Fearless (Bird of Stone #2)

By: Tracey Ward
Bird of Stone Series Book Two



Chapter One


Nick





When I was nine years old, my dad bought me a remote control helicopter. He took me to the park near our house, where he taught me how to fly it. He said I had a natural feel for flying with nerves of steel and an intuition that couldn’t be taught. He told me I should be a pilot. It’s one of my favorite memories of being a kid—just him and I out in the open, the electric whine of the chopper buzzing overhead.

Then he died, and I never flew anything again.

Not until now.

Watching the giant bird soar against the wind, hesitate high and heavy in the sky, then drop with a force unnatural and ungodly in this world is a feeling I can never describe. I can sense the wind rushing around it the way I can sense the tides in a dream. That’s how I know I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger.

I would be afraid if I had any sense. If I had the option to feel it.

“Nick.”

Alex’s voice brings me around, pulling me out of myself. It’s full of pain and fatigue. It’s no mystery as to why: she’s covered in blood from a shoulder wound, not to mention the cuts all over her hands. She wavers precariously on her knees, threatening to keel over. I turn toward her to help her up, but before I can make it a single step her face contorts with fear.

“Nick!” she cries.

I don’t turn to see it. I already know. I can feel it in the dizzying rush of the fall. The feeling tips me over and drops me to the ground like a drunk on a Tilt-A-Whirl. I don’t even try to fight it. I can’t pull either of us out of this nosedive.

“Get down!” I shout to her as my face rushes toward the asphalt.

When the explosion hits, it shakes the ground just as I connect with it. I feel the heat of fire igniting behind me. Glass crackles as metal groans under pressure, both protesting the heat of the flames. Then as quickly as it happened, it goes nearly silent.

I risk a glance behind me.

The sleek surface of the stone bird shimmers under the flames. Waves of rippling heat distort it, making it look like it’s moving, but it’s done. I know because I’m not with it anymore. I can’t feel it—and considering it crashed face first into an armored truck, I’m grateful. And angry. I’d rather have brought it in easy than face-punch the ground with it.

“I’ll give you high marks for the flying,” Alex calls, “but your landing was crap.”

When I push myself up off the ground I find her lying on her back, staring at the ceiling.

“Are you okay?”

“Fan-freakin’-tastic. How are you, Nick?”

I rise slowly, ready for injuries or the exhaustion that’s destroying her. I don’t feel anything.

“I’m pretty good, actually.”

“That didn’t wear you out?” she asks in amazement, lifting her head to glare at me.

“No.” I’m way ahead of her. It’s weird. Pulling the Jabberwocky from the dream drained Alex to the point of collapse, but bringing the bird to life was easy for me. Exciting even. It was like a high, one I’m still buzzing from. “No, I’m wired. I could run a marathon right now.”

“Not fair,” she groans, pulling herself into a sitting position. She stares down the tunnel for a long time and I wonder if she’s fallen asleep sitting up. Finally, she says weakly, “We have to go back in there.”

“No.”

She looks over her shoulder, the glare returning.

I sigh internally. “No, we do not need to go back in there,” I amend gently. “I know you want the files, but it’s not worth it. You don’t even know if they exist.”

“They do. I know they do. He’s a dinosaur. Trust me, he has hard copies.”

“So what? Say we find these hypothetical files. What then? What are we doing with them? Are we hunting these people down?”

“No, not hunting them. We’ll find them and tell them we understand what’s been done to them. Maybe we can help them.” She shrugs casually but it looks staged and awkward. “Who knows? Maybe they can help us.”

I kneel down in front of her, trying to reason with her eye to eye. “We need to help ourselves first. Besides, how do you know all of the people in those files want help? If you had shown up at my door out of the blue saying you were a science experiment too and we should form a support group, I’d have either shot you or called the cops ‘cause you’re crazy.”

She chews on the inside of her lip, debating. I sit silently as I let her mull it over. When her eyes eventually find mine, I know she’s going to argue. But the moment that I know I’ll cave—that doesn’t come until I hear her voice.

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