Chapter 7

Aimee glared at him and Brownie turned back to the clerk. Shawn recalled his harsh comments in gym class.

                Only Dallyce was civil enough to give him a smile. Of the people in the store that he knew, Shawn realized that most of them didn't like him. Even the Goth chick Shawn has seen occasionally at school was giving him a barely disguised look of disgust.

                "Alright then," he said a bit uncertainly. "Guess nothing much is going on."

                To hide his sudden feelings of discomfort and to keep from looking like a fool by standing in the doorway, Shawn crossed the store in large strides to grab a pop from the fridge.

                He was reaching into his pockets for loose change when he heard the guy by the newspaper stand mutter, "What the hell?" Shawn turned to look at what had drawn the guy's attention just as the bells over the door jingled. Shawn stood, frozen at the sight before him.

                An old man stood in the door, leaning on the frame with his face grimacing in pain. Blood dripped into a small pool that trailed in tiny rivulets out the store. A large explosion of bright red above his right breast contrasted sharply with the stark whiteness of his lab coat. He gripped a plain black briefcase in a white-knuckled grip, as though what lay inside was of the utmost importance. The man slumped unceremoniously to the floor.

                Then the moment of paralysis was over and everyone jumped into action. The clerk hurriedly grabbed the phone, presumably to call 9-1-1, while everyone else, Shawn included, rushed to the old man's side.

                A minute of confusion followed until Dallyce asked the man softly, "what happened?" Shawn watched the man turn towards her, reaching out for her hand; she complied.

                "I discovered the truth," he rasped gutturally, coughing up blood and Shawn realized that the bullet, for what else could have wounded the man, had damaged at least one of the lungs. Instinctively, Shawn knew the man was going to die very soon, just like he knew when one of his slap shots would result in a goal.

                The old man turned towards him and as though reading his mind, said, "I don't have long to live; you must know the truth as well."

                Shawn paid little heed to the hurried speech of the clerk on the phone, and the crowding of people around him. He took the old man's other hand, and asked, "What is the truth?"

He held his breath almost fearfully, waiting for the man to speak. His gut feeling told him that what was said now, in the gas station, was going to change his life forever.

The old man coughed, "My name is Dr. Thomas Goebel. I study the workings of the brain, and was involved in a research project where we examined the inherent psychic workings of the brain. My partner and I wondered, 'What if we could harness this power in a concentrated amount?' We could do so many wonderful things…" He paused, and Shawn looked at the others to see what they thought of what the man was telling them. He himself had heard a little bit about inherent psychic energy, but it was mostly something he had seen when he had accidentally flipped onto the discovery channel and had seen a report on people like Edgar Cayce and this one monk who levitated off of a monastery floor during prayer.

Dr. Goebel groaned in pain, and Dallyce applied pressure to his wound, trying to stem the bleeding while they waited for the clerk to get an ambulance. "At first, everything was alright," the doctor continued. "We figured a way to draw out the psychic energy of these people, and how to place it into miniscule, everyday objects that could be used by other people to enhance their own powers or to develop new ones that they wouldn't normally be associated. We learned so many things about the human mind. It was a scientific breakthrough!" He gasped for a moment, breathless from talking.

"I wanted to release our findings to the scientific community right away, of course, but my partner, he convinced me to wait until we could find out more about what we were doing." The doctor sighed, coughing up more blood as a result. Dallyce pulled him on his side so the blood would drain out of his mouth and so he would not choke on it. "It never occurred to me that there was more to his suggestion than that. In truth, he was going on without me, doing studies that should have never seen the light of day. He was conducting harmful experiments, trying to see just how much power could be taken away from a person. It turns out that, if using the proper mechanics, one could strip all of the power away from a person instead of just some of it."

He shook his head sadly, turning to all of them, eyes glassy with pain. "People began to die from my partner's experiments. Their psychic power also acted as a sort of protective shield from dangers in this world that we aren't even aware of because of our inherent energies.

I found out what he had been secretly doing tonight; I acted without really thinking it through. He asked me to join him, but I could never willingly take part in the killing of innocent people, even for a scientific breakthrough such as what we had discovered.

                I did what I could, although it was not very much. I couldn't destroy any of the files we had on our study; he had them all locked up in his office where even I could not reach them. No, all I could really do was grab what he had accomplished thus far; I took the crystals we had been depositing energy into along with some of my notes. They're in my briefcase." He motioned for it, so Brownie grabbed it and gave it to him.

                The clerk called from the counter, "The ambulance will be awhile. They're all out on calls right now, and the hospital will send one as soon as they can."

                "Thanks Bethany," Brownie acknowledged, turning back to the doctor and the briefcase.

                He struggled to open the case and finally got it unclasped. Shawn craned his neck to see what it contained.

                Six stones and a notebook lay inside. The stones were strung on pieces of resin like old-fashioned necklaces and the reddish-colored book was in tatters. Dr. Goebel reached inside and grabbed the necklaces one by one.

                The first was a light, yellow-tinged rock. The doctor passed it to Dallyce with a small smile. 

The second one was blood-red, which he attempted to pass to Cari. "No thanks," she said quickly, shying away from his reach. "I don't want it," she added as an afterthought.

Dr. Goebel answered, "But it wants you." Shawn gazed at the hanging stone and could almost see an increasingly shiny quality to it as it came closer to Cari. She reluctantly took it from the doctor's grasp and he reached into his briefcase again to come up with what looked like a blue water-stone.

The man Aimee had came in with reached forward to take it from his grasp without being told to take it. After that, Aimee herself got a milky-white stone and Brownie received the green stone.

There was one left in the case, and the doctor looked at Shawn closely for a minute, scrutinizing him. He finally pulled the last stone necklace out. Unlike the others, the grey stone hung on a fine chain of silver, enhancing the luster and delicacy of the rock.

"This is yours," Dr. Goebel told Shawn carefully. "You must be careful with it, because it is a balance between black and white, corruption and peace. This is pure, unconstrained power whether you choose to use it recklessly or responsibly. If used in the wrong way, it could destroy you."

Shawn didn't really understand what the old doctor meant, but that didn't stop the unknown implications and old self-doubts from a buried past that barreled through his mind. "I -"

He was interrupted by the doctor. "What's your name son?" he asked gently, seeing the doubt written across Shawn's face.

"Shawn," he replied.

"Well then, don't believe what I've told you right now if you don't want to, but you are a vital part of this group, Shawn. Act wisely and if I can give you any advice that matters, don't give up. Never give up on your friends and don't give up on the world."

Shawn nodded stoically, accepting the chain and its precious pendant. He slipped it on overtop his still-damp hair and tucked it underneath his hockey jersey.

Suddenly the squeal of tires came from outside the gas station. Dr. Goebel's face twisted in fear. "Take the ledger!" he yelled, grabbing it and pushing it into Shawn's hands. "Lead them to safety," he whispered urgently.

Shawn looked outside and saw a large white van driving down the street with an emblem reading 'Radisson Lab Security' on the side. He turned back to the doctor. "I will," he answered solemnly. To the group, "Let's hurry."

Shawn got up, grabbed his hockey bag and ran out of the doors with the others, risking only one small glance back. Dr. Goebel was lying in a pool of his own blood with a look of fear on his face as he awaited his fate with the unknown people in the white van.

"To the van," Aimee called to Shawn, pointing to a worn-down, beat up vehicle. Cari and Brownie were already climbing into the backseats with Dallyce hot on their heels. Aimee jumped in the passenger side, the guy Shawn had decided was her boyfriend jumped into the driver's seat and Shawn himself joined Cari, Brownie, and Dallyce in the backseat.

Don't give up on my friends? These aren't my friends, he thought somewhat cynically as the vehicle tore out of the parking lot just as the Radisson Lab Security van drove in. Shawn glimpsed a dark-colored man leaning out of the passenger window with a small pistol in his hand. "They've got a gun!" he shouted.

"I know," the driver responded grimly. The vehicle swerved as the sound of shots fired became apparent. A loud screeching of metal told them that the bullets were being fired at the back end of their vehicle.

"Hurry Kell," Aimee urged.

 "I'm going, I'm going!" he answered irritably. "Are they following us?"

Shawn looked through the back windows. "No," he responded. "It looks like they've stopped at the gas station."

He watched the half-dozen or so men jump out of the van and head to the station until it was no longer visible on the horizon. He sighed and turned forward in his seat. Seconds later, the sound of a solitary gunshot split through the air. Shawn shuddered in his seat. Beside him, Dallyce was crying uncontrollably.

"Come on Dallyce. It's alright," Shawn comforted. "We're all safe and sound now. No one is going to hurt us." He didn't know that for certain, but if it would make Dallyce feel better, Shawn felt he could afford to lie.

She turned her tear-streaked face upon him as though truly seeing him for the first time. "We should have brought him with us," she said. "Then he wouldn't have died."

"We wouldn't have gotten out in time," Cari responded desolately behind her.

Shawn shook his head. "Cari's right," he agreed. "We would never have gotten out ahead of those security guys, and you saw him, Dallyce. He was bleeding pretty badly. He probably wouldn't have lasted longer than another half hour. What were we supposed to have done?"

No one spoke for awhile after that.

"Listen," Brownie finally piped up from the very back, "I know a place we can hang where it's safe. Turn left up here."

Kell obliged, and soon Brownie's directions were the only sound to be heard. Dallyce had stopped crying, and everyone else sat mutely in their seats.

Shawn concentrated on the cool feel of stone against his skin while he fingered the dog-eared ledger, wondering about the secrets it contained. He was confused and didn't really understand what had happened in the gas station. He was shaken to the core and left wondering, was it all worth it?