Chapter 8: The Obtaining of Ayah

He swore and started CPR. And yes, you idiots, he knew CPR. What kind of any self respecting team captain didn’t know CPR?

“Hillary, ambulance!”

Ray had scrambled out by now and had fallen next to Kai’s side.

“No,” he muttered. “No. Is this why she—did they—”

Kai tilted back her head, pinched her nose, and covered her mouth with his own for a breath. She tasted just as she smelled, but with more sweetness and a lot less cinnamon. Like the roll with only its fresh out of the oven warmth and residual sugar.

“Hello? Yes, we have a girl who just got electrocuted, we’re just off of eleventh north in a parking lot besides Yin and Yang Bookstore. Yes, my friend’s on it—I-I think he knows what he’s doing.” Hillary lowered the mouthpiece of her cell phone from her mouth. “Kai, they said if you’re not certified, you’ll do more damage than harm. Maybe, um…”

But he ignored her, as he often did, and after a few more pumps between her breasts leaned down to give her another breath.

“Ray, her wrist—”

Ray was already on it, which was probably a good thing as Kai remembered too late that Ray couldn’t hear. “I think I feel something. Is she breathing yet?”

Kai leaned his cheek to her mouth again. He couldn’t tell. He could still see the whites of her eyes showing from beneath her lashes. At least Hillary had had the decency to wipe the foam from the girl’s face as she lowered her head.

Kenny leaned out of the car like a kid about to be sick. “Don’t tell me she’s…”

Kai leaned down. This time, as he breathed out, he felt her lips twitch about his own. A gust answered him as he pulled away, shaky, weak, but her own breathing all the same.

“She’s breathing,” said Kai. He looked at Ray, who answered his look with a nod.

“There’s a heartbeat.”

Kenny slumped the last remaining foot between his torso and the floor of Hillary’s car, letting his arms dangle to the pavement. Hillary gave a half-formed sob of relief and fell to her knees.

But Kai had never been good with holding still. “Chief, what can you tell me about that collar? Best get pictures as well before they confiscate it.”

Rather than complain, Kenny gave a shudder and recoiled back into the car for his laptop. He came back out to examine the collar beneath the sunlight with Kai’s dropped pocket knife in hand. After a few moments, in which he quietly adjusted Dizzy’s camera and twisted the collar before it, he took the knife and cut down some of the plastic.

“I—Kai, I know even less about electronics than acoustics. But…this wiring here—it’s thicker than the stuff you find in houses. Basic physics can tell me that means it can hold a buttload more current. And there’s a microphone here—yes.” Using the tip of the knife, he pulled out a round black bit with tiny silver wires sticking out from it like a four-legged spider. He made a small noise like a squirrel being stepped on.

“You mean they heard everything she said? Everything we said?” asked Hillary.

Ray scowled at the piece, unable to hear anything. But he wasn’t stupid.

“Did you say microphone?” When Kenny nodded, he gave Kai a significant look. “Kai, last night when she abruptly had to leave—they must have heard all that. That must be how they keep tabs on her.”

And why she had urged Kai to be quiet when she came to him on the roof to heal his face.

As he watched her chest struggle to rise and fall, it made sense to him. How else could they keep tabs on a girl whose very voice could give her power over her captors than via a microphone? They could record all the frequencies and tones she used, then when she tried to repeat said tones the collar might switch on automatically, shocking her, at the very least paralyzing her vocal chords—or perhaps they simply had to push a button the moment something other than words came out. There were a whole slew of twisted reasons proving the ingenious of the collar.

And the simple stupidity of it. He should have expected it. This was being more than just a little rusty.

“If she goes to the hospital,” Kenny said. “Anyone could come and pick her up. They could come back, take her away…”

“The people who did this to her…” added Hillary, her hands fisting against the asphalt.

“But what can we do?” said Kenny. “We’re just kids! Not even Kai’s a legal adult yet, not by five more months! What if they have paperwork or something to back them up legally? What if they know her? Augh! If I just knew her name, maybe I could do a search on missing children—”

“Ayah.”

Kenny stared at him. “Um, Kai?”

“Ayah is her name,” he said. “It’s what that woman always shouted before she started singing. I seriously doubt they were cute enough to make a little code word for a signal.”

“Well, I don’t have anything better to do while we wait here, might as well give it a look.”

Kai glanced back down at the girl and noticed out of the corner of his eye that Ray’s hand had switched from her wrist to cradle her hand between his own. He was shaking.

The Russian turned slipped off his scarf to fold beneath her head.

Hillary pulled up her knees to her chest and hug them tightly. “What kind of people would do such a horrible thing? What reason could they possibly have?”

Kenny’s laptop binged as its browser opened and Dizzy’s voice crackled from the speakers. “Is it really that hard to figure? You’ve seen scientist kidnap a bunch of kids to an island in order to steal their bitbeasts, and you can’t fathom why somebody would kidnap and then use a girl who happens to have a talent at sucking them out while ignoring the laws of battle which bit beasts adhere to?

“Or anything else for that matter,” added Kenny, fingers already flying. “With her talent the possibilities are endless. Who knows what you could do with the ability to create just the right resonance, within reason of course. And her ears—with hearing like that—”

“Nerd out later,” said Hillary. “Focus on finding her.”

“Of course, it’s just,” he looked over, frowning. “There are so many spellings of the name ‘Ayah,’ and her appearance is so exotic—I’m going to have to do a worldwide search. And I’m not a detective—”

“Stop telling us what you aren’t and just do what you can!” snapped Hillary. “This isn’t a time for excuses!”

For not the first time, Kai felt an upsurge of gratitude to Hillary. Out of all the people around Tyson, she seemed to be the only one with any sense of how the real world worked. Her means of going about waking up the others to reality however, namely Tyson, Max, and Kenny, were a bit wanting.

It wasn’t long before the ambulance arrived. They all spread apart in order to give the paramedics access to her and Kenny relinquished the collar to them. At the tear of the Velcro on the neck brace, her eyes fluttered. A weak, gasping whimper broke from her lips.

Despite supposedly not being able to hear, Ray was back at her side, her hand in his.

“You’re going to be alright. Everything will be just fine.”

Kai didn’t know what to make of that. Yes Ray was a good guy, compassionate, often the one to dress up the others’ wounds or cook up homemade medicines for when they were sick, but this just seemed a bit too open for someone he had just met.

He didn’t miss the look Hillary and Kenny exchanged with one another either. Nor the smirk that broke over Hillary’s face.

“You better take him too,” she said to the paramedics with a gesture to Ray. “Something happened to his ears in the accident. He can’t hear a thing.”

As though to prove that fact, Ray didn’t look up at the mention of his name or when one of the paramedics clicked his fingers right next to his ear.

Thus, when one of the paramedics urged him to get inside as well, he didn’t need encouraging. The other three were given reports to fill out with a due date and then left besides Hillary’s car with the deflated weight of anti-climax.

But it didn’t stay quiet for long.

“Ray is so in love.”

“I think you might be right. But I don’t blame him. Now that the panic has passed she really was beautiful, wasn’t she?”

I’m not much of a judge for human beauty, as I’m always telling you,” said Dizzy crossly.

“Like a princess.”

“Yes, very romantic,” broke in Kai. “A princess with bloody foam dripping from her mouth and her limbs flailing about. Let’s go.”

Hillary let out a low whistle. “What’s gotten into you, Kai?”

Is someone jealous?

He didn’t even respond to that. Why would he? The only thing he had felt like doing was whapping Ray over the head to knock some sense into him. Really, fawning over the girl who’d sucked out your friends’ souls, willingly or otherwise, was just pathetic, let alone over an unconscious shock victim girl. Sometimes his whole sex disappointed him. The only thing pretty girls meant to him was danger. Example A: what had happened to his brain when she had leaned over him on the roof. What he should have done was knock her out cold. If she hadn’t had second thoughts about singing out Drigger…

No. Jealousy was far from it. If anything, he was furious. Furious at himself.

“He’s jealous,” said Hillary.

Kenny gasped, sounding honestly impressed. “How can you tell?”

“Woman’s intuition.”

Or perhaps whimsical thinking,” said Dizzy.

Kai sighed. “Unless you want me to drive your car illegally-” And crash it into a ditch.

“We’re coming! Jeeze, get in already, Kenny. And just for the record, Kai, I am no one’s chauffer, and that includes you.”

“Duly noted.”


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