A Grimm Legacy: Deleted Scenes

Written By: Janna

The particular piece I’ve added today was cut from chapter twenty-two in A GRIMM LEGACY. One of my early beta readers mentioned adding a scene that would show, rather than tell, more of the small town near the evil step-mother’s house where the characters found their clothes for the feast.

 

Quinn slowly pulled herself into the small second-hand shop. It was crammed with curious, dilapidated objects. Enormous down pillows, stuffed crows and a vase full of white feathers littered the shelves. There were wooden batons propped in a corner and a small spinning wheel by the door, which Quinn carefully steered clear of. In the center of the room a large branch of the tree protruded from a hole cut in the wooden plank floor. Adorning it was a selection of jewelry, rings, necklaces, and several crowns. A girl about her age with blue shoulder length hair came from behind the counter with a pleasant smile.

“Looking for something in particular?” she asked. Quinn gawked at her clothes. A too short leather skirt paired with knee high argyle socks, and fingerless gloves up to her elbows. She grinned at Quinn as if she were pleased at her shock value. Quinn smiled back at her.

“That dress. Is it for sale?” she asked, nodding to the display window.

The girl lifted the dress from where it lay draped over a small arm chair.

“This one?” she asked, holding up the sumptuous red frock for her inspection. Quinn nodded, lightly fingering the decadent material. It looked even better up close.

“Go on, try it on.” The blue hair girl hustled Quinn behind a curtained off corner. “I think I’ve got just the jewelry to go with that, too,” she called as Quinn worked on the hook and eye clasps fastening the back.

Quinn ducked under the curtain a little self-consciously. The girl nodded, appraising her. “It fits like it was made for you. You know what would be perfect? Some red combat boots.”

“Ummm…” Quinn hedged.

The girl took in Quinn’s skeptical face and grinned. “Or not,” she said, flipping a lock of hair over her shoulder.

A low thrum caught Quinn’s attention. The sound came from outside the shop, like the blades of a helicopter, but slower.

The girl froze in the middle of tucking a red dyed feather in Quinn’s hair.

“You have got to be kidding me,” she said, eyes wide. She grabbed Quinn’s arm and towed her behind the counter, shoving her to the ground.

“What—“ A section of the roof was torn away and bits of thatch rained down on them. A dragon stuck its snout through the hole and into the shop.

Quinn froze in an awkward half crouch.

Dragon. Dragon! The logical side of Quinn repeated over and over to herself, and stupidly, the hand lettered sign in the front window of the shop flashed through her terror: The Dragon’s Horde.

Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth and she didn’t think she had the air in her lungs to scream even if she could get her mouth working. The trembling started in her hands and the harder she tried to control it, the more it took over her body.

The dragon opened its jaws and Quinn got a glimpse of a forked black tongue and carnivorous teeth before it bellowed a cry that congealed her blood and made her bury her head in the dusty floorboards. The air smelled of fetid meat.

A moan was the only sound Quinn could manage, fantasizing the knife-like teeth burying in her back. She felt the shop girl move beside her and stand up.

“Are you kidding me?” she shouted.

Quinn risked a peek at her from the floor.

The blue haired girl, hands on her hips, glared furiously at the dragon who paused and cocked his head to one side, his expression quizzical. “Aren’t you supposed to be seeking revenge on those brothers that rescued me? Trying to steal me back? I’ve been waiting for fifty years! And now I’ve got a customer—the first one all week! —you barge in here like you own the place!”

Quinn picked her head off the floor and stared at the girl, the shivering in her limbs starting to subside.

The dragon roared again, but it was less intense, with more of a pleading tone.

The girl actually stamped her foot before shouting, “I don’t care if you are on a schedule! Now go park yourself in a tree until I’m done here!”

The dragon gave and angry snort, causing smoke to curl out of his nostrils, stinging Quinn’s nose as he withdrew his head. The tree shuddered as he took off, the flap of his monstrous wings fading slowly.

The shop girl helped Quinn to her feet and tried to dust her off as Quinn shook like a leaf.

“Sorry about that,” she said with a sheepish grin. “He can be a little pushy.”

Quinn was at a loss for words.

Giving her an apologetic look, the girl offered, “Would twenty percent off your purchase help ?”


This scene takes place immediately after Fredrick, Dylan, Quinn, and Andi arrive in the city accompanied by Mr. Jackson. In this version, Mr. Jackson has a mother who is very sick. Earlier, he tried to force the teenagers into helping him acquire a rare medication from the enigmatic Mr. Graystone.

 

Fredrick took in the acres of space and the wall of windows overlooking the sprawling city. P must stand for penthouse.

“Nice to see you again, young masters.” Harland bowed low and took their coats before they could really collect themselves. He reached for Andi’s cloak and received a glare in response, before gliding, smiling to the next in line.

“Wait,” Dylan turned to the knee-high elf. “How did you get here?”

Harland grinned. “Elves can simply be wherever they wish to.”

“You mean you just popped out of thin air? I wish our trip was that uneventful.” Dylan reached up and rubbed his head.

“Taking things without permission can have… unpleasant consequences,” Harland commented mildly before disappearing with their coats. Dylan frowned after him.

Mr. Jackson hurried into the cavernous space of the apartment. Fredrick traded uncertian glances with the others, at a loss for what to do, and trailed after Mr. Jackson.

Low tones came from an open room. Fredrick stood awkwardly in the doorway of a converted hospital ward. The faint steady beep of a heart monitor and gentle whoosh of a breathing machine drifted from a prone figure at the far side of the room. Tubes and wires sprouted like roots from the lump on the adjustable hospital bed and cascaded down the side, attaching themselves to various IV’s and display screens. The overly clean smell of bleach hung in the air.

Mr. Jackson spoke in rushed whispers with a nurse in a white apron while Fredrick kept an uncomfortable silence. Dylan tugged Andi’s sleeve and pointed. A hand had separated itself from the bundle on the bed and beckoned.

Andi raised a questioning eyebrow. Quinn nodded her head and made a shooing motion toward the bed. They tiptoed across the room to Mr. Jackson’s mother.

Fredrick hung back and considered bolting out the door. Last year had taught him to hate hospitals. Nothing good ever came from being in one.

Mr. Jackson’s mother lay flat on her back, her dark hair splayed on the white sheets like tendrils. Her eyes were large and sunken, like dark craters in her drawn face. She smiled at the girls and Dylan, clearly with good intentions behind it, but the stretched lips looked gruesome on someone so sick. She reached out a thin, trembling hand with blue veins dominant against her white skin and grabbed the nearest arm, which happened to be Dylan’s.

He jumped as if someone shocked him and gave the others a panicked look.

“He… found… you.” Her breathing sucked and pulled, each word trying to choke her before she could get it out.

Even from where he stood at the edge of the room, Fredrick was reminded too much of his mother. They looked nothing alike unless you counted the pallor of their skin and the way they fought wasting away. He’d been wrong. She wasn’t a fabrication, a tool to manipulate them into helping Mr. Jackson. This woman was all too real.

The gap in the conversation hung heavy in the room. Quinn took a tentative step forward, “How are you feeling Mre. Jackson?”

She shook her head but continued to smile. “Call…me…Mona.”

Dylan looked concerned he wasn’t going to get his arm back.

Mona motioned for Fredrick to step closer. He reluctantly stepped into the circle around her bed and immediately regretted it as she released Dylan and snagged his shirt with surprising strength. Tugging on him until Fredrick’s ear was inches from her mouth she spoke softly. “I know…what he’s…asked…of…you.” She let up on her grip slightly until she could look him in the face. Her dark brown eyes, swollen from pain, held him hostage. “Don’t go… not…worth…risk.” She fought for another breath. “Go…home,” she uttered before releasing Fredrick and sinking deeper into her pillows.

Andi moved slightly, catching Mona’s attention.

“Cynthia?” she wheezed.

Taking a step back from the bed, Andi bumped straight into Mr. Jackson standing silently behind them.

“No Mom,” he soothed. Everyone backed up as Mr. Jackson approached her, his hand smoothing her hair. “She just looks a lot like her. Remarkable isn’t it?”

“Why don’t you go ahead and eat,” Mr. Jackson said, his face drawn and tight. “I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

They filed back out the door leaving him silently clutching his mother’s hand.

“What did she say to you?” Quinn asked Fredrick.

“Standard Mom stuff,” Fredrick said, shrugging her question off. His decision had been made. Mr. Jackson telling the truth about his sick mother changed a lot. The odds that a ‘miracle cure’ really existed just went way up.

Harland reappeared and lead them into a cheerless, stark dining room overlooking the city. Lights glowed as the sun ducked behind the horizon and twilight crept across the landscape.

“So much for rehearsal,” Andi muttered to no one in particular.

“Mr. Jackson has asked you not wait for him,” Harland said as he rang a small bell on the sideboard and stood at attention against the wall. He touched a place on the window showing a view of the city. The image faded and another replaced it.

“Is that Starry Night?” Quinn asked examining the painting.

The screen reminded Fredrick of a digital picture frame set to slideshow, but he’d never seen one that could act as a window as well.

The door to what must be the kitchen swung open and a parade of young men in old fashioned serving livery streamed in, bringing with them platters of food and tantalizing smells.

The footmen lined up and proffered the trays as Fredrick and Quinn warily served themselves. Dylan and Andi immediately started on their food. Fredrick just stared at his plate and gently poked it with a fork. He had his doubts, despite his missed lunch and lurching stomach.

“What is it?”

“Schnitzel.” Andi and Dylan answered in unison, mouths full. Andi swallowed and elbowed Dylan. “And spaetzle and sauerkraut.” She raised an eyebrow and emphasized, “Traditional German food. Try it, it’s good.”

Fredrick wasn’t very adventurous when it came to food. He didn’t generally eat things he couldn’t identify, but Harland laughed when he cleaned his plate and called into the kitchen for seconds. On the screen, the Mona Lisa slowly faded, replaced by a tranquil pond scene that could have been by Monet.

While he was occupied, Fredrick lowered his voice and asked the others, “Anyone think Mrs. Jackson is a little young to be Mr. Jackson’s mom?”

“Now that you mention it,” Andi said, tapping her fork on her empty plate. “What do you suppose that means?”

He shook his head. “Got me. Just keep it in mind. We know things here are not always what they seem.” He straightened up as Harland led the servers back into the room and the screen faded to show Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

 

Mr. Jackson didn’t show up until the dessert plates were being cleared. Harland set a plate at his elbow, which he ignored. Instead, he tented his hands together and stared at the others over the tops of his knuckles.

“I apologize for withholding information from you that I was at liberty to give. I should never have involved you in something that was my responsibility alone.”

He turned to Andi. “Your grandmother’s real name was Cynthia Wellington. Her family still lives a few hours south of here. Tomorrow I’ll accompany you on a train that will take you directly there. I’d do more if I could, but my master has strictly forbidden it, and I haven’t found a way to defy his explicit commands. So as it stands, Andi’s family is your best chance of getting home.”

“I want to help,” Fredrick interrupted. “I’ll take you’re deal, the medication for the information.”

Mr. Jackson stared at him, his face unreadable.

“That offer has been rescinded. You going after the cure is no longer an option.” Mr. Jackson gave him a humorless smile. “Besides, I’ve already given you the information. It would be a bad deal on your part.”

“What about your mother?” Fredrick asked, not above piling on guilt to get what he wanted.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s not as bad as she looks,” Mr. Jackson said with a sad smile.   “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m quite tired. I’ll send Harland to wake you at eight.” He quietly left the room.

Now we know he’s a terrible liar,” Andi said, slumping in her chair.

“What are we going to do?” Quinn asked.

“Yeah, we’ve really screwed up,” Dylan said copying Andi’s posture.

“I think you mean, you’ve really screwed up,” Andi said. “I told you to slow down.”

“There was something wrong with the car.”

“That’s not what caused it to flip.”

“I’m going anyway,” Fredrick interrupted.

They all paused a second and Fredrick took the moment to wrestle with his motivations. He was doing this help Mrs. Jackson. He owed it the man whom he’d wrongly doubted. If he could manage to heal his mother too, then that would just be a reward for doing the right thing.

“How?” Quinn asked.

“I’m not sure yet.” Fredrick clasped his hands together and stared at the tabletop.

“I bet we could.” Andi looked thoughtful. “That was Mr. Jackson’s original plan anyway.”

“No, I’m going by myself,” Fredrick said, cursing himself for telling the others. If he would have thought back on last twenty-four hours at all, he would have clued in that Andi would want to come.

“Of course you’re not. It’s going to take all of us.”

“If Mr. Jackson’s originally intended for us to help, don’t you think he’d have some kind of plan in place?” Quinn asked.

“I bet he does. He seems to be the have-a-strategy, overly-organized type,” Dylan said. “Let’s see if I’m right.” He jumped up and left the dinning room. Fredrick scrambled after him feeling the situation spiraling out of his control.

As he exited the dining room Dylan started to pull open door at random. Each time he came across a pantry, spare bedroom, or linen closet he’d stick his head in, mutter, “Nope,” and go to the next one.

“What exactly are we doing?” Fredrick asked in a whisper, expecting a servant or Mr. Jackson himself to be behind the next door.

Dylan ignored him, pulling open another door. “Bingo,” he said, stepping inside and flipping on the light switch.

The room was completely unexpected. The lofted ceiling accommodated a climbing wall in one corner, with panes of glass suspended from the stout beams high above his head. On the floor sat draft tables with blue prints, flashlights, electronic equipment, scale models of skyscrapers, oil lamps, climbing harness, helmets, and the guts of a security camera. One wall was a giant corkboard full of carefully labeled schematics. Cross bows, machetes, hunting knives, revolvers, and shot guns stood poised for use, locked to another wall behind thick panes of glass.

“What is this place?” Andi said, peering through the glass at a lethal looking spear.

“I think this is where you plan a break in,” Quinn said over by the corkboard. “Look.”

She unpinned a blueprint and flattened on the draft table. Fredrick examined the document from the opposite side, reading the label at the bottom upside down. “The Englishman Bakery?” He peered closer at the tiny figures added to the blueprint and the miniscule writing that labeled them. One was climbing the outside of the building. Another was attached to some kind of floating contraption on the roof.

“Is that supposed to be you, Quinn?” Dylan asked, pointing to the climbing figure. His finger trailed up the building, stopping on the tenth floor. “What’s this symbol here?”

“I think it’s a security camera,” Andi said, her face buried in a handwritten sheet of notes she’d pulled down from the corkboard. “This is insane.” She waved the papers at them. “Did he really intend for us to do this? It’s like Mission Impossible.”

“Can I help you?” a voice full of poliet venom asked from the doorway. Fredrick turned around, guilty. Somehow the situation was more awkward than when Mr. Jackson found him standing next to his smashed Impala.

“Harland,” Dylan said, crossing the room and trying to drape an arm around the elf’s shoulders. “How about a midnight snack? I hear you make a mean cup of cocoa.”

Harland didn’t even have to duck to walk under Dylan’s arm. He faced Fredrick, his black eyes surveying him. “You shouldn’t be in here.”

There wasn’t much to lose at this point, so Fredrick laid all his cards on the table.

“We want to help.”

“Mr. Jackson won’t allow it.” Harland carefully folded his hands. “His priorities have shifted since meeting you four.” His gaze held Fredrick’s, not even acknowledging the others. “Mr. Jackson’s primary goal is getting you safely home. And this,” Harland waved is hand at the blueprint, “is a high risk venture.”

“I didn’t think he’d like the idea,” Fredrick said, a bluff his last option. “I guess we should go to bed then.”

Lacing his hands behind his back, Harland stared down at the blueprints on the drafting table. “Did you know the technology here is very unreliable?”

Over the top of Harland’s head, Fredrick caught Dylan’s confused look at the abrupt topic change and Fredrick shook his head at him slightly.

“I didn’t,” he said mildly.

“Elorium has every technology and trend you do. It seems to… float over from your world.” Harland flipped on a flashlight standing on the table with the dismantled camera. It flickered, and died. He pulled a book of matches out of his tux coat and with a practiced hand, lit the oil lamp instead, bathing the room in a soft flickering light. “We don’t get rid of the old ways because the new ones are unreliable.”

“Is that why the car stalled?” Dylan asked.

Harland watched the bright lamp for a second. “Yes, exactly.” He missed Dylan’s clear, I-told-you-so look directed toward Andi. But Fredrick caught it.

“When the new things don’t work, the originals always will, so we keep them around. What passes from your world to ours is only an imitation of the real thing. It may look the same, but it will never work as well. It’s a shadow of the original.”

Straightening up, Harland tugged on the bottom of his worn tux coat to smooth the wrinkles. “Mr. Jackson knows this, of course, and would have planned for every eventuality. He’s really very thorough when it comes to creating and executing a delicate operation.”

He left the room in the wake of their quiet stares. He paused in the doorway. “I’ll get started on your hot cocoa. It might take me awhile. Hours in fact. Perhaps there’s something you could do to amuse yourselves in the meantime?” He closed the door softly behind him.

“Did he just say what I think he said?” Quinn asked, staring at the shut door.

“Pull up a chair.” Fredrick sat down at the drafting table. “We don’t have much time.”

 

“I said I didn’t want to scrape you off the asphalt.”

 Fredrick finally suggested everyone go to bed around midnight. “You’ll need at least a few hours of sleep. I’ll wake you at three.”

Quinn stumbled into the guest room with Andi on her heels. Dylan had found this room and the identical one across the hall during his wanderings. The rooms were enormous with old fashion twin beds that made Quinn feel like she was in an episode of I Love Lucy. On the bedside table was an old-fashioned alarm clock with bells on top and a stem on the back to wind it.

She stared at the ceiling in the dark, exhausted, but unable to keep possible scenarios of what could go wrong from looping through her head long enough to actually sleep.

“You asleep?” Andi whispered, sounding no sleepier than Quinn felt.

“No.” Quinn’s voice drifed across the darkened room.

The silence stretched so long, Quinn thought Andi had fallen asleep mid-conversation.

“Don’t screw up tomorrow,” Andi said. “I don’t think I could handle having to scrape you off the asphalt.”

“Nice to know you’ve got my back.” Quinn smiled into the dark, understanding what Andi wasn’t comfortable saying.

 

Quinn hustled down the sidewalk trying to look nonchalant despite the early hour and dark clothes. The alleyway cutting through to the other side of the block was well hidden. The light from the lamps didn’t stretch this far and the alley felt damp and gloomy as odd shapes hunched in the folds of shadows. Ahead, a locked chain link fence blocked their access to the back of the building. Fredrick handed Dylan his bag and took out a pair of bolt cutters. With a loud snip, the gate was open.

Andi lifted out her cloak and settled it over her shoulders, making sure all of her, plus her bag, was covered. She grasped a pair of wire cutters like she was strangling them. She took a deep breath, pulled her hood up, and disappeared.

The rear of the building was unimpressive: concrete, a few parking spaces, loading dock, and dumpsters. They couldn’t count on the technology being down when it would convenient for them, so they were going to make sure it was down the old fashioned way.

Watching the loading dock, enough time passed that Quinn started to get nervous. A small movement by the dumpster caught her eye and a cardboard box with a lid jiggled slightly and disappeared. It reappeared under the security camera, seconds later a dent appeared in the top of the box, like a heavy weight was placed there, and the security camera wire separated as if by magic.

Quinn shook her head at Andi’s improvised stepstool. “She was too short,” Quinn whispered to Fredrick, unable to keep the grin off her face. She started harnessing herself for the climb.

Quinn assessed the tower, unable to keep the nervous fluttery feeling from banging around under her ribs.

“Remember,” Fredrick said in barley a whisper, “tenth floor, second window from the left.”

Quinn gave a terse nod, her head heavy and bulky from the climbing helmet. She reached over her shoulder to pat her braid now hanging several inches past her waist, not taking her eyes off the climb in front of her.

Fredrick made Quinn check and double check her harness and climbing gear. Andi offered to belay her, having done it for her mad dash up the tree, but Fredrick politely refused, saying he would feel better doing it himself.

Normally, there wouldn’t be much in the way of handholds, climbing a building of glass and steel. But this one had strips of concrete, no more than a foot wide, running vertical between each bank of windows. In a raised impression along the concrete strip a vine looped and curled skyward with broad leaves unfurling at intervals.

As she pulled up on the first foothold, blue light flared and danced around her hands and feet. Quinn was so alarmed she nearly let go of the side of the building. She stared at her toes and experimented with wiggling them. Blue ripples expanded from her movement like rocks thrown in a pond. She assumed this was the barrier to Elorians, and apparently she could cross it.

Ten floors was no small challenge, but it really wasn’t much higher than she climbed in Napa–at least that’s what Quinn told herself. Several feet up, her movements took on a smooth repetitive motion. She wedged in two anchors as high as she could reach, clipped herself in, located her next handholds, and hauled herself up while her toes searched blindly for a foothold. Wedge, clip, clip, hand, hand, pull, search, and repeat.

The higher she climbed, the calmer she became, her breathing smooth and steady. Just past the fifth set of windows she was as comfortable and well fixed as she could be, clinging spider-like to the side of a building. She paused to rest.

Risking a glance over her shoulder, Quinn found four worried faces staring up at her, their expressions hazy through the distance and dark. Her stomach dropped with apprehension. The tower rose forbidding against a starless sky. While there may have been several reasonable explanations, this is what finally made Quinn realize they were someplace completely alien. She was far, far away from everything she knew and might never get back home.

Quinn continued to climb. She worked her way past the next few floors and checked on her progress. Her target window with the malfunctioning alarm was close. Quinn pushed herself up another handhold. Just inches shy of the tenth floor, her lead foot slipped. Quinn clawed at the building in desperation, but couldn’t find purchase. Her body swayed back and her stomach lurched, anticipating the drop.

She noticed her mistake a split second before her rope wedged tight in the anchor and her world flipped upside down. Quinn’s helmet slammed into a window and stars danced in the corners of her vision. Letting her rope get behind her leg was such a rookie mistake!

Struggling to flip right side up and clear her throbbing head, a metallic ping sounded followed by one of her anchors flying over her feet and tumbling from sight as her rope gave a small jerk. Quinn held her body very still and looked for her back-up anchor. It was there, right where she had wedged it, but the small steel contraption looked suddenly flimsy nine stories high.

Quinn risked rotating her neck to look straight down. Fredrick stood in a wide stance, bracing her, the rope straining against him. Another, smaller figure was harnessed themselves in climbing gear. Quinn closed her eyes and concentrated on being as still as possible. They were coming.

 

The image of that last anchor giving way was the only thing that kept Quinn’s mind off the migraine buzzing behind her eyes. One story below, she could easily make out Andi’s gray eyes, a mixture of terror and determination.

“I said I didn’t want to scrape you off the asphalt,” Andi grunted as she fought to pull herself up another step.

“You looked too comfortable down there,” Quinn groaned through her blurred vision.

Andi’s progress was agonizingly slow, despite not having to set her own anchors. Her muscles spasmed as she clung to the vine impressions. A crunch and grinding noise caught both their attention and Quinn felt her rope flex and the anchor move. Quinn held her breath as Andi found some reserve of strength and climbed past her, stretching to clip Quinn’s rope into another anchor, shoving it in the crack below the failing one.

She jerked on the backup anchor to make sure it was secure and called down to Quinn, “See if you can flip around.”

Quinn dug her heels into the side of the building and pushed with her hands trying to spin her body upright. It was like trying to cartwheel in midair. Gravity finally took over and her legs fell toward earth, jerking her head upright. The rope shuddered, the anchor gave way and Quinn let out a squeak as it tumbled past her and a horrible moment passed as both girls froze in fear.

A second passed, then two. Andi’s anchors held. Quinn heard her soft sigh of relief as she found foot and hand holds, climbing past Andi to set the next anchors. She wanted off this building.

A street over, blinking neon signs for bail bonds reflected red light off the glass as Quinn leveraged herself up the last foot, leaving her left hand free.

“How’d you get picked for the rescue mission. Draw the short straw?” Quinn asked Andi clinging to the rock below her as she retrieved a slender metal rod with a small wheel on the end from her pocket.

Andi wanted to go back down immediately, but Quinn pointed out the fastest way off the side of this building was up. Quinn scored the glass, the cutter making a satisfying zip-crunch as Quinn leaned as much of her weight into the tool as she could while dangling from one hand.

“We thought since none of us had climbing experience, the lightest would be best,” Andi said.

Finishing her cuts, Quinn carefully wiggled into a pair of black leather gloves.

“And Dylan didn’t fight you for the privilege of being my rescuer?” Quinn placed her palms flat on the glass and gave it a tentative push. She leaned more of her weight against it and smacked it with the heel of her hand.

Andi snorted. “Fredrick was seriously rethinking his decision to belay you. Dylan, however, looked like he’d just escaped the hangman’s noose.” Andi tried to shift to a more comfortable position, but there was really nowhere to go. “How’s it going?”

Quinn considered the situation and forced her body up another few feet so her knees were level with the cuts she made on the glass. She took a deep breath and trusting in the leather she was wearing to keep her from being cut to ribbons, she kicked out her left leg and smashed her knee into the glass. With a crack and a clink, the square broke into several pieces falling inside the building.

Quinn gasped in pain trying to keep her hold on the stone vine she clung to. Nothing bled, but her knee definitely was not good. With her eyes blurred behind tears of pain, Quinn lowered her foot on the edge of the opening. She couldn’t put much weight on it.

Clinging with just her arms, she kicked her other foot free and stood at an awkward diagonal angle on the lip of the window. Thrusting her legs inside, she let go, sliding her back against the jagged edge. The blue barrier vibrated out from her body and was still.

She may have felt ridiculous in this cat-woman get up, but the leather jacket protected her back. She sprawled, limbs awry on the carpet, her head still throbbing when Andi dumped through the window directly on top of her.

“Gerroff,” Quinn mumbled into Andi’s back, shifting her to the side. Quinn carefully prodded her head and didn’t feel any blood, but she was going to have a headache for a while.

Andi stood slowly and Quinn tensed for some kind of blaring alarm, but the pulse of Quinn’s knee and head as they throbbed in time was the only thing that disturbed the silence. She unclipped her helmet and let it fall to the floor. Unhooking the rope from her harness she let it skid out the window and fall to the ground.

“Are you trying out for the role of damsel in distress?”

 Quinn tumbled into a conference room with little in it but expensive carpet, a long table, and a collection of swivel chairs. She listened, but couldn’t hear anything.

The hallway was quiet and dark, the security lights giving off a dim glow. The guards shouldn’t be making their rounds right now.

She motioned to Andi to follow and sped to the nearest elevator. They’d considered the stairwell, but Mr. Jackson’s blueprints had indicated a lot more cameras there. Finding it silent and waiting, Quinn took out a tiny case of tools. With a screwdriver and twist of her wrist, she popped the control panel open.

“You remember all this, right?” Andi whispered, hovering over Quinn’s shoulder.

“I’d remember it better if you weren’t hissing in my ear.” Quinn didn’t take her eyes off the circuit board. It looked identical to the one she practiced on, but it still intimidated her. She felt a wash of incompetence, but shook off the feeling and gritted her teeth.

“C-4,” she muttered to herself, “there you are.” Grasping one of the red wires, she unplugged it from the circuit board and let it hang. Nothing happened, but that ought be okay; it should have disabled the camera inside the elevator. Now to bypass the override so the elevator could access the roof, and disconnect the bell so she didn’t give herself away riding down to the lobby.

Kneeling in front of the panel, Quinn murmured numbers and colors of wires to herself. Andi was uncharacteristically quiet behind her. Quinn stooped long enough for her sore knee to get stiff and swollen. She lurched to her feet and pressed the down button. Now for a test-drive.

She limped into the elevator and Andi followed her with her eyebrows raised in a silent question. Quinn hit the starred “1” that would take them to the ground floor. The elevator lurched violently and they braced themselves against the walls, alarmed they might plummet to the ground. The ride smoothed out and glided to a stop. The doors parted quietly. Quinn was faintly amazed she hadn’t broken the thing.

“There are two security guards at a bank of monitors just inside the front doors,” Andi murmured in her ear.

Quinn made a zip-your-lips gesture. Andi shrugged and smiled, slightly abashed.

Inching down the hallway, Quinn hugged the wall with Andi mirroring her movements. She expected a security guard to come barreling toward her with each step. Growing more on edge as no one appeared, she crept to the end of the hall that opened into the main foyer. Peeking around the corner she took in the soaring ceiling the second story balcony overlooking the security desk at the main entrance. There was only one guard with his chair tilted back at an alarming angle, cap over his eyes, snoring slightly. So much for a crack security team.

She considered the distraction she had ready, but watching the even breathing of the lone guard, stealth seemed best.

“Where’s your cloak?” She mimed pulling a hood over her head.

Andi shook her head back. “Couldn’t climb with it,” she mouthed back.

Quinn nodded, expecting the answer and motioned to Andi to follow. She snuck around the corner and on soft feet and stole past the desk.

Forcing herself to go easy and place each foot with quiet deliberation, she hoped Andi had the sense to do the same even through every instinct said to run. Halfway there and in direct line of vision of the sleeping guard, she realized she was holding her breath and forced herself to exhale noiselessly. Keeping her eyes trained forward on her destination, she started to relax.

“Hey!” A voice echoed around the foyer.

Whipping her head up, Quinn shielded her eyes from the flashlight beam spotlighted on her. She could just make out a second guard’s lumpy potato looking head in silhouette, looking down on her from the second story balcony. A crash behind her made her twist back in time to see the sleeping guard on the floor with a chair on his head and an expression of bewilderment on his face.

The slap of running feet as Potato Head dashed for the staircase spurred Quinn into action.

“Run!” she screamed as Andi took off in front of her.

Catching her ankle on something, Quinn’s momentum slammed her into the cold floor so hard the breath rushed out of her body. She pressed her face into the floor and watched Andi—unaware of her predicament—cross the foyer and disappear down the hall. Trying to make her lungs work and unable to call out, Quinn floundered like a fish out of water. The thing that caught her ankle reeled her back toward the security desk.

She swiveled her head and saw the sleeping guard recovered far faster from his fall than she’d anticipated. He was still flat on the floor with his chair on top of him, but he’d snagged her foot in a fist the size of a dinner plate as she sped past and was dragging her backwards to secure his hold on her. Still trying to suck air into her lungs, she panicked and kicked with her other foot, only to have him catch it in his free hand and tighten his grip on both her feet.

Pulling in a lungful of air, her body screamed it wasn’t enough as the beady eyes of the guard locked on her and he untangled himself from his chair. She had only seconds to get away while his hold was tenuous.

Trying to function despite her throbbing body, she flipped on her back. This twisted the guard’s arms together still gripping each of her feet and she slithered toward him as fast as she could. Knees bent, she braced herself and kicked with all her might. She felt her feet ram his nose with a nauseating grind. Her feet free, she scrambled up without looking back and shot forward like a runner on the starting blocks.

The garbled yell told Quinn she’d broke his nose, but there was nothing wrong with his legs as he bolted after her. Potato Head was now on the first floor and hot on his heels. Ignoring the screaming in her knee, Quinn concentrated on her route and her speed. One wrong turn and they would catch her before she reached the loading dock.

A sharp left and right, it was a straight shot down the hall to the receiving area. She knew the guards were closing in and fantasized she could feel their fingers grasping for her streaming braid.

She busted through the double doors and almost didn’t slam on the brakes in time as she kicked the catch on the bottom of the loading dock and yanked the chain to raise the garage door. The deafening rattle of the door lifting sounded for only a second before Sleepy wrapped his arms around her, lifting her bodily off the ground. Potato Head grabbed the chain, stopping the door from rising.

Quinn thrashed, trying to catch his bloodied nose with the back of her head, but he was having none of it.

“I’m wise to your tricks, missy.” He sounded like he had a cold through the blood congealing on his face. “You’ll pay for the nose.”

He tightened his hold on her like a python squeezing its prey while the other guard grinned at them, the chain slack in his hand. Quinn grew still. She saw something they didn’t. Several hands gripped the bottom of the door and kept it from slamming shut.

With a heave the door rolled upward, the clanking chain making a racket that echoed in the empty loading dock. Potato Head stared at the chain stupidly as if it could tell him what was happening. Vaulting over the lip of the loading dock, the air rippled blue as Fredrick passed the barrier and flew toward Quinn and the guard.

Sleepy couldn’t untangle his arms from Quinn in time to react to Fredrick’s attack. A billy club blurred in his hands, and with a sickening thwack, like a home run being hit, he struck the guard on the back of the head. Stunned, but not down, the guard backed up, using Quinn as a shield as he shook his head like an angry bull. She bucked and writhed trying to break his hold.

Quinn was surprised to see Mr. Jackson’s hard and helpless face just outside the barrier. When had he gotten here?

With a flash of blue light, Dylan tackled Potato Head at the knees, both of them skidding across the floor.

Ignoring the commotion around him, Fredrick kept his eyes locked on the guard that held Quinn. He feinted left with the club, and as the stunned guard lurched right, he whipped it down on his exposed elbow. Sleepy’s arm crumpled, releasing Quinn as he stumbled to his knees flopping awkwardly on the cement.

Dylan continued to tussle on the ground with Potato Head in a chokehold, trying to pin him down.

Fredrick approached them slowly, swinging the billy club. Both guards grew still quickly, their eyes following the club’s every move. Dylan released his chokehold slightly.

“Smart move,” Fredrick said. “Dylan, how are you at knots?”

The two guards were trussed, gagged and stuffed in a broom closet before Andi skidded into the loading dock.

“What happened to you?” Quinn and Andi asked at the same time. Andi leaned against the doorway, panting.

“Took a wrong turn,” she finally wheezed, watching Dylan try to shove the closet door closed. He reopened it, shoved Sleepy’s feet in a little farther and leaned his shoulder against it until the latch clicked.

“I got caught up,” Quinn said nodding her head to the closet before standing inside the loading dock with the others. Mr. Jackson stood outside with his motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm, close enough to talk to them, but unable to pass through the blue barrier. It was one of many things they’d figured out in the projection room last night. The barrier detected Elorians. Mr. Graystone must not have envisioned four humans breaking into his office building.

“Are you okay?” he asked Quinn, the frustration of not being able to reach them etched on his face. The swelling in her knee and hammering in her head were now just a dull ache, but she wasn’t looking forward the soreness she’d feel tomorrow. She gave him an unstable smile and nodded. Her body would be fine, but her emotions felt like a churned lump of butter.

“Come down out of there,” Mr. Jackson ordered them.

Quinn shook her head and saw Dylan do the same. Andi snorted at the suggestion.

“I can still cover this up and get you back to the apartment before you are seen, but you’ve got to come now.”

Fredrick shook his head sadly. “No,” he said turning his back on him and shouldering a large framed pack.

She couldn’t look at Mr. Jackson anymore, not the way his eyes were almost frantic with worry. Why was he so willing to manipulate them earlier and now was so concerned?

Andi, Quinn, and Dylan shouldered identical packs, making sure they were strapped on tight across the chest and hips, while Dylan carried an extra one in his arms.

“Wait! You don’t know what you’re getting into!” he shouted.

Giving him an apologetic look over her shoulder, Quinn saw him spike his helmet on the asphalt in frustration.

She led the way at a brisk trot back to the elevator she rigged. Andi hurried beside her while the boys trailed a few feet behind, talking in muffled whispers.

“That was awkward, I wasn’t expecting Mr. Jackson to show up,” Andi said, sliding her gaze over to Quinn’s leather clad figure. “You added some drama to this venture. Are you trying out for the role of damsel in distress?” Andi gave her an impish grin to punctuate the statement. “I won’t always be there to pull you out of trouble, you know.”

A fluttery nervousness swelled in Quinn’s stomach that had nothing to do with the medication they were going after. She was glad the other three were there when the guard caught her, but she felt she was quickly losing control of the situation here in this strange place.

“Hey,” Andi stopped, noticing Quinn’s grim face. “I’m just teasing.”

“It’s not that.” Quinn searched for words to describe how she felt, but just ended up stating the obvious. “I broke a man’s nose.” She exhaled forcefully and paused.

“That guard was pretty ugly to begin with. I’m betting you improved his nose by breaking it.” Dylan said, slouching against the wall, his hands shoved in his pockets.

Quinn raised an eyebrow at him and he gave her a lazy smile.

“I don’t like being forced into violence,” she said, ignoring Dylan’s quip.

“Quinn,” Andi lifted her heavy curls off the back of her neck and looked down the hall toward the elevators, like she wanted to be past this conversation already. “Things get thrown at you and sometimes it gets messy. You did what you had to.”

Dylan pushed himself away from the wall. “Come on guys, Fredrick’s got a date with the sunrise.”

The elevator door popped open when Quinn called it. They stepped in and hit the button for the roof as Quinn crossed her fingers. Slowly at first, the elevator gained speed as an old fashioned dial flipped through the floors. They got going so fast Quinn felt her knees bend under the pressure. Everyone stumbled a bit as the elevator stopped and the doors slid open. They made it to the roof and Quinn gave a quiet sigh of relief. Apparently she jimmied the elevator correctly. According to Mr. Jackson’s notes, you normally needed a pass code to come this far.

The sky had lightened just enough to see the elevator doors slide close. A chilly wind surged and made the end of Quinn’s braid dance around and tousled Dylan’s hair.

“Is this too windy?” Dylan asked Fredrick.

“Maybe. Let’s get set up first, and then we’ll see.”

Fredrick shrugged off his pack and they crowded around as he handed them pieces to hold. Thin, white, silky material; a fire starter; a heavy piece of metal resembling a birdcage; and a small tank like the kind used to fill helium balloons. His pack now empty, Fredrick took the frame and assembled something out of the lightweight tubes and excess fabric. The result was something resembling a lawn chair minus its legs, but with a harness. He strapped the small tank to the back of the chair and the odd cage on top.

Letting the white fabric run through his fingers, he located the opening and handed one end of it to Andi and the other to Dylan.

Fredrick set them to work. “Don’t clump together, open it and face the wind. Let it do the work.”

Dylan and Andi shuffled around the rooftop for a moment, trying to work out the best way to funnel the air where they wanted it to go.

“What about me?” Quinn asked.

“You be the lookout.” Fredrick walked her to the edge of the roof and pointed. “There’s north. Let us know when you see it.” Quinn settled herself cross-legged a few feet from the edge of the building as the morning unfolded.

The colorless gray sky sifted so gradually to day, it was easy to think time hadn’t passed at all. Fingers of dark blue clouds reached across the horizon laced with pinks and oranges. On the horizon was a dark smudge that could have been a cloud, but after it didn’t move or change shapes for a moment or two she thought she found what they were looking for.

“Guys,” Quinn jogged back to the other three who attached the small hot air balloon onto Fredrick’s chair. The wind died down as the sun rose and it bobbed gently as they held it in place. “I see it.”

 

“Are you that eager to jump off a building?”

 Quinn stared with the others at the floating island. “It’s real.”

She forgot where she was for a second as the light increased and she could make out details. The island was a tall craggy piece of mountain someone dug out of the earth with a giant spade and left the roots dangling from it as they hung it in the sky. It floated level with the rooftop, several hundred yards away. At one edge, the mountains sloped into a small grass covered plain. There a single tower stood watch over the island like a soldier at attention.

The balloon bucked and brought her back to the task at hand.

“What’s this thing called again?” Dylan eyed the tiny hot-air balloon tied to the chair. “Are you sure it’ll fly?”

“They’re cloudhoppers. I’ve seen them fly before, they’re pretty common.” Fredrick took the extra pack from Dylan and strapped himself in the chair.

“They’re only common if your dad’s a balloon pilot,” Dylan pointed out.

Fredrick gave the burner a try, which made everyone jump from the loud blast. “Hold on to me.”

“I still don’t understand why we couldn’t see or get onto the island from the ground,” Dylan asked.

“It’s cloaked. Part of the security system connected to the building,” Quinn reminded him.

“I thought that kind of technology was unreliable,” Dylan argued.

“It’s probably more magical than technological,” Quinn said.

He gave her a doubtful face.

“Feel free to take it up with the brains behind this operation,” Quinn said, sweeping her arm invitingly over the side of the building.

Andi surveyed the island. “What if you miss?”

“If I miss, I float right down to the rendezvous point, and the only one worse for the wear is Mrs. Jackson.” Fredrick tugged gently on the ripcord. “It’s not that far away.”

“I don’t see why we couldn’t just ride the elevator back down.” Dylan peaked his head over the edge of the building.

“People are going to be arriving for work any minute,” Andi reminded him, “and Fredrick couldn’t fly this thing in the dark.”

The sky took on a pearly sheen and the smallest sliver of orange sun cut over the horizon.

“It’s time.” Fredrick said quietly. “Walk me that way.” He jutted his chin at the corner of the building. Dylan, Andi, and Quinn each grabbed a handful of chair and guided the balloon as it floated just at their shoulders.

“See you on the ground,” he said and the blast of the burner cut off anything else as he glided up and arced over the side of the building. The barrier blurred blue as he passed through on his way to the floating island.

Quinn watched him go. The hot-air balloon was beautiful in a peculiar way; silent except for the occasional blast of the burner and strange to see it floating at the apex of its hop, as if something that heavy shouldn’t defy gravity.

The wind pushed him closer to the island. Fifty yards, thirty yards, and the balloon dipped in a slow arc toward the flat ground right outside the tower. He landed perfectly, a gentle bump and the balloon folded over as Fredrick deflated it.

Quinn released a sigh of relief she didn’t realized she was holding.

“He made it! See Quinn, no need to worry.” Dylan gave her a light punch on the shoulder. “Ready to go then?”

“Are you that eager to jump off a building?” Andi laughed.

“Let’s give him just one more minute.” Quinn still staring at the island as Fredrick was untangled himself from the balloon.

“Use these.” Dylan pulled a pair of binoculars out of who knew where.

“Where’d you get those?” Andi asked.

“I may have helped myself to a few helpful items from Mr. Jackson’s apartment,” Dylan admitted with an unrepentant grin as he passed the binoculars to Quinn.

She trained the binoculars at the far island as Fredrick approached the tower.

Something large moved in front of the lense. At first she thought it was Dylan blocking her view to be funny, but then the thing moved as she realized what she was seeing.

Quinn dropped the binoculars and heard Andi’s breath catch as her own stomach filled with dread.

Behind the mountains covering most of the island, a figure approached an unsuspecting Fredrick from behind. It was a man, but really the only word for someone this large was giant. He was dressed in a three-piece suit that could have been used as circus tent. Covering the length of the island in just a few strides he reached down a hand the size of a dump truck, plucked Fredrick from the ground and held him aloft.

“What have we done?” Quinn whispered.

“A giant!” Andi fumed. “Harland couldn’t find two seconds to tell us there might be giants?”

“We’ve got to get over there,” Quinn said, clinching her fists to her side.

“How? Did you bring up another mini hot-air balloon in your back pocket?” Dylan asked, looking sick as the giant held Fredrick aloft in his palm. “And what good would we be if we could get over there?”

“We have our parachutes,” Quinn reasoned, ignoring the second half of Dylan’s argument.

“Those only go in one direction and it’s not across,” Andi pointed out.

“Then we just need to get higher,” Quinn said firmly.

“Again, unless you’ve recently learned how to fly…” Dylan drifted off, staring at something over Andi’s shoulder.

There was the usual flat open rooftop with pieces of equipment scattered across it like boulders. In the center a thin tower thrust to the sky, making the eightly-story building even taller.

“Great idea, Dylan,” Quinn said, hurrying to the tower.

“Yea for me,” Dylan muttered, trudging after her.

 

Something plucked Fredrick’s jacket from behind and pull him backwards off his feet. Instead of falling, he flew upward. He pedaled his feet and wind milled his arms trying to twist around and see what held him. He was dropped on something soft and warm. A gray eye the size of a watermelon peered at him from the face of a giant.

Fredrick yelled and tried to scramble backwards, forgetting for a moment he was hundreds of feet in the air. He hit the giant’s fingers and couldn’t go any further. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, behind the panic, a puzzle piece snapped into place. He knew who Mr. Jackson was; unfortunately the information was of no use to him at the moment.

“Please, stop squirming around. I have no intention of hurting you and you’re going to roll right off my hand.” Fredrick clapped his hands over his ears. The giant’s voice was as large as he was and it made his eardrums ring. “Sorry,” the giant whispered. “Is this better?”

Fredrick slowly lowered his hands. “You’re Mr. Graystone?”

“Ahh! Jack mentioned me then?” Mr. Graystone said with a smile.

Mr. Jackson had painstaking built a replica of tenth floor of Mr. Graystone’s building; manufactured a working, portable cloudhopper; found schematics and dummy circuit boards for his elevators but couldn’t bother to make a note that Mr. Graystone was a giant?

“What do you want?” Fredrick asked.

“I don’t think you are in a position to be asking questions. After all, it was you that broke into my office building and are now trespassing on my ancestral home with the intentions of stealing something belonging to me.”

Fredrick sat wordlessly, hoping silence was the best answer.

Keeping the hand holding Fredrick suspended in the air, Mr. Graystone carefully lowered himself to the ground. “Let’s have a civilized conversation, shall we?” He unbuttoned his suit coat and settled down using the mountains as a backrest. “I know Jack has asked you to retrieve this for his mother.” Mr. Graystone reached into his breast pocket and took out a silk handkerchief. He carefully opened it until Fredrick could see a small vial nestled in the center, practically invisible in his enormous hand. A high-pitched hum filled the air.

“I’m not doing it for him,” Fredrick retorted quickly, the vial holding all of his attention.

“Still, you have a choice to make. I have two things you want, the medication is one.” Mr. Graystone lowered his head so he could look Fredrick in the eye. “Your way home is the second.”

Fredrick tired to keep his face impassive, but something must have given him away.

“I thought that would get your attention. If you choose the medication, you’ll bring it to Jack—only to Jack mind you—and I escort you directly where you were supposed to go when you landed here. Jack’s not playing fair trying to hide you.”

“If I choose to take the medication to Mr. Jackson, you’ll hand me off to his master?” Fredrick asked.

Watching him carefully, Mr. Graystone nodded.

“Why are you willing to give me the medication, and not Mr. Jackson?” Fredrick asked.

Clamping his lips together and Fredrick could see Mr. Graystone grinding his teeth in frustration before he spoke. “I’ve been specifically forbidden to do certain things.”

Fredrick noted Mr. Jackson mentioned being prohibited from certain things in the same way.

Mr. Graystone brightened. “Although I probably wouldn’t help Jack, if I had the choice.” He focused on Fredrick in the palm of his hand. “You are a different matter, altogether.”

Fredrick glanced quickly over the side of the giant’s hand to the distant island below. “What happens if I choose to go home?”

“Nothing. I take you and your companions directly to the… ahhh, passageway and home you’ll go.” Mr. Graystone said.

“What would your employer say to that?” Fredrick asked.

“He doesn’t control me,” Mr. Graystone snapped.

Mr. Graystone had just said himself he was banned from specific things. He was as bad a liar as Mr. Jackson.

“And as an added bonus,” Mr. Graystone continued smoothly, as if there had been no slip, “I’ll even give you the medication to take with you. If you do choose to go home, Jack’s mother, would—sadly—have to take her chances, but you might know someone who needs a ‘miracle cure’ at home? Right?”

Fredrick breath caught in his throat as memories of his mom’s shaved head and gaunt body flashed through his head. The chemo made her a ghost of the vibrant, stern woman doing her best to raise three boys. So far, it hadn’t been working.

Mr. Graystone was watching him. Somehow he knew. He might not know about Fredrick’s mom, but he’d known enough to see the severe temptation the medication was to Fredrick.

“Why the choice? Why wouldn’t I go straight home?” asked Fredrick.

“You see, this is the interesting part.” Mr. Graystone raised his hand so they were eye to eye. “I find it curious you can make choices and these choices shape you and the direction your life takes. Will you help Jack’s mother, a virtual stranger? Putting others first is a uniquely human trait, even if your race is mediocre at it.” He waggled the vial invitingly at Fredrick. “So what’ll it be?”

“I need a few minutes to think on it.” Fredrick told the giant, trying to buy time. For what he wasn’t sure.

“Please, take a few minutes, by all means.” Mr. Graystone tried to wave a hand, but Fredrick occupied one of them and the other still held the vial of medication resting on the handkerchief.

Fredrick waited a beat and when the giant didn’t move asked, “Can you put me down?”

“So you can sneak away? No, I don’t think so. You’ll have to do your considering right where you are.” He settled more firmly against the mountain and hummed softly under his breath.

Sitting hunched over, Fredrick stared at his knees. He couldn’t pretend the giant’s offer didn’t tempt him.

Guilt over a decision he hadn’t even made yet twisted inside him. What would his mom think if she’d found out he’d stolen medicine to save her? Medicine meant for someone else.

The bigger question about his situation butted against his brain and refused to be ignored. What would it take to get him home? He had no kind of guarantee of follow through from Mr. Jackson or Mr. Graystone. His decision really boiled down to who he trusted more. Fredrick would have really liked different choices. He ran his hands on either side of his short hair, grabbing it and holding on in frustration.

A sound on the wind caught his attention. It was the flapping of a taut fabric, like a sail in the wind. Fredrick glanced up as Dylan dropped out of the sky, parachute full and white against the brilliant blue sky. He was coming in fast and at a steep angle.

It was too late for Fredrick to do anything as Dylan knocked him from the giant’s hand. If Mr. Graystone had been standing when Fredrick tumbled over the side, the fall would have more than likely killed him. With the giant in a sitting position, Fredrick felt lucky when he landed and pain bloomed in his chest. He’d either bruised or broke his ribs.

His eyes watered in agony as Dylan, a horrified expression frozen on his face, floated over the edge of the island and toward the ground, eighty-stories below. Seconds later, Fredrick forgot all about Dylan as Quinn plowed into the side of Mr. Graystone’s head.

She clung to the slicked down hair of the disoriented giant who shook his head like an angry dog, swatting at Quinn with his free hand, the medication still aloft in the opposite palm.

The sight of a giant, in a three-piece suit, horrified and swatting at his own head would have been funny in any other situation; except his hand made contact and Quinn tumbled from his head. She fell not toward the floating island, but arched high and shot over the edge, her white parachute wrapped around her flailing body flapping uselessly above her.

 

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