Shake - Chapter 1 - springcarousel (2024)

Chapter Text

:: :: ::

PROLOGUE :: control

TRACK Facility

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

03:06 AM

7 years ago

The long hallway was bathed in red.

Red—the intermittent flashing lights signaling an emergency, paired with the hollow but reverberating shriek of an alarm in a three-tone sound, only one second of relief between warnings. Red—the streaks of blood across the linoleum floors of a typically immaculate breezeway that filtered pedestrians to heavily guarded dormitories. Red—the color of anger, passion, rage. The color that blinded Choi Yeonjun as he stood squinting with a white-knuckled grip on the doorframe of his small dorm.

One, two, three… he counted ten bodies in total strewn haphazardly across the floor of the hallway, some face down and some limbs overlapping. Each was wearing a fitted uniform and utility belt emblazoned with the same logo—TRACK. Training and Rehabilitation Association for Children with Kinesis. Yeonjun was one of those children, though he was flirting with his eighteenth birthday.

It was the noise that had woken Yeonjun from his deep sleep. Startled out of his slumber, Yeonjun had sat up in bed after hearing strangled choking noises first, and then the emergency alarm had sounded, which was a sound he typically only heard in drills. But drills did not occur at three in the morning. Once he had gotten his wits about him, Yeonjun had stumbled out of bed, wondering why his roommate hadn’t even stirred, wondering why he hadn’t yet heard the barking calls of other TRACK staff members ushering hundreds of vulnerable young people to safety.

But now he knew.

“Don’t touch them. They’re dead.”

[control] :: halsey

Yeonjun teetered and reached behind him to find the doorframe again, but he caught only air. He stood rooted to the spot, and then he stared through the haze of blinking red lights in the darkness to the other end of the hallway. In an instant, the flashing lights stopped, and the alarm ceased. Now the space was just illuminated red, contrasting with the inky night sky outside the bulletproof glass windows on either side of the hallway.

“What are you doing?” Yeonjun’s voice cracked when he spoke in the silence. “What… What have you done? What have you done?”

At the other end of the hall, Choi Soobin was a dark shadow outlined in red, and when he stepped into the light, his eyes seemed to glow, but not with a spark of optimism. Maybe he was seeing red, too. He had to be in order to have done all of this. Yeonjun couldn’t properly assess the damage, but the word “dead” was an echo in his head now.

“Why leave them alive?” Soobin said, and Yeonjun stared. He was only sixteen, but Soobin had become something of a phantom to Yeonjun recently. Months, months of fighting, months of Soobin pulling away from his closest friend and confidant. Months of other trainees voicing their blatant fear of “him.” Months of the silent treatment, of Yeonjun wondering why his friend was in the same building but in the wind. Maybe the fears hadn’t been misplaced. Maybe they were right to have been scared.

“Why is no one else awake?” Yeonjun asked. “What did you do to them?”

“I told them not to worry.” Soobin’s voice sounded distant. “To stay in bed. Or stay away. But someone has to help me walk out of here.”

Yeonjun watched, frozen, as one of the bodies on the floor closest to Soobin’s feet suddenly slid across the linoleum, and then the body flipped over sloppily, limbs flopping. Soobin crouched down and nicked the keycard from the hip of the dead nightguard, and he clipped it to his belt loop clinically before rising to his feet again. As he did, Yeonjun heard a groan that sounded like an explosion in the confines of the quiet hallway. Soobin heard it, too, and Yeonjun squinted. One of the nightguards ( Kangdae, Yeonjun thought. I never liked him ) stirred, and Yeonjun saw his hand reaching for the radio on his hip.

Soobin saw it, too.

“Stop it. Stop it, don’t!” Yeonjun called out, but he was too weak. His hands were by his side, but with his right palm facing Kangdae, he did everything he could to keep the radio on the guard’s hip and within reach, used every mutated cell within his body to force that radio to remain on Kangdae’s utility belt, all of his effort until his hand was shaking. But it was futile.

“Let go.”

“Soobin, don’t,” Yeonjun pleaded, gritting his teeth as he felt his power slipping. Soobin wasn’t moving; he was only staring at the radio all the same, and that was when Yeonjun broke. The radio flew up into the air and hit the window before falling to the floor with a clatter.

“I never liked him,” Soobin said in a light voice, and then his eyes flicked over to a female guard who was lying on the floor. Immediately, she roused and began to stand despite her visible injuries, and Yeonjun tried to rush forward to offer assistance, or to block Soobin from doing any further damage. He would have continued, but Soobin’s sharp voice stopped him.

“Take another step and you’ll be hurt. Don’t make me do it. I don’t want to.”

Yeonjun skidded to a halt, and then he lifted both hands to his head, checking in fear, his breathing erratic. He was still in total control. He had chosen to stop with his own free will. There was no message being broadcasted in his mind telling him what to do.

Soobin wasn’t in his head.

But he was in the heads of hundreds of others within the TRACK facility, and he was in the heads of both Kangdae and the female guard, Chohee.

“Soobin, don’t. No. No, don’t, don’t, stop,” Yeonjun begged, stumbling sideways and catching himself against the wall near the window, keeping his eyes up to avoid seeing the body that was at his feet. But Soobin was relentless. His expression was stoic. It was his eyes that were doing all the work, even though Yeonjun had a sinking feeling that looking at what he was doing wasn’t necessary for Soobin at this point. He had far surpassed “dangerous.” Now, Chohee was staggering over to where Kangdae was lying, and she dropped to her knees and straddled Kangdae’s chest.

“Soobin, please. Please don’t.” Yeonjun attempted to plead again, but Soobin was much too preoccupied, too far gone, as made evident by the hollow vacancy in his eyes and the way that he lifted a hand and flicked it once. Then he stared Yeonjun down as Chohee, with both hands, began to strangle Kangdae with brute strength, leaning into it as Kangdae, helpless and under Soobin’s control, began to writhe against the cold, blood-stained floor. Yeonjun didn’t break Soobin’s eye contact. His heart was battering his ribcage, his eyes were burning, and he could hardly breathe, but he clenched his jaw and held Soobin’s gaze, refusing to look at the struggle that was occurring.

“Do you know what he did to me?” Soobin asked when Kangdae was suddenly still. Yeonjun didn’t answer. “Did you know that she watched?” Chohee climbed off Kangdae and began to search her utility belt, and tears finally spilled from the brims of Yeonjun’s eyes. “Don’t beg. It only makes you sound weak.”

Yeonjun didn’t dare to speak. Chohee had her back turned to Yeonjun as she fumbled, but it wasn’t long before she arced gracefully and collapsed to the ground, and Yeonjun pursed his lips and closed his eyes, turning his head away. But the image of Chohee with scarlet blood dribbling from a self-inflicted wound to her carotid artery was seared into his memory with a glimmer of instant trauma. When Yeonjun opened his eyes, there was a brand new pool of blood seeping onto the floor, the red lighting reflecting on the surface.

“Come with me.”

Yeonjun’s sharp intake of breath was the only sound in the lifeless hall. Soobin just stood there in black pants and a black sweatshirt, hood up, stoic in the face of nearly a dozen murders he had just orchestrated, unflinching when confronted by streams of blood that seemed to cry out in agony if Yeonjun listened closely enough.

“I’m not going with you anywhere,” Yeonjun choked out.

“Right.” The little exhale Soobin let out through his nose hinted at laughter. “Because you’re going to pass the exam and leave this place and become Seoul’s shining beacon of hope. And now that I’ll be gone, you can do that. Isn’t that right? I won’t be your burden anymore.”

“You’re not a burden.”

“You can get out of here,” Soobin continued. “You can be free of all this. Learn how to use your kinesis the right way instead of being told to shut it off.”

“And what, live on the run without restrictions? Be an anomaly?”

“You’re too scared.” Soobin lifted his chin slightly, and Yeonjun finally began to take slow, steady steps in Soobin’s direction. “You play nice with me, but you don’t want to be an anomaly. Point made. So let me make mine—if you’re not with me, then you’re against me.”

“What, it’s really that black and white?” Yeonjun stopped walking, not ready to sidestep around a dead body quite yet.

“It’s always been that black and white. You’re just blind,” Soobin snapped, his tone quiet and icy. “Come with me.”

“No.” How was he still doing it? How was Soobin still maintaining such pristine and seamless control over the hundreds, literal hundreds, of people within the TRACK facility? Had the staff underestimated him that severely? Were they that ignorant to the raw and untapped power that Soobin had, power that he desperately tried to hide to no avail? Power that ended only in punishment?

“I’m leaving, then.”

Soobin turned his back to Yeonjun, but Yeonjun lifted both hands and pushed his own palms towards his shoulders. Immediately, the double doors of the hallway slammed shut, and Soobin stopped. He glanced over his shoulder at Yeonjun, and as he did, the door on the right opened on its own. Yeonjun lowered his hands.

He was powerless against Soobin. Utterly powerless.

“One day.” Soobin spoke to the open doorway. “When they turn you into a hero with all their pomp and circ*mstance.” He slowly turned his head and stared at Yeonjun, nothing but an empty void in his eyes where there once was hope. His eyes flicked down to the bodies strewn up and down the hall before landing on Yeonjun again. “I hope you remember this.”

Soobin turned, and then he disappeared down the hallway, leaving the door open. Yeonjun didn’t dare to move and wasn’t even sure he was breathing. He waited, wondering why the facility was still silent as the grave (a makeshift grave was beneath his feet), wondering why the lockdown alarms and emergency lights were ineffective. But just as he began to walk towards the open door, the alarm began to shriek again. The lights flashed. Yeonjun staggered sideways, and then he heard absolute mayhem from all sides. Terrified, Yeonjun leapt over one body and skidded back into his dorm room, noticing that his roommate was stirring now in the dark.

From outside, a clap of thunder shook the walls. Lighting streaked across the sky and illuminated the room for just a moment. And as the rain began to fall and voices began to echo throughout the hallway, Yeonjun wondered if Soobin’s unfiltered fury had sparked a storm.

:: :: ::


hello hi how are you, are you good? Feeling happy? Excited to breathe oxygen another day? Love that for you, come join me!

So welcome to... this LOL.

Listen. Come closer. Brace yourself for the disclaimer of a lifetime because.. well, y'all get it. It's a scary world out there on Twitter dot com and AO3.

The tags are there for a reason. There's violence and murder and mentions of suicide by mind control. I'll provide warnings at the start of each chapter, but I feel like if you're reading, you've likely been with me long enough to know that I'm relatively reliable with a plot. If you can watch Vincenzo or Squid Game and be like "nice," then this is mild in comparison!

Some important things to note that I'm hoping you'll understand because you should be an adult if you're reading this:

This is fiction. A fictional depiction of characters!!! If you cannot separate this story from reality or from the real people, close the tab. I feel like it goes without saying, but writing about or enjoying storylines with villains or morally grey characters does not mean I condone such actions in real life.

Also, this story does touch on some sensitive topics such as abuse (emotional, physical, mental) and grooming/brainwashing, especially when many of the characters were young. Again, warnings will apply per chapter, so just read smartly!

OK YAY that all sounds very scary but again, as I tagged, there's a vibe to this. Remember that if you clicked PROCEED before reading, you've agreed and are willing to consume adult content :D



Chapter 2: BAD DREAM ::


CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS: canon-typical violence, mind control, mentions of torture, mentions of suicide by mind control

Don't forget that you can watch the aesthetic teaser trailer HERE

And that you can view character case files with the following links:

Kai & Namjoon

Changbin & Taehyun

Yeonjun & Yoongi


I cannot emphasize enough how monumentally important the following people were in the creation of this story:

::Cata, for being my eternal cheerleader and forever soulmate and making the moodboard as always

::Hanna, for reading every chapter and never once neglecting to have a whole podcast with me about the plot AND FOR THE ART HOLY sh*t

::Andy, for the daily writing sprints over literal months and being a damn pillar of support and for beta reading; this story wouldn't exist without him! He also made the case files *sobs*

::Ash, for threatening murder and an existential crisis but then happily beta reading this monster and giving feedback

::Clau, for reading this beast ahead of time and giving invaluable feedback that I used to drive this story home

And of course, my beautiful and loving partner (a whole industry professional film editor, can you believe), who made the trailer for this story!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

:: :: ::


Yeonjun’s residence

Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

06:53 AM

present day

Yeonjun awoke abruptly, lying on his back, eyes shooting open. There was nothing sluggish about it. He woke as if he hadn’t been sleeping at all, and he stared at his ceiling, the haze of daylight seeping through the edges of the blinds as the distant sound of the early morning train rattled outside his apartment window. Yeonjun closed his eyes and pulled at the outside corners of his eyelids with his fingers, tugging as he licked his chapped lips.

The blinds were closed. Yeonjun dropped his arms with a thwump against his blankets, rolled his head just a little to the left, and watched as the chain spun and the blinds rose, letting in all the morning light available.

[bad dream] :: ruelle

Another repetitive dream. Was it a vision? Yeonjun was struggling to believe that these were just recurring dreams anymore, not when he seemed to be reliving the same moment with new, shiny filters over it each time. It happened at random, the nights he dreamed about Choi Soobin—never predictable, always splintered memories. But none of the memories were warped to a point of concern. Sometimes, Yeonjun dreamed that the hallway was empty and that no one had died. Sometimes, he tried to run down the hallway but ended up moving in slow motion, never making it in time to save Soobin, to keep him from leaving.

Yeonjun usually woke at seven in the morning, and he was meant to be at work any time before nine o’clock. His work wasn’t typical, but Yeonjun himself wasn’t typical, either. As a human with a genetic mutation of telekinesis, he was classified differently. At birth, he had been identified and marked and documented by a team of doctors thanks to rapid genetic testing, and his parents had raised him as best as they could until he was five. Then he had been sent off to the TRACK facility in Naegok-dong, where he had attended school while also being trained to regulate and control his telekinesis.

“What?” Yeonjun murmured to himself as he swung his legs out of bed, picking up his phone as the dream faded from his mind. His phone had just vibrated, and the message was from a co-worker asking for coffee. With a roll of his eyes, Yeonjun got up and padded into the bathroom, yawning.

Yeonjun worked with the National Intelligence Service in the Department of Kinesis Regulation, and at age twenty-five, that was supposed to be impressive. But Yeonjun had been bred for success, in many ways, trained to be the perfect hero. Besides math and science and music, Yeonjun had spent his time at TRACK in intensive training sessions with qualified experts who taught him exactly how to control his power, and how to purposely restrict and limit himself enough to be integrated back into society. Yeonjun had been poised and ready to pass the exit examination early, around age twelve or so. But he had purposely failed it time and time again.

For Soobin.

Soobin had failed the exit examination every time it was offered, and as Yeonjun brushed his teeth with vigor, he thought back to all of those days before Soobin had started retreating into his own shell. Yeonjun had sat with him so many times, comforting him as he wallowed in confusion. I can’t control it. I don’t know what’s going on. They only want me to use telekinesis, but do I have that? I don’t know if I understand how to do that. Why can’t I pass?

He had figured out why. And that had been the beginning of the end.

After showering, Yeonjun grabbed his breakfast and sat down at the kitchen table he had in his very nice apartment, courtesy of the Korean government. He ate his granola and yogurt and drank his smoothie while flicking through the news reports on his iPad, searching for anything out of the ordinary. As he ate with his right hand and used his right hand’s knuckles to scroll, he lifted his left hand and coaxed the blender into the kitchen sink right under the faucet. Focused on the screen, he flicked on the water from a distance and added a bit of soap, and then he guided the blender back to its stand and secured the lid. The blender then spun for its cleaning cycle.

“Mm,” Yeonjun hummed with a frown at one news story, but he flicked through it as the blender ceased. Yeonjun grabbed his smoothie with his left hand and glanced up, keeping his eyes on the blender as he dumped the soapy water into the sink and rinsed it out before tipping it upside down on the drying rack.

Multitasking was his strong suit.

Maybe Yeonjun could classify himself as a modern-day “superhero,” but to walk into the NIS, he had to dress the part, so he threw on a white button-up and a casual grey suit, and then he combed his dark red hair back with haste. After grabbing his black bag, he threw on a pair of sunglasses and hopped into his car, also courtesy of the government, and drove to Naegok-dong, home of the NIS.

National Intelligence Service

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

08:29 AM

“Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Yeonjun said to the valet when he pulled up to the garage after stopping for coffee. He handed over his keys, and then he grabbed his bag and headed towards the elevator with an agent escorting him.

“Phoenix has landed,” another said into an earpiece, and Yeonjun didn’t even flinch. Years ago, when he had started with the DKR, he had rolled his eyes and laughed at the alias he had been assigned (despite the fact that he had suggested it), the name that the general public used for him and how newspapers wrote about him whenever he “saved the day,” the way that the DKR and NIS addressed him. But not everyone with kinesis became an ally and earned an alias. Most disappeared back into normal society and never resurfaced again.

“How was your night?” Yeonjun asked the agent conversationally as the elevator soared up. The agent turned and bowed deeply to Yeonjun.

“Very nice, thank you. And yours?”

“Tossed and turned all night,” Yeonjun admitted, rummaging through his bag with both hands for his phone, which seemed to have vanished. The elevators had mirrors, so he didn’t miss the way that the agent eyed the floating coffee cups that Yeonjun was controlling with his mind. “Ah, here it is.” He emerged from his bag with his phone after pulling it from the depths. “Hope today isn’t an assignment day.”

“Director Nam did mention a briefing,” the agent said as the elevator doors opened, and Yeonjun sighed. “Department of Kinesis Regulation.”

“Thanks.” Yeonjun stepped out of the elevator and into the bustling DKR space, looking around. There was a very active bullpen in the center of the room filled with desks and workers busy on their computers, some on the phone, some conversing with their heads bent together. Offices for the higher-ups were around the perimeter of level eight, and Yeonjun had his own office space that he rarely used, since he was mostly on the go. But his picture was hanging on the opposite wall to the right of Director Nam’s portrait, though both of them were small in size compared to the director of the NIS himself. There was also an impressive portrait of Jo Chansung, director of TRACK. Chansung had been named director twenty years ago, and TRACK had only been established twenty-nine years ago. Yeonjun knew that Chansung’s first year as director had also been Yeonjun’s first year living and studying at the TRACK facility.

The DKR was a relatively new branch of the NIS; genetic mutations of kinesis had only been brought to public attention thirty years ago, and TRACK had made its hasty debut a year later. There was still no plausible explanation for what caused the mutation in newborn children, though the most common theory was that it was created in a lab and disguised as something like the common cold or a flu strain during flu season, and that women had gone on to bear children with the mutation.

Yeonjun didn’t want to think about being a makeshift science experiment.

Kinesis was relatively contained to certain pockets of the world—Seoul was running rampant with kinetic individuals. Tokyo had a training center as well as a Department of Kinesis Regulation. Most major cities kept it contained, but all hospitals had the genetic testing available. That was how Yeonjun had ended up at TRACK as a scared five-year-old crying for his mother.

“If you drop my coffee, I’ll cry.”

“Just take it before I dump it on your head.”

“You would never.” Jung Kai, known under his alias as Prism, wrapped his hand around the floating coffee, intercepting Yeonjun halfway to his office, and Yeonjun sipped his own coffee, surveying his coworker.

Kai was just as small and mighty as Yeonjun was (though they both still packed some height), and he was capable of geokinesis. Kai could manipulate earth, and that meant dirt, soil, sand, minerals, and crystals. If asked, he could even manipulate molten materials like rock or metal. It made things interesting when Kai could fold origami out of paper using only his mind, since paper came from trees. But Kai could also cause an earthquake, even though the restrictions set by the DKR on him never allowed for such extremes.

“Agent said there’s a briefing today,” Yeonjun said as they slowly walked towards Kai’s office space.

“I quite literally just got here,” Kai replied. He was a year older than Yeonjun and easy on the eyes, in Yeonjun’s biased opinion. His hair had been a pale, sandy white blonde when Yeonjun had first met him years ago, and it still was, but now the tips of it were stained dark, almost black as the soil he manipulated—a direct result of kinesis.

“Did you read about the blackout at Gangnam-gu Maximum Security Prison?” Yeonjun asked.

“It was for five minutes, and it was only the circuit breaker,” Kai responded, and Yeonjun clicked his tongue and said nothing further. “You think that’s what the briefing is about? Are we going to have to go out there and investigate?”

“Since when do they send you to investigate things like that?” Yeonjun wearily asked, and Kai snickered, because Yeonjun had a point. Yeonjun was the poster child for the DKR, their go-to man, Seoul’s hero. He wasn’t bulletproof, nor was he immortal, but he was agile and intelligent and telekinetic, which was (surprisingly) not as common amongst the kinesis population. Telekinesis was the most notorious within pop culture and media, but most children who turned up at TRACK were born with pyrokinesis or hydrokinesis. Many had weaker mutations of kinesis that required minimal training, and those children were released quickly back to their families with suppressed abilities. Yeonjun’s abilities were not weak. His abilities were startlingly strong.

And he, too, felt that he suppressed most of it. As instructed by TRACK and reinforced by the DKR, Yeonjun had passed the exit examination and was only released into society when he demonstrated his ability to control and severely limit his telekinesis. Control over chaos. That was the mantra. Yeonjun could use it for mundane tasks like he had for his breakfast, but using his abilities to hurl parked cars at the enemy was only something he could do in extreme situations, and it was always a discussion afterwards.

Only three people knew that Yeonjun was an anomaly. Anomalies were typically marked as a danger to society, many of them rogue or incarcerated in specialized prisons designed to hold those with kinetic abilities. But Yeonjun had been instructed from an early age to abandon his pyrokinesis and focus only on telekinesis. To pretend that he had no capability to manipulate fire and that he wasn’t drawn to it constantly. The constant reminders to suppress it had worked, and Yeonjun’s malleable young mind had soaked it all in. Now he was an expert in his field, and his would-be pyrokinetic talents were a secret. Director Nam knew. Jo Chansung, director of TRACK, knew.

Choi Soobin knew.

“Yah, where’s my coffee?”

“You didn’t text me and ask for one,” Yeonjun said as he sat down in one of the chairs in Kai’s office space. Kim Changbin, known under his alias as Flare, was sitting in Kai’s desk chair, and he was rolling a giant piece of black tourmaline between his hands, something Kai kept on his desk.

Changbin was a veteran to Yeonjun—ten years in the field (compared to Yeonjun’s seven), one of the first to be hired on as an asset with the DKR. Electrokinesis was his ability, manipulating and generating electric energy and electrical fields. Much like Yeonjun couldn’t throw cars as a weapon, Changbin wasn’t permitted to create a lightning storm just for the hell of it, even though he was capable of doing so. He worked within the limitations set for him, but he was still spectacular at his job.

“I feel like you should just know at this point,” Changbin replied as the black tourmaline flew out of his hands. He didn’t even blink. Kai caught it in one hand and ran his fingers gently over the surface, brow furrowed. “Relax, Mother Earth. I didn’t mess with it.”

“You’re pure electricity, you lunatic. Black tourmaline is supposed to protect me from you,” Kai half-joked, and Yeonjun snickered, still working his way through his coffee. “Do you know anything about a briefing?”

“What, the one at nine o’clock?” Changbin’s eyes flicked to the clock on the wall. When he was truly fired up and in his element, flashes of electrical currents tended to flare (all puns intended) through his eyes like a traveling storm. His hair was dark brown, but he had some blatant white streaks through it, and not from age. He also had a scar around his wrist from an electrical burn that had, surprisingly, affected him. He was typically immune to such things, but the electrokinetic he fought once upon a time had done a number on him. Yeonjun still didn’t know the whole story.

“That would be the one.” Kai turned to Yeonjun. “Guess there really is a briefing.”

“We just recuperated from Friday,” Yeonjun said, recalling back to Friday night when, as a trio, they had headed out to a casino to interrupt a heist that was about to take place with three registered kinetic individuals using their abilities to make out with the cash. It happened often—trainees passed the TRACK exit examination and infiltrated back into society without a peep afterwards, but sometimes, the urge struck, and restrictions and laws were broken. Those were the easier cases. It was the anomalies that made things difficult.

“You had three men pinned to the wall with a slot machine each,” Changbin said as Kai snorted with laughter. “If you don’t get an earful from Director Nam for that, I’ll be shocked.”

“It was either pin them to the wall nicely or let them run out into the streets,” Yeonjun complained. “I wasn’t about to let the fight move into open space.”

“I literally cut the electricity. They would’ve had to take the stairs,” Changbin pointed out.

“Where there were windows, and they could have easily created a waterfall bridge to escape,” Kai added, shaking his head. “I would’ve stopped them, but I digress.”

“Have I ever told you that one of my favorite things in the world is when you f*ck up a water bridge or path with something massive, like a boulder?” Yeonjun asked rhetorically, and Kai shot him a single finger gun with a click of his tongue and a wink. “The one with the tree was hilarious.”

“We don’t speak about the one with the tree,” Changbin sighed, and Yeonjun swore he could see the flashbacks in Changbin’s eyes as he suppressed his laughter. He was about to say more, but an agent appeared in the open door of Kai’s office.

“Director Nam would like to see you all for his nine o’clock briefing,” she said with a bow. Changbin hoisted himself up from the chair as Kai tossed the black tourmaline towards his desk, letting it flutter softly back into place with a quiet thud. He left the office first, followed by Yeonjun, and Changbin stepped into the hallway and glanced over his shoulder, turning the lights off without touching the lightswitch and letting Yeonjun pull the door shut with a wave of his hand behind his back.

“Director Nam.” Yeonjun approached the meeting room first with a bow, which Kai and Changbin imitated. The man who turned away from the window was one of the most familiar faces in Yeonjun’s life. He was tall and slightly lanky but with broad shoulders and a narrow face, black hair kept short with a hint of grey peppered along the sides and black-framed glasses. He was old enough to be Yeonjun’s father, and even though he had his finger in many pies that Yeonjun had never heard of before, Nam Sanghun was typically transparent with his golden trio of heroes and offered countless assignments.

“Come in. Have a seat,” Director Nam offered, gesturing to the large conference room table with many chairs available. Yeonjun sat down at the head of the table with Kai on his right and Changbin on Kai’s right, and Director Nam remained close to the window on Yeonjun’s left. There was a stack of files on the table, and Director Nam grabbed the first three, lips pursed.

“You’re aware that I usually—grab the door. Soundproofing,” Director Nam insisted. Yeonjun glanced at the door and watched it close, and he locked it for good measure as Changbin looked up and flicked a few fingers at the device mounted to the ceiling that initiated a soundproof blanket around the conference room using the insulation within the walls.

“Seems serious,” Kai commented.

“One for each of you,” Director Nam said, handing out the files. “You’re aware that I usually begin by prefacing the situation and providing all the information up front.”

“I love your little presentations,” Changbin said, and Yeonjun fought back a smile. But then he looked up at Director Nam and took in the facial expression of his boss, and the smile faded. Director Nam used one hand to beckon to the files, so simultaneously, the three opened the file given to them—typically a solid case file with a profile of their target or person of concern, some documents, some photographs, witness statements. But Yeonjun opened his file and just stared, befuddled immediately.

“Is this… supposed to be a… training exercise?” Changbin asked, glancing up.

“Or a joke?” Kai chimed in, equally bewildered.

“Name—blank. Age—blank. Blood type—blank. Yeah, this is enough to get a really good profile on the guy. Girl. What exactly are we…?” Changbin trailed off, swirling his hand around with raised eyebrows as Director Nam bridged his fingertips on the table, surveying his prized trio.

“Years active—five,” Yeonjun read, sensing Director Nam’s hesitation. “That the DKR knows about. But how do you know about it if you know nothing about this person? Male, female, or non-binary?”

“Male,” Director Nam quietly said. “We’re estimating five years. And that’s only because we’ve been going back through our cold cases and files to find similar… scenarios.”

“Please share with the class,” Kai requested, his fingers twitching a little as he stared at the paper that he was playing with, absentmindedly watching it float in mid-air above the file.

Director Nam turned, grabbed three more case files, and dropped one in front of each of them. Yeonjun flipped his file open, relieved to see a flood of information, photographs, reports, the works.

“Choi Kyunghyun.” Director Nam slipped his hands into his pockets. “Age fifty-one. Last night, he was brought to City of Seoul General Hospital by a good Samaritan who found him stumbling around the streets like a madman. Doctors determined that he had been in close contact with a kinetic individual based on his condition. Mr. Choi… told the doctors that the others were dead.”

“Others,” Changbin stated, and then he lifted a page and let out a little breath of understanding. Yeonjun was already staring at the graphic photos. One man was beaten in the head to a nearly unrecognizable point. Another was lying on his back, eyes open, face pale with a knife through his abdomen, blood soaking his shirt.

“Mr. Choi said that the two deceased individuals died from self-inflicted injuries,” Director Nam said. “That they were all forced into the same abandoned shop, taunted and tortured for information, and then… dealt with,” he finished, choosing his words carefully. “I use ‘taunted and tortured’ lightly, though. Those were Mr. Choi’s words. He said that he was forced to hold a knife to his own throat and watch while the others killed themselves. And that he had no power to lower the knife at any point and no power to look away.”

“So what, someone was using kinesis to manipulate his hands and eyes into staying there?” Kai held a fist up near his throat, mimicking Mr. Choi’s likely predicament.

“Are either of you able to do that?” Changbin asked, wiggling a finger between Yeonjun and Kai.

“TRACK and DKR restrictions forbid us from using kinesis to manipulate free will,” Yeonjun stated as if reading from a textbook, one elbow on the table with his thumbnail scraping his bottom lip. “And it sounds like Mr. Choi’s free will was in question.”

“I’m guessing that the other two victims weren’t planning to commit suicide,” Kai said after nodding in agreement with Yeonjun.

“Not at all,” Director Nam said. “Based on what Mr. Choi said, anyway. These three men…” He gestured to the file. “They knew each other. And they all have something in common.”

“Former TRACK employees,” Yeonjun noted immediately, connecting the dots based on the available information. “They were targeted.”


“But why was Mr. Choi left alive?” Changbin wondered, and Director Nam returned to pressing his hands to the table, blowing out a breath.

“He’s been moved to a DKR safehouse with medical care to monitor his recovery. The doctors are concerned about a psychotic break,” Director Nam replied. “A man who was in perfect health, physically and mentally, is now on the edge of psychosis. Telling the DKR that ‘he’s coming for me’ and that the safehouse will do him no good.”

“Who’s ‘he,’ exactly?” Yeonjun swapped the case file for the first one, flipping it back open and pressing his middle finger to it. “This guy?”

“I implore you all to read more of his file,” Director Nam said, so Yeonjun did. Listed under abilities: undetermined. Omnikinesis; mind control; mental hypnosis; mental manipulation. And under warning: anomaly; defector; level 3 risk; highly dangerous.

“If you don’t even know who this guy is, then how do you know his abilities? How do you know he’s a TRACK defector?” Kai asked. Yeonjun read the information again and again, and the chilled feeling of simultaneous dread and déja vù crept into his stomach. Mind control. Mental hypnosis. Mental manipulation. Such things were unheard of; there were no documented cases of such abilities even existing, let alone being used with restrictions.

Yeonjun only knew one person in the world who could do such terrible things.

“He’s targeting former TRACK employees,” Changbin pointed out. “That alone tells you everything you need to know.”

“But we have no idea when he was registered with TRACK, if he was registered with TRACK when he was five-years-old,” Kai argued, glancing at Director Nam. “How can the DKR have absolutely no information about this guy? Every single human being born with a genetic mutation of kinesis is registered at birth. It’s like a damn birth certificate at this point. There’s no way that one kid slipped past TRACK like that.”

“Omnikinesis. Do you know what omnikinesis is?” Yeonjun asked, staring at one spot on the table. Sensing the silence, he continued. “It means that you can mentally control anything. Everything that exists, no matter what. Organic or not. Down to molecules,” Yeonjun emphasized. “If this guy is omnikinetic, then classifying him as a level three risk isn’t enough. That’s… That’s child’s play.”

“He could do anything he wants,” Changbin murmured. “Anything. Rules don’t apply.”

“How do you even fight someone like that?” Kai wondered.

“You don’t.” Yeonjun sniffed and straightened up, blinking to get the mental images of sixteen-year-old Choi Soobin out of his head, the last time he had seen Soobin alive in that red hallway. He looked at Kai. “You wanted to know why the guy isn’t registered with TRACK. What if he was? What if he spent time at the TRACK facility and trained there, but no one remembers? Who’s to say that he didn’t just—” Yeonjun swept his hands across— “send out a mass broadcast message to everyone’s minds to wipe out any memory of him?”

“You think that’s possible?” Director Nam questioned, brow furrowed.

“Mental manipulation. Mental hypnosis,” Yeonjun reiterated. “Look at this report.” He went back to the case file from Mr. Choi’s ordeal. “Mr. Choi reported experiencing hallucinations of his wife and daughter being murdered. He was cognitively aware that holding the knife to his throat meant that he could die at any given moment, but he had no power to lower his hand. No control over his own body.”

Why leave them alive?

“Okay.” Changbin rubbed both of his palms on the surface of the table. “So then why are you telling us all of this?” he asked Director Nam. “What’s the point? We can’t fight someone with omnikinesis. If this guy is hellbent on finding everyone involved with TRACK and murdering them, then we have no choice but to sit by and let him do it. Is that what you’re saying?”

“He must have some kind of weakness,” Director Nam said, but the lack of strength in his voice made Kai snicker.

“So you want to send us on a suicide mission,” he said. “Because that’s what this would be.”

“If any of the three of us ever showed up for a confrontation, you’d have to come collect our bodies,” Changbin replied. “Not that I’m against dying for a cause or anything, because—well, I mean, why the hell else would we have this job? But this wouldn’t be dying for a cause. Do we even have a mission? A goal?”

“He needs more information.” Yeonjun stared Director Nam down. “Isn’t that right? You can’t go into it blind. If this man is as dangerous as you say he is based on one case alone, then we need more information. You’re just bringing us up to speed. Is that it?”

“That’s… yes. Unfortunately,” Director Nam added with a frown. “We’re going to have to wait for him to strike again, which is an awful thing to say. But we’ll need to warn all TRACK employees, past and present.”

“And say what?” Kai raised one eyebrow, and then he lifted his hand and made a phone out of his fingers. “Hey there, former TRACK employee. There’s an anomaly on the loose, level three risk, highly dangerous, and he’s hunting down anyone who’s associated, past or present, with TRACK. Oh, and, uh, he’s omnikinetic. So there’s nowhere you can actually hide and nothing you can do. Good luck!”

“So do you warn them and create mass hysteria, or do you say nothing at all and wait for them to realize that they’re being targeted?” Yeonjun asked. “And how do you know that warning them won’t make this man angrier? I can’t say he seems like the kind of guy to back down once he’s been called out. And the second we get involved, we’re all at risk for being under mind control.”

“Does he have a name?” Kai asked, one elbow on the table as he addressed Director Nam. “Has the DKR assigned him an alias?”

Director Nam nodded grimly. “Phantom.”

“And is he working alone?” Yeonjun asked, and Director Nam finally perked up.

“We have some information about that,” he said. “We don’t believe he’s working alone, which is why I feel like you may not be at risk of being immediately killed in a confrontation. It seems that he may play nice with others with kinesis. We believe he’s working with two other defectors, but these are men we have on our radar. Changbin-ssi, if you would.”

Director Nam grabbed a little remote and sat down in a chair closest to the front, and Changbin, elbow on the table, lifted his hand and flicked it once, the lights going out. Then he directed his hand to the projector, and it whirred to life and connected directly with the laptop that was nearby. Changbin sat back, and Director Nam took over, using the remote. Yeonjun leaned back in his chair and stared at the screen, at the picture of a handsome but dangerous-looking man.

“Min Yoongi. Assigned alias—Flicker. Age twenty-seven. TRACK defector. Advanced pyrokinesis. He’s been on and off of our radar for about nine years now,” Director Nam said. Min Yoongi’s mugshot was enough to cause concern amongst the general public, but Yeonjun was unfazed. With his strangely silver-blue icy hair and dark eyes and a long vertical scar over his right eye, as well as visible burn marks and scars on his neck and right shoulder, he was frightening in appearance to the unsuspecting.

“I remember him,” Kai said quietly. “He can generate fire. He doesn’t just manipulate heat and fire that already exists. He had… I remember. He had these—” Kai held up both hands— “scars on his palms. From creating fire.”

“That’s what happens when someone with kinesis goes without restrictions,” Director Nam warned, and Yeonjun pursed his lips. “Out of a possible three, this man is a level two risk. He’s considered dangerous. But he’s more reckless than dangerous at this point. He, quite literally, enjoys playing with fire. Prior charges include numerous counts of arson, four known second-degree murder charges, and evading both capture and conviction.”

“And you think he’s working with Phantom?” Yeonjun quietly asked.

“Strange things have happened coincidentally,” Director Nam replied. “Dead men and women, a remaining survivor or two crying about being marked for death and on the verge of a mental breakdown, and a fire. It’s all too convenient for our liking.”

The next slide appeared. This man was different. Not petite and the human form of a blaze, but larger, fit, almost… normal. Also handsome. His hair was the color of sea water, his eyes a story in and of themselves, and there was blue bleeding into his irises.

“Kim Namjoon. Assigned alias—Maelstrom,” Director Nam introduced. “Age twenty-six. He’s been on our radar for about eight years, give or take. TRACK defector. Advanced hydrokinesis, and this man… In my opinion, he should be a level three risk, but he’s sitting at a level two risk because it’s been awhile since we’ve heard from him.”

“I remember this guy from years ago,” Changbin chimed in, and he glanced at Yeonjun. “Right before you came to us. This guy uses human manipulation based on body composition. Illegally.”

“The body’s made up of seventy percent water,” Yeonjun murmured.

“If you so much as sweat, he’ll use it against you,” Director Nam added. “This is the man who emptied half of the Han River and turned it into a deadly flash flood that he unleashed on an NIS government factory just north of here, closer to Dogok-dong. The death toll was high.”

“He put it back.”

“That he did,” Director Nam said with a humorless chuckle when Changbin spoke up. “You remember that, I presume.”

Changbin snickered. “Of course I do. Some sick and twisted environmentalist he is.”

“So these are the two men,” Yeonjun said, staring at Yoongi’s and Namjoon’s photos side-by-side now. “Polar opposites. Fire and water. And you think they’re working with Phantom.”

“There’s a chance,” Director Nam stated carefully, and Yeonjun could sense his hesitation, watching him turn the remote over in his hands. Yeonjun glanced at Changbin and Kai individually, and they both nodded, so Yeonjun lifted his hand until the remote soared into his outstretched palm.

“If I click ‘next,’ what am I going to see?” he asked, ever intuitive, thumb hovering over the button. Director Nam pitched forward, but Yeonjun held tightly to the remote. “Is there more? Is there something else in this little presentation that you’re not showing us?”

Director Nam pursed his lips and breathed through his nose, eyes closed for just a moment. “Once again, Yeonjun-ssi, your intelligence is the loudest thing in the room.” He sounded mildly fond, though exasperated. “I hesitate to show you more. It’s guesswork at this point. But there’s one more man you should be briefed on related to this situation. And I say that because he’s been in contact previously with both Flicker and Maelstrom.”

“Not him.”

Director Nam said nothing when Changbin spoke in a whisper. Perhaps Yeonjun had been active with the DKR for seven years, but he hadn’t been part of this golden trio for that long. He had worked his way up to becoming the hero he was today, so he was missing about four years of information. But the fear in Changbin’s eyes was palpable, something that Yeonjun rarely saw, and it was a red flag. Nevertheless, Yeonjun handed the remote back to Director Nam, who clicked the button on the remote. A mugshot appeared on the screen.

“Oh,” Yeonjun whispered, because he recognized this man. If the other two were handsome, this man was chiseled by the gods, but somewhere along the way, a demon had swept in to take him. Wild black hair long enough to tie at the nape of his neck. Half-lidded eyes that could crackle with electricity if given the chance. Veins that ran dark along his neck when provoked.

“Kim Taehyun.” Director Nam let the name hang in the air for a moment. “Assigned alias—Shock. Age twenty-five. He defected from TRACK at age sixteen. And that was when he crossed paths with Changbin.”

“I was brand new,” Changbin recalled, voice faint. “I was sent out to take care of a simple lightning storm in the middle of Yongsan-gu that made no sense. And when I got there…” He hesitated, closing his eyes for just a moment. “It was a police station that had been struck. I walked inside and it—I mean, it just… burning flesh. That’s what it smelled like. Charred bodies. Half the officers in there had been electrocuted to death. Water on the floor. Exposed wires. The entire building was a death trap. The only reason I could walk in there was because I could absorb the electricity without being killed by it.”

“A sixteen-year-old did that?” Kai asked in disbelief, and Yeonjun bit his tongue. He wasn’t about to let slip that he, too, had witnessed a sixteen-year-old unleashing hell on a group of adults with supposed authority who had severely wronged him.

“He came out of an office,” Changbin quietly continued with a vague gesture. “Scrawny kid with a literal whip of electricity.” He held up both hands. “Between his hands. And there was this one officer who tried to sit up and shoot him. And he—I tried to stop him. I tried to take it from him, the whip that he had created. Tried to do something. But he was… he was way too powerful. He took me out.” Changbin held up his wrist, the one with the scar. “Cracked that whip and wrapped it right around that officer’s throat and killed him. Walked right up to me. Said that I would always lose. And then he left.”

“I dealt with him after that,” Kai chimed in. “I don’t think you’ve had to fight him yet, Yeonjun. I fought him twice. Ended up in the hospital both times.”

“He’s a level three risk,” Director Nam declared. “But not in the same way as Phantom. He’s highly dangerous because he’s angry. Multiple first-degree murder charges, countless second-degree murder charges, illegal use of electric shock torture. He’s currently incarcerated in solitary confinement at Gangnam-gu Maximum Security Prison in the kinesis block. He sees the sun for an hour a day.”

“So he’s been evaluated. Psychologically,” Yeonjun clarified, and Director Nam clicked his tongue.

“Mentally sound,” he declared, and Yeonjun raised his eyebrows. “ No psychopathy, no sociopathy, no narcissism. Just pure, raw, unfiltered rage. And surely some deep trauma that’s caused such a reaction, but TRACK hasn’t given us much about him. He’s still incarcerated, but he’s dangerous. He’s been known to join forces with the other two in the past, but it’s been three years since he’s been free.”

“I can imagine they all got along swimmingly,” Yeonjun said with resentment. “A madman with electrokinesis meets a pyromaniac and a guy who can create flash floods. And now you think they’re teaming up with a man who’s unstoppable. Does the DKR have an explanation for this? As to why you let it get this far?”

“Yeonjun,” Kai said in warning as Director Nam swelled slightly.

“This was not a result of the DKR’s negligence,” he said snappishly. “If we had an explanation, Yeonjun-ssi, one would be provided. Just know that these men are all defectors, and they’re a danger to society.”

“But what the hell made this guy —” Yeonjun gestured to Taehyun’s photo— “angry enough to do what he’s done? Why did he defect from TRACK at sixteen? And why did he turn into a mass murderer?”

“Many of them…” Director Nam settled, his moment of indignance fading. “Many of them feel that they’ve been wronged by TRACK. That they were mistreated. That they should be… allowed to do as they please. Kim Taehyun—Shock—he was one of those people. These are anomalies, keep in mind. TRACK sees them as dangerous and unstable, and for a good reason. These are people who believe that the system we have in place doesn’t work, despite evidence to the contrary.”

“And what does TRACK think about all of this?” Yeonjun asked. “Do they know about him? About Phantom?”

“They’ve been made aware,” Director Nam stated as he adjusted his positioning in his chair. “And I’m working directly with Director Jo to scour the records for an anomaly with this kind of…”

“Raw power,” Changbin supplied. “This man could wipe out an entire population. But Yeonjun’s right. They may not have a record if this guy can override actual human memories and destroy physical and digital records.”

“If he’s omnikinetic, he can wipe an entire hard drive,” Kai pointed out, and Changbin hummed in agreement, having done it several times himself. “We really might have nothing on Phantom.”

I have everything. I know who he is. I have years and years’ worth of memories. I know who Phantom is. I’d stake my life on it. Yeonjun listened to the pointless chatter about TRACK’s investigation, but all he could focus on was the single picture attached to the file, nothing but a blur in the dark of a masked man down the street. Very different from the teenage boy Yeonjun had once stood opposite of in the dormitory hallway of the TRACK facility seven years ago.

“We’ll need to wait for him to make a move.” Director Nam sounded tired, and Yeonjun couldn’t blame him. The sheer scope of this was likely unimaginable to him. Surely they were hardly scratching the surface, and everyone in the room knew it. This was the bare-minimum introduction to what was probably a very large iceberg.

“And what if that move is more murder and psychological torture?” Kai wondered aloud. Director Nam clenched his jaw and inhaled through his nose, and as he exhaled, Kai nodded. “Okay. Heaven help us. Alright. This won’t end well for anyone.”

“He’s on a mission,” Yeonjun murmured as he stared out the window, but the room was silent enough for the others to hear. With an elbow propped on the armrest, fingers near his lips, he added, “If he’s hunting down everyone ever involved in TRACK, then this is a crusade for him. It’s exactly as you said, Director Nam. This is a guy… who’s been wronged by the system.”

“In his opinion,” Director Nam corrected Yeonjun, but Yeonjun didn’t refute it. He didn’t have the energy. His mind was in overdrive now, because for seven years, he had willingly suppressed the memories or the mere thought of the government he worked for being tainted. That couldn’t be an option for him. He was already an outlier enough as it stood, being an individual with kinesis.

In today’s society, it was conform or comply. Yeonjun’s choices had been to pass the exit examination and work for the betterment of society and use his abilities for good, or transfer to a facility for anyone over eighteen who needed more intensive training to control their abilities. Yeonjun had taken door number one. Door number one out of fear. Door number one because the other option hadn’t seemed feasible or sustainable.

“Do you know what’s more dangerous than a man with omnikinesis?” Yeonjun asked, tearing his eyes away from the window. “A man with nothing to lose. Trying to stop him or intervene will make this ugly. I’ve seen enough to know that much.”

“He’s right,” Kai agreed.

“So what’s our move?” Changbin asked. “What’s the job?”

“I want a list,” Director Nam said firmly. “Of every TRACK employee past and present, every donor or sponsor, every politician who has ever endorsed TRACK. I want it on my desk by Friday. Employees.” He pointed at Changbin. “Donors and sponsors.” He pointed at Kai. “Politicians.” He pointed to Yeonjun. “With these lists, the least we can do is a wellness check.”

“You don’t want to tell them,” Yeonjun said in disbelief. “You want to keep them in the dark and just let them get snatched up at random.”

“Blissful ignorance or mass hysteria?” Kai offered, holding out both hands like a scale to Yeonjun. “That’s what we’re looking at.”

“Get to work,” Director Nam commanded, rising to his feet. “Keep the files. And keep this discussion between us. This is classified and privileged information.”

“Yes, Director Nam,” Yeonjun said in chorus with Changbin and Kai, all three of them bowing as Director Nam excited the conference room. Yeonjun straightened up, and Changbin immediately lifted the soundproofing and wiped the projection screen clean of the images with a wave of his hand.

“You know how both of you can sense and predict when a natural disaster is coming?” Yeonjun said as he folded his arms and gazed out the window again onto the gardens down below. “An earthquake or lightning storm?”

“You want to know if it feels like that?” Kai let out a breathy laugh, slipping his hands into his pockets as he stared down at the open file on the table, dark tips of his hair caught in his eyelashes. “It doesn’t f*cking feel good. That’s all I’ve got for you.”

“Why were you questioning him?” Changbin asked Yeonjun, his tone curious and not accusatory. “About the DKR only knowing about Phantom now? About TRACK? You never do that.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Yeonjun turned and swept up his files. “It just feels different this time. That’s all. We’re talking about four dangerous men who all have murder on their rap sheet. Working together. On a crusade to, what, purge Seoul of anyone working with TRACK? People on crusades like that aren’t really in the mood for a conversation.”

“They don’t change their minds. That’s what you’re trying to say,” Kai offered. “They’ll see it through no matter the cost. sh*t. What are we even doing?”

“Our jobs,” Changbin said with reluctance. “And now I get to go make a list of former and current TRACK employees. Do you know how long that’s going to take? And do either of you know how to make a goddamn spreadsheet?”

“At least all your names are in a system somewhere,” Yeonjun said with a small laugh, heading for the door. “You think politicians will be easy? You know how many shady motherf*ckers have thrown their money at TRACK?”

“Say ‘shady motherf*ckers’ out loud near the bullpen,” Changbin recommended as they exited the conference room, and Yeonjun only blinked as he kept walking. “Yah, you little sh*t!” And then Changbin bent down and hastily collected the stack of paper from near the printer and copying machine that Yeonjun had sent flying directly into his path. He heard Changbin asking Kai for some help, surely so he didn’t have to pick it all up by hand, but Yeonjun disappeared into his office.

Numbing himself with mindless research would have to be how he passed the time, and how he would keep himself from having to think another second about Choi Soobin being a wanted man.

Yeonjun’s residence

Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

23:51 PM

The shower water was running lukewarm, which was not a typical occurrence for Yeonjun. He usually showered quickly in scalding hot water (the heat really did it for him) and jumped out to do something productive. Tonight, though, he was showering later than normal, and all he could think about was Soobin.

It had been months, years, since he had meditated on Soobin for this long with no real answers. He was suddenly remembering every word of dialogue from that night, all seared into his brain like a branding mark. And the only reason that he could remember it all, the only reason that he knew Soobin had spent a decade virtually locked up at the TRACK facility, was because Soobin had always refused to touch Yeonjun.

As kids, they had made a promise to each other in the back of a music classroom. Yeonjun wouldn’t tattle on Soobin for using mind control on their teacher. In turn, Soobin would never use his abilities on Yeonjun, no matter how tempted. It was a childish pact, a pinky promise pact, but Soobin had never broken it. Even that night, he had left only Yeonjun cognizant of the entire ordeal. To everyone else, though, he had made a clean getaway and had become, truly, a phantom in the night.

Yeonjun wondered if anyone else had fleeting nightmares about him.

It was Friday, and Yeonjun had handed in his list of politicians once associated, or currently associated, with TRACK, and the DKR was now extending an ambiguous lifejacket to the fifty-seven men and women Yeonjun had identified.

He can’t kill that many people. He can’t. There’s no way.

Changbin’s list had been in the hundreds. Kai’s list had been close to one hundred. If Soobin had plans to kill all of the people on the master list that had been created, then Yeonjun didn’t want to witness it. The thought alone was terrifying; Soobin, if he was Phantom (Yeonjun was certain he was), had already killed upwards of a dozen people, but only Yeonjun knew about the first ten. How many more were there?

Yeonjun had never intentionally killed a single soul in his life. As a government-funded hero (the irony in that was rich), Yeonjun’s job was to capture or subdue, not kill. Three people had died as a result of his intervention and actions, but never by Yeonjun’s fault—one had committed suicide to avoid capture, and the other two had made rash decisions that had led to their deaths. Yeonjun had, however, put dozens upon dozens of criminals, kinetic or not, behind bars, and more than once, he had almost paid for it with his life.

Being a hero did not make Yeonjun immortal, and he had learned that quite quickly after ending up in the hospital after one of his first assignments with several broken ribs and a sprained ankle. Subsequently, he had trained harder, faster, longer, to a point where he felt immortal. In actuality, the physical fitness aspect of it and the extra training had just made him stronger and more agile, and he had learned how to fight—something they hadn’t taught at TRACK. Yeonjun now knew several different styles of fighting and could swing a punch at the best of them if need be.

But if he ever had to face someone with omnikinesis, especially someone who knew him well, Yeonjun feared he wouldn’t make it out alive.

“sh*t,” Yeonjun cursed, towel still around him when he heard the alarm going off. The alarm by his bed was from the DKR, and it sounded when Yeonjun was being summoned for an emergency situation that required his attention. Hopping around to pull on some underwear, Yeonjun breathlessly bent and read the message flashing on the screen:


“sh*t,” Yeonjun cursed louder, and then he threw his towel onto the bathroom floor and dove into his closet, letting the towel hang itself up on the rack. When he was called urgently, Yeonjun wore a specific uniform, knowing that he was going into a fight. It was a fitted black kevlar jumpsuit with bulletproof padding in silver patches on the chest and back—all flame resistant and able to absorb small bouts of electrical currents. The material was also water resistant, which helped when Yeonjun faced an adversary with hydrokinesis. There were a few built-in pockets, and Yeonjun had a utility belt with a few choice weapons, including a gun, since he was trained and licensed to carry one. The boots he wore were comfortable and flexible and easy for climbing and running, but they protected his feet, and he always wore a black face mask.

After hastily shoving his earpiece into his right ear, Yeonjun did a quick comms check while he ran out of his apartment.

“Phoenix to Leo.” Yeonjun leapt down the stairs three at a time, hopping over a railing and landing with a small grunt before continuing to run.

“Copy. I’d haul ass if I were you.”

Yeonjun snickered as he finally reached the garage on the ground floor. Choi Jisu, more affectionately known as Lia, was electrokinetic, but she wasn’t nearly as powerful as Changbin was. She was, however, a genius when it came to technology, and she worked with the DKR specifically on Yeonjun’s small team. She was his ears and sometimes his eyes out in the field whenever Yeonjun was on assignment, constantly using security cameras all across Seoul and hacking into whatever she could to give Yeonjun a leg up.

“What do you know?” Yeonjun asked as he swept his hand, the rolling door of the locked compartment at his building flying open. His motorcycle was parked there, ready and waiting for him to use.

“sh*t’s weird,” Lia said, always honest. “The prison went into a sudden lockdown at twenty-three-forty-five. But authorities weren’t alerted via the emergency communication system until five minutes later. And if you know anything about this prison—”

“That’s unheard of.” Yeonjun shoved the black helmet onto his head, swung his leg over the bike, and kickstarted the engine.

“A lockdown always coincides with authorities being summoned at the same time,” Lia confirmed. “So that means that something isn’t right. I know that because I can’t get into the security camera system.”

“What?” Yeonjun was speaking louder now to compensate for driving and the wind whipping around him.

“Yeah, exactly. I’m being stonewalled. And this is the kinesis block of the prison. You’re going in blind, Phoenix. I have nothing for you. You might be walking into a trap, for all I know. If we lose communication, just get back in touch the moment you can.”

“Copy. ETA?”

“Six minutes, twenty seconds.”

“You’re an angel.”

“Aw-w-w. Don’t make me cut the traffic lights. Leo out.”

Law enforcement knew better than to stop Yeonjun when he was on his bike and traveling well over the speed limit or driving recklessly. It was only an eight-minute ride in total to the prison, so Yeonjun went double the speed limit, careening through throngs of cars and forcing one car out of his path when the driver wasn’t paying attention. All it took was a moment’s concentration for him to access the telekinetic part of his brain, something that the average human couldn’t comprehend. Sending signals from his brain to inanimate objects in his world was second nature to Yeonjun, and keeping said objects under his control while he focused on other tasks was child’s play to him now. Moving a stationary car at a red light took some strength, but Yeonjun had done it countless times, and now he didn’t even break a sweat.

He took a corner sharply, nearly parallel to the street as he did, engine revving as he gained speed, wind whipping around him still. Nearby, there was a rumble of thunder—there was no expectation of a storm tonight. Was the sudden change in weather conditions anything that Changbin had initiated?

Yeonjun rounded the last corner, and the massive brick building came into view. It was unassuming, almost bizarrely similar to a school building at a glance, but Yeonjun had been inside Gangnam-gu Max before. It was nearly impenetrable, and the kinesis block was like something out of science fiction. Soundproof walls, cells lined with technology to dampen and weaken kinetic abilities, specialized handcuffs that sent signals through the body and into the brain to choke the prisoner’s kinetic abilities at the source. Whenever Yeonjun thought it was inhumane, he tried to remind himself that these people had broken the law.

Not that that was much comfort.

Gangnam-gu Maximum Security Prison

Suseo-dong, Gangnam-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

00:22 AM

“Open the gate,” Yeonjun requested, one foot on the ground as he stared at the gate that led to the back entrance of the prison, where prisoners were typically released back out into the world.

“I can’t.”


“I can’t,” Lia repeated. “I’m telling you, something’s not right. I can’t get into anything.”

Yeonjun stared up at the building—darkness. The lights were all out, which was typical for nighttime, but to the left, he could see a few windows with red lights, a telltale sign of an initiated lockdown and alarm.

“Where are the police?” Yeonjun asked. “The station is close by. They should have beaten me here by a long shot. I have no back-up. Where are they?”

“They’re not there?” Lia sounded confused. “How the hell can they not be there? They were literally called out there to handle this. Why the hell—? Hold on. Let me look.”


Yeonjun ripped his helmet off and parked his motorcycle right where it was, since there was no one around. Changbin and Kai pulled up at the same time, each riding a motorcycle given to them by the DKR. They both wore similar jumpsuits, except Kai’s was slate grey and Changbin’s was dark blue and suited to better help him conduct electricity as needed.

“What the hell are you doing?” Kai asked. “Were you waiting for us?”

“Do you see any police presence?” Yeonjun asked over his shoulder, approaching the gate and grabbing at the fencing as he glanced up. “Leo can’t hack the system. She’s being blocked. Someone’s f*cking with her, which means you can’t break the lock, either.” Yeonjun looked at Changbin, who glanced at the gate with a clenched jaw, but nothing happened. “Something’s not right. Get me up high enough. Let’s go.”

Kai crouched and bridged the fingertips of his left hand on the ground, and then he used his right hand in a forward and then upward pushing motion. The pavement began to crack under Yeonjun’s feet, so he stepped back and watched as the concrete bowed and bent under Kai’s control before the earth broke through, distorting the road. It was something Kai could easily fix (though the road would have to be repaved), and it was necessary. Yeonjun hoisted himself up onto the splintered concrete as it rose, hands planted into the lingering dirt, and then he waited until it began to slope enough for him to climb.

“How the hell are we supposed to get into the prison if Leo can’t hack the system remotely and I’m no use?” Changbin asked, following Yeonjun up the misshapen makeshift hill that Kai had created in front of the gate. Yeonjun swung his arms, and then he leapt, grabbing the top of the fence and hanging. With another grunt, he hoisted himself up and swung his leg over, straddling it.

“I don’t think we’re going to have that problem.” He glanced at the door, and it swung open further as he did.

“Good. Promising,” Kai sarcastically said as Yeonjun pressed the balls of his feet into the fence and bowed his body at the waist to nearly fold in half, gripping the fencing as he climbed down halfway before dropping to the ground on the other side.

“This isn’t right.” Yeonjun held Kai and Changbin at bay the moment they came to his side. They had been working as a team for years now, always looking out for one another, but there was an odd and unspoken rule that Yeonjun was the leader. He was the youngest, but he always ended up finding himself in charge. Perhaps it was because telekinesis was a stronger ability when compared to electrokinesis and geokinesis. Perhaps Yeonjun just had an aura about him. Whatever it was, Kai and Changbin listened.

“Leo to Phoenix.” Lia’s voice crackled in Yeonjun’s ear again. “The police aren’t coming. They should be, but not a single f*cking squad car has left the precinct. The call’s been made. They know the prison is in lockdown. But no one’s coming. The DKR has been alerted, but I wouldn’t depend on back-up. Something’s off.”

“Copy,” Yeonjun quietly said, and then he stared into the dark hallway of the prison where a white light was flashing sporadically to signal a lockdown emergency.

No one’s coming.

It was so familiar that it physically hurt Yeonjun’s head thinking about it. An emergency lockdown with no response. No help. The dark hallways, the red flashing lights. It had been days since the briefing about Phantom, and Yeonjun had tried to move on and forget despite creating a list of possible targets. He had attempted to filter out the idea from his head that Soobin was the villain in all of this. But now, facing the mountain of evidence, it was undeniable.

“Split up,” Yeonjun declared. “Prism, you take block A. Flare, go through block B. I’ll go to the kinesis block. Meet me there. I have a feeling your walkthroughs won’t take very long.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Changbin said as he turned and walked backwards through the door. Yeonjun watched as a spark of electricity flew from a security camera in the corner to Changbin’s hand, and electricity crackled between his fingers like spiderwebs. “We’re not playing hero this time. This sh*t’s dangerous. Get out if you can.”

“Remember how I said we’d be sent on a suicide mission?” Kai rhetorically said as Changbin vanished down the hallway, turning right. Yeonjun leaned a little to the right as pebbles and dirt and small fragments of concrete and pavement whizzed past his ankles, swirling around Kai’s shins like a planetary ring. He often pulled earth from outside as a shield of sorts, using it as a distraction against an enemy if he had to make a quick getaway.

“Feels like that, doesn’t it?” Yeonjun replied wryly, and Kai let out a breath through his nose, shaking his head.

“Watch your back,” he said, and then he went the opposite way Changbin had. Yeonjun took an immediate left turn instead of walking down the other hallway, and he didn’t bother with a flashlight. Were he competent at all in pyrokinesis, he could have used fire to light his way. But that was both nearly impossible and illegal. Yeonjun hadn’t even thought about manipulating fire since age six, and now there were legal ramifications. So he was going to have to rely on the red lighting.

“You still there?” Yeonjun asked.

“Copy. Still here. Your signal is weak, though,” Lia said in his ear. “I honestly don't think I’ll have you much longer. This doesn’t feel good at all, Phoenix.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Yeonjun stopped walking and stared at the ground, where two prison guards were lying draped over one another, face-down. The alarm was still blaring in the distance in blocks A and B as he crouched down, and then he reached forward and pressed two fingers to the first man’s carotid pulse. When he felt nothing, he moved to the other man, and when he felt not a single pulse under his fingertips, he quietly stood up, noticing the guns lying only centimeters from both men’s hands, and the pools of blood on the ground.

They shot themselves.

Yeonjun walked with haste now, heart pounding as he remembered standing in a red hallway and watching one guard strangle another before slitting her own throat. It was eerily reminiscent to a point where Yeonjun worried he would be sick before he ever made it to the kinesis block.

He made it, though. Somehow, putting one foot in front of the other, Yeonjun stared at the heavy and armored door of the kinesis block as it swung open all the way, already unlocked. The hallway was lit red and white—white emergency lights that were far too dim, and red warning lights as if purposely adding an ominous air to the situation. Yeonjun had been in countless prisons before to quell riots, and the kinesis block was home to some of the most dangerous men and women in Seoul, many of whom Yeonjun had put away behind bars himself. But as he stepped into the hallway, he heard not a peep. No banging on prison cell doors. No screaming and taunting. No crying or wailing. Not a sound.

“sh*t,” he hissed, rushing forward and crouching down by another guard. “Leo? Leo, do you copy?”

Radio silence. His earpiece was useless. He had lost Lia, just as she had predicted, which meant that he was alone now, Changbin and Kai wandering the prison in the other wing. Yeonjun gently tapped on the guard’s shoulders and shook him, and then he leaned in and checked for a pulse, tried to feel breathing on his cheek. His heart leapt when he felt the faint thumping of a pulse and some light breathing on his cheek, because finally, there were survivors.

Yeonjun heard the sound of a single footstep behind him. But he wasn’t quick enough.


[bloody city] :: sam tinnesz (title song)

Yeonjun grunted and rolled as a foot connected with his side, nearly knocking the wind out of him. He landed halfway on top of another unconscious guard, since they were strewn up and down the length of the hallway like a human maze. Coughing, he rolled onto his back and attempted to scramble upright, but the foot swung again right underneath his chin. Yeonjun bit his tongue accidentally as his head whipped up and back and he collapsed again, but he leapt up to his feet and took a step backwards, tasting blood in his mouth. With very little to manipulate in the environment around him, Yeonjun honed in on the two guards, taking their batons from their utility belts and hurling them at full force at his attacker’s head.

“Oh, come on. Play fair.”

After doubling over and wincing from two blows to the head, the man straightened up, and Yeonjun stared, the batons still hovering. Wild black hair, dark eyes narrowed from the smirk on his face, faded blue prison jumpsuit, specialized handcuffs locking his wrists in front of his body with a red flashing light to indicate that they were active.

“Don’t fight like a puss*,” Kim Taehyun said, and then he rolled his neck, tongue darting out to lick his lips. “Although what I should be asking is why you haven’t beaten yourself to death for my entertainment. Oh well. Doesn’t matter.”

Yeonjun flicked his hand, and the baton hit Taehyun on the outside of his knee, momentarily crippling him. The other was meant for his head, but he lifted his hands, and the baton hit the handcuffs instead as he rolled. Yeonjun took multiple large steps forward into Taehyun’s space, swiping his hand so that the guns on each guard’s hip all flew into one of the prison cells, since the door was open. Yeonjun slammed the door of the cell shut as the sound echoed in the hallway, and then he pounced. He grabbed Taehyun’s hair first and threw him against the wall, but Taehyun lifted his knee when Yeonjun approached again.

“You really think you can knock me out when I’m the f*cking reason you’re here in the first place?” he asked with a laugh, using his elbows as he attempted to block Yeonjun’s punches. He couldn't block the uppercut to his abdomen, though, and Taehyun staggered sideways, coughing and wheezing. Yeonjun was about to lunge again, but Taehyun rolled over one shoulder and disappeared into an open prison cell. Yeonjun stumbled and stopped.

It’s a trap.

The rest of the prison cell doors were closed. None of the prisoners were making a ruckus. Only two prison cell doors had been opened, and the one Yeonjun had whisked the guns into had been empty—surely Taehyun’s.

Taehyun was the target.

Breathing heavily, Yeonjun pressed a finger to the earpiece in his ear, but there was no feedback. He glanced over his shoulder towards the doorway, but it was empty, even though he had given his teammates a rendezvous point. And Taehyun had disappeared, and now it was far too quiet.

“Why are you even out of your cell?” Yeonjun called out, hoping to coax Taehyun back into the fight. “Did you orchestrate all of this? Is this your handiwork?”

“No. But this is.”

Yeonjun flew backwards and upwards, hitting the ceiling before dropping to the floor in a heap, his entire body tingling as pain shot through his limbs from the sheer force of the electrical charge that he had just been hit with square in the chest, blinding him momentarily. Hitting the ground from such a height wasn’t ideal, either, and Yeonjun was lucky that he knew how to fall. His suit protected him well enough, but it was suddenly a one-sided fight.

With next to nothing to manipulate in a confined space, no matter how much training he had had over the years, it didn’t matter. His enemies were always afraid of him, but not this time. Taehyun bore down on him like a lightning storm, and the only saving grace was that Yeonjun’s suit could just barely conduct the massive amounts of electricity, therefore saving him from immediate death.

“What’s wrong? Can’t walk a straight line?” Taehyun taunted as he walked right up to Yeonjun, because his hands were free—the handcuffs were gone. He was at full strength, and without restrictions, Yeonjun was hardly a match.

The electricity was still sizzling through his muscles, making it difficult to stand, but Yeonjun did, and he was just in time. He ducked to avoid a hook to the face, and he blocked the next hit with his forearm. Taehyun lunged and grabbed Yeonjun around the waist, but Yeonjun focused only on the jumpsuit that Taehyun was wearing, using enough of his power to peel Taehyun off him by letting the jumpsuit pull Taehyun back like an imaginary hand to the scruff of his neck.

“You f*cking cheater,” Taehyun laughed, but Yeonjun spun over his shoulder and aimed a kick square at Taehyun’s chest, and it worked long enough for Yeonjun to leap forward and charge at Taehyun, lifting him off the ground with sheer force and knocking him to the ground. Taehyun’s hand splayed across Yeonjun’s chest, and Yeonjun let out a pained shout, writhing and kicking when he felt another shockwave rattle his entire system. The suit was doing its job, but it wouldn’t hold up. Not with the way that Taehyun was fighting.

“f*ck,” Taehyun cursed loudly while choking, grabbing and fighting when a belt wrapped around his neck and tightened, pulling him away. Yeonjun was still too weak to stand from the virtual defibrillation Taehyun had imposed on him that he hadn’t needed, but he had enough strength to take the belt from an unconscious guard’s waist and use it as a weapon.

But then he felt a hand on his ankle, and Yeonjun attempted to twist and kick, but his muscles weren’t responding appropriately. Taehyun dragged him, one hand between the belt and his neck to keep Yeonjun from strangling him. Yeonjun gritted his teeth and attempted to hold the belt in place, begged his brain to back him up, but then a fist connected with his face, breaking his concentration. He heard the belt buckle as it clattered to the floor, and then Taehyun was on top of him.

“Not bad for the DKR’s f*cking lapdog,” Taehyun taunted, straddling Yeonjun. “But now you’re just a pain in the ass. Thanks for playing.”

Yeonjun saw the electricity crackling between Taehyun’s fingers, saw the hot blue flashes in his dark eyes. This man was going to wrap his hands around Yeonjun’s neck and kill him with enough of a charge to power the entire city of Seoul. If Yeonjun’s body wasn’t charred to a crisp, it would be a miracle—

“Are you kidding me?” Taehyun suddenly called out to the ceiling, and Yeonjun gasped, blinking rapidly as he tried to think of what else he could use to fight back. But Taehyun was just hovering over Yeonjun, his hands folded at his chest in a polite fashion as if he was praying. He didn’t look happy about it, though. “Are you f*cking kidding me? Let go of me. I have him right where I want him, and you’re not going to let me have this?”

Yeonjun lifted his head, and suddenly, the narrow hallway seemed suffocating. A man walked out of the open prison cell, head down, eyes lifted as he turned and stared at the fighting duo. He had a presence about him, tall and broad, wearing black fitted pants, a black leather jacket that zipped on the side, and black boots. His black hair was long, wavy, pulled back at the nape of his neck with half of it hanging in his eyes. His face was covered from the nose down with a black face mask, similar to Yeonjun, and he spoke to Taehyun.

“There’s another like you. Block B. I kept him there for you.”

“No, don’t. Don’t—” Yeonjun’s voice was cut off when Taehyun’s hand wrapped around his throat to silence him. Yeonjun choked, but then he calmed himself down enough to draw in a breath through his nose.

“You’re lucky,” Taehyun softly said, his smile wicked as he released his grip, clearly having been given control of his body back. Yeonjun’s fingers twitched, because he was finally gaining some of his muscle strength back. Any minute now, he would be able to fight back the right way, and he had several ideas. But Taehyun just climbed off him, so Yeonjun grunted and propped up on his elbows, begging his legs to regain strength so he could move. But as Taehyun walked, Yeonjun’s eyes settled on the man who had walked out of the prison cell. The man who raised his head and promptly siphoned half the air from Yeonjun’s lungs.

“I know you,” Yeonjun breathed, his nightmares happening now in real time. Choi Soobin had grown, and he was no longer the teenage boy with rage and sorrow in his eyes. Now he was a ghost with a horrid and visible scar across his right cheek from his nose to near his earlobe, and the way he looked at Yeonjun bore no resemblance to the boy who had once made him an origami flower in art class and shyly presented it to him as a gift.

“Say my name out loud and watch what happens.”

“Stop it, stop it,” Yeonjun shouted hoarsely, panicking when the slew of guards suddenly roused, the door of the prison cell flying open, guns flying into outstretched hands. Each guard, dazed and wide-eyed, pressed the barrel of the loaded gun to their temple, unwavering. “I won’t say it, stop.”

“If you do…” Phantom— Soobin —tilted his head slightly to the side, and every single gun moved from each guard’s temple to the inside of their mouths. “I’ll have to kill them all. We can’t have witnesses. That’s why your little friends haven’t come to your rescue. I kept them away.”

“This is romantic, but can I go to Block B?” Taehyun asked, grabbing the doorframe with both hands and arching back as far as he could, gazing at Soobin hopefully.

“ Be nice.” Soobin didn’t even look at Taehyun. “And be quick. We don’t have all night.”

“As you wish, Your Highness,” Taehyun acquiesced with a dramatic bow, and then he sauntered off and took a left, disappearing to go find Changbin in Block B. Yeonjun had no way to warn Changbin, either. This was truly the suicide mission Kai had feared it would be.

“Let them go.” Yeonjun finally rose to his feet, albeit shakily, bracing himself on the door of a prison cell. He glanced inside; the prisoner was sleeping soundly on his cot, blissfully unaware of the chaos in the hallway. Surely Soobin’s doing.

“Sure thing.”

At least eight or nine guards collapsed to the floor again, guns clattering, and Yeonjun gasped out a sigh of relief.

“You said no witnesses.” Yeonjun swallowed heavily. “So why am I still here?”


Yeonjun flinched and looked down when a hand grabbed his ankle, and he rapidly kicked it off as the guard collapsed to the floor again. But another guard to the left grabbed for his other ankle, so Yeonjun leapt and was forced to move towards Soobin, unconscious but controlled bodies grabbing at him like something out of a horror movie.

“Stop, stop it, what the f*ck is your problem?” he shouted, and immediately, the mayhem stopped. Panting, Yeonjun pressed his palm to the wall, only one prison cell door separating him from Soobin. It was as if Soobin knew Yeonjun wouldn’t have stepped forward on his own, and now Yeonjun was face-to-face with the man who haunted his dreams.

“Look at you.” Soobin, face mask still on, surveyed Yeonjun from head to toe. “Seoul’s shining hero. Phoenix, I hear they’re calling you. Do I have a cute nickname, too?”

“Phantom,” Yeonjun whispered, and Soobin hummed noncommittally.

“Mm. You put up a piss poor fight,” he stated, adding insult to injury as Yeonjun struggled to stay on his feet. “I thought they trained their dogs better at the DKR.”

“I had nothing to work with.”

“You had everything to work with,” Soobin sneered, and Yeonjun’s heart sank to the pit of his stomach. “You just don’t know how to use it. Or maybe you do, but you’re on such a tight f*cking leash that you just roll over and take it.”

“What’s your goal, here?” Yeonjun snapped, not daring to take another step. In no way did he want to provoke Soobin, because this was an active conversation, and he needed to get as much as possible out of it before Soobin disappeared like the phantom he was. But the insults were an immediate and deep cut. “You break a madman out of prison, and then what? You continue on your crusade?”

“Something like that. I do have a really nice list now,” Soobin said, the gleam in his eyes far more wicked than Yeonjun was used to seeing, and Yeonjun’s heart stirred in his stomach in sheer dread. “It’s amazing what you can siphon from a useless DKR agent’s brain once they’ve taken one look at that master list. Thanks for that. You worked hard. I had missed a few of those names in my own research.”

Yeonjun whipped his head to look around Soobin when he heard a strangled, pained shout that sounded like Changbin. Panicking, he didn’t even think twice; he abandoned the conversation and lunged for the hallway, but the door of the kinesis block slammed shut and locked, and Yeonjun stumbled backwards. He stared at it, jaw clenched, begging it to open. But he could feel an opposing force working against him, the exact opposite command— close, close, close while he was saying open, open, open. Yeonjun stared until his muscles began to tremble, until his knees locked, until his head began to pound mercilessly like an instant headache.

“Stop,” he gasped, collapsing to his knees on the ground, panting, brow furrowed as the headache wrapped around his skull. In an instant, two strong hands grabbed underneath his arms to hoist him up, and then Soobin gripped Yeonjun by his jaw, holding him in place as Yeonjun let out a soft cry, struggling to breathe, his head tilted upward. He looked down at Soobin, who was staring at him with dark eyes, his other hand pressed to Yeonjun’s sternum to keep him from moving.

“When will you wake the f*ck up?” he hissed. “And realize how weak you are? Are you ever going to accept that you’re an anomaly, or are you okay with living like this?”

“J-Soobin,” Yeonjun barely choked out in a whisper, not nearly loud enough for anyone to hear.

“You’re working for the wrong people,” Soobin hissed, giving Yeonjun a shake by his jaw as Yeonjun gritted his teeth again. “I’m going to burn TRACK to the ground and make sure everyone suffers for it. And if you continue to get in my way, I’ll kill you. This is your only warning.”

Soobin threw Yeonjun to the ground like he was trash, and Yeonjun landed hard on the torso of an unconscious guard. Cursing, he groaned and rose to his feet, and that was when he realized that his gun was missing from his utility belt.

“f*ck, f*ck,” he cursed, because Soobin had disappeared, and the door was open. Yeonjun broke into a disjointed run, pinballing off the walls of the dark hallway as he hurried to block B in desperation, wanting to find Changbin alive. His mouth was dry, palms sweaty as he rounded the corner, and then he heard moaning and a low voice talking.

“Let’s go,” Soobin’s voice said, and Yeonjun turned and faced the entrance of block B. Not a single prisoner was stirring, even though there were dozens of them locked up. And there, in the corner by the guard’s desk, was Changbin. He was alive, slumped in the corner with Taehyun crouching over him, nose bleeding, limbs limp as if he could hardly move. And if Changbin, a ten-year veteran with a good grip on his electrokinesis, was surrendering unwillingly, then that meant that Taehyun was unmatched.

“It really wasn’t personal, though,” Taehyun said to Changbin in a hushed voice, melodic, as if his taunts were a lullaby. “I was just an angry kid. Now I’m a pissed off adult. But see? I can control myself. And you’re too cute to kill.” He used his hand to pat Changbin’s cheek twice roughly, and then he stood up and saw Yeonjun standing there. “Your pet is back,” he said to Soobin.

“We’re leaving.” Soobin grabbed Taehyun by the scruff of his neck, and Taehyun clicked his tongue, rolling his eyes despite the mischievous grin on his face. He paused. “I should probably let your other little friend go free.” He blinked, and then he shoved Taehyun forward. “Stay out of my way, Yeonjun. It won’t end well for you.”

“Later!” Taehyun hollered, holding up a peace sign in the air before he disappeared, and Soobin ducked his head and followed. The moment they vanished, Yeonjun sprinted for the opposite corner, legs still like jelly, and he dropped to his knees by Changbin, who looked far worse up close.

“PHOENIX! FLARE! HEY, WHERE ARE YOU?” Kai’s panic-stricken voice called out, but Yeonjun was frantic.

“Come on. Come on, we have to get out of here. We have to go now. Before he lifts the control on all of the inmates. Come on, hyung,” Yeonjun begged, slipping into a more casual mindset in fear. Changbin was woozy, face pale, but he nodded, his lip busted, dried blood on his upper lip from the nosebleed. Kai then skidded around the corner, and the moment he saw Yeonjun struggling to lift Changbin to his feet, he intervened, lunging to support Changbin.

“Hurry, hurry,” Kai said as they stumbled out of block B and into the main atrium. “Out the back exit where we came in. We have to get out of here.”

Yeonjun clenched his jaw, trying to ignore the pain shooting throughout his body from the force of Taehyun’s attack and the sudden crash of adrenaline he was experiencing.

“He took my gun,” Yeonjun grunted as they rounded a corner. “Kim Taehyun. He took it off me.”

“He took mine, too,” Changbin whispered. Weakened, Yeonjun stared at the back exit door, and it swung open so that they could make it out of the prison. The very moment they stepped over the threshold, Yeonjun suddenly heard all hell break loose behind him—screaming, laughter, a blaring alarm growing louder and louder. Whatever Soobin had done to break into the prison without a scratch on him had vanished into thin air. Sirens wailed through the night sky, and Yeonjun collapsed just short of the gate as Kai lowered Changbin to the ground.

“f*ck,” Kai whispered, crouching with his elbows on his knees, hands to his head. “It’s like he’s still in there. It was all I could think about.”

“Don’t move.”

“Right,” Kai said as Changbin croaked out the singular phrase. “I-I-I knew that I was—I was supposed to—I should’ve gone to the kinesis block. But I couldn’t. I could see, I knew—I knew where I needed to go, but I didn’t… I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t move.”

“It was him,” Changbin said hoarsely, his expression pained. “Phantom. I saw him leaving just then. He—He had the entire prison under control. The entire f*cking prison. Everyone in the kinesis block.”

“What happened?” Yeonjun asked Changbin. “Hyung, what happened to you? With—With him. With Kim Taehyun.”

“He just showed up,” Changbin whispered. “He walked right into block B. Saw me. And that’s when—that’s when the mind control broke. I fought back. I almost had him. I really did. But he—he was doing things that I’ve never even seen before. He almost knocked me out, and he cornered me. I asked if he remembered me. He did. But then you showed up.”

The sirens were growing louder, moving closer. Yeonjun sniffed and struggled to sit down, watching as Kai used one hand to replace the misshapen ground he had lifted, the other hand pressed to the concrete so he could get a feel for the earth.

“Phantom,” Changbin croaked. “He was here just to break Shock out of prison. That’s why he was here.”

“How much do you want to bet that the blackout the other night was a test run?” Kai said to Yeonjun as the crumbled concrete fell back into place, albeit destroyed. “Hey. Yeonjun-ah. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Yeonjun whispered, a blatant lie. Kai looked like he wanted to say more, but then Yeonjun had some feedback in his ear.

“Leo to Phoenix. Can you hear me? Is this working again? Comms are back up. Are you there?” Lia asked frantically.

“I’m here,” Yeonjun said in a hoarse voice, relying on his telekinetic abilities to activate the earpiece so that he didn’t have to lift a finger. “I’m here, we’re okay. We’re alive.”

“Police are en route. ETA is two minutes. Hang tight. Paramedics are on the way, too,” Lia said. “And I’m pretty sure the DKR is sending in a team to subdue the kinesis block of the prison.”

“Send several paramedics,” Yeonjun said. “There are a lot of injured guards. A couple of them are dead.”

“Copy,” Lia said in a dejected tone, and Yeonjun heard her blowing out a sigh before she went silent. He looked up at Changbin, who was still pale and staring off into the distance. He looked at Kai, who was curled in on himself, eyes flicking back and forth like he was searching for something. And then Yeonjun stared down at his own hands, his knuckles bloody and bruised, fingers twitching as his hands trembled. He gripped one in the other nervously, and then he looked up as flashing lights appeared in the prison driveway.

After a mission, the three of them usually regrouped and compared notes. They talked, laughed, handed over the people they caught to the police, sometimes went to get a drink afterwards. But tonight, as a throng of law enforcement officials swarmed the gate and paramedics rushed forward, Yeonjun only stared until his vision blurred. He couldn’t find the words. Kai was silent. Changbin lifted a few weak fingers to unlock the gate.

They had to admit defeat. A rarity.

“Let’s go, this way. We’ll get you checked out first. This way, and then you can debrief. Right this way. Easy there.”

Yeonjun didn’t even spare Changbin and Kai a parting glance. He let the police officer and paramedic help him to his feet, and then he climbed into the back of the ambulance, lightheaded with a migraine, still feeling Kim Taehyun’s hand around his throat, still haunted by the look in Soobin’s eyes.

City of Seoul General Hospital: Kinetic Abilities Unit

Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

06:53 AM

Yeonjun refused his breakfast.

Besides some severe bruising to his neck, he had a clean bill of health. All it had taken was a single hardened look at the doctor to hear that Changbin had two broken ribs and a mild concussion. Kai was the healthiest of them all, but he had been evaluated for psychological trauma, coming up clean. He was just shaken.

“He’s on his way here.” Kai held up his phone when Yeonjun walked into Changbin’s hospital room in his slippers. Changbin was sitting up in bed, bruises still blooming on his handsome face. In times like this, Yeonjun always reminded himself that Changbin was a human defibrillator, and that made the prospect of him getting injured in the field less terrifying.

“I don’t want to debrief,” Yeonjun mumbled, staring at Changbin’s blankets as he sat down in the second chair. “I didn’t sleep last night. I’ve barely processed what happened.”

“You saw more than either one of us did,” Changbin croaked. “Kai was stuck in block A the entire time. I was stuck in block B and only got some action when… yeah. For three minutes at most.”

“But I could hear you shouting,” Kai said to Yeonjun. “I have no idea what you said, but I knew you were doing something.”

“I was fighting him off,” Yeonjun murmured. “Shock. But he—Phantom got him out of those handcuffs. And he attacked me. Shocked me so badly that I couldn’t move. Almost killed me until Phantom stopped him.”

“Phantom stopped him?” Kai sounded concerned. “Why would he?”

Because I was his only real friend at TRACK. We got lucky. Most kids that go there don’t even know other kids exist. Look at you, Kai. You never knew Kim Namjoon, and he’s your age. I never knew Kim Taehyun, and he’s my age. But I knew Phantom. I knew Soobin.

“I don’t know,” Yeonjun lied.

“Did you talk to him?” Kai asked. “Phantom? Did you talk to him? Did he talk to you?”

“Yeah.” But Yeonjun didn’t say another word, because Director Nam appeared in the doorway, and he bowed.

“Good morning.” He closed the door, but not before Yeonjun saw two NIS agents situate themselves outside the room. Director Nam pulled up a chair, exhaling deeply. “Gangnam-gu Maximum Security Prison is under control. Not a single inmate has any memory of a lockdown or a prison break occurring, but they’re all painfully aware that one inmate is missing now.”

“How many guards are dead?” Kai asked, elbows on his knees, hands folded.

“Just two,” Director Nam said, and Yeonjun breathed an audible sigh of relief. “Both missing two bullets from their firearms. One bullet to the head each. One bullet on the floor each, no sign of impact.”

“Are you telling me that he can control bullets, too?” Changbin asked, and the short laugh he let out caused him to grimace in pain.

“Omnikinesis,” Yeonjun said as a reminder, shaking his leg rapidly to keep from exploding, because he was dangerously close.

“Kim Taehyun, known as Shock, is now at large,” Director Nam said, stating the obvious. “Which only confirms my original theory that Phantom is, indeed, working with the men that I mentioned.”

“He plans to burn TRACK to the ground and make sure everyone suffers,” Yeonjun said, his voice detached. Before anyone could open their mouths, he added, “How do I know that, you ask? Because he told me. That’s how. That’s his plan. And if any of us get in his way, we’ll need a coffin and a funeral.”

“Now, Yeonjun-ssi, let’s not—”

“He had a list!” Yeonjun exclaimed, rising to his feet so quickly that the chair he was sitting in toppled over. “Our list. The list that we made of TRACK employees, sponsors and partners, politicians. He f*cking has that list in his possession, and he got in from one agent who happened to see it!” Yeonjun walked around the foot of Changbin’s bed to confront Director Nam. “So which incompetent agent did you give the opportunity to view a classfied list knowing full goddamn well that a man who can literally take information from your memory is out there?”

“Yeonjun,” Kai hissed. “Stop. Put it down.”

Yeonjun blinked rapidly, his breathing heavy, and that was when he realized that a glass vase full of water and flowers for Changbin was hovering right over Director Nam’s head, and that in all his rage, he had inadvertently put himself in a position to cause bodily harm to someone else.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, letting the vase float gently back to the windowsill as Director Nam loosened his white-knuckled grip on the armrests of his chair. Yeonjun stumbled backwards and found his seat again, collapsing into it and closing his eyes for a moment.

“Now.” Director Nam cleared his throat. “Repeat that.”

“He has… our list,” Yeonjun slowly said, voice hushed. “Phantom. We just made it easier for him. Somehow, he figured out how to manipulate one of our agents’ minds and get what he needed. He could bring the entire government to its knees in a f*cking day. And now he has Kim Taehyun. We just watched the two of them walk out of that prison. We could do nothing.”

“He was in our heads,” Changbin said, waving his bandaged hand near his forehead. “The impulse to stay right where I was… I can’t even explain it. I completely forgot why I was there in the first place.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so useless in my life,” Kai added. “I didn’t even get a chance to fight. He had me standing in one place the entire time.”

“Yeonjun-ssi. How did you feel?” Director Nam asked, and Yeonjun pursed his lips, rubbing them together in thought. “When he had control of your mind?”

“Uh… the same way,” Yeonjun decided, lying once again. Because Soobin had been right there, right in his face for the first time in seven years, and he hadn’t touched Yeonjun’s mind even once. Yeonjun had been beaten and choked and thrown to the ground, but he had been in complete control of himself the entire time.

“Director Jo has been briefed,” Director Nam said, “on the situation at hand. And he would like to speak to the three of you when you’re all well again, given that TRACK appears to be the target.”

“I don’t understand,” Changbin quietly said. “He’s omnikinetic. Why not just go straight to the top? Why not just kill Director Jo and call it a day?”

“He said he wants to make sure everyone suffers,” Yeonjun replied evenly. “Killing Director Jo doesn’t get rid of the poison, nor does it teach anyone a lesson. He’s drawing it out.”

“But what the hell is his reason?” Kai asked, throwing up one hand. “I mean, yeah. Okay. He’s an anomaly, and he probably scared the sh*t out of the staff at TRACK, but they can’t even remember him, if what you’re saying is true, Yeonjun. And he was probably treated differently than the other kids. But what’s his story? Is he a defector? Did he pass the exit exam? How old is he? We know nothing. He’s just killing off anyone involved in TRACK because he’s angry. Is that really a good enough reason?”

“He’s too smart for that.” Yeonjun narrowed his eyes in thought. “You’re right. There has to be more to it. That can’t be it. It can’t be that he just woke up one morning and said, ‘I think I’ll get my revenge on all these people.’ He has to be killing them for a reason.”

“But do we keep chasing after him?” Changbin asked, looking at Director Nam. “Are we going to keep receiving urgent calls to go out into the field and face him again? Face his little team? Because I don’t think we’ll last very long, and there are other things going on in the city that need our attention.”

“You’ll need to speak with Director Jo,” Director Nam said with an air of finality. “Are any of you willing to answer an urgent call where Phantom may be involved?”

“Not now,” Changbin answered immediately.

“Not yet,” Kai agreed.


All eyes turned to Yeonjun.

“I’ll do it. I’ll go.” He glanced around. “He talked to me. You might call bullsh*t, but that’s more than what either of you two got.” He looked at Changbin first, and then Kai. “So I’ll take my chances.”

When will you wake the f*ck up?

“You’re putting your life on the line for a mission that you don’t even need to be involved in,” Kai argued.

“There’s no objective,” Changbin added passionately, pleading. “Why would you agree that quickly to go back out and face him?”

And realize how weak you are?

“Because maybe I can get him to talk to me,” Yeonjun said, his voice quiet.

“This is exactly why you’re the poster child of the DKR,” Kai said with a chuckle.

You’re working for the wrong people.

It had been seven years since Yeonjun had last seen Soobin, since their paths had completely diverged. Yeonjun had cruised on the high road, shaking hands with Jo Chansung, unveiling his photo hanging in the DKR office, visiting TRACK like a mentor for the young kids, careening through the streets of Seoul to prove to the world that a man with kinesis could do good in society and diminish crime rates.

Soobin, though, had gone on the run, shaking hands with the renegades, hiding away for years before unveiling a master plan, visiting TRACK employees like a nightmare, careening through the streets of Seoul to prove to the world that a man with kinesis could bring society to its knees.

For all these years, Yeonjun had resigned himself to his fate without complaint. He had cheerfully just accepted everything at face value, happy with the status quo, uninterested in rattling the cage or taking a look behind the scenes. There was no need for that when his life was running smoothly.

But now Soobin was back, the wrench had been thrown into the cogs, and Yeonjun was suddenly floundering, his perfect system malfunctioning. Now he had to ask questions that he didn’t want to ask. Now he had to think about being an anomaly, a thought he had been suppressing his entire life. Now he had to wonder why.

Yeonjun was good at playing by the rules. He was the DKR’s “good boy.” Taehyun calling him a lapdog and Soobin saying he had been trained like a dog were both insults, but they had wounded Yeonjun deeply, because somewhere beyond the rigidity of his training, it resonated with him. It rang true. And he wasn’t supposed to question his position or his superiors, because that upset that balance. It made Yeonjun appear more powerful than the average human, which was a red flag for the DKR.

And Yeonjun had to wonder why.

“I’ll face him again. Phantom. Because I have questions.” Yeonjun locked his gaze on Director Nam. “For everyone. And I plan on getting some answers.”

:: :: ::


*Joker voice* And heeeere... weeeeee... go.


Updates will be every Friday 7pm EST, 4pm PST, midnight GMT, 9am KST, etc!!!!

This fic took me 5 months to write from August-December 2021. Previously, the longest it took me to finish a fic (SWAF) was 2.5 months. So this story was a labor of love, and I genuinely believe that it is my best story plot-wise, writing-wise, characterization-wise, EVERYTHING. Because I took my time and didn't give myself a strict deadline. I'm super proud of this story!

I'm also nervous, of course. With such a big buildup and with the tendency for visuals to be more exciting/captivating than the story itself, I have my work cut out for me. All I can hope is that for the time that you spend reading each chapter, you're able to suspend your beliefs for a moment and immerse yourself in the world I've created. It's not perfect; it's messy and I'm sure there are things to point out. But It's a world that I love.

My intention is for each chapter to read like an episode of a TV show, so let me know if you get that vibe ;) As we get further into the story, there will be additional POVs. By the end of the story, you will have read all 7 main characters' POVs!

Find me on TWITTER

Chapter 3: BONES ::


CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNING: brief mentions of abuse, mind control involving firearms

*Adele voice* Hellooooo... it's meeeee

Sorry I feel like I've been so SERIOUS *Yoongi voice* mm mm mm mmmmm... why serious OK SO ANYWAYS I've been very serious in my notes for the prologue and part I which is very unlike my typical clown self, sorry for being so off-brandSLDKFJLSDSBF

Thank you IMMENSELY for the response to the prologue and part I so far *sob* I do hope that y'all will forgive me, I'm getting 300+ comments per update which is A LOT TO KEEP UP WITH so I likely won't be able to answer many comments :( but!!!! I am reading every single one I promise <333

I also realized that I tweeted it but I forgot to link it here so here is the Spotify playlist for the fic, in order!!!


(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

:: :: ::


TRACK Facility: Telekinesis Wing

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

12:44 PM

7 years ago

Yeonjun rubbed his hands on his thighs, taking a deep breath. Class didn’t begin again until one o’clock, but he was camped in the courtyard of the telekinesis wing, waiting. He has to emerge from his room at some point. There were rules that kept trainees from skipping classes, but Yeonjun also knew that rules hardly applied to Soobin these days.

[bones] :: WENS

The door opened with a soft click, and Yeonjun glanced up and stared across the way from his perch on the bench. There was Soobin, black oversized sweatshirt on, hood pulled up and shadowing his face, head down as he turned to make sure the door was locked. When he pivoted, he caught Yeonjun’s eye, and Yeonjun was convinced that Soobin was going to just turn and walk away like he had been doing for days. In fact, he had been doing it for months. He was pulling away from Yeonjun with very little explanation, and Yeonjun wanted to blame it on teenage angst, but that hardly seemed accurate, given their circ*mstances.

Soobin shoved his hands into his sweatshirt pocket, and then he slowly shuffled across the small courtyard and sat down on the bench beside Yeonjun without a word. They sat in silence, and for a moment, Yeonjun remembered every single time Soobin had wiped the floor with him during their practical telekinesis training sessions. The way the world just seemed to bend to his will even when he was giggling. The way he could make the flames of a candle dance for Yeonjun’s own amusem*nt, the way he could pour Yeonjun another glass of water out of thin air, the way Yeonjun had heard a knock on his dorm room door last year and opened it to find an uprooted flower floating in midair, the way Soobin had purposely triggered a virus on their teacher’s computer right before a big math exam, how he had laughed about it with such glee.

He didn’t laugh much anymore.

“You really don’t know when to give up, do you?” Soobin said, staring straight ahead.

“I barely see you anymore,” Yeonjun argued quietly. “You keep… disappearing. You don’t even play hoverball with us anymore.”

Hoverball was a made-up game specifically for the telekinesis trainees, and all it consisted of were four balls for each team, and the goal was to keep all four balls in the air while simultaneously grounding the other team’s four balls. Soobin was a champion at it, and he was always on Yeonjun’s team.

“I don’t really want to play hoverball,” Soobin said, voice hushed. “I just want to get out of here. You know that.”

“The next exit examination is four months away.”

“When has that ever been promising for me?”


“I’m only talking to you to tell you to stop,” Soobin interrupted, turning his head slightly towards Yeonjun but still not making eye contact. “Stop trying. You keep hanging around waiting to talk to me. I don’t want to talk. Not anymore. We’re way past that.”

“Okay, but why?” Yeonjun shifted on the bench to face Soobin, his knees bumping Soobin’s knee. “Why the sudden change? You’ve been avoiding me for weeks. Am I just not your friend anymore?”

Soobin finally turned his head and locked eyes with Yeonjun, and the left corner of his mouth twitched in a wry smile. “I wish I had your level of ignorance. Honestly. You know nothing. You’re the smartest one in any given room, and here you are, just their puppet.”

“Soobin, that’s—”

“If you knew a fraction of the sh*t that I knew, you’d be singing a very different tune,” Soobin said, his voice slightly strangled. “You have no idea what goes on. And that’s because you’re going to be their hero.” He tapered off to nothing more than a whisper. But he found some strength again. “I’m not really sure I ever deserved you as a friend. But maybe one day, you’ll wake up.”

“What are you even saying?” Yeonjun whispered.

“When you decide to be the anomaly you really are,” Soobin said carefully, “maybe we can… find a way. But we’re not on the same path anymore. I don’t think we ever were. I just wanted to think that we were. I’m sorry, Yeonjun hyung.”

“Sorry? What do you mean, you’re sorry?” Yeonjun stood up when Soobin did, his knees knocking together. All he had wanted was to see how Soobin was doing, check in with his best friend, express his worries and concerns. But now Soobin was speaking in code, his eyes plagued with distress and a strange emptiness that Yeonjun didn’t recognize.

“I just am. Don’t try this anymore. Talking to me like this. I won’t stop next time,” Soobin said. He hesitated, but then he quickly brushed two fingers underneath Yeonjun’s chin in an affectionate manner with a ghost of a smile before turning and walking away, his head down.

Yeonjun’s residence

Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

21:06 PM

present day

If I had known…

Yeonjun opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling of his living room. The TV was still on, but he wasn’t giving it a lick of attention. He had been in a trance for at least ten minutes now, combing through his mind and trying to remember those moments with Soobin at TRACK, moments that should have been red flags.

TRACK was a very segregated facility. It was why Yeonjun, despite being the same age as Kim Taehyun, had never once heard of another sixteen-year-old kid defecting and going rogue. Taehyun had lived and trained specifically in the electrokinesis wing, never once crossing paths with Yeonjun. But Soobin had been lumped in with the telekinesis kids, and he had crossed paths with Yeonjun on his second day at the tender age of five, the chance encounter blossoming into a beautiful friendship. A friendship that had soured rapidly and unexpectedly, breaking Yeonjun’s heart.

Only a week or two after his last real conversation with Soobin, things had started to take a rapid turn. Classmates had started to avoid Soobin in the hallways, gossiping about how terrifying he was, about how he was “too” powerful, and why wasn’t TRACK doing anything about it?

Yeonjun could still remember the horrific fights he had had with Soobin whenever he had gone in for a confrontation at two in the morning; Soobin had called Yeonjun terrible things—”f*cking blind” and “a useless puppet” and “a waste of space.” All things said to intentionally wound Yeonjun, and Yeonjun had known it. Because he had gotten into physical fist fights with Soobin, but Soobin had never once used mind control or hypnosis or manipulation to stop Yeonjun from throwing another punch. Never.

But Soobin had also never cracked. He had never told Yeonjun why he was so angry, so filled with rage and resentment. Yeonjun knew now that Soobin had been subjected to forms of electric shock “therapy,” which was horrifying to him, but surely the staff had attempted it in hopes of “fixing” Soobin. But then what the hell had there been to fix?

That had been Yeonjun’s question years ago. Now he understood. Being omnikinetic meant that Soobin was, arguably, the most powerful human being alive. And being the only known case of omnikinesis to ever exist made Soobin even more untouchable. Omnikinesis was formidable, but paired with mind control, Soobin was an organic nightmare. Mind control had always been nothing more than a myth until now.

Now, Soobin was the cold feeling of dread and existentialism, the fear of no free will, the horror of exploitable human weakness. Soobin could bring the world to its knees, but all he seemed to want to do was destroy TRACK, all while still refusing to touch Yeonjun’s mind.

“f*ck, not now,” Yeonjun muttered, leaping off the couch when he heard the alarm going off in his bedroom. He jogged in and read the message flashing across the screen:


Yeonjun’s heart nearly flew out of his mouth in fear as he rushed to get dressed. “Suspect pyrokinetic.” What if it was Min Yoongi? What if this was just a distraction? Or was Yeonjun overthinking things? And why was he the only one being asked to report? Was Director Nam taking Changbin’s and Kai’s requests seriously? It had been a week since the prison break, and there had not been a peep from Soobin and company.

“Phoenix to Leo.” Yeonjun fiddled with his earpiece as he grabbed his face mask, fully dressed with adrenaline coursing through his veins.

“Copy. The fire department is already on their way,” Lia said immediately. “From what I can see right now, the fire is contained to just one section, and the building is still structurally sound, which is a miracle, given its age. But you might need to intervene.”

“Anyone trapped?” Yeonjun asked, jogging down the stairs.

“No reports of anyone trapped yet,” Lia replied. “Hang tight. I’ll send you directions.”

Yeonjun grabbed his motorcycle from the garage, and when he shoved his helmet onto his head, directions flashed on the inside of the visor with distance and an arrow pointing, much like the windshield navigation display in Yeonjun’s car. ETA: 7 minutes. Distance: 8.6km.

“Why am I the only one reporting?” Yeonjun asked as he sped out of the garage and into the night.

“No idea. Maybe it wasn’t serious enough to get the whole team involved,” Lia suggested. “The fire doesn’t look bad. Once the fire department gets there, things will settle. But if you can get there first and keep the building from collapsing, then that’s all we can ask for.”

“Copy. I’m five minutes out.”

Yeonjun weaved through traffic, hearing a few cars honking their horns at him in what he hoped was support, but was realistically probably a few cranky older men peeved at the young man on the motorcycle breaking the rules of the road. The arrow pointed him in the right direction, but even on the approach, Yeonjun could see smoke against the inky night sky, and he could hear sirens in the distance.

Sadang-dong, Dongjak-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

22:28 PM




The fire alarm was blaring in both the apartment building above and the large convenience store on the ground floor. Yeonjun parked his motorcycle, yanked off his helmet, and ran over to assess the property immediately. He could see flashing red lights in the distance, but he had to get a better look at the apartment building itself.

“My ceiling caved in!” one frantic woman cried out, trying to grab at Yeonjun as a man, presumably her partner, pulled her to safety. If the ceilings were caving, that meant that the building couldn’t withstand the heat, and now the fire was sending black smoke billowing into the sky.

“Give me something,” Yeonjun demanded. “Because I’m about to go in there.”

“The building was erected thirty-nine years ago, and it hasn’t been inspected for structural soundness in three years,” Lia replied, and Yeonjun could hear her typing on her computer, searching for information. “It missed those inspections and received a notice, but nothing’s been done.”

“f*ck it. I’m going inside. I need to figure out where the fire originated,” Yeonjun declared. “Especially if it was set by a pyrokinetic.”

“Find the origin and tell me,” Lia demanded. Yeonjun then ran past several residents escaping the blaze and entered the stairwell. There was smoke everywhere, creating a haze, but the first floor was untouched. Yeonjun took the stairs and ran to the second floor, where the halls were abandoned and the smoke was thicker. Squinting, he made his way to the third and top floor, and that was when he started to feel the heat and the smoke became thicker.

“Third floor,” Yeonjun said, finger in his ear as he concentrated on the high volume of smoke, trying to separate it from the other functioning parts of his brain. Smoke was hit or miss, and it was a challenge and not something that many telekinetics could work with, but Yeonjun had developed a knack for working with things that weren't exactly tangible, such as smoke or clouds. It took practice, and most people failed; Yeonjun had succeeded quickly and now used it to his advantage.

“Origin?” Lia asked as Yeonjun walked slowly through the thick smoke, feeling the heat on his skin and hearing the cracking of beams and drywall and windows from all around him. He gritted his teeth and dropped low, knowing that heat always rose, and he hobbled towards the source of the fire—apartment 3825. Yeonjun tucked and rolled rapidly away from the heat source, coughing despite the fact that he was doing his best to clear the smoke, and then he came to rest in the stairwell, even though he knew that he was going to have to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation after this.

“Apartment 3825,” Yeonjun said to Lia.

“Belongs to… sh*t. Bang Hyunjun. Former guard at TRACK in the pyrokinesis wing,” Lia said, and Yeonjun clenched his jaw, hearing the sirens as they came closer. He then whipped his head to the left, hearing another cracking beam. The sound of screaming echoed throughout the building despite the blaze, and Yeonjun ran down to the second floor, eyes narrowed as he searched. He skidded to a halt in the hallway, and then he lunged and threw his hand up towards the ceiling, where he could see drywall beginning to crumble.

“Get out,” Lia’s voice said in his ear. “Phoenix, get out of there. It’s not worth it. The building’s not going to last.”

“Are there any residents still in the building?” Yeonjun hollered, gritting his teeth and focusing all of his energy on the collapsing ceiling.

“Jesus, hold on. Searching for heat signatures,” Lia said. “In a f*cking building fire, this is—sh*t. Two people, third floor. Apartment 3832. End of the hall past apartment 3825. You missed them.”

“Well, I can’t f*cking go up there now!” Yeonjun called out as the alarm continued to blare. He started to speak again, but then he heard horrid cracking noises coming from near the stairwell. Panicked, Yeonjun threw out his other hand. There was the age-old argument that telekinetics—or kinetics in general—didn’t need to use their hands for anything, since it was all in the mind. But that, Yeonjun had found, was for basic kinesis. Not for instances where he had to keep an entire building from collapsing. He had to channel the energy.

“Firefighters are here,” Lia said in his ear. “Phoenix, get out.”

“Can’t,” Yeonjun said, coughing as his chest burned despite his face mask. It wasn’t good enough, and now the ceiling above his head was starting to crack.

When will you wake the f*ck up and realize how weak you are?

Yeonjun planted his feet firmly and clenched his jaw in resolve, glancing up at the ceiling, hands still out to support two other danger zones. The drywall stopped crumbling onto his head. It was suspended in midair, and the rest of the ceiling stayed where it was. Fighting the temptation to collapse and cough, Yeonjun closed his eyes, holding his stance, accessing the part of his brain that made him the hero he was supposed to be. It felt like nothing more than an echoed mantra— hold, hold, hold. His brain fired off messages to every part of the building that was in danger of collapsing, his energy honed in, nothing more important than keeping this building standing.

Yeonjun heard shouting, so he slowly opened his eyes and dared to turn his head towards the open stairwell.


The firefighters came to a stuttering halt.

“APARTMENT 3832,” Yeonjun shouted between alarm sounds. “TWO PEOPLE.”

“Phoenix, the third floor isn’t going to hold,” Lia said in a panic. “You have to get out. They have to get out.”

“Just another minute,” Yeonjun insisted. “One more minute. I can hold it. I can hold it until they get water on it. I’m not letting these people lose everything.”

Yeonjun’s legs began to shake, but he held firm. He could feel sweat trickling down his spine and his face, felt like he had a fever, but he refused to relent. It wasn’t that he wanted to die a hero’s death or as a martyr; all Yeonjun needed was to prove to himself that he was strong enough to hold up an entire apartment building while buying firefighters time to save two people who were trapped.

“They’re moving!” Yeonjun called out when he saw the firefighters coming down the stairs again, carrying two elderly women who hadn’t been able to move quickly enough to escape the sudden blaze. Even after they disappeared, though, Yeonjun hesitated to move. Instead, he began to take slow steps backwards, his eyes still locked on the ceiling as he desperately visualized the insides of the other apartments underneath apartment 3825, trying to keep the ceilings from collapsing. Each step was painstaking, but Yeonjun finally managed to walk down the staircase in slow motion without hearing the collapse as he held it strong.

“Get out, move,” Lia commanded. “It’s holding. They’re working on it. Get out of there.”

Yeonjun finally made it to the ground floor, and then he ran out of the building, gulping down fresh air and wheezing as he turned to face the building. And then he stood and stared, focusing every last minute fragment of energy he had on holding it as it currently stood. Giving the people in the streets a chance to collect their belongings and find a new dwelling. Preventing further destruction.

Telekinesis was nothing like in the movies and comic books Yeonjun had consumed growing up. Media made telekinesis feel like a brand of immortality, like the user had total control over the world. It boasted manipulating molecules with the mind, sonic booms, destruction, even flight. But when applied realistically to humans as a true genetic mutation, it was nothing of the sort, and it came with a multitude of shortcomings.

Yeonjun had a threshold. Kai couldn’t manipulate anything that wasn’t directly made of earth or minerals or crystals—if called to the apartment building, he would have likely had to let it collapse, unable to manipulate manmade objects. He had a threshold. Changbin couldn’t manipulate anything that didn’t contain electrical energy—if called to the apartment building, he, too, would have likely had to let it collapse. He had a threshold. And that was what made Yeonjun, a telekinetic, the most desirable hero.

Even though TRACK had an entire telekinesis wing with many trainees, Yeonjun had always found himself holding back. Why was he the only one who could manipulate smoke? Why was he the only one who could sometimes sense things from a distance as if he was a human radar? Why was he the only one who could hold up an entire apartment building as the flames died down? But even with all of that—why did he work under such restrictions?


Yeonjun slowly tested the waters by blinking a few times and exhaling. He rolled his shoulders back and closed his eyes, giving his mind a break, and all he heard was the anxious chatter of the residents behind him and the barked orders from the firefighters. He opened his eyes and watched the dull grey smoke and ash floating through the night sky, the fire extinguished. When he turned to the right, he saw the two elderly ladies in separate ambulances, ready to be whisked off to the hospital.

“Leo to Phoenix. All clear,” Lia said, sounding relieved. “You’re out of your f*cking mind.”

“I knew I could control it,” Yeonjun croaked with a small cough. “I was just… testing my limits.”

Water didn’t bend to Yeonjun’s will. The earth didn’t move under Yeonjun’s feet when he walked. Electricity didn’t flow through his veins like blood. Humans with free will were off-limits entirely. But the rest of the world was Yeonjun’s oyster, and he wasn’t weak. The mere fact that the building was still standing was a minor testament to that.

But why was he so hung up on Soobin’s words?

“I need you to look for security footage,” Yeonjun said as he paced within a small radius, knowing that the paramedics would round on him soon enough. “Of before the fire. Figure out who started it.”

“Do we even know if Bang Hyunjun made it out alive?” Lia wondered. “Or was he burned to death?”

“Hell if I know,” Yeonjun muttered.

“Okay. Looking…” Lia clicked her tongue repeatedly as Yeonjun listened to the sound of a keyboard. “Wait, what? Oh, you’re f*cking kidding me.”


“What a f*cking cliché. The footage was wiped,” Lia complained. “An electrokinetic, by best guess. It’s way too clean, and the footage is only missing six minutes. That’s enough time for someone to get into the building, set the fire, and leave.”

“And nearby security footage?”

“I’ll work on it. Don’t hold your breath. Go get checked out, please. You need treatment.”

“I’m fine,” Yeonjun sighed, but Lia signed off, so he walked weakly over to the paramedics, who pounced on him immediately, fussing and asking him to sit down on the edge of the ambulance, giving him oxygen to treat the smoke inhalation, shooing away reporters who had rushed to the scene to catch a glimpse of Yeonjun in action.

“I need to speak to the firefighters,” Yeonjun insisted, swatting away the paramedic who continued to try to give him oxygen and walking on shaky knees towards the firetruck. Yeonjun saw a camera flash, but he chose to ignore it as he approached one firefighter.

“Excuse me.”

“Ah. Phoenix. Thank you for your assistance,” the firefighter said with a small bow.

“The fire was started in apartment 3825,” Yeonjun stated, and the firefighter nodded.

“Yes, it was. No source. No cigarette, no faulty wires,” he replied. “I’m assuming you think that a pyrokinetic is at fault for this one.”

“Seems like it. There was a man living in that apartment. Bang Hyunjun,” Yeonjun divulged. “Did he make it out alive?”

“We recovered one body,” the firefighter said grimly. “Badly burned. Male. Once we get dental record confirmation, I’m sure we can positively identify him.”

“Thank you.” Yeonjun bowed his head, and then he turned back towards the ambulance, quietly coughing. Two anxious women walked past him, clinging to each other, and Yeonjun rubbed one hand over his chest.

“Did you like my work?”

Yeonjun came to a screeching halt and stood motionless in the middle of the closed off street, hand still frozen on his chest. The voice in his ear wasn’t Lia. This voice was low, full of gravel, unfamiliar. Yeonjun didn’t dare to speak. He stood rooted to the spot, waiting for more.

“Bang Hyunjun was an abusive piece of sh*t. His favorite way to escort me to the principal’s office for discipline was dragging me by my hair. I never liked him.”

“Why were you disciplined?” Yeonjun asked with caution, his mouth barely moving.

“When I got angry or too emotional, I started to burn up. Fevers that should’ve killed me. And then my skin started to burn. And I began to generate fire. And they didn’t like that.”

“So they tried to put you in your place,” Yeonjun breathed.

“I never had a place there.” Min Yoongi let out a breath of bitter laughter. “There’s a common theme, Choi Yeonjun. Distractions, distractions, distractions. For example, while you were playing hero like I knew you would, Im Byunhee was in the trunk of a car, and now he’s hanging from our ceiling, and we have a few questions for him. Hope you don’t mind.”

“You what?” Yeonjun snapped, but he got no response.

“Phoenix? Leo to Phoenix. sh*t, are you there?” Lia’s voice cut through loud and clear and full of frustration. “The f*cking battle I just had with another electrokinetic to keep me out, I swear to God. I almost got outsmarted. Phoenix?”

“I’m here,” Yeonjun said in a daze. “Send a team to the residence of Im Byunhee.”

“Who’s that?” Lia wondered.

“I don’t know. Look him up. He has to be related to TRACK somehow. The fire was just a distraction,” Yeonjun said, fuming. “And we f*cking fell for it.”

“Christ. Okay, I’m sending… got him. I’m sending a team to his residence right now. Is he there? Is he dead? What do you know?” Lia asked as Yeonjun walked right to his motorcycle, ignoring the calls of the paramedics who were begging him to come and get the medical attention he needed. Yeonjun would take himself to the hospital if he felt like he was in danger of collapsing, but right now, the adrenaline was keeping him on his feet.

“The bare f*cking minimum. Get me everything you can and send it to me!” Yeonjun called out, shoving his helmet on and swinging his leg over his motorcycle. Then he sped off into the night, heading for home in a fit of frustration and resigning himself prematurely to a night of coughing, chest pain, and no sleep.

National Intelligence Service

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

08:56 AM

“You shouldn’t even be here.”

“It didn’t affect me.” Yeonjun tugged at the right sleeve of his suit jacket and quietly cleared his throat, seated in a conference room chair. Kai and Changbin were seated on his right side, and neither one of them looked pleased that Yeonjun was at the office, but today was the day they were meant to meet with Jo Chansung. This was not a meeting that Yeonjun could skip, especially with Im Byunhee still missing.

Im Byunhee, as it turned out, was a man who assisted in the TRACK medical clinic for ten years. When shown his employee photo, Yeonjun immediately recognized the face, though he had never known the name. Byunhee certainly didn’t have the appearance of a clean-cut individual, and he had received a total of four complaints from the parents of children at TRACK saying that he was administering medication without consent of the lead physician. But he had never been fired, and surely that was where Min Yoongi (and the others) found fault.

“We should have been there,” Changbin said, adding on to Kai’s dissatisfaction with Yeonjun’s presence. “I can’t believe we didn’t receive the call.”

“Yeah, but we never receive those calls,” Kai pointed out. “Yeonjun has more of a skill set for those sorts of emergencies, not us.”

“Yeah, I get that. I haven’t been cleared to go back out into the field yet, anyways. But Phantom is on the loose, and so are his little friends. There’s safety in numbers,” Changbin argued.

“But you both said that you didn’t want to risk being called out to a confrontation where Phantom might be,” Yeonjun said, shaking his foot rapidly for a distraction.

“Yeah, well, that was when we were both still shaken up from the whole mind control thing,” Kai said. “I don’t know how the f*ck you turned out totally fine. Must be a telekinetic thing.”

“He moves sh*t with his mind all the time,” Changbin said supportively, and Yeonjun rolled his eyes.

“That doesn’t mean that mind control has no effect,” he argued, but he left it at that. This was not the time to bring up the fact that Soobin, after seven years, still refused to control Yeonjun’s mind. Yeonjun wasn’t even sure he could trust Changbin and Kai enough to divulge all of the information that he knew. It wasn’t that they weren’t friends—quite the contrary. Changbin and Kai were Yeonjun’s closest confidants. They helped each other find hook-ups at bars in their spare time, complained about overbearing mothers, commiserated about work. But there was a fine line between friendship and trust in their warped world, especially when it came to kinesis. There was just no telling.

“Well, I guess I’m just glad you’re not dead. But now we have one more dead man and another being held hostage,” Kai sighed, twisting his lips in thought. It was at that moment that the conference room door opened, and Yeonjun immediately rose to his feet.

“Good morning,” he said in chorus with Kai and Changbin, bowing.

“Good morning, good morning. Good to see you. Have a seat.” Jo Chansung, director of TRACK, walked in while Director Nam and a slew of agents trailed behind him. Jo Chansung was far more athletically built than Director Nam. He was broad and strapping with waves of black hair swept back off his square face and dark eyebrows that defined his expression. Yeonjun knew he had reading glasses that he often pulled out of his breast pocket during meetings, and he always had an earpiece in each ear. Yeonjun wanted to think that it was so he could receive feedback from other agents or employees, much like Yeonjun got from Lia, but he could never be too sure. Jo Chansung was an extrovert with a contagious laugh and a smile that convinced parents everywhere to trust him with their child.

TRACK had been thrown together with haste almost thirty years ago after a sudden pandemic of children turned up with frightening abilities that were out of their control. Jo Chansung’s son, Joosung, had been one of those children.

Joosung, a soft-spoken and sweet telekinetic, had attended the facility at Chansung’s discretion in hopes of providing him with some guidance. At the time, Chansung had decided to give up his life as a businessman to become a supervisor at TRACK in hopes of being closer to his son. But when Joosung was nine-years-old, a group of young adults with kinetic abilities, recent TRACK graduates, broke into the Jo home during the Christmas holiday, and young Joosung had tried to defend his parents and his home. The intruders had rained hell on him, and Joosung had died in the incident.

Chansung had become director of TRACK that year after a terrible tragedy, which made him a legend of sorts. A grieving father assuming the “throne” to revitalize TRACK and turn it into a leading example, a shining beacon of hope for the kinetic population—that was the kind of story that touched hearts.

But now Soobin wanted Chansung dead. And Yeonjun had to wonder why.

“Terribly sorry for the delay in our meeting,” Chansung said as he unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat down at the head of the table. “Business. I know you’ll understand.”

“We’re happy to meet with you,” Kai said, bowing his head.

“We don’t get much face-to-face time with you,” Changbin said with a small smile.

“I’m a busy man,” Chansung said jovially. “Now. Let’s cut straight to the point. You were briefed weeks ago about a very dangerous man who has been assigned the alias ‘Phantom.’ And to the best of my understanding, you’ve all come face-to-face with him. I’ve read the briefing reports from that encounter. My biggest and frankly only concern is that TRACK has no record of a trainee with such abilities.”

“Yeonjun thinks that he wiped himself from the records,” Kai chimed in immediately. “Which, given his abilities, makes sense. It would have been easy.”

“Mm. I see. Which of you saw him up close?” Chansung asked, and Yeonjun raised his hand halfway. “What’s your best estimate of age?”

“Early to mid-twenties,” Yeonjun said vaguely.

“Which makes him a peer in your age bracket,” Chansung stated. “And not one of you has any memory of a man with such skills?”

Yeonjun shook his head, stewing in his lies as Chansung sighed. Not even the director of TRACK was immune, he thought. Soobin really did a number on everyone. Even Jo Chansung can’t remember.

“Recently…” Chansung turned his chair to rest one elbow on the table as he stroked his goatee with a few fingers. “Well, in the past ten or so years, I should say. I’ve been taking precautionary measures to protect myself and my staff from the harmful effects of kinesis. That’s not to say that kinesis is a danger. Quite the opposite. The measures are to protect us from those who choose to use kinesis for harm and not for good. Who play with free will. Who have little concern for human life. Our tireless research has brought us to a good point where we feel that we’ve protected ourselves from potential harm. We’ve built up our defenses. So this is, to say the least, concerning.”

“Is there a way to protect yourself from it?” Changbin wondered. “From mind control?”

“He can do it remotely without ever meeting you,” Yeonjun said mostly to himself, but then he looked up. “The entire prison was under his control. It’s clear that there’s no way to protect ourselves from it.”

“Ah, you might be wrong,” Chansung said, holding up a finger. “In my research, I’ve found that mind control and manipulation and hypnosis like what we’re seeing is because the victim has not a leg to stand on. Their minds are weak, easy to invade and manipulate. That’s not to say that you are weak.” He gestured to the trio. “The issue is that this is a new problem, and we haven’t implemented the proper training. If we can teach people how to fight mind control, provide them with the strategies and skills, then we have a way to protect ourselves.”

“I don’t think it would matter much if we’re dealing with someone with omnikinesis,” Kai said, frowning. Chansung chuckled.

“Now, now. Omnikinesis is just not realistic,” he said, sounding amused. “The genetic mutations of kinesis that we’ve studied since their birth thirty or so odd years ago simply don’t allow for such things. At best, this man is telekinetic and working without restrictions at a level of mastership. He’s learned how to manipulate things with his mind down to the last molecule. And we’ve seen that he has a small team in place, one of each—pyrokinesis, hydrokinesis, electrokinesis. He’s only missing you, Kai-ssi. But he’s surrounded himself with people who have powers that he likely does not.”

That’s not true. That’s the furthest thing from reality. If only you knew. Yeonjun closed his eyes for a moment, remembering the way that Soobin used to secretly fill Yeonjun’s water bottle up in class, how he used to shock the class bully and pretend it was just static, how he would ask flowers to grow in the garden and they would.

“But it breaks my heart.” Chansung sighed with a small frown and a tiny shake of his head. “That this young man is wreaking such havoc on the world and targeting TRACK. We’re working tirelessly every day to guide children and set them on the right path. It’s a shame. I regret that I have no memory of him, and that he must be experiencing such pain. Forgive me, but I do wish that kinesis was not a trait passed down to innocent children. If only we knew where this mutation came from. Perhaps my son would still be here. Perhaps many people would still be here.”

“Just tell us what we can do to help,” Changbin quietly requested. Chansung sat in silence for a moment, and then he looked up at his trio of heroes, three young men he had met as boys at TRACK. Yeonjun could still remember the starstruck feeling in the air in the classrooms whenever Director Jo came to see them before the exit examination began to say “fighting!” and encourage them.

“I commend you three,” he said. “You exemplify all the best characteristics of what it means to be kinetic in our society today. The kids at TRACK idolize all of you. They aspire to be like you.”

“Thank you. We’ll work hard,” Yeonjun said at the same time as Kai and Changbin, all three of them bowing their heads again.

“Even if I am working from the shadows, we must work together,” Chansung declared. “To stop Phantom in whatever way possible. We can save a lot of lives if we can find him and subdue him and show him the damage that he is doing. Every man has a weakness. It’s up to us to find Phantom’s weakness and exploit it without bringing harm to anyone. One man cannot have that much power. It upsets the balance greatly. It gives the wrong idea to our children.”

“Will, uh… will you implement training?” Kai carefully asked. “At TRACK? For the kids?”

“The research center and I will work together to create a training program to introduce quickly,” Chansung replied. “And then yes, there will be training. But first, we must work on ways to identify this man. Once we can identify him, perhaps we can make some progress. We need to talk to him. Capture him without creating a scene. Study him so that we can understand him. ‘Control over chaos,’ as I always say. And after reading through the report of the jailbreak and prison fiasco, it seems that you all managed to escape relatively unharmed. That’s a good sign.”

“He is targeting TRACK, though. So we have to be careful,” Yeonjun stated, thinking nothing of it. Chansung glanced over, raising his eyebrows in interest. Chansung had shaken Yeonjun’s hand countless times with pride, expressing how much Yeonjun meant to him and how he was the best possible example for children. An anomaly who suppressed it. The face of picture perfect kinesis control, in his opinion.

“You know for sure?”

“He told me,” Yeonjun said, and Chansung leaned in.

“You spoke with him?”

“In the middle of fighting him, yes,” Yeonjun replied. “He… talked a little bit to me.”

“Good. That’s excellent. That’s a bond we can exploit, no matter how small. You’re our go-to guy, then,” Chansung said, patting his hand on the table a few times. “This is an opportunity, Yeonjun-ssi. If he’s comfortable enough to speak with you, then use that. Get him to talk. Pursue it, in fact, as long as it’s safe. You may just be the key to all this. I’m counting on you.”

“Yes, okay. I’ll work hard,” Yeonjun promised with another bow. It appeared that Chansung had something else to say, but there was a loud knock on the door, and silence reigned. The door flew open, and a frazzled agent appeared, eyes shining with concern, slightly breathless. He stopped rigidly and bowed to everyone in the room as Director Nam stood up, drawing himself to full height in preparation to surely scold the agent for interrupting a classified and confidential meeting.

“I deeply apologize for the interruption.” He bowed again. “It’s urgent.”

“Then spit it out,” Director Nam snapped.

“Choi Kyunghyun is dead,” the agent said in a strangled voice, and Yeonjun stood up with his palms pressed to the surface of the table as Director Nam took a few steps towards the door.

“Was it him?” Chansung barked. “Was it Phantom? Did he murder Choi Kyunghyun?”

“I don’t know,” the agent admitted, and then he swallowed heavily. “The doctor on duty strangled Choi Kyunghyun to death and… and carried him outside. We… We found him sitting on a park bench. Dead.”

“Send a team.” Director Nam gestured to Changbin. “Flare, go with them.”

“Yes, Director Nam,” Changbin said, bowing and then briskly walking out of the room as the agent bowed as well and ran off to gather a team.

“That doesn’t bode well for Im Byunhee,” Yeonjun said into the silence, and all eyes turned to him. “If Choi Kyunghyun was kept alive for that long and we couldn’t stop his death, then Im Byunhee doesn’t stand a chance.”

Chatter broke out. Jo Chansung hastily gathered his team and left the building without so much as a goodbye. Director Nam rushed out to take care of business, calling after Chansung. The conference room emptied until it was just Yeonjun and Kai. They stared at one another, and then Kai’s eyes flicked to the open door.

“Do you ever get the feeling that there’s more going on here than they’re telling us?” he asked. With his lips pressed together, Yeonjun ran his tongue along his top teeth.

“I’m starting to think that we know nothing.”

National Intelligence Service

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

17:13 PM

“There’s something I need you to do.”

Startled at the informal nature of it all, Yeonjun hastily shoved his desk chair back and stood up to bow as Director Nam appeared in his doorway. Seeming to understand that his actions were a bit unexpected, Director Nam exhaled deeply, nodded his head once, and stepped into Yeonjun’s office.

“I’m just working on the report from the building fire,” Yeonjun said, beckoning to his computer. “Making sure I’m thorough. Adding this count of arson and murder to Min Yoongi’s record.”

“Good.” Director Nam cleared his throat quietly. “There’s something I need you to do,” he repeated.


“Tonight at SEOUL Forest,” he began, sitting down in a chair across from Yeonjun’s desk but already looking as if he was ready to stand up and walk away. He was tense, the energy radiating off him far more anxious than Yeonjun was used to on a normal day. “A park bench is being dedicated to the memory of Lee Yongsun. If you recall, she was a pioneer in the education field for children with kinesis.”

“She wrote two of our textbooks,” Yeonjun murmured. “A woman who wasn’t kinetic ended up writing textbooks about controlling our abilities. Always thought that was fascinating.”

“Well, like her or not, she’s receiving a bench in the park,” Director Nam said. “The superintendent of police will be making the dedication. They’re expecting a few dozen people and the media to be there. Positive publicity, given the mayhem that’s been happening lately.”

“And you think it’s a trap.”

“I think it’s a prime target,” Director Nam confirmed. “I want you there. The dedication is at sunset, which is around nineteen hundred hours. Keep an eye on it.”

“Got it.”

Director Nam nodded curtly, gripping the doorframe on his way out of Yeonjun’s office and leaving the door open. Yeonjun glanced back at his computer screen, where he had a split screen with Min Yoongi’s digital case file alongside his report, which was nearly eight pages long now. Truly, he was just using the report as a way to numb his mind and distract himself from feeling the urge to ask questions, knowing that the answers would come at a high price.

Yeonjun liked the status quo. He was okay with the status quo. Blissful ignorance suited him, mostly because it gave him a place in society. Being the anomaly he was or pushing back against authority made him an immediate outcast. If he dared to ask too many questions, the good he had done for Seoul would be immediately forgotten, cancelled out, washed away. He was in a constant precarious position, his livelihood always on the line. Being the hero who followed the rules earned him consistent praise, respect from his peers and the community. If he deviated, he lost all of that in a heartbeat.

Soobin returning to his life in such a jarring and sudden fashion put Yeonjun in a difficult position. Not only was he the sole person who remembered Soobin’s past, but he was the one person who Soobin chose not to control. As teenagers, Soobin was constantly asking Yeonjun to bend the rules just a little, and Yeonjun always obliged, as long as no one found out. But now they were on a bigger stage with spotlights everywhere. Now, if Yeonjun bent the rules, people knew. Now, Yeonjun had a thousand questions, and Soobin seemed to have answers.

If Soobin had just slipped back into Yeonjun’s life without the added bonuses of murder and psychological torture, Yeonjun wouldn’t have thought twice. But Soobin was the polar opposite of everything Yeonjun stood for, and Yeonjun wasn’t sure if having conversations with him for Jo Chansung’s benefit was a smart move. It was the correct one, but it still set off alarm bells in Yeonjun’s head, and he hated it.

Neither Kai nor Changbin were in the office today, and Yeonjun hadn’t questioned why. He glimpsed at his office door until it closed and locked, and then opened the closet and pulled out his uniform. It felt silly sometimes, thinking that he had some kind of superhero getup, but if Yeonjun just showed up wearing regular street clothes, his body would end up in shambles. So he shimmied out of his work clothes, hung them up, and stepped into his jumpsuit. He glanced in the small mirror inside the closet and used a few fingers to tame some of his red hair. Then he slipped the face mask on, grabbed his boots, stepped into them, and snapped on the utility belt.

“Gun,” he murmured to himself before he departed from his office, even though he felt like a firearm would be futile if Soobin was there. Firearms tended to be useless when up against fellow kinetics, but in a life-or-death situation, it was useful to be able to point a gun to someone’s head, even more useful to be able to threaten that he could pull the trigger without so much as touching the gun at all.


With her fingers still on the keyboard, Lia turned her chair just enough to stare at Yeonjun with one eyebrow raised. She turned back to her computer, long high ponytail swinging, and then she inhaled with a snorting sound of annoyance when her keyboard flew off her desk and into Yeonjun’s hand.

“You’re a pain in the ass,” she complained, but she still spun her chair around and bowed to Yeonjun politely. “What is it?” Her brow furrowed. “Why are you in uniform? Where’s the fight?”

“SEOUL Forest,” Yeonjun replied, and then he let go of the keyboard and sent it slowly across the open space back to Lia. She snatched it with both hands from its levitating position and set it back onto her desk with a clatter.

“On whose authority?”

“Director Nam.”

“What’s the issue?”

“A park bench is being dedicated to Lee Yongsun tonight,” Yeonjun said, seeing a flicker of recognition in Lia’s eyes. “By the police superintendent.”

“Oh, good. Prime target,” Lia said casually, and Yeonjun snickered as she rolled her eyes. Her office was in a secluded corner on level eight and she worked by herself (at her request—“If I’m going to help Phoenix, you need to give me my own space”), and Yeonjun didn’t often visit her face-to-face, so sometimes it was nice to hear her voice and watch her physically speak.

“That’s what Director Nam thinks, too. So I’m going. Will you be on stand-by?” Yeonjun asked. Lia spun her chair back around, but Yeonjun didn’t miss the little grin of pride on her face before her back was turned.

“I guess I can do that.”

“You’re an angel,” Yeonjun stated, knowing that Lia liked the praise.

“I know,” she replied airily, and Yeonjun smiled, leaving her office and closing the door behind him as he slipped his earpiece in. He stepped into the elevator, and not even a minute later— “What do you think I should order for dinner, since I have to stay behind for your dumb ass?”

“The lack of respect, I swear,” Yeonjun sighed, and he heard Lia laughing.

“You know, normally I do well to respect my elders, but you’ve made it way too easy,” she said, which was true. She had treated Yeonjun with the utmost and purest respect when she had first started working in tandem with him, but Yeonjun had quickly demanded that she cut the sh*t and speak to him like an equal, because when he was out in the field, he didn’t have time for formalities.

Though it wasn’t his favorite, Yeonjun had a spare motorcycle at the NIS locked up in the garage, so he grabbed his helmet and hopped on, watching as the agents in the garage clarified that Yeonjun was leaving the building. Revving his engine, Yeonjun held up a hand to wave, and then he sped out onto the narrow driveway and into the streets, weaving right between two cars and checking the directions Lia had sent. The arrow pointed him onward, so he picked up speed, knowing by instinct that he could speed through the red light without being blindsided by perpendicular traffic.

SEOUL Forest

Seongsu-dong il-ga, Seongdong-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

18:57 PM

It was a relatively short trip to the forest, but when Yeonjun pulled up, he could already see where the small crowd was gathering near the lake. He parked in the grass, forgoing any search for a legitimate parking space in the interest of time. He didn’t want to make a scene or alert the attendees that he was present, so he kept his distance and stood quietly beneath a tree.

“Leo to Phoenix. Anything?” Lia asked curiously.

“I just got here. They have balloons,” Yeonjun commented, hearing Lia snicker. “I mean, nothing out of the ordinary so far. I’ll just wait it out.”

“Is there cake? Bring me a piece.”

Yeonjun rolled his eyes, holding back the laugh he wanted to let out as he gazed onto the scene before him. Happy faces, plenty of chatter, no cause for alarm. But that, of course, led Yeonjun to believe the exact opposite. It felt more akin to a ticking time bomb than anything else.

Lee Yongsun’s family was present, seeing as she had passed away ten years ago just shy of her eighty-fifth birthday. Her son and his wife and daughter were there near the bench, and the media were already swarming. And Yeonjun knew, just from his research, that the superintendent supported TRACK.

“Phoenix to Leo. Tell me more about the superintendent.”

“Ah, yes. Choi Dongseok. He’s quite interesting,” Lia said right away. “Just a regular man who divorced his wife so that he could date a pretty young thing with hydrokinesis. You can imagine that their relationship is based on everything but love.”

“Is he dating her for the power or is he dating her to protect himself?” Yeonjun asked. “Or does he just need somewhere wet to stick his dick?”

Lia snorted with laughter. “If I say all of the above, would it surprise you?”

“Not at all.” Yeonjun kept his eyes on Choi Dongseok, who was dressed formally and laughing with some colleagues, ready to begin the ceremony at any moment. “I’m sure dating that woman just gives him an ‘in’ with the kinesis community, so to speak.”

“Undoubtedly. He’s a bit of a snake. Aren’t they all?”

“All the more reason for some unexpected guests to show up,” Yeonjun murmured. “Phoenix out.”

There was some applause, and then Yeonjun watched from his perch under a tree as the ceremony began, quiet and unnoticed. There was no need to draw attention to himself unless it became necessary. He watched as Dongseok unveiled the bench, pulling the pristine white draping away as his audience applauded again and the media collected their pictures.

Yeonjun whipped his head to the left, sure that he was hallucinating, but the flash of lightning across the sky had been unmistakable. He waited, holding his breath until he saw another flash closer to the park. The moment that he saw small ripples begin to form in the placid lake, Yeonjun leapt away from the tree and took off running towards the crowd, unperturbed by the interruption he was about to cause in the middle of a seemingly moving speech. While running, he lifted the sheet that had been thrown to the side straight into the air like a white flag of surrender, and that caught everyone’s attention.

“Time to go!” he hollered. “Quickly!” he added when a sudden wind whipped through the trees, disturbing an otherwise peaceful evening. Whispers spread in a wildfire fashion, but Yeonjun cut through the crowds. “QUICKLY.”

His shouting seemed to do the trick. The crowd began to disperse as Yeonjun approached Dongseok and Lee Yongsun’s family, who looked only mildly alarmed and more confused than anything.

“You’re being targeted. You especially,” Yeonjun deduced, glancing at Dongseok. “I don’t know if there’s much I can do to protect you, but you need to leave. Now.”

Lee Yongsun’s family didn’t have to be told twice; they formed a huddle and began to migrate across the park towards the parking lot, which Yeonjun wanted to say was a foolish decision, but he didn’t have time. The police were converging on the scene, surely to protect Dongseok, and the wind was picking up as Yeonjun furrowed his brow.

Which one of them can control the weather like this?

“Phoenix to Leo. Lightning storm in the vicinity. I’m clearing the crowd. Tell me you have something,” Yeonjun begged as he continued to usher the group of police protecting Dongseok towards the parking lot as well, left with very little choice.

“If you could see my radar right now,” Lia said, her tone ominous. “It just lit up like a Christmas tree. Four heat signatures and one hell of an electrical charge. Phoenix, this is dangerous. You have no back-up.”

“I don’t have much of a choice.” Yeonjun continued to follow the police, whipping his head around, watching as cars began to clog the exits of the parking lot. He reached forward to encourage the small group to hustle, but they were all pummeled to the ground like bowling pins by a sudden wave of water. Yeonjun coughed and rolled, leaping to his feet while pushing back his wet hair, and he immediately twisted one foot into the grass as he faced the nearly drained lake, watching as water began to pull upwards from the soaked ground, as water droplets began to fly off his own suit.

“Phoenix to Leo.” Yeonjun took a few ragged breaths. “Maelstrom is here.”

[what’s up danger] :: blackway, black caviar

He was here in a subtle yet grandiose fashion, a peculiar juxtaposition that startled Yeonjun. Kim Namjoon was sitting on a park bench across the lake with one leg crossed over the other, an elbow dangling off the armrest, one hand up with his fingers curling towards him as he controlled the water. Hair the color of the ocean, dressed in a black turtleneck and black pants that had patches on them to protect his knees. He was wearing glasses, which Yeonjun found odd for a fight, but given his casual disposition, it suited him. He caught Yeonjun’s eye, and with a dimpled smirk and a wink, he flicked his wrist.

“sh*t,” Yeonjun cursed as a jetstream of water slammed one police officer square in the chest, sending him flying. Yeonjun threw out one hand behind him while still facing Namjoon, fixated solely on the police officer’s belt full of weapons, the most tangible object he could use to control the situation. He knew that the DKR wasn’t fond of him using clothing and wearable objects to control people, because it teetered on the brink of manipulating free will to them, but Yeonjun only used it in moments when there was imminent danger.

“You’ve got company,” Lia said in Yeonjun’s ear as Yeonjun struggled to keep the police officer hanging in midair before lowering him down gently to the soaked grass. Then, while running towards the enemy, Yeonjun lifted the bench that Namjoon was sitting on with speed and dropped it back down to the ground, displacing Namjoon immediately. Gravity did its job, but Namjoon was quick; he pulled as much water as he could in a vortex beneath his body, and the water caught him as it moved swiftly to create a surface on which he could land.

“Jesus,” Yeonjun breathed, but he lifted the park bench again and hurled it straight at Namjoon’s face, hoping for maximum impact. But the impact never happened. The bench suddenly incinerated, exploding and splintering into pieces as flames danced through the air and rained down onto the grass. The small fires on the grass were like a runway. Namjoon hadn’t come alone.

“Who’s on fire?” Lia demanded as Yeonjun made the snap decision to attempt to move the group of police officers and Dongseok quickly. It felt like everything was happening in slow motion, but in reality, only a minute had passed since the wave of water had cascaded down onto them.

“That would be Flicker,” Yeonjun panted.

“Oh, Christ. The whole crew is there.”

The shrieks from the parking lot caught Yeonjun’s attention next, and then he was blinded. Bright flashes of white hot lightning and electricity seemed to move like spiderwebs through the air and from car to car, engines cutting off everywhere, car alarms sounding. And that could only mean that Kim Taehyun was doing his worst. Yeonjun was now on his own to defend a hopeless group of people against three of the most dangerous men in Seoul, including an escaped convict.

“Why are you running?”

Yeonjun pivoted sharply, breathless, as he faced the voice taunting him. Min Yoongi was small in stature, but that didn’t diminish the terror his mere presence enforced. Hair the color of ash and blue flame hanging in his eyes, visible vertical scar over his right eye, dressed in a similar getup to Namjoon but wearing a black face mask. He swept one hand over the grass, gathering the small flames, but it grew exponentially as Yeonjun tried to back up. He then dove and somersaulted as a jettison of fire soared at him like a curveball.

“All you have to do is give us your little friend,” Namjoon said in his deep, deceptively soothing voice. He was on his feet again, standing right beside Yoongi across the lake from Yeonjun. From the parking lot, the screams grew louder.

“Ah-ah-ah, don’t go anywhere,” Yoongi suddenly said as he looked past Yeonjun, and the group of police officers let out cries of surprise, stumbling when a ring of fire exploded around them like a prison. Yoongi turned and glanced at Namjoon. “Be a doll and get Choi Dongseok, will you?”

“Phoenix to Leo. I want you to have deniability,” Yeonjun said hastily.

“Looking away,” Lia immediately said in his ear. Yeonjun turned and ran towards the group of six locked in a ring of fire, his desperate hope being that Namjoon would aim at him instead. But it wasn’t Namjoon who aimed—it was Yoongi. Namjoon started gathering the lake water, but Yoongi was the one who drew the ring of fire higher and higher, creating a dome around the panicked group of officers, Dongseok included. The shouts were horrific; Yeonjun knew that the heat had to be unbearable.

“Hold on!” Yeonjun shouted to them over the roar of the flames, surprised at how loud it was. Then, seeing that Yoongi was walking the perimeter of the lake on the opposite side with his eyes trained on the group, Yeonjun shifted his focus to Namjoon, trying his best to ignore the chaos happening in the parking lot. He was only one person. He would have to deal with things separately, as much as it killed him.

Yeonjun decided that the best thing to do was cheat. It wasn’t cheating, exactly. It was using his abilities to his advantage, because though he did have his limitations (controlling water or electricity or earth were not skills that he had perfected in the slightest), being telekinetic meant that his mind could control virtually any tangible thing if he worked hard enough at it. Years of training be damned. Yeonjun had to find shortcuts.

Yoongi was maintaining the fiery prison. The cries were growing louder. Yeonjun watched as the water spiraled around Namjoon’s legs in waves before he gathered it in a ball, water dripping relentlessly as he did. Yeonjun had no choice. He saw the bench dedicated to Lee Yongsun out of the corner of his eye, and that was what he was going to use.

“DROP IT,” Namjoon shouted to Yoongi, and at the same time, Yeonjun had to duck and roll again to avoid a jet of water aimed directly at him like a harpoon being thrown. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that water couldn’t do any damage. Hydrokinetics had been known to bruise his ribs before with their power.

The ball of water unfurled like a whip. Yeonjun knew that it was meant to wrap around Dongseok and grab him, separate him from the group, but Yeonjun intervened. With as much speed and force as he could muster, he threw the park bench into the path of the water, shattering the stream, and at the same time, he lifted the splintered pieces of the bench Yoongi had incinerated and sent them hurtling at Namjoon like daggers. Water exploded through the air and rained down on the overheated group of six, who staggered to avoid a park bench landing on them.

“YOU f*ckING BASTARD,” Yoongi shouted at Yeonjun, just barely turning the bench pieces to ash before Namjoon was impaled. One of them did, though, manage to lodge in the side of Namjoon’s thigh, and he cursed and just pulled it out, since it was a shallow wound, more like a massive splinter. It made him stumble, and that was when Yeonjun knew that he had pissed Yoongi off.

“f*ck, f*ck, f*ck,” he cursed, turning. “JUST RUN. GO THE OTHER WAY.”

The police officers and Dongseok didn’t have to be told twice. One of the officers took out his gun, though, aiming to shoot, but Yeonjun waved his arm, because he hadn’t even dared to touch his own weapon.

“Don’t! It won’t work!” he hollered, knowing full well that Yoongi would be able to use a smoking gun and a hot bullet to rain hell down upon them all. So as the group of six ran, Yoongi walked straight across the lake and over the water, because Namjoon, despite quickly tending to a wound, had created a water bridge for him. Yeonjun saw another flash of lightning in the parking lot, and he heard sirens wailing through the air. It felt like an eternity had passed. By best estimate, it had been only three or four minutes.

“He told us you were here.” Yoongi’s closed fists opened, and Yeonjun, still breathless, felt a twinge of panic when he saw flames licking Yoongi’s scarred hands. “He failed to say how f*cking obnoxious you are. But given that you’re the government’s puppet, I’m not surprised.”

Yeonjun staggered slightly when he heard an explosion behind him that seemed to shake the entire ground beneath his feet, and he glanced over one shoulder. Two police cars likely meant to take Dongseok to safety were now in flames, black smoke pouring out, and the screams were growing louder from the parking lot.

“I don’t have time to deal with you right now,” Yeonjun snapped, already sidestepping towards the parking lot. “You’re just a distraction.”

“Ouch.” Yoongi’s laugh was humorless. “Well, I don’t have time to monologue like a supervillain, so I’ll make this easy.”

Yeonjun saw his life flash before his eyes for a moment as the flames between Yoongi’s hand met to create something far larger, Yoongi’s face illuminated by the fire. He drew one hand back as if he was pulling the string of a bow, ready to shoot an arrow, the fire lengthening into something that looked far worse than what Yeonjun cared to imagine. Ducking or running wouldn’t help.

“Leo to Phoenix, you have—”

Yeonjun barely heard Lia’s words. Her voice became background noise as the flames hurtled towards him at top speed. Yeonjun anchored his feet into the ground, every muscle in his body tightening as he braced for the pain of being burned, turning his head away to avoid injury to his face, ready to drop and roll to douse the flames, holding one arm up to shield his face.

He could feel the heat. He could hear the crackling of the fire. But he wasn’t feeling pain. Yeonjun dared to turn his head, eyes slightly narrowed, and he stared at the massive tangled ball of fire that seemed to have hit a wall just centimeters from his face. Yeonjun stared at it, his fingers tingling, his brain on fire like he had never felt before, and then a massive stream of water doused the fireball and splashed all over Yeonjun.

“We don’t have time for this sh*t,” Namjoon cursed loudly. “Stop playing. Get the goddamn superintendent and let’s go.”

But Yoongi was standing across from Yeonjun, arms hanging as flames danced between his fingers gracefully, as Yeonjun’s chest heaved from adrenaline.

“How the hell did you—?”

He didn’t finish his sentence. The ground underneath Yoongi’s feet suddenly split, and he stumbled and began to fall with nothing to stand on. It was Namjoon who lunged and sent a stream of water soaring down where the ground had cracked, lifting Yoongi and tossing him to the side. Yeonjun whipped his head to the left.

“f*cking hothead,” Kai cursed as he jogged up to Yeonjun, shaking his head. Then he grinned. “You didn’t think we’d let you do this alone, right?”

“Exactly how wet is this moron? I’m going to electrocute him.” Changbin came from the other direction, but then he looked past Yeonjun to the pandemonium in the parking lot. “sh*t. He’s here too, isn’t he?”

“I got the police officers and Dongseok into a DKR vehicle,” Kai said quickly.

“Let me slow him down,” Changbin said, sounding far too confident for someone who had been at Kim Taehyun’s mercy weeks ago. He ran off towards the parking lot, and it was Namjoon who swirled a stream of water in a figure eight pattern around his head and hurled it at Changbin to slow him down. Changbin, while running, grabbed the electricity running through one of the streetlights and sent it down across his body in a slashing motion before shooting it forward and through the stream of water. Namjoon yanked his hand away and rolled, water raining down onto the grass as he narrowly avoided being electrocuted.

“I’ll hold these two off. Go check on Dongseok. You saw what happened,” Kai said.

“There’s no way you can hold them both off,” Yeonjun argued, but Kai laughed breathily.

“I can work with the elements,” he replied. “I can f*ck with them more than they can f*ck with me. Trust me. Go.”

Yeonjun didn’t ask twice. He turned and took off running to where Kai was pointing.

“Phoenix to Leo,” he panted as he ran. “Do I have you to thank for the backup?”

“I thought they were going to throw Director Nam out the window for letting you go out by yourself with these crazies on the loose,” Lia replied. “They left as soon as I sent them the alert. Flare shouldn’t be out. He’s not cleared. But he insisted.”

“sh*t. I’m going to find the superintendent,” Yeonjun said, heading towards the road, his eyes locked on the line of cars that looked familiar to him. He froze, though, when he saw what was going on in the parking lot. There was Taehyun, wearing a long black coat and an all-black outfit, hair tied back at the nape of his neck, eyes electric white even from a distance. He was standing on the roof of a car and moving like he was conducting an orchestra, hopping from parked car to parked car while laughing, because Changbin was onto him now.

Yeonjun took one glance at the government vehicles and abandoned them, because if Changbin wasn’t supposed to even be out in the field, then he was in danger. Yeonjun flicked one hand, and the car that Taehyun was standing on soared up into the air. Taehyun went flying, but he didn’t work without limitations for nothing. Electricity crackled all around him, zapped from the streetlights, and the hood of a car ripped right from an idling Hyundai waiting to escape, cradling Taehyun before he hit the ground hard, a pool of electricity underneath the hood of the car to keep it stable.

“Holy sh*t,” Yeonjun breathed. Without hesitation, he ripped the hood of the car away, and Taehyun dropped to the ground on his feet, catching Yeonjun’s eye. His smirk meant nothing but doom for Yeonjun as he drew power from an electric car in the parking lot.

“FLARE, GET PEOPLE MOVING,” Yeonjun shouted. He saw Changbin try to shout, but Yeonjun focused only on the fact that thunder was rumbling directly overhead, and streaks of electrical currents were soaring upward towards the sky. Yeonjun had half a mind to grab a car and bring it towards him just for a shield, but he didn’t have time. He was closing in on Taehyun and Changbin now, and if he could move fast enough—

Changbin leapt from the roof of the car. He dove and grabbed Yeonjun around the waist and threw him hard to the ground, and then Yeonjun heard a grunt. Frantic, he scrambled and picked himself up, only to see Changbin gritting his teeth and using both hands to hold and control the lightning strike that Taehyun had just sent down.

“I’m getting fired for this,” Changbin choked out with all his effort, and then he hurled the electricity right at a car beside Taehyun. The car damn near exploded, sending Taehyun flying and forcing him to retreat against his will. Changbin collapsed into a crouching position, panting. “Yeonjun, go. Go, you have to go look out for the superintendent and the police. You’ve done enough. Go, hurry. I can hold him off until you take them to safety.”

“They haven’t left,” Yeonjun noticed, and then he gripped Changbin’s shoulder and took off running yet again, feeling frazzled and pulled in all different directions. The cars were still parked at the curb, which was too peculiar to go unnoticed. They should have already left. Yeonjun pressed his finger to his ear. “Phoenix to Leo.”

“I’m here.”

“You said four heat signatures.” Yeonjun whipped his head to the left, where Kai was still fighting Yoongi and Namjoon, the ground nearly demolished like there had been an earthquake, the lake dredged again and again, two trees on fire.

“Meaning what?”

“When you said I had incoming. You said your radar showed four heat signatures,” Yeonjun said. “Maelstrom, Flicker, Shock. They’re here.”

“There was a fourth.”

Yeonjun slowed down to a jog, and then he stopped dead in his tracks, chest heaving as he stared at the DKR government car that was still immobile. Keeping his distance, he quietly stared at the car door, and it swung open, never having been locked. That was the first red flag. He took two more steps, and then he paused.

“Go dark,” he said quietly. “Leo, go dark. Disconnect from me.”


“Do it.”

Yeonjun heard Lia cursing in his ear, but then she went silent. The car was full—a driver and six passengers. But the driver was gripping the steering wheel with both hands, staring straight ahead, unmoving. The police officer in the passenger seat was staring out the front windshield, one hand in his lap, the other hand holding his gun with the barrel pressed underneath his chin. Two officers sitting in the middle seats were sitting with their hands folded in their laps. And in the backseat, Choi Dongseok was wedged between the last two police officers, holding a gun underneath his chin as well.

“Stop hiding.” Yeonjun spoke quietly, almost whispering. “Don’t be a coward. Come out and talk to me.”

“Shouldn’t I just pull the triggers?”

The world seemed to quiet like a vacuum around Yeonjun, and even though he didn’t move, he turned his head. Kai was crouching down, unmoving. Namjoon and Yoongi were side-by-side, and neither of them were fighting back. The parking lot was quiet. The screaming had stopped. In the distance, there were still sirens.

“What good would that do?” Yeonjun asked, turning back as Choi Soobin walked around the hood of the car and then leaned his lower back against it, propping himself up, slipping his hands in the pockets of his pants. His long black hair was pulled into a messy knot, and he had the black face mask on still. This time, he was wearing an all-black casual suit, the black shirt halfway unbuttoned.

“Ticks one off the list,” Soobin replied.

“I see you sent your friends out to do your dirty work. Do you have a job interview with that outfit?” Yeonjun goaded, standing his ground and trying not to think about how Soobin had an entire park of people under his control, the chaos turning into nothing more than a cacophony of eerie silence.

“No. Just a job to do,” Soobin replied casually. “And you’re in my way again. So tell me what I’m supposed to do.”

“I have an entire utility belt full of weapons.” Yeonjun gestured, egging Soobin on. He has to be tempted to control me. Why is he leaving me untouched again? “Take your pick.”

“Boring.” Soobin swiftly tilted his head to crack his neck. “Are you going to try to fight me?”

“Why would I?” Yeonjun blinked. “There’s nothing I could do to beat you. I feel like you’ve made that abundantly clear. Get out of my friends’ heads.”


“You traumatized them last time.”

“I don’t give a damn about your friends,” Soobin answered, and then he pushed off the hood of the car and draped one elbow over the top of the open car door, peering in. His dark eyes flicked over to Yeonjun. “Choi Dongseok is an absolute snake who throws his money at women half his age who can pour water into his vodka using their minds. Or light his cigarette. He frequents the underground clubs hunting for people like us. Gets off on it.”

“So that means he deserves to die?”

“Well.” Soobin straightened up and turned to Yeonjun. “I thought maybe he would be useful, seeing as he f*cks women who know a little too much. Figured being the superintendent would mean that he knew things that I needed to know. But he’s useless.”

“And Im Byunhee?” Yeonjun asked, and Soobin’s shoulders shook as Yeonjun pictured the smirk underneath his mask.

“I’m letting someone else enjoy his company,” Soobin replied, clearly referring to Yoongi. Yeonjun could hear his own heartbeat in his ears. Speaking to Soobin like this after seven years, seeing the way that the world had chewed him up and spat him back out with no mercy, seeing him so calm without his abilities as a shield—all of it was bizarre. The world around them had all but frozen like a supercut in slow motion out of a romance movie with a heavy dose of horror.

“You can do anything you want,” Yeonjun said, his tone hushed. “Everyone is at your mercy. The power imbalance is just—you have to know that by now. So why are you dragging it out? Why not just gather up everyone you need and kill them all in one go? Why prolong the suffering?”

“Several reasons.” Soobin slipped his hands into his pockets again, but then he glanced over his right shoulder when he heard a strangled, involuntary whimper of fright from the backseat of the car. “Quiet,” he added, and Choi Dongseok slid the gun up from his chin to his mouth, slipping the barrel in and clamping his teeth down on it. Soobin looked back to Yeonjun. “If I just corral everyone and kill them all at once, then nobody learns. I kill them all at once and life just continues. New people fill the empty spaces. There’s a method to my madness, believe it or not. But being on a short leash probably makes something like this difficult to understand for you.”

“What, you’re not just on a petty revenge tour?” Yeonjun asked with a breathy snicker.

“Not at all. That’s just an added bonus. Don’t tell me you haven’t wondered why I’ve been so quiet for seven years,” Soobin said, his tone taunting. “I didn’t have a reason to come out and raise hell. But now I have a few questions that I would like answers to, so here I am.”

“You have an entire government scared sh*tless,” Yeonjun admitted. “Talking about a training program to keep you out of their heads. And you have questions? You could walk into the NIS right now and get all the answers you want.”

Soobin slowly co*cked his head to the side, eyes burning a hole through Yeonjun, and for a moment, Yeonjun swore Soobin was going to finally do it, finally rip into his mind and take what he wanted. But Soobin only blinked in slow motion, and then he reached up and pulled his face mask down to his chin.

“A training program,” he repeated, and Yeonjun stared. Seeing Soobin’s face now without any obstruction was startling after so many years. Despite being maddeningly dangerous and, without a doubt, the enemy, he was still just as handsome as he had been at sixteen, but in a different way. I hate what he’s become. I hate it. I hate that he wants to watch the world burn.

“To keep you out of their heads,” Yeonjun said snappishly, and he pulled his face mask down as well. “Not that it would matter much. You have a double whammy. Mind control and omnikinesis. So if you can’t control their minds, why not just force them to jump off a bridge?”

“Don’t be so dramatic. Jumping off a bridge is predictable,” Soobin replied stoically, and Yeonjun scoffed, shaking his head. “You know how much training it would take to keep me out of their heads? Tell them ‘good luck.’ Although I have a feeling that a few of them have succeeded.”

“What?” Yeonjun raised his eyebrows, and he watched as Soobin glanced past him to where the fight was nothing more than a momentary memory, all participants still standing still at his command.

“I’ve perfected the art of remote mind control.” Soobin smirked. “Makes life easy. But there are a few people… I have to see them in person. I have to look in their eyes to get access to their mind because somehow, they’ve found a way to block me. And guess who one of those people is?”

“Jo Chansung,” Yeonjun guessed immediately.

“The very man whose mind I need most. So…” Soobin took a glimpse over his shoulder again at Choi Dongseok. “I’m using other means to get the information I want, because Jo f*cking Chansung has decided to hide from me like a coward. So no, I won’t be doing this quickly. I’m going to drag it out and make sure everyone who ever turned a blind eye to all the kids who suffered at TRACK pay for what they did. I want them to live in fear, Jo Chansung included.”

“Consider first that he blocked you out because he knows you’re dangerous,” Yeonjun offered, and Soobin snickered.

“Right. Sure. Do you bring him lunch on Wednesdays?” he asked spitefully. Then he sighed. “I see you haven’t bothered to wake up.”

“You said you’d kill me if I got in your way again. This seems a lot like my second warning,” Yeonjun fired back.

“You’re not a threat,” Soobin replied airily, but a strange shiver fluttered down Yeonjun’s spine, as if instinct was telling him that Soobin was lying. “But you are an anomaly. Do you need to be reminded of that?”

“Shut up.”

“Deny, deny, deny. You’re just as predictable as jumping off a bridge,” Soobin complained.

“Why are you even entertaining this?” Yeonjun asked, exasperated. “This conversation. I’m quite literally the enemy. I’m not going to stop. I’m going to do whatever it takes to stop you.”

“Yeah, you’re the enemy. And you suddenly meddling in all my sh*t pisses me the f*ck off.” Soobin eyed Yeonjun up and down with distaste. “I hate what they’ve turned you into. What you’ve become. The government made you their pet. You’re useless. All that power, and for what? Not that you have to take over the world, but Christ. You’re absolutely blind.”

“Come up with better insults,” Yeonjun fired back. “You’ve called me a dog and a pet and a puppet, and it’s getting old already. Up the insult game or shut up.”

“I’ll come up with better insults when you hop off Jo Chansung’s lap,” Soobin snapped. “Until then, I’ll buy you a collar to wear like a good boy.”

“Didn’t think you were into that kind of thing.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” The corners of Soobin’s lips twitched in another would-be smirk, but then he pulled his face mask back up. “I’ll be taking Choi Dongseok now. Should I take the police officers, too? Or do you want to deal with them?”

“You’re a f*cking monster,” Yeonjun spat out, and Soobin snickered, crooking a finger through the open door. Choi Dongseok lowered the gun and unbuckled his seatbelt quietly, and then he got out of the car and stood right by Soobin’s side, his eyes wide and dazed like he was paralyzed with fear.

“I’m only a monster to you because you’re still not asking the right questions,” Soobin replied. “I’d bet my f*cking life that once you start doing that, you won’t think I’m such a monster. ‘Why are you telling me all of this?’” Soobin mocked Yeonjun in a high-pitched voice. “Because you listen, whether you hate it or not. So get off your ass and ask the right questions so you don’t think that I’m just on a murder spree.”

“So you admit that it’s a murder spree.”

“Crudely speaking.” Soobin patted Dongseok’s shoulder. “The police officers will have no recollection of the conversation we’ve just had. Lucky them.”

“You don’t want to wipe my memory, too?” Yeonjun asked.

“Why do you want me to f*ck with your head so badly? Are you jealous?” Soobin asked, and Yeonjun pursed his lips. “I’m not wiping your memory. I want you to remember all of this. Ask questions. Why aren’t you even wondering in the first place? It’s all right under your nose.”

“Because I have a job.”

“Well, when you want answers, you can come find me,” Soobin said, and then he grabbed Dongseok’s arm. “Let’s go, buddy. Have fun with the clean-up, Phoenix. Should I leave my friends here for you?”

“Take them,” Yeonjun snapped.

“Mm. They’ll be disappointed.” Soobin clicked his tongue, and suddenly, the world around Yeonjun exploded into chaos again. Sirens began to blare, people began to cry out. Yeonjun whipped around and saw Kai sprinting towards him, since Yoongi and Namjoon were retreating without another shot fired. Yeonjun heard Changbin yelling his name, confused.

“What—” Yeonjun choked on his next words when he turned back around. The police officers in the car were all frantic, unbuckling and hyperventilating, clutching their heads. And Soobin, with Choi Dongseok in tow, was speeding away on a motorcycle.

“HEY. HEY!” Kai’s voice cut through the chaos.

“Phoenix to Leo,” Yeonjun said shakily, watching Kai run. “Come on, I know you’re still there.”

“I’m here, I’m here. What the f*ck was that?” Lia snapped. “What happened?”

“Send everyone. Paramedics, back-up. Clean-up crew. Everything you’ve got,” Yeonjun commanded as Kai finally approached.

“Copy. Hang tight.”

“He was here,” Kai said breathlessly, his face pale. “I saw him. He was talking to you. He was right there.”

“Are you hurt?” Yeonjun asked briskly, and Kai shook his head, confused.

“No, I’m not—what the f*ck is going on? They just walked away,” he said, gesturing to where Namjoon and Yoongi had once been standing. “I had to stare at them for… sh*t, ten minutes? I had them right where I wanted them before Phantom took control.”


“Are you okay?” Yeonjun asked, brushing past Kai to attend to Changbin as Kai bent into the car to calm down the police officers and ask a few questions.

“I’m fine. Definitely need some medical attention,” Changbin said, wincing slightly. “That lightning strike I took for you was massive. I’m going back to the parking lot to help people. Shock is gone. Kim Taehyun. He just vanished.”

“They all did,” Yeonjun murmured.

“I saw you.” Changbin vaguely gestured. “With Phantom. I saw him taking Choi Dongseok. Why didn’t you stop him?”

“Would you like to try stopping him?” Yeonjun asked, raising his eyebrows. Changbin sighed.

“Point made. Send medics to the parking lot,” he said, and then he took off in a slow jog despite his poor condition. Yeonjun laced his fingers and rested his hands on the crown of his head, blowing out a breath, his mind racing, the headache growing stronger.

It’s all right under your nose.

Yeonjun was about to pry for answers to questions that weren’t supposed to be asked. He was about to question authority and question his very livelihood, all at the suggestion of the man who had once made flowers bloom in the courtyard garden at TRACK at Yeonjun’s command.

Why aren’t you even wondering in the first place?

Because he had never wanted to wonder. Yeonjun had let his anger fuel his desire to ask questions for a fleeting moment in his last encounter with Soobin, but that had died quickly. Now the idea was rooted deeply into his mind, and it wasn’t because Soobin had forced it there.

It was because Yeonjun himself had planted the seed. And the weeds were about to grow at a rapid rate.



k bye


Chapter 4: THE DEVIL ::


CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS: descriptions of child abuse, mentions of child p*rnography addiction (unimportant side character)

*Adele voice* Helloooooo... it's- record scratch crowd boos crowbar yanks me offstage

So a lot of people are talking about how there's no happy ending tag and I've seen people say they won't read because it only says hopeful ending LSDKJFLSDFL so I would like to clarify (though it may hardly be clarification) - the ending will not be a happy fluffy fairytale uwu romantic rainbows and sunshine ending. However, the ending is not unhappy!!! The ending, I think, will be extremely satisfying based on the direction the story goes. As the tag suggests, it leaves you feeling hopeful. At the very least, I love the ending and I'm sticking to it LSKJDFLKSD and all of the pairings tagged in the fic are endgame, so no need to fret.

I feel like I'll never beat the allegations after the shark in LEG and the towel in W&S but anyways- *crowd stares menacingly*


(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

:: :: ::


TRACK Facility: Medical Wing Exam Room 7

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

10:23 AM

14 years ago

Soobin had stopped crying a long time ago.

At first, when taken to the medical wing for “examinations” at the tender age of six, Soobin had panicked and cried as a child should. The “treatments” he had endured were nothing short of torture. But he had adjusted quickly. The problem was that now, though he was still a child, he was aware that he was a child, aware of what was considered “correct” for a child to do. But he was saving his tears. There was no point. Not anymore. Tears never changed the circ*mstances.

He was used to this examination room. Soobin had convinced himself that this room was special, made specifically for him, and that somehow, the personalization made it less of an atrocity. This is where we can keep you from hurting anyone. This is where an anomaly like you belongs. This is where you will listen to us. Pull those tighter. Lock them. Make him be quiet.

But they didn’t know. The staff at TRACK assumed that Soobin was something they called “omnikinetic.” That meant that Soobin could control anything he wanted with his mind—water, fire, earth, electricity, any object organic or inorganic. That made Soobin dangerous, although Soobin still couldn’t quite understand why. That was why he had cried so much years ago—fear. He had been convinced to be scared of himself because of how these people treated him. But he was nine now. He was learning fast. Sometimes, being Choi Soobin still scared him, but he only whispered his fears to one person these days. The TRACK staff members didn’t deserve his secrets. They just treated Soobin like a secret.

The room had a one-way mirror. Soobin always faced it, though he wasn’t sure why. Nothing these people did made sense. They hurt him and then wrote letters to his parents saying he was a “delight” and learning to control his telekinesis quickly. They always forced him to face the mirror, and Soobin could see his own reflection. He had figured out that the adults were all on the other side, watching him like a zoo animal. Some of them had thoughts about killing Soobin. And Soobin knew that because he could hear their thoughts sometimes.

That was his own secret.

“Stay still, please,” a pleasant voice said through the speaker system. Soobin tugged at the chains around his wrists that were bolted to the armrests of the chair, but he didn’t move any further. He breathed only through his nose, because the gag he had to bite down on made breathing normally quite uncomfortable. They gagged him so that he wouldn’t bite his tongue or anything. Soobin thought they were lying.

“Stand clear.”

No one else was in the room. Soobin was alone. And the electric shock delivered through his body was meant to render him helpless and keep him pliant and agreeable for whatever they chose to do next. But Soobin had caught on quickly. Now, he was able to filter and control the electricity that they sent through his system, though he pretended to be affected by it. His electrokinetic abilities were strengthening every time they zapped him for discipline or to treat him as a test subject. But they didn’t need to know that.

“Ah, yes. Good morning to you. Soobin, is it?”

Soobin blinked hazily, his fists uncurling as he relaxed, still breathing heavily from his small bout of acting to make it appear that he had been shocked into submission, shocked to a point where he couldn’t use his abilities to fight back. He could see himself in the mirror—black hair cut short just for his “therapy” sessions, round face with full cheeks like a nine-year-old should have. And then he glanced over to the man who had just walked into the room.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Soobin,” the man said with the said cheerful tone, hands in the pockets of his suit pants. He had broad shoulders and dark eyebrows, but he still looked friendly. But Soobin knew that appearances were deceiving. Everyone here looked friendly, and they all treated him like a lab rat behind closed doors.

“My name is Jo Chansung. I’m the director of TRACK,” he introduced himself, and then he chuckled while adding, “And my, have you given our staff quite a run for their money.”

It seems that he’s far worse than Joosung ever was. Look at his eyes. He’s hardly human.

Soobin blinked rapidly, pulling at his chains for a fleeting moment as the thought flitted in and out of his head. Joosung. Who was Joosung? How could a stranger think Soobin was hardly human just from looking at his eyes? So Soobin closed his eyes for just a moment, begging his mind to remain calm so that he could have control over his abilities. He had to be at peace to be a master in his own body. That was what he had decided months ago.

“I’ve stopped by today to see all the trainees participating in the exit examination. It must be so exciting for them. Do you think you’ll take the exit examination someday, Soobin-ah?” Chansung asked rhetorically, knowing that the gag kept Soobin from answering. He tutted a few times as he paced back and forth in front of Soobin. “Not until you learn some control. You’ve been here for four years, son. And still, the staff have to subdue you like this because you’re not listening to them. You should be focusing on telekinesis, and you’re not. I’m very disappointed.”

I must keep him scared. If he’s scared, he’ll feel powerless, just as he should.

Chansung’s thoughts were so loud that Soobin almost groaned in pain. His tiny body couldn’t handle adult thoughts, but he was given them nonetheless. He wanted to cry, but Chansung wasn’t finished.

“I’m disappointed, Soobin-ah, because you’re not following the rules,” Chansung said with a sigh. “You know what you have to do. All of your teachers and staff members take care of you every day and try to guide you. This is not how you repay their hard work. It’s time for you to do better. I feel sad, truthfully, because I shouldn’t have to come and speak to an individual trainee like this. But you’re dangerous, son. Far too dangerous to ever be released back into society. I want you to take our exit examination, Soobin-ah, but I just don’t think it’s the right path for you. You’re almost ten, is that right?” Chansung tutted again, shaking his head as he continued to pace. “I know you’re young, but you’re a smart boy, aren’t you?”

Soobin nodded, his eyes burning. He could barely swallow. The gag was starting to choke him. His wrists were burning in pain from the constant tugging. He just wanted to get out of here, not listen to a man tell him that he was dangerous and that he would never be free of this place, this awful place.

“There’s something called power imbalance, Soobin-ah,” Chansung said, crouching down in front of Soobin as if he was a father speaking to his son. “That happens when one person or a group of people are way too powerful, and the others are too weak. We can’t have one person with too much power while everyone else is powerless. That isn’t fair at all. Do you understand? Do you agree? We have to balance things.”

What we should do is get him into TRACK Plus now. Better that he rots there. Nine must be the golden age for his kind.

“We have to take good care of you,” Chansung said soothingly, but Soobin wasn’t listening anymore. He had heard enough. And now he was angry.

[you should see me in a crown] :: billie eilish

Chansung stood up and opened his mouth to continue his monologue, but his voice caught in his throat, and he froze, rooted to the spot as Soobin stared him down.

Take the gag out of my mouth.

Chansung reached forward with both hands and carefully removed the gag from Soobin’s mouth, his back turned to the mirror, shielding Soobin from view. Soobin was so upset that he could feel his body trembling with rage, eyes watering, and Chansung crouched down again in an awkward fashion, now completely at the mercy of a nine-year-old. Soobin could see the alarm and fear in his eyes. But Soobin had latched himself onto Chansung’s mind, digging his claws in. It didn’t take much. One look in Chansung’s eyes was like unlocking the key to everything. It was hard to describe the feeling of controlling someone else’s mind, but all Soobin had to do was make suggestions while maintaining his cool, or by using anger to fuel his agenda.

This time, it was anger.

I’m in control now. Me. Not you.

“I’m not going to Track Plus,” Soobin said hoarsely, and then he paused. He knew he didn’t have much time. The staff outside the room could hear the conversation. They were surely about to burst in, and Soobin hadn’t yet mastered the art of controlling the minds of those he couldn’t see, or providing hypnotic suggestions to the masses. He was still an amateur.

But he could control Jo Chansung.

“And I’m not scared of you,” he whispered. “Now go.” Hit your head on the window until it bleeds. Hurt yourself like you hurt me.

Chansung teetered with a strangled grunt, and then he stood up and turned to face the one-way mirror. He braced both palms on the mirror, and then he leaned back and hurtled forward, smacking his head on the glass at full force. He repeated the motion again and again as Soobin just stared straight ahead, sending him command after command to keep going, trying not to smile but failing, staring at the glass.

He could do it. He could control adults. He could do it.

The alarm sounded. Soobin heard shouting, but he wasn’t going to stop until they forced him to stop. The door flew open, and even as a guard tried to get in, Soobin slammed the door in his face, forcing the guard to ram his shoulder into the gap with a shout. Soobin blinked once, and the light fixture overhead exploded, glass raining down onto the floor as the lights went out. The shouting grew more insistent. Chansung was breathing heavily now, slowing down his pace because surely the impact was painful. But Soobin didn’t care anymore. He didn’t want to hear another word from a man who didn’t think he was human, who thought he was nothing but dangerous.

I’ll show you dangerous.

Soobin knew his thoughts were not thoughts that a child should have. He was young, but his condition had forced him to grow up far too quickly. He was jaded before reaching double digits. And now, he was going to make everyone pay, one by one.


Too many guards converged on the door. Soobin knew he had enough power to break free of the chains, but why? He had Chansung in the palm of his hand, and he was having fun. And perhaps Soobin could have come up with some more complex commands, but right now, he just wanted to do as much harm as quickly as possible. He wanted them to know.

Guards grabbed Chansung by the elbows, and Soobin stifled a laugh, breaking his mental commands to give the director a rest. Chansung collapsed in the guards’ arms, his forehead bruised and red and bleeding, his eyes rolling back. Soobin’s eyes flicked to the gag that was lying on the ground, so he threw it directly at one guard’s face, shoving it into his mouth and forcing him to stagger backwards into the wall. But there were too many people, and Soobin was tired. He had had his fun.


Sedation was normal. Soobin had been put down so many times, waking up disoriented in his dorm room. It would never end. But now he knew that he could control a fully grown adult. Now he knew that he had just scared an entire room of TRACK employees.

I’m an anomaly. I controlled Chansung using telekinesis. I’m an anomaly. I controlled Chansung using telekinesis.

The last thing Soobin wanted was for the staff to catch on that he was learning how to use his mind control and manipulation and hypnotic suggestion abilities. He wanted to improve first before he ever let on that he was too powerful, just like Chansung feared. So Soobin frantically assessed the room as several people lunged for him, counting seven different adults. He drilled the suggestion into their minds one by one, quickly catching a glimpse of each of them before one woman grabbed his bicep firmly and shoved his sleeve up to his shoulder. Soobin saw flashes of red as the needle pierced his skin, and he laughed in delight.

Yeonjunie, wait until you hear what I can do now. You’ll think it’s so cool. I can do anything.

Red. He only saw red.

Unmarked abandoned warehouse

Jamsilbon-dong, Songpa-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

23:27 PM

present day

There was something nostalgic about holding a paper list.

Soobin pinched the bottom corner between two fingers and lifted the top page, eyes quickly scanning the list of names that the DKR had so kindly compiled for him. Not that it had been specifically tailored to his needs, but Soobin liked to pretend that it belonged to him, that they had been doing him a favor by making his life easier.

He lowered the list and rolled his head to the left. He was lying on the couch in their shared warehouse space, a place that Soobin had found and commandeered for rendezvous purposes if they ever all wanted to be in the same place. Namjoon and Yoongi were playing ping pong together, which Soobin considered miraculous, seeing as two weeks ago, Yoongi had ignited Namjoon’s paddle when Namjoon had cheated one too many times. But the two of them were inseparable—Soobin knew how often they fell into bed with one another, even though they constantly bickered. It was fairly obvious that they loved each other in some strange way, whatever it was.

“It’s seventy-two to sixty-eight.”

“No one asked you,” Yoongi complained as he rolled the ping pong ball in his hand. Across the table, Namjoon adjusted his baseball cap and rapped his knuckles against the paddle. And from the chin-up bar across the way, Taehyun hung upside down by his knees, shirtless, eyes trained on the game.

“Let the scorekeeper speak,” Namjoon insisted cheekily.

“I’ll burn your mouth right off your face,” Yoongi threatened, empty as usual.

“He hasn’t cheated once and you still suck ass,” Taehyun said to Yoongi, adding fuel to the almost literal fire like he always did. Yoongi didn’t even entertain the taunting, which was smart. He just served, and the game continued. Taehyun went back to doing some crunches.

Soobin returned to the list, rubbing his lips together. He wasn’t going to even comment on the fact that just in the next room, Choi Dongseok was being held hostage. Yoongi had delivered Im Byunhee by dropping him off on the stairs of the closest police station. He was still alive, but after hearing the stories Yoongi had told about the way Byunhee had tortured him, Soobin had virtually obliterated Byunhee’s mind, leaving him as nothing more than a shell of the man he once was, condemned to a life of silence and stillness and the screaming of his own tormented and twisted mind.

So that means he deserves to die?

Damn Choi Yeonjun and his sanctimonious high ground. Soobin’s fingers left creases in the paper as the names began to swim on the page for a moment. If only Yeonjun knew what he knew. If only he had the scattered puzzle pieces that Soobin had. Then maybe he would understand.

But Yeonjun had slipped up. He had given Soobin a tidbit of information that Soobin hadn’t had before, confirmation of something he had assumed months ago. When Soobin had come out of hiding after spending years training himself and perfecting his skills, he had done it only because of a news report he had seen. TRACK Director Jo Chansung Mourns the Death of His Son 20 Years Later. The headline had been loud, and it had triggered Soobin into remembering a slew of repressed thoughts.

Truthfully, he had always planned to seek revenge, no matter what the method. When he had first escaped from TRACK that fateful night seven years ago, Soobin had gone running straight to Kim Taehyun, because he knew that he and Taehyun were like-minded. Together, Soobin and Taehyun had stumbled across Yoongi and Namjoon, and the four of them had connected as a stranger group with a similar purpose—destroying TRACK. Not just kill everyone and burn it to the ground, because that was ineffective. The goal was to expose, obliterate, and reinvent a training program that was safe for children with kinesis, not an epicenter for abuse and brainwashing. Because TRACK was hopelessly corrupt, and it boiled down to Jo Chansung.

It was that headline and news report, though, that had spurred Soobin into action. Jo Joosung. Joosung was the son, and Soobin had immediately remembered being gagged and chained down as Chansung monologued all those years ago, how he had compared Soobin to someone named Joosung.

Joosung had been a telekinetic, but now Soobin wasn’t so sure. Something was off about the entire situation, but Soobin hadn’t been savvy enough to dig deeper at the age of nine. But Chansung had thought about Soobin rotting away at TRACK Plus, which was a red flag. The TRACK Plus facility and program was supposed to be intensive training, but Soobin had his doubts about that now, too. Yet he couldn’t seem to find anyone who had extensive or inside knowledge about the program.

But it was the segment about Chansung working with research facilities and scientists that had piqued Soobin’s interest. Chansung hadn’t gone into much detail, and he had mentioned it almost in passing. But saying that he was working tirelessly with TRACK Labs to find safe and scientifically tested solutions for children with kinesis never sat right with Soobin.

“f*ck,” Soobin sighed under his breath, pinching the bridge of his nose and then sitting up on the couch, swinging his legs until his feet were on the ground. “Hyung!”

“Yes?” Three voices responded, and Soobin almost felt tempted to smile. It was easy to get his friends’ attention with a single word.

“Quit f*cking around and come over here,” Soobin said good-naturedly. Namjoon and Yoongi abandoned their ping pong game. Taehyun grabbed the bar with both hands, wiggled his legs free, and dropped to the ground. He didn’t even bother with his shirt as he walked over to the couch.

“Did you figure out what you want to do next?” Namjoon asked, crossing his toned arms.

“And which one of us is killing the cop?” Taehyun asked, flopping down in the adjacent armchair. He lazily raised his hand halfway. “I don’t really feel like it, but I’m good at it.”

“He’s useless,” Soobin replied, shaking his head. “I got everything I could from him. He didn’t have answers for me, nor did he have access to Jo Chansung. I’m choosing two new targets based on a gut feeling.”

“Which is what?” Yoongi wondered.

“TRACK Plus.”

“The f*ck does TRACK Plus have to do with this?” Taehyun asked tiredly.

“Everything, you idiot,” Namjoon replied. “How much do you know about TRACK Plus? Exactly. People go to TRACK Plus and f*cking disappear.”

“There’s a small research center in Juam-dong, Gwacheon-si in Gyeonggi-do that I want you three to destroy,” Soobin said, and Yoongi’s eyes lit up in anticipation as Taehyun let out a pleased snicker and Namjoon raised his eyebrows in interest. “It’s tiny, but it exists. It’s where they create training materials for TRACK Plus.”

“How’d you figure that out?” Namjoon asked.

“Choi Kyunghyun had a memory of a conversation,” Soobin recalled from his previous sessions with the now-deceased Kyunghyun. “Something about being told to send someone to the center in Gwacheon-si to pick up some materials for the failed trainees. So I did some digging.”

“Are we looting, or just destroying?” Taehyun wondered.

“Both,” Soobin confirmed. “I want you to scour the place. Whatever you think is useful, bring it back so we can look at it. Otherwise, burn the place to the ground and get rid of any witnesses.”

“And what will you be doing?” Yoongi questioned. Soobin held up the list and gave it a shake.

“I’ll be paying a visit to Han Hwijong,” Soobin replied. “He’s currently employed at TRACK as a researcher. I have questions to ask him. But I’m also looking for a link to Jo Chansung. I need to know his movements. What he’s doing. What he’s saying. Anything.”

“Yah, you know whose minds you could invade to get that kind of information? Your little bird friend and his motley crew,” Taehyun said with a chuckle. “Guarantee you they have contact with Jo Chansung. Haven’t you tried them?”

“I tried one of them at the prison that night,” Soobin admitted, remembering the way he had metaphorically flipped through the files in Jung Kai’s mind for anything about Jo Chansung, only to come up empty. Kai had memories of discussions with Chansung, but none of them were useful. “But it was worthless.”

“Might be worth trying again,” Yoongi said. “If they’re constantly on our asses now, then you know that Chansung has probably spoken to them.”

“He has. I know he has. But you know that other kinetics are difficult to access remotely,” Soobin said, waving his hand around his head. “They have a natural way of blocking me out. If anything, though, I’m sure that Chansung has just fed them lies, so if they have anything useful for me, I would be surprised.”

“Phoenix is his golden boy. Rip that f*cker’s mind apart. He deserves it,” Taehyun said with a laugh. Soobin blinked, and Taehyun grunted and scoffed, now hanging upside down in mid-air over the armchair. “Put me down, asshole.”

“I don’t rip people’s minds apart unless I have a good reason, asshole,” Soobin emphasized, feeling a sudden burning rage deep in the pit of his stomach. “One of you needs to do something with Choi Dongseok. I don’t care when. But on Friday, we’ll split up and see if we have company when we do. My guess is that they’ll come after you three.”

“You think he’ll be there again?” Taehyun asked, and Yoongi immediately rolled his eyes as Namjoon pretended to gag. Taehyun, though, just grinned impishly, still hanging upside down. “Oh, come on. He’s cute when he’s mad. He stopped my lightning strike. It was sexy as hell. Not many people can do that.”

“He literally wants you dead,” Yoongi said as he began to circle himself for a distraction while talking. Soobin flipped and lowered Taehyun back onto the armchair, and Taehyun just slouched as if nothing had happened.

“I just want to talk to him.” Taehyun said airily, staring at the ceiling. “He seems interesting. I have… memories of him. Kim, uh…”

“Kim Changbin,” Soobin supplied, still staring at the list with blurred vision, because all he could think about was Yeonjun, and he wanted it to stop. “No killing.”

“Oh, for f*ck’s sake,” Namjoon sighed as Yoongi snickered again and headed back over to the ping pong table.

“He probably wants to keep the little posse of heroes alive for as long as possible,” Yoongi said, grabbing the paddle and balancing it perfectly upright in his palm. “They’re a wealth of knowledge, those three. Imagine all the secrets Soobin could siphon from their brains.”

“Yah, the way they talk,” Namjoon said with a laugh. “The way the government talks, too. It’s hilarious. They act like Soobin is God.”

“He may as well be,” Taehyun said with a wicked grin, and then he hopped up. “I’m starving. Soobin-ah.”

“Are you going home?” Soobin asked, eyes fixed on Namjoon and Yoongi as he spoke. They all had their little apartments. Taehyun’s was a tiny studio apartment ten minutes from their rendezvous point. Namjoon and Yoongi had a shared apartment in Itaewon and they made sure that everyone knew how much they hated living together (a f*cking lie). Soobin had his own spacious studio apartment in a quiet area of Jung-gu. And all four of them lived in peace because Soobin made it so.

“Yeah, feed me,” Taehyun said, grabbing his helmet so he could take his motorcycle home. He grinned with the helmet under his arm. “Please. I love you.”

“Gross,” Soobin muttered, but he flicked his hand, and Taehyun departed. Soobin then closed his eyes and sank into the couch, searching his mind until he found the man who ran the little restaurant that made the chicken that Taehyun loved so much.

Menu package option number three. Leave it at the door. The money will be there.

“Okay, what was the score?”

“I don’t know. Taehyun left.”

“I was winning.”

“Like hell you were,” Namjoon said as Soobin sat back up, Taehyun’s delivery order completed so that he wouldn’t have to risk being recognized and ratted out. “Soobin-ah! Are you playing?”

“Nah.” Soobin gave Namjoon a small smile and waved the two of them on, so the game continued, and Soobin rolled up the list into a tube and tapped it against his palm in thought. Normally, he enjoyed playing ping pong or working out. It was always funny to him, what they did in their free time. When they weren’t on a raging tirade to rid the world of problematic, abusive, hypocritical assholes, they were normal guys in their twenties who broke every law laid out by the government and occasionally played ping pong. The government who thought Soobin was a god of some sort, who thought that Soobin had too much power and needed to be subdued by any means possible.

The power imbalance is just—you have to know that by now.

Soobin inadvertently crushed the list in his fist, and then he tossed it aside on the couch and hopped up, jaw clenched. As he walked over to the chin-up bar to use it as a distraction, he thought only of Yeonjun and how much anger he felt towards a man who used to be his closest and only friend. Everyone else at TRACK had been afraid of Soobin. Yeonjun had treated him like a human being, asked him about his favorite comic book, his favorite foods. Yeonjun had heard all of Soobin’s secrets, the only one to know from day one that Soobin was more than telekinetic. Yeonjun hadn’t even questioned it back then—he had just told Soobin it was “really cool” and had made Soobin promise to not do it to him.

Soobin jumped up and gripped the bar, and then he crossed his ankles and began to do some slow chin-ups, watching Namjoon send a jetstream of water to catch the flying ping pong ball before it got too far out of reach. That promise Soobin had made was coming back to haunt him now. Yeonjun was coming back to haunt him in ways Soobin had never anticipated. He had hoped that years apart, distance, and different moral grounds would have destroyed the link between them. Soobin had been wrong.

He liked to think that he didn’t have any weaknesses. But now he was afraid that perhaps he had just one.

Yeonjun’s residence

Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

20:54 PM

Yeonjun wasn’t one for catering to the ambiance, but the rain was pouring down outside his window with distant rumbles of thunder, so it was the perfect night to do some boxing.

He had a punching bag in the corner of his bedroom that he often used just to release any pent-up frustrations or thoughts. Sometimes he taped his hands up and put his gloves on just to relieve stress. Tonight, it was both.

[painting greys] :: emmit fenn

The bag swung as Yeonjun used one gloved hand to steady it on the side, his other glove resting against the front as he caught his breath. His hair was damp with sweat already and his shoulders were aching, which meant that it was probably time to quit. But Yeonjun was nothing if not persistent. He liked to push himself to near impossible limits to prove that he could. But he also was trying desperately to clear his head, and it wasn’t working. So he circled and grabbed his water bottle, and he drank with one hand resting on his hip.

Just as Yeonjun had thought about how much he hated what Soobin had become, Soobin thought the very same about Yeonjun. It was a jarring and startling realization that they both had very different views of the current world as it stood. Yeonjun was, indeed, a pawn of the government and under strict regulations, but it was for his own protection. If he wasn’t a pawn, then he would have no place in the world. He would either have to completely suppress his abilities or become a world-class criminal. There weren’t many grey-area options available.

And why was Soobin so obsessed with getting into Jo Chansung’s mind? What questions was Yeonjun supposed to even ask? He hated when the people in his life danced around answers that needed to be given. Granted, it wasn’t as if Yeonjun was questioning the status quo. The primary issue was Soobin ripping through the status quo of Yeonjun’s life with little to no regard for Yeonjun’s comfort. But wasn’t that what anomalies did, after all?

I’m only a monster to you because you’re still not asking the right questions.

And he had sounded almost exasperated when he had said it. Yeonjun set his water bottle down while licking his lips, tilting his head side-to-side to crack his neck. His gloves were still on, so he nudged the punching bag and considered that Soobin was convinced that if Yeonjun started poking his nose into things, he wouldn’t think of Soobin as being such a horrible excuse for a human being.

It’s all right under your nose.

Yeonjun landed a punch square to the center of the bag, bouncing on his toes as he landed jab after jab, shoulders up, head bent towards the inanimate enemy. He grunted after each sequence, a trickle of sweat running down his neck to his spine. Once upon a time, he used to exercise in the gym at TRACK with Soobin, the two of them just teenagers with their hoods up, giggling because Soobin could lift Yeonjun up to reach the chin-up bar without ever touching him.

“f*ck,” he cursed loudly with one final punch, and then he dropped to a crouching position, gloves against his sweaty forehead as he panted. With his elbows on his knees, he dropped his arms and stared at the wall of the living room while catching his breath, licking at the corners of his mouth and tasting the salt of his own sweat.

The grip Soobin had on Yeonjun’s mind without so much as lifting a finger was terrifying.

Yeonjun stood up with cracking joints in his knees, and then he used his teeth to rip at the velcro of his boxing gloves, shaking them off his hands onto the floor carelessly and grabbing his water bottle with taped hands. He paced his living room, eyes fixed mostly towards the ceiling when he wasn’t drinking.

He was perseverating. He was absolutely fixated on Soobin’s insistence in asking questions. It was one of those situations where Yeonjun knew that he should, but he felt too safe and cozy in his current bubble to do anything about it. Yet here Soobin was, forcing Yeonjun to confront some ugly things unwillingly, pushing the boundaries Yeonjun had set close to him. Was that wrong? Was it wrong of Soobin to overstep even though he was trying to goad Yeonjun into taking the metaphorical blindfold off?

It was Friday night, so Yeonjun set up dinner to cook itself while he hopped into the shower. Once he was dressed, he shuffled back into the kitchen and checked the pot of kimchi jjigae that he had thrown together with whatever was in the fridge. It had taken him a few years to reach a level of proficiency in his abilities for the food to cook itself, but Yeonjun thought it was a great timesaver. He scarfed down his meal and thought that maybe he would have a chance to catch up on some television he had been missing in the midst of all the chaos.

But his hopes were dashed almost instantly when the alarm sounded from inside his bedroom.

“I f*cking knew it,” he muttered to himself, because Friday nights were never peaceful in Seoul. Yeonjun was always called out for something. He blew out a breath, and then he approached the screen:



Yeonjun didn’t jump into action immediately as he usually did. He only stared as the message remained stagnant on the screen in all its urgent glory. 3 kinetics detected. That would be Taehyun, Namjoon, and Yoongi. Which meant that surely, the anomaly with Han Hwijong was Soobin.

That was when Yeonjun sprang into action. He grabbed his earpiece first, because while he dressed, he needed information, and he needed it quickly.

“Phoenix to Leo,” he said as he threw open his closet.

“Your response times are getting slower,” Lia teased immediately.

“Yeah, forgive me, but I’m pretty sure I’m about to go deal with Phantom,” Yeonjun said, and Lia blew out a breath.

“Fair enough. You’re here to ask about Han Hwijong, correct?”

“Reading my mind as usual.”

“Right. I wish I could tell you more about him, but here’s what I know. Han Hwijong is forty-seven-years-old, non-kinetic, not married. He lives alone in a pretty swanky apartment, if I do say so myself. Which leads me to my next point—he’s employed with TRACK.”

“Surprise, surprise,” Yeonjun said as he shrugged into his suit.

“He’s a researcher with TRACK Center for Research, but there’s no further job description. Just ‘researcher.’ I have no idea what he’s researching, but he gets paid well,” Lia divulged.

“That’s enough to go off of,” Yeonjun decided as he pulled his face mask on. “Send me the coordinates.”

“Coming your way.”

Yeonjun left his apartment and jumped railings down the stairs into the garage, grabbed his motorcycle and helmet, and sped off into the night. His eyes flicked to the directions that Lia was providing on the inside of the visor of his helmet, destination marked for Jamwon-dong.

“Phoenix to Leo. Hook me up to Prism or Flare. I don’t care which one.”

“Hooking you up.”

Yeonjun took a sharp right turn as he heard some feedback in his ear, followed by the sound of another motorcycle.

“What’s up?” Kai’s voice said.

“Hey, you know that it’s them, right?” Yeonjun said loudly. “The three kinetics you’re going to find at the research center.”

“Yeah, we put the puzzle pieces together. And you’re on your way to deal with Phantom,” Kai replied. “What the f*ck are they playing at? Why are they splitting up? Don’t you think that the terrific trio needs Phantom to get things done?”

“I f*cking doubt it,” Yeonjun said with a short laugh, weaving through two cars and speeding through a yellow light. “They can hold their own. You need to be careful. They could easily electrocute you and kill you, Shock and Maelstrom.”

“Yeah, well, Flicker could light me on fire, but that’s just another day at the office,” Kai replied. “You, on the other hand… are you being sent to deal with Phantom because Director Jo thinks it’s a good idea? Do they want you to turn up dead? Why the hell are you going without any back-up?”

“Because I’ve confronted this man twice, and he hasn’t killed me either time,” Yeonjun reasoned without going into detail. “So like it or not, Director Jo is onto something. He’ll talk to me. I know he will. He won’t kill me.”

“There’s something about you that he likes,” Kai deduced over the wind whipping around him. “Or maybe he’s just trying to use you to get into all of our heads. You have to be careful, Yeonjun-ah.”

“He’s already been in both of your heads, so that can’t be it. If this was only about getting into our heads, we’d know it,” Yeonjun figured. “He has a different agenda. I just need to figure out what it is. But it’s not just invading our minds. There’s something else to it.”

“Yeah, well, good luck. We’re closing in on the research center now, and I’m waiting for the place to f*cking explode. Keep in touch,” Kai insisted. Yeonjun agreed, and then he took the last left turn he needed to onto a quieter road. There were several high-rise apartment buildings with about eight stories each, sleek and modern, air conditioning units on the outside windows of most of the apartments.

Han Hwijong’s residence

Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

21:34 PM

“Building on your right.”

“Thanks,” Yeonjun said as he parked his motorcycle across the street near the fenced-in children’s playground, knowing that Lia could see his surroundings via his helmet. Once that helmet was off, she was blind again, but she usually used it to her advantage while Yeonjun was driving.

“Han Hwijong lives on the top floor. Apartment 807.”

“Of course he lives on the top floor,” Yeonjun quipped, shaking his head with a sigh as he left his helmet with his bike and jogged towards the building. “Do me a favor—go dark after you let me into the building.”

Lia scoffed indignantly. “Are you kidding?”

“Not kidding.” Yeonjun approached the quiet building. “This man is an expert at remote mind control and he’s omnikinetic. That means he can f*ck with you, and I’m not letting that happen. You can track me and monitor my vitals. But otherwise, you need to go dark.”

“Fine. The door is open.”

Yeonjun could hear the displeasure in Lia’s voice, but he wasn’t about to give Soobin another vulnerable mind to control for the hell of it. Selfishly, though, Yeonjun wanted to be able to confront Soobin without an audience, even if it was just Lia. He didn’t want anyone to be held accountable.

The glass doors of the apartment building were unlocked thanks to Lia, so Yeonjun stepped inside and took the stairs to the eighth floor, uninterested in risking the elevator. The building was eerily quiet, and normally, Yeonjun would not have thought anything of it. But with Soobin somewhere in the building, there was a high chance that he had everyone under his control so that he could get whatever he wanted from Han Hwijong.

The eighth floor hallway was quiet. Yeonjun could hear a few televisions, a bit of chatter, and he could smell food cooking, so that eased his fears that the entire building was under control. But perhaps Soobin was just sending the residents a hypnotic suggestion to ignore anything unusual that happened, which seemed most likely.

Yeonjun slowly walked down the hall, one hand over his gun even though he knew that it was unlikely he would use it. He reached apartment 807, and he paused when he noticed that the door was cracked open. For an automatic hinge door with a keypad to lock it, a cracked open door was uncharacteristic. Yeonjun pressed his back to the wall, and then he glanced over and nudged the door open without touching it.

“Well, you might as well come in. He’s been waiting for his hero.”

Soobin’s voice rang out clearly into the hallway, and Yeonjun’s heart skipped. But without hesitation, he turned over his shoulder and stepped into the apartment, letting the door close behind him on its own accord.

“Oh, good, it is you.”

[the devil] :: banks

There was only one lamp on in the room, and Han Hwijong was sitting in a kitchen chair, visibly sweating and trembling but not moving, the kitchen chair far too close to the wide open window in the living room area for Yeonjun’s liking. Soobin was sitting on the couch with one leg crossed over the other, and he held up his hand as he looked over to Yeonjun. A knife that was lodged in the wall flew back into Soobin’s hand, and with a flick of his wrist, he hurled it back at the wall. Yeonjun glanced, and he saw that this time, there was a piece of paper trapped between the knife and the wall that hadn’t been there before.

“He’s feeling very relieved,” Soobin said as Hwijong let out a terrified noise that was akin to a whimper. “He thinks that you being here is going to save him. You’re his hero. Read that.”

“Let him go.”

“Read that,” Soobin insisted again as Hwijong continued to blubber senselessly. “Step down from your sanctimonious soapbox for one minute.”

“H-H-Help me, help me,” Hwijong pleaded, but then he immediately began to writhe and choke as if he was being strangled. Yeonjun lunged away from the paper in Soobin’s direction.

“Stop it, stop it! Let him breathe!” he exclaimed, not daring to lay a hand on Soobin because he didn’t want to upset the precarious balance that seemed to be present. Soobin blinked once, and Hwijong slumped in the chair, gasping, still trembling. Enraged, Yeonjun turned and pulled the knife out of the wall, and then he pivoted and hurled it right at Soobin’s face. The knife stopped with the tip of the blade no more than a centimeter from Soobin’s nose, but Soobin was staring past it at Yeonjun.

“Read,” he quietly demanded again, holding out his palm as the knife slowly dropped into his hand. Yeonjun had known that his attempt would be futile, but it was the intention that mattered. Yeonjun grabbed the paper that he had left hovering in mid-air, noticing that it was a printed out email. Yeonjun pursed his lips and read:


to: [emailprotected]

cc: [emailprotected]

Mr. Han,

Subjects 172, 184, and 203 were unsuccessful. Please select and send five (5) additional subjects within the next 48 hours.


Song Seokhoon

“Meaning what?” Yeonjun snapped, lowering the paper and raising his eyebrows at Soobin. “Is this supposed to mean something to me?”

“Don’t know. Let’s ask Mr. Han.” Soobin sharply turned his head towards the chair by the window, and the chair, with Hwijong in it, flew forward and stopped directly in front of Yeonjun as Hwijong let out another cry, shaking so violently that Yeonjun swore the man was going to pass out. “Go ahead.”

“Stop holding him here,” Yeonjun said in a quiet voice, because he couldn’t move the chair, nor could he help Hwijong. Soobin was blocking him.

“H-Help me. Help me, help me, save me!” Hwijong gasped pleadingly, saliva at the corners of his mouth. “Save me! You’re here to save me!”

“For f*ck’s sake.” The chair spun at Soobin’s command so that Hwijong was facing him, and Hwijong let out another choked noise with crocodile tears. Yeonjun was practiced enough to know when a man was laying it on thick, genuine or not. Hwijong’s fears were genuine, but he was also laying it on thick at the same time. “He’s not here to save you. Get that out of your head right now. He’s supposed to save you, but I won’t let him. How about that? Now—” Soobin spun the chair again and sat back, Yeonjun now staring Hwijong down. “Go ahead.”

“You’re a f*cking asshole, you know that?” Yeonjun quietly said, jaw clenching. He had been desperately trying to control something, anything in the room, but Soobin was far too strong. He had Yeonjun beat by a mile.

“Call me whatever you want, but unless you start asking questions, I’m going to weasel my way into Mr. Han’s mind and let you watch,” Soobin flippantly replied. “And it won’t be pretty.”

“He’s crazy! He’s crazy, save me! Help me!” Hwijong gasped out frantically, but Soobin was stoic and calm, only blinking at Yeonjun with the same big eyes he’d had as a kid as he waited. Yeonjun lifted the paper, eyes scanning over the short email again.

“Mr. Han,” he said, attempting to keep his voice even. “You’re a researcher with TRACK. What is it that you do?”

“H-Help, help me,” Hwijong continued to ramble, eyes unfocused, and Yeonjun clenched his jaw beneath his mask. He had to play the hero role now, or Hwijong may never calm down enough to speak, let alone survive. Soobin was on the brink of taking complete control, but he wanted Yeonjun to do the questioning. He was forcing Yeonjun into it, since Yeonjun had been avoiding it thus far.

“Mr. Han, I can’t help you unless you calm down and talk to me,” Yeonjun declared, and then he grabbed another chair and pulled it up as Soobin’s eyes burned a hole into him. “What do you do for TRACK? What is this email about?”

“I-I-I… I—I don’t know,” Hwijong stammered, but Soobin snorted from over on the couch, and Yeonjun took a deep breath to center himself.

“You’re a researcher,” Yeonjun calmly said. “For TRACK. What exactly is it that you do? What are you researching?”

“I…” Hwijong took a shuddering deep breath, face still pale. “Good things. G-Good things! I’m—I work with genetics. Ch-Chemistry. Good things! To h-help the children at TRACK s-s-stay healthy. It’s all for good! J-Just advancements in science!”

“Test subjects,” Yeonjun repeated from what he read in the email. “The people at TRACK Labs asked you for five additional subjects.”

“J-J-Just…” Hwijong’s panicked eyes flicked over to Soobin. “Just data. I collect data to send to TRACK Labs. About genetics. That’s—That’s it.”

“Christ, I hate when they lie.”

Hwijong’s chair flew backwards again towards the window, and Yeonjun leapt and ran after him, but Hwijong lifted out of the chair and flew halfway out the window, screaming. Yeonjun swept his hand and closed the window until it was pressed down onto Hwijong’s torso, since he was flipped to face the sky, banking on Soobin being too distracted by keeping Hwijong from tumbling down eight stories.

“Bring him back in!” Yeonjun shouted at Soobin, who was still just lounging on the couch. “I don’t give a f*ck if he’s lying! Get him in here!”

“Do you think he’ll be encouraged now to tell the truth?” Soobin spat out, laughing with very little humor. “Good things. Did you know that Jo Chansung is working directly with TRACK Labs to create ‘solutions’ for kinetic children? Said so himself on television. You want me to bring Han Hwijong back inside so you can ask him to tell you what he’s really doing?”

“Bring him back inside, Soobin-ah,” Yeonjun barked, and Soobin finally stopped lounging and sat up straight, resting his elbows on his knees and staring Yeonjun down.

“Do your job, Yeonjun-ssi,” Soobin replied with the same emphasis but with a politeness that Yeonjun had lacked, and then he overpowered Yeonjun completely. The window flew open as Hwijong smacked the back of his head on the windowsill before flopping back into the chair, his voice hoarse from the screaming and carrying on. Once he was in his chair, he pitched to the side and vomited, and Yeonjun blew out a breath and tilted his head up towards the ceiling, trying to keep himself composed.

“Mr. Han,” he said politely over Hwijong’s panicked trembling and blubbering. “Answer the questions truthfully. There’s nothing I can do for you if you don’t cooperate.”

“Th-That’s it! That’s it!” Hwijong insisted.

“He wouldn’t have dangled you out the window if that was it,” Yeonjun snapped, gesturing to Soobin.

“Kill him!” Hwijong hoarsely shouted. “Do something! Y-You’re supposed to be magical!”

“Magical,” Soobin repeated with a snicker. “Don’t idolize your heroes.”

“The truth, Mr. Han,” Yeonjun demanded, feeling completely out of control of the situation. Whenever he was confronted with other kinetics when he was sent out into the city, it was often a level playing field where Yeonjun could use his training to his advantage, where he could outsmart the men and women he was facing with a little bit of a fight, perhaps give the victims a touch of hope. But Soobin was too powerful. He was making Yeonjun look like a fool, and he was doing it so easily. Yeonjun could have chosen to play it off, but what was the point? He knew Soobin too well, and that was what made Yeonjun both the best and the worst person to be sent out for a confrontation.

Hwijong’s panicked crying didn’t cease as he spoke. “I have to find t-t-test subjects. That’s m-my job. I get emails from—from—from TRACK Labs asking f-for more. From them! From S-Song Seokhoon and Lee Taesuk. I’m only a researcher, I’m j-just a researcher. I do what they say.”

“What are the test subjects for? And where are you getting them from?” Yeonjun inquired. “And don’t tell me you know nothing. If you’re just blindly taking test subjects at random, then I’ll have to question your methods and what TRACK is even doing.”

“TRACK Plus h-has volunteers,” Hwijong insisted. “I—I just take the ones that fit! That match!”

“That match what?” Yeonjun pressed.

“Whose kinesis is developed! That’s it! Th-That’s all!” Hwijong gasped, pitching forward like he was about to vomit again and dry heaving, but holding it in. Yeonjun pursed his lips and looked over at Soobin, who was twirling the knife in one hand while he listened without looking.

“TRACK Plus. Interesting,” Soobin muttered, and then he clicked his tongue and stood up, focusing on Yeonjun. “Unfortunately, he’s as dumb as he looks. He’s a sheep. He does exactly what he’s told to do for a comfortable paycheck that he shouldn’t be receiving, anyways.”

“Meaning what?” Yeonjun snapped.

“Meaning he’s just spilled his guts to you in two different ways, and I just took a look into his mind, and—” Soobin let out a breathy laugh. “You know, when I have hunches, usually they’re pretty spot on. But this one…”

“If he’s a sheep, then just let him go, for Christ’s sake,” Yeonjun said heatedly. “I have other things to deal with, like the friends you sent to the research center in Juam-dong.”

“Your negotiating skills need work,” Soobin criticized lightly. “Han Hwijong—” He forcibly turned the chair again, and Hwijong continued to ramble senselessly; Yeonjun had to wonder if he was tired yet. “He was a long shot, but at least I have two more names now. Closer and closer. But this lovely gentleman?” Soobin tilted his head in Hwijong’s direction. “He gets a paycheck from the government working an entry-level job at his age. Why’s that, you ask? Because he’s a decade deep into a child p*rnography addiction and his preference is children with kinesis. And when he got caught with some photos five years ago, he was working at TRACK as a guard in the geokinesis wing. Guess what he got? Just eighteen months in prison and a slap on the wrist. All so the government could put his skills to work with the research center. Because f*ck the child p*rnography addiction if he can do decent work, right? Who cares about children with kinesis and their rights? The adults have it under control.”

“So hand him over to the authorities. To me,” Yeonjun emphasized. “I’ll bring him in, get him booked and charged. That’s what I do. So let me do my job, just like you said.”

“For what? Another slap on the wrist?” Soobin said calmly over Hwijong’s continued moaning.

“What, that’s it? You’re judge, jury, and executioner?” Yeonjun asked, his heart pounding. “You’re that kind of monster? You just decide what’s right and wrong for everyone? A vigilante? Give me a break.”

“I never asked you to agree with my methods,” Soobin replied evenly. “But use your brain. Men like Han Hwijong strapped me into a chair and gagged me so they could electrocute me into submission, and then they went and ordered jjajangmyeon for lunch while I was unconscious. Is this a personal vendetta? Only partially. Am I onto something way f*cking bigger than my own petty abuse? That’s for you to find out. And like I said—maybe when you understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, you won’t think I’m a monster.”

“You’re making that difficult,” Yeonjun whispered.

“I’m not asking for your approval or your forgiveness,” Soobin replied. “Just think. I’m not doing any of this out of anger. It’s not rage. So maybe keep asking yourself why.”

“You don’t need to kill him,” Yeonjun said, feeling like he was hallucinating the entire situation, because this was the worst-case scenario for him in the field, a disaster. Soobin wasn’t raising his voice. He wasn’t erratic. He was matter-of-factly, almost speaking in earnest, his tone just as careful and calming as it had been seven years ago. He was presenting a man who wasn’t worth a damn in Yeonjun’s mind, who was a quiet predator getting away with it all, yet Yeonjun’s job was to save Han Hwijong from being killed. And Soobin knew that.

“You’re right. I don’t. So this time, I’ll play by your rules,” Soobin replied as the legs of the chair scraped against the floor, and Hwijong sailed backwards towards the window again. “I won’t kill him. But you should leave.”

“I’m not leaving without him,” Yeonjun hissed.

“Then stay. But I’m about to f*ck his mind up so that he confesses all of his bullsh*t to the first available officer of the law and every single one he sees after that,” Soobin replied, and Hwijong wailed. “He’ll be confessing until the day he dies because I’m going to condition his brain to do so. My hope is that he’ll be locked up for life, but what do I know? So if you don’t want to see that, then leave.”

“That’s your compromise?”

“You want him to just walk out of here with you so they can wrap a shock blanket around him in an ambulance. I want him dead. I feel like we’ve reached a good middle ground,” Soobin replied. “Take the blindfold off, Choi Yeonjun. It’s not doing you any f*cking favors. Keep pulling on threads, though. This is a good start. Now leave.”

“Make me.”


Yeonjun stared Soobin down, even despite Hwijong’s hysterical crying.

“Either you leave by your own free will or you watch me,” Soobin offered. “Your choice.”

“This is my job. I can’t just walk away without the man I’m here to help,” Yeonjun replied, even though he knew that he was going to have to walk away. He wasn’t going to be able to watch Soobin warp and condition someone else’s mind, no matter how mild it looked.

“Were you really here to help him?” Soobin asked, seeking honesty. “What were you going to do?”

“That’s not—”

“You’re too limited in your job to do much of anything because the man in charge of overseeing the training of people like us wants you to be submissive,” Soobin interjected. Then he grabbed the back of Hwijong’s chair. “Leave.”

Leaving would make Yeonjun feel like a failure. It would make him feel redundant. Useless. It would make him feel like the job he had and the purpose he had were both for absolutely nothing. But in the same breath, Yeonjun had to admit defeat. He had to know when he was down. He had to know when to walk away, and that walking away was going to be more difficult and take far more courage than staying.

Yeonjun had passed the exit examination at TRACK with flying colors. He had been referred to the Department of Kinetic Relations immediately for training, where he had begun as an entry-level agent while working his ass off and admiring Kim Changbin from afar. He had watched Kai move on to join Changbin. And Yeonjun had been put through hell by the DKR training program to make sure that he was “stable,” to make sure that he was going to be able to handle being out in the field using only telekinesis, that he could adhere to the rules.

One of the things that Yeonjun had not been taught by his trainers was to abandon his duties. NIS agents and higher-ups at the DKR had drilled into him the importance of loyalty and committing to the job at hand. It was Kai who had quietly talked to Yeonjun after one particularly difficult assignment about how sometimes, it took more courage to walk away from the assignment instead of going down in figurative flames because of a sense of duty and making things worse.

“Fine.” Yeonjun momentarily clenched his jaw. “I’ll leave. But I’m going to keep showing up everywhere you are when I can just to ruin your plans.”

“Good.” Soobin lifted his chin slightly, Hwijong’s cries far quieter now due to Soobin’s handiwork. “It’s about time.”

Yeonjun had a lot to say. Thousands of thoughts fluttered in and out of his head, phrases on the tip of his tongue that he swallowed down, because his desire to have the last word was strong. But having the last word wasn’t going to change the situation. So instead, he inhaled deeply through his nose and pivoted on his heels, and then he headed straight for the door. The moment he had his back turned, Hwijong started shrieking until he was hoarse, begging Yeonjun to help him, to save him, that he was innocent, that he hated children, that he didn’t want to die.

But Yeonjun knew that Soobin wasn’t a liar. He never had been.

The door to Hwijong’s apartment closed behind Yeonjun. He marched down the hallway while gritting his teeth, eyes burning angrily, and he took the stairs all the way to the ground floor as the panicked shouting died down. He threw the doors open and stepped out into the cool night air, hearing sirens in the distance, and the moment he did, he pressed his finger into his earpiece.

“Phoenix to Leo,” he barked, his tone far harsher than he had intended.

“What do you need?” Lia asked without hesitation, because she had been in Yeonjun’s ear for years. She knew.

“I don’t f*cking know.” Yeonjun swung his leg over his motorcycle and bent at the waist, hands pressed into the handlebars, knuckles white, head bowed. “There was nothing I could do.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning Han Hwijong.”

“Is he dead?”

“No. But his brain likely is. Send a team,” Yeonjun said evenly, his eyes closed. “Ambulance. Psychiatric help. I don’t know. And police. They’ll arrest him. But he’ll be too incompetent to ever stand trial. They’ll just lock him up.”

“Phoenix, what the hell are you talking about?” Lia’s voice was exasperated.

“Just send everyone,” Yeonjun loudly requested, and then he sharply inhaled to calm himself down. “How are the others?”

“Battered and bruised. The research center was empty, so no employees were harmed. But everything’s gone. Flicker set the place on fire. Prism and Flare are both at the hospital right now getting checked out. Minor burns, and I think Prism gulped down a little too much water. But they’re okay.”

“I should’ve been there.” Yeonjun lifted his head. “I couldn’t save him. Han Hwijong. Phantom had him.”

“Honestly?” Lia hesitated for a moment like she was waiting for Yeonjun’s approval, but then she continued. “I wasn’t expecting you to be able to do jack sh*t. I don’t think anyone else is, either. Phoenix, between you and me…”


“I think they’re just sending you out to confront Phantom as bait.”

“Bait for what?”

“I have no idea. It just feels that way. I can’t explain it. Come back to headquarters.”

“I should stay on the scene.” Yeonjun stared at the apartment building, waiting for Soobin to emerge, but he knew it was likely futile.

“They’re two minutes away. I already detailed the scene in my notes. Just come back.”

“Copy. Phoenix out.”

Yeonjun shoved the helmet onto his head and started the engine, and then he took off at top speed into the streets, trying not to drive as fast as his mind was racing.

It’s about time. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Why had Soobin sounded relieved that Yeonjun had as much as committed to poking his nose into all of their illegal business? And why had he been so calm about everything?

Yeonjun had seen all sorts over the years. He dealt with murderers, serial killers, psychopaths, narcissists, sad*sts, the works—and they all had the added bonus of kinesis. Yeonjun had studied human behavior extensively. But Soobin, besides clearly being a murderer, wasn’t exhibiting any signs of a psychopath or narcissist. He was exhibiting the signs of an adult living with profound trauma that no one else cared about, because the world saw Soobin as easily disposable. Until he had started his crusade. Now he was a living nightmare.

Yeonjun couldn’t work it out. Was Soobin too far gone? Was he carrying out a crusade that was based on delusions, or was he truly onto something? Han Hwijong had as good as admitted that there were more threads to pull on, given the contents of that email. Soobin had seemed grudgingly resigned to the little information he had received, though satisfied. And once again, Soobin had reiterated the fact that Yeonjun was being forced into a submissive role to keep him under control.

And Yeonjun knew Soobin was right.

It wasn’t a secret. Yeonjun worked with limitations—all three of them did. But Yeonjun’s limitations were extreme, given that he was an anomaly. Changbin and Kai had some restrictions, but neither of them had an entirely suppressed ability spanning two decades. Yeonjun had always talked himself into being okay with it, but all he could think about was how weak he was to already be so susceptible to Soobin’s vitriol.

But was it really vitriol?

National Intelligence Service

Naegok-dong, Seocho-gu

SEOUL, South Korea

23:03 PM

The guards let Yeonjun into the facility, announcing his arrival, but Yeonjun breezed right past the agent meant to escort him and rode the elevator himself. The doors opened onto level eight, and even though it was nearing midnight, there were plenty of people still milling around, and many eyes turned to Yeonjun when he walked in.


Yeonjun glanced to the right as Lia walked out of her office, holding the doorframe with one hand. She gestured towards Changbin’s office.

“Are they back?” Yeonjun called out, already rounding the railing of the bullpen.

“Two minutes ago,” Lia confirmed, and then she disappeared back into her office without another word. Yeonjun ripped his face mask off and marched right to Changbin’s office, and he didn’t even bother to knock before he pushed the door open.

“Jesus, you two look like hell,” Yeonjun commented instantly, though he was sure he didn’t look much better. Kai had stitches on his forehead and a busted lip, and Changbin had a bruised eye and was wearing a black DKR t-shirt and sweatpants, but they both managed a barely-there smile.

“You ready for this sh*t? Because it’s wild,” Changbin said, so Yeonjun collapsed into the empty chair. “And Director Nam will be on your ass any minute now.”

“Looking forward to it,” Yeonjun grumbled, and then he beckoned. “Let’s hear it. All the details.”

“What’s there to even tell?” Kai said with a chuckle. “We got to the research center, and it was already up in flames. There were no researchers or workers there. Too late at night. Thank f*ck, to be honest.”

“We passed this other motorcycle on our way in,” Changbin continued. “So I turned around to follow it, but there was no f*cking way I could let Kai go there alone.”

“Was there any backup?” Yeonjun asked, and Kai nodded.

“Yeah, there was backup on the way, but you know how slow they are,” Kai said, rolling his eyes. “Hyung came back and put out an APB for the motorcycle.”

“He was carrying stuff,” Changbin said, turning around to pretend that he had a backpack on. “A whole backpack of it. They obviously looted the place first before setting fire to it. But we thought we could salvage something.”

“It was pointless,” Kai added. “They attacked us the second we showed up. Kim Taehyun took Changbin for himself. Didn’t even give me a chance. So I had to deal with Kim Namjoon.”

“And how did that go?” Yeonjun raised one eyebrow, focused on Kai’s physical condition.

“The physical manipulation sucked,” Kai complained. “He took full advantage of it this time, since there were no other witnesses. I was a f*cking ragdoll to him. He kept throwing me around. Made me wish I wasn’t sweating, too, because he almost choked me with it. Don’t ask. I’ve never seen a hydrokinetic do the sh*t he was doing, either. He almost trapped me in a damn whirlpool that he made with sweat. Who can do that?”

“So then what about Shock? Taehyun. What was he doing?” Yeonjun asked, brow furrowed as he eyed Changbin. “He took you for himself? What’s that about?”

“He was weird.” Changbin rubbed his pointer finger against his bottom lip in thought. “It’s like he wanted me to be there. And the sh*t he was doing was textbook, like he was purposely working on limitations like me. He kept cornering me, but he wasn’t giving me his full strength. You know what I mean?”

“In what way?” Yeonjun asked.

“He kept taunting me,” Changbin replied. “Saying he thought I was better than this, that he always thought I was better than this, and why don’t I just hit him where it hurts? I don’t even know what he was talking about. He kept trying to convince me to hurt him.”

“Pain kink,” Kai joked dryly, but Changbin shook his head.

“No, that definitely wasn’t it. I don’t know. The whole thing was a f*cking bust. Flicker got away with whatever files he thought were relevant,” Changbin said, touching his knuckles to his bruise. “God only knows what that would be. The place was on fire, but I could tell that things were missing.”

“I purposely got Namjoon to douse some of the fire,” Kai said with a grin, wincing immediately because of his lip and touching his fingertips to it gently. “It was pretty obvious that some hard drives and laptops were missing.”

“Any paper files?” Yeonjun wondered.

“If there were, Flicker took them, or they were burned,” Kai replied. “So then that begs the question—what exactly is it that they needed from the research center, and why the hell did they split up?”

“And is this why they’re targeting TRACK?” Changbin continued. “We thought it was just a personal vendetta, that maybe they were all just wronged by TRACK employees or something and now they’re just working from the bottom to the top.”

“And what if it’s both?” Yeonjun murmured, knowing that Changbin and Kai would hear him. There was a heavy silence as Yeonjun’s mind fixated only on Soobin, on how he knew more than Changbin and Kai knew but couldn’t speak on it, because there could be consequences that he wasn’t prepared to face. If Yeonjun were to admit that he knew who Phantom was, there was no telling how the tables would turn.

“Why was Phantom with one of the researchers?” Kai asked.

“Right, good question. What’d you get from Phantom? Anything? How about that guy he targeted? Han Hwijong?” Changbin asked Yeonjun.

“Also a bust,” Yeonjun admitted reluctantly. “He had control of the entire situation. He rigged Han Hwijong’s brain to confess to a child p*rnography addiction every time he sees a police officer or someone from law enforcement. Which is true. He did jail time for it, apparently.”

“Christ,” Kai murmured.

“But Han Hwijong was a researcher. Specifically at the research center where you guys just came from. He was imprisoned for the child p*rn charges a few years ago, but they pulled him when he was released to work at the center because he had the skills.”

“And you got all this from Phantom?” Changbin asked, impressed. “He just hacked into this guy’s head and dragged out all his secrets to air like dirty laundry? How do we know he’s not making this sh*t up?”

“Take five minutes to do a search on Han Hwijong. I’m sure you’ll see it all,” Yeonjun muttered, eyes flicking to Changbin’s computer. “Unless the records are sealed, which is likely. But Phantom doesn’t strike me as much of a liar for sport. He doesn’t really do the whole ‘withholding truth’ thing just for spite. He said Han Hwijong is a liar and… well, that he’s scum. And I hate that he’s probably right.”

“So that’s why Phantom f*cked with his head. He’s playing hero in his own special way,” Kai assumed, and Yeonjun blew out a breath, rubbing his brow.

“Han Hwijong,” Yeonjun slowly said, “was getting emails from TRACK Labs asking for test subjects.”

“Test subjects?” Changbin repeated, shifting with the notion that he was still in pain from the fight.

Yeonjun pulled at the corners of his eyes with his fingers. “Yeah.”

“For what, exactly?” Kai asked. “And from where?”

“Apparently the test subjects are coming from TRACK Plus voluntarily,” Yeonjun explained, seeing the way that Changbin narrowed his eyes. “Strictly for science. Han Hwijong knew nothing. He… Phantom. He checked.”

“I mean…” Changbin chuckled. “Director Jo did say that he was trying to put together a training program to protect the kids at TRACK from mind control. Could that be it? He’s using TRACK Plus as test subjects for the program.”

“Mm.” Yeonjun twisted his lips and stared at the lamp on Changbin’s desk until his vision blurred. He blinked rapidly. “I don’t know. Too many questions, not enough answers.”

“Did you talk to him? Phantom?” Kai wondered, and Yeonjun nodded.

“I did. He, uh… he was planning on just killing Han Hwijong when he was done getting information from him. I talked him out of it. That’s where the brainwashing came from,” Yeonjun replied, and Kai raised his eyebrows.

“So this guy can reason?” he asked, surprised. “Okay. sh*t, maybe Director Jo was onto something saying that you should be the go-to guy for Phantom. He seems awfully happy to talk to you.”


“Excuse me.”

Yeonjun twisted his upper body and glanced at the door, where an agent was standing and bowing to all of them.

“Director Nam wants to be briefed,” she said with another bow. “Phoenix. He would like to speak with you first.”

“Goody,” Yeonjun murmured, but he got up and followed the agent out of Changbin’s office and down the hallway to Director Nam’s office. Director Nam wasn’t sitting at his desk as expected; he was pacing in front of it, waiting for the briefing to happen. He motioned for the agent to close the door, and Yeonjun stepped forward.

“Paramedics and law enforcement have given us all the information we needed regarding Han Hwijong. He’s been taken in for psychiatric evaluation. His statement is… alarming, to say the least,” Director Nam began without prefacing, and then he stopped his pacing and folded his arms, turning to Yeonjun. “A full confession to child p*rnography charges from years ago, and a confession that he’s still dabbling in such content. He’s offered us his computer.”

“Yeah.” Yeonjun crossed his arms as well. “That would make sense, seeing as Phantom decided that a hypnotic suggestion and reprogramming Han Hwijong’s mind would be worse than killing him.”

“And you did nothing to stop this?” Director Nam asked with emphasis.

“I’m the one who convinced Phantom not to kill him,” Yeonjun said, trying to curb his attitude as best as he could. “With all due respect, Director Nam, I don’t really know what else you wanted me to do. You’re sending me out in the field to go face-to-face with an omnikinetic with mind control abilities. The fact that he even talks to me without controlling me is a miracle in and of itself.”

“Okay. Okay, just—” Director Nam sat down at his desk in a huff. “Okay. So you get to the scene.”

“The entire building had no idea Phantom was there,” Yeonjun began like clockwork. He was used to this. He knew Director Nam was recording him to write up the report later. He knew he would have to scrawl out the details in a classified document as well. “I got up to Han Hwijong’s apartment. The door was open. I walked in, and he was sitting in a chair. Phantom was on the couch waiting for me.”

“And then?”

“We negotiated.” Yeonjun shifted his footing. “Phantom called Mr. Han a liar. Mr. Han was receiving emails from TRACK Labs asking for test subjects. These test subjects supposedly come from TRACK Labs willingly. Mr. Han had no idea what he was gathering test subjects for, only that they had to be kinetic. The working theory the team and I just came up with was that they’re testing for the training program to prevent mind control. Could explain why Flicker, Maelstrom, and Shock were at the research center to do maximum damage. They don’t want the training program to happen.”

I’m lying. I know I’m lying, because I’m the one who was forced to do the questioning. I might know why Soobin is doing this if I ask a few more questions. But is that something I want to share?

“Mm. It’s possible. And you’re saying that Phantom stayed out of your mind. That he wasn’t controlling you,” Director Nam stated, and Yeonjun shook his head.

“Nope. Not at all.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll expect your report by tomorrow,” Director Nam said with a small frown. “And Yeonjun-ssi.”

“Yes, Director.”

“You did everything you could to stop him. To stop Phantom,” Director Nam said calmly.

“Are you accusing me of not doing my job?” Yeonjun asked, keeping his voice low.

“You’ve emerged unscathed from all three interactions with Phantom so far, and all three times, Phantom has walked away without so much as a fight,” Director Nam pointed out. “It’s raising eyebrows.”

“Whose eyebrows?” Yeonjun asked, tilting his head slightly to the side. “Yours? Or someone else’s? The NIS director? The president? Jo Chansung?”

“You know that we have to examine all angles,” Director Nam evenly said, and Yeonjun let out a breathy laugh.

“I’m doing my job,” Yeonjun said with great care. “Which I’ve been hired to do by the government. But once again, and with all the respect in the world—you’re pitting me against an omnikinetic and expecting miracles, and when miracles don’t happen and I can’t save the day, you think poorly of me.”

Director Nam exhaled deeply, resting his elbows on his desk. He pressed his knuckles to his lips, and then he sat back.

“I’m the messenger,” he said. “Just send the statement to me as soon as you can. With detail. Please.”

“Yes, Director.” Yeonjun bowed stiffly, and then he turned on his heels and left without being dismissed, knowing better but far too riled up to continue the conversation with a cool head. He walked down the hallway, passing by Changbin and Kai as he did, who were both headed right to Director Nam’s office to deliver their statement. Yeonjun saw the way that Kai nudged Changbin’s arm, mostly because of the look on Yeonjun’s face. Yeonjun ducked his head and turned into his office, unclipping his utility belt and tossing it onto his desk before collapsing into the chair.

I’m f*cked. Nothing about this makes sense. Nothing. Too many threads. It’s getting worse. We’re useless. Helpless. What am I supposed to do?

“Excuse me?”

“What?” Yeonjun snapped, but then he found some sense and stood up to bow to the agent who had just walked into his office. He was wearing a suit and looked far too put-together for close to midnight on a Friday night. Yeonjun took notice immediately of the earpiece in his ear. “Forgive me. Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I’m here to ask about your assignment in the field tonight,” the agent said with another bow. “We’d like to know if you had any physical contact with Phantom.”

“Physical contact? No.” Yeonjun shook his head, brow furrowed. “That’s a weird question. No offense intended. I apologize.”

“Oh. I’m sorry,” the agent said, bowing again. “If you did have any physical contact, we would like to know immediately. We’re, uh… we’re attempting to build a DNA profile of Phantom to learn more about him. So if you had any contact, we’d like to take a sample.”

“Ah. Well, no. I didn’t have any physical contact with him,” Yeonjun replied, shaking his head again. “Sorry.”

“That’s a shame,” the agent sighed, disappointed. “We were really hoping to start building a profile tonight. Thank you, though. If you do have any physical contact with him in the future, please alert us immediately. Or perhaps attempt to make physical contact. It would help us greatly.”

“Right. Okay. Thank you.”

“Thank you.” The agent bowed one final time, and then he backed out of the office and closed the door. Yeonjun stared at the closed door with pursed lips, flicked the lock back and forth, playing with the idea of locking everyone out or leaving a window of opportunity. Toying with the idea of staying to write up the report while it was fresh in his mind or abandoning his post to go home and sleep.

A DNA profile. They wanted to build a DNA profile on Soobin. And they wanted Yeonjun to risk his life to make physical contact. It seemed innocuous enough. A normal person wouldn’t have batted an eye.

But the agent had been disappointed. Visibly disappointed. And that, more than anything, spoke louder than any statement Yeonjun could ever give.

Shake - Chapter 1 - springcarousel (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Melvina Ondricka

Last Updated:

Views: 6236

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Melvina Ondricka

Birthday: 2000-12-23

Address: Suite 382 139 Shaniqua Locks, Paulaborough, UT 90498

Phone: +636383657021

Job: Dynamic Government Specialist

Hobby: Kite flying, Watching movies, Knitting, Model building, Reading, Wood carving, Paintball

Introduction: My name is Melvina Ondricka, I am a helpful, fancy, friendly, innocent, outstanding, courageous, thoughtful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.