We ran through the woods bordering freedom, the shouts and heavy footfalls of the scientists right behind us. Nymph clutched my arm, guiding me around stumps and pitfalls as we ran.
I could smell leaf rot and animal droppings, as well as the fresh scent of pines and flowers. Then the breeze sent me a whiff of gasoline and tar, and I pinpointed it. "Go left! The highway!"
We veered sharply to the left, tearing through the brush, thorns and brambles ripping at our clothes. I heard pants and grunts as we ran, keeping just one step ahead of our pursuers.
Suddenly, we reached the highway and skidded to a halt. I felt the wind pulling at me as cars whizzed by, exhaling foul-smelling gas that hurt my lungs. I heard the shouts and calls of the scientists' bodyguards drawing closer and closer, filling me with panic.
Arcane drew the pistol she had stolen. "I'll hold them off. You guys run." Her voice was emotionless and cold.
"No!" Azia screamed, her injured leg giving way as she fell onto the grass. "You can't hurt them!"
"They hurt us plenty," Arcane growled, aiming at the woods, where snaps and crackles were heard as the men drew closer.
"You don't even know how to shoot that thing!" I yelled. "You're going to kill us all!"
She turned toward me, her voice hissing through her teeth. "Shut up and run!" She took one hand off of the handgun and held it out, palm facing toward me. It erupted in flames, crackling and spitting.
My mouth fell open. "You- you-"
"Yes," she snarled. "Go, or I'm using it on you." A psychotic, fiery light burned in her eyes.
I knew she meant it. I staggered back a few steps, then turned and sprinted along the highway. I could hear the others behind me, their breaths ragged and hoarse.
But it was too late.
The scientists' goons streamed from the woods and formed a tight circle around us, backing us together. I heard several gunshots, and knew Arcane had done what she had promised. My heart dropped to my feet. "ARCANE!" I screamed, launching myself at the nearest thug. He was caught off guard, but quickly regained his footing, shoving me back into the huddle. He glanced back over his shoulder, then shrugged. "They've got her under control. We just want to know: what powers do you have?"
"We don't have anything!" Alexi shouted.
"You all received the same treatments. You must have something."
"You mean tortures," Story muttered.
"Whatever. You're coming back to the lab with us."