Chapter 2: Plug Your Ears

After checking to make sure that, yes, Tyson did still have a heartbeat, Kai had pulled Tyson’s arms over his shoulders. Max started jabbering about not knowing where a hospital was, but luckily Kai did know his way to the hospital. It was something of a hobby (or an OCD sort of ritual to alleviate his anxiety), to know any town he was going to be in for more than a few days like the back of his hand, no matter the size.

The moment Kai stumbled into the ER, flanked by Max and Ray, nurses converged on him to take Tyson from his back. One asked if they knew Tyson’s guardians. Ray said yes, but it was Kai who filled out the paper work and handed in all of Tyson’s contact information, including the phone numbers and email addresses of his father, older brother, and Mr. Dickenson. Again, he had been trained to achieve excellence in all things. He took his job as team captain very seriously—probably more seriously than his teammates would ever know.

But it was hours after Tyson’s grandfather came barreling into the waiting room before a doctor came out with any word on his condition.

“All the tests are coming back clean,” he said, all apologetic. “He seems to be in a coma, though we can’t find anything wrong with his brain. He hasn’t even a bruise on him.”

After passing the paperwork to Tyson’s grandfather and blubbering more redundant reasons as to why he had no idea why Tyson had turned into a meat puppet, they finally all trooped out the hospital and into the Granger van, leaving Tyson behind.

They waved the unusually, but expectedly gloomy Grandpa Granger to bed and went to pull out their futons and dress for bed. Ray was the one who finally spoke.

“It’s like he’s a shell.” He tore off his tunic and pulled on his white night shirt. “What did that…sound do to him? It’s like it took more than just Dragoon.”

“That sound was a she,” said Kai. “I saw a girl up in that fire escape.”

Max ran his hands up his face and through his already messy blond hair. “So, what did she do?”

“I think she was singing.”

Both boys shuddered, but didn’t look at him. They weren’t completely stupid, after all. A part of them had already known this.

“So, Tyson launches his blade,” Ray pinched the bridge of his nose. “Hits the other blade, this girl sings, and Dragoon gets sucked out without a fight and Tyson becomes comatose.” He groaned. “Ugh, this is starting to sound like some freaky ghost story. Did she suck up his soul along with Dragoon or something?”

Max shrugged, but Kai had already lain down and pulled his covers up to his ears with his back to them. Max offered to turn off the light, plunging them into darkness. The only light that crept through the windows was the distant blue-orange glow of the city, as storm clouds swallowed the moon.

Kai listened to the shuffling of the other two in their covers. Something urged him to say something, to give them some direction, give them some idea of how they could regain control on the situation. But the only thing to do was to let them sleep. They’d need it.

After a few minutes—long enough for Kai to figure they had fallen asleep—Max’s voiced piped up.

“What if we get Dragoon back and Tyson’s stuck like that?”

Ray, sounding wide awake, said, “We don’t even know if what’s come over his is permanent. For all we know, he could come charging in tomorrow morning to start his quest to save Dragoon.”

“Yeah. And we’ll find her tomorrow. We always do. Or she’ll find us.” He went quiet, before asking, his voice squeezing to a nervous pitch that Kai hated. It always managed to make him feel guilty, and he did not do guilty. “If she can sing our bit beasts and souls out the moment we let our blades loose, how are we going to…?”

And because he wouldn’t be able to sleep after that whiney tone without saying something, Kai spoke up. “Get a grip, Max. They’re just people. We’ll figure this out.”

Because he was going out for blood if they didn’t.

Out of sheer force of will, Kai managed to get to sleep. He woke up when Kenny threw open the door with a bang.

“I leave you for one day!” he screeched. “One day, and not only does Dragoon get stolen, but Tyson’s in a freaking coma?

“Jeeze, Chief, do you have to yell?” asked Max, rubbing shadowy eyes. Kai observed with a inward frown that neither of them looked as though they had slept much, and he suddenly wanted to strangle the bespeckled boy.

“What happened? How did this happen? Please someone tell me you know how to fix this?!”

“Calm down!” cried Ray, who had a hand in his unkempt hair. The binding to his hair had half-undone itself in the night, and he had poof of mane sticking out from his shoulders.

“Calm down? Tyson’s in the hospital! In a coma! Most of the time people don’t wake up from comas, and they don’t even have a clue why he’s like that, so how can he—”

“He’s lost his soul,” said Kai irritably.

That shut him up, mostly out of the virtue that Kenny had not a word prepared for being confronted by soul-snatching.

Max and Ray waved their hands in the air, alarmed.

“We don’t know that for sure—”

“It’s just a theory—a really good theory, I think—”

“See, there was this girl and—”

Kenny listened with his laptop clutched to his side as they explained. Kai decided he had done his part and got up to take a shower and find some strong coffee. He meant to be quick about it so he could get back to work, but caught himself staring at the tiles of the shower for countless minutes in a sort of daze. A darkness he knew too well threatened to overwhelm him, and he let it.

Only once he had let it have its time roaring and tearing about in his mind, making his stomach twist tight like a fist and his chest ache, did it finally leave him to step out of the shower. He dried, brushed his teeth, the whole nine yards. A presentable human being. Got to the kitchen. Got to the coffee. Drank it in boiling gulps as he stared out into the back yard where Kenny’s floating stadium still drifted in the pond.

We’ll have to wait until they come to us, he thought with irritation. Damn it, I need to get a Doberman or something.

Because there was nothing Kai hated more than having to wait to be acted upon. To be acted upon meant you weren’t in control of your destiny, and that meant you were at the mercy of others to do what they willed with you. One had to act in order to have any say on how much shit gets piled on top of you. It was why ultimate power had been his dream for years. Power was having control over change. Ultimate power meant ultimate control over what happened to you. With power, no one could abuse you, use you, beat you, hurt you, betray you—hell, with power, you didn’t even need people. Once you had control over your own happiness, what need was there for others to obtain it?

But, of course, Tyson and the others had proved him otherwise on that frozen lake so long ago. The years following had only unveiled to him just how twisted and warped the Abbey and his grandfather really had made him. And to think he thought he had been powerful and talented enough to avoid such a fate: the fate of a victim.

To be acted upon.

He dropped his mug in the sink and went back for the others. He found them still discussing what had happened in the dojo.

“Max, Ray, get dressed and eat something. We need to get going.”

“What are we going to do?” asked Max even as he stood.

“Isn’t it obvious?” said Ray. “We’re going to make bait of ourselves and wait for that blader to come find us.”

“But what if it’s a different blader this time?”

“Well…I guess we could always look around for that girl Kai saw. We’ll just have to find places where there isn’t a lot of people, like that alley she lured us into last time. With no one around, should be easy to spot her, right?”

“Why am I not surprised by the amount of uncontrolled variables in this?” moaned Kenny. “I’m going to do a search, see if I find anything while you guys dress. Let me know when you’re leaving. Dizzy’s infrared scanner should help in picking out anyone that’s hidden.”

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