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   Chapter 20 Quickening Cassie Wilson Book 1

Quickening By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 25735

Updated: 2018-03-14 10:51

Chapter 20

Tuesday, Cassie followed what was now routine, moving through her exercises from class and then running behind the house before eating breakfast and getting ready for school. When she reached school, there was no sign of Mr. Babbin, Skadi or Enki. It was just an average day.

'It seems like forever since I had one of those, ' Cassie thought as she walked into school to begin her day.

After Geography, Cassie looked around remembering Skadi's plan to return around lunchtime, but she saw nothing. 'Of course, I'm not going near the office, ' Cassie thought as she headed to the cafeteria. She suspected if Skadi was in the vicinity that would be the place. Her afternoon classes were quiet as well. If Skadi had any issues with Mr. Babbin and his office minions, it wasn't spilling out into the rest of the school.

As the time for her after school class drew nearer, Cassie found herself both nervous and excited. What would she find when she entered the district? Would opening the gate have any lasting effects? Would others watch her more closely or would she be completely dismissed?

'And I wonder what will happen with my class, ' Cassie thought to herself as the school day finally ended and she made her way to her car. Nervous butterflies danced in her belly as she drove. She was certain the class was set up as some sort of test. Even if she hadn't overheard the barroom conversation, she would have known that from the people in the room. There was just no way everyone in her class, teachers and students, would be 'other' if it wasn't a test. She half expected that if they didn't think she was a Walker, class would be cancelled.

"Of course he has to make some money to keep Intelligent Fitness open, " Cassie wondered aloud as she drove. "He can't just hold class for testing potential Walkers."

In the parking lot for the Plaza District, Cassie parked. She couldn't quite bring herself to park at the back edge of the lot, especially since she knew that by the time she got out of class the lot would be mostly empty. Thoughts of Erra attacking her in the parking lot were still too fresh in her mind for that. Absently she rubbed one of the still healing bruises on her arm.

She did park near one of the lamp posts however and when she got out of the car, she took a look around making certain there was no one watching her. The asphalt didn't show foot prints, but as she didn't get that watching feeling, she thought she was safe. As Cassie looked up and studied the lamp post, spotting the symbol almost immediately, she thought about the watching feeling. The feeling always started with the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck standing up.

'I wonder if it has anything to do with that energy Mr. Babbin mentioned, ' she thought as she looked back down to earth and began walking into the district. When she was younger there was a school field trip to the Science Center. Inside they were shown a glass ball on a pedestal with small arcs of electricity dancing inside like captured lightning. To Cassie it looked like something off of the movie set of an old mad scientist's laboratory. When the students touched it, their hair stood up. She wondered if it was similar.

'Although luckily it isn't the hair on my head standing up, ' she thought. 'I'm pretty sure I couldn't pretend to ignore that very convincingly.' She smiled to herself. 'Maybe it's a lower voltage or something, although if it affects computers it still has to be pretty strong.'

The thought that the 'others' couldn't use computers was a comforting one. The thought that even if she couldn't see their footprints she might be able to tell if she was being watched was an even better one.

'And I don't have to worry about e-books and on-line orders, " Cassie thought. 'Although they might see the packages arriving if they are watching the house.' She continued into the district. 'I'll just have to make sure they have no reason to watch the house.'

As Cassie approached the central plaza for which the district was named, she reminded herself not to look towards the concession stand. The closer she got to the plaza however, the less important that admonition became. Usually the cold, hard, poured concrete benches of the plaza were bare. No one wanted to sit on them. Even at the best of times they were uncomfortable. Everyone ignored them as they moved past; continuing on to whatever destination brought them to the plaza in the first place.

Today, while normal, average people continued to stroll past, barely giving the benches a glance, the benches were not empty. Today almost every bench held someone. Most of those occupying the benches had something odd about their appearance. Some had feathers, some scales, some tusks, beaks, fur or wings. None were that hidden type of 'other' she had to actually touch to see something strange.

All of them were watching the concession stand.

'And no one else seems to see them at all, ' Cassie thought eyeing the few regular people moving through the area. 'So I don't see them either.' Cassie swallowed hard and strode forward, paying no attention to the people on the benches. As they saw her, many heads swiveled in her direction. Cassie kept moving and didn't look to the sides, keeping her eyes forward. She sensed movement and heard sniffing, sensing something close behind her. She didn't turn to look, but felt the hairs on her arms and back of neck lift as though she were very near a lightning strike.

'I don't see them, ' she told herself. 'I don't hear them sniffing me. There is nothing about me that smells weird.' She repeated the phrase over and over as she moved. Finally, she was through the district. No one followed her, but up ahead standing very near the entrance to Intelligent Fitness, Cassie could see Enki. He was standing on the sidewalk slightly past the building as though he didn't quite dare to stand in front of it. Cassie ignored him and went into the building, moving to the locker room to change clothes.

As before the other girls were already in the room when she arrived. Cassie took her place next to Ina and smiled at the girl. Ina smiled back. Mr. Dana and Bert came into the room and class began. It seemed the same as the Thursday class with a few new moves thrown in for them to learn. When they sparred, Cassie reminded herself to stay on the defense and to hold back on her offense. As they moved, she also practiced not seeing the strange images she usually saw when she touched one of the others. As class progressed, she found this easier to do. As for her fighting abilities, Ina far outclassed her so she didn't have to even pretend to be the weaker when they paired off.

While Cassie never fully committed to any of her attacks, letting Ina easily brush them off, she filed away the details for later so she could practice on her own.

'Maybe I could take one of the man shaped dummies out of the shed to practice attacking, ' she thought. It wasn't the same as fighting an actual skilled opponent, but she thought it might be something, even if the dummy looked more like it was designed for sword practice.

While she didn't commit to her offense, Cassie put everything she had into her defenses. She may not have gotten through Ina's defenses, but by the end of class, she was able to block Ina's attacks. Bert and Mr. Dana nodded with approval as her improvements in defense, even though they both exhorted her to improve her attacks. Cassie meekly accepted both their complements and their advice, without changing her attacks. She hoped it didn't offend them.

As class ended, Cassie went to the locke

came here nearly every night, it was starting to feel familiar. As always she turned to see the one thin silver line she created. It was the only useful place she could think of putting the mark, so it was the only one she made. She wasn't quite certain why it was silver instead of gold, but like all of her other questions, she had no one to ask.

Before she traveled to Sacsahuaman, Cassie made what she thought of as the rounds to see if anything changed. She visited Mr. Babbin's office, finding it dark and empty, not unusual for a Saturday night. She visited The Gray Cat and found it packed with all manner of people.

Despite the larger than average crowd, some people clearly out of town visitors, they had no new comments to add, repeating the same things Cassie heard them say before. Usually, Cassie spent a longer period of time here. Not only could she listen to various conversations in the hopes of learning more, but she was able to study the people she pretended not to see on an almost daily basis. Familiarity may not have brought contempt in this case, but it did lower her fear level. Given the chance to study them when she knew they couldn't see her, she found the wide variety of the 'others' fascinating.

'And since they walk around all invisible half the time it serves them right that someone is pulling the same trick on them, ' she thought, justifying her snooping on private conversations. Tonight, she forced herself to leave the fascinating array behind. She jumped to the light post next to the concession stand and saw that despite the packed bar room, there were still people lurking in the plaza and watching the concession stand. She still wasn't quite sure what they expected to happen.

'Let's give them something else to look at, ' Cassie thought, ignoring the hum of the gate. Even if the bulk of them stayed here, she was certain others would leave and she might be better able to navigate between the remainder without giving herself away.

Risk appears. A walker chooses.

"I guess I've made my choice, " Cassie said as she moved back to the space with the world map lines. "Sacsahuaman please, " she asked politely, her heart fluttering nervously in her chest. One of the lines glowed a bright gold while the others faded to pencil sketches. Cassie grabbed the line before she could change her mind and was whisked off to her destination. Now that she knew what to expect, Cassie enjoyed the sensation. It was a bit like having a private roller coaster.

Cassie arrived in Sacsahuaman grinning and slightly out of breath, despite her worry about what she was about to do. All around her, the massive stones of the once no doubt grand Incan edifice loomed. The stones were black in the darkness, the moonlight lining them with silver. Cassie took a moment to look around, marveling at the site. While not as well-known as Machu Picchu, it was still magnificent and awe inspiring.

"Even if the experts can't quite decide what exactly it was used for, " she said. "I wonder if the gate has anything to do with it." Cassie shrugged off the question as she had so many others recently. There was no one she could actually ask. "At least not safely, " she added. "I could probably ask Enki, but then he'd kill me and I don't really want to know that badly."

As she looked around, Cassie wondered if he would return to check on her if a gate was opened in Sacsahuaman. "Probably better leave Herman in the closet and leave off practicing for a few days just in case."

Even though Cassie could see the lights of Cusco off in the distance, the hum was loud here. She felt excitement bubble up inside her. Would matching the hum again have the same effect? Could she open a gate a second time? It was time to find out. She began to hum along with the sound, matching it in pitch. For a second the hum intensified, then as before, it changed pitch. Cassie changed to match it. After a moment, the hum changed back and so did Cassie.

As she hummed in tune with the sound, a square of light appeared. One minute it was nothing, just an empty space between the giant stone blocks. A moment later a square of light, like a window into another place, appeared. Cassie continued to hum and in the background she heard what she thought might be sea gull cries and possibly seal barks. There was also the sound of waves crashing on rocks. She appeared to be too high up to see the ocean and could only see a bright sky with white puffy clouds floating across its expanse and smell the sharp tang she associated with the sea air.

'I wonder what ocean it is, ' Cassie thought. She stopped humming and in a blink the window of light disappeared, leaving Cassie to blink away after images.

"Well, that at least answers that, " she told herself. "I can do it again. I don't know exactly what good being able to open a gate is, but I can do it." Feeling tired, Cassie returned to the map room and then home, opening her eyes in her still night dark bedroom. She felt a wave of exhaustion hit her and giving in, Cassie rolled over, curled up and went back to sleep.

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