By James LaFleur & Gordon Massie


All Books by 
LaFleur & Massie: 



The wind was howling that night, and it whipped the cold rain against Kayshawn’s face as he picked his way along South Normandie Avenue. Except for the wind and rain, this part of South Central was quiet. Kayshawn was still dwelling on the argument he’d had with his uncle. It had become heated, and his uncle had shoved him into a wall—again. Kayshawn was fifteen and weighed 110 pounds soaking wet. His uncle was a strapping, worthless slob who sat around the apartment in a dirty wife beater smoking cheap cigars and chomping on nachos and bean dip while Kayshawn starved.

The more he thought about the recent fight, the more it saddened him.

As he was passing a dimly lit alley to his left, he heard someone say, “Hey, homie.” When Kayshawn looked, he saw a tall Mexican youth in a checkered shirt standing out in the rain. Four more men were sitting inside a parked open-top El Camino, the rain pouring down on them. Their wet faces looked harsh in the dim light.

The tall youth stepped out of the shadows and walked toward Kayshawn. “What’s good, ese?”

Kayshawn knew who he was. “I already told you guys I’m not interested.”

“Better think before you say another word, ese,” the young gang banger replied. “Look, homes, you can take care of your grandma with the money you’ll make rollin’ with us, ese. You don’t want what happened to your mother to happen to her, do you?”

The words sparked a replay in Kayshawn’s mind of the events from three years ago and sent him into a sudden mental frenzy. His hands shot forward as if they were possessed and sent a wave of static electricity through the gang banger’s body. He was thrown back as if he’d been hit by a truck, and his head clanged against a rusty garbage bin. Convulsions rocked his unconscious body.

Kayshawn blinked and looked around, ready to run, but the four men from the car already had him surrounded. Two grabbed him on either side and pushed him into the alley. One hurled a liquor bottle at the single streetlight that dimly illuminated the area. The sound of shattering glass filled the air, and darkness settled.

“Big mistake, homie,” one of them said as he shoved Kayshawn to the ground.

The four men began to kick him, and he covered his face with his arms. Shards of pain ran through his body, but he clenched his jaws and refused to cry out. As the rain ran down his face and the kicking intensified, he squeezed his eyes closed and thought of his mother before he blacked out.

“King, please stop this,” Heart whispered. “Before they kill him.” She could almost feel the cuts and bruises on Kayshawn’s body, and she winced at the sound of boots striking flesh. But the leader of the Order held up his hand to silence her. He looked over his shoulder to see if the other members of his team were maintaining discipline. To his relief, they remained in the shadows.

“Wait. Wait for it,” King said. “He needs this. It’s the only way to open him up.”

“Open him up?” Heart asked. “I don’t . . .”

“Now!” King shouted, chopping his arm toward the gang members. In an instant, three members of his team emerged from the shadows and leaped through the air. They flipped and whirled like acrobats and took the thugs by surprise, dispatching all four within seconds.

Rain beat down on six still bodies scattered on the dark pavement of the alley. King picked up Kayshawn and cradled the boy in his arms like a sleeping child. Then the Order melted back into the night.

Three Days Later

Kayshawn awoke in a windowless hospital room. He squinted against the harsh fluorescent lighting and realized he was alive. He felt like he’d been drugged, and he couldn’t tell how long he’d been out. The last thing he remembered was being kicked, the awful sound of heavy boots thudding into his body, and the pain. He noticed a young Asian girl sitting on the edge of his bed. He saw that she was holding his hand and he wondered why. He hadn’t even felt it. “Where am I?” he asked. The words came out in a hoarse whisper.

“It’s okay, you’re safe,” the girl replied.

Kayshawn let go of her hand and tried to sit up. The girl pressed a button, and the head of the bed slowly rose. “Thanks,” Kayshawn whispered. He swallowed once, his throat scratchy and dry, and rasped, “Water.”

The girl picked up a stainless steel carafe and poured water into a Styrofoam cup. She held it to his lips and watched as he took slow sips.

Kayshawn leaned back against the hard pillow and closed his eyes. He focused on shutting out the pain that coursed through his body even as a thousand questions floated through his head. The first one he asked aloud was, “Where’s my grandma?”

The Asian girl had to lean toward him to make out his whispered words. “Back in L.A.,” she said.

“Back? What . . . where am I?”

“New York, at an undisclosed location. I can’t say more than that. King will fill you in.”

“King,” he croaked in a hoarse whisper. “Who’s that?” He looked around the room again and wondered if he was in a prison. “What’s going on?” As he spoke, he shifted his weight and flinched when the pain struck him.

He groaned softly, and the Asian girl slid her hands under his shirt. “Hey, what are you doing?” he growled. Her hands were warm against his bare chest, and heat slowly surged from them, gradually spreading through his body.

“Relax,” she said. “I’m making it better.”

The sensation of penetrating warmth radiating from the girl’s hands relaxed every cell in his body as the pain began to drain away. Kayshawn looked down and saw wisps of steam rising up through his shirt.

“Do you mind if we take this off?” the girl asked, tugging at the bottom of his shirt. “I work better when I can see what I’m doing.”

As he pulled the T-shirt over his head, he realized his pain was subsiding. When he settled back down, the girl began to focus on a dark bruise across his midriff. Within minutes, the ugly purple contusion went through a range of colors, from red to orange to yellow. Kayshawn, astonished, watched the transformation.

The door swung open and King entered the room. “I see you’re making progress,” he said to the girl.

“Yeah, this big bruise is almost gone,” she said.

“How do you feel, Kayshawn?” King asked.

“Confused,” Kayshawn replied. “Are you King?”

King nodded. “And I’m here to end your confusion.” He towered over Kayshawn as he stood next to the bed, fluorescent light reflecting off his bald head. “I’ll talk and you’ll listen. After what you’ve been through I figure I owe you some answers. Name’s Eleazar Benton, but everyone here calls me King. That will include you. I run a very special government program called the Order. We specialize in solving unique cases that the general population doesn’t need to know about.”

“The Order?” Kayshawn said. “I’ve never heard of . . .”

King cut him off. “I said you listen, I’ll talk. I know you’ve got a million questions, and I’ll answer all of them, but not now. For now you’ll have to settle for what I’m giving you.”

Kayshawn remained silent while the girl continued to work on the bruise. She flashed him a quick smile and opened her eyes wide for a moment, as if to encourage him, or maybe warn him against speaking out of turn again.

King continued, “I’ve spent my entire life working with the government, handling the unique and unexplainable cases—many involving the paranormal.”

Kayshawn shot him a skeptical glance, convinced the big man was pulling his leg.

“This isn’t a joke,” King said. “The Order is a group of five special individuals responsible for taking care of the things that go bump in the night. We’re the ones who solve cold cases based on conspiracy theories. We’re the ones the government calls when no one else can get the job done. The Order keeps the world safe from things people don’t even know exist.”

“Even if it’s true, what does it have to do with me?” Kayshawn asked.

“He doesn’t seem to listen, does he, Heart?” King said, looking at the girl.

Heart shook her head and bent down to whisper in Kayshawn’s ear. “Stop interrupting.”

Kayshawn took a deep breath and decided it was in his best interest to shut up and listen. He pressed his lips together and nodded at King.

“I’ve worked in this field for the government for over thirty years,” King said. “During that time I’ve discovered that solving unique cases requires unique talent. Kayshawn, I can go on record as saying you’re a unique and incredibly gifted young man. You don’t realize how talented you are. That night in the alley you demonstrated your uniqueness when you knocked that gang banger to the ground.”

Kayshawn tensed. How does he know my secret? He felt his muscles tightening under Heart’s hands, and he could tell that she felt it, too. He forced himself to relax and tried to mask his shock.

“You didn’t just push him,” King went on. “You sent a wave of static electricity through his entire body that will haunt him for life.” He paused, almost as if he were waiting for Kayshawn to interrupt him again. Kayshawn didn’t.

“I see the shock of surprise in your eyes. Don’t wrack your brain trying to figure out how or why I know about your secret. Just know that I know. Your gift is very special, Kayshawn. It’s one that few possess. There are a variety of gifts, actually. Take Grace here. She has the gift of healing, as you’ve discovered.”

“Grace,” Kayshawn whispered to himself, committing her real name to memory. He was grateful for her healing hands and already entranced by her beauty.

She smiled when she heard him whisper her name.

King continued his lecture. “Most people never discover their gift, because it isn’t revealed unless it’s triggered, usually by some traumatic event. Like the loss of a loved one. Or being electrocuted. Or, in your case, both.”

Kayshawn stared at King. Anger was starting to build, and his breathing was coming in short, shallow rasps.

“Good, Kayshawn,” King said. “Those emotions are the key to discovering your potential. Embrace them, don’t bottle them up.”

Kayshawn closed his eyes and calmed his breathing. Despite his confusion and sudden emotion, he was eager to learn more about his secret. King had called it a “gift.” Kayshawn was doubtful, but who knew? He swallowed once and nodded at King.

King nodded back and continued. “After your mother and sister were murdered, you withdrew into yourself, allowing hate, anger, and remorse to build. That’s when the static surges became uncontrollable, like the time in eighth grade when you sent your gym teacher sailing across the floor.”

How much does this guy know? Kayshawn wondered.

“We both know you didn’t push him down,” King said. “You shouldn’t feel guilty. Mr. Reynolds was a punk who liked to belittle the kids. He deserved to be knocked on his butt. But you started to feel guilty about what you did. You became afraid, and you isolated yourself from every friend you ever had, because you couldn’t control your newfound power.”

“I was scared I’d hurt someone again,” Kayshawn whispered.

“That’s where we come in,” King said. “We specialize in teaching youths like yourself to master their gifts. Our students have exhibited extraordinary powers. We’re talking about speed, strength, intuition, healing, and kinetic abilities. To our knowledge you’re the first to control electrical energy.”

“You keep calling it a gift,” Kayshawn said. “It’s a curse. I can’t even touch someone without hurting them. I lost all my friends because I turned into a freak.” He was filled with emotion again, but this time he had to fight back tears.

“Haven’t you been listening?” King asked. “I have the keys to end your suffering. How would you like to learn to master your gift?”

Kayshawn raised his head. He longed to be rid of his curse. He felt a small glimmer of hope but was afraid even to acknowledge it, afraid he’d be disappointed. Disappointment was the story of his young life. Then he felt Heart’s hands lift from his chest. He looked down. The bruise was gone. He took a deep breath and looked at King. “You can help me get rid of it?”

“No, not get rid of it,” King said. “It’s a natural part of you. Our program can teach you to control the gift and master it so that it will never break out unintentionally.”

“I’d like to believe that,” Kayshawn said.

“Believe it,” King replied, “But it works both ways. We’ll help you if you help us. Kayshawn, I’d like you to join the Order.”

“What about my grandmother? She needs me.”

“You don’t have to worry,” King said. “We’ll take care of her. We have the best facility in L.A., and they’ll treat her dementia and give her a home with lots of friends her age. She’ll be happy, Kayshawn. She’ll even have her own flower garden. Yes, we know how much she loves flowers.”

“Can I see her?”

“I’m afraid not. Once you join the Order, your old life is over. But you can check on her anytime. The facility in L.A. is connected to our video surveillance. But your former life will be erased.”

Kayshawn took a breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t know.”

“Kayshawn, your grandmother’s condition is worsening. She most likely won’t even remember you by the end of this month.”

Kayshawn knew King was right. Over the past year he’d had to repeatedly remind her who he was. Still, he was torn. Should he stay with the Order or return home?

“You don’t have to answer this instant,” King said. “You can go back to South Central if you choose, no questions asked. But your chances of making it out of L.A. alive or without becoming a gang member are slim. The Order is offering you a way out. We can give you a new life. It will be a good life, a meaningful life.”

Kayshawn thought long and hard before he asked, “What about my uncle?”

“You mean that useless slob who smacked you around and sponged off your grandmother? He’s on his own.”

Kayshawn grinned. “Good.”

“Come on,” said King. “Let’s go for a walk so you can see a little of what we do here.”

“You’ll like it,” Heart said as Kayshawn put on his T-shirt.

They followed King out of the room and walked through the facility. Kayshawn glanced around and realized they were on the platform of an abandoned subway station. He heard the roar of a subway train passing overhead. Three antique subway cars were parked end to end on the adjacent tracks, which disappeared into a dark tunnel. King stepped inside the brightly lit central car and motioned for Kayshawn and Heart to follow.

The inside of the car was painted in reds and had gold-plated railings. It was filled with computers, file cabinets, and workstations. A dozen workers were rummaging through files, tracking blips on screens, or tapping intently on keyboards.

“What do you think?” King asked.

“Pretty cool,” Kayshawn had to admit. “Is this your office?”

“This houses the hundreds of case files that we’ve yet to complete. It also serves as the eyes of our operation.”

Kayshawn looked around and couldn’t help but grin. “In the middle of the New York subway system?”

King chuckled. “Actually, this is the old system and hasn’t been used for decades. It’s been forgotten, which makes it the perfect base of operations.”

“It looks new.”

“It’s been completely overhauled and remodeled to meet our needs. It has everything from living and eating quarters to a training facility at the end of the tunnel. We have a global satellite surveillance system, with eyes all over the city. In fact, we can virtually see anywhere in the world via satellite. That’s how we checked on you during your initiation period.”

“Initiation period?”

“We don’t just pick anyone, Kayshawn,” King said. “Being chosen by the Order is statistically a thousand times less likely than winning the lottery. Let’s move on.”

The three exited the other side of the subway car and turned left. People passed by and nodded as they went their way. Although it wasn’t loud, the underground lair buzzed with life, a community unto itself.

“It takes a small town to make the Order run smoothly,” King said. “Everyone who signs on with us lives, works, eats, sleeps, and plays together, all underneath the city. But it’s not a bad place to spend your days. We provide all the necessities of life and more. In many ways, the Order offers more freedom than regular life. But that freedom—and our work—must be protected, which means secrecy is paramount.”

As they walked, Kayshawn stared into rooms with huge glass windows, watching people go about their business. Everyone looked busy. No one looked angry or upset. No one looked disappointed.

“The food here is great, too,” Heart said and pointed toward a mess hall alive with patrons, waitresses, and cooks. As they passed by, Kayshawn caught a whiff of something that smelled delicious.

“It isn’t all work and no play,” King continued, gesturing toward a game hall across from the cafeteria. A couple dozen people were inside playing a video game on a wide screen.

Kayshawn stopped and stared. “They’re playing Waging War VII!”

“Yeah, baddest game on the planet,” Heart said.

“But here’s something even better,” said King. He directed Kayshawn’s attention to a huge room filled with exercise equipment. A boxing ring occupied the center of the space, and a rock-climbing wall was on the far left. Several people were performing a fighting exercise in the ring.

“That looks like fun,” Kayshawn said as he walked toward the training hall.

“It is, and you’ll get plenty of it,” King said. “But you’ll also take special courses, on subjects you need to study for your job, like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. And you’ll attend school in the city after summer vacation.”

“Pat what? School?”

“This is a government program,” King said. “Our students are required to attend public school. Uncle Sam doesn’t want my team becoming a bunch of recluse teenagers.”

Kayshawn looked dubious.

“School is OK,” Heart said. “You learn a lot of cool inside intel.”

“As for Patanjali, you don’t need to worry about that right now,” said King.

Kayshawn was overwhelmed by the flood of information and by the sights and sounds of this remarkable yet somehow familiar place. He was roused from his thoughts by a booming voice that shook the glass windows of the dojo. Inside the room were three teenagers, two boys and a girl, screaming “Kee-yah,” as a woman led them in a fighting demonstration. Kayshawn watched as she finished and directed the boys to climb into the ring, bow, and begin to fight. The bigger, more muscular of the two looked to be of native American descent. The other was pale and blond and, to Kayshawn’s amazement, wore metal leg braces. The girl, who had long, black Goth-inspired dreads like his own, shouted insults at them.

“Kung Fu in its purest form,” Heart whispered to Kayshawn as he stared in awe. She and King stepped into the room, and Kayshawn followed.

The instructor was beautiful, with dark skin that glowed with health and vitality. She coached the combatants in a calm but commanding voice as they flew through the air, whirling spin-kicks at each other that defied gravity. After a few exhausting minutes, the bigger boy brought the blond youth to the ground.

“Get up, Peg Leg, it’s my turn,” the Goth girl yelled. Then she turned her attention to the victor. “Ready for another shiner, One-J?”

“My name is Jack!” he yelled back.

My name is Jack,” she mimicked in a whiny, high-pitched voice.

Jack ignored her and helped the other boy get up. “You okay, Joker?”

The blond boy stood and shook his metal legs to test them. “Don’t worry about me, Jack. I got legs of steel.”

All three kids laughed out loud, and even the instructor smiled.

“I do need to sit down, though,” Joker said.

After Joker climbed out of the ring, Jack and the Goth girl helped him remove his leg braces, which were linked to metal prongs that seemed to be screwed into his spine. Joker went limp, and Jack caught him and maneuvered him into a wheelchair.

“All good, Joker?” the instructor asked.

“All good, ma’am,” Joker replied.

She nodded and then glanced at the three newcomers. “We’ve got company.” The group turned toward Kayshawn, who suddenly felt nervous.

“Well, well,” the Goth girl said with a smile that might have been a sneer. “Looks like the new kid has arrived.”

“That’s right,” King said. “And although you know more about this boy than he does, it’s time for formal introductions. I’d like everyone to meet Kayshawn Kimble. Kayshawn, this is the Order’s resident instructor, Delila LeFay, code name Queen. The smart-mouthed girl next to her is Vicki Stone, code name Diamond.”

Diamond rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips.

“The lad with the muscles, who Diamond affectionately calls One-J, is Jack Ahote, code name Jack.” Jack nodded at Kayshawn, but the stern expression on his face never changed. “The kid with the magic legs is Brandon Kiehm, code name Joker. By the way, Joker, I think you need to quit talking to ghosts so much and focus on your form.”

Joker hung his head, embarrassed by being called out in front of the new kid.

Kayshawn blinked. Ghosts? He glanced at Heart, who wore her characteristic smile. The other three had blank expressions and seemed to be waiting for him to break the ice. He cleared his throat. “It’s nice to, um, meet you . . . guys . . . everybody.” He knew as he listened to himself that it had come out stupid.

“Yeah, right, fine, so you joining us or what?” Diamond demanded. She removed her hands from her hips and crossed them in front of her.

Kayshawn opened his mouth but could think of nothing to say. He knew he must look like a fool with his mouth hanging open, and the thought made him angry.

King came to his rescue. “Kayshawn hasn’t had time to decide yet. I’m showing him around to give him a better idea about things.”

“So, you’re the undecided type, eh?” Diamond said to Kayshawn. “Cool.”

“I can decide,” Kayshawn said.

“Yeah, well, try to make it this year,” Diamond snapped. The other two teens snickered.

Kayshawn gritted his teeth and glared at her. He wanted to look to King for help, but he knew he would just lose face. He knew King and the others wouldn’t intervene. He was on his own.

“Maybe you think you’re too good for us,” Diamond said. “Is that it? Huh? I mean, all we did was save your dumb life.”

Kayshawn said nothing but continued to stare at her.

“What are you lookin’ at, boy?” she yelled.

“Nothing,” he said, still staring at her.

Nothing,” she mimicked. “Indecision can get your teammates killed, boy.”

“Yeah, and how many teammates have you gotten killed?” Kayshawn yelled.

There was a collective gasp, and the group looked at Kayshawn in open-mouthed shock. Diamond shrieked and flung herself at Kayshawn, but King grabbed her and held her in a tight bear hug, practically wrestling her to the floor before she finally gave in, sobbing.

“Clear the room!” King yelled. Everyone made for the door. “Not you, Kayshawn. You stay.”

“Nice welcoming party,” Kayshawn said sullenly after the four teens left the room.

“Sorry,” Queen said. “They’re going through a hard time right now, and you struck a nerve. Unfortunately, one of their teammates did get killed. That’s who you’ll be replacing—if you join us.”

Kayshawn buried his face in his hands. He wanted to cry. “They hate me.”

“They’ll come around,” King said.

“Besides, we need you,” said Queen. “You know, we’ve been watching you for years, Kayshawn. We chose you when you were very young, but after your mother and sister were killed, I suggested we wait. I was worried about your mental well-being.”

Once again, Kayshawn felt overwhelmed.

“I know how you’re feeling,” Queen said. “You’re confused, angry, and lost. I once felt that way, too. I also lost my parents when I was twelve.”

Kayshawn looked at her with new interest. “What happened?”

“We were carjacked in a parking garage one night after a concert. The robber shot them. He made me climb into the back seat, planning to do God knows what to me. I started screaming and couldn’t stop. It got louder and louder, until the windows exploded. The guy wrecked the car, and the cops caught him. They couldn’t understand it. The windows were practically vaporized, and the driver was deaf, blood pouring from his ears. I knew it was my voice, and I was scared.”

“That’s your gift,” Kayshawn said.

“Yes. I’m what we call an audiokinetic. I have the ability to focus and control sound.”

“Is that why the windows were shaking earlier?”

Queen chuckled and shook her head. “No. The gifts begin to slip into dormancy after adolescence, which is why we recruit teens. As for the windows, I’ve always had a big voice.”

“How did you learn to control it?”

“After my parents died, I went to live with my Grandpa,” Queen said. “But he was ill, so I ended up taking care of him. I had awful dreams for years, reliving that night. When I screamed in my sleep, things happened. Windows exploded, alarms went off, people lost their hearing. I couldn’t control it. I became a recluse and stopped speaking, afraid I’d hurt someone. That changed after I joined the Order. King taught me to master my gift, and the dreams stopped. That was over thirty years ago. Joining the Order was the best choice I ever made.”

“And now you have to make a choice,” King said.

“I promise you, Kayshawn, if you join the Order, I will love you like my own child,” Queen said. “King will be like the father you’ve never had, and the others, in time, will love you like their brother. And I’ll teach you to control your gift.”

Kayshawn didn’t know what to say. He wanted to believe, but he couldn’t imagine the rest of the team would ever accept him, much less love him like a brother. He wandered over to the wall at the back of the room. In the middle of the wall was a large pegboard festooned with staffs, sais, throwing stars, and a variety of other weapons, all glinting under the artificial light.

“Why are they so shiny?” Kayshawn asked as he walked along the wall, staring intently at each weapon in its turn.

“They’re made of a titanium/aluminum alloy,” King said. “Light but deadly.”

Kayshawn nodded and plucked down a chain-type weapon with weighted handles at each end. He began swinging the three-foot chain side to side, in a figure-eight pattern. He was transfixed by the motion and watched as it picked up speed, seemingly of its own accord.

“How does that feel?” King asked, his voice uncharac-teristically subdued.

“Good,” said Kayshawn. “Feels good.”

“Let’s try an experiment,” King said. “Walk toward that punching bag in the corner, but keep swinging the weapon.”

Kayshawn did as he was instructed.

“Pretend the bag is the boy from the alley, and his cronies are planning to take you down.”

Kayshawn began swinging the chain faster, building up speed as his anger rose at the thought of that night. The weapon felt substantial in his hands, but somehow weightless at the same time.

“Now strike it with one end, like flipping a whip!” King ordered.

Kayshawn struck. Sparks flew as the bag exploded and sand flew all over the room. Kayshawn was so startled that he dropped the chain, but he knew he had unwittingly tapped into an unknown supply of electrical power. His entire body felt energized. He looked at King. “What just happened? I never felt it flow through me like that before.”

King looked at Kayshawn and grinned. “It’s as I suspected. You’re a natural.”

“Your rare gift is called electrokinesis,” Queen said. “I can teach you how to use it at will.”

Kayshawn picked up the chain weapon and started toward the wall of weapons.

“Keep it,” King said. “The manriki belongs to you now.”


“It’s called a manrikigusari,” said Queen. Her great voice seemed to be vibrating with excitement.

“I can keep it?”

Queen nodded. “We believe that you don’t choose the weapon,” she said. “The weapon chooses you. The manriki has never chosen anyone in the Order.”

Kayshawn stared at the weapon in his hands. He felt as if he had just discovered a missing part of his life.

“But there’s still a question to be decided,” King said. “Kayshawn, it’s time for you to give us your answer. But before you do, remember—there’s no going back.”

Kayshawn looked at the manriki in his hands, then up at King. “I’ve decided,” he said softly. “I’m in.”

“Welcome to the Order,” said King.

Queen hugged him tightly and said, “Don’t worry about the others. You’ll be family in no time.”

“Speaking of family,” said King, “your code name is Ace. We’ll just need to get you some—”

King was cut short as Joker rushed into the room. “Red alert, King,” Joker said. “Stat-emergency call over the wireless. Buildings on fire down by Battery Park.” He paused for an instant to catch his breath. “My scans of the area are showing spikes that are off the chart. We have to act now!”

King grabbed Kayshawn by the arm as Queen raced out of the dojo. “Come on, Ace,” King said. ”Time to get your feet wet.”

They flew down the hall at a dead run, Kayshawn dragging the chain along the floor.

“In there,” King said, pointing to a locker room. “Your locker is at the end. It has your call sign on it. Suit up.”

“Suit up?”

“Yes, yes. Your outfit’s in your locker.”

“But . . .”

“Let’s just say I was pretty sure you’d join,” King interjected.

“But I don’t know anything. I can’t fight. I don’t know how to use my . . .”

“Gift,” King said. “Try telling that to that punching bag back there.”

“But . . .”

“Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Focus on what you do know. You know how to use that manriki to release enough electricity to knock anyone to the floor. Besides, you’re only along for the ride this time. It’s a quick in and out, and you’ll see how the Order works together as one fluid instrument. Now suit up or you’ll be late for the party.”