New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 5)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 5 – A Firefly and a Pocket Watch

Oliver Mills was having a dreadful day. His girlfriend left him. Ollie’s landlord kept nagging him about late rent. Then his car wouldn’t start, and Oliver missed the bus. That caused him to walk to his job interview, and Ollie was already running a half-hour late. He wondered what else could go wrong today when Ollie heard the screaming. Great, someone was robbing the credit union. Ollie ran across the street to hide. He peered out from behind a bush in time to see two security guards flying backyards out of the credit union front windows. Ollie knew he should run in the opposite direction, but curiosity got the better of him.

Oliver heard more screams from within the bank, and then he saw something he couldn’t believe. A lady with a scorpion tail and a lion creature walked out of the credit union’s front doors carrying large duffel bags, presumably filled with money. Ollie stepped back to hide within the bushes, and his foot slipped on a metal object. Kneeling to look at whatever he almost tripped over, Ollie dug the item out of the dirt and brushed it off. It was an old pocket watch. Ollie doubted if it would even still work. Curious, he opened the front case and cleaned the glass face. The time looked right. Ollie checked his phone, and sure enough, the watch’s time was exact.

Oliver pulled the crown to check if he could still set the time if needed. The watch looked antique. Maybe it was worth something if it still worked perfectly. Ollie was about to push the crown back in when he noticed something else odd. Everything today was weird, but this was beyond all the rest. A butterfly hung in the air right in front of him, floating there, not moving. Oliver glanced around. He could move, but nothing else moved. He peered through the bushes. Even the monsters stood frozen in place. Ollie absentmindedly clicked the crown of the pocket watch back in place, and everything roared back to life.

Erik screamed and started beating at his body with his hands to try and extinguish the bright yellow flames. “What the hell? Why am I on fire, and why am I floating?”

Cancer sneered and stepped closer to Ash and Harvey. “While your fiery friend is beating himself up, I’ll take care of the two of you. I can sense the blue stones. Give them to me, or the consequences will be severe.”

Ashton pulled Harvey’s unconscious body away from the crab creature, then stood between his friend and the terrifying monster. “You’re not getting the stones, and you’re not getting to my friends without a fight!”

“Ash! Duck!” Erik yelled.

Ash looked behind him and saw Erik with his arms out and intense concentration on his face. Ash didn’t hesitate. He dove on top of Harvey to protect him from whatever was about to happen. Just as Ash dove, he felt a searing heat above him. Ashton saw a stream of yellow fire emitting from Erik’s hands and striking Cancer directly in the chest.

Cancer ripped his burned shirt off when the flames stopped and threw it on the ground. “That hurt, boy, but I’m still standing. What else you got?” Cancer said, taking a step toward Erik.

“Damn! Those flames were hot, but they were too light and airy. I wonder if I can adjust the heat levels?” Erik mumbled to himself. He kept an eye on the advancing crab creature and tried to take a step backward. Erik was still floating and had lost his sense of balance. Erik did a summersault in mid-air as he stepped back before regaining control. Once he was upright again, Erik threw another stream of fire at Cancer.

The crab slowed his advance. “That’s annoying, boy, but you’ll have to do better.”

Erik clenched his fists and closed his eyes in concentration. He pictured himself creating a massive ball of fire to throw at Cancer. Erik felt himself fall, and his feet hit the ground. Erik stumbled, but he stayed upright. When Erik opened his eyes, the flames covering his body had changed from a bright yellow to dark orange. Also, he was holding a giant ball of fire. Erik threw the fireball as hard as he could. It hit Cancer with a thud, knocking him off his feet and sending him twenty feet backward.

Erik glanced over at Ashton. “Get Harvey out of here and help the others down in the park. I got this.”

Harvey was awake but dizzy. Ash helped Harvey get groggily to his feet, and the two friends disappeared into the trees heading toward the park’s central section.

When Ash and Harvey cleared the tree line and looked down into the park, the centaur was still firing arrows at people as they tried to run away. Ashton put a hand on Harvey’s arm. “I’ll be right back. Let me go and help these people.”

“I can help. Just let me clear my head. I’m still a bit dizzy.”

“Sit down, Harvs. I’ll be right back.” Ashton said and was gone in the blink of an eye. Harvey looked around and then spotted Ash fifty yards away, knocking an arrow out of mid-air and helping a lady escape into the trees. Harvey couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His best friend was a bona fide superhero! He took out his cellphone and started taking pics and videos of the action.

Cancer got up and charged at Erik. Erik tried to form another fireball, but the crab was on top of him before he could get one ready. Before Cancer reached him, Erik tried to float but couldn’t get off the ground. Cancer struck Erik right in the midsection, and the two tumbled to the ground. Cancer knelt on Erik’s chest and raised his claw above his head, ready to strike. Erik raised both hands and shot a small fireball right into the crab’s face. Cancer rolled off Erik, and Erik leaped to his feet. He willed his flames to get hotter again. Erik’s whole body glowed with yellow fire, and he rose into the air. That was the key. The orange and red fire was heavier and better used for fireballs, and the yellow fire was hotter, lighter, and perfect for flight. Erik was starting to figure out his power. He wondered what else he could do. He’d have to experiment when he wasn’t fighting for his life!

Finally gaining a little control over his new power, Erik fired shots of the yellow fire at Cancer, making the crab yelp in pain and roar in anger. Erik knew he couldn’t defeat the monster this way, but he tried to lure the creature away from his friends and the innocent bystanders in the park. Erik led Cancer to the east, away from the high school and toward the docks.

Ashton was busy dodging arrows and carrying people out of harm’s way. His confidence grew with each person he saved. Unfortunately, with overconfidence comes complacency. Ash failed to notice Sagittarius leap on top of the boathouse to gain a broader range for her arrows. Ash set a small boy down inside the tree line and turned back toward the lake. Before he could move out of the way, Ash was struck in the left shoulder with an arrow. The force of the blow caused him to stumble, and then another arrow embedded itself into his right thigh. Ash fell, moaning in pain.

Harvey saw the scene unfolding right in front of him, but he couldn’t do anything to stop it. Harvey yelled for Ash to turn around, but his friend was too far away and couldn’t hear him. Harvey stood up, slid his phone into his pocket, and ran as fast as possible across the park. Harvey reached Ashton’s side just as the other boy fell to the ground. Harvey looked up at the centaur, standing on top of the boathouse. “Leave my friend alone! What do you want? Why are you doing this?” Harvey barely noticed that his entire body felt tingly, and blue electric sparks ran back and forth between his fingertips.

“I’m here for the blue stones and will kill anyone who has them. I will also kill anyone who stands in my way. That means your friend must die, and you too, by the looks of things.” The centaur said as she notched another arrow into her bow.

“I won’t let you kill him,” Harvey said. As Harvey’s anger rose, the electrical sparks multiplied and arced in the air around him. Harvey looked at himself in wonder, not understanding what was happening. Harvey didn’t even notice as Sagittarius let loose the arrow and let it fly directly at his chest.

Ollie scowled. No. It couldn’t be. It’s not possible. No way. Ollie pulled the crown back out, and everything froze in place. He thought, “If giant scorpions and lion-minotaurs are real, why not magic pocket watches that stop time?” He looked at the watch, then back at the scene in front of the bank. Ollie spun the hands of the watch forward. Everything moved forward at the same pace at which he moved the hands of the pocket watch and stopped when he stopped moving the hands.

Ollie noticed that, forward in time, the scorpion lady drove her stinger into the chest of one of the security guards. He stepped out from his hiding spot and twisted the hands in reverse. Ollie watched as the tail pulled out of the guard’s body and the wound closed. Even the clothes knitted back together. Oliver Mills realized that he was now in complete control of time.

Ollie thought about the day he’d been having and decided to take fate into his own hands. Luck and fortune had spit in his face for years. It was time for that to change. Oliver left the crown, pulled out, and slipped it into his pocket. The first thing he did was pull the security guard out of the range of the scorpion’s tail. There, that was his good deed for the day. Now it was time for Ollie to take care of himself. He found a pick-up truck parked on the street. The driver was frozen in place just outside the truck. Ollie took the keys from the driver’s pocket and pulled the man onto the sidewalk. Then he went back to the front of the bank. Ollie took the duffel bags one at a time from the monsters, emptied them into the truck’s cab, and returned the bags full of rocks.

Ollie sat in the truck, took the watch out, and pushed the crown in. He started the truck and drove off. Oliver Mills was gone before the truck owner realized what had happened. He never looked back, or Ollie would have seen the scorpion strike the sidewalk full force with its stinger and yell in rage and pain.

Erik led Cancer around the park’s edge and then caught a whiff of ozone in the air. “That’s weird.” Erik thought. “There’s not a cloud in the sky, much less a thunderstorm.” He shot another fireball at the crab and floated higher into the sky to look around. Erik looked toward the lake and spotted the centaur on the boathouse. She had her bow raised. Erik looked to see what she was aiming at and saw his two friends. Ashton was on the ground, and Harvey was standing between Ash and the centaur. Erik saw that Harvey was the source of the ozone smell. Blue electric sparks danced around Harvey as he stood defensively in front of Ash. Erik noticed that Harvey was not making a move to get out of the way of the arrow, so he turned toward his friends and flew as fast as he could, shooting flames out in front of him the whole way there.

Harvey felt the heat before he saw the fire. He looked up to see a flaming arrow disintegrating on its way toward him. Then Erik was landing next to Harvey, covered in bright yellow fire. The centaur cursed and reached for a new arrow, but Erik let loose another stream of fire. Sagittarius reared up to escape the flames, causing her to lose her balance. She fell to the ground but quickly got to her feet. Sagittarius reached for her bow, but it was ablaze on the ground near the boathouse.

Cancer ran up, slightly out of breath, to stand next to Sagittarius. “You can’t beat us! The Zodiac Club will destroy you all!”

“Just watch me!” Erik said, his eyes glowing white. The yellow fire first turned bright white and then became tinged with blue. Erik floated even higher in the air as his flames got more intense and hotter. Cancer first covered his eyes, then gave up and jumped on Sagittarius’ back, and the two raced off into the distance.

Erik’s flames just kept getting brighter and hotter. Ash and Harvey had to back away from Erik. The intense heat drove them back, and they shielded their eyes from the bright light. Both boys yelled as loud as possible, letting Erik know the monsters were gone. He didn’t seem to hear them.

Ash looked at Harvey. “What will happen if he can’t stop heating up, Harvs?”

“I don’t know, Ash. I don’t know.”

A voice from behind them startled the boys. It was Bryson Indiana. “Harvey? Ashton? What is going on? Is… is that Erik Reilly?”

“Yeah,” Harvey said quickly. “He can’t hear us. We were under attack by monsters, but they are gone now. We’re trying to tell him that he can relax and cool down, but he won’t listen! Can you help us?”

“Let me try,” Bryson said. He knelt and closed his eyes. Bryson tried to focus on his newfound powers. He sent calming thoughts out toward Erik to connect with his friend.

Erik’s mind was awash in flames. He couldn’t find his way out. Erik frantically tried to regain control, but everything got hotter and hotter. Then a familiar voice called out to him. It was Bryson. Erik closed his eyes and let Bryson’s voice guide him out of the flames.

Logan slid his phone into his pocket and turned off the tv. He looked over and saw his brother grinning at his phone. “Who are you talking to, Gav? Has Harvey answered yet? Anything new from dad?”

“Nope. I haven’t heard from either of them. We should go look for Harvey right now. I have plans later tonight,”

“Plans?! Who are you texting? What are you planning?”

“I’m texting Becky. I told you I have a date tonight, don’t you remember?”

Logan’s jaw dropped, and it took him a moment to answer. “Yes, I remember you planned on going on a date, but that was before the town was attacked by monsters. It was before dad was called up to active duty. Your date was before our little brother went missing. Most importantly, it was before you turned into Ice Boy or whatever you wanna call yourself. How can you still go on a date as if nothing happened?”

“All the superheroes date, don’t they? Like Spiderman and Mary Jane? Or Lois and Clark?”

“At least you didn’t say Spiderman and Gwen Stacy. She was murdered by the Green Goblin. Most superhero significant others have short life spans.”

“Logan, I know a lot is going on, and yes, we need to find Harvs before I go, but I need this one normal thing on this crazy day. You can understand that, can’t you? Plus, Becky is the hottest girl in school. I don’t know why she said she’d go out with a dork like me, but I do not want to screw it up before our first date.”

Logan raised his eyebrows. “I’m not hitting on my big bro, but you’re a hottie, Gav. And you’re smart and interesting. I don’t understand why you don’t have all the girls and half the boys fighting over you. Especially now with those cool blue highlights you put in your hair. They totally match your eyes. Becky is the lucky one, not you.”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t dye my hair.” Gavin reached up to touch his hair as he walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror. Gavin walked back out and stood in front of Logan. “I don’t understand. It must be a side effect of the ice powers.” Gavin shrugged. “You’re right, though. It does look good. I hope it stays like that.”

“Can we go look for Harvey now? If we find him and he’s ok, I promise I won’t complain about you bailing on us and going out on a date.”

Gavin grinned. “Deal.” Gavin reached over and ruffled his younger brother’s hair. “Thank you for what you said. It means a lot. Now let’s go find our little brother.”

Erik was finally able to turn his flames off. He regained control of both his mind and body. The first things he saw when he looked around were the emerald green eyes of Bryson Indiana. “I thought I heard your voice, but from inside my head. What’s happening, Bry?” Erik started to wobble a little bit, and Bryson guided him to a park bench and sat down.

“I think it’s those rocks, Erik. I don’t know how or why yet, and I also need to figure out why they affect different people differently. I can read minds and pick up things with just a thought. You… I don’t know… you turn into fire?” He motioned toward Harvey and Ashton. “They both have powers, and there are the people who have been transformed into evil brutish monsters.”

“I don’t turn into fire. It’s like the fire is inside me. It’s always there waiting for me to call it forth. I’m learning to control it, but I’m not there yet.” Erik said.

“Maybe the people who turned into monsters were already evil. They were doing bad things, and it sounded like they had a master plan. I think there’s more of them.” Harvey said.

“There’s more to it than that.” Bryson looked thoughtful. “There are definitely more of them. I fought one earlier today that looked like an old Greek minotaur.”

“Wait… a bull, a crab, and a centaur. No wonder they called themselves The Zodiac Club. I sure hope there’s not twelve of them!” Ashton quipped.

“That is a horrifying thought, but one to keep in mind. I suggest we all keep in close contact while we’re figuring this out for our safety and to keep an eye on the monsters.”

Erik took a close look at Harvey. “You’re Gavin Kastala’s brother, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I’m the youngest. I’m Harvey.” Harvey extended his hand and then quickly pulled it back. “Is… is it safe to touch you?”

“I could ask you the same question, electric boy,” Erik smirked.

Harvey looked thoughtful. “Good point! Also, if we’re naming ourselves, I think Thunderbolt makes a more ominous name than the electric boy.” Harvey huffed out a laugh.

Ashton slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead. “Oh geez, what’s next? Spandex costumes?”

“Maybe in your fantasies,” Harvey smirked.

Ash blushed. “No comment.”

“If you two are done awkwardly flirting, can we all exchange cell phone numbers?” Bryson laughed.

After the four boys exchanged numbers, Harvey clapped Ash on the shoulder. “I have to get home and check in with my brothers. We should probably get off the streets anyway. I’m not ready for another fight! Do you need to go home, or do you wanna hang at my place?”

“I have no reason to go home. Let’s go.” Ash looked a little sad, but he gave Harvey a small smile.

“Hey, guys, before you go, do you know anyone else who may have come in contact with the meteor rocks? Harvey, what about your brothers?” Bryson asked.

“Logan left early this morning, but he didn’t say anything about the blue rocks. Gavin didn’t know anything about them because he looked confused when we saw a news report. Our dad is in the army. I’m pretty sure they know something because they activated his unit, and the only one at school that did anything weird was this guy.” Harvey pointed at Ashton and grinned.

“Yeah, the thing with the desk was bizarre, but now I know it was related to the whole superspeed thing I got going on.” Ashton shrugged. “To answer the question, no, I don’t know of any other freaks but us.”

“Ok, guys, stay in touch. Harvey, text me after you talk to your brothers.”

“I will. See ya later.” Harvey and Ash turned, jogged out of the park, and took the turn toward Harvey’s house.

As the other two boys ran off, Erik turned to Bryson. “All that power in the hands of teenage boys just trying to figure themselves out. I hope there aren’t many more rocks out there. This could be a global disaster.”

Bryson gave Erik a half-smile. “We’re not doing much better than them. You nearly went supernova! You’re right, though. Someone needs to take charge of this thing. We need to know who was affected, how many rocks are still unaccounted for, and why we all react differently to the meteors.”

“Harvey said the army is involved. Won’t they figure all that out?”

Bryson rolled his eyes. “Never trust the government, Erik. Even if they do figure it out, they’ll never tell us. If the government got their hands on anyone with powers, they’d be lab rats for life… or turned into military weapons. I’m gathering my own data, and I have a friend who is an investigative journalist who is also working on a few leads.”

“I trust you, Bryson. That’s why I followed your voice out of the fire.”

“You want me. I knew it.” Bryson smirked.

“Don’t ruin the moment, jerk face.” Erik blushed.

“Let’s go back to my place and wait for Grace’s call.”

“Quick stop to check on my dad, and maybe some burgers on the way? Flying really makes a guy hungry.”

Bryson shook his head and laughed. “I wouldn’t know, but I’m hungry myself. Let’s go.”

Ollie pulled into a car dealership and flagged down a salesman. The salesman showed him a few cars out on the lot, then Ollie asked to see the cars in the showroom. The salesman looked skeptical but agreed. Ollie spotted what he wanted almost immediately. “What about this one?” He asked.

“We can check out your loan options and credit reports at my desk. The price of that one is $78,592.00,” The salesman said.

“No loans or credit checks necessary. How much if I pay cash right now?” Ollie asked.

“No one pays that much in cash. What did you do? Rob a bank?” The salesman laughed.

“I did not rob a bank.” Ollie smiled. “But I do have the cash right here. An extra $10k if you stop asking so many questions.”

The salesman frowned. “I can’t take a bribe. Where did the cash come from? I’m calling my manager over.” He turned to walk away. Ollie sighed and pulled the watch out of his pocket. He pulled the crown and twisted time back just a few minutes. Then he pushed the crown back in.

“No one pays that much in cash. What’d you do? Rob a bank?” The salesman laughed.

“I did not rob a bank.” Ollie smiled. “But I do have the cash right here. An extra $25k if you stop asking so many questions.”

The salesman looked around, then bent closer to Oliver. “Let’s finish this conversation in my office.

Oliver Mills drove off the car lot in his brand-new cherry red Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R with white stripes and a black leather interior less than an hour later. Ollie’s difficult day was long forgotten; he pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Hey Siri, are there any luxury penthouse apartments for rent in Newville, Virginia?” He couldn’t stop smiling as he drove off into a brand-new destiny.

Coming Soon: Episode 6 – Puzzle Pieces

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

New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 3)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 3: Monsters and Heroes

Gavin didn’t look convinced. “An angel? Are you serious? That’s impossible, Logan. Maybe he’s part of whatever is going on. Be careful, Logan. The army is involved. I think you should stay away from Obadiah until we talk to dad.”

“Come with me, please, Gav. Let me show you what I found.” Logan led his brother back to the field and down to the crater’s center. “Look at that. Doesn’t it look like the imprint of a body? And look at the size of this crater, and the footprints only lead out of the crater, not in.”

“It is all very odd. I guess that’s the theme of the day. But an angel, Logan? I just don’t know. It could mean just what I said. He could be a part of whatever is happening.”

“Gavin, there’s something else. The feather was glowing a bright blue earlier, the same blue as all these little meteor rocks! Explain that! Touch one, and maybe you’ll understand.” He picked up a blue rock and tossed it to his brother.

“What the hell? It feels weird. Like it’s pulsing or something.” Gavin was now staring at the glowing blue rock in the palm of his hand. “Grab a couple more rocks so we can show them to dad when he gets home.”

Logan stuffed a few more blue rocks into the pocket of his jeans. “Gavin, I think Obie is out here somewhere. I’m worried that he may be hurt. What do we do?”

“Let’s go home and see if dad is there. If dad isn’t home, we can drive around and see if you can find your friend. But, Logan, we don’t know where he is or even what he is. You must understand that we probably won’t find him.” Gavin said.

“When I hold the feather, I feel if he’s close, but I can’t get an exact location. I appreciate you trying to help. I really do.” Logan said.

“Let’s go home and see if dad is there,” Gavin said, and they walked back to his car.

Ashton Connors sat in math class, trying to calm his nerves. Ash couldn’t sit still. His mind was in overdrive, and he hadn’t even had his usual latte that morning. Ashton heard a cracking sound and looked down. The tile underneath Ashton’s foot splintered as if someone had hit it with a hammer. “Crap!” Ash thought to himself. “I hope Mr. Bailey doesn’t see that, or he’ll blame me!” In his nervousness, Ash started tapping his pencil faster. Ashton watched, spellbound, as his hand moved so quickly that all he saw was a blur. With another loud crack, the pencil drilled entirely through the desktop.

“Mr. Connors, what is going on back there?” Mr. Bailey asked as he turned from the blackboard and looked directly at Ashton.

“Nothing, sir. Everything is fine.” Ashton was so worked up between the broken tile and the pencil sticking out of the desk that his whole body started to shake. Ash could barely follow his own movements as the desk began to vibrate.

“Mr. Connors, whatever you are doing, please stop this instant!” You’re disrupting the class, and if I have to speak to you one more time, you’re going to the principal’s office.”

“Mr. Bailey, I…” Ashton started to say, but then… CRASH!

Ashton’s desk fell apart, and he landed amongst the pieces on the floor. The students closest to him leaped out of their seats and backed away.

“Ashton! What have you done? Are you okay?” Mr. Bailey rushed to Ashton’s side.

“I’m alright. I don’t know what happened.”

Mr. Bailey’s eyes took in the disassembled desk and the smashed tile, and the pencil impaled through the desktop. He shook his head. “I don’t understand why so many of you kids have to be so destructive. Come with me, Mr. Connors.”

Ash opened his mouth to try and defend himself but quickly closed it again. It was no use. He couldn’t even explain what happened to himself, never mind explaining it to an adult. Ashton sighed and followed Mr. Bailey out of the room.

As Bryson drove through town, he took a right turn onto Sunset Street, and without warning, a car fell from the sky and landed upside down in front of him. Bryson slammed on the brakes but still smashed into the other car’s side.

Shaken up but unhurt, Bryson got out of his car and rushed to see if anyone needed help. Bryson got to the other vehicle, looked in, and saw two unconscious men. The vehicle lay on its roof, and both doors were wedged shut. Bryson peered in through the smashed windshield to see if he could pull the victims free. The driver was pinned in place by the steering wheel. The passenger hung upside down from the seatbelt and moaned softly. Bryson called 9-1-1 and reported everything he saw. After he hung up, Bryson crawled into their car to see if he could do anything while waiting for the paramedics. Bryson began feeling pain all over his body, then heard a voice. He looked at both men, and they were both still unconscious, yet a voice clearly said, “Oh God, please help me. I can’t feel my legs. I hope Brett is okay.” And someone different crying, “Oh my God, what was that thing. It looked like a bull. I can’t believe it picked up the car like a toy. Why can’t I wake up? Where’s William? I can’t see anything!”

Bryson shook his head. What the hell just happened? Was he hearing their thoughts and feeling their pain? Bryson searched to see if he could find the names William or Brett, anywhere in the car, but then he felt different feelings. Bryson was now filled with white-hot rage and heard a roaring inside his head so loud it felt like his skull may bust in two. He fell to his knees and grabbed his head. Slowly Bryson turned toward the road and then wished that he hadn’t. Bryson found himself face to face with something that should not exist outside of the movies.

The creature was seven feet tall and looked to Bryson like a minotaur out of Greek mythology, but he could still see human features beneath the dark brown fur. It had a brown leather-like hide that completely covered its massive body. The creature’s head closely resembled a bull, except the muzzle wasn’t quite so prominent. The monster also had large, sharply pointed horns protruding from its head. Its arms and upper body would put the bulkiest bodybuilders to shame, and its tree trunk sized legs ended in hooves instead of feet. Bryson could not believe his eyes. He was almost too stunned and scared to react at all. Bryson tried to slowly back up but immediately hit up against the wreckage of the cars. Bryson nearly fainted from shock when the creature began to speak.

Harvey was startled out of his reverie when he noticed his friend Ashton Connors walk out of the school, closely followed by the vice-principal. They walked to the end of the parking lot, where Ash kept walking off school property, and the vice-principal turned and walked back into the school. Harvey was staring outside, lost in thought, even though he should have been paying attention to his calculus teacher. “What was that all about?” Harvey thought to himself, then he raised his hand.

The teacher acknowledged Harvey. “Yes, Mr. Kastala?”

“May I go to the restroom, please, Mr. Sawyer?”

“Can’t it wait until the end of class?”

“Not really, sir.”

“Okay. Fine. Go. Make it quick.”

Harvey grabbed the hall pass from Mr. Sawyer’s desk and ran out of class. He ran past the bathrooms and out the front door. When Harvey got to the street, he looked all around, trying to see if he could find Ashton. Bingo. Harvey spotted Ash across the street, just entering the park. Harvey dashed off to catch up to his friend.

“Stand aside or share their fate. The stones they possess must be mine.” The bull creature stared at Bryson with glowing red eyes and waited for him to move.

The thoughts that ran through Bryson’s head were, “Could this thing be talking about one of the blue meteor rocks? Can he possibly know that I have one too? Can I live with myself if I just let him do whatever he wants to these injured men? What do I do?” The words that came out of his mouth were, “Are you really a bull? I called the cops already. Should I call animal control instead?” 

The creature roared as it charged at Bryson. He reacted without thinking. Bryson ducked under the creature’s outstretched arms and extended his own arms out towards the bull, palms outward. He felt a power surge through him, and he saw the beast thrown through the air back towards the center of the street. The bull was even angrier now. “Who are you, little man? You must have a blue rock, too. Taurus the Bull shall grind your bones to dust and take it from you!”

“Taurus the Bull shouldn’t refer to himself in the third person. It’s pretentious, especially for a heifer like you.” Quipped Bryson.

The bull lowered its head and charged again. Bryson tried to do the same thing he did before, but it didn’t work. Pain exploded in his right side, and he was lifted off the ground and tossed thirty yards down the street. Bryson smashed into a row of mailboxes. He looked back towards Taurus and saw that the bull was trying to pull one of the men out of the car. Bryson was scared, but he knew he had to try and protect the men from Taurus. Bryson groaned and stood up. He thought about how he had thrown the creature using only his mind. Bryson needed to access that power again. He looked around at the mailboxes and posts, broken and scattered at his feet. Bryson closed his eyes and pictured picking up a mailbox with his mind. When Bryson opened his eyes, one of the mailboxes was floating in front of him. He concentrated, and the mailbox flew at an incredible speed and smacked Taurus right in the back.

Taurus snarled and turned to face Bryson, letting go of the man in the car. The bull strode forward, head lowered, and yelled. “I’ve had enough of you, little man. I’ll beat you into a pulp and then finish what I came to do.”

Bryson crouched behind the pile of mailboxes and started sending them out at Taurus. Taurus, caught off-guard by the sudden rain of metal, stopped, and covered his face with his arms. Seizing this as an opportunity, Bryson let his new weapons fall and sent his power out at Taurus, sending the creature flying about fifty yards backward through the air.

Sirens wailed in the distance, growing ever closer, drawing Bryson’s attention. Bryson saw two police cars blocking the end of the street. The police were not attempting to move any closer. Bryson waved at the cops, trying to get them to come to help the men in the car. He didn’t even care if they wanted to help him fight Taurus. Bryson knew the cops saw him, but they moved no closer. While he watched, an ambulance drove up. The police initially stopped the ambulance, but Bryson heard raised voices. Then the ambulance pulled onto the sidewalk and drove past the police roadblock. Help was on the way. Now all Bryson needed to do was distract the giant homicidal cow.

Bryson positioned himself in between the ambulance and Taurus. The bull was back on his feet and ready for a fight. Bryson could hear the creature’s jumbled thoughts. “You’re from the docks? Who were you before you became Mad Cow Man?” Bryson asked with a smile.

“Get out of my head!” The Taurus yelled. “I’m gonna shut your wise-ass mouth for good.” Taurus charged at Bryson. Still listening to the bull’s thoughts, Bryson easily dodged the charge. He kept taunting Taurus and leading him further away from the paramedics and the two men in the car. When the bull realized what Bryson was up to, it was too late. They were three blocks away when Taurus noticed the ambulance driving away in the other direction. He turned to head towards the accident scene when two army helicopters landed in the street.

Men poured out of both helicopters. Taurus started forward, then thought better of it and ran off, roaring in frustration. Bryson considered checking on the men in the car, but he caught random thoughts from the army guys. They planned on questioning him, so he decided to leave before they could grab him. Bryson darted down a side street and disappeared into the city.

Christine Justyce heard the boy stirring in the living room. She peered in to see if he needed anything, and Christine saw that he was already back to sleep. She picked up her phone and made a call. As soon as the other person picked up, Christine began to speak. “Caleb, it’s me. I need you to come over to my house right away.”

“What’s wrong, sis?”

“An injured boy showed up at my house last night. He’s hurt bad. Can you come over right now?”

“Why did you call me and not an ambulance or the police, Christine? What else is wrong?”

“He has two huge, very raw wounds down his back. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“I’ll ask again. Why call me? What is happening?”

“His blood is bright glowing blue. He showed up covered in mud right after that strange meteor shower. Caleb, I don’t think he’s human.”

“I’ll be right there.” Caleb Justyce hung up the phone and headed to his sister’s house.

Erik didn’t have a plan of action after leaving Bryson’s apartment. He decided that he wasn’t going to class. There was too much on his mind to focus on college. A pleasant stroll through the park might be just the thing Erik needed to clear his head. Erik started to hear noises when he was about halfway through the park. He slowed his pace and left the path. From behind a stand of bushes, Erik peered into the big picnic area situated right in the park’s center. What he saw, Erik could hardly believe. For lack of a better word, two monsters were terrorizing a family near the barbecue pit.

One of the creatures looked like a mythological centaur. The centaur was a female and had long chestnut brown hair that matched the color of her horse body. The second monster was something Erik had never seen before. It had the basic shape of a man, and Erik could see that it had human facial features, but the skin had a reddish hue, and things that the family threw at him bounced off as if the skin was a hardened shell. The creature’s left arm ended in a relatively normal-looking hand, but the right arm ended in what looked more like a giant claw. Erik wondered to himself if this could be his own fate. Were these monsters caused by the effects of the blue meteors? Would he turn into one, too? He’d have to find an alternate path to get home, but should he call 9-1-1 first? Could he do anything to help? Could paramedics or even the police help against monsters? Erik snapped a couple pictures with his phone, then turned and ran back towards the school as he called the police.

Two ambulances pulled into Newville General Hospital and dropped off their patients. There was a flurry of activity in the emergency room. Both William Fuller and Brett Greene were in critical condition when they arrived. William had numerous broken ribs and internal injuries. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and nose. Brett had cuts all over his face and upper body. He also had a broken left arm and crushing injuries to both legs. Both men had glowing blue rocks in the pockets of their jeans.

“Ashton! Wait up!” Harvey yelled as he closed ground on his best friend.

Ash heard someone yell his name and stopped. He turned around and saw his closest friend, Harvey Kastala, running to catch up to him. Ash took a seat on a park bench and waited for Harvey.

Slightly out of breath, Harvey sat down next to Ashton. “Hey, Ash.”

“Why are you here, Harvs? Shouldn’t you be in class right now?”

Harvey waved the hall pass in front of Ash. “I’m in the bathroom. Duh!”

Ash rolled his eyes. “Go back to school, Harvey. I’m fine.”

“What happened? I saw the vice-principal walk you off school property?”

“I’m not sure what happened. My desk fell apart, and the school blamed me. Destruction of school property. It’s been a weird day, Harvs.”

“I know. My dad’s unit is on high alert because of the meteors. They think there’s more to it than that.”

Ashton’s eyes grew wide. “Do you know what they think is going on? Are the meteors dangerous?”

“Ash, what are you not telling me? What happened at school?”

Ashton sighed. “You know me too well.”

“You’ve been my best friend since kindergarten. Now spill it!”

“Okay. Alright. Well, my strange day started before I got to school. I was passing by the antique store on Park Avenue. The store burned down in one of the fires last night. I stopped to check it out, and I noticed a bright blue rock in the antique store’s ashes. It was stunning, so I picked it up.” Ash pulled the rock out of his pocket and showed it to Harvey. “The damn thing started glowing and made my whole body feel weird. I don’t know why, but I kept it.”

Harvey started to reach for it, but Ash pulled it back. “No! Don’t touch it. At least not until I finish my story. Then you can decide for yourself.”

“It may be too late for that.” Harvey reached into his pocket and pulled out his own four small blue stones. “They’re a lot smaller than the one you have, but I felt the same energy pulses throughout my body that you described. So, please, I need to hear the rest of your story.”

Ash reached out, placed a hand on Harvey’s forearm, and stared deep into his bright blue eyes. “Oh, Harvs, what’s happening to us. I hope to God that you don’t experience what I did today.”

“Just tell me, Ash. What happened?” Harvey asked.

Ashton relayed his story. He told Harvey about the floor tile, the pencil, and the desk falling apart. Ash explained that none of it was intentional. His body vibrated so fast that Ash could barely follow his own movements, and he had no conscious control of it. “So, that’s my story. It can’t be a coincidence. It’s gotta be related to the stones, right?”

Harvey was about to respond when an older boy came running out of the park. Harvey thought he recognized him. Erik? Something like that. He thought the boy graduated with Gavin. “Dude, where’s the fire?” Harvey said as the boy ran over to where Harvey and Ashton sat.

“There’s not a fire, but there are two monsters in the park, and I think they’re chasing me! We need to get out of here!”

“Whatever drugs you’re taking, you need to quit,” Ash said as an arrow flew out of the trees and stuck in the bench right between him and Harvey.

Bryson was out of breath when he reached Grace’s apartment. He took a few minutes to gather himself and then went upstairs and knocked on the door. Bryson heard Grace yell out from inside the apartment, “Come in!” Bryson opened the door and went inside.

 “Bryson, what happened to you? Your clothes are all torn. Are you okay?” Grace asked.

“I need your help, Grace. Even more now than when I called you. Have you seen the news yet this morning?” Bryson was pacing as he talked. The events of the morning had him pretty freaked out.

“If you are talking about the meteors and the fires, I’ve seen all the footage. What’s that have to do with the fact that it looks like you just went ten rounds with King Kong?”

 “Turn on your TV. Maybe you can see it for yourself. You gotta see this, or you won’t believe it. I don’t believe it, and it happened to me.” Bryson waited while Grace turned on the TV.

“What is this, Bryson? This can’t be real. Is this a movie stunt? Wait… is that you?” Grace looked from the TV to Bryson and back again. “What is that thing?”

“It’s not a movie stunt. I just fought a freaking minotaur or something close to a minotaur anyway. It called itself Taurus the Bull, and he was hunting two other people, but I found myself right in the middle. Taurus was looking for these.” Bryson pulled the blue rocks out of his pocket.

“Are they pieces of the meteor?” Grace asked, reaching forward.

Erik closed his fist around the rocks. “Don’t touch them. Something happened to me when I picked them up. I’m different now, Grace. I could read their thoughts, the two injured guys in the car and Taurus. His thoughts were jumbled, but I know Taurus came from the docks, and there was a big explosion down there during the meteor shower. It must be all tied together. I think that the rocks turned Taurus into that monster and gave me powers.” Erik lifted Grace’s coffee table up with his mind, spun it around, and sat it down.

Grace was in complete shock. She could not believe or understand what she saw, even though it was happening right before her astonished eyes. Bryson had been right. If Grace hadn’t seen it for herself, she would have never believed it. Grace didn’t want to consider it even now. “This is a lot to take in, Bryson,” Grace said, running her fingers through her long dark hair. “What else can you do?”

“So far, I can read minds and move things with my mind. If I can do anything else, I haven’t discovered it yet.”

Grace looked closely at Bryson. “Your eyes have changed. They are a much brighter green than they were before. You’re not wearing colored contacts, are you?”

Bryson ran to Grace’s bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. He came back into the room and sat down again. “They are brighter. It has to be connected. My friend Erik Reilly found a meteor, and his hair changed color. Give me a minute to send him a text. I have to see if he’s experienced any other changes yet.” Bryson sent Erik a text, which was not immediately answered. “I need to go look for him. Will you help me find out what’s happening, Grace? The army showed up while I was fighting Taurus. I know you have high-level contacts in the government.”

“I’ll do what I can, Bryson. Go look for your friend. Keep me in the loop. Lay low. You were on that video clip. The army will probably come looking for you. You may want to stay somewhere other than your apartment.”

“That’s a great idea, Grace. I didn’t even consider that. I’ll find Erik and let you know if anything else happens.”

“Buy a new phone. Call me when you and your friend are both safe. I’ll contact my sources and wait for your call.”

“Thank you, Grace. I knew that I could count on you.” Bryson ran out of Grace’s apartment, toward Erik’s house, and down the street.

Coming Soon – Episode 4: Frozen Fisticuffs

New Justyce (Book 1 / Episode 1)

Book 1: Justyce Begins

Episode 1: Angels and Meteors

Logan Kastala’s eyes widened in fear. He saw the car speeding right toward him, but he knew he didn’t have time to get out of the way. Logan lifted his arms to try and shield his face, and then everything went black. Someone or something lifted Logan off the ground, and then it felt like he was rolling. Logan stopped moving but could not see a thing. He was still in total darkness. Logan moved his arms and felt a soft barrier like a blanket of feathers. He tried to push his way out, but Logan felt another person in the darkness with him.

“Hey! What’s going on? Who’s there? What happened?” Logan asked.

What Logan thought was a blanket pulled away from him and parted, letting in the light. Logan blinked and saw his friend, Obadiah. “Obie? You’re always helping me out of tough spots lately. It’s good we met! Thanks for the save!” Logan laughed, but he cut his laugh short when he got a better look at his friend. “Obie?” Logan said, backing up slowly. “You have wings! Am I dead, Obie? Are you an angel?” Tears welled up in Logan’s eyes.

Obadiah reached out and grasped Logan’s arms. “Don’t be scared, Logan. You’re not dead. Yes, I have wings. But I’m still the same guy you’ve become friends with over the last few weeks.” He tried to give Logan a reassuring smile.

“What are you, though? Are you an angel? A mutant? Something else?” Logan didn’t pull away from Obadiah, but he was still nervous.

“I am what you call an angel. We call ourselves Seraphim. We are not religious spirits from a place called Heaven. We are a race of beings from an alternate plane of existence. Our doorway into your world opens in the space between Earth and Mars. Many years ago, a human saw one of us coming to Earth. They saw him “descend from the Heavens,” and the myth of angels sprang up from that sighting.” Obie guided Logan into the park while they talked. They finally settled at a picnic table off by themselves.

“Why me? Why would you befriend and help me? And I can’t see your wings anymore. Where do they go?” Logan peered around behind him, looking for Obadiah’s wings.

“The wings are always there. I can control when people see them and when they can’t. As far as helping you and making you my friend? I genuinely like you. I sense great and special things in your future, Logan. You will do amazing things. I’m sure of it.” Obie said.

Logan blushed. “I’m nothing special.”

“Oh, but you are. I know it.” Obadiah’s smiling face turned suddenly serious. “I will get in big trouble for revealing myself to you. You probably won’t ever see me again. My father sits on the Council of Judgement, though I doubt if even he can get me out of this mess. If I never see you again, I want you to have something.” Obie’s wings reappeared for just a moment. He plucked one bright silvery feather, and then the wings vanished again. He handed the feather to Logan. “Keep this close, and you will always feel my presence when I am on Earth, and I’ll be able to sense if you are in danger.”

Logan’s head was reeling. He was still trying to absorb everything that was happening. First, a car nearly ran him over. Then an angel saved his life, an angel who happened to be his friend. Now, that friend gave him a magic feather plucked from his wing. Could things get any weirder? Logan reached over and took the feather. “Thanks, Obie. Everything that is happening is overwhelming, but I mean it when I say thanks. I’m just trying to wrap my head around all this.”

Obadiah reached across the table and took ahold of Logan’s hands. “Logan, everything will be ok. I promise. Even if I can’t come back, I sense remarkable things for you. You’re special, Logan. I knew it from the first time we met.” Obie leaned across the table, staring intently into Logan’s eyes.

Logan blushed. “I am not special in any way. I barely know what I’m doing from one day to the next. How am I supposed to have an important destiny? You must have me confused with someone else.” Logan huffed out a laugh.

“I could never confuse you for anyone else,” Obadiah smirked. “I can’t exactly see your future, Logan. I can only sense that you have an important destiny. You will overcome many difficult challenges very soon. You will not be alone. Others will gather around you, but you will be a central figure as the events unfold.”

“Well, that’s frightening. Are you sure you won’t be around to help and guide me through whatever happens?”

“If I can be here, I will be. I fear that if my actions today are known to my people, they will call me home to face judgment.” Obie frowned, his eyes downcast.

Logan reached over and lifted Obie’s face. “Your actions today were heroic. You saved my life. You didn’t do anything wrong. They have to see that.”

“We are forbidden from interacting with humans in any way. They won’t care that my intentions were good.”

“Let me talk to them. I’ll make them understand.” Logan reached across the table and took Obadiah’s hands in his own.

“That would only make things worse. I hope I am wrong, but I may never see you again after today. Please know that it wasn’t my choice to abandon you.”

“I pray that you are wrong! I’ve grown to care a lot about you in the short time that I’ve known you, Obie. So, if I might never see you again, I better do this now.” He closed the remaining distance between them and kissed Obadiah.

A bright flash of light caused both boys to pull back from the kiss quickly. Logan grinned and said, “Wow. That kiss made the sun brighter.” But then his smile faded. Three angels were standing around them. Two wore bright, shining armor, and each one grabbed one of Obadiah’s arms and pulled him to his feet. The third angel wore a suit and tie and was obviously in charge. Logan could see their wings. The two armored angels had silver wings like Obadiah’s, but the other one had golden wings.

The angel in the suit spoke first. “Obadiah, son of Samael, I hereby place you under arrest by order of the Council of Judgement. I order you to go with me to the Council Chambers for your trial.”

Logan sprang up from his seat. “No! He didn’t do anything wrong! He saved my life! How can that be a crime?”

Abathar glared at Logan. “Your words have no bearing on the business of the Seraphim. Obadiah knows our laws, and he chose to break not one but three of them. Forget you ever saw us, human. Especially forget you ever saw him.” Abathar pointed at Obadiah.

“I’ll never forget him. We’ll find a way to be together again. You can’t stop us.” Logan scowled, then looked at Obie, and his smile returned. “I’ll wait for you, Obie. No matter how long it takes.”

Abathar scoffed. “Let us be gone.” He motioned toward the other two Seraphim.

Obadiah reached out toward Logan but looked at Abathar. “Wait! I….”

He started to say more, but Logan never heard what Obadiah would say. All four angels disappeared in a flash of light. Logan waited around for a while but gave up and went home. He hoped that Obie was telling the truth about the feather. He clutched it tight and prayed that someday it would lead him to Obie.

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The two Seraphim Law Keepers half dragged, half carried Obadiah through the Council chambers before pushing him down into the Judgement Seat. The Law Keepers fastened the restraints and left the room. Obie’s face contorted in rage as he turned to look at the third Seraphim. “You could have let me say goodbye to him, at least. Two more minutes would not have mattered to you, Abathar.”

“If you want mercy, speak to Zadkiel. I seek only to see you judged for your crimes against our society. Crimes which you added to just before our arrival.” A look of disappointment and disgust crossed Abathar’s face. “With these new crimes, even your father won’t be able to help you, Obadiah. You held such promise.”

Obadiah sat straight up in his chair and stared directly into Abathar’s golden yellow eyes. “I did what my heart commanded of me. If the Council judges that to be a crime, then so be it! I would do everything the same all over again!”

The doors at the end of the Great Hall opened, and six more Seraphim entered, all with golden-hued wings. Abathar joined the other Council members. Three sat on each side of the table. The last, the High Judge, stood opposite the Judgement Seat. The High Judge, Azrael, spoke to the accused. “Obadiah, your father pleaded with the Council to show you mercy. We were inclined to accede to his wishes until news of your added crimes reached us. Your crimes have tied our hands, and our decision is final.”

Obie glared at each member of the Council. His father wouldn’t even meet his gaze. He clenched his teeth and looked directly at Azrael. “I did nothing wrong. Not one thing I did hurt anyone here or on Earth. I saved Logan’s life and fell in love with him. He has an important future. I’m sure of it. Earth benefits from what I did. I committed no crimes!”

Azrael shook his head. “You know that interfering in a human’s life is not allowed. You also know that engaging in sex with a human is a crime. And just for your crime of same-sex activity, the punishment is banishment. All three of these crimes individually are serious offenses. You committed all three. We cannot ignore that.”

Obie blushed in embarrassment and anger. “I did not have sex with Logan! And besides, none of those things should be crimes. Love is not a crime. Humans are a lot like us. If we interact with them more, we can help them. They can even help us in some ways! Your views are ancient and bigoted.”

“My views are the views of our people. My views are the law. You kissed that human boy. If we allowed it to continue, you would have gone further. Obadiah, you know why we passed these laws. The last time a Seraphim became involved with a human, he impregnated her. The humans called it a miracle birth. Hell, they still have wars over it over two thousand years later! The Council cannot excuse your actions, no matter how much we’d like to.” Azrael walked over to where Obadiah sat. “Obadiah, son of Samael, you are forever banished from our kingdom. If you return, your sentence will be death.” Azrael pushed a button, signaling the Law Keepers to return. Azrael and the other six members of the Judgement Council left the room. Samael never once glanced back at his son.

Obadiah’s screams echoed throughout the Great Hall as the Law Keepers removed his wings and dragged him to the Plains of Judgement. Obie saw his father in the crowd, “Father! They took my wings! Father! Help me!” Samael merely turned his back and walked away.

The Law Keepers opened a rift to the blackness of space above the Earth. They forced Obadiah to stand, then pushed him through the breach.

As Obadiah fell through space, his Seraphim power leaked out of the wounds on his back, mixed with his blood. The power attracted space dust and rocks that gathered around the young Seraphim like a meteor shower. Obie entered the Earth’s atmosphere as part of the most massive meteorological event ever recorded. There were so many rocks surrounding Obadiah that no telescope caught sight of his body at the storm’s center. The meteors, glowing with a bluish light, streaked through the warm August night sky on a collision course with a small town on the east coast of the United States. Newville, Virginia would never be the same. The entire world was about to change forever.

———————————————————————————————————-

Erik Reilly glanced away from his computer and looked out the window. A flash of light in the sky caught his attention. As he continued to stare, Erik saw what, at first, looked like a shooting star. He was puzzled. Erik knew he shouldn’t be able to see any star, shooting or not, through driving rain. Then there was another bright flash of blue light. Specks of blue fell like rain in the meteor’s wake. Erik watched in awe as, just as the shooting star or whatever it was broke through the clouds, it exploded into several pieces. One reasonably large chunk fell towards the docks, while the biggest one and many little ones continued over Erik’s house and towards Newville Park.

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Carl Chambers pounded his enormous fist on the table. “Full house? How do you have another hand like that, Myers?” Carl threw his cards into the air.

Rick Myers shrugged his shoulders. “Lucky night, I guess.”

“No one is that lucky,” Carl grumbled.

“I don’t know why we all even play. The two of you argue every single week.” Lisa Jenson complained.

“We’re here for more than poker. That’s why. You know that, Lisa. Now that Rick has all our money, we may as well get down to our real business. We need to tighten control of our territory. I’m sick of these piddly street thugs thinking they can come to my docks and rob people. If anyone is getting robbed, it’ll be by us!”

Carl was just getting warmed up with a speech about his plans for their next moves to take over more of the town. “First, we put a stranglehold on the docks. Every business must pay! Then, we take over the city, working out street by street, block by block.” Carl nearly yelled.

“Yeah! Let’s do this! First Newville, then the world!” Rick cheered.

Carl smirked as he looked around the table at his friends. He had them all convinced of his plans. Carl was ambitious and wasn’t satisfied just running Newville Heights and the docks. Carl wanted it all. Then, as fate would have it, a massive meteor smashed through the union hall roof ending the meeting abruptly with a loud, literal bang that would change their lives forever.

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Logan Kastala woke up screaming. He had the worst nightmare he could ever remember having. Logan felt as if he had been falling for hours, and his back felt like it was on fire! The pain subsided now that Logan was awake, but he still felt it. That’s weird, Logan thought. He could never remember a physical reaction to a dream quite like he was feeling now. Logan was about to fall back to sleep when he noticed the glowing blue light. Logan leaned over towards his nightstand to see what it was. The feather that Obadiah gave him was glowing! Logan picked up the feather and felt Obie’s presence nearby. Obadiah was somewhere on Earth for sure. Logan desperately hoped that Obie had not gotten into too much trouble with the other angels or Seraphim. Logan clutched the feather close and drifted back to sleep. Tomorrow he would begin his search for Obadiah. Logan never looked out the window, or he would have seen blue streaks falling out of the sky right over his house.

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Erik went outside to get a better view. He ran to the top of a hill right behind his house. Drenched in seconds, Erik brushed the water out of his eyes and watched as tiny meteors fell and hit the ground. Suddenly, a tree not twenty yards behind Erik exploded in flames. In his excitement, watching the small meteors hit, he lost track of the big one, but he thought it was still heading toward the park. 

“Wow!” Erik thought. The rain put the fires out quickly. Erik ran over to the remains of the tree. A small, glowing blue rock sat right in the center of the blackened and burned tree. Erik waited for the rain to cool the stone, then he reached in to pick it up. He thought better of it at the last minute, and he continued to stare at the rock.

The meteorite was about the size of a marble. Erik finally threw caution to the wind and picked it up. He almost dropped it as soon as he picked it up. It looked harmless. The stone wasn’t hot anymore, but it started to pulse in his hand. Erik could feel waves of energy coursing through his body with each pulse. He wasn’t sure what was happening to him, but Erik immediately felt different, more vital. He liked the feeling. Erik put the rock in the front pocket of his jeans and ran back into his house.

———————————————————————————————————-

The meteor at the center of the storm hit the baseball field behind the high school with enough force to leave an impact crater and rattle the windows of nearby houses. A shockwave was sent deep into the earth, awakening an ancient supernatural force. The shadow peeled itself away from the wall. It could sense the power of the being directly above, but more importantly, it could smell a world full of delicious evil. Evil that the shadow was eager to devour.

The shadow swirled upward, sliding through the cracks and crevices in the earth. It had been over a thousand years since the shadow was free to roam the land. The scent of evil was nearly intoxicating. The shadow needed to bond with a host, but it could sense that the being that had awoken it would not be suitable. The shadow had waited for a long time. It could wait a little longer.

———————————————————————————————————-

Everyone in the union hall jumped to their feet and backed away from the glowing blue rock. Part of the ceiling collapsed, and the wall caught fire. Carl felt waves of power emanating from the stone, and he leaped into action. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and yelled to his friends. “Don’t just stand there! Grab the rest of the extinguishers or buckets of water. We have to put this fire out and cool down this rock. I feel that it’s important!”

“Carl is right!” Yelled Rick. “Cool that rock down and put out the fires as soon as possible. And do not call the fire department! We have to handle this ourselves.”

Anyone with an extinguisher sprayed water or chemicals on the already glowing and pulsing meteor rock. The chemicals began to bubble and boil then the entire rock exploded. Steam and dust enveloped the twelve people in the room from head to toe. They all started coughing as they breathed in the mist. Carl dropped to his knees and then collapsed onto the floor. He looked through blurry eyes and saw all his friends on the floor around him.

———————————————————————————————————-

The boy groaned as he tried to lift his face out of the mud. He felt disoriented by the overwhelming number of sensations he was feeling. The most immediate was the almost unbearable pain in his back. It felt as if someone was ripping his muscles right off the bone. He could not remember ever feeling such pain before. As that thought crossed his mind, it occurred to him that he could not remember anything at all. The boy had no idea where he was, how he got there, or even who he was.

The boy, with significant effort, sat up and tried to clear his head. The pain in his back made it nearly impossible to concentrate. He opened his eyes and wiped the mud, rain, and hair out of his eyes. The cold, driving rain that pelted his face and body helped ease the burning pain in his back just a little and helped him clear his thoughts. He was cold and wet. His clothes were torn, dirty, and smelled of smoke. The smell of smoke was also thick in the air. The entire field was empty, burnt, and, in places, still smoldered. The rain helped to put out some of the small fires.

He got up and stumbled off in the direction of the one light that he saw. He hoped to find help, or someone might know who he was or how he got here. All he knew right now was that he needed to leave this field and get out of the rain.

———————————————————————————————————-

Bryson Indiana woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of sirens. He stumbled out of bed and out onto his patio. The first fire trucks Bryson saw were racing toward the school. The fires were past the school when he looked closer, maybe at the baseball field or a nearby house. Just as Bryson turned to go back into his house, he noticed the other fires. There were small fires in what appeared to be a nearly straight line from the school in the south to the Newville Docks in the north. Bryson’s curiosity was piqued, but it would have to wait until morning. Right now, all he wanted was more sleep.

———————————————————————————————————-

Carl rolled over and pushed himself up to a kneeling position. He felt weird. Strong. But weird. It was challenging to understand all the feelings that coursed through his body. Intense pain nearly caused him to blackout again. He looked down and saw tan hairs sprouting out on his arms and hands. His hands were growing and changing, nails turning into claws. He tried to look around for his friends, but the blue mist still hung over the entire room. He called out for help, but his voice sounded like a growl. He heard other growls answering his own, and just before he blacked out again, he perceived the distinctive clip-clop of hooves on the wooden floor.

———————————————————————————————————-

The boy stumbled away from the crater, and toward the light he saw in the distance. Words and images kept flashing through his foggy mind. Tree. Road. House. Logan! He immediately knew that Logan was important, but he did not know why. The boy crossed the street and walked through an empty parking lot. The boy walked to a dimly lit building at the far end of the lot. The doors would not open, but the boy saw a reflection of himself in the glass.

“Obadiah? Is that who I am?” He touched the face of the reflection, then drew his hand back and felt his face. “Logan would know if that’s my name. I must find Logan.”

Obadiah turned and once more headed in the direction of the only light in the distance. The glow belonged to a house. Obadiah walked past a metal box with writing that said, “C. Justyce.” He continued past the mailbox and stood in front of the blue wooden door. Obadiah raised his hand and knocked.

A woman opened the door, and her eyes went wide with shock. “Who are you? What do you want?”

Obadiah started to speak but became dizzy and fell to the ground. Obadiah looked up at the woman with pleading eyes just before he passed out. “Help me. I need to find Logan.”

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(Coming Soon: Episode 2 – Monsters and Heroes)