Book 1: Justyce Begins
Episode 2: The Zodiac Club
Bryson Indiana stepped out of the shower, still thinking about the strange fires he saw last night. Bryson felt there was an interesting story there that he had to investigate. After getting dressed, Bryson checked his appointment calendar. No clients were coming in today, but he did have a meeting with a reporter later that morning. Bryson’s private investigator business had finally started to take off last week. Three new clients! He didn’t need a new problem to solve, but his curiosity wouldn’t let him not check out those mysterious fires. Bryson wanted to walk to Starbucks to get his morning coffee anyway. He finished tying his shoes, pulled on a hoodie, grabbed his favorite beanie, and ran out the door. Autumn had finally started to take hold in northern Virginia.
Carl Chambers woke to the sound of a crash. When he opened his eyes, his vision was unfocused and blurry. Carl stood on shaky feet and stumbled into the union hall bathroom. His body felt weird, and he couldn’t concentrate. Carl’s head ached, and he put one hand up to massage his temple and felt a massive amount of thick curly hair. Hair that hadn’t been there just the night before. Carl looked down at his arms and saw them covered with golden fur. The muscles in his arms were rippling and appeared to be growing right before his eyes. Carl rushed to the mirror and saw a face that he barely recognized. Carl’s appearance was warping and changing. He ran to the doorway and called out to his best friend and top assistant, Rick Myers. “Rick! Rick, get in here! Something is happening to me!”
Carl heard the same clip-clop of hooves on the wooden floor that he heard last night just before he blacked out for the second time. Then, Carl heard Rick’s voice, but it was deeper and gravelly. “Something happened to all of us, Carl. Something strange and powerful.”
Rick turned the corner, and Carl jumped back in surprise. What Carl saw, he barely recognized as his best friend. Carl could still make out Rick’s facial features, but that face was covered in brown fur, and horns were growing out of the sides of Rick’s head. The new Rick was around seven feet tall, and his shoulders were broad enough that Rick would have to turn sideways to enter most doors. As Carl gaped at his friend, he noticed that Rick’s legs ended in massive hooves.
“Oh my God, Rick. What is happening?”
Rick waved a hand at Carl. “You tell me, boss.”
“I think it was from the meteor last night. I felt it pulsing, but I never expected these physical changes. I don’t know what is happening, but I feel powerful!”
“Carl, I have horns growing out of the side of my head. It’s weird, but you’re right. I feel powerful!”
“You said it’s happening to everyone? Are they all still here? I want to see.”
“They’re still here. Some are just waking up. Some are happy, but not everyone. We may need to finish that meeting that was interrupted last night.”
“You’re exactly right, Rick. This could be the best thing to ever happen to us.” The two best friends strode out into the union hall meeting room to assess what had happened to the rest of their friends.
Bryson walked to the edge of Newville Park, noting scorch marks on several trees. He knelt down to get a better angle to take some photos, and his trained eyes noticed a couple odd looking blue stones. He picked them up to look closer and nearly dropped them again. Peering at the rocks in the palm of his hand, Bryson saw that they seemed to glow and pulse with energy. He felt a surge of energy rush through his entire body. He looked around to make sure no one was watching, and then he slipped the two blue rocks into the pocket of his jeans.
Bryson stood next to one of the scorched trees and oriented himself to look straight at the part of the docks where he had seen the fire last night. Spinning around one hundred and eighty degrees, he faced the high school baseball field. He still needed that coffee, but he was in an investigative mode now. Starbucks was too far out of the way; he’d settle for the Dunkin Donuts next to the school. He walked slowly, scanning all the buildings he passed for signs of fire.
‘Brett’s Antique and Thrift Store’ must have been the destination of some of the firetrucks that passed his house in the night. By the time he reached the antique shop, Bryson had four blue rocks in his pocket. He was just about to continue on toward the school when he got a text message from Erik Reilly.
Erik: “Bryson, I need to come over and talk to you about something. It’s kind of important. Are you home?”
Bryson: “No. I’m on a case. Can it wait?”
Erik: “I don’t know. Something weird is going on. Did you see all the fires last night?”
Bryson: “Yes. That’s what I’m investigating. I’ll go home now. Come right over.”
Bryson slid his phone back into his pocket and nearly ran home.
Obadiah woke up lying on a wooden floor in front of a big fireplace. He was disoriented and couldn’t remember where he was at first. Then the events of the night before played out in his mind. Obie stumbled away from the muddy field and walked towards the only light in the distance, this house. He didn’t know what else to do, so Obie knocked on the door. A lady answered, and then Obadiah couldn’t remember anything after that. He must have passed out, but Obie couldn’t remember. When Obadiah tried to recall anything before last night, all that came to him was the feeling of falling from a great distance. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. He also remembered that his name was Obadiah, and he recalled another name, Logan. It felt like Logan was important. Obie needed to find Logan, but right now, all he could do was lay his head back down and fall asleep.
As soon as Logan was up, showered, and dressed, he ran downstairs. Logan wolfed down a quick breakfast and threw a couple pieces of fruit and some trail mix into his backpack. Logan wasn’t sure where he planned on going yet, but he could still feel Obadiah’s presence nearby. Logan slipped on his shoes and slung his backpack over his shoulder. Logan poked his head into the living room. “Harvey, I’m going for a walk. I don’t have a class until ten. Tell dad and Gavin for me, please.”
Harvey glanced up from his phone. “Really? Ok, bro. See ya after school.”
Logan left the house and started wandering up and down the town’s streets. It’s not like the feather was a GPS that gave him specific directions. He could only get a vague sense of direction and distance. About ten minutes later, Logan heard police sirens. Soon after that, he saw two army helicopters fly towards the city’s center. Thankfully, the feather was leading him in the opposite direction. Logan had been walking for another fifteen minutes when he passed by the high school baseball field. Like last night, the feather started glowing, so Logan turned and walked into the field. Everything looked burnt, and he could still smell the smoke.
Logan found a massive crater in the center of the field, right where the pitcher’s mound used to be. He saw footprints leading away in the mud, but Logan didn’t see any footprints leading toward the crater. He crawled down into the hole and saw the muddy imprint of a body. The feather pulsed and flashed in his hand. Did something happen to Obie here? Logan was now even more determined to find his friend.
Logan crawled out of the crater and followed the footprints. A blue glow off near the edge of the field caught his attention. Logan walked over and looked down. He found two small rocks that glowed with the same blue light as the feather. Logan picked them up and felt the stones pulse in his hands. A wave of energy washed over Logan’s entire body. He felt different. Changed somehow. Maybe Obie could explain what happened when he found him. Logan put the two rocks in his pocket and followed the muddy footprints.
Carl walked out into the union hall’s meeting room and scanned the room. The creatures, his closest friends, were all spread out. Carl leaned his head back and let out a ferocious roar. Everyone spun toward him, and he spoke, “Friends, gather around the table and let us continue our meeting.”
“You’ll excuse me if I don’t sit at the table,” quipped Lisa Jensen.
Carl turned his head to speak, “I expect…” he stopped when he saw Lisa. Lisa looked the same from her head to her waist, but where her lower torso and legs should be now stood the body of a beautiful chestnut-colored horse. Carl began again, “No. Take the end of the table across from me.”
Brent Irons pounded his fist on the table, more claw than a fist, actually. His hand was bright red and hardened into a shell-like substance. Brent’s fingers were fused together, and his thumb was elongated and had a serrated edge. “Do you really expect business as usual, Carl? Look at us! We’re freaks! How can we even go out in public? Jayden was suffocating for no apparent reason. I’m not even sure if he’s still alive, and you want to continue a business meeting?!”
Carl looked around. “Where’s Jayden now?”
“Luke took him into the kitchen,” Brent answered.
Carl tapped Rick on the shoulder, “Go check on them.” Then he turned to the rest, “Let me address the questions Brent brought up. Can we go out in public? Yes, I say, and let them fear us! We are not freaks. We are amazing and powerful beings. Do I expect business as usual? Hell no! I expect that now instead of ruling Newville Heights… we can rule the world!” When Carl finished speaking, the rest of the assembled group pounded on the table and cheered.
“Time to get ready for school,” Harvey grumbled to himself. When he turned the game off that he was playing on his phone, Harvey noticed a text from his dad. The text was also sent to his two brothers. It read: “Boys, they activated my unit this morning. There are reports of strange activities and possible terror attacks in the city. I may not be able to come home tonight or possibly for a few days. Watch out for each other. Stay safe. Dad.”
Harvey flipped the television on and turned to one of the twenty-four-hour news channels. He could hardly believe what he was watching. Could this be real? They showed amateur film clips of glowing blue meteors racing across the sky and fires raging all over the city.
He was still watching when his oldest brother, Gavin, walked in and stood behind him. “Harvey, did you get a weird text from dad?” Gavin looked up from his phone. “What the hell are you watching?”
“The news, I think. Weird, right?” Harvey said.
“With this text from dad, I’d say it must be accurate, or the army thinks so. It sounds like they think it’s more than just meteors.” Gavin said.
“Should I go to school?” Harvey asked.
“Yeah. Go ahead. I’m sure the school will cancel classes if this gets worse. I don’t have class until this afternoon, so I’ll keep an eye on the news and watch for dad’s texts. Keep your phone on in case I need to contact you. Where’s Logan?”
“He went for a walk a while ago. He said he doesn’t have class until ten today.”
“Ok. I’ll try and get a hold of Logan; you go get ready for school.” Gavin sat down and texted Logan while Harvey finished getting ready for school and left the house.
Rick Myers walked into the kitchen of the union hall. Whatever he was expecting to see, what he saw wasn’t it. Luke Adams was standing by the sink with his arm outstretched. Luke’s hand was held out, palm facing upward, and his fingers were extended. Luke had a look of intense concentration on his face. The first shock for Rick was that the water that ran from the faucet arched upward and rained down on Jayden Stone. Jaydon sat on the floor, leaning against the sink.
Jayden, himself, was the second shock, though, at this point, nothing should shock Rick, considering his own transformation. Jayden’s skin was now bluish-green scales, and his eyes were narrow and a deep amber color. There were two slits on the sides of Jayden’s neck that were slowly opening and closing. Rick guessed that they must be gills, which must be the problem with Jaydon’s breathing. Rick cleared his throat. “Luke, Jayden, is there anything I can do to help?”
Rick’s voice distracted Luke, and he lost concentration. Water started spraying all over the room. “Rick? Is that you? What is happening to us?” Luke got the water spray back under control, but Jayden stood up from the floor, looking not entirely out of breath.
“Shut the water off, babe. I think I got this under control now.” Jayden said, between deep breaths.
Luke’s green eyes shone with concern. “Are you sure, Jay? What about the gills?”
“Yes, I’m sure. My body got confused when the gills formed, and I tried to breathe through them. I can switch back and forth between the gills and my lungs. It’s kinda cool now that I know how to do it.”
Luke switched off the water and rushed over to wrap his arms around his boyfriend. Luke tried to pull Jayden close, but Jayden took a step back and pushed Luke away. Luke had a look of shock and confusion on his face. “Jay, what’s wrong?”
“Look at me, Luke! I’m some kind of grotesque freak! I have gills and scales. You don’t have to pretend to still want to touch me.” Jayden said with tears streaming down his face.
“I’m not pretending, Jay. I love you. You are still you, and that’s the only thing that matters to me. You are still the most beautiful man in the world.”
“Can we talk more about this later?” Jayden looked over at Rick and motioned towards the meeting room. “What’s going on out there with everyone else? It sounds like a party.”
“Carl restarted the meeting from last night. He’s getting everyone fired up. We should get out there and find out the details for ourselves.” Carl turned and walked out of the kitchen, followed closely by Luke and Jayden.
Harvey decided to take the shortcut through the park on his way to school. On his way there, he noticed burned trees and scorched grass. “Weird,” Harvey thought. “All the burned trees are in a straight line.” Coincidentally, the line of burned trees was right along Harvey’s route. He noticed a bright blue stone in the center of a burned patch of grass. After seeing the news reports about meteors, Harvey bent down to take a closer look. Harvey tentatively picked up the stone, and it began to glow and pulse in his hand. Harvey’s whole body felt weird. He shrugged and stuffed the rock into the pocket of his jeans. By the time Harvey got to school, he had found and pocketed three more stones.
Gavin prepared a quick breakfast for himself, then sat down to channel surf. He wanted to see if he could find out what was going on in town. Gavin became engrossed with the news reports of the strange meteors and fires causing damage and the conspiracy theories about the army taking over the investigation. Gavin grew tired of watching the same video clips over and over. He looked at his phone for any new messages. It was odd for his brother to not answer a text right away. Gavin could not sit still and wait with everything happening, so he got up to go looking for Logan.
Carl glanced over when Rick re-entered the meeting room, followed by Luke and a third figure who must be Jayden. “Good. I’m glad you three could join us. We were discussing plans for taking over the docks and then the entire town and beyond. We should first search the city and find as many blue rocks as possible. No one else must be allowed access to them.”
“What if others have already found them?” Lisa asked.
“Kill them. We can’t allow anyone else to gain the powers that we have. We should even name ourselves to strike fear into the people.” Carl said.
“Like individual names or the group?” Luke asked.
“Both,” Carl answered thoughtfully. “Let me think.”
“How about The Freak Show,” Brent said with a laugh.
“No. No. Look around. It’s obvious now that we’re all here.” Carl said, looking from face to face. “We are The Zodiac. Literally. Look at us. Leo the Lion, Taurus the Bull, Cancer the Crab. We all fit the zodiac. That’s who we are… The Zodiac Club.” Everyone at the table looked around and nodded in agreement.
Erik Reilly rolled out of bed and turned on the television. He saw the news on every channel about the meteor shower and the fires, but, oddly enough, there were no reports of any meteors being recovered. Erik thought that was bizarre. If he found one, others must have as well. Maybe they kept it quiet for the same reason Erik did, the strange behavior of the rocks. He didn’t have any classes today, so Erik decided to text his friend, Bryson Indiana. Bryson loved mysteries. He even had his own private investigator business. Bryson answered his phone right away, and as soon as he found out it was about the meteors and fires, he was interested. Erik turned off his television and practically ran out the door.
Gavin drove up yet another street in his search for Logan. Finally, he spotted him. Gavin drove past his brother and pulled off the road right in front of Logan. Gavin got out of the car and walked right up to his brother. “What the hell, Logan? Are you trying to worry Harvey and me? With all that’s happening, you decide to just wander off and not answer your texts?”
Logan looked confused. “What are you talking about? What’s happening?”
“Didn’t you get the text from dad? Or the texts from me? Have you seen the news?”
“No. I left the house early. I didn’t watch any news, and I don’t have a text from dad. What time is it?” Logan looked down at his phone. “Dang. I didn’t turn my phone on this morning. I guess I was too preoccupied, Gavin. I’m so sorry. I meant to go to my class. I didn’t realize it was almost ten o’clock already.” He said while turning his phone on. “Here’s the text. What does this mean? What’s going on, Gavin.”
“There was a weird meteor shower last night. The meteors were glowing with a blue light. It was odd, but I wouldn’t have been too concerned. What’s got me worried is that the army must be worried. With the text from dad, I just don’t know.” Gavin said. “Your turn. Why are you out so early and not in class?”
“They were glowing blue, you said?” Logan’s voice trembled. “You might think I’m crazy, even with what you told me.” He pulled the feather out of his pocket and showed it to Gavin. “My friend Obadiah gave this to me. It also glows with a blue light. Gavin, Obie plucked this out of his own wing. He’s an angel. Well, more precisely, a seraphim. That’s what they call themselves, but yeah, Obadiah is an angel.”
Bryson rushed home to turn on the news and catch up on the stories about the meteors while he waited for Erik. He didn’t have to wait long. Less than ten minutes later, there was a knock on his door. “Come on in,” Bryson yelled.
Erik rushed in and closed and locked the door behind him. “I see you’re watching the reports about last night. Have they said if any meteorites were recovered yet?”
“No. Maybe the meteorites were too small to find or were destroyed in the fires.”
Erik grinned. “I find that hard to believe. I found one right behind my house last night!”
“Show me! Did you see it fall from the sky? Are you sure what it is?”
Erik took the blue rock out of his pocket and held it in his open palm. “Before you touch it, I need to tell you something. Yes, I saw it fall from the sky. I pulled it out of the charred remains of that big maple tree in my backyard. My dad is gonna be pissed. He loved that tree! But, anyway, as soon as I picked it up, it started giving off energy. The stone pulsed throughout my whole body. I feel different, Bry. I feel stronger. Hell, it even changed the color of my hair! Weird, right?”
“I noticed the hair. Bright red looks good on you.” Bryson winked.
Erik blushed. “Thanks. You just don’t give up, do you?” Erik smiled shyly.
“You’re even cuter when you blush. Give up the straight life, bro. Bisexuality is the only way to go! So many possibilities!”
“Can we please get back to this?” Erik waved the meteorite in front of his friend.
Bryson smirked. “Ok.” He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out his own four blue stones. “I went for a walk to investigate the fires, and I found these. I felt the energy pulses that you described. I haven’t experienced any physical changes like you with your hair, but you’ve had yours since last night, and I just found these an hour ago.”
“What do you think it means? What’s happening to us, Bry? I’m scared, but I’m excited at the same time.”
“I have no idea, but it’s obviously my top priority to find out. A reporter friend of mine has helped with a lot of my cases. Grace should be able to help. I’ll call her. She has a lot of contacts in the government that I don’t have.”
“Reporter? Government? Can you trust her?” Erik thought for a moment. “Do you think we should turn these rocks over to the authorities?”
“To answer your first question, yes. I trust Grace as much as I trust anyone. To answer your second question, no. I can’t tell you what to do with yours, but there’s no way I’m turning mine over to anyone until I find out what they are and what they’re doing to us. If we give them to the army, the best-case scenario is we won’t find out anything. The worst-case scenario is that nobody ever sees us again. We’d be lab experiments forever once they find out about the energy pulses.”
“So, what do we do now?”
“Let me investigate and get Grace involved. You carry on with your everyday life. Go to class. Have fun. I’ll be in touch.”
“I knew you’d know what to do. That’s why I came here first. Thanks, Bry. I’ll text you if I notice any other physical changes or feel any effects.” Erik said as he left the apartment.
Bryson was on the phone with Grace Santos and headed for her apartment before Erik had been gone five minutes.
Carl Chambers sat in quiet contemplation. So much had happened since last night. Most of the twelve members of his group experienced at least minor physical changes, and, for some, the changes were dramatic. They all felt different. After their strategy session this morning, Carl sent ten of his friends out to search for the blue meteor stones with orders to kill anyone who had already touched the rocks. Carl wanted their group to be the most powerful beings in the town and the world. He glanced over at the other remaining person in the room, Danielle Gordon.
“Dani, have you figured out how to balance and properly move with that.” He pointed at the six-foot-long tail that curved up and over Danielle’s head.
“Yeah. It pretty much just came naturally. It is surprisingly maneuverable.” She swung the tail around from side to side.
“If you’re sure, then we have a job to do.”
“Collecting rocks like everyone else?”
“No. If we are going to rule this town, and eventually, even more, we need cash. What do you think about robbing the Newville Community Credit Union?”
“That sounds perfect to me, boss. Let’s go.”
Carl stood, shook out his golden mane, and led his scorpion-tailed companion out the door.
Coming Soon – Episode 3: Heroes and Monsters