The Shadow Rises
Gavin sat in the steel chair and stared up at the two soldiers who were staring back down at him. He tried to wriggle his arms but only succeeded in causing the zip ties to tighten even further.
One of the soldiers spoke. “Before you try to freeze anything, be aware that Private Anderson is monitoring you with infrared. If your body temperature drops, he’ll shoot you with another tranquilizer.”
Gavin sneered. “That sounds more fun than talking to you.”
The soldier raised his arm and backhanded Gavin across the mouth, knocking his head backward. “Lose the smart mouth. How did you gain your powers, and what is your connection to the mutant we captured with you?”
“Mutant? I thought that was your mom.”
The soldier backhanded Gavin again. Gavin’s lip split, and he spit blood out onto the floor. “How did you gain your powers?” The soldier demanded.
Gavin’s eyes darted toward the CCTV camera pointing down from the ceiling. “Is my father watching this? Tell him if he wants any information from me to come get it himself.”
The soldier ignored Gavin. “Do you know someone named Bryson Indiana?”
“Is that even a real name? That sounds fake. Go get my father.”
“Have you come in contact with any meteor rocks?”
“You took one out of my pocket, idiot. Go get my father.”
“How do you control the ice and get it to do what you want it to do?” The soldier leaned in close, attempting to intimidate Gavin.
“What part of go get my father do you not understand?” Gavin’s eyes were shining a bright icy blue. He smirked and let out a breath, coating the soldier’s face with frost.
The soldier punched Gavin in the face, Gavin’s head rocked back. Gavin and the chair he was tied to fell backward. His head hit the cement floor with a thud. The soldier turned to Private Anderson, pointed at Gavin, and yelled. “He used his powers! Shoot him!”
Erik walked Grace down to the end of the street and almost took a left toward his house. He stopped and looked over at Grace. “Which way?”
Grace arched an eyebrow and pointed to the right. “I live that way, but it kinda looked like you live in the other direction.”
Erik smiled. “You are extremely perceptive. Smart and beautiful. You are the total package. Are you real? You’re not a robot, are you?” He smirked.
Grace smiled. “You’re funny. Even on a day like today, you’ve made me laugh more than once. I am not a robot. Thank you, you’re adorable. You must have all the girls fighting over you, or the boys… no judgment.” She arched an eyebrow questioningly at Erik.
Erik shook his head. “I’m not interested in the college girls.” He shrugged. “No boys for me, but, yeah, no judgments here either. Most of my best friends are all bi or gay.” He looked directly at Grace. “What I want is a woman who knows what she wants in life, and she goes out and gets it. I don’t want some girl who is just figuring out what she wants to do. I want a strong independent woman who goes out and fights for what she wants and takes it.”
“Fair points, but what if it’s you that she wants? Could she just walk up and take what she wants?”
“Obviously, if we’re talking about people, there would have to be mutual consent, but if there was… I have no problem at all with a woman taking control.”
Grace reached over and grabbed two handfuls of Erik’s t-shirt. She pulled him in close until they were nose to nose. She grinned. “Is there mutual consent?”
Erik’s eyes lit up with the fire that was just barely contained beneath his skin. “Oh, there is definitely mutual consent, darling.”
Erik started to lean in, but Grace beat him to it, and their lips met. She let go of his t-shirt. One of her hands slid down his body and came to rest on his hip, while her other hand found its way into his thick curly red hair. By the time they broke the kiss, they were both gasping for breath. Grace huffed out a laugh. “That was…. unexpected, but enjoyable. I do have to get home. We’ve both had quite a day.”
“I don’t think that this.” He motioned between the two of them. “Had anything to do with what happened today. I’ll prove that to you if I have to. Can I meet you for coffee tomorrow morning?”
Grace nodded. “I’d like that. I’ll text you after I’ve sorted things out with Caleb and Bryson. Goodnight, Erik.” She leaned in for one last quick kiss.
“Are you sure I can’t walk you all the way home?”
“I’ll be fine. Go home. get some sleep.” Grace smiled and turned to finish walking home.
Ashton walked out of the bathroom and tossed the towel into the hamper in the corner of the room. “That shower felt amazing.” He said as he flopped down on Harvey’s bed.
Harvey’s eyes raked up and down Ash’s nearly naked body. He propped himself up on one elbow to get a better look. “I didn’t realize you took such a beating today. That’s a lot of bruises. Doesn’t your supercharged metabolism give you fast healing?”
“You should have seen me a couple hours ago. I was more bruise than clear skin. I do heal fast, but there was a lot to heal.”
“I’m sorry you got hurt. I wasn’t much help. We really need to get better with our abilities.” Harvey reached his hand out and lightly ran his fingertips over one of Ashton’s bruises. The electricity in Harvey’s body tingled and sparked between his fingers and the bruise on Ash’s chest. Harvey watched in amazement as the bruise lightened and disappeared. Harvey grinned and looked at Ash. “Did you see that? That was awesome!”
“I saw it and felt it! Try again on another one.”
Harvey’s fingers slowly made their way up and down Ashton’s body, healing his cuts and bruises. “I wonder if I’m healing you or supercharging your own speed healing. Would this work on other people or just you?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s my healing. I feel that same itchiness. My body is probably defending itself against your electricity. I think I’m healing the electricity burns, but because there are other injuries there, they get healed, too.”
“It makes sense that it only works with you. I’ve always been connected to you. One more cut to go.” Harvey kept staring into Ashton’s eyes as he brought his hand up to Ash’s face. Harvey slowly ran his finger over Ash’s cut lip. Then, when the cut was healed, Harvey cupped Ash’s cheek. “Can I ask you a question?”
Ashton pressed his face against Harvey’s hand. “You can ask me anything. You already know that.”
“I… yeah, I know…” Harvey got a look of intense concentration on his face. “Why haven’t we ever… you know… done stuff together?”
Ash raised one eyebrow and smirked. “We do lots of stuff together, Harvs.”
Harvey rolled his eyes. “You know what I’m asking. Why haven’t we ever done… that?”
Ashton sat up and wriggled until he was leaning against the wall at the head of Harvey’s bed. He patted the bed next to him. “Come up here and sit next to me.”
Harvey sat next to Ash. They were close enough that their bare legs were touching. “Is… is it ok that I asked you that? I know we never talk about that subject.”
“It’s more than ok, Harvs. I’ve dreamed of you finally asking me this. To answer your question, the reason we’ve never messed around is that I wasn’t sure that it was what you wanted. You’ve always been super wishy-washy about your sexuality.”
“You mean that you’ve wanted to for a while? How long?”
“The first time that I saw you in kindergarten when we were five years old, I knew that we would be best friends forever. I figured the rest out when we were thirteen.” Ash shrugged.
“Four years ago? Wow. How could we be so in sync about absolutely everything and yet miss the fact that we both wanted the same thing but were afraid to ask?”
“You wanted to, too? Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t think you were into me. You dated other people but never showed that kind of interest in me.”
“Do you want to know why none of those relationships went past a first or second date?”
“Sure. You never explained any of that to me before. I assumed you didn’t want to talk about relationships with me.”
“There’s a reason for that. None of those relationships worked because none of those people were you. Every time they tried to get close, I’d push them away. I have absolutely zero interest in getting physical with anyone but you. People bugged me to label my sexuality, so I picked the closest thing to what I am.” Ash shrugged. “I’m not really a pansexual, though. I’m a Harveysexual. You are the only person in the world that I want to be with. This newest thing with our powers fitting together so well just tells me that I’ve been right all along. You’re the only one for me. If you’re not ready… if you don’t want me like that… if you…”
Harvey leaned in and kissed Ash. “Shush. I do want you. I think I always have, but I was scared you didn’t want the same thing. I was scared I would ruin our perfect friendship. I was even scared of my own sexuality. Dad seemed so disappointed when Logan came out.” Harvey shrugged. “A Harveysexual, huh?” Harvey chuckled. “That’s the sweetest and sexiest thing anyone has ever said or could ever say to me. I’m a hot mess emotionally, though. Are you sure you want me?”
Ash pushed himself up and straddled Harvey’s lap. He looked down into Harvey’s bright blue eyes and cupped his face with both hands. “You are the only one in the world for me, Harvey Kastala. I want you by my side and in my bed forever.”
“We’re in my bed right now,” Harvey smirked.
Ashton rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why I love you so damn much.”
Harvey blushed and smiled. “I love you, too.”
Ash grinned. “We should probably sleep now. It’s late, and we’re probably in for another long day tomorrow.”
“I have things other than sleep on my mind, but you’re right… as usual.” Harvey pulled Ash down into another kiss. “Goodnight, … boyfriend.”
Ash grinned and rolled off of Harvey to lie beside him. “Goodnight, boyfriend.” Harvey clicked off the light, and they closed their eyes to go to sleep.
Grace realized her mistake just moments before she felt the rough hands push her into the mouth of the alley. Distracted within her own thoughts, she wandered too close to the docks. This was the wrong part of town to walk through and not pay strict attention to everything around you. Stupid! Maybe she should have let Erik walk her home after all!
The Newville Docks belonged to Carl Chambers and his band of union thugs. They ran the docks and the surrounding neighborhood as if they were the New York mafia. Grace typically stayed on the north side of State Street. There were just far too many thugs in the area from State Street to River Road. This was a bad part of town even before today’s chaos. Now, here she was, unwittingly walking down State Street towards the docks. She cursed herself and all the crazy events that filled her mind and distracted her thoughts. Angels, superheroes, mutants, supervillains, and Erik. Any one of those things was more than enough to distract someone, but she should have paid closer attention to where she was until she got safely home.
When they pushed her, Grace hit her head on the brick wall of the hardware store. She wiped the blood from her face and turned to face her attacker. There were two of them. She was mildly relieved that they were human thugs and not giant hulking mutants that her new friends had been fighting all day. They stood leering at her and blocking her path out of the alley. They both towered over her, but Grace stood only five feet one inch and a mere hundred and five pounds. She grimaced and said, “I don’t suppose you boys would give a girl a break. I only live on the next street over. I took a bit of a wrong turn.”
The older of the two said, “Your wrong turn is our good fortune. Now hand over your money and jewelry before we have to get rough with you.”
Grace noticed the younger one take a step back. His eyes grew wide with fear. He pointed at the wall behind Grace with one hand and grabbed his friend’s arm with his other hand. “Look! Joe, do you see that? What is that? Is that another one of those things from on the news?” He was stuttering his words and walking back towards the mouth of the alley.
The older thug, at first, swatted his friend’s hand away, but then he saw the same thing his friend had. He, too, started to back away. Bewildered by their unexpected behavior, Grace began to turn towards the wall but found herself sinking into an inky darkness, and she blacked out.
Neither Gary Roberts nor Joe Daniels found a problem with their evening activities. It was what was expected of them by their boss, Carl Chambers. Carl ran the docks and the surrounding neighborhoods like his own private mafia. He had guys like Gary and Joe collecting protection money from the local businesses and robbing the unwary pedestrians who wandered into the neighborhood. They hadn’t been able to contact Carl or any of the other union bosses all day. They must be dealing with the damage that Gary and Joe saw at the union hall. Even though they hadn’t been able to find Carl today, when they saw this female walk down the street alone, they never hesitated to push her into the alley. This is what Carl expected of them.
Now, they were doing more than hesitating. Gary and Joe may have made the biggest mistake in their mistake-filled lives. They were both backing out of the alley and staring unbelievingly at the growing shadow on the wall. As the shadow grew, it also filled out. Before their stunned eyes, it separated itself from the wall, and the woman disappeared into the body of the creature.
As soon as the shadow became fully awake, it had the ancestral memories of all shadows before it. The hunger gnawed at its belly. Creatures of the light associate shadows with evil, though they indeed linger around evil creatures. Shadows are not evil; shadows devour evil. This shadow immediately sensed the sinful nature of the two men, and it hungered for their souls. As the light drained out of the alley, the shadow glided forward towards its intended prey.
Sylvester sat bolt upright on the couch, instantly awake. For a minute, he didn’t know where he was or what woke him up. Then it came back to him. He was at Logan’s house. He looked around the dark living room, wondering what woke him. Then he felt the waves of power flowing into him. Sy flung the covers off of himself and rushed down the hall toward Logan’s room. He knocked softly. “Logan? Are you awake?” Sy heard low moans coming from behind the door, and he felt the power flow increasing. He hated to burst into the room uninvited, but there was no time to mess around. Sylvester turned the handle and opened the door.
When Sy entered Logan’s bedroom, he immediately saw that the older boy was still asleep. Logan appeared to be having a nightmare. Sy smelled smoke, and then he saw it rising from the bed all around Logan. Sy rushed to the bed and sat by Logan’s side. He gently shook the other boy. “Logan, wake up. Come on, you’re overheating again. Please wake up.” Sy pressed his hands against Logan’s bare chest, hoping to absorb as much of the power as he could.
Logan’s eyes fluttered open, and he groaned. “Wh-what’s going on? Sy? What’re you doing in here? What’s that smell?”
Sylvester pulled Logan up to a sitting position and wrapped his arms around Logan’s neck. “Thank God you’re awake! You were scaring me. Look at your bed.”
“What happened? Was I using my power in my sleep?”
“You must have been having a nightmare. I felt it all the way out in the living room. We’re lucky it woke me up.”
“Yeah, now that you say that, I was dreaming about the fight. That’s not good that my power can go off in my sleep. I really need to find a way to control this.”
“Until you do, I’m not leaving your side. Move over.”
“Huh?” Logan looked confused.
“Move over.” Sy grinned and motioned with his hand.
Logan slid over closer to the wall. Sy lifted the blankets and slid into Logan’s bed. Sylvester stretched and yawned. “Goodnight, Logan.”
“Goodnight, Sy,” Logan said with a smile as he drifted back to sleep.
The two men may have been able to escape if they had turned and ran. Even with all the weird stories that they had heard all day, they still couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of the supernatural. By the time they decided to run, it was too late.
Darkness shrouded the entire alley now. The sun was nearly set. The shadow moved with incredible speed, slamming one of the men into the brick wall on one side of the alley. His head hit the wall with such force that his neck snapped with a sickening crunch. The shadow’s form filled out into a humanoid shape. The shape it took was determined by the host body that it inhabited. It could alter its size and shape at will. As it moved towards the second man, its body continued to grow. It was now over seven feet tall with heavily muscled limbs that ended in jagged claws. It towered over the man and grabbed him by the throat with one massive claw. The claw dug into the man’s flesh, and the shadow pulled him close. Its face was featureless except for two bright red glowing eyes. The eyes caught and held the man’s attention.
Gary Roberts went slack within the shadow’s grasp. Staring into the creature’s eyes somehow forced Gary to relive every terrible thing he had ever done in his entire life. The shadow hungrily fed on the evil nature of Gary’s memories. The creature finished feeding on Gary’s memories and released him. Gary fell to his knees, his hair now completely white and his face haggard and drawn. Drool dripped from the side of his mouth as he sat there, unable to move, just staring off into the distance.
The shadow exited the alley, making sure to avoid the bright streetlights. It looked around at its new surroundings. Much had changed since it was last free to roam the Earth. It could smell evil everywhere. That was something it could always depend on. It could always find evil in man’s settlements. There was much work for the shadow this time. A woman’s screams caught its attention. The shadow moved off towards the source of the sound.
When the shadow creature left the alley, Jayden peeked out from behind a large dumpster. He saw that the path was clear and motioned to Luke and Isabella that it was safe. “Wow. What was that? With all the weird and scary things that we’ve seen today, that was the weirdest and scariest.”
“These two guys are dead. We better get out of here before anyone sees us, and we get accused. Carl will want to hear about this anyway.” Luke said.
“Don’t touch anything. Try not to even leave footprints.” Izzy said as she carefully stepped out of the alley.
“Can this day get any worse?” Jay asked as he and Luke followed Izzy down the street as they hurried back to the Zodiac Club warehouse headquarters.
As the three entered the warehouse, Luke took the lead. He scanned the room and headed straight for Carl Chambers. “Hey, Carl,” Luke said. “We have news. All of it bad.”
Carl’s lip twitched as he looked at the three. His eyes flicked from face to face. “Where’s Capricorn?”
Luke grimaced. “That’s part of the bad news. Virgo and Capricorn tracked some stones to the Portside Restaurant. They met some resistance. The ice guy that Aries fought earlier was there. During their fight, the cops and the army showed up. Virgo escaped, but the army took both the ice guy and Capricorn.”
Carl shook his head and growled. “We need to find out if they are being held here in town with the cops or if they were taken to the army base.” Leo scratched his chin. “The army could end up doing us a favor if they scoop up all these would-be heroes, but we can’t let them catch us. We need to get Capricorn back. Aries will probably go looking for her whether I want him to or not since she is his wife. I’ll have Taurus go with him and check out the police precinct on the docks. You three see if you can track where the soldiers are staying. The base is pretty far away. They may have temporary quarters set up. Go first thing in the morning.”
Luke nodded. “Uhm… Carl? Err… Leo? There is one more thing.”
Leo grinned. “I ask for us to use the codenames, so no one screws up when we’re out there.” He pointed outside. “What other news do you have, Aquarius?”
“That’s understandable. Anyway, two of our enforcers are dead. We saw what killed them, but there wasn’t anything we could do. It was… I don’t even know. A demon? It looked like it was made out of shadows. It happened so quick. The thing smashed one guy against the brick wall, then it looked like it sucked the lifeforce out of the other guy. When they were both dead, the shadow left. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen in my life.”
Leo shook his head. “Possibly something else affected by the meteors. Too much of a coincidence to be anything else, I’d think. I’ll pass the word for everyone to be extra careful if they go out after dark.” Carl pointed toward the back of the warehouse. “We partitioned off part of the warehouse and put out some cots for anyone who doesn’t feel safe going home. I’ll address all of these things with everyone in the morning. We have a lot to talk about and a lot to think about.”
Luke nodded. “I agree.” He looked at Jayden and motioned toward the cots. Jayden nodded in agreement. Luke looked back at Carl. “We’ll stay here for the night. It’s late, and I don’t want to run into that shadow.”
Carl turned and walked back to the warehouse office, and the other three walked toward the back of the warehouse to check out the sleeping arrangements.
Caleb made one last walk through the lab for the night. Obadiah was sleeping soundly, finally. All the read-outs on the two car accident victims looked as good as expected under the circumstances. Caleb watched them closely all day, and their stats were steadily improving. He had specialists and surgeons coming to the lab tomorrow. After a few more tests, Caleb wanted to give patient number one a blood transfusion from Obadiah. The man’s injuries were life-threatening without drastic action.
The other patient was going to need multiple amputations. Caleb had a bionic limb specialist flying in from San Diego. In a regular hospital under normal conditions, both of these men would be dead in a matter of days, but this was not a traditional hospital, and these were not normal conditions. With Obadiah’s healing properties and some experimental nanites that Caleb had just developed, Caleb thought he could not only save both men, but he felt extremely confident that he would make them into real-life superheroes.
Another thing that Caleb desperately needed was an assistant. He was utterly wiped out and wanted to go home and sleep in his own bed, but he could not leave these three unattended. He shuffled slowly back to his office and lay down on his couch. Caleb was asleep in seconds.