, do knives?”
            “Yes. The trainees and Talismen without comabitc powers use knives, arrows, swords, mechanical spiders—”
            “Mechanical what?”
            “I’ll show you later.”
            “And did you say swords and arrows?”
            “Yeah, it’s pretty hard to get harpoons. And swords are just long knives. We mainly just use them for practicing and when people go the Island and stuff like that.”
            “That…doesn’t make sense.”
            “Just wait. You’ll be wondering why you ever questioned it,” Sarah assured him.
            “And what’s with all of the secrecy?”
            “Well, of course the Strayers work in secret. They may be powerful, but no match for the whole world knowing about them. They’re taking it the easy way. And the world doesn’t have a good history with dealing with people that are different, now do they?”
            “Um, I guess not.”
            “You guess?” Danny sighed exasperatedly. “Here’s an idea: yes or no answers, in the future. Guessing isn’t part of the equation,” he admonished.
            “Whatever. So that part’s all about fear. But you guys own a mansion?”
            “Are you rich?”
            “Mr. Kyle was some sort of special heart surgeon, so he used some of his own money to upgrade the base, but it was already pretty huge. He still gets called off sometimes. But it’s like, only hearts. Regular doctors sometimes have trouble when babies have heart problems ’cause they’re too small. So they call in the professionals. It’s pretty impressive, actually, since he graduated with all of his degrees at twenty-something. Right now he’s about thirty-four.”
            “He had his doctoral degree at twenty?”
            “Somewhere around there,” Jace called back. “Just ask him, and he’ll reminisce until your ears fall off.”
            “So he must have been in some pretty darn advanced middle-school classes,” Roman commented, honestly impressed.
            “Yeah, it’s a little rare for Talismen to be that good in school, let alone try that hard in school,” Sarah answered after glancing momentarily out of the window.
            “Why’s it so rare?”
            “A few reasons,” Sarah started. “First of all, it’s hard to keep up with schoolwork and training. Second, have you ever had trouble concentrating? Like just you couldn’t stay on topic?”
            “Sarah, you should know by now that you don’t need to ask,” Danny ridiculed.
            “Sometimes,” Roman growled. He was very much disliking Danny.
            “Yeah, well, traditionally Genedeaues have trouble staying on topic.”
            “Any examples?” Roman inquired, not being entirely sure what she was talking about.
            “Like one time Renaldo went from talking about how he thought that orange lady-bugs were poisonous to how we should have a second training base in Cuba. I can’t remember how, I just remember that one time because there was this dare in kindergarten. For that story you’d need to know that Danny actually wasn’t the worse kid in my class. It was this one boy named Jared who was always breaking kids’ crayons and replacing them with—”
            “Did you do that on purpose?”
            “Do what on purpose? Oh, yeah. Like I said, off topic.” Sarah smiled. “And our theory on why guns don’t affect the kids with their gems comes from that. Guns are very direct, and Genedeaues are very indirect.”
            “What about this whole Bermuda Triangle business?”
            “What about it?”
            “Would you care to elaborate, please?”
            “Well, hundreds or maybe thousands of years ago it’s believed that the original Island was spontaneously enveloped by destruction when a volcano exploded, somehow releasing enough energy to collapse the entire structure in on itself and produce a place out of space and time, because time on the Island is different than time everywhere else in the world, and the few descriptions of the Island from people who have been there vary drastically, leading us to think that it changes every time. Or at least that’s our theory. Is that elaborating enough?”
            “Sure, why not?”
            With that finished statement, Sarah then reached underneath her seat. She pulled out a book, opened it, and began to read. When it was apparent that she was lost in the world of the book, Roman looked at the back of Jace’s and Danny’s heads. After a minute of waiting for someone to do something, he glanced out of the window.
            They were currently flying over the Katy countryside. That meant that the bayou and every side-stream were visible, from the natural to the man-made. Occasionally they passed a small lake, some with logs, snakes, or even alligators visible. Roman wondered how far away they were from the highway. They went to his school, Roman knew, and to be enrolled, they would have to live relatively close by. Then again, every kid that rode the buses said that the Talismen kids arrived and left every day in their own bus. Roman wasn’t too familiar with Katy, as he had only been there the two years and in that time he’d had a very early curfew from St. Jefferson’s, which kept him from going to too many places. There was next to no grass visible, and all of the trees’ leaves were vividly green in the bitter winter; all of the trees that grew naturally around Katy had leaves year-round. He couldn’t see any people, houses, trash, or cars, but that didn’t mean that they were very far away from all of that.
            Then, a small road appeared at the very edge of his vision. It was very old and white from being worn out over the years, with cracks visible from up in the air and gravel along the edges. The trees spread along the sides of the road, which meant that there were no other paths leading away.
            “Almost there,” Jace called back.
            “Good, Treaver’s probably been playing on the x-box for over three hours,” Danny remarked.
            “We haven’t been gone for three hours,” Sarah argued, putting her book back underneath the chair. “And he probably hasn’t gotten the remote control away from Elliyo and Gabriel. And if he did that, he’d have to get through Ashley.”
            “I don’t know who these people are, so can you not talk about them?” Roman requested irritably. He found that—between fear, curiosity, and the overall fact that he had been stupid enough, whether this was real or not, to trust them in the first place—he was beginning to get angry.
            “No need to have such poison,” Danny teased. “I don’t need to have Sarah’s power to know that you’re just scared.”
            “I am not!”
            “Eleven-year-olds are so easy,” Danny sighed, slinking back in his chair, head resting on top of his crossed-arms.
            Roman decided that he didn’t enjoy Danny’s company as much as the others’.
            He peered out of the window again. The closest side of the road now had a small, white-bricked wall that bordered the gravel. It disappeared as they flew over large, black, iron gates. They must have been ten feet tall, but they were out of sight before Roman could study them anymore. The road had gone through the gates, turning into gravel completely, and disappeared when they were flying directly over it.
            Then, as they turned at an angle, Roman spotted what this had been leading up to. There was a small, pale-grassed meadow surrounding a massive, green-watered lake. From this new angle there was, to the right of the mud-green lake, on top of a short hill, a true mansion. The mansion had a black-gray tiled roof, a red-bricked outside, and about seventeen white painted garages off to its right side, making up a dirt-and-gravel parking lot. Roman could see a tall mahogany door at the front entrance to the gigantic house. The mansion was about five stories high and six long, also with another worn dirt-and-gravel path leading into the trees past the parking area. In back of the colossal building there was a courtyard with a fountain, smaller iron fences than the first, and trimmed hedges. There were a few lights on in the house, and a couple of rooms Roman was able to see into.
            They flew over to the garages and landed in a cleared area in the center.
            A bus sat in the shade of a deep-green tarp that hung off the edge of one garage. It was too large to fit inside of any of the garages, which explained the tarp. The bus was white with a green stripe across the middle. Several numbers on the side told that it was registered and licensed.             The sun was starting to edge its way down west. It was always dark by six o’clock in the winter, and they had probably left around one or two o’clock. Roman wondered how long it had taken them to arrive here.
            “What now?” Roman asked warily.
            “Well,” Jace answered, “Kyle’s always formal about things. He’ll probably want to give you a tour himself, but you also might get stuck with Danielle. Speakin’ of whom, Danny, go tell Kyle that Roman decided to come.”
            The automatic doors slid slowly open and Danny was off down the worn path in an instant. Sarah was the next out, followed by Roman, and then Jace. Jace took out what looked suspiciously like car-keys out from his pocket and clicked a red button. The headlights of the helicopter blinked.
            “Hey, where’d you get that helicopter, anyway?”
            “Ugh,” Sarah moaned. “Here we go…”
            “I made it myself,” Jace proclaimed proudly, straightening his back and speaking for the first time in more than a barely-audible mumble. “And it took me less than a year. That’s hard to come by when you work full time training kids like Danielle, back there…”

            Jace spoke to Roman about things he had never heard of and how they were important in making that helicopter until they were outside of the mansion front doors. They were about eight feet high.
            Jace didn’t even need keys to open the doors.
            There was a high-ceilinged entrance hall, with a grand, red-rugged staircase directly ahead. It split in two at the first landing beneath a picture of someone who matched Sarah’s previous depiction of Mr. Kyle. There were two side corridors below each side of the stairs, with the same cherry-colored rug as the rest of the hall. Leading up to the steps was a neat line of four doors around the perimeter of the hall, all different shades and colors of white and brown. The farthest one on the right was open and heading into what Roman guessed was the kitchen, considering the peach, spotted tile floor, granite counter against the far wall, long table, and refrigerator. There was noise coming from the nearest door on the left, and nothing from the nearest on the right or the farthest to the left. A vast chandelier lit the hallway and its walls. Vases, tables, and sketches of life-sized animals with claws and sharp teeth such as lions, bears, wolves, and many other things dotted the white walls here and there throughout the hall. The instant they opened the doors, the younger boy that Roman and Caleb had encountered just yesterday, wearing a shirt with the picture of a new video game and plain black pants, started crossing the hallway towards the kitchen. Walking with him was something that Roman wouldn’t have expected to be there, or anywhere for that matter. Roman could have sworn that he was seeing a life-sized papier-mâché Labrador retriever carrying a book in its mouth. It had outlines of its sleek, furry-looking body drawn onto the wrinkled, golden, word-strewn paper it was made out of. This wasn’t the part that surprised Roman; it was the part where it was walking. But the boy spotted Roman, and looked moderately frightened, pausing and staring at him with huge, indigo eyes.
            “Hey, Millo,” Sarah greeted him. “Is that a new shirt?”
            Millo nodded. The paper Labrador cocked its head as it stood silently next to him.
            “You’ve met Roman.” Sarah’s smile was slightly forced.
            “Yes.” His voice had the slightest jump on the vowel.
            “Did Danny go straight into the lounge or did he actually follow orders this time?”
            “He is not in the lounge.” Roman caught the slightest bit of accent in Millo’s voice, which would explain the jumping vowels.
            “Where is Jacob, anyways?”
            “He was with Ellenore the last time that I saw him.”
            “Typical.” Sarah rolled her eyes. “Well, see ya.” Millo scurried back in the direction of the kitchen and disappeared inside. The Labrador trotted happily behind him.
            “Did I just imagine a paper dog?” Roman asked in a strangely calm voice.
            “No. Mary Beth, one of the senior mentors, can turn her art to life. That’s why we have all of these paintings and sketches around the hall.” Sarah waved to the clawed and fanged, fearsome creatures. “They serve as a line of defense when Mary Beth’s around.”
            “Okay then. Is Millo always that jumpy?” Roman wondered.
            “More or less,” Jace replied. “We’d better get you up to Kyle’s office before anyone else finds out you’re here.”
            “Why—” Roman began.
            “Hey! New kid! What’s your power?” As if on cue, another tall, brunet boy appeared from the door Millo had left through. He had baby-brown eyes to match his hair and smooth, pale cheeks. “Oh, where are my manners? I’m Chris. You?”
            “Just a way to remember him, his full name is actually Christopher Robinson!” an even newer voice called with a strange accent. A boy even shorter than Millo with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark brown skin came through the kitchen door. He wore a red soccer jersey and blue sweatpants.             “Can you believe it? I think his parents liked Winnie the Pooh! So what’s your name?” he asked, ignoring Chris’s growl.
            “Roman, this is Renaldo,” Sarah sighed, leaning against the wall. As Jace followed her example, Roman wondered how long it normally took for everyone to finish meeting the new people.
            “Roman,” Roman replied irritably. “And I haven’t decided to stay, yet.”
            Renaldo just shrugged and then walked out the main entrance.
            “Don’t worry, he doesn’t live here. He just comes by for training and meals,” Chris assured him.
            “What’s up?” A soft voice came from the kitchen. A pretty girl, older than Roman, with long, mouse-brown hair, green eyes, a blue dolphin necklace, pink tank top, and blue shorts came into view from the kitchen. She had creamy-tan skin and stood in the doorway looking nervous. “There’s a new smell out here,” she stated, sniffing.
            “Oh!” she exclaimed when she saw Roman. “Hello, are you new here?”
            “I haven’t decided to stay,” Roman repeated, wondering why she could smell him.
            “Stacy’s first power is an overly-developed sense of smell,” Sarah explained, reading his eyes again. “But if Roman decides to stay, you won’t be the newbie, anymore, Stacy.”
            “Oh, well, I think I’ll manage without Ringo treating me like a toddler.” Stacy let out an unconvincing sigh.
            “Anyway,” Chris went on. “What is your power, Roman? I can see what color gray and shadows really are. But I don’t have my second-rate power, yet.” He added quickly, “It’ll probably be more useful.”
            “You’re fourteen, so you should be due to get your gem soon,” Sarah commented. “But I’m getting mine either before or at the same time as you.”
            “You’ve obviously never seen me train,” Chris challenged.
            “Renaldo,” she continued as if she hadn’t heard Chris, “can jinx.”
            “As a small example,” Christopher interrupted. “I have tried on multiple occasions to ask him what country he’s from. Each time some sort of random thing happens, keeping him from answering the question. Take a fire alarm for instance. Normally he’s all right with controlling his power, but that’s always a sensitive subject. So, Roman, what’s your power?” he demanded impatiently.
            “I don’t know my power, okay?” Roman said crossly.
            “You should see Jacob’s little brother about that,” Stacy suggested. “He’s really quiet, though. Wait, didn’t you already meet him when he and Jacob—”
            “Yeah, he did,” Sarah answered. “And just now, as he was crossing the hallway with Hamlet.”
            Their papier-mâché Labrador is named Hamlet? Roman thought. Now I can guess where they got all of that paper from. Mary Beth must not like Shakespeare.
            “Oh, that’s why Chris and Renaldo started off when Millo said something to them.” Stacy smiled welcomingly. “Hope you decide to stay.” She disappeared back inside of the kitchen doors.
            “That’s a good point she’s got, though,” Chris commented. “If you’re not sure whether you want to stay or not, it’s probably because you don’t believe us about the whole Genedeaue thing, right?”
            “Well, duh.” Roman rolled his eyes.
            “Millo’s told Mr. Kyle your power, but not us,” Chris said. “But powers are normally abnormal, if that makes sense. So that’d be all the proof you need, since its coming from you instead of us.”
            “That’s actually intelligent, Chris,” Sarah said, sounding surprised. “I’m so proud of you.”
            “You’re very lucky you’re a cute girl, you know that?”
            “Come on.” Sarah indicated to Roman. “Danny’s either gotten to Mr. Kyle by now or he’s not going to ever. Let’s get you going before some of the more enthusiastic people show up.”