I had almost no time to react to what was happening. Pulse lunged at my torso and my body reflexively avoided his attack. As I was falling out of my chair, I felt the shockwave explode out of Pulse’s hand. Had I not dodged, I would have ended up exactly like that soldier. Instead, the chair I was sitting in was shattered. Bits of wood and cushion flying in every direction. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I didn’t have time to think about it either. I was going to die if I let this continue. I had to turn the tables.
All of those thoughts rushed through my head as I scrambled to get off the floor. Pulse, however, moved methodically. Like he was hunting me. It struck me how there was no malice in his face. He was merely doing what had to be done. I thought to myself I would need to do likewise.
I struck out with my shadow only to miss as Pulse dodged to the right. He then jumped into the air, aiming to come down on top of me for a second attack. He just missed my head as I used my shadow to pull me towards the door. I got to my feet and looked at the crater in the floor where my head had been.
Pulse rushed me and I had just enough time to cover myself in my Shadowskin before his power activated against my abdomen, knocking me through the wall. I struggled to breathe and get to my feet. Pulse’s power was truly devastating. I would’ve been mincemeat without my shadow. I could feel fear’s ugly grip as it crawled up my back. I needed to get back in action or else he would tear me to pieces. He might already be ready to do so.
As the fear grew and my mind raced, I heard a clear voice calling my name. It was Aria. She was frantic. She helped me get to my feet and, as I stood, my lungs filled with air again. I coughed hard and tried to speak.
“Aria. They’re trying to kill me. Jacob…” I couldn’t catch my breath.
“What are you talking about?”
“He’s trying to cover up what he’s done.” Jacob interrupted.
“What I’ve done? I’ve done nothing! You–“
“Did you not just attempt to kill me?”
“Is that true?” Aria said with shock on her face.
“No. He’s been lying to us. The whole mission was a lie.”
Aria looked at me with such sadness on her face. She didn’t believe me.
“Aria. Please. You have to believe me. I did not do this. He’s lying to you. He’s been lying to everyone.”
“He saved me, Michael!”
By this time, people had started to come out of their rooms to see what was going on.
“This man, Michael McTeague, attempted to assault me tonight.” Jacob spoke in a loud voice to the growing crowd. “He travelled through the shadows into my room while I was alone. Had it not been for Pulse walking in I would be dead.”
The crowd was almost instantly sympathetic to him, but I was focused on Aria. She was conflicted and I had to do everything I could to not lose her. While he spoke, I grabbed her hand and looked into her eyes while I spoke only to her.
“I love you. I would never do anything to hurt you. I am telling you the truth when I say to you that this man is a liar. I came here tonight because the mission I was sent on was a lie to provide cover so Pulse could steal something.”
“What did he steal?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It was in a metal briefcase, but I do know that in the process of stealing it, he killed a man. I saw it.”
“Because I am a merciful man, I will not seek revenge, but I cannot have him putting my people in danger. Therefore, Michael McTeague is hereby exiled from this place. No one will have contact with him and remain a part of this community. Leave now and never show your face here again.”
I looked to Aria. She was crying.
“Come with me. Please.”
She looked at me without saying anything for what seemed like an eternity. Then she gently pulled her hand away from mine and with a voice pregnant with emotion whispered, “I can’t.” For the second time that night, the wind was knocked out of me. I felt a deep abyss open in my chest as she ran away sobbing. Tears filled my eyes so that I couldn’t see.
It was Pulse who grabbed me and pushed me out the front doors. He actually wasn’t harsh as he escorted me off the property. It was as if he hadn’t been trying to kill me just a few minutes earlier. As we walked up to the illusion barrier surrounding the Railyard, he said to me, “It’s unfortunate things turned out this way. You always seemed like a cool guy. Don’t come back. I don’t want to have to kill you.”