The island was tiny. Bethany wasn’t much good at judging distance by eye, but she’d have been surprised if it was even a mile wide on its longest side. Even so, she’d grown up in San Francisco and the place had one heck of a history. She tried to remember as much as she could while the little boat skipped over waves and rushed towards it. Her first night back had been a lot scarier than she’d have preferred and now it looked like creepy was going to get added to it.
She and Jordan Strong had graduated from Citadel Basic a week ago. They were operatives now. Earlier, they’d been escorted to the Gate Room in the Tower by a pair of polite, helpful men in the black and grey of Citadel Support personnel. After they’d stepped through one of the eerie black rectangles that just hovered in the air and were in no way disturbing to try and look at, they’d arrived in a much smaller room and been met by a pair of Support that were a lot less friendly.
No, these two had seemed scared.
Without more than a few words of explanation, she and Jordan had been rushed to a helicopter and out to the bay. “There’s a situation. You’re the backup.” That had been it. Hard to say if the lack of information or the ‘we’re totally calm and not panicking at all even though everyone’s gonna die’ tone of voice the guy had used was worse.
At the bay, they’d been bundled onto one of the little black and white speedboats that she used to see as a kid. From the piers, you could spot them out in the distance, always circling the island and intercepting anyone that got too close. There’d been all sorts of rumors about what they’d do if you ignored their orders and kept going. Bettie was starting to think that maybe they’d been a bit more right and a bit less ‘funny conspiracy story’ than she’d believed.
The island was kind of famous, at least in town. Only a few people had ever heard of it anywhere else. It used to be a military prison, then got turned into a federal one back in the thirties. Not just a regular federal prison, it was the last stop. The worst of the worst, the people that couldn’t ever be let out, that was who got sent there. It got shut down in the early sixties and there all sorts of reasons why.
One of the guards went nuts and just walked down the row, shooting inmates in their cells. A group of prisoners got loose and swam to shore, then went on a killing spree. A guy hung himself in his cell then haunted the place, appearing in mirrors and puddles and shiny bits of metal with awful prophecies for anyone that’d listen. The worst one, or at least the one that’d always kind of gotten to her…
One day, the prison had just gone quiet. There weren’t any phone calls, no lights or anything like that. When someone came in by boat to see what was going on, everyone was gone. No one was in the cells. There weren’t any guards. Even the little houses and stuff they had for the families of staff members were just… just empty. No explanation or even a decent guess.
No one could agree on the real reason it got shut down. The government claimed it was just a budget thing. A year later, something changed on the island. There was a light. Sometimes it was so bright you could see it during the day, others it was barely visible at night. At its biggest and brightest, it was huge. She’d known a kid in middle school that had claimed he’d gone blind for a week after using a telescope to stare at it one night. Jake had lied about a bunch of stuff though, so she wasn’t sure if that one was true or not.
Her parents had told her that the military put out guards right away though. They’d done the same thing, used small boats to keep people away. The Citadel took over the job at some point and, apparently, that meant it was her problem now. Welcome to the Citadel. Heh.
There was a thump and she had to clutch the little metal rail hard to keep from falling over. The light, stinging rain didn’t make keeping her balance any easier. They’d made it to the dock. She still couldn’t tell what was going on but this was definitely one of the bright light times. The whole sky was lit up and she could hear a kind of buzzing hiss that was sort of familiar. The hair on her arms was standing up.
“Go go go!” One of the Support guys was yelling at them. The other Support guy was kind of pushing her forward and helping her up so she could get out faster. Jordan jump forward and up, landing on the edge of the wooden dock like it was the easiest thing in the world. She could’ve made a jump like that, if she used her ability. But she didn’t trust herself not to damage floor of the boat, which would be a bad thing, and no way would she have landed that smooth.
She started to take a lurching, awkward step up but Jordan had already spun and crouched. His hand wrapped all the way around her forearm, making her feel like a little kid for a moment, before giving a short pull and she was up and on the dock next to him. The guy was still shouting behind her so they both started running. Bettie knew how fast Jordan could go. They’d fought together in more than exercise, so she also knew that he was holding back to stay even with her.
Hopefully, that meant he wanted her help for whatever ‘impossible odds because we don’t have a clue what we’re up against’ fight they were running towards. Probably, it meant he didn’t trust her on her own. A few hundred feet at her best pace, she wasn’t even out of breath which was a huge change since Basic started, and they both jerked to a stop. There was a little girl, maybe twelve years old, with the kind of dusky skin tone that would’ve made her think mixed race if not for the blonde hair in pigtails. That shade didn’t come out of a dye bottle and you only over saw it in families that were pure European.
It was the man next to her that made Bettie calm down though. He was huge, at least six foot and he had muscles all over his chest and shoulders with close cut hair and a bit of beard stubble that was the same length. She recognized him, obviously.This guy was officially the scariest operative to come through San Francisco in living memory. He’d saved her, once.
Bethany was certain, absolutely, bone deep, no doubts certain, if he was on their side then they were going to win. Okay, maybe not officially the scariest. There weren’t exactly government stats on it or something but she’d read it in more than one message board and that left her inclined to think that she was right.
“Welcome to the Titans’ Rock.” Isaac Dauntless said and Bettie didn’t even try to hide the sigh of relief.