Alex and his partner politely but firmly worm their way through the crowd gathered at the foot of the attic stairs. There are 10 or 12 kids sprawled on the steps, their bodies stiff and unnatural, their faces twisted and inhuman. He turns one over with his foot. A boy in a red Reputation shirt stares up at him, his eyes popping nearly out of their sockets. “Espers?” he asks his partner, who shrugs. He starts up the stairs while his partner disperses the crowd.

Alex nudges the attic door open with the barrel of his neutralizer. “Come out quietly now,” he snaps. “You are in violation of section 473 of the penal code, Class 3 abuse of powers. This is the police!” No answer, no movement. He moves down the hallway, wary as a cat.

The wall to his right begins to ripple and sway. He clamps his hands down hard on the wrists that poke through, then pulls the esper the rest of the way through and down to the floor. He twists her hands up behind her back and cuffs her. With his knee against her spine, he asks, “I’m not going to have any trouble with you, am I?”

The door swings shut behind them. “Oh, god,” whispers the girl underneath him. “The gas!”