Expo The Brightheart Files



He was floating in a void. It was empty and cold, and he had no idea where he was. He was so tired. God, he was so tired. And the void cradled his body in a way a bed never could. Maybe he could just rest here. Whatever existed above knew he deserved it. Why try and fight it when it was so comforting, when it was so tender and welcoming? He could just float in the darkness and let it carry him away, let it wash him away like foam on the shore when the tide rolls in. He could–

“He isn’t waking up. Jasper, can you reach him? He’s right next to the bars. Yeah, just try– yeah, you should be able to reach him like that.”

A hand reached out in the darkness, accompanied by a familiar voice. It touched him, and he instinctively reached out for it. It was warm. It promised warmth and a way out. If he took it, he knew something would happen, but he couldn’t remember what. If he stayed in the darkness, he knew it meant an end to his suffering. But then that voice would be sad, wouldn’t it?

He reached for the hand, and warmth began to flood through him. It swirled through his body and filled him with coils of energy. It felt like water running smoothly into his body, a trickle at first, and then a roaring wave, and it left the impression of green behind his eyelids.

Ethan gasped in a breath and his eyes shot open. There was a hand on his chest, and he was drawing from it. Where was he? Whose hand was this? What was happening? He looked around, gasping for air in short gulps. Then he found Franklin’s hazel eyes, saw the worry and fear in them, and saw it turn to relief. Tears slid down the other boy’s face and he whipped them away on his grey sweatshirt.

Then the hand on his chest was–

“Jasper? Jasper, stop! That’s enough!”

“Ethan, you almost died. Let me help you. You know I have plenty to give. Take it.”

The red-haired boy swallowed hard against the cries that were climbing up his throat. He nodded, even though the boy the hand was attached to couldn’t see him. “You know the deal. Uhm, pull away when you get tired. Don’t let me… please, don’t let me hurt you, Jasper.”

There was a chuckle from the other cell, from the boy he couldn’t see. The boy that he knew had warm brown waves, cappuccino-colored skin, and light brown eyes. “When have I ever let you hurt me? You couldn’t even if you tried. You’d be full before I was empty.”

Ethan smiled, his eyes still full of sadness. He looked down at the hand on his chest and he put his own pale hand, with its sparse freckles, over Jasper’s. Jasper’s hand pressed harder into his chest, acknowledging his gratitude without words. They stayed like that for a few minutes, and as Jasper gave him more and more energy, Ethan came back to life.

His dulled senses began to clear, his eyes picking up colors again and his skin tingling. He could hear more than just his slow thrumming heart and the muffled sounds of Franklin’s soft cries. His head cleared and he could think again. He breathed in deep, feeling his lungs fill in his chest. After a little while, Ethan tapped Jasper’s hand.

“I’m full, Jasper. You can stop now.” The hand withdrew and he heard a soft sigh from the other cage. Ethan looked over at Franklin, whose blonde hair was sticking out in every direction, whose eyes were damp, and whose pale skin had tearstains. He gave him a weak smile, a reassurance that he was fine. The boy wiped at his face again and shuddered, curling in on himself.

“They’re going to kill you, Ethan. You’re going to die if they keep doing this to you. You’re starting to need more and they aren’t giving it to you unless you hunt. They need to increase the frequency they let you.”

The two boys shared a look. A look of mutual understanding. They had to get out, and soon. There were only so many more pieces of them the kids could bear to lose before they died on the table. There were only so many more invasive tests they could take before they wanted to die on the table. Ethan broke eye contact first, his expression hardening. Sixteen. They were all almost sixteen now. Three more weeks and Ethan would be sixteen. They’d been there, together, for almost twelve years.

Ethan stood and started pacing his cell. Franklin tracked him with his eyes as he moved, and the weight of his gaze was soft. Jasper and Franklin were the only family he had. Ethan knew he could escape. It was just a matter of getting them out with him.

They knew by now several things. The cameras didn’t have microphones. The boys had managed to catch the guards off guard several times already with various planned actions. They had planned several of these things while shouting, just to test it. The guards never expected them to use their powers during escorting. Franklin had managed to use his truth gas on one of the guards for several minutes without detection. Jasper had turned to several different materials without notice.

All Ethan had to do was finish planning everything.​

In the end, it had been the day they were being transferred.

The boys stood in the security room, flashing red lights illuminating the area. There was a body on the ground, one completely drained of energy. Ethan was buzzing as his hands danced over the keys of the system. He’d never seen it before, but they had taught the boys how to use complicated enough systems in their tests that he was able to decipher most of what he was doing. And what he couldn’t, Franklin, ever the genius, could.

Ethan hit enter and the lights stopped flashing. It left them with only the backup lights going, dull yellow lights that made the halls just navigatable. Then, Franklin took over the keys and started fiddling more with the system. A prompt came up and a genuine smile of relief passed over the teen’s face. He hit enter, and all the cameras died. Several cards were spit out from the machine to their right.

Jasper quickly grabbed the cards and ripped them free, pocketing them in his sweatpants. The three kids looked at each other and then out in the hallway. The lights out there hummed softly, the sound of freedom close at hand.

They started running.

They ran down the halls they had cleared on their way to the security room. Bodies lay limp and broken across the floor. They had given the boys all the tools they had needed to free themselves. They had given Franklin control and precision. They had given Jasper power and training. They had given Ethan rage and strength.

This was all their own fault. Brightheart had made these monsters, and now these monsters were going to leave.

On their way out, they found another hall. Younger kids, younger than them, curled up in their respective rooms. Ethan had been so full of rage that he had laughed. He turned to Jasper, who nodded and turned himself to steel. They ran through the hall, breaking the locks off the cages, and freeing the other children. And when they were all out, they kept moving.

Franklin had acquired a gun from one of the guards on their way out, and he took point, taking out anyone who came their way. All that hand and eye coordination had paid off in the worst ways possible. They blew through the halls, Jasper and the older kids carrying the younger ones as they made their way out of the maze of a facility. Every time that Franklin ran out of bullets, he lifted another gun and kept moving.

Then, they found a hall they had never seen before. Thick doors, with key card scanners. Ethan turned around and ran back to lift a key card off a body. Finding one that had the highest clearance listed, he turned around and returned to the doors. He hesitantly scanned the card, but the doors opened. It led to another hallway, this time with an empty desk off to one side, and a pair of normal doors at the far end.

There was silence from the pack of children for a moment, before Ethan started walking. Natural light was pouring in from the glass that was laid in the doors. It shined off the blood splattered on his arms and clothes. He kept walking, and behind him, he heard the feet of the other children moving. He put a cautious hand on the handle and then pushed it open.

It swung easily open, a bell above his head dinging as it did. The door opened to a parking lot, followed by fields as far as the eye could see. There were dozens of cars in the parking lot, and as they walked out, no one appeared. There wasn’t anyone else around.

Ethan dropped to his knees as he looked around them. They were outside. That was the sun, shining bright without glass or bars between him and it. There was grass, tall and blowing in the faint breeze. The air ran like silk across his skin.

They were outside.​