New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 4)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 4: Frozen Fisticuffs

“Gav, I know we have to check in with dad, but promise me we will come back and look for Obie. I know he’s close. I can feel his presence with the feather.” Logan said as he reached for the car’s door handle.

“Ok, Logan, I promise. As long as dad doesn’t say that we can’t, I’ll bring you back here.” Gavin started to go around the car to get into the driver’s side. Before he could get in the car, Gavin heard a loud yell. He looked to the side just in time to see a large shape hurtling toward the vehicle. “Logan! Get down!” Gavin yelled.

Logan looked around, and his eyes widened in shock and fear. He dove toward his brother, barely getting out of the way in time before something big crashed into the car. The windows shattered, and the vehicle was knocked onto its side. Logan rolled over and looked to see what hit the car. He couldn’t believe his own eyes. What Logan saw stood on two legs like a man, but the similarities ended there. Where the creature’s massive leg muscles burst through its jeans, long dark grey fur showed through the rips. The same hair covered the creature’s bare upper torso. The beast’s upper body was humanoid and just over six feet tall. The broad shoulders and heavily muscled arms ended in large than hands. Logan could see the once human face was now distorted and covered in the same grey fur. The creature’s ears were pointed and closer to the top of its head than human ears. Still, the most shocking feature was the set of enormous, curved ram’s horns protruding from the sides of the monster’s head.

“What are you?” Logan asked, his voice shaking with fear.

The beast turned toward Logan and snarled. “I am Aries the Ram, and you will give me the blue stones, or I will crush the life from you and take them.”

Gavin leaped in front of his brother and faced Aries. “Stay away from my brother, you freak. You’ll have to come through me to get to him.” Gavin turned his head to look at Logan. “Get behind the car, Logan. Hurry!” Logan scrambled backward and crouched behind the overturned car. Gavin set his feet and faced his foe.

After Bryson left her apartment, Grace Santos scrolled through her contacts. She almost clicked on one of her top government sources but thought better of it. Grace didn’t think anyone in the government would give her a straight answer to this, even if they knew. Instead, Grace called a number that she had not called in years. She called an old college friend, Caleb Justyce. Grace didn’t hang out in the same circles as Caleb, but she knew that this problem was something that would pique his interest. The call went to voicemail, so Grace left a message and waited.

Bryson ran the three blocks from Grace’s apartment to Erik’s house and banged on the front door. Erik’s father answered. “Hi, Bryson. What brings you here?”

“Hi, Mr. Reilly. is Erik home?”

“No. The last I saw him, he was heading to see you. Didn’t he show up? That was quite a while ago.”

“Yeah, he was at my place earlier. I thought he’d be home by now. I’ll walk through the park and see if I can meet with him. He’s not answering my texts.”

“Is everything alright, Bryson? Is there anything I can do?”

“No, Mr. Reilly, there’s nothing to worry about. When you see him, just tell him to text me.”

“Ok. It was nice to see you again, Bryson.”

Bryson was a little alarmed that Erik wasn’t home yet. He should have had plenty of time to get here by now. Bryson turned and walked toward the park.

“You are either brave or foolish,” Aries sneered.

“I will not let you hurt my brother,” Gavin stated, fists raised in front of him.

“Gavin, come on! Let’s run!” Logan yelled from behind the overturned car.

“Too late for that, boy,” Aries said as he butted his horns against the car, pushing it further off the road.

“What do you want from us?” Gavin asked.

“The blue stones. Give them to me willingly, and I might let you live.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t have any blue stones,” Gavin said, slowly backing away from Aries.

Aries sniffed the air. “I can smell them. You can’t lie to me, boy. I’ve had enough talk. Prepare to die.” Aries lowered his head and charged.

Gavin dropped to his knees and raised his arms over his head in an effort to protect himself. Gavin gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and prepared for an impact that never came. Instead, Gavin heard what sounded like breaking glass, and a loud thump came from behind him. Gavin opened his eyes and looked warily around. Shards of ice were everywhere, and Aries was between Gavin and the car. Gavin couldn’t figure out what had happened, but he quickly sprung to his feet to place himself between Aries and Logan.

Aries’ eyes narrowed. “I knew I smelt the stones. You’ve been affected by them, so now you must die!” Aries charged at Gavin.

Gavin side-stepped the charge and swung his fist at Aries. Before his punch struck its target, Gavin felt an extreme coldness run through his body. A cocoon of ice formed around his fist just as the blow landed. The ram was nearly knocked off his feet and stumbled away from Gavin. Gavin looked down in awe at his ice-covered fist. He thought how cool it would be if his whole body were protected by the ice, and then it happened. Gavin was covered in icy armor from head to toe.

Aries watched as the ice formed around Gavin. Hoping to catch Gavin distracted, Aries lowered his head and charged. He hit Gavin full force in the mid-section with his horns. Gavin was thrown back and smashed against the car. He was unhurt, but the icy armor shattered into a million pieces. Gavin saw Aries closing in on him and tried to move away. Gavin was pinned against the car and couldn’t get away fast enough. He raised his arms in self-defense, wishing he had something to throw at Aries. Streams of ice shot out of Gavin’s fingers and struck Aries square in the chest, knocking him backward. Frost continued streaming from Gavin’s fingers until the ram’s legs were frozen solid.

Gavin leaped to his feet and rushed to the car’s other side. “Logan, come on! That probably won’t hold him for long. Let’s get out of here.”

Logan’s dark brown eyes were wide open and staring. “Gavin, you’re a superhero!” He ran over and hugged his brother.  

“Whatever! This might make me believe your story about angels a little more. We can talk at home. Let’s get out of here before he breaks free,” The two boys turned and ran down the road as fast as possible, leaving Aries howling with rage.

Grace sat behind her desk and thought about Bryson, trying to wrap her mind around what he told her and what she had witnessed with her own eyes. Bryson had picked up her coffee table using his mind. An hour ago, Grace would have laughed at the idea. Her focus was now on figuring out how it happened and how to proceed. There wasn’t just Bryson to consider. There was also the monster he fought. How many others were out there? She knew that Caleb was the best shot at finding answers. Grace glanced at her phone again. Still no return call from Caleb. After a while, Grace decided to go straight to Justyce Labs and talk to Caleb face to face. Caleb was the most intelligent person that Grace knew. He graduated from high school when he was fifteen and had a master’s degree in mechanical engineering by the time he was eighteen. When Grace started college, Caleb was twenty-eight and working towards his third master’s degree. Now, he was thirty-seven and had his own research lab. If anyone could figure out what was happening, that man would be Caleb Justyce. Grace left her apartment, avoided downtown, and drove as fast as possible to Justyce Labs.

Harvey and Ashton both leaped off of the bench. “Dude! I thought you were joking. Who is chasing you?” Harvey asked.

“Yeah, I thought you said monsters, not crazy bow-wielding maniacs?” Ashton quipped.

“I did say monsters, and I meant it. One is a half-woman and half-horse creature from mythology. That monster is the one with the bow. The other is a guy who looks like he has a shell and a mutant claw for a hand! They’re not chasing me, but we need to get out of here! They’re in the middle of the park, terrorizing everyone in sight!” Erik replied, pacing back and forth.

“A centaur and a crab man? Are you trying to prank us? Where are the cameras?” Harvey said.

“Harvey, duck!” Ash yelled!

Harvey looked up and saw another arrow heading straight for him. Harvey didn’t even have time to react. Then something barreled into him, and Harvey landed on the ground on his back. The breath was knocked right out of his lungs. Harvey coughed and blinked and tried to roll out from under whatever landed on him, then he saw that it was Ash. “Ash? How? You were way over there.”

“I… I’m not sure.”

“I was looking right at you and didn’t see you move. You were next to me one second, and then there was a blur and a gust of wind, and you were on top of your friend.” Erik said.

“A lot of weird stuff has been happening today,” Ash said, getting up off Harvey. “Maybe we should do like Erik said and get as far away from here as possible.”

Harvey leaped to his feet. “No! If they are hurting people, we need to try and help! I want to get a few pictures to send to my dad. These creatures may be the reason that his army unit was activated.”

“This is a stupid idea, but I’ll show you where they are. You’ll change your mind and agree with me as soon as you see them.” Erik said in frustration, but he led the other two boys through the trees and into the picnic area in the center of the park.

“I thought you were exaggerating, but that does look just like a centaur,” Harvey said.

“She’s firing arrows right at that family. Harvey’s right. We have to at least try and help.” Ashton said and took a step forward, and then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

“Ash? Where’d ya go? Erik, what happened?” Harvey said, looking all around.

“It’s the same as when he tackled you. A gust of wind and Ash was gone. Wait. Isn’t that him over by the pond?”

“It can’t be. That’s over a hundred yards away. How would he….”

Erik heard a thump and turned to see why Harvey had stopped talking. When he turned, Erik first saw the mutant crab monster, but then he saw Harvey lying face-first on the ground at the creature’s feet. Erik clenched his fists. “Get away from my friend, you freak!” To Erik’s surprise, the monster took a step back. Then Erik felt a gust of wind, and Ashton appeared.

“Harvs!” Ashton yelled and knelt by his best friend. Ash looked up at Erik, and his eyes grew wide. “Erik! You’re on fire… and you’re… floating!”

Erik looked down at himself, and his eyes widened in shock and fear. Ashton was right. His entire body was floating a foot off the ground and was engulfed in flames.

Gavin slammed the front door shut and locked it. He turned to his brother, “Logan, go to the family room. Stay away from the windows. We don’t know if that thing followed us. Hell. it might be able to track us!”

“That was scary, Gav, but you were awesome!” Logan said as he hurried into the family room.

“I… I’m not sure what I was or what happened.” He looked down at his hands, which were still covered with a light frost. Gavin wiped his hands on his jeans to try and dry them off. He sat on the couch and picked up the remote. “Let’s watch the news and see if there are any reports of other creatures like the one we saw.”

“Wow,” Logan said in awe as they watched short homemade video clips play on the television. “If we didn’t see what we saw, I’d think the footage of that minotaur was fake news!”

“Looks like the army is setting up checkpoints all over town. We should try and get in touch with dad and find out what’s up.”

“Ok. You text dad, and I’ll text Harvs. If the high school hasn’t closed yet, it will soon.”

Grace paced in front of the entrance to Justyce Labs, peering through the windows. She saw no movement, and Caleb had not answered any calls or texts. Grace didn’t want to drive back home yet. Grace went for a walk while waiting to hear from her friend. She was close to the high school, so she explored in that direction. Bryson told her that he saw fires near the high school last night. Maybe Grace could find a piece of this troublesome meteor.

Grace saw the only unusual thing at the high school was that it was deserted. The school must have let out early today. She wondered if that was related to all the strange events going on. It had to be. She kept walking past the school but stopped short when she reached the baseball field. There were scorched patches of grass all over the area and a sizable crater right where the pitcher’s mound should be. Grace opened the gate and walked in.

Grace didn’t see any of the blue stones near the scorched patches of grass. Grace made her way to the crater. She guessed someone else must have removed the meteor that caused the hole because she saw footprints everywhere. At least two different shoe treads and one set of barefoot tracks. Grace knelt down and examined the indentation at the center of the crater. That’s odd, she thought. It looks more like a body’s outline than a rock’s shape.

As Grace stood up, she didn’t notice the other shadow that merged with her own. Before reaching the top of the crater, Grace felt a cold chill run up and down her spine. She shivered and rubbed her arms. Grace stepped into the sunlight and never gave the weird feeling a second thought.

Logan wandered into the kitchen, looking for his brother. “Gav, Harvey still isn’t answering texts. I even tried calling, but it went to voicemail.”

Gavin gulped down the rest of his Mountain Dew and frowned. “I saw on the news that the high school closed and sent everyone home. He should be here by now.”

“Any news from dad?”

“Yes, but just vague stuff. ‘I won’t be home tonight. Don’t worry. Don’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary.’” Gavin shrugged. “He’s probably not saying anything specific in case anyone monitors his phone.”

“Should we be worried about Harvey?”

“We will look for him if he’s not home in another half hour. In the meantime, keep texting him. Hopefully, he’ll answer soon.”

“Got it.” Logan wandered back into the family room to watch the news for more updates about the strange events all over town. At the same time, he continued to text his younger brother.

Caleb didn’t even bother knocking when he got to Christine’s house. He was too excited to see this boy she told him about. Caleb rushed into the kitchen and found his sister sitting at the table drinking tea. “Where is he? You didn’t let him leave, did you?”

“No. Of course, the boy is still here. He just woke up. He doesn’t remember what happened to him. I turned the tv on in the living room and made him a couple of sandwiches. Take it slow, Caleb. That boy looks like he’s been through Hell.”

“What about the wounds on his back? You said his blood is blue and glowing?”

“Yes, and he’s healing remarkably fast. The cuts were open and raw last night. Now, they look like they’ve been healing for a week!”

“Amazing! Let me go talk to him.” Caleb said and rushed out of the room.

Caleb stopped just inside the doorway to the living room. His breath caught in his throat. At first glance, the view could have been mistaken for millions of similar scenes worldwide. A teenage boy was sprawled on the couch watching tv while practically inhaling sandwiches and potato chips. Then Caleb noticed the boy’s eyes. He had the brightest blue eyes that Caleb had ever seen, but that wasn’t what caught Caleb’s attention. The boy’s eyes weren’t exactly glowing, but they shone in the dim light. It reminded Caleb of how a cat’s eyes reflected low light allowing them to see in the dark. The boy turned his head and looked directly at Caleb. A momentary jolt of fear shot through Caleb, but when the boy smiled, Caleb knew that there was not one evil bone in that boy’s body. Caleb slowly moved further into the room. Not wanting to spook the boy, Caleb sat on the opposite end of the couch.

The trauma surgeon stormed up to the Emergency Room Nurse’s Station and slammed his fist on the counter. “What happened to my patient. The guy with the two crushed legs. I expected him in my operating room fifteen minutes ago. Now I find out that he isn’t even in the hospital anymore! Why wasn’t I updated! Where did he go?”

The nurse took a deep breath before answering the angry surgeon. “Please do not yell at me or any of the nurses, Dr. Jackson. I know that two men in lab coats came in with paperwork from hospital administration. It gave them permission to transfer your patient and another patient who came in at the same time.”

“Where did they take them? They were in no condition to be moved.” The doctor said wonderingly.

“I’ll check the records and see if I can find out.” The nurse replied. She hit some buttons on the computer, clicked away with the mouse for a few minutes, and then looked back at Dr. Jackson. “Looks like they were transferred to Justyce Labs. That’s weird, isn’t it, doctor?”

“Very, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Caleb Justyce donates more money to this hospital than all the other donors. I don’t know what he plans on doing with those two young men, but the hospital would never say no to him.” The doctor scowled and left the nurse’s station.

“Hello. My name is Caleb. My sister,” Caleb motioned toward the kitchen, “said you’ve been hurt. What is your name? Can you tell me what happened to you?”

“I…” The boy got a look of intense concentration on his face. “I think my name is Obadiah, but I am not sure. I can’t remember much of anything before last night.”

“That’s ok, Obadiah. Take it slow. How did you end up here at my sister’s house? Do you live nearby?”

“I woke up in the middle of a field. It was raining, and everything around me was burning. My back hurt. A lot. The only light that I saw led me here.”

“Can I see your back, Obadiah? I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Obadiah frowned but turned away from Caleb and gently lifted his shirt. Caleb’s eyes widened, and he nearly gasped. The wounds were still raw, but they looked like wounds that had been healing for days, not overnight. Glowing blue blood still oozed from several spots, but the lacerations mainly had scabbed over. Caleb sat back and looked intently at Obadiah.

“I know you don’t know me, and there’s no reason for you to trust me, but I would like you to come to stay with me at my laboratory. I’m a research scientist, and I think that I can help you. They wouldn’t know what to do if you went to a regular hospital. They’d probably ship you off to the army base, and no one would ever see you again.”

“No! I won’t be locked away by the soldiers!” Obie looked directly into Caleb’s eyes. “I think I can trust you. I will go to your lab.”

“Do you remember anything before waking up in the field, Obadiah?”

Obie thought really hard. “I was falling. It felt like I fell forever. I think I was falling away from people who hurt me, but I was also falling toward someone. I think I was falling toward someone named Logan. I will go with you, Caleb, but only if you help me find Logan.”

Caleb nodded. “Of course, I will. Maybe Logan will know more about you and where you come from.”

“Thank you.” Obadiah stood up. “I am ready to go with you now.”

Caleb said goodbye to his sister and led Obie out to his car. Caleb glanced at his phone and saw about a dozen missed calls and texts from Grace Santos. After listening to and reading the messages, he pulled his car out onto the street and sped off toward Justyce Labs.

Carl Chambers pulled the black van into the Newville Community Credit Union’s rear parking lot. He parked far away from the other cars. Carl shook his head, his golden mane flying wildly around his face, and glanced into the rearview mirror at Danielle Gordon. Dani was sprawled out on the middle seat of the van. “That was interesting. Even everyday things like driving will take some getting used to with our new bodies.”

“Yeah. We’ll have to customize everything. I can’t even sit properly with this tail. Some of us won’t be able to move around in public without attracting attention.”

Carl looked thoughtful. “You’re right. Especially once we begin our plans, we will have to find a new headquarters. Somewhere secret. They would find us at the union hall. We’ll move the meteorite and anything else important tonight.”

“You ready for this, Carl? We’ve mugged people, robbed gas stations, and other small stuff, but this is big.” Dani pointed at the bank.

“I’ve been ready for this for years. Let our reign of terror begin.” Carl threw his head back and roared.

The lion and the scorpion walked through the credit union’s front doors, and everyone stopped and stared. One of the security guards sauntered over with a smirk on his face. “Y’all can’t come into a bank wearing those silly costumes. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Dani sneered at the guard. “Silly costumes? How dare you address the Zodiac Club in such a bold manner!” Dani’s tail swung around and hit the guard square in the chest, sending him flying backward out of the front window. He landed on the sidewalk in a shower of broken glass. The second guard barely had a chance to move before Carl grabbed him and threw him through the window to join his partner on the sidewalk.

Carl looked around the bank. He pointed at the customers with one big furry paw. “All of you get on the floor facedown, and you just might live to see another day.”

As the customers obeyed Carl, Dani walked up to the closest bank teller and set a pile of bags on the counter. “Hello. My name is Scorpia. My friend Leo and I represent the Zodiac Club, and we would like to make a withdrawal from your bank today. Fill up all these bags, and don’t try anything heroic. I don’t want to kill you, but I will.” Scorpia smashed her tail onto a nearby desk to emphasize her point, splintering it into kindling. The bank tellers quickly got to work filling the bags.

Coming Soon: Episode 5 – A Firefly and a Pocket Watch

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