Unsurprisingly, James had a bad night's sleep. His dreams were full of people chasing him, crazy abilities, and a lot of strange stuff. He could hardly believe it was all true, and that he was still alive. He got dressed and walked into the kitchen. Rob seemed to still be asleep, so he helped himself to a bowl of Crunchy Nut, and got his laptop out. He e-mailed Ryan everything that had happened in case he was interested.
It wasn't really just so he could tell him. It meant he could check he had not missed anything out when asking Rob questions. It also preserved all the events in case he ever wanted to look back on what had happened. He'd just need to check the sent messages. One thought did strike him. Why was there so much trouble over him? Surely the Hunters had better things to do than worry about a fourteen-year old boy. Maybe it was just standard behaviour for every telekinetic they found.
James thought about how careless he had been. He shouldn't have used his real e-mail for that site. If it was run by Hunters they would have recognised the surname.
If not, then it must be Mr Fowler's fault, or even Ben's. He'd never liked either of them, so he wouldn't be surprised if it had been one of them who'd reported him. But one of his family members had come in to save him, and it was someone he'd known for years. James grinned, despite himself.
What with all the new revelations, he would probably find out Ryan was his brother or something.
"Morning," called Rob, walking in with bad morning hair.
"Morning," he replied automatically, "So what do we do today?"
"I'm going to make a few phone calls to see if I can get you a meeting with the headmaster of a new school, somewhere safe," he smiled. "It's a boarding school for telekinetics up in the Midlands. Are you okay with that?"
"Yeah, I suppose," agreed James reluctantly.
"There's no need for that face, you were always going to have to go back to school at some point," laughed Rob. James sighed.
In truth, he had expected he would have to go back to school again soon. It was more the fact of leaving his current one that he was sad about. There were so many people at school he would probably never see again. But at least there was one person there who knew the truth, the whole truth.
James played some games on his laptop while Rob arranged some formalities in the privacy of his room. He also made a new e-mail account in case the Hunters had his old one, and transferred some contacts. He felt lonely. Seeing Maxine yesterday had just made him realise what he was going to miss. He had lived in Winchester for thirteen years and he was leaving, with no guarantee of returning. James was losing everything, just as he had been granted a gift many people would give everything for. It didn't seem worth it to him. He felt a little empty.
The only thing that stopped him from sinking into despair was the thought of his family and his new power. There was so much to find out about both, and it was the perfect distraction for him.
James still had no idea what was happening. Not really. Rob had explained a little, but all he knew was he was going to a school somewhere, and that it was far away, near Leicester. At some point in the day he told him there was someone on their way to pick him up. They'd be here in a couple of hours. It was about eleven o'clock when Jack told him. He e-mailed Ryan, Maxine, Simon, and a few other friends of his to say he was leaving. He made himself a sandwich for lunch.
At almost one exactly, a car arrived outside. It was scary, and depressing, but he had to admit this whole thing had been an adventure. Sort of energizing. There was a knock at the door. This was it; he was leaving his friends behind, possibly forever. Rob opened the door, and a man in a long tan overcoat and a wide-brimmed hat entered. Quite disguising clothes, he noticed. Even now his face was in shadow. He took off the hat. He was young, only just out of his teens by the looks of it. The man was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt underneath the overcoat. He looked well built, and looked confident, although he seemed on edge. James was reassured that he would have someone like him on his side when he was on the run.
"So, James, you ready to leave?" asked the man, sizing him up.
"Yeah." His stuff was packed, not even changed from when he left the care home.
"E-mail me when you get there," said Rob, handing him a business card, and shaking his hand, "Good luck."
James headed outside with this complete stranger. If it wasn't for the fact that Rob trusted him enough to ask him to guard him then he would never have done it.
They got into his car, a shiny black Audi. Not bad for someone so young.
"This is a pretty nice car," James said, just to start off the conversation.
He smiled as if he knew something James didn't.
"Yeah, it is."
"What, what am I missing?" James asked, a touch irritated.
"Well, bounty hunters get a decent pay," he smiled, as he started the car. This threw him, a bounty hunter? That seemed unlikely.
"You're a bounty hunter?" James asked sceptically.
"I belong to an organization called the Trackers, which is like an elite Police force, but all telekinetics," he said matter-of-factly, "And since our group could always do with more funds, we sometimes accept payments to do odd jobs. Our main opposition are Hunters."
James took this in for a moment.
"So who do you get the money from?" he asked.
"Well sometimes we get people asking for us to assassinate a Hunter, or find him, and are paid for it. But if we get no requests then we go after the Hunters ourselves, and get money out of them," said the Tracker. "We have a number of ways to do it. For example, one of us will disguise himself as, I don't know, a waiter or something when the Hunter goes into a restaurant. Then he'll come along with a credit card thing, pretending to collect the bill, the Hunter puts his pin in, and our man leaves. The machine will have taken the credit card number and pin number for our use, and then we either get him sent to prison, followed, or if we really need to, kill him."
"That is pretty good," James admitted, "If completely illegal."
"When you're at war, everything is fair," he responded.
It was harsh, but to use a child's favourite excuse, they started it. James wasn't going to feel sorry for those guys any time soon.
"Sorry, I forgot to ask, what's your name?" James enquired.
The man laughed, and shook his head.
"I just revealed that I get employed as an assassin, I don't think revealing my name's the best idea. But call me..." he thought for a moment, "Will, that's a nice bland name."
"So, what sort of organization are the Hunters?" asked James.
Will thought for a second before answering.
"They're sort of like their own crime organisation; not unlike the Mafia, they'll help each other out, try and get each other into positions of power, regardless of the law. In fact, once one of them became President of the US after rigging the election. That was a bad time," he sighed, "Anyway, the Hunters formed after Augustine Pravel appeared. He was one of the bad telekinetics, who supposedly lived around the early middle ages and was, possibly the most powerful one that's ever existed. In those days our society, if there was a society, was very secretive, as it would be seen as witchcraft back then. He believed he had been given his powers because he was superior and destined to rule over everyone. Pravel won every battle he went into, and eventually managed to establish his power through fear. At that time, when fighting with swords and arrows, telekinesis would make anyone as powerful as him almost impossible to kill by force, and no one could stand against him. However, eventually a small but powerful band of assassins called the Hunters formed to take him down. They were successful, and since then they've been trying to wipe us out. They've grown hugely in number since then, and you should never underestimate their power or dedication in killing all of us."
Will paused for a moment, shaking his head.
"The thing is, they help their members a lot – getting them into positions of power and the like, but they also brainwash them. They're taught that we're all bad, and that we're an abomination against God. The chances of reasoned discussion are small."
"What about us?" asked James, "Do we fight back?"
"Of course we do, it's my main job as a Tracker. We have a regular Police force, but the Trackers are the elite. We fight them every step of the way. There aren't many of us though; most prefer not to pick fights. We also help in situations when there might be trouble, like now. For a fee, of course."
James was glad that they were fighting back somehow; he would have been annoyed if they weren't doing anything.
"How do you join?" he asked. Could anyone just join in? What if it was infiltrated?
"Well, the process to join is very rigorous. You only get in if they're absolutely sure you can be trusted," he said seriously, "And they only take people with powers."
"How many Hunters have you...got to?" he asked. He didn't want to use the word killed. It made Will sound evil, which James didn't believe was true.
"Well I'm a new member. As part of a team, I've had one sent to prison, for the murder of a telekinetic, and I've killed a couple. Of course, the others have done more than me. We, on the other hand, only had one man killed this year."
His tone didn't change from the buoyant tone when talking about the...murders, he suppose, although they were fair. He turned on his phone, to check his texts, but it started beeping non-stop, so he put it on silent, glancing at Will.
James nodded, and didn't talk for a while. He looked again at the screen of his phone. There were nine missed calls and fifty-two messages. He looked through a few of them. They were pretty much all saying how screwed he was, asking what had happened. That sort of thing. His phone vibrated as another message came through. It was from Ryan.
If u can read this get rid of the phone. They were asking for ur no. THEY CAN TRACK IT.
James gulped, and looked at Will. Will glanced over at him as if he could sense James' thoughts. He tutted and shook his head.
"Is that a phone?" he asked, "Give it to me."
James did so, and ten minutes later, Will parked outside a service station, not giving James his phone back.
"Do you want to see if you're being followed?" he grinned mischievously.
James wasn't sure he really did, but he didn't want to be a killjoy, and it was probably worth knowing if people were on your tail and trying to kill you.
"Okay, just wait in the car. If they come, whatever happens, don't let them see you. If I don't come back in half an hour, then just get the hell out of here as quick as you can."
Will smiled at him and clapped him on the shoulder, then closed the door and headed inside with the phone. After a few steps, he turned back.
"I would stay out of sight until I get back if I were you," he called, and headed inside.
James nodded. He should have known to get rid of his phone. It was that carelessness which had probably got him caught in the first place. With that sort of behaviour, he was going to get himself killed.
Will binned James' phone and glanced behind him as he casually walked inside, humming to himself. He knew that he should kill their tail. If they thought that James had killed him it would make the Hunters much more wary of him, which would help him survive. And of course, it was one less Hunter in the world. He wondered whether God would see what he did as immoral. He knew there was the whole 'thou shalt not' kill thing but killing people who were trying to kill you was essentially self-defence.
Will hoped the boy would survive this. He seemed a nice enough kid, if a little careless. He asked a lot of questions.
He looked around the lunch hall. Time to get down to business. If he was a Hunter where would he look for his prey?
He decided that one would come through the front entrance, and others would look for an alternate entrance to try and surround him. Will smirked. No one could put one over on him, or anyone in his unit. They were too good.
Will took a seat nearby, and ordered a sausage baguette so he didn't look suspicious. He watched the entrance, analysing the body language of the people who came in for suspicious signs.
Eventually, he spotted a likely candidate enter the door and scan the hall, just as he had done. He was tense, and walked with purpose. Also, he was entering alone, which was sort of suspicious. Will grinned. He had sighted his prey.
He considered his options. He didn't want to kill the man in a public space like this, and he liked to have time for a clean getaway. Will decided the disabled toilets would be the emptiest space nearby. He just needed to get the man in there without a fuss.
The man walked past him up to the food counter and stood in the queue so he could get a better view of who was eating. Will followed him with his eyes, but didn't move. There was no chance of being compromised, his team worked hard to keep their operatives secret, and no Hunter who'd seen him up close was in any condition to remember it.
His order arrived, and he thanked the waitress, opening a ketchup packet and spreading it evenly across the baguette. He took a bite out of it. It was very good, but unfortunately that wasn't his main concern. He'd been paid to protect the boy, so he needed to deal with the danger. Even now they might be surrounding him.
He embraced the nerves that thought brought on. He loved this sort of high-risk challenge. He was doing it for a good cause, too.
The Hunter, if that was what he was, gave up on the queue and pretended to yawn, speaking into his hand as he did so. Will noticed it, but didn't catch the words. He must have noticed that James wasn't there.
Will regretfully abandoned the half-eaten food and got up. He headed towards the man, following him as he walked to another section. Thanks to his incredibly useful telekinesis, all the cameras turned away as he went into their line of sight, but he did it without more than a glance. It was an art that all the Trackers perfected before going into the field. As the Hunter approached the toilets, Will called out to him.
"Andy! Is that you?"
The man paused and looked back, wondering if it was him that Will was talking to. Will kept going.
"That is you isn't it?" exclaimed Will amiably, "How long is it been? Feels like ages."
Will spread his arms out as if to hug him and beamed. The man frowned.
"I think you've made a mist-"
Will kept moving, and the man seemed to realise what was happening and reached inside his coat. Will grabbed his wrist, stopping him, and clapped him on the back as if they were best friends. He smiled tightly.
"We should go and catch up," he said, "Somewhere private."
Will let go of his wrist and pressed two fingers against the man's back as he moved slightly behind him, with his other arm on the man's shoulder. He hoped his trick was believable.
"One wrong move and your next meal will be a bullet," Will whispered, then said loudly, "Great to see you again by the way."
The man said nothing, and didn't move. Will forcefully steered him towards the disabled toilets on the left, away from everything else. Thankfully the corridor was empty.
They reached the door, and Will pulled down the man's collar, checking for final proof. There on the right of his back, just below the shoulder, was the tattoo every Hunter received upon their initiation into the group. Now it was time for the execution.
Will shoved him through the door roughly, shutting it behind him.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked, "I'm innocent."
"I don't think so," replied Will, "You're a Hunter."
Realization dawned on his face.
"You're a Tracker," he spat, and went for his gun. Will went low and swept his feet from under him, sending him crashing down. He sighed and wagged a finger at the man.
"No guns," Will said, "That's cheating."
The Hunter jumped to his feet and lunged at Will with a knife in his hand. Will stepped back and grabbed the outstretched wrist, twisting it sharply so the knife fell to the floor.
"That's it, if you're cheating, I am too," said Will, shoving the man back and concentrating. The air seemed to shimmer, and the Hunter, who had been trying to pull out his pistol again, was taken off his feet and slammed backwards into the wall by an unseen force.
Before the Hunter hit the ground, Will thrust a palm into his solar plexus and slammed him back again.
The Hunter desperately tried to catch his breath, winded.
"Now look what's happened," said Will, "You forced me to do that, you know."
"Rot in hell," grimaced the Hunter, and reached inside his coat.
"Enough of that," said Will, and used his power to tear the man's coat open and take the firearm away, "I said no guns."
He was aware that there was a very slight strain on his powers but he ignored it. He'd done much more than this in his training, and he knew that he could quite possibly tear this man's head off with the mental strength he, and all Trackers had.
The Hunter forced himself to his feet, and got in a ready stance, his fists ready and looking furious. Man, this guy must have been seriously brainwashed to be this fanatical in such an obviously futile cause.
"Oh here we go," said Will, rolling his eyes. The man charged and swung a punch, which Will blocked, pulling the fist to the right, while stepping to the left, swinging back on the man's neck with his left forearm and hooking his leg forwards so the Hunter slammed down on his back dramatically.
"Damn, I'm good," noted Will. Then, before he could recover, Will reached down and grabbed the man's front, lifting him up and slamming him against the wall. Will held him up by the neck with one hand and drew a knife, holding it over the man's eye.
"Would you like to answer a couple of questions?" he asked viciously, trying to seem as cruel as possible.
"I won't talk," said the gunman, but Will detected fear in his voice. He decided to play the sadist card.
"Do you think I care whether you talk?" he smiled, "I'm doing this for my own benefit. I enjoy torturing your kind."
He looked the man in the eye, his gaze steady and unwavering. He tilted the point of the knife a little closer to the man's left eye, so it caught the light.
"With my power, I can reach inside your brain and do all sorts of terrible damage," Will went on, "I could make your stomach travel up your throat or rip your heart from your chest. But it's much more satisfying this way..."
Will moved the point of the knife even closer, almost touching the pupil. He hoped his threats were believable. He didn't actually have the power to rip his heart out or move his stomach. That sort of precision was impossible when you couldn't see it. But the Hunters were afraid of them, and the best way to get them to talk was to play to their fears.
"I'll talk!" cried the Hunter, "Just don't hurt me!"
Will nodded, concealing his triumph.
"Good, now who else is with you?" he asked, "And I'll know if I'm being lied to."
"Just one other, we came by car, hoping to find the boy. He'll be inside somewhere looking," he explained, "We interviewed one boy and followed a false phone number, so we weren't confident about this one."
"What about if you found the boy?" Will asked, "Back-up?"
The man nodded frantically, although it was difficult when Will was holding him by the throat.
"If we found him, we were to follow and call for back-up, but not engage," he said.
"Your car?" asked Will.
The Hunter told him the car's make and number plate. Will nodded, committing it to memory. He looked at the Hunter and stepped back.
"Where's it parked?" he asked.
"On the other side, away from the others," he said. Will nodded, a plan forming.
"Don't move," he said.
Using his power he emptied the man's pockets, examining the contents. He removed the SIM and memory card from a phone to examine later, and pocketed a credit card. He put them all in one of his inside pockets, with the man's knife and gun. It was all good evidence, and could lead to another capture. He made sure not to actually touch and therefore corrupt any of it with his own fingerprints.
He realised that James was still waiting for him, and checked his watch. He had time, but he needed to finish up here. And that meant this man had to be silenced. He wondered what James would say about this. Would he condone the killing, or ask him to be merciful? He rid himself of the question. James was a kid, and he knew from experience that killing this man was the safest thing to do. Will pulled on gloves.
"Now, I'd love to stay and chat, but I'm on a bit of a tight schedule, so..."
Will drew the Hunter's pistol, and screwed on the silencer. This could be a big help later.
"But I told you everything I know," he begged, "Please don't kill me. Be reasonable."
Will's anger flared. This man had a nerve talking about being reasonable. They had tried to kill an unarmed boy. Of course, it wasn't just any boy, but the fact that he was a Stone was no reason to kill him.
"I wish this wasn't necessary," he said, "But when you joined the Hunters, you condemned yourself to Hell."
The man lunged desperately as he realised Will would kill him no matter what. The man tried to tackle him, but Will just stepped back and shot him cleanly through the head. It was a painless death, the one mercy he tried to grant his victims.
Will didn't look at him, not feeling any pride at what he'd done. It was necessary, he told himself.
He waited until he couldn't hear any footsteps outside, and glanced out. The corridor was clear.
As before, he made sure that the CCTV cameras all swivelled away from him as he passed. He didn't want to end up in the news. He exited the building the same way he had entered it.
Will made sure the Hunter wasn't going to sneak up on him, and then looked through the car park, checking all the silver cars for the right number plate. The third car he checked matched.
"Lovely," he grinned, and walked round the front, examining the bonnet. If anyone but the Hunter saw him they wouldn't see anything suspicious. This could be his own car after all.
He had a choice between disabling it, or tracking it and reversing their roles. He smiled wryly. Tracking it would have a certain irony, he thought. He was a Tracker by name after all.
He reached inside one of his many pockets, and took out what looked like a small black circle of plastic. He took off the back, and reached under the wheel arch, attaching the device to the inside. He also opened the bonnet and noted down the serial number of the car. He was nothing if not thorough.
The device he had stuck to the car was nigh on undetectable. Instead of transmitting a continuous signal, which might be discovered by a good scanner, it would send a compressed signal to the special function on his phone at timed intervals. Among all the other radio traffic and the natural background interference, it wouldn't be picked up.
Then he dealt with the final part of his plan, crouching down in case he was seen. Through the window, he could see the switch, which anyone inside the car could pull up or push down to unlock the car. An attempt to break in by force would no doubt set off a car alarm, but all it took for him was a moment of concentration and the thing shifted upwards, unlocking the car.
Will smiled again. What a wonderful ability he had. He opened the car door and removed the Hunter's gun from his jacket, using the glove to avoid fingerprints. He then placed it in the glove box of the car. The evidence was planted.
When the others in his unit tracked the man down they would find that the bullets in there were the same type that had been used to shoot the dead man, and that one had been fired. This would work, providing the man didn't abandon the car or realise the gun wasn't meant to be there.
However, cars were expensive, and he would at least use it to drive somewhere to drop it off, or if he was lucky, back to his base where they might find others. If he just went back to his own place, they could still get him, so it wasn't all bad.
Will moved away to find James. There was nothing left to do. He hoped that the other one hadn't found him already.
James waited nervously inside the car, crouching in the footwell and hiding from any cars that entered, although in this light the slightly darkened windows should stop them cars from noticing him unless they drove right past. James was anxious of Will's safety, but if Will was as good as he said he was, then James had nothing to worry about. Instead, James thought of how they'd tracked him.
He had thought that they needed a direct call to track him, but apparently not. Unless one of the many texts or calls on his phone was them and they'd found him that way.
From what James knew they could only pinpoint the location to the cell the phone was operating in, but this was the only service station nearby, and the Hunters knew they were on the move. Also, it was about the time for a late lunch. Was that a coincidence or had Will thought of that when he picked him up?
Then James saw another car drive in, and felt a freight train of terror hit him in the chest. It was a silver car with two men in it, exactly the same as the first time; with a Hunter he recognised driving. It was happening again.
He hid himself beneath the level of the window, and locked the car using the keys Will had left, since apparently this car had no button to lock it with.
James waited anxiously. After five minutes, he sat up and looked out. There was no sign of them. He sat in the passenger seat, waiting anxiously. He didn't know where they'd gone. He continued to wait, nerves coiling at the thought of another fight, where this time he wouldn't have the element of surprise.
James jumped when there was a tap on the driver's window. It was Will. James hadn't heard him sneaking up. Will got in the car and started the engine, humming to himself.
"What happened to them?" James asked, glancing back.
"One of them handed me his wallet and killed himself," replied Will, "I didn't see the other, but if he follows us, we'll know."
"He got away," said the voice over the phone, "And one of our men was killed."
"Really?" asked the contact from the bedroom of his house, "Who was it? Charlie?"
"No, the Watchman. He was the one on sentry duty, and was called in for extra manpower. He was killed following the boy. You neglected to mention any backup."
"I had no way of knowing," he replied, in false sadness. He didn't care. He'd never liked the man anyway. And he personally had nothing against the child. The opposite in fact. He was new to this world; he was innocent for the moment.
It was him who had suggested the idea of tracking him using the phone number, but inwardly he wanted the kid to live. So in a way, the Watchman's death was his fault.
"Well, I'll keep you updated with any further information," he said, a little overly cheerful, "Bye."
He hung up first. It was a small thing, but he felt it gave him more superiority. He had more power than most of these goons here anyway. And more intelligence. For example, the kid James. They underestimated him completely, sending out incompetent fools for the son of Michael Stone! Twice! And what happened? A bullet in the leg and a dead body. It couldn't all be luck, although admittedly he wasn't likely to be the one that killed the Watchman. He knew him that well at least. The kid was no murderer.
The contact wondered idly if the kid was as powerful as the Guildmaster had worried he could be. Maybe James had taken out the men sent after him from genuine power and skill. Or maybe they were fools that brought it on themselves. He was glad of their deaths. It cast him in a good light and showed that he was the one to be relied on here, a good thing if he was to get right to the top of this organisation.
He felt nothing for the people in it. They had no respect for their enemies, they thought them sub-human. Whereas he knew they were much more than just freaks. They were a force to be reckoned with, and not underestimated. The Guildmaster must know that too. A man commanding the combined forces of the Hunters must have got to that position somehow.
He planned to take the seat himself if possible, although he knew the regulars would be unlikely to accept it. He just needed to get close enough to the Guildmaster to destroy him. He was already trusted, and highly paid. Sure, they had been very suspicious at first, but he had proved himself when he had killed Michael Stone. And they knew now that he was too far gone to go back.
When the time came, he thought he could take power. He just needed to plan it, and control would be his. Then this war would be won. He was a man with a vision.
A/N: If I don't get round to uploading the rest, here's a link to where I have: story/3081769-stone . Please check out Foresight too, which in my opinion is the better of the two.