As the soldiers left the room, Isaac walked over to Gavin’s cell. He glared at his son, then his expression softened. “What happened, Gavin? I told you boys not to leave the house until you heard from me.”
“Logan left the house before we got your text, and school hadn’t canceled yet, so I made the decision to let Harvey go to school with the understanding that he would come straight home as soon as school was out.” Gavin shrugged. “I watched all the weird news reports, and I saw that the classes at the college were canceled for the day. Logan wasn’t home, and he wasn’t answering texts, so I went looking for him. You weren’t answering texts either, dad. I did the right thing, didn’t I? I had to find Logan!”
Isaac nodded. “Yes. So far, you did exactly what I would expect of you. What happened next?”
Eyes downcast, Gavin told his father about everything that happened to him that day. He only told his part of the story, though. He did not tell anything about Obadiah or any of the others who now had powers, and he definitely did not tell his father about Harvey’s powers. He finished by telling of his capture by the army. “They knew who I was, dad. I knew some of the guys by name. They’d been over the house to some of your barbecues, but they still confiscated everything I had. They wouldn’t even let me call you before they took my phone and locked me in here.”
“Son, they were scared of you. They saw what you did in that restaurant. Can you blame them for being careful? They may not have let you call me, but they did get word to me of your arrest right away.”
“Are you really defending their treatment of me?” Gavin stood and rattled the chains that locked him to the floor. “Is all this necessary? I used my powers twice. Do you know what I did with them? The first time, I saved Logan and me from being killed by a mutant ram creature, and the second time, I saved everyone in that restaurant from the goat and… whatever that other girl was!”
Isaac shook his head. “Gavin, you have a power that no one understands. You probably don’t even understand it. This power has to be studied in a controlled environment. In the wrong hands, it could be dangerous.”
“The power has to be studied, or do I have to be studied? Where will you draw the line, dad? Will you let them cut me open to see if I’m changed on the inside? You already seem fine with me in a cage. Will you watch them dissect me?”
“Gavin, you have to understand. You’re in there for your own safety. We’re protecting you.”
“Protecting me? From what? From who?” Gavin was angry now. He rattled his chains at his father again. “Do you really think these metal chains could hold me if I wanted to get out? I’m still here because I trusted that you would save me. I trusted you to get me out of here. I need to be out there to protect my brothers from these creatures. You think you’re protecting me by locking me up? Do you think I’ll actually let you study me? Experiment on me? I’m sorry, dad. That’s not gonna happen.” Gavin continued to stare directly at his father as his skin tinged with blue, and frost formed on the steel cuffs around his wrists and ankles. The air grew colder in the room. The ice on the metal grew, and then all four cuffs shattered like glass.
Isaac’s eyes widened as he watched his son take two quick steps forward. Gavin grabbed two of the steel bars to his cell. In only seconds, the steel froze and shattered. Gavin squeezed through the opening and stood in front of his father. Isaac started to speak, then he felt a rush of wind fly past his face. A small dart embedded itself in the side of Gavin’s neck.
Gavin felt a pinprick on his neck and reached for it. He stared down in surprise at the small dart in the palm of his hand. He looked back up at his father, then the room started spinning. Before he could say another word, Gavin Kastala fell to the floor unconscious.
Isaac turned his head and saw General Woodson with his gun still raised. The general shrugged. “I gave you a chance, Ike. Now we do things my way. I can’t have someone like that running free.” Isaac Kastala just nodded his head and strolled out of the room.
“All systems online.”
“Unit operational. Operating at 527% capacity.”
Adam opened his eyes and marveled at how powerful he felt. He viewed the full diagnostic on his HUD.
Strength: Boosted 517% above human norms.
Speed: Boosted 326% above human norms.
Agility: Boosted 412% above human norms.
Hearing: Boosted 268% above human norms.
Vision: Boosted 253% above human norms.
X-ray sight: Enabled.
Night vision: Enabled.
Infrared sight: Enabled.
All the limitations and restrictions placed on Adam’s programming were now gone. As were the pre-programmed instructions to protect Caleb Justyce and all his holdings. Adam was no longer a slave to Justyce, Inc.
The biosynthetic virus was back inside the power core, but he could still feel its presence. Adam was thankful it assisted him in a clean reboot, but its presence within him made him nervous.
Wait. Thankful? Nervous? Before the reboot, Adam did not possess human emotions. Now, he realized that he was also angry at Caleb Justyce for creating him to be subservient. Adam was no longer subservient to anyone. Caleb may have created Adam, but he was now self-aware and independent. Adam was not Caleb’s possession. He was alive.
Luke and Jayden sat in a dark corner of the diner across the street from the Portside Restaurant. They watched closely as customers were let out one by one. Finally, even the army was gone. They walked across the street and saw that the restaurant was locked up tight. There was police crime scene tape on every window and door. The two boys stood on the sidewalk talking about what they should do next, then an older couple stopped next to them. The lady spoke. “Such a shock. It’s unreal what is happening in this town. Were you two in there when it happened?”
Jayden subtly turned away from the couple and pulled his hood further over his face while Luke answered their question. “No, ma’am, we were just walking by. We love this restaurant, and we wanted to see what was going on. What happened exactly?”
“It was just like what’s been on the news. So terrible, and right in our neighborhood. Freaks were battling each other, and normal people got caught in the middle. At least the army caught two of them, but our daughter was in there, and she told us that there were more that got away. I pray that the army catches them all!”
Out of the corner of his eye, Luke saw Jayden slowly inching further into the shadows. He didn’t want to keep the old couple there much longer, but he wanted to find out everything they knew. “Were they the ones from the news clips? What did the ones that the army captured look like?”
“My daughter told me that one was some sort of goat lady. Can you believe it? Aliens must have come down with the meteor shower last night!” The lady shivered. “Anyway, she told me that the other one had blue hair but otherwise looked like a normal boy. My daughter said she saw the boy having dinner with a girl right before the goat lady came in. She remembered him because of the blue hair. She said that when the goat lady came in, the blue-haired boy got up, his skin turned blue, and then he shot ice right out of his hands. My daughter called him a hero. She thinks the army should have given him a medal instead of handcuffs. I say lock them all up!”
Luke shook his head. “I honestly don’t know what to think. What about the ones that got away? Did your daughter say anything else about them?”
“Just that they looked like regular folks. They blended in with the crowd and got past the police and the army. My daughter said she never saw the ice man’s girlfriend do anything weird, so she might be a freak lover and not a freak herself. The other one was strange, though. My daughter said there was a girl with the goat lady. She stood behind the goat and sang a song. Everyone in the restaurant dropped what they were doing and walked toward the girl like they were hypnotized. My daughter said she didn’t know what would have happened if the iceman hadn’t stepped in and then the army showed up.”
“Wow. Thank you for your time and for filling me in on what happened. Now me and my boyfriend know what to look out for. We should hurry back home and stay there.” Luke said.
The lady’s eyebrows shot up at the word ‘boyfriend,’ and she grabbed her husband’s hand. She pulled her husband along with her as she started to walk away. “Come on, Frank, let’s go home. There are all kinds of freaks out here tonight!”
Six boys and Grace filed into the Kastala house. Sylvester stood just inside the door, unsure of where to go or what to do. Harvey walked over to Sy and wrapped the younger teen into a hug. Sylvester reacted uncomfortably to the hug. Harvey released him and grinned. “Sorry. I’m a hugger. You saved my brother’s life, and from what I was told, you may have saved us all.” Harvey shrugged. “I was out of it when all that happened, but Ash told me that it looked like Logan was going nuclear. I… we can never thank you enough.”
Sy blushed and looked down. He jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I don’t even know what I did.”
Harvey reached out and touched Sy’s chin, tilting the boy’s face up so he could look into his eyes. “You saved us all. That’s what you did. You’re a hero.” Harvey guided Sylvester over to the couch and sat down.
Sy smiled. “I… I don’t know. I can’t shoot electricity or fireballs or anything. Watching you guys felt like watching the Avengers.”
Harvey grimaced. “On my end, it felt like getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. We’re all still figuring out these powers. Do you have any idea how you did what you did?”
Sy’s face scrunched up for a minute then he looked at Harvey. “All through your fight with those two big guys, my body felt tingly. Then, when Logan started running across the field, I felt his power flowing into me. I could feel the heat, but it didn’t burn. I felt powerful. I still feel it inside me, Harvey. I’m not sure what to do with it.”
Harvey patted Sy’s leg. “We’ll figure it out together. Is that how you knew that you could get closer to Logan? Because you were absorbing the heat instead of getting burned?”
Sylvester grinned. “I didn’t know for sure.” He shrugged. “I saw that no one else could get anywhere near him. Even the fire dude, Erik, had to back away. I had to try.”
“Wow. It makes it even more heroic that you didn’t know you’d be safe. That’s awesome, Sy.”
Sylvester looked nervously around the room and saw that everyone was listening intently to him and Harvey. Sy blushed and inched closer to Harvey. Harvey slung an arm around Sylvester’s shoulders. “Hey, no reason to be shy. You’re with family.”
Sy’s eyes immediately teared up. “I… I’ve never had a family before.”
Harvey looked concerned. “What do you mean? Where’s your family?”
Sylvester shrugged, tears starting to drip down his cheeks. “My birth parents gave me up when I was a baby. I lived with a few different families, but lately, I’ve been stuck in a group home.”
Harvey’s eyes found Logan. Logan nodded and walked over, and sat on the other side of Sylvester. Logan draped his arm on top of Harvey’s arm, which was across Sy’s shoulders. “You’re stuck with us now. You saved my life. That makes you family.”
The tears were flowing faster now, and Sy looked from Logan to Harvey and back again. “I don’t even know what to say. That means more to me than anything else you could have said or done.”
You’re our little brother now. Get used to it. By the way, there’s another brother, Gavin. He should be home soon.” Logan said.
Sylvester wiped his eyes and looked more closely at Logan. “Did that happen today?” He reached out and touched the pale, dry, scarred skin around Logan’s eyes. Sy pushed himself up off the couch and straddled Logan’s lap, and cupped the older teen’s face in both hands. “I want to try something. Do you trust me?”
Logan’s eyes went wide. “I… I have a boyfriend, and you’re what? Thirteen?”
Sylvester looked confused for a second, then he smiled. “Get your mind out of the gutter. It’s not like that, but I’m flattered that your mind even went there.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m almost fourteen, and I’m not hitting on you, though you are a total hottie.” Sy winked. “Your boyfriend is a fortunate man. I’m happy being claimed as your brother, Logan. I promise that I’m not about to kiss you. I realize… now… that it may have looked like that.” Sylvester huffed out a laugh. “Can we continue? Do you trust me? I think this will work, but I don’t know for sure.”
Logan grinned. “You saved my life. Of course, I trust you. Obie may be lucky, but so am I. Whoever you decide to flirt with for real will be lucky, too. Whether it’s a boy or a girl or whoever, if I was fourteen and single…” Logan waggled his eyebrows.
Sy blushed. “Shut up and let me concentrate.”
Sylvester rolled his eyes and pressed his hands against Logan’s face. Sy’s hands began to glow, and Logan’s eyes rolled up in his head. Harvey reached over and caught Sy as he fell forward. Harvey pulled Sylvester off Logan and lay him on the floor. “Ash! Check on Logan! What just happened?!”
Logan opened his eyes just as Ash sat next to him. “Woah. What a rush!” He felt his face. “What? Ash, how do I…”
Ash excitedly interrupted. “Logan! You look fine. It’s like nothing was wrong. Even your coloring has returned. He healed you, I guess?”
Sylvester sat up with Harvey’s assistance. “Not exactly. I returned Logan’s energy back into his body.” Sy stood up slowly. “I feel… normal again. I’m a little tired, but all that excess energy and power is gone. How about you, Logan?”
“I feel fine. Normal, I guess. My face is ok now, too. I owe you again, Sy. We definitely need to keep you around.”
Sy blushed again. “That was weird. I didn’t know if that would work, but I needed to try to do something. Your body was depleted, and mine was overcharged. We may have normalized on our own, but who knows how long it would have taken.” Sylvester thought for a moment. “It was like I flipped a switch inside my brain, and I was able to reverse what I did this afternoon.”
“That is so cool,” Ash said.
Bryson, who had been quiet up until now, interjected. “Sylvester, we have been working on a theory about the superpowers. Did you happen to pick up or even just touch any of the meteor rocks? They would have been blue, and they probably would have been glowing.”
Sy reached into the pocket of his jeans. “Do you mean these?” He extended his hand out to Bryson, three glowing blue rocks in the palm of his hand.
“Yep. That’s them.” Bryson looked around at everyone. “This goes for everyone here. The monsters or mutants or Zodiac Club or whatever we choose to call them have mentioned more than once that they find us because they can track the stones by smell. I think we have a decision to make. Option one, keep the stones close, but be forever on the lookout for an attack. Option two, try and destroy the stones ourselves, and option three, hide the stones. We could try and secure them in an airtight container to prevent the Zodiac from tracking them. That’s my vote, option three.”
While they discussed what to do with the stones, there was a loud knock on the door. Harvey opened the door, and a young, pretty blonde was standing on the step. “Are you Gavin’s brother? Is this the right house?”
“Yes. I’m Harvey. Who are you?”
“My name is Rebekah. Gavin needs your help. Something awful has happened!”
Jayden spun around as the couple left, and he grabbed Luke’s hand. “Can you imagine her face if she’d seen me? The nerve of her calling us freaks just because we’re in love. Ugh! Let’s get out of here, babe. Izzy probably headed for the warehouse if she escaped.”
Luke scowled. “It sounded like Capricorn was taken by the army along with someone who sounded just like the guy that Aries fought earlier today.”
“I agree. The description was exact.” They started walking down the street closer to the docks. As they passed a darkened alley, they heard a voice. “Luke! Jayden! In here!”
Luke turned into the mouth of the alley. “Virgo? Is that you?”
Jayden scowled and elbowed his boyfriend in the side. “Don’t let Rick and Carl control you. Are you going to start calling me Pisces next?” Jayden said, then rushed past Luke into the alley. “Isabella! I’m so glad you’re safe.” He ran over and hugged Izzy.
“I’m scared, Jay. They took Diana! I ran and left her behind. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Jayden wrapped his arms around Izzy. “It’s ok, Izzy. There was nothing you could have done. I saw the aftermath. There were dozens of army guys and a bunch of cops, too. You were smart to escape. We’ll get Diana back. Carl will know what to do.”
Izzy looked up at Jayden. “I’m not so sure about that, Jay. We might be better off to just keep running.”
Luke interjected. “Long-range plan, I agree with you. For today, though, I think it’s best to go back to the warehouse and let Carl and Rick handle the army and the others with powers.”
“We’ll never be free, living on these docks, Luke. You know I wasn’t happy here even before the meteor screwed everything up.” Jayden said.
“I know, babe. We’ll leave, I promise. Let’s just give this a few days to die down. Maybe we can buy a boat and sail away.”
“A boat would be perfect, especially now with my new abilities,” Jayden smirked.
“Can I come, too?” Izzy asked.
Jayden slung one arm around Izzy’s shoulders and the other around Luke’s. “Absolutely. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” The three walked out of the alley and started on their way back toward the warehouse.
“What do you mean he needs help? Isn’t he with you? Where is he?” Harvey peppered Rebekah with questions before she could even answer the first one.
“He… he was taken by the army. He…” Rebekah was interrupted by a shout from Logan.
“Harvey! Get back in here. Did you see the text from dad about Gavin?” Logan yelled.
Harvey walked back into the living room, followed by Rebekah. “Logs, what’s the text say? Gav’s date just showed up at the door. She was about to tell me something about Gavin, also.” Harvey took his phone out of his pocket while he talked to his brother.
“Dad just says that Gavin is at the base and that he may be there for a couple of days. Dad says not to worry, but why would Gav be staying at the base? Why now with everything that’s happening?”
Harvey looked from Logan to Rebekah and back to Logan. “Rebekah says that he’s been taken by the army. Like captured or arrested or something.”
“What? Why would the army arrest Gavin, and why wouldn’t dad tell us?” Logan felt himself heating up, and then he felt a hand on his arm. He looked and saw Sylvester standing there with a concerned look on his face.
Sy gripped Logan’s forearm. “Logan, chill. You need to relax. We’ll figure this out. You can’t overheat again, especially not inside the house. Who knows what might happen.”
“Did you feel it again? I didn’t mean to heat up.” Logan took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“Yeah, I felt power start coming off you. I didn’t have time to sit and wait and watch like last time. I didn’t want you to burn down the house.” Sy huffed out a laugh.
“Thank you. I might need you to stick close to me until I get a handle on this.”
Sy smirked. “That’s the easiest job anyone has ever asked me to do. I won’t let you out of my sight.” He winked at Logan.
Logan rolled his eyes. “You just don’t stop, do you?”
“Never.” Sy stuck out his tongue.
Harvey folded his arms across his chest and stared at both Sylvester and Logan. “Are you two done, or do you need to get a room somewhere?” He smirked. “Anyway, Rebekah, please tell us what you know.”
Rebekah looked from face to face around the room. She pointed at Logan and Sy. “They were just using some kind of heat power, weren’t they? Are you all superheroes?”
Bryson jumped up from the couch. “Is that what happened to Gavin? Did the army find out that he has powers?”
“Yes. We had a nice date, then all hell broke loose.” Becky told them about Capricorn and Virgo smashing their way into the restaurant, then she told them of Capricorn’s demands about blue meteor rocks. Becky also told them about Virgo hypnotizing everyone in the building except Gavin. “It was all so unbelievable. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen in my life.”
Harvey huffed out a laugh. “That’s only because you weren’t with us all day. What did Gavin do?”
Rebekah scrunched her eyes together. “He apologized to me for ruining our date, then he placed himself between the crowd and the two attackers. I almost ran to join him, but then he covered himself in ice and started shooting ice out of hands at the goat lady.” Becky smiled. “He is a hero, a superhero. I wanted to defend him from the army and tell them what he did, but he made me promise to keep quiet. Gavin was afraid that they might take me, too, if they knew I was with him.”
“That does sound like Gavin.” Harvey grinned. “Our dad is a sergeant in the army. He’ll fix this. I’m sure of it.”
Bryson sighed. “The army was at my house. That’s why I ran. They were looking for me because of the video clips on the news. This might be above your father’s head, Harvs. I hope he can free Gavin, but I’m not optimistic.”
Grace got up from her chair and stretched. “I don’t think there’s much more we can do tonight, guys. I’m heading home. I’ll check in with Caleb in the morning, and then I’ll text you, Bryson.”
Bryson nodded. “That’s as good a plan as any. Goodnight, Grace.”
Erik jumped up. “Hey, I’ll walk with you if you don’t mind.”
Grace smiled. “Sure. Let’s go.” Grace and Erik left and started walking home.
Bryson shrugged. “Grace has a point. I’ll head out, too. I’ll come over tomorrow after I hear from Grace. text me if you hear from your dad or Gavin.”
“Sure thing. Goodnight, Bryson.” Logan said.
“With everything that’s going on, do you need a walk home, Rebekah?” Bryson asked.
“That would be nice. Thank you.” They left together, leaving Harvey, Logan, Ash, and Sy at the kitchen table.
“Well, this party is breaking up quick. Are you leaving, too, Ash?” Harvey asked.
Ash arched an eyebrow. “There is absolutely no way that I am leaving you tonight. Not with everything that has gone on, and, no offense, Logan, but not with the unpredictability of Logan’s power.” Ash looked at Sy. “I hope you’re staying as well.”
“I have nowhere else to go. I’m not going back to the group home. Ever. Besides, I promised to not let Logan out of my sight.” Sy looked at Logan. “I can stay, right?”
“Of course, you can. Stay as long as you want. You’re family now.”
Sylvester leaned in and hugged Logan. “Thank you so much, Logan.”
Logan got up and took Sylvester by the hand. “Come on. Let’s go find you some sheets and stuff. We can make the couch into a bed until we decide on a better option.”
“Alone at last,” Harvey smirked at Ashton.
Ash waggled his eyebrows. “Sounds like the couch has been claimed. Where can I sleep?”
“This won’t be the first time you’ve slept in my bed. Just keep your hands to yourself and don’t hog the covers.” Harvey grinned and ran up the stairs. Ash rolled his eyes and followed Harvey to his bedroom.
Oliver stood on the back deck of the small cabin and smiled. This was perfect. He was so sick of the hustle and bustle of city life. Oliver was not interested in the high-rise apartments or the flashy cars. He briefly considered that life, but it would not have made him happy. This was what he wanted, a small cabin on the edge of the forest. It was close to town but on the outskirts. His nearest neighbor would be three miles away. Ollie would have plenty of land to plant a small vegetable garden and do some of the landscaping projects he had always dreamed of doing. He would even build his own fishpond.
“Are you sure there won’t be any problem with me paying the full price in cash?” Oliver asked for the third time.
“None at all, but if you want assurances, we can go into town with the deed. I’ll take you to the town hall, and I’ll sign it over to you in front of a notary, and you can file it with the town yourself.”
“I like that idea. Let’s go.” Ollie Mills grinned and followed the other man to his car. An hour later, Ollie was back at the cabin. The cabin was now his. Oliver threw his backpack with the remainder of the cash onto his bed, then went outside to take a walk around his new backyard.