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Preface

Jess ran through the woods, ignoring their calls to come back.
The truth behind her parents disappearance had been right there.
But she couldn't make herself walk through the door.
Couldn't make herself face reality.
Over the years, images had flashed through her mind, each more terrifying than the last.
But the truth was much, much worse than all of them combined.
If she didn't join the Neverseen, they'd attack.
But if she did, she'd be on the run once again.
She couldn't imagine hurting others on purpose.
She was Project Firestorm.
She was made to hurt others.
But it still felt wrong.
And it always would.
She froze.
There, right in front of her, was a black-cloaked figure.
She clutched the sword at her side, waiting for them to attack.
But she didn't expect him to say, "I need help."

Chapter one: Strange Language

{Jessica's pov}

Jess ran through the woods, stopping right outside town.

She quickly shifted back into her human form and looked around, seeing a boy with icy blue eyes and blond hair staring straight at her, looking confused.

Dang it! she thought. Maybe he didn't see everything?

He looked familiar, too.

Unfortunately, he walked up. "Were you just a wolf?" He asked slowly.

She shook her head, but he didn't believe her.

"How do you do that?" He asked.

Jess sighed. Clearly he'd caught her.

"Fine. I don't really know how, okay?" Jess transformed into a wolf and back.

"Please don't tell anyone," Jess told the boy. "My town is very against anything unusual."

The boy frowned, still looking confused. "Why?"

Jess sighed again. "You ask too many questions. Meet me here tomorrow at two. I'll tell you everything then. Right now, I can't be gone for too long. See you then..!"

Jess started running into town, stopping when the boy yelled, "Keefe! My name is Keefe."

"Jess." She replied, starting to run again.

When she got to town, a girl called her. "Jessie!" 

Jess turned to see Harmony Williams, her best friend. "It's Jess." She replied.

Harmony had pinkish hair and bright blue eyes.

Harmony rolled her eyes. "So, I can't wait for tomorrow!"

"What's tomorrow?" Jess asked.

Harmony frowned. "Don't you remember? There's a huge party to celebrate the first day of school!"

Jess's nose twitched. "P-party?" She asked.

Parties meant people.

People meant an even bigger chance for somebody to find out her secret.

"Jess, how could you forget? It starts at two!"

Jess groaned, remembering her plans for the next day.

"I can't, Harmony." Jess said, biting her lip.

"Why?" Harmony asked.

"I'm meeting with someone at two."

Harmony grinned. "Is it a boy?"

Jess rolled her eyes.

"YOU DIDN'T SAY NO! YAASSSSS!"

Jess rolled her eyes again. "I have to get going. I have to get rest if I'm going to be early to meet him tomorrow."

"Bye! Have fun on your date!"

"It's not a date!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next morning, Jess waited for Keefe to show up.

He was an hour late, and showed up right as Jess was about to give up and leave.

She shifted into her human form and walked up to Keefe.

"It's about time you got here." Jess muttered.

"Well sorry for needing time to do my hair." Keefe said.

Jess glared at him. "You needed all day to do your stupid hair?"

"Do not insult The Hair!"

"Whatever. What do you want to know?"

"Why is your town against unusual stuff?"

Jess shrugged. "Nobody really knows, except for the president. And it's not like anyone can count on talking to him."

She picked up a knife off the ground and put it in her bag.

"What?" She asked when she saw Keefe staring.

"What's that for?" Keefe asked.

"Protection." She simply replied, turning away and trying not to relive any of the memories..

"From what?"

"I'll tell you once I know I can trust you."

"I might be able to help." Keefe said. "Was it the people in black cloaks?"

Jess froze, then turned to Keefe. "How do you know about them?" She whispered.

"They've done a lot of bad things." He said.

Jess nodded, looking down. "Yes. They have."

Then she smelled something.

Ash. Ash meant fire, and fire meant...

Jess stumbled backwards, clinging to a tree.

"I... have to go," she whispered, shifting into a wolf form and running away.

She ran far away, following the smell of ash.

She froze when she saw it.

Fire.

But it was.... white?

And it was heading for her town.

But worst of all, three figures in black cloaks were just leaving.

And there was a girl with blonde hair who was blindfolded and sedated and tied right in the fire's path.

Without thinking, Jess ran up and untied the girl, quickly shifting into her human form again.

She brought the girl to her village, and took her into an alley that led to her home.

She took off the blindfold, and couldn't believe that she forgot it.

A few minutes later, the girl woke up.

She had brown eyes, Jess noticed.

"Who are you?" She asked Jess.

"I'm Jess. I saw the figures leave you near the fire. I couldn't just leave you. Now here we are."

The girl pulled out an eyelash and closed her eyes, and Jess took the opportunity to try and read her mind.

It seemed like the girl was having a mental conversation with somebody.

Only a telepath could do that, though.

And they were using a strange language, also.

Even stranger, Jess understood it.

There's a girl named Jess here. Think it could be her?

Does she have blue eyes? An accented voice asked.

No. But neither do I.

Sophie, we can't chance it.

Sophie must be the girl's name.

Jess got out of Sophie's mind, not wanting to invade their privacy too much.

Who did they think she was?

Blue eyes? Why did that even matter, anyways?

Sophie opened her eyes. "I need to go." She said.

Jess stopped her from getting up. "What you need is to rest. I don't know how, but you broke your arm."

"Another reason I need to go." Sophie said, standing up.

"Sophie, wait." Jess said, hoping Sophie didn't catch her slip.

Unfortunately, she did. "How do you know my name?"

"Uh.." Jess tried to come up with a lie, but nothing made sense.

"Are you a telepath or something?" Sophie asked.

Jess flinched.

"You are, aren't you?" Sophie whispered.

"I..." Jess started. Without thinking, she transformed into a wolf and ran away.

"What the mallowmelt?" Sophie whispered as Jess ran.

What was mallowmelt?

Jess wasn't sure she wanted to know.

As she was running, she saw Jade Peterson, the shyest girl in town.

She was also one of Jess's closest friends.

Jade had green eyes and brown hair.

Jess ran into an alley, shifted into her human form, and walked up to Jade.

"Hey Jade!" She said.

"Hey Jess. I thought you were meeting with somebody in, like, five minutes?"

Jess's eyes widened. "I totally forgot!"

Jess was supposed to meet this guy named Alvar somewhere in the woods.

He'd told her he had a camp there.

She'd met him when she was exploring the other day.

The strange part was, he didn't seem confused when he saw her transform.

In fact, he'd looked relieved. That was why Jess had been reluctant to meet at first.

Harmony came running up, panting. "There you are! You can not meet with that guy named Alvar today!"

Jess frowned. "Why?"

"Please trust me." She said.

"I do," Jess replied, "but I can protect myself."

"Jess, you can't."

That was the first time Harmony didn't call her Jessie.

What was going on?

"Harmony, I'll be fine. I finally met someone who isn't scared of me, what could go wrong?"

"He could be one of those dudes in the black cloaks." Harmony pointed out.

Jess sighed. "I can take care of myself."

She grabbed her bow and arrows from her bag.

She aimed for a tree in the woods and shot, hitting it right in the center.

Then she ran to the woods to meet with Alvar, waving to her friends.

When she got to the camp, it was quiet.

Too quiet.

Jess held her bow and started looking around.

It was dark, but she could barely make out a black cloak in the shadows.

Just as she started to run, a figure in a black cloak appeared out of nowhere and grabbed her wrist.

She struggled to get away, eventually deciding there was no other way than to transmit to somebody.

She opened her thoughts to Harmony's.

Harmony? Jess transmitted.

Jess?

I'll explain this later, I need help.

You met with Alvar, didn't you?

Yeah.

Someone shook Jess, most likely to end their mental conversation. But Jess had always been able to stay connected no matter what happened. 

Then she realized that the Disappearing Dude(her name for the figure who appeared out of nowhere) had moved behind her and was holding her wrists.

There was one other figure, holding fire.

Jess kicked the figure behind her in the knee and shifted into an eagle, flying away.

The other figure threw the fire, hitting her wing.

Jess winced in pain and began to fall towards a lake, quickly shifting into a fish.

When she landed, she swam to the beach nearby and shifted into her human form.

She had a burn on her wrist, since she didn't have wings in her human form, obviously.

She quickly ran into town, going to the alley where she'd last seen Sophie.

Sophie was gone. Hopefully she didn't find the passage to Jess's home.

Jess trailed her hands along the brick wall until she heard a soft click!, and pushed one of the bricks back, opening a secret passage with narrow steps.

She walked in, pressing a button to close the door.

She started walking down the stairs, watching the walls and counting her steps.

She stopped to press another button hidden in a wall and another door opened.

Jess walked in, grabbing a bandage and wrapping it around her wrist.

When she turned around, she saw Clarity, her older sister. She was also the only other person who knew about Jess's secret base, seeing as they both lived there.

Clarity had shoulder-length black hair and icy blue eyes that looked a little bit like Keefe's.

"Oh, hey Clarity!"

"Hey! Sorry I wasn't home all day, someone in town staged a protest to let other people in town, not just basic people. Dozens of people joined in, also. Including me."

"Did they listen?" Jess asked, biting her lip.

"No. And I have a feeling Harmony's family will be kicked out of the town."

"Harmony? Why?"

"Her father was the one who staged the protest, and her mother joined in." Clarity replied, grabbing an apple. "They fear her family will grow to be too strong, and it will be an issue. Also, it's not like they can let her grow up without a father. She's only fourteen, remember."

"I wish they'd listen one of these days." Jess said. "The townspeople are getting stronger, and soon this town could crumble into chaos."

"I dream of the day they listen," Clarity agreed. "But I know it'll never come true."

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

Clarity smiled. "Wow sis, when did you get so inspirational?"

Jess shrugged. "I had lots of time to learn while you were away."

"Whatever, I'm tired now. It's midnight, goodnight Jess."

"Goodnight Clarity."

Jess waited until she was sure Clarity was asleep, then she snuck out.

She walked through the door and back up the steps, pressing a button to get out.

She ran to the woods, sitting in the grass and looking up at the sky.

Jess didn't notice Keefe until he sat next to her.

"You okay?" He asked.

Jess nodded. "Yeah. I'm fine."

Keefe grabbed Jess's hand, shaking his head. "Nope, I don't think you are."

Jess turned to look at him, pulling her hand away. "And how would you know if I was or not?"

"Uh... lucky guess?"

"I never said it was correct," Jess pointed out. "It could've been an unlucky guess."

Keefe seemed to be trying to think of what to say.

"Tell me the truth." Jess said.

"I know you are but what am I?" Keefe answered, smirking.

Jess sighed. "That doesn't even make sense!"

"I know you are but what am I?"

"You are so annoying"

"Yeah, I get that a lot."

Jess rolled her eyes.

"Jess?" She heard Clarity yell.

"I gotta get going." She told Keefe.

Jess quickly stood up and started running into the woods, with Keefe following her.

"You're weirder than Sophie." Jess mumbled.

"You know Sophie?" Keefe asked.

"Uh...yeah. I met her yesterday." Jess replied, now noticing that the sun was rising.

"Huh. I didn't think she was allowed to be here." Keefe mumbled, in the same strange language Jess had heard Sophie and the other boy talking in.

"Why?" She asked, and Keefe froze and turned to her. Jess stopped, too.

"You can understand me?"

Chapter two: The Council

Previously...

"You're weirder than Sophie." Jess mumbled.

"You know Sophie?" Keefe asked.

"Uh...yeah. I met her yesterday." Jess replied, now noticing that the sun was rising.

"Huh. I didn't think she was allowed to be here." Keefe mumbled, in the same strange language Jess had heard Sophie and the other boy talking in.

"Why?" She asked, and Keefe froze and turned to her. Jess stopped, too.

"You can understand me?"

---

[Jess's pov]

"Uh... yeah." Jess said. "Why?"

"I didn't know anybody would be able to." Keefe mumbled.

Jess shrugged. "I can understand pretty much any language, plus I heard Sophie talking in it."

"Really?" Keefe asked.

"Yeah. I don't understand it."

"I do," Keefe mumbled, so quietly he probably didn't think Jess could hear.

"You do?" She asked. "How?"

"I... have a friend with the same ability." Keefe replied.

Jess definitely didn't miss the way Keefe had hesitated.

She sighed. "Fine, I get it. You don't want to tell me the truth, that's fine."

"No, I do, but... I can't." Keefe replied.

"Why can't you?" Jess argued.

"I just can't, okay? I have to talk to... someone, before I know if I'm allowed to tell you."

Again, Jess noted that Keefe had hesitated.

"Whatever, I have to go." Jess said, sighing. "And don't follow me. Also, if you see a girl with short black hair and icy blue eyes, like yours, please don't tell her you saw me."

"Why?"

"She's my sister. She doesn't know I snuck out."

"Oh. Got it." Keefe said. 

"Thanks."

Jess shifted to a wolf form and ran away.

She thought she saw a flash of light, so she turned around, seeing that Keefe was gone.

Weird, she thought.

Jess ran farther away, almost tripping on a stick.

Except, it wasn't a normal stick.

It was a slender silver wand, with intricate carvings etched into the sides and a round, clear crystal on the top.

The crystal had probably thousands of facets.

Jess shifted into a human form and picked it up, holding it to the light to get a better view.

A bright beam refracted toward the ground, and Jess backed up.

What in the...

Without thinking, Jess ran straight into the light.

Somehow, she knew what to do.

Jess concentrated on the warm tingling feeling, appearing seconds later in front of a huge, glowing gate.

She had to shield her eyes, so she didn't notice the man in front of her.

When she did see him, she didn't miss the way he looked strangely at her.

She was so distracted by his strangely teal eyes, that she almost missed his question.

"Are you a friend of Fitz or Biana's?" He asked.

He also had a strange accent. It was almost British, but crisper.

And he was wearing a cape, for some unknown reason.

"Who?" She couldn't help asking. "I don't even know where I am!"

The man frowned, as if he didn't expect her to understand him.

But maybe he didn't.

Jess noticed that the gate was open, and she could see a giant mansion--or maybe castle was more like it--made entirely out of crystal.

How rich was he?

The man cleared his throat. "I'm Alden, and you are at Everglen."

"Everglen?"

"Yes. I will have to talk to the Council about you. Don't worry, I'm sure we can get you home soon. What's your name?"

"Jess," she replied.

"What's your last name?" Alden asked, frowning.

"I... don't have one." Jess mumbled.

Then it hit her.

Clarity was probably having a panic attack!

"I have to get back!"

"Yes, I told you we will get you home soon."

Jess shook her head. "You don't understand, I have to go back now!"

She thought she saw a black-cloaked figure, in the trees nearby.

She stumbled backwards, holding her knees and shaking her head so hard it hurt as her memories came rushing back.

[Fitz's pov]  

When Fitz came outside to see what his dad was doing, he saw a girl sitting down, holding her knees and shaking her head so hard it had to hurt.

"Dad? Who's that?"

"That's Jess. She's been like this for an hour now. The Council should be here soon."

"I'm going to try to read her mind." Fitz said quietly, so Jess wouldn't hear.

His dad nodded, so Fitz pressed his fingers against Jess's temples and opened his mind to hers.

Nothing.

Fitz pulled his mind free.

Just like Sophie, he thought.

Then Jess started screaming.

"Get out of my head!" She shouted, standing up and leaning against a tree.

Fitz noted that she had brown eyes, like Sophie.

Suddenly, she transformed into a wolf.

It was only a second before she changed back, but Fitz definetly saw it.

And when he glanced at his dad, it looked like he did, too.

Jess bit her lip.

"How did you do that?" Fitz whispered.

Jess transformed again, running away.

"Dad? Is that an ability?" Fitz asked.

"I don't think so, I've never seen anything like it."

"Weird," Fitz mumbled.

"Let's not forget that Sophie can teleport. There may be other unknown abilities."

Fitz nodded.

Then all twelve Councillors gilittered into the clearing.

"Where is the girl?" Councillor Emery asked.

"She left," Fitz told him.

"Unbelievible," Councillor Alina grumbled.

Fitz wanted so hard to punch her, but punching a Councillor would be a bad idea.

"Please let us know if you see her again." Emery said.

"Of course," Fitz's dad replied.

The Councillors held up their crystals and light leaped away.

Fitz thought he heard soft breathing from behind the tree Jess had been leaning on.

"I'll be right back," he told his dad, walking up to the tree.

He looked behind it to see Jess, who was sitting in the grass and staring into the trees.

"Jess?" He asked.

She looked up, standing up and walking backwards.

She looked confused by his cape.

"How do you know my name?"

"I won't hurt you." Fitz promised. "I'm Fitz."

He could see the fear in her eyes, but she sat back down, looking at the sky.

Fitz walked over and sat next to her.

"Please don't tell anyone I'm here." Jess said, looking at Fitz.

"Why?"

"I don't know who I can trust." Jess replied.

"My dad promised to tell the Council if we saw you, though. And then you can go home."

"I know you're a telepath." Jess whispered, looking away. "I felt you in my mind."

Fitz froze. How did she even know what a telepath was?

"Because I'm one, too." Jess said, making Fitz wonder if she'd read his mind.

"I'd wondered why I didn't hear you or your dad's thoughts, and then I remembered..."

Her voice trailed off, and she took a deep breath, turning back to Fitz.

"It reminded me of when I saw these... these figures... in black cloaks. I couldn't hear theirs, either. And, this is going to sound crazy, but... one of them kept disappearing."

[Jess's pov]

Fitz's hands curled into fists.

"Alvar," He grumbled.

"What?" Jess asked.

"He's what we call a Vanisher." Fitz explained.

"A... Vanisher?" Jess repeated slowly, standing up.

"And I'm pretty good at it, too." A voice said.

A black-cloaked figure appeared out of nowhere, and Jess froze.

Then a burst of blinding white light shot towards her, trapping her in a narrow force field.

Jess looked at her feet.

She knew that the figure who appeared was Alvar.

"I should've known." She mumbled, looking right at him.

She glanced at Fitz, who was in a force field next to hers.

"I should've known you were with them, the moment I met you." She said.

Fitz looked confused, but that didn't matter right then.

This was all part of her plan.

She took a deep breath and pushed her mind through the force field to open her mind to Fitz's.

I know a way through the force fields, she transmitted. But you'll have to trust me.

Okay, Fitz thought. How do we do it?

Be ready to fight, Jess warned. Just go along with me.

Got it

Jess nodded.

"Okay, so you got the plan?" She asked, loud enough that Alvar would hear, but quiet enough that nobody would be suspicious.

"Yup," Fitz said.

Alvar whispered to another member to try and read her mind.

"Ah, but you're missing something important." Jess told him. "You can't read our minds while we're in these, can you?"

When they stayed silent, she added, "I didn't think so."

Alvar walked behind her, ready to grab her when it unraveled.

One of the figures shot the blinding light again, unraveling the force field.

"Thank you!" She said, running and tackling him before Alvar could have the chance to grab her.

When he aimed to put another force field around her, she moved his arm so he would hit Fitz's.

When it unraveled, Fitz ran straight for Alvar.

He isn't that important, Jess transmitted, as Fitz started punching Alvar.

The figure pushed Jess off of him.

Fitz gritted his teeth. "I don't care!"

Fitz kept punching Alvar, no matter how many times Jess tried to calm him down.

Jess looked around where she was sitting, noticing that the others were gone.

"The rest of them got away!" She told him.

Fitz looked around, also.

He sighed and sat next to Jess, who was now holding her right arm.

"You okay?" He asked her.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I've been through worse." Jess replied, turning away.

"What do you mean?" Fitz asked.

"It... doesn't matter. I don't want to make this about me." Jess replied, standing up.

She helped Fitz up, turning to see a girl with similar dark hair and teal eyes.

Her eyes were just a little bit lighter, though.

And she was also wearing a cape.

"Hey Fitz! Dad wanted me to check on you. Who's this?"

"That's Jess. Jess, this is Biana, my sister." Fitz said.

Biana tilted her head. "Is this the girl I heard dad talking about? The one who turned into a wolf?"

Jess bit her lip.

Great, now somebody else knew her secret. 

"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to." Biana promised.

"Thanks," Jess mumbled.

"How do you do that, by the way?" Fitz asked.

Jess shrugged. "I don't really know. It started when I was about five, a few days after..."

Her voice trailed off, and she looked at the ground.

"How did this become about me again?" She asked them, desperate for a subject change.

"After what?" Biana asked, clearly not going to let this go.

"After my parents left the town I live in." Jess mumbled.

"Why would they leave?" Biana asked.

"I think she's ready to talk about something else." Fitz told Biana, saving Jess from having to answer.

"Is there any way I can just go home? My sister is probably freaking out." Jess said, changing the subject.

"I don't know," Fitz said. "I'd have to tell my dad."

Jess sighed. "He'll tell the 'Council' people and I can't wait."

Fitz sighed. "Fine. I'm going to get in so much more trouble, though."

"What do you mean more trouble?"

"He got in trouble last week, for losing our dads pathfinder. He's still in trouble."

"Does it look like this?" Jess asked, pulling the silver wand out of her pocket.

"Where did you find that?" Fitz asked.

"Um, it was it the woods near my town."

"Weird," Fitz mumbled. "I wasn't in the Forbidden Cities when I lost it."

He probably didn't think Jess heard, but she did.

"Forbidden Cities?" She repeated, narrowing her eyes.

"Oh, uh..."

Fitz seemed to be trying to think of something to say.

"Ugh, you're just like Keefe. You don't tell me anything!"

"You know Keefe?" Biana asked.

"Uh... yeah, he showed up at my town a few days ago. Why?"

"No reason," Fitz jumped in, narrowing his eyes at Biana.

Jess sighed. "You know what? Fine. I'm just going to leave. You were going to let me, anyways."

"I need to ask my dad if I can use his pathfinder first." Fitz replied.

"Then go ask. I really have to get home."

Fitz sighed. "Fine," he replied, ducking behind the trees to go back to Everglen.

Biana had... disappeared.

Jess sat down, and a couple of minutes later, Fitz came back with Alden.

"He wouldn't let me use it without telling him why," Fitz explained.

Jess stood up, crossing her arms.

"Fine. Now can I go home?"

"The Council wants to meet you." Alden said.

"I need to go home. If you won't let me then I'll find the way back myself." Jess replied.

She thought she was being smart, until he smiled.

"We have ways to stop you. I'd rather not resort to them, though."

Jess smiled back. "I'm way stronger than you'll ever be."

"We'll see about that." He said.

"Fine. Then let's see."

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