Her name is Yuri.
It's a boy's name, but she loves it. It was given to her by the man–the first thing she owned that no one could take away, and the first man Yuri had met with more ability than her. He'd taken her off the streets, cared for her, taught her to rein in her powers, and lots of new skills.
He'd turned her world upside down.Your imagination is your limit Yuri
, he'd say, if you want a necklace of water, make it so, if you want the drops to fall to the sky, make their up into down!
And he was right. The man had always been right–and nice, and not scared of her.
Now the man is dead, and Yuri is on a rampage.
'Status report, unit one, report!'
'Quit it, Randall! They're dead.'
'If that explosion was that bastard Svarenko taking them down with him, how come the chief and Bart just went off the radar? What the fuck is going on?!'
'Use your senses, heck, use your eyes
! That's another esper!'
The soldiers risk a glance over their ragged cover, to the body floating fifteen metres up, silhouetted by crackling plasma and a cloud of orbiting debris.
'Oh man, this wasn't in the mission briefing!'
Before she had a name, in the nettle-infested ditch of the Past she never thought she would climb out of, Yuri had been Alone, with-a-capital-A.
Too different to belong with the curb-squatting, glue-sniffing urchins she shared the streets with, too powerful to risk attracting the adults' attention, she'd spent years roaming the city, its many wonders locked behind cold glass, often leaving her feeling like it was her who was trapped in a vitrine, and the rest of the world rolling by, an endless show of things for her to see and desire but never own, lest she steal or got lucky at the bottom of some bin.
She'd used her powers sparingly: while other destitute kids chased down the likewise destitute cats and sent them hurling toward clothes lines, aiming at new jeans and hoping they'd claw them and fall back down together, she could will the clothes to her. She could part the garbage without sullying her hands, she stayed dry under the rain, and could reach any roof for the best hiding spots.
But not much more, for the three kids she'd known who'd had a shred of power in them had all disappeared-the girl with the red curls, the boy who stole pastries though the windows, and Vanya's baby brother from the south church orphanage–gone
Her powers are melting reality around her, churning pockets of matter bubbling and fizzing out of existence. Gravity is a mess, with Yuri as the eye of a typhoon of psychic energy and tears. Her eyes well, their water rising, each bat of her lashes sending the salty drops to swirl above her head.
Even through the blur she can see the ruins under her feet of the home the man had made for them. A hiding spot from all the world's troubles
, he'd called it. Your new home.
Blown away now in twenty chunks of dust by the attack of twenty cowards.
She prods for the twelve survivors, their weak esper minds struggling against hers.
There is no one to stop her, no one to save the men from her.
They had come in the quiet of the night.
The man had been dozing, the book he'd been reading to her resting on his chin. She'd delicately brushed his silver-blond hair from his brow and daydreamed of a future in which she dared to call him papa. Or da. Anything to reflect the love that had grown to bursting inside her. In her fantasy he'd smile and laugh and make her fly, high on the wind.
They'd sensed the approaching threat simultaneously, heads snapping up, dreams discarded, alerted by the the soldiers' foul fear, the collective mass of their doubts, and the unrepressed waves of their own ability.
'Yuri, these men are psychics, espers like you and me.'
'But not strong like us.'
'No but they can work together, it makes them dangerous. Do you remember what I told you?'
'There's only twenty...'
'Yes but can't I stay with you? I know I–'
'No buts. They're only after me, and they can't find out about you.'
It used to be that no one knew or cared. Before the man, she'd not even been 'Yuri', just another freak kid that all the others made great efforts to avoid. Now in this person's eyes she had positive value. She mattered.
The gears of her powerful mind tripped and grind at the thought of losing him.
'Do you remember?'
A soldier steps forward, anonymous behind his kevlar vest and balaclava, spearheading a mental attack. It ricochets on her shields with a spark.
Yuri knows she cannot alter any creature with an opposing will, so she traps him in a bubble of vacuum. Fighting him over the air, heat, pressure. The man pushes back, but he lacks her intimate knowledge of coldness, hunger, the void you feel in absence of all things, the negation of life.
When the soldier dies, she collapses the bubble with him in it, and terror shimmers in the eleven remaining minds.
Things are as she wills them, and she wills them dead
, like the man, gone
, like the man, never to be seen again, heard again, felt again, like the man!
'I got blood on my hands.'
She'd left running, on foot and empty-handed, all the new things the man had gotten her, an urchin's dream made true, left behind in her rush to obey his orders to stay hidden and undetectable.
She'd stopped when the explosion behind her took away all awarness of him.
He'd sacrificed himself to protect her.
Anger rose like magma in her throat.
'I'm a wanted man.'
There is nothing to stop Yuri from annihilating the soldiers.
She has no greater understanding of what the man's wishes might have been, in sending her away, what hopes he'd entertained for her well-being, what morals he'd planed to instil in her. She was raised in the streets, where the most brutal of materialism applies, and death attains its most complete form: it makes no sense to think for the dead or wonder about their opinion or wishes.
They are dead.
'Do you understand?'
'Please, oh fuck, please!'
The final soldier flails helplessly on his back, crushed by a pressure he cannot shake off.
She steps through the mist of blood she turned his last teammate into. Everything went so fast, he cannot think, not with her animosity rubbing his mind raw.
He sees a girl-shaped mass of hate, the edges of her being growing fuzzier, her eyes pits of light, her fluttering pink pyjamas the most human thing about her. Her aura seems to bend the moonlight in a million colours that hurt the eye, sending arcing fingers of deadly thunder groping the air for something to curl around.
In despair he pitches all he has to free himself, to inch away from the weight that vows to merge him with the cracking concrete.
'It's not what I want for you.'
She steps forward, mindless, lost in her rage, completing the task she set herself, ready to lose that last bit of purpose to her life.
Two large hands slap the sides of her face, crashing right through her shields, ringing her ears.
'What the hell are you doing, didn't I tell you to run away?'
It's the man, come out of thin air. Everything stops, roaring silence blanketing them: the surviving soldier, the man who ought to be dead, and the girl who looks just like a ragged ten years-old about to cry her eyes out.
The man looks around, his hands never leaving Yuri's face.
'Sheesh, no wonder they didn't follow me, and I'm barely back in time... Couldn't you trust me Yuri? Do you think I'd have left you alone like that, if I couldn't fight these punks? Ah, don't cry now–'
He picks her up, cradling her spindly body in his arms and shoulder. She curls there to sob, to turn back into the child she's hardly begun to learn how to be.
'I'm sorry kid. I should have told you the whole plan,' he murmurs in her hair, patting her head, 'I should have trusted you more too. I won't leave you again.'
He turns to the soldier who has not yet dared twitch a muscle.
'What's your name, you lucky idiot?'
'You go back home, Randall. Bag whatever is left of your friends and give it to Marlow, or whoever runs the CIA these days,' the man bends forward, his eyes blazing white hot, 'you tell him that Vitomir Svarenko says hi, and to leave my daughter and I alone.'