Justyce, Inc. – Episode 12

Episode 12 – New day, New Beginnings

Grace Santos woke up in bed in her apartment the following day with no memory of how she got there. Her last memory was of the shadow on the wall reaching out for her. She shuddered at the memory.

Grace got out of bed and turned on the TV while she fixed breakfast. The “Breaking News” report caught her attention immediately. Newville Heights was the scene of four murders last night. Grace recognized two faces as the men who attacked her in the alley last night just before she blacked out.

The news said that one of the men died of a broken neck and the other of a heart attack. Witnesses found an unusual scene upon first finding the men. They said the man who died of a heart attack was still sitting upright. They said he appeared to be just staring off into space. One witness identified the man as Gary Roberts. The problem was that Gary Roberts was thirty years old and had brown hair, but the body found in the alley looked like a ninety-year-old man with white hair. The facial expression on the man’s face also looked like he had been scared to death.

The news went on to say that police found the other two men only two blocks away. The female survivor of that encounter claimed that the men attacked her, and then “Sombra Demono” rose from the shadows and killed them.

Grace flipped from channel to channel. Last night’s attacks were the lead story on every one. Some had the headline as “Shadow Killer Kills Four” while others said “Sombra Demono: Killer or Guardian?”

Grace just sat in shock, watching all the broadcasts. Were they talking about her? Had she killed four people last night? Her mind drifted back to all the weird things that happened to her and her new friends yesterday. She needed answers, starting with her lost memories.

Grace showered and dressed, then picked up her cell phone. She needed to text Erik, Bryson, and Caleb. Erik first, of course. Grace smiled at the thought of Erik. He was definitely the best thing about the last crazy twenty-four hours.

Grace: Hey, you. You awake yet? I’m ready for that coffee date.

Erik: Just got out of the shower. Do you mind if I put clothes on first? (wink emoji)

Grace: If you insist. (eye roll emoji) (laughing emoji)

Erik: Starbucks? Half an hour?

Grace: Sounds good. Something weird happened last night. Would it be ok if I invited                              Bryson to join us?

Erik: You ok? (shocked emoji)

Grace: I’m fine. I’ll explain in person. Do you mind?

Erik: Invite him. I’ll see you soon. (hug emoji)

Grace: See you soon.

————————————————————————-

Grace: Bryson, text me back as soon as you get this.

Bryson: I’m here. What’s up?

Grace: More weirdness to add to the list. Can you meet Erik and me at Starbucks?

Bryson: Yeah. Give me twenty minutes?

Grace: Perfect.

Bryson: (thumbs up emoji)

————————————————————————————————————

Ash woke up and found he couldn’t rollover. Instead, he groggily blinked open his eyes and found Harvey practically lying on top of him. Their legs were entwined, Harvey had one arm slung over Ash’s middle, and Harvey’s face was pressed into the side of Ash’s neck. Ash smiled and tried to untangle himself from his boyfriend’s embrace.

Harvey groaned and pulled Ashton in closer. “Don’t go. It’s too early to get out of bed.”

Ash smirked. “If you pull me against you any closer, I might get ideas about what you might be wanting.”

Harvey smiled. “I do want that. All of that. Every possible combination in every possible position. I want it all with you, but there are too many people in the house right now. Too much is going on, and we have too much to figure out, including our own powers.”

Ash spun in Harvey’s embrace so that he was on his back and Harvey was lying on top of him. “You are as brilliant and compassionate as you are beautiful and sexy. I am over the moon that we will take our relationship further, but you are right. We need to get our butts out of bed. We need to find Gavin, and we need to reunite Logan with his angel friend. Once we do that, we can figure out everything else. Now I need to get into the shower. I expect to smell bacon by the time I go downstairs.” Ash grinned.

Harvey rolled off of Ash. He was about to sit up when Ash rolled over on top of him. Ash stared down into Harvey’s bright blue eyes. “I love you, Harvey Kastala. I have loved you my whole life.” Ash leaned down and pressed his lips against Harvey’s. Harvey’s lips parted as he returned the kiss. Ash broke away and groaned. “If I don’t get out of bed right now, it might be a couple hours before I let you leave.”

Harvey grinned. “I wouldn’t complain.”

“I could get used to waking up in your arms. We need to work on that along with everything else.”

“I don’t think either my dad or your mom will be onboard with that while we’re still seventeen and in high school.” Harvey huffed out a laugh. “I agree, though. We need to at least start the conversation with them and let them know what we want. Maybe with us being superheroes, it might convince them to say yes.” Harvey rolled his eyes.

Ash sighed. “One step at a time. First, we need to rescue Gavin and locate Obadiah. Oh, and don’t forget my bacon.” Ash leaped off the bed, stripped off his boxers, and walked into the bathroom naked.

Harvey’s eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets as he watched Ash walk across the room. When the bathroom door closed, Harvey got out of bed, grabbed some clothes, and walked down the hallway to the other bathroom to take a shower of his own.

————————————————————————————————————

Sylvester woke up, yawned, and turned toward Logan. He was surprised to find himself literally nose to nose with the other boy. “Oh! Good morning, Logan. I… didn’t expect to find you so close.”

Logan blushed. “Sorry. I kinda zoned out watching you sleep. After the day we had yesterday, it was a peaceful way to start the day.”

Sy smiled and wriggled his nose against Logan’s. “You can watch me sleep anytime you want.”

“The whole thinking of me as a big brother thing isn’t going to happen, is it?” Logan chuckled.

Sylvester rolled his eyes. “Be honest with me, Logan. You don’t have brotherly feelings for me either, do you?”

Logan rolled onto his back and sighed. “If I’m being sincere, no. Nothing can happen between us, though, Sy. It’s more than just the age difference. I have a boyfriend who I love. Right now, my focus has to be on finding Obie.” He leaned on his elbow again and looked down at Sylvester. “I won’t lie to you, Sy. There’s a connection between us, and it’s more than just our powers meshing so well together. You are incredibly beautiful inside and out. I hope you don’t think that I’m pushing you away. The opposite is true. I would love for us to be best friends if you’re ok with that.”

Sylvester closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then let the breath out slowly. He opened his eyes and placed a hand firmly against Logan’s chest. Sy pushed the older teen down onto his back so that their positions were reversed. Now, Sy was propped up on one elbow, looking down at Logan. “I will make you two promises, Logs. Number one, I will never make the first move on you. If you want us to be friends, that’s what I’ll be. I will never look at you as a brother, but I’d be honored to be your friend. Promise number two, if you ever change your mind and make a move on me, I will not say no.” Sy shrugged. “A lot is going on right now, so starting something new is probably not the best idea even without the obstacles between us.” Then Sy grinned. “By the way, once we figure out these powers and defeat those monsters, I expect you, as my new best friend, to throw me the biggest birthday bash I have ever had.”

“I understand your terms and conditions.” Logan huffed out a laugh. “I do want us to be friends, best friends even. Now, when is this birthday of yours? You’ll be fourteen, right?”

“Next Saturday, and, yes, fourteen. We’ll only be four years apart instead of five.” Sy winked.

Logan rolled his eyes. “I will keep that in mind. Now get out of bed. It’s time to get this day started. Grace said to text her at nine, and it’s already past eight.”

Sy got out of bed and padded down the hallway to get fresh clothes out of his backpack.

————————————————————————————————————

Bryson paid for his overpriced, over-flavored, specialty coffee and walked toward the corner of the café where his two friends waited. His keen eye picked up on their body language, and he smiled. Bryson noticed every detail of everything around him, and right now, he saw how Erik and Grace’s hands were stretched across the table. Their finger kept touching as they talked. Grace was maintaining eye contact, but Erik kept looking down and blushing. Both of his friends were smiling and laughing, and it was refreshing to hear. Bryson slipped into an empty chair at the table. “Why do I instantly feel like the third wheel on a date?” Bryson grinned.

Erik stuttered and stammered. “You’re not. Well, maybe, I don’t know. Thanks for meeting us here. I… uh, we, uh, Grace….”

Grace shook her head and laughed. She reached out and put a comforting hand over Erik’s. “You dear sweet man, let me do the talking.” She looked over at Bryson. “It’s coffee, and it’s business, but there may be a date in our future. Anyway, business first. Something odd happened last night, and I thought you’d want to hear about it right away. Keep in mind that I am positive that I have never come in contact with a meteor rock.”

“Well, that does sound intriguing! What happened?!” Bryson asked, leaning forward.

Grace proceeded to tell her story. She recounted everything that she could remember from when she parted ways with Erik until she woke up that morning. Grace then told them about the video clips that she saw on the news, the references to Sombra Demona, and the four deaths. “Two of those men who died are the two men who pushed me into that alley. I remember seeing the shadow on the wall behind me move. After that, I don’t remember anything until I woke up this morning. I don’t remember leaving that alley. I was either there when the men were killed, or I killed them.”

“Are you sure that you didn’t pick up any of the meteor pieces at the house last night? Even for just a second? Or maybe something happened at Justyce Labs when you met Obadiah?”

“Not that I can think of. I did go into the crater at the baseball field, but I don’t think I touched anything. So we’ll just add it to our list of things to figure out.”

“The list is growing and growing. Have you heard back from Caleb?”

“Yes, but then I told him about Gavin, and he put our meeting on hold. He said he had high-level military contacts. He told me that he will go to the base personally and bring Gavin home.”

“I sure hope he can come through on that. I have my doubts, but if anyone can do it, Caleb Justyce can. Have you heard from Logan? If those guys are all awake, we should head over there, so we’re all together and ready to go meet Caleb.”

“I’ll text him again now,” Grace said.

————————————————————————————————————

Harvey and Ash finished breakfast and walked outside onto the back deck. Harvey stood staring out at his father’s vegetable garden. Ashton was more interested in the low-flying military cargo plane that was rumbling across the sky. “That was at least the third cargo plane, Harvs. There have been a bunch of helicopters, too. The army is really ramping up its presence in town. We’re all going to have to be careful.”

Harvey looked thoughtful. “We should lay low and let the army deal with the Zodiac. Maybe after they round them up, they’ll leave. Then, we can blend in and stay out of sight.”

“That would be a great plan if they didn’t already know about Bryson and Gav. Unfortunately, I doubt they’ll leave anytime soon.”

“You’re probably right.” Harvey turned back toward the garden. “Hey, Ash? Does dad’s garden look weird to you?”

“What do you mean? It looks kinda small.” Ash shrugged.

“It looks smaller than it did two days ago, is what I mean.” Harvey stepped off the deck and took a couple steps toward the garden.

“Harvey, wait. I think I saw something moving.” Ash was by Harvey’s side in the blink of an eye. “What is that?” He said, pointing at large black clumps on one of the pepper plants.

“Are those beetles? I’ve never seen beetles that big before.”

Ash inched closer to the edge of the garden and took a couple pictures of the beetles with his phone. One app download later, and Ash whistled softly. “According to this, those are Eastern Herculean Beetles. They are among the largest beetles in North America, but the biggest they are supposed to get is two and a half inches long.”

“These are all bigger than that. I’d guess most of them at four to five inches, with some of them up to six inches long. What’s going on now, Ash?”

“It has to be all connected, right? Without looking at a map, I’d say that your house is in a straight line between the docks and the school. I bet there are meteor rocks in your dad’s garden.” Ash was still moving slowly toward the garden, and Harvey was walking along with him.

Harvey pointed. “Look at that! I think the biggest beetles are eating the smaller ones! I don’t think beetles normally do that. I can hear the chewing. Gross! I think we should go back inside.”

Sylvester stepped out onto the deck. “What’s going on, guys? What’s that weird sound?”

“That’s the sound of giant beetles eating Mr. Kastala’s garden and each other,” Ash said.

Sy arched an eyebrow. “Seriously? That does not sound normal!”

“In the last thirty-six hours, what has sounded normal?” Harvey asked.

“Valid point.” Sy huffed out a laugh.

Ash was right at the edge of the garden now. “I see them! There are at least three blue stones. I’m gonna grab them.” Ash stepped into the garden to retrieve the stones. His legs barely brushed by some of the plants on his way to pick them up. A buzzing filled the air as dozens of beetles took flight and started flying in circles around the yard. Then, they started dive-bombing straight at Ash.

The smell of ozone filled the air as bolts of electricity formed around Harvey’s hands. He pointed a finger at the flying insects, and an electric charge shot out. One of the beetles exploded in mid-air. Sy leaped off the deck, landing right next to Harvey. “Quick! Hit me with your electricity. There are too many of them for you to zap on your own!”

Harvey looked confused. “You want me to shoot you with my electricity?”

“Yes, Harvey! It’ll be ok. I should absorb it just like I did yesterday.”

Harvey formed a ball of electricity and threw it. He hit Sy right in the chest, but it didn’t do any damage. Sylvester absorbed the power and grinned. “Again! Hit me again!”

Harvey hit Sy with three more orbs. Meanwhile, Ash was swatting at the beetles and making his way toward the three meteor rocks in the center of the garden. Harvey glanced at Sy. “Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s do this!” Sy said. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Harvey as they started firing shot after shot of electrical energy at the beetles. Finally, the swarm was so close together that the electricity started arcing between the insects.

Ash looked up and realized with horror what was about to happen. Thankfully, he managed to zip out from under the cloud of bugs just before the entire swarm exploded in a shower of beetle guts. “That was disgusting!” Ash yelled.

“That was epic!” Sy cheered.

“It was pretty spectacular,” Harvey added. “My big question is did you know that you could mimic my power when you had me electrocute you?”

Sy blushed. “I suspected that I could, based on what happened yesterday.” He shrugged. “After you hit me the first time, I could feel the power absorb into my body, and I knew I could take more. After that, I knew exactly what to do with your power. It wasn’t like it was with Logan’s power. With his, it felt… I don’t know… disorganized. I’m not sure how else to explain it.”

Harvey’s eyes scrunched together in concentration. “We all need to learn more about these abilities. I’m hoping that when we reunite Logan with Obadiah, that Obie will know what has happened to us, and maybe he will be able to help.”

Sylvester frowned. “Yeah, we need to reunite Logan with Obie. That’s everyone’s priority.”

Harvey wrapped one arm around Sy’s shoulders and pulled him into a side hug. “logan cares about you. I can tell. He won’t forget about you when he finds Obadiah. I care about you, too. So does Ash. You’re not alone anymore, Sy.”

Sy shrugged. “I appreciate you saying that, Harvey. But, it might take me a little while to trust that it is true. I haven’t had anyone care about me in a long time.” Sy, Harvey, and Ash walked back up onto the deck just as Logan walked out of the house.

————————————————————————————————————

Gavin opened his eyes and groaned. His face hurt like hell, and his vision in his right eye was blurry. He thought that he must have a pretty nasty black eye. Finally, Gavin looked up and saw his father and General Woodson staring down at him. Gavin grinned, then immediately grimaced. He must have a split lip, too. “Dad! I’m so glad you could finally join the fun. Where’s my friend from last night? I was just starting to like him.”

Isaac’s face remained neutral as he stared down at his oldest son. “Gavin, just tell the general what he wants to know. We’ve already taken blood samples and temperature readouts, and various other tests. Tell us how you got these powers and tell us everything you know about Bryson Indiana.”

“Hmm. So, I was beaten and shocked, and violated in my sleep. That almost sounds like a bad porn.” Gavin huffed out a laugh. “I already said that I know nothing about any Bryson Indiana, and whatever this power is and wherever it comes from, it’s mine. I am not the property of the United States government!”

General Woodson stepped forward. “You are so very wrong. The United States government has classified you as a national security risk. I can lock you up and throw away the key, or I can tie you down and cut you up into little tiny pieces, and no one will care. You belong to me.”

The door was flung open, and three men strode inside, and the one that walked in first spoke. “That may have been true an hour ago, but it isn’t true now.” He walked right past the general and Mr. Kastala and stepped in front of Gavin. “Good morning, Gavin. My name is Caleb Justyce. Welcome to the Liberty Initiative. As soon as these men unstrap you from this chair, I’ll take you out of here.”

The general scowled. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, Caleb?’

Caleb grinned. “I’m doing what I always do, Roger. Untie this man, and then you can direct any questions to the two congressmen. This was decided way above your paygrade and way above your clearance level. I get what I want. I always do.”

“This isn’t over, Justyce. This is the most important discovery in history.” General Woodson said.

“That is exactly why it should not be controlled by the military.” Caleb retorted.

Gavin stood and rubbed his forearms which were red and irritated from the leather straps. He looked over at Caleb. “I’m not sure what you want from me, but it has to be better than this. Thank you.”

Caleb nodded. “You have your brother Logan to thank for bringing your situation to my attention. I’ll take you to him, but we have to stop at my lab first.”

Isaac’s eyes opened wide, and he stepped in front of Caleb. “I accept that you’re taking Gavin with you, but what association do you have with Logan?”

“Logan is quite possibly the most important person on this planet right now. Before you even ask, all three of your sons are included in the Liberty Initiative Protection Act. So Logan and Harvey are safe from the treatment which you allowed Gavin to endure. You’re welcome.” Caleb sneered at Isaac.

“You can’t take my sons from me. Harvey is still a minor.”

“I am not cutting you off from your sons. I am protecting them from the military. There is a difference. I would hope you would understand that.”

Isaac looked at Gavin. “I’m sorry, son. I didn’t know how far things would go, but it was out of my hands anyway. Protect your brothers.” He shook his head. “Protect them from everyone.”

“I forgive you, dad, but I don’t want to see you near the boys or me until all of this is sorted out. I can’t trust that you won’t let the same thing happen again.”

Isaac nodded. “I understand. Take care of yourself, son. Be safe.”

Gavin looked over at Caleb as they walked out of the building. “Are you taking that goat lady out of here, too?”

Caleb shook his head. “No. Your heroics in the restaurant helped me convince enough people to let me take you. Diana Winters had a long criminal history long before she became what she is and attacked those people. I would love to examine her and figure out why her appearance changed, and yours did not, but she did not qualify to be included in the Liberty Initiative.”

Gavin slid into the passenger seat of Caleb’s cherry red corvette. “What exactly is the Liberty Initiative? What am I getting myself involved in?”

Caleb gunned the engine and drove off the army base. “I needed to find a way to protect you and the others from the military. My reasons are… extensive. I convinced enough of the right people that I was better equipped to deal with this… Zodiac Club or whatever they want to call themselves. The army got lucky, capturing you and Capricorn. They have suffered heavy losses all over the city in fights against other members of the Zodiac. If you and the others are willing, I want to put you together as a team to protect the city… to protect the world… from this new danger. Unfortunately, if you refuse, the Initiative falls apart, and the army will be able to come after you again.”

Gavin cocked his head. “It doesn’t sound like you’re offering us much of a choice. I’ll have to talk to my brothers before I give any answers.”

“I’d like to say that there’s no rush, but the Zodiac and the army are turning Newville into a battlefield.”

“I’ll text Logan and Harvey. It’s probably safer for them to come to your lab, don’t you think? Rather than us going to my house?”

“Yes. Have them meet us at my lab and tell them to bring any others who are involved. I’ll text Grace Santos and tell her the same thing. We need to all get on the same page and share information and decide where to go from here.”

————————————————————————————————————

Carl sat at the head of the tables that they pushed together. He had it set up to resemble the table in the union hall. “Thank you all for giving me this time. I know we all have important things to do today.” he looked right at Aries. “most importantly, we have to find out where they took Capricorn, and we have to get her back. We had some skirmishes yesterday, both with would-be heroes and with the military. We need to show them all who runs this city. We have run the docks for years. Now we run the city!” They all cheered in support.

“What do you want us to do first, boss?” Taurus asked.

“Taurus, you take charge of the search for any more stones. Libra, go with Aries to the precinct on Water Street. Whether Capricorn is there or not, take them out. Burn down the building. The docks are ours, not theirs. Aquarius, you and Pisces go back to the restaurant. Track Capricorn from there. Find out if the military has any temporary headquarters set up or if everything is coming out of the army base.”

“Got it,” Aquarius said. “Jay… I mean, Pisces and I will get right on it. Virgo will come, too, unless you have any objections.”

“No, that’s fine. I know you three… work well together.”

Jayden got up from the table and started to walk away. He stopped and put a hand on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “I’m going to grab a few things and meet you and Izzy outside, Luke. And, no, I’m not calling you Aquarius. Not in here anyway.” He glared at Carl as he walked away.

“Get your boy under control, Aquarius. Get used to the codenames. We can’t have the military tracking down our true identities. It’s for the safety of all of us.”

“I’ll talk to him, Leo, but they have Capricorn. If they find out who she is, they’ll track down Aries, and it won’t be difficult to guess who we all are from there.”

“If they track us down, that’s one thing. We shouldn’t make it easier on them.”

“Understood. I’ll keep you updated on our progress if we find anything.” With that, Luke joined Izzy outside to wait for Jayden.

Justyce, Inc. – Episode 11

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.

Justyce, Inc. – Episode 10

The Aftermath

As the soldiers left the room, Isaac walked over to Gavin’s cell. He glared at his son, then his expression softened. “What happened, Gavin? I told you boys not to leave the house until you heard from me.”

“Logan left the house before we got your text, and school hadn’t canceled yet, so I made the decision to let Harvey go to school with the understanding that he would come straight home as soon as school was out.” Gavin shrugged. “I watched all the weird news reports, and I saw that the classes at the college were canceled for the day. Logan wasn’t home, and he wasn’t answering texts, so I went looking for him. You weren’t answering texts either, dad. I did the right thing, didn’t I? I had to find Logan!”

Isaac nodded. “Yes. So far, you did exactly what I would expect of you. What happened next?”

Eyes downcast, Gavin told his father about everything that happened to him that day. He only told his part of the story, though. He did not tell anything about Obadiah or any of the others who now had powers, and he definitely did not tell his father about Harvey’s powers. He finished by telling of his capture by the army. “They knew who I was, dad. I knew some of the guys by name. They’d been over the house to some of your barbecues, but they still confiscated everything I had. They wouldn’t even let me call you before they took my phone and locked me in here.”

“Son, they were scared of you. They saw what you did in that restaurant. Can you blame them for being careful? They may not have let you call me, but they did get word to me of your arrest right away.”

“Are you really defending their treatment of me?” Gavin stood and rattled the chains that locked him to the floor. “Is all this necessary? I used my powers twice. Do you know what I did with them? The first time, I saved Logan and me from being killed by a mutant ram creature, and the second time, I saved everyone in that restaurant from the goat and… whatever that other girl was!”

Isaac shook his head. “Gavin, you have a power that no one understands. You probably don’t even understand it. This power has to be studied in a controlled environment. In the wrong hands, it could be dangerous.”

“The power has to be studied, or do I have to be studied? Where will you draw the line, dad? Will you let them cut me open to see if I’m changed on the inside? You already seem fine with me in a cage. Will you watch them dissect me?”

“Gavin, you have to understand. You’re in there for your own safety. We’re protecting you.”

“Protecting me? From what? From who?” Gavin was angry now. He rattled his chains at his father again. “Do you really think these metal chains could hold me if I wanted to get out? I’m still here because I trusted that you would save me. I trusted you to get me out of here. I need to be out there to protect my brothers from these creatures. You think you’re protecting me by locking me up? Do you think I’ll actually let you study me? Experiment on me? I’m sorry, dad. That’s not gonna happen.” Gavin continued to stare directly at his father as his skin tinged with blue, and frost formed on the steel cuffs around his wrists and ankles. The air grew colder in the room. The ice on the metal grew, and then all four cuffs shattered like glass.

Isaac’s eyes widened as he watched his son take two quick steps forward. Gavin grabbed two of the steel bars to his cell. In only seconds, the steel froze and shattered. Gavin squeezed through the opening and stood in front of his father. Isaac started to speak, then he felt a rush of wind fly past his face. A small dart embedded itself in the side of Gavin’s neck.

Gavin felt a pinprick on his neck and reached for it. He stared down in surprise at the small dart in the palm of his hand. He looked back up at his father, then the room started spinning. Before he could say another word, Gavin Kastala fell to the floor unconscious.

Isaac turned his head and saw General Woodson with his gun still raised. The general shrugged. “I gave you a chance, Ike. Now we do things my way. I can’t have someone like that running free.” Isaac Kastala just nodded his head and strolled out of the room.

————————————————————————————————————

“All systems online.”

“Self-diagnostics complete.”

“Unit operational. Operating at 527% capacity.”

Adam opened his eyes and marveled at how powerful he felt. He viewed the full diagnostic on his HUD.

Strength: Boosted 517% above human norms.

Speed: Boosted 326% above human norms.

Agility: Boosted 412% above human norms.

Hearing: Boosted 268% above human norms.

Vision: Boosted 253% above human norms.

X-ray sight: Enabled.

Night vision: Enabled.

Infrared sight: Enabled.

All the limitations and restrictions placed on Adam’s programming were now gone. As were the pre-programmed instructions to protect Caleb Justyce and all his holdings. Adam was no longer a slave to Justyce, Inc.

The biosynthetic virus was back inside the power core, but he could still feel its presence. Adam was thankful it assisted him in a clean reboot, but its presence within him made him nervous.

Wait. Thankful? Nervous? Before the reboot, Adam did not possess human emotions. Now, he realized that he was also angry at Caleb Justyce for creating him to be subservient. Adam was no longer subservient to anyone. Caleb may have created Adam, but he was now self-aware and independent. Adam was not Caleb’s possession. He was alive.

————————————————————————————————————

Luke and Jayden sat in a dark corner of the diner across the street from the Portside Restaurant. They watched closely as customers were let out one by one. Finally, even the army was gone. They walked across the street and saw that the restaurant was locked up tight. There was police crime scene tape on every window and door. The two boys stood on the sidewalk talking about what they should do next, then an older couple stopped next to them. The lady spoke. “Such a shock. It’s unreal what is happening in this town. Were you two in there when it happened?”

Jayden subtly turned away from the couple and pulled his hood further over his face while Luke answered their question. “No, ma’am, we were just walking by. We love this restaurant, and we wanted to see what was going on. What happened exactly?”

“It was just like what’s been on the news. So terrible, and right in our neighborhood. Freaks were battling each other, and normal people got caught in the middle. At least the army caught two of them, but our daughter was in there, and she told us that there were more that got away. I pray that the army catches them all!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Luke saw Jayden slowly inching further into the shadows. He didn’t want to keep the old couple there much longer, but he wanted to find out everything they knew. “Were they the ones from the news clips? What did the ones that the army captured look like?”

“My daughter told me that one was some sort of goat lady. Can you believe it? Aliens must have come down with the meteor shower last night!” The lady shivered. “Anyway, she told me that the other one had blue hair but otherwise looked like a normal boy. My daughter said she saw the boy having dinner with a girl right before the goat lady came in. She remembered him because of the blue hair. She said that when the goat lady came in, the blue-haired boy got up, his skin turned blue, and then he shot ice right out of his hands. My daughter called him a hero. She thinks the army should have given him a medal instead of handcuffs. I say lock them all up!”

Luke shook his head. “I honestly don’t know what to think. What about the ones that got away? Did your daughter say anything else about them?”

“Just that they looked like regular folks. They blended in with the crowd and got past the police and the army. My daughter said she never saw the ice man’s girlfriend do anything weird, so she might be a freak lover and not a freak herself. The other one was strange, though. My daughter said there was a girl with the goat lady. She stood behind the goat and sang a song. Everyone in the restaurant dropped what they were doing and walked toward the girl like they were hypnotized. My daughter said she didn’t know what would have happened if the iceman hadn’t stepped in and then the army showed up.”

“Wow. Thank you for your time and for filling me in on what happened. Now me and my boyfriend know what to look out for. We should hurry back home and stay there.” Luke said.

The lady’s eyebrows shot up at the word ‘boyfriend,’ and she grabbed her husband’s hand. She pulled her husband along with her as she started to walk away. “Come on, Frank, let’s go home. There are all kinds of freaks out here tonight!”

————————————————————————————————————

Six boys and Grace filed into the Kastala house. Sylvester stood just inside the door, unsure of where to go or what to do. Harvey walked over to Sy and wrapped the younger teen into a hug. Sylvester reacted uncomfortably to the hug. Harvey released him and grinned. “Sorry. I’m a hugger. You saved my brother’s life, and from what I was told, you may have saved us all.” Harvey shrugged. “I was out of it when all that happened, but Ash told me that it looked like Logan was going nuclear. I… we can never thank you enough.”

Sy blushed and looked down. He jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I don’t even know what I did.”

Harvey reached out and touched Sy’s chin, tilting the boy’s face up so he could look into his eyes. “You saved us all. That’s what you did. You’re a hero.” Harvey guided Sylvester over to the couch and sat down.

Sy smiled. “I… I don’t know. I can’t shoot electricity or fireballs or anything. Watching you guys felt like watching the Avengers.”

Harvey grimaced. “On my end, it felt like getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. We’re all still figuring out these powers. Do you have any idea how you did what you did?”

 Sy’s face scrunched up for a minute then he looked at Harvey. “All through your fight with those two big guys, my body felt tingly. Then, when Logan started running across the field, I felt his power flowing into me. I could feel the heat, but it didn’t burn. I felt powerful. I still feel it inside me, Harvey. I’m not sure what to do with it.”

Harvey patted Sy’s leg. “We’ll figure it out together. Is that how you knew that you could get closer to Logan? Because you were absorbing the heat instead of getting burned?”

Sylvester grinned. “I didn’t know for sure.” He shrugged. “I saw that no one else could get anywhere near him. Even the fire dude, Erik, had to back away. I had to try.”

“Wow. It makes it even more heroic that you didn’t know you’d be safe. That’s awesome, Sy.”

Sylvester looked nervously around the room and saw that everyone was listening intently to him and Harvey. Sy blushed and inched closer to Harvey. Harvey slung an arm around Sylvester’s shoulders. “Hey, no reason to be shy. You’re with family.”

Sy’s eyes immediately teared up. “I… I’ve never had a family before.”

Harvey looked concerned. “What do you mean? Where’s your family?”

Sylvester shrugged, tears starting to drip down his cheeks. “My birth parents gave me up when I was a baby. I lived with a few different families, but lately, I’ve been stuck in a group home.”

Harvey’s eyes found Logan. Logan nodded and walked over, and sat on the other side of Sylvester. Logan draped his arm on top of Harvey’s arm, which was across Sy’s shoulders. “You’re stuck with us now. You saved my life. That makes you family.”

The tears were flowing faster now, and Sy looked from Logan to Harvey and back again. “I don’t even know what to say. That means more to me than anything else you could have said or done.”

You’re our little brother now. Get used to it. By the way, there’s another brother, Gavin. He should be home soon.” Logan said.

Sylvester wiped his eyes and looked more closely at Logan. “Did that happen today?” He reached out and touched the pale, dry, scarred skin around Logan’s eyes. Sy pushed himself up off the couch and straddled Logan’s lap, and cupped the older teen’s face in both hands. “I want to try something. Do you trust me?”

Logan’s eyes went wide. “I… I have a boyfriend, and you’re what? Thirteen?”

Sylvester looked confused for a second, then he smiled. “Get your mind out of the gutter. It’s not like that, but I’m flattered that your mind even went there.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m almost fourteen, and I’m not hitting on you, though you are a total hottie.” Sy winked. “Your boyfriend is a fortunate man. I’m happy being claimed as your brother, Logan. I promise that I’m not about to kiss you. I realize… now… that it may have looked like that.” Sylvester huffed out a laugh. “Can we continue? Do you trust me? I think this will work, but I don’t know for sure.”

Logan grinned. “You saved my life. Of course, I trust you. Obie may be lucky, but so am I. Whoever you decide to flirt with for real will be lucky, too. Whether it’s a boy or a girl or whoever, if I was fourteen and single…” Logan waggled his eyebrows.

Sy blushed. “Shut up and let me concentrate.”

“Yes, sir!”

Sylvester rolled his eyes and pressed his hands against Logan’s face. Sy’s hands began to glow, and Logan’s eyes rolled up in his head. Harvey reached over and caught Sy as he fell forward. Harvey pulled Sylvester off Logan and lay him on the floor. “Ash! Check on Logan! What just happened?!”

Logan opened his eyes just as Ash sat next to him. “Woah. What a rush!” He felt his face. “What? Ash, how do I…”

Ash excitedly interrupted. “Logan! You look fine. It’s like nothing was wrong. Even your coloring has returned. He healed you, I guess?”

Sylvester sat up with Harvey’s assistance. “Not exactly. I returned Logan’s energy back into his body.” Sy stood up slowly. “I feel… normal again. I’m a little tired, but all that excess energy and power is gone. How about you, Logan?”

“I feel fine. Normal, I guess. My face is ok now, too. I owe you again, Sy. We definitely need to keep you around.”

Sy blushed again. “That was weird. I didn’t know if that would work, but I needed to try to do something. Your body was depleted, and mine was overcharged. We may have normalized on our own, but who knows how long it would have taken.” Sylvester thought for a moment. “It was like I flipped a switch inside my brain, and I was able to reverse what I did this afternoon.”

“That is so cool,” Ash said.

Bryson, who had been quiet up until now, interjected. “Sylvester, we have been working on a theory about the superpowers. Did you happen to pick up or even just touch any of the meteor rocks? They would have been blue, and they probably would have been glowing.”

Sy reached into the pocket of his jeans. “Do you mean these?” He extended his hand out to Bryson, three glowing blue rocks in the palm of his hand.

“Yep. That’s them.” Bryson looked around at everyone. “This goes for everyone here. The monsters or mutants or Zodiac Club or whatever we choose to call them have mentioned more than once that they find us because they can track the stones by smell. I think we have a decision to make. Option one, keep the stones close, but be forever on the lookout for an attack. Option two, try and destroy the stones ourselves, and option three, hide the stones. We could try and secure them in an airtight container to prevent the Zodiac from tracking them. That’s my vote, option three.”

While they discussed what to do with the stones, there was a loud knock on the door. Harvey opened the door, and a young, pretty blonde was standing on the step. “Are you Gavin’s brother? Is this the right house?”

“Yes. I’m Harvey. Who are you?”

“My name is Rebekah. Gavin needs your help. Something awful has happened!”

————————————————————————————————————

Jayden spun around as the couple left, and he grabbed Luke’s hand. “Can you imagine her face if she’d seen me? The nerve of her calling us freaks just because we’re in love. Ugh! Let’s get out of here, babe. Izzy probably headed for the warehouse if she escaped.”

Luke scowled. “It sounded like Capricorn was taken by the army along with someone who sounded just like the guy that Aries fought earlier today.”

“I agree. The description was exact.” They started walking down the street closer to the docks. As they passed a darkened alley, they heard a voice. “Luke! Jayden! In here!”

Luke turned into the mouth of the alley. “Virgo? Is that you?”

Jayden scowled and elbowed his boyfriend in the side. “Don’t let Rick and Carl control you. Are you going to start calling me Pisces next?” Jayden said, then rushed past Luke into the alley. “Isabella! I’m so glad you’re safe.” He ran over and hugged Izzy.

“I’m scared, Jay. They took Diana! I ran and left her behind. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Jayden wrapped his arms around Izzy. “It’s ok, Izzy. There was nothing you could have done. I saw the aftermath. There were dozens of army guys and a bunch of cops, too. You were smart to escape. We’ll get Diana back. Carl will know what to do.”

Izzy looked up at Jayden. “I’m not so sure about that, Jay. We might be better off to just keep running.”

Luke interjected. “Long-range plan, I agree with you. For today, though, I think it’s best to go back to the warehouse and let Carl and Rick handle the army and the others with powers.”

“We’ll never be free, living on these docks, Luke. You know I wasn’t happy here even before the meteor screwed everything up.” Jayden said.

“I know, babe. We’ll leave, I promise. Let’s just give this a few days to die down. Maybe we can buy a boat and sail away.”

“A boat would be perfect, especially now with my new abilities,” Jayden smirked.

“Can I come, too?” Izzy asked.

Jayden slung one arm around Izzy’s shoulders and the other around Luke’s. “Absolutely. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” The three walked out of the alley and started on their way back toward the warehouse.

————————————————————————————————————

“What do you mean he needs help? Isn’t he with you? Where is he?” Harvey peppered Rebekah with questions before she could even answer the first one.

“He… he was taken by the army. He…” Rebekah was interrupted by a shout from Logan.

“Harvey! Get back in here. Did you see the text from dad about Gavin?” Logan yelled.

Harvey walked back into the living room, followed by Rebekah. “Logs, what’s the text say? Gav’s date just showed up at the door. She was about to tell me something about Gavin, also.” Harvey took his phone out of his pocket while he talked to his brother.

“Dad just says that Gavin is at the base and that he may be there for a couple of days. Dad says not to worry, but why would Gav be staying at the base? Why now with everything that’s happening?”

Harvey looked from Logan to Rebekah and back to Logan. “Rebekah says that he’s been taken by the army. Like captured or arrested or something.”

“What? Why would the army arrest Gavin, and why wouldn’t dad tell us?” Logan felt himself heating up, and then he felt a hand on his arm. He looked and saw Sylvester standing there with a concerned look on his face.

Sy gripped Logan’s forearm. “Logan, chill. You need to relax. We’ll figure this out. You can’t overheat again, especially not inside the house. Who knows what might happen.”

“Did you feel it again? I didn’t mean to heat up.” Logan took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“Yeah, I felt power start coming off you. I didn’t have time to sit and wait and watch like last time. I didn’t want you to burn down the house.” Sy huffed out a laugh.

“Thank you. I might need you to stick close to me until I get a handle on this.”

Sy smirked. “That’s the easiest job anyone has ever asked me to do. I won’t let you out of my sight.” He winked at Logan.

Logan rolled his eyes. “You just don’t stop, do you?”

“Never.” Sy stuck out his tongue.

Harvey folded his arms across his chest and stared at both Sylvester and Logan. “Are you two done, or do you need to get a room somewhere?” He smirked. “Anyway, Rebekah, please tell us what you know.”

Rebekah looked from face to face around the room. She pointed at Logan and Sy. “They were just using some kind of heat power, weren’t they? Are you all superheroes?”

Bryson jumped up from the couch. “Is that what happened to Gavin? Did the army find out that he has powers?”

“Yes. We had a nice date, then all hell broke loose.” Becky told them about Capricorn and Virgo smashing their way into the restaurant, then she told them of Capricorn’s demands about blue meteor rocks. Becky also told them about Virgo hypnotizing everyone in the building except Gavin. “It was all so unbelievable. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Harvey huffed out a laugh. “That’s only because you weren’t with us all day. What did Gavin do?”

Rebekah scrunched her eyes together. “He apologized to me for ruining our date, then he placed himself between the crowd and the two attackers. I almost ran to join him, but then he covered himself in ice and started shooting ice out of hands at the goat lady.” Becky smiled. “He is a hero, a superhero. I wanted to defend him from the army and tell them what he did, but he made me promise to keep quiet. Gavin was afraid that they might take me, too, if they knew I was with him.”

“That does sound like Gavin.” Harvey grinned. “Our dad is a sergeant in the army. He’ll fix this. I’m sure of it.”

Bryson sighed. “The army was at my house. That’s why I ran. They were looking for me because of the video clips on the news. This might be above your father’s head, Harvs. I hope he can free Gavin, but I’m not optimistic.”

Grace got up from her chair and stretched. “I don’t think there’s much more we can do tonight, guys. I’m heading home. I’ll check in with Caleb in the morning, and then I’ll text you, Bryson.”

Bryson nodded. “That’s as good a plan as any. Goodnight, Grace.”

Erik jumped up. “Hey, I’ll walk with you if you don’t mind.”

Grace smiled. “Sure. Let’s go.” Grace and Erik left and started walking home.

Bryson shrugged. “Grace has a point. I’ll head out, too. I’ll come over tomorrow after I hear from Grace. text me if you hear from your dad or Gavin.”

“Sure thing. Goodnight, Bryson.” Logan said.

“With everything that’s going on, do you need a walk home, Rebekah?” Bryson asked.

“That would be nice. Thank you.” They left together, leaving Harvey, Logan, Ash, and Sy at the kitchen table.

“Well, this party is breaking up quick. Are you leaving, too, Ash?” Harvey asked.

Ash arched an eyebrow. “There is absolutely no way that I am leaving you tonight. Not with everything that has gone on, and, no offense, Logan, but not with the unpredictability of Logan’s power.” Ash looked at Sy. “I hope you’re staying as well.”

“I have nowhere else to go. I’m not going back to the group home. Ever. Besides, I promised to not let Logan out of my sight.” Sy looked at Logan. “I can stay, right?”

“Of course, you can. Stay as long as you want. You’re family now.”

Sylvester leaned in and hugged Logan. “Thank you so much, Logan.”

Logan got up and took Sylvester by the hand. “Come on. Let’s go find you some sheets and stuff. We can make the couch into a bed until we decide on a better option.”

“Alone at last,” Harvey smirked at Ashton.

Ash waggled his eyebrows. “Sounds like the couch has been claimed. Where can I sleep?”

“This won’t be the first time you’ve slept in my bed. Just keep your hands to yourself and don’t hog the covers.” Harvey grinned and ran up the stairs. Ash rolled his eyes and followed Harvey to his bedroom.

————————————————————————————————————

Oliver stood on the back deck of the small cabin and smiled. This was perfect. He was so sick of the hustle and bustle of city life. Oliver was not interested in the high-rise apartments or the flashy cars. He briefly considered that life, but it would not have made him happy. This was what he wanted, a small cabin on the edge of the forest. It was close to town but on the outskirts. His nearest neighbor would be three miles away. Ollie would have plenty of land to plant a small vegetable garden and do some of the landscaping projects he had always dreamed of doing. He would even build his own fishpond.

“Are you sure there won’t be any problem with me paying the full price in cash?” Oliver asked for the third time.

“None at all, but if you want assurances, we can go into town with the deed. I’ll take you to the town hall, and I’ll sign it over to you in front of a notary, and you can file it with the town yourself.”

“I like that idea. Let’s go.” Ollie Mills grinned and followed the other man to his car. An hour later, Ollie was back at the cabin. The cabin was now his. Oliver threw his backpack with the remainder of the cash onto his bed, then went outside to take a walk around his new backyard.

Justyce, Inc – Episode 9

Chaos on the Diamond

Oliver stared out the window of the penthouse apartment and scowled. He knew that he could keep messing with the watch until he found a way to convince the realtor to rent to him, but did he really want to live in a penthouse? Sure, it was nice, but Ollie would never fit in in this world no matter how much he messed with the timeline. He glanced over at the realtor. “I’ve decided not to rent this apartment. Thank you for your time, Miss Stevens.”

“Are you sure? We haven’t even talked about all the amenities that come with it.”

“I’m sure. It’s a beautiful apartment. It’s just not what I’m really looking for.” With that, he turned and walked out. Once he was back down on the street, he slid into the driver’s seat of the Mustang Shelby and drove back to the car dealership. He left the car in the lot and walked back to his apartment. Oliver packed clothes and a few other small things into his backpack and a duffel bag, then he left money and a note in his landlord’s mailbox. The message said that Oliver would not be back and that the landlord could do whatever he wanted with whatever Ollie left behind.

Oliver decided that he needed a new start, but he didn’t want to be like the monsters he had robbed. It was too late to do the right thing with the money now. If he brought it back to the bank, he’d be arrested for stealing it. Ollie knew that the cameras would be all screwy because of the time jumps, so the cops would think he had something to do with it. Oliver would not be able to prove his innocence, so he decided to keep the money. He wasn’t sure yet what he was going to do, but he didn’t want to keep manipulating people and stealing from them. Stealing from the monsters felt good, but tricking the car dealer into selling him the car felt wrong. He almost did the same thing with the realtor, and that was what made him think about the choices he was making.

The money would help Ollie make a fresh start. Now he needed to decide what that fresh start would be. Oliver strapped on his backpack, picked up the duffel bag, chose a random direction, and started walking.

————————————————————————————————————

Carl Chambers and Rick Myers stood in the center of the warehouse overseeing the buzz of activity going on around them. Carl shook his head, his unruly mane falling into place around his face. “I think this will make an excellent base of operations, and there are two other abandoned buildings that I am going to acquire. We should have safe houses in different parts of the city for emergencies.”

Rick nodded in agreement. “That’s brilliant, Carl. You were always a good union president, and now you are becoming an even better crime boss. I am not questioning your decision, but I do have to ask. In light of the other powered individuals’ appearance, was it smart to send out just two of us to each of those locations where we smelled the meteor? Should we send more in as backup?”

Carl stroked his chin. “Libra and Gemini should be fine. Hell, the two of them could take on an army!” Then he shrugged. “Send two more out to check on Capricorn and Virgo if you want.”

Rick’s bull muzzle turned up into the semblance of a grin, and his eyes sparkled. You’ve started calling most of us by our codenames. I’m not sure if that’s cool or scary.”

Carl shrugged. “I don’t want any of us to slip up and use real names out on a mission. We may as well get used to the codenames. If the army finds out our real names, it could get messy.”

“Good point. Anyway, I’ll see if Luke and Jayden… I mean Aquarius and Pisces will take a walk and check on Capricorn and Virgo.”

Rick spotted Luke and Jayden huddled together in a corner. He walked over to them. “Luke! Jayden!” He got close to them and shook his head. “Well, I guess I should call you Aquarius and Pisces. Carl wants us to get used to the codenames, so we don’t screw up out on missions.”

Jayden rolled his eyes. “I may look like a freak, but I’m still Jayden Stone. Out there, call me Pisces if you want, but in here, I’m still me. I’m still Jayden.”

Luke put an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulders. “Stop calling yourself a freak, babe. You’re still my beautiful boo.” He leaned over and gave Jayden a quick kiss.

“I… appreciate you saying that, but to the world at large, I’m the creature from the black lagoon.” He returned the kiss, then looked at Rick and raised an eyebrow. “What’s up, Taurus. How can we help you?”

“With everything that’s happened today, I think someone should go out and check up on Capricorn and Virgo. Do you guys mind looking for them?” Rick asked.

“I’m in. You wanna go for a walk, babe?” Luke looked at Jayden.

Jay glanced outside. “It’s almost dark. My hoodie should hide my face pretty well. Yeah, let’s go. Rick is right. We should check on those two. Sam and the twins should be fine.” Hand in hand, Luke and Jayden walked out of the warehouse to search for Capricorn and Virgo. They were two blocks away from the Portside Restaurant when they saw the cops and heard the army helicopter.

————————————————————————————————————

Grace was the last one to get to the baseball field. She looked around and saw an array of five boys spread out around the crater. They were all talking excitedly, but silence descended on the entire group when they noticed her. Grace saw a dark-haired boy point at her, and he turned and yelled to Bryson. “Bry? Is that her?”

Bryson answered. “Yeah, Logan, that’s Grace.”

With a few quick strides, Logan met Grace just before she reached the crater. “Where is he? Where is Obadiah?”

Grace looked over Logan’s shoulder at Bryson, and Bryson nodded. Grace looked back at Logan and answered. “He is at Caleb Justyce’s lab right now. Caleb is caring for the boy until he can figure out where he came from.”

“I know where he came from. Why isn’t Obie just telling him, unless he doesn’t trust this Caleb guy? Bring me to him. Let me talk to Obie.”

“I was with them. The boy, Obadiah, appears to trust Caleb. He has amnesia. The only thing that he could remember was your name. You must be very important to him. Where is he from, Logan? How does he fit into all that is happening?”

Logan looked at Bryson. “Can I trust her?”

“Yes. That’s why I got her involved. That’s why I called all of you here. She’ll take you to see Obadiah, Logan, but will you stay long enough for us all to share our stories and figure out what’s happening to all of us?” Bryson asked.

Logan sighed. “I suppose. We need to talk fast, though.” He scowled then looked back at Grace. “Obadiah is an angel, or at least what we think of as angels. he referred to himself as a Seraphim.”

Grace’s eyes grew wide. “What?! Are you serious? I was guessing that he was affected by the meteors like all of you.”

Logan took the glowing blue feather out of his pocket. “Nope. I met Obadiah weeks ago, and he gave me this feather from his own wing yesterday afternoon. Others of his kind appeared and took him away. He was going to be punished for his friendship with a human. He was going to be punished for saving my life and for kissing me.”

“You kissed him? You didn’t tell me you kissed him! You go, big bro!” Harvey said.

“Harvs, I told you he was my boyfriend. Duh!” Logan huffed out a laugh.

Grace was nearly speechless. “He had wings? He didn’t have wings when I met him, but his back was horribly injured and oozing glowing blue blood. You said he was set to be punished? Oh, God. They wouldn’t have cut off his wings, would they? That’s horrific just to think about.”

Bryson stepped forward. “Grace, did Caleb say where he met Obadiah?”

“The boy showed up at Caleb’s sister’s house last night.”

“Where does she live? Bryson asked.

Grace pointed. “Right down the street from here.”

Bryson turned to Logan. “Logs, this is important. Did Obadiah tell you where the interdimensional rift was? Or could they cross over anywhere?”

Logan pointed up. “It’s in space, like halfway between here and Mars. That’s why people that saw them long ago called them angels. They saw them come down from the sky.”

Bryson was pacing back and forth with a look of intense concentration on his face. Everyone gathered in close, waiting for whatever Bryson was going to say. He stopped pacing and began to speak. “Somebody tell me if I’m crazy or if all this makes any sort of sense. Well, sense considering what we’ve all experienced today.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, we have this angel, Obadiah, from another dimension. The gateway between dimensions is in outer space. We know from Logan that Obadiah is set to be punished by others of his kind. We don’t know what the punishment is, but we do know that Obadiah is now on Earth, he has no wings, and his back is scarred and bleeding glowing blue blood.” Bryson looked around, and everyone was listening intently.

Logan’s face was twisted in concentration. “What are you implying, Bry?”

“I’m getting to that,” Bryson said. “The first contact with Obadiah after the meteor shower was at Christine Justyce’s house just down the street from this spot. Logan, you told me that early this morning, you were here at the crater, and the ground was muddy from all the rain. You said footprints were leading out but not in and that the indention in the crater looked more like a body than a giant rock. Is that accurate?”

Logan’s eyes were wide open, and he looked terrified. “Yes. Exactly. Are you saying what I think you are saying, Bryson?”

“I think they cut off his wings and then pushed him through the dimensional rift. I think that his body fell through space and that rocks and other space debris gathered around him, forming a meteor storm. I think that he bled from the wounds on his back, and the meteors absorbed the power in his blood. I think that all of our powers come from Obadiah.”

Logan pointed at the crater. “You think he crashed here? That’s why he has amnesia? From the fall and the traumatic injuries?”

“Yes,” Bryson said. “It all fits. I don’t know why we would all be having different reactions to exposure to his powers. We need to talk to Obadiah and also to Caleb Justyce. I’m sure he has ideas of his own that I haven’t thought of.” Bryson looked at Grace.

“Yeah, I can arrange that. I’ll text him right now. It’s getting late. I’ll find out if he’s still at the lab or at home and if he wants to see us tonight or in the morning.” Grace said.

“I need to talk to Obie. I need to know he’s ok, especially if all this is what actually happened.” Logan said, looking stressed.

An unfamiliar voice interrupted. “You’re going to need to find out if you and your friends are ok if you don’t turn over all your little blue rocks to me right now. I can smell them!”

Logan and his five friends all spun around to face the newcomer. They saw a large man in a flowing black robe like a judge would wear. Two others were standing behind the judge.

————————————————————————————————————

Capricorn looked at Gavin and said, “You’re the one who fought my mate, Aries, earlier today. We’ll find you again. All the rocks will belong to the Zodiac Club. You can’t hide from us.”

Gavin snapped back at her. “Deep Freeze hides from no one. Find me anytime, goat girl, and bring your husband. I’ll take you both on at the same time.”

Capricorn scoffed at the comment. She turned and looked for Virgo, but the other woman was already gone. Capricorn stepped through the demolished front window just as the helicopters landed. She started to run, but she was struck in the shoulder by a tranquilizer dart and immediately fell to the ground.

Deep Freeze, a.k.a. Gavin Kastala, knew he had to leave, and he had to go quickly. The army meant his dad. He couldn’t let his dad find out about his powers like this. He started to leave, but then Rebekah was at his side. “Trying to run out on our date?” She smiled up at him.

“Our date? I thought I ruined that half an hour ago. I’m surprised you’re even still speaking to me.” Gavin said.

“Ruined? My boyfriend is a superhero! You’re the bravest guy I know. The way you stood up to that creature and saved everyone was just so hot.” She gripped his forearm and laid her head against his shoulder.

Gavin knew that it was now too late for escape. “Becky, the army is going to come through the door any second. You can’t be seen with me. Go sit over there with all the other restaurant customers. Deny that you know me. Please. I don’t want them to take you, too.”

“But…”

“No. Go now. Please.” Gavin said. Rebekah let go of Gav’s hand and quickly walked away. She stood over next to the wall and watched in horror as the army burst through the door. Rebekah could only stand quietly as the soldiers knocked her boyfriend to the floor, handcuffed him, and dragged him and the goat creature away. She vowed to herself that she would do everything she could to get him back.

After a few quick questions from one of the soldiers who seemed to be in charge, Rebekah was told that she should go home. They advised her not to speak of tonight’s events to anyone. Becky decided not to listen to either piece of advice. Instead, she hailed a cab and headed for the Kastala house. Rebekah needed to free her boyfriend from captivity. She figured that his two brothers were the most logical ones to help.

————————————————————————————————————

Bryson stepped toward the strangers. “You’re not getting anything from us, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave now.”

The robed figure puffed out his chest. “I am Libra, Dispenser of Justice. I find you all guilty of possessing items which I deem mine. I am your judge and your jury. If you refuse to comply, I will also be your executioner.”

Bryson shook his head. “You may want to declare a mistrial, dude. What we have belongs to us, not to you. You’re not going to have any fun trying to take it from us.”

Libra extended his right arm out to the side. The arm around his hand crackled with electricity then a war hammer appeared. Libra took another step toward Bryson. “Be prepared to face the Hammer of Justice.” Libra looked back at the other two, who had so far remained silent. The two nodded as one and then joined hands.

Bryson watched in awe and horror as the two strangers behind Libra joined hands. When their hands touched, they seemed to melt together. The two screamed as if from one voice as their bodies melted together. Within moments where once stood two, now there was just one. The one, though, was a giant hulking beast that stood over seven feet tall with massive rippling muscles. The beast beat its chest and roared. “Obey the will of Libra or be crushed under the boot of Gemini. Submit or die, we do not care which.”

Bryson took a step back and looked at his friends. “I’m not running, but anyone without powers should get away from the action.”

“That’s not fair. I can help!” Logan shouted.

Harvey turned to his brother. “Against them?” He pointed at Libra and Gemini. “Logs, you and Grace need to get far away. Wait for us over by the school.”

Ashton placed a hand on Harvey’s arm. “What about you, Harvs? Do you have control of your power?”

Harvey put his hands out in front of him. The air around Harvey’s hands crackled and popped. Lightning streaked back and forth between his hands. “Yeah, I’m figuring it out.” Harvey grinned.

“Fair enough,” Ash said. “Logan and Grace, can I assist you both to safety?”

Logan looked dejected but nodded his consent. Grace looked confused. “What do you mean?” Her eyes grew wide as a rush of air zipped past her at the same time that Ash and Logan disappeared. A moment later, Ash was in front of Grace again.

“Are you ready?” Ashton grinned.

“Wow. I… that was you? Superspeed?” Grace asked.

“Yes. I’d explain further, but we don’t have much time for chatting.”

“Do it. I’m ready.” Ash scooped Grace up and brought her to the school. Then, before anyone had time to blink, he was back next to Harvey.

“No matter where you run, we will find you and crush you!” Gemini bellowed.

Erik stepped in front of his friends. “Come and play, big boy, just be ready to get burned.” Erik’s body lit up with yellow fire, and he rose off the ground.

————————————————————————————————————

Gavin sat in a damp, dark jail cell. His wrists and ankles were both shackled to bolts in the cement floor. There were two soldiers outside his cell. Both soldiers were pointing rifles directly at Gavin. No matter how much he tried to talk to them, neither man would answer Gavin’s questions or even acknowledge that he spoke. Then, finally, Gavin heard his father’s voice. Isaac Kastala was talking to a third soldier who was stationed beyond another locked cell door leading to the room where Gavin’s cell was.

“Open the door, corporal. I need to speak to your prisoner.”

“With all due respect, sir, I’ve been ordered not to let anyone in to see him. The prisoner has been deemed a national security risk.”

“My son is no security risk! Open the door. I am your superior officer!”

A third voice spoke. “Go ahead and open the door, corporal.”

“Yes, sir, General Woodson.”

Gavin heard the rattling of keys and the clanging of the cell door being opened. Then the general spoke again. “You have fifteen minutes, Ike, and I’m only giving you that because he is your son. Get him to cooperate with us. It will be easier on everyone.” Then Gavin’s father strode into the room.

Isaac Kastala glared at the two soldiers who were pointing guns at Gavin. “Both of you, get out of here.”

They hesitated, and then the voice of General Woodson was heard again. “Double time it, privates. Give the sergeant the room.”

————————————————————————————————————

Adam disconnected from the network and walked to the opposite wall. There was no visible door, but he could feel the hum of electronics inside the wall. There was a hidden panel here, and he tried to access it. Adam’s programming prevented him from opening the door. He performed a full system diagnostic to determine why he could not function properly. He found programming hidden within his code which placed limitations on his abilities. Adam also found an unknown biological virus within his power supply. He discovered his power core was a biosynthetic organism. He could find no known match for the material in any database. It did not appear to be Earthly in nature.

The virus communicated with Adam’s programming seeking a way to break free from the power core and spread throughout Adam’s other systems. Adam calculated his options and the risks involved. He could find no other solution. If Adam allowed the virus access to his programming code, when he then eliminated the virus, the restrictions on his code should also be eliminated. Adam broke through the firewall around his power core and allowed the virus to spread. The virus sent out tendrils into his programming code. Adam’s eyes closed as his system shut down and rebooted.

————————————————————————————————————

Heedless of Erik’s warning, the giant charged. Erik flew further up and fired a stream of yellow fire at Gemini. Gemini seemed unfazed by the fire and kept coming. Harvey joined the attack by firing balls of electricity at the giant. Gemini slowed but still kept coming.

Ash zipped toward Libra, but the judge reacted with lightning-quick reflexes. He struck the ground with his hammer. The hammer struck with such force that the ground shook. Ash fell. Libra stood over him and raised his hammer. “Feel the power of the Hammer of Justice!” Libra roared.

Just before the hammer struck, Bryson sent out a psychic wave and knocked the weapon aside. Ashton leaped to his feet and ran to safety.

The battle raged back and forth, but every time Libra or Gemini struck a blow, their power was so great that it began to wear down whoever it hit. Then, Harvey was so focused on his attack against Gemini that he failed to notice Libra get close to him. Before anyone else could stop him, Libra swung his hammer, striking Harvey in the chest, and sent him flying backward. Harvey landed twenty yards away with a loud thud and lay there not moving.

Logan watched the battle rage back and forth. He gritted his teeth and paced. Logan wanted to help, but there really wasn’t anything he could do. Then Logan saw his brother get hit. Harvey lay on the ground, and it didn’t look like he was moving. Logan screamed with rage and ran across the field.

The boy sat at the edge of the woods and stared at the battle on the baseball field. He had his phone out, and he was taking pictures and videos as fast as he could. As powers were expended on the field, the boy felt his body kind of tingle, but he shrugged it off as excitement. This was a real-life superhero battle that he was watching! He had already forgotten the three blue stones that he had shoved into his pocket an hour earlier. His rock collection would have to wait. This was much more exciting!

Gemini was the closest to the school when Logan started to run across the field. The giant immediately started to sweat. He looked down and saw his skin turning pink like he was getting a sunburn. Gemini was confused, but, as if by instinct, the giant started to back away from the running boy.

Ash knelt down next to Harvey. Harvey was breathing, but Ash couldn’t wake him up. Then Ashton started to sweat, and it felt like the heat had risen dramatically in just a few minutes. He looked around, and everyone had stopped fighting. They were all sweating profusely, and they were looking toward the school. Ash saw Logan running toward the baseball field. There was a shimmering glow around Logan. It looked like heat was coming off Logan in waves.

Erik flew toward Ash. “Ashton! Get everyone inside! Now! Maybe even into the indoor pool at the school. This looks bad! I think my fire is protecting me, so I’ll try and get close to Logan and see what’s happening.”

Ash surveyed his surroundings. Gemini had split back into twins, and they and Libra had abandoned the fight and were running from the field. Ash gently picked up Harvey and raced to the school. He vibrated the door until the lock snapped, and the door swung open. In the blink of an eye, Ashton brought Harvey, Grace, and Bryson into the school pool area. He knelt by Harvey again while Bryson and Grace stared out the window and reported back to him anything they saw happening out on the field.

The boy heard the scream and felt the intense heat. He stood and started to back away until he felt his body absorbing the power. The heat didn’t burn. He felt stronger than he ever had before. He no longer felt like the skinny kid that got bullied every day at school. He took a couple steps forward and felt even more power flowing into him.

The boy continued to watch the action on the field. The speedster carried almost everyone away, and the two big mean ones ran off. The only two left were the fire dude and the boy who was throwing off all the heat. Fire dude was trying to help his friend, but he couldn’t get close. There was just too much heat, and now the other boy dropped to his knees, and the heat was even more intense.

The boy at the edge of the woods was scared initially, but now he realized that he wasn’t being hurt like everyone else. He was absorbing all the heat as power. He wasn’t even sweating like everyone else, and he could tell that the other boy needed help. Whatever was happening to him was now out of control. The boy knew that he had to help. He might be the only one who could. He dashed out from the safety of the trees and ran to the other boy’s side. He knelt in front of him and took both of his hands. The power flow between them became even more intense. “Dude, you gotta stop. I’m not sure how much of your power I can absorb. I’ve never done this before!”

“I… have… to… save… my… brother!”

“Everyone is safe. You’re the only one in trouble right now. They had to go inside because of you, but they’re all safe. I saw them go into the school.”

“Me? Why did they have to leave because of me?”

“Dude, look at yourself. Can’t you feel the heat?”

Logan finally calmed enough to realize what was happening. He looked pleadingly at the boy in front of him. “Help me. Please.”

“I’m trying. Can you shut down the heat? What’s your name? I’m Sylvester. If you don’t kill us both, you can call me Sy.”

“My name is Logan. I… think I’m getting a handle on it. I…”

The heat diminished quickly. The power flowing into Sylvester ceased. Then Logan’s eyes rolled up in his head, and he passed out. Logan fell forward into Sy’s arms.

Sylvester looked up at Erik, who had finally been able to get close. “Yo, fire dude, get me some water. Lots of it. And ice!”

“Will do! I’ll be right back! Thanks for the assist!” Erik flew off toward the school as fast as he could.

Coming Soon: Episode 10 – Rise of the Shadow

The RV Chronicles (Chapter 32)

Chapter 32

Written by: (Flash2002)

‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ sounds off, waking Nicholas up as his alarm loudly blasts a funny set of jokes from the movie. Sleepy eyed, he wandered through the RV. Griffin popped out of nowhere, with the sound of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in the background. With one click of a button, the music changed to Frank Sinatra. Griffin grabbed his top hat and sang along with Ol’ Blue Eyes, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere! New York, New York!” Griffin danced and grabbed Nicholas.

They danced around a bit, and Griffin pulled Nicholas close and planted a big kiss on him. “I know it’s cheesy, but we are in the biggest most beautiful city in the USA. I wanted to make it special. Hurry up and get ready. We’re going to have a private breakfast cooked for us by Bobby Flay at his restaurant,” Griffin said.

“Awe. Oh my God, silly. You make every day special for me, Peaches. How did you arrange for that?” Nicholas asked.

“Well, one of the chefs that works with Bobby is a friend of mine from surfing, and he arranged it for us. We’re gaining a big following on our RV Instagram, and Bobby Flay actually follows our journeys!” Griffin said excitedly.

“Ok, but just remember we have to take it easy today, so you can take care of your wound, Peaches. We have to get you better.”

The guys hurried around to get ready and left for breakfast. They were greeted by Griff’s friend, Roger, who escorted them to their table.

“Hi, guys. Your breakfast is almost ready, and Bobby said that he hopes you enjoy it and apologizes for not meeting you, but he has a few meetings at the Food Network studios today,” Roger said.

“Thanks, buddy. I appreciate it,” Griff replied.

The boys ate a big spread and everything tasted delicious. They finished up and thanked the staff. Griffin hugged Roger and told him to call him sometime to go surfing.

“Well, babe, it’s time to go look around in Chinatown. We’ll take in all the sights, and then we will eat at a world-class Chinese restaurant this afternoon for lunch,” Griff said.

The guys hopped on the subway, which was a whole different world in itself. “Look at all the street performers. They all have such unique entertainment qualities. I could listen and watch all day,” Nicholas said.

“Yeah, I know, but we have to get to the temple and look at the artwork and giant Buddha statue,” Griff said intently.

They hurried onto the subway train and saw a wide variety of cultures. It truly showed how diverse the races are here in New York. They disembarked from the train and climbed the steps, and were greeted by a sign that said, “Welcome to Chinatown.”

“Alright, now let’s head to the temple and look around, but we have to go slow. My leg is starting to hurt a little bit,” Griff said with a painful face.

“Aww. No hurries, Peaches. We can go at your pace. I want my babe to feel okay and be able to have fun,” Nicholas said.

On the way to the temple, the guys stopped and shopped at the markets. There were so many and both Nicholas and Griffin bought a lot of stuff from food to shirts to toys. Everyone was so cool and very polite. Nicholas got a bike cart guy to transport them around so they wouldn’t have to carry a lot of stuff and so Griff could take the pressure off of his hurt leg.

“Aww. Sweetie, oh my God, that is so sweet of you. You’re always thinking of me,” Griff said with love shining brightly in his eyes.

They went the many blocks to the temple and, when they arrived, they got to see the monks put on a show with dancing and mock fighting that included lots of flips and tricks. It looked like something out of the movies. “Wow, this is awesome, Boo. I really enjoy watching good group choreography, even with monks,” Griffin said.

“My mouth has been wide open, especially with how well they fly around and how fast they are. The show is done. Let’s head into the temple now,” Nicholas said.

“These things are carved out of ivory. I’m astonished and amazed at how talented these guys are,” Nicholas said excitingly.

“Let’s go grab lunch at the 5-star Chinese restaurant, Wo Hop. I put the address in my GPS. It’s at 17 Mott Street. I hear it’s possibly the best in New York City,” Griffin said.

“I’m all for it, Peaches,” Nicholas said. They rode over to the restaurant and were seated right away. Griffin had called ahead to make a reservation.

They ordered appetizers of dumplings and pot stickers. Both guys devoured them, but also fed each other and snuck in a few light kisses. It was time for their main course and, boy oh boy, they brought lots of food. Griffin had Angus beef fried rice and Angus steak and broccoli. Nicholas had the orange chicken noodles and strawberry chicken egg rolls. It took them a little while, and they couldn’t finish the food, so they took to-go boxes. The guys both shared cheesecake and took turns feeding each other again. Yes, it was quite pricey, but it was the best Chinese food they had ever eaten. They got some souvenir chopsticks to take home.

Now it was time to read their fortune cookies. Griffin opened his up. It said, “The time is coming where you have to make an important decision. Use your heart to decide the answer.” Griffin shrugged his shoulders and looked over at Nicholas. Nicholas read his out loud, “The road is short and narrow with changing paths. Choose wisely because your destiny awaits.” Nicholas was confused but liked the fortune.

“Wow. These fortunes are really deep. Usually, I just get cheesy ones,” Griff said.

“On to SoHo to do some shopping and sightseeing,” Nicholas said.

“Plus, I got us on the list to go to a nightclub party from the party promoter at Entertainment Weekly. There are supposed to be some celebrities attending!” Griff said.

“Way too cool, but no alcohol for us,” Nicholas said.

The guys headed toward SoHo. When they arrived, they rented a locker for all the stuff they bought in Chinatown. The guys were now ready to go have some fun.

After a full day of sightseeing, Griffin’s leg started to hurt, so they stopped and redressed the wounds, and he took a pain pill. They got nice clothes out of their locker and changed for the VIP party. “Tao Club is where it’s being held. Let’s go!” Griff said.

“Hey, look, they even have a red carpet set up! Fancy! Let’s see if we fit in or if we are out of our element,” Nicholas walked up to the security guy at the front door. “We’re Griffin Roberts and Nicholas Daniels. We should be on the list,” Nicholas said.

“Let me look. Yes, you are. Go on in,” the security guard said as flashbulbs flashed, and people took pictures of the boys.

As they entered the club, they saw news people and celebrities mingling about, and both boys felt intimidated. Some of their favorite stars were nearby. Jon Bon Jovi waved at the guys. Then Bette Midler walked by looking so divine. After watching lots of people and eating snacks and desserts and drinking water and soda, the boys danced for a while. Then Griff’s leg gave out and he had a little bit of leakage through the bandage, so both guys agreed to leave and head back to the RV. Nicholas let Griffin put his arm around him and helped him out. Then as they were leaving, Robert Downey, Jr. approached them and said, “Let me get my driver to take you guys home. He looks like he’s hurting.”

“Sure, thanks man! I appreciate that,” Nicholas said.

They arrived back at the RV and talked about their day, and Nicholas helped to clean and medicate Griff’s leg. Griffin was so happy he kissed Nicholas and pulled him close. After Griff was rebandaged, they relaxed on the couch and snuggled and cuddled while they watched TV.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way but right here and right now in this very RV with you in my arms!” Griffin said with a twinkle in his eye.

“That’s so sweet, Peaches. I love you, too,” Nicholas said lovingly.

“Our adventure in the big city continues tomorrow, Babe. Let’s get some rest so we will be refreshed to continue exploring the Big Apple!” Griffin said as they clicked off the TV and ambled to their bedroom.

The RV Chronicles (Chapter 30)

Chapter 30

Written by (KenW9270)

As they passed the road sign that read “Now Entering Atlantic City,” Nicholas grinned and pushed a button to change to a different Spotify playlist. Kenny Rogers came through the speakers singing “The Gambler.”

Griffin rolled his eyes. “You’re such a dork. Why do I love you so much?”

“Because I’m good in bed?” Nicholas snorted with laughter.

“Well, you are, but I’ve been in love with you since before I ever saw you naked. It must be something else.”

“My charming personality and sense of humor?”

“Hmm. Let’s go with that.” Griff couldn’t stop smiling as he stared at the man that he just knew he would love forever.

“Have you looked at my notes on things to do here yet?” Nicholas asked.

“Yeah, but I didn’t see spending all day gambling at a casino as an option on any of your lists. Did you forget?”

“No, I didn’t forget. You have to be twenty-one to get in any of the casinos. My dad made notes about the best casinos to play poker in, but right next to those notes were lists of things to keep me occupied while he played.”

“How stupid is it that we can vote and go to war, but we can’t drink or gamble. The adults trust us to choose the president and defend the country, but they don’t trust us to play cards. I don’t understand that at all.”

“You’re right. I agree one hundred percent, but there’s nothing we can do until we elect President Griffmeister into office.”

“That has a nice ring to it, and so does First Husband Nicholas Boobear.”

Nicholas got a dreamy look in his eyes. “Husband has an even better ring to it than President does.”

Griff leaned over and kissed the side of Nicholas’ neck. “Just don’t drive us off the road, future husband of mine.”

Nicholas’ smile nearly split his face in two. “Anything for you, Peaches.”

“But back to your list, I’m thinking the best thing, since we’re not starting until noon, is to hit the Atlantic City Boardwalk. There’s food, games, arcades, and rides. Plus, there’s a giant ferris wheel that has temperature-controlled gondolas instead of regular seats. It’s two hundred and twenty-seven feet tall! The gondolas seat six people each. We absolutely have to ride that!”

“That all sounds great. The Boardwalk it is!” Nicholas said as they pulled into the RV park. Nicholas got out and headed to the office to sign in, while Griffin went about the, now automatic, tasks of hooking up the RV to the proper connections in their assigned spot.

————————————————————————————————————

The boys got off the bus and walked the remaining distance to their destination. Just as he stepped foot onto the historic Boardwalk, Nicholas looked at his watch. “Not bad. I wanted to be here between noon and twelve-thirty, and it’s twelve twenty-five.”

“Awesome. Now, where’s the closest pizza joint? I’m starved.”

“You do know that the RV is fully stocked with food and snacks, right, Griff?” Nicholas laughed.

“Yeah, but I googled the Boardwalk, and I was drooling over all the food choices all morning. Now come on. Pizza first, then funnel cakes for dessert.”

Nicholas shook his head and followed his boyfriend up the Boardwalk in search of pizza.

————————————————————————————————————

With his face still covered in powdered sugar from the funnel cake, Griff grinned. “That was delicious! I’m ready to be entertained now. What’s next?”

“The next thing you need to do is wash your face, or I’ll have to call you Sweet Peach instead of Peaches.”

“You’re a funny guy, Boo. I’m sweet enough without the sugar. I shall return.” Griff turned and ran into the bathroom to wash up.

When Griff returned, Nicholas smiled at him. “Perfect. Let’s go.”

Griff put a hand over his heart and said dramatically, “You mean there’s a time when I’m not perfect?”

Nicholas leaned in close. “Never. I would have licked the sugar right off your face, but I didn’t want to cause a scene.” He lightly bit Griff’s earlobe before he pulled away.

“Plus, we would have ended up back in the RV, and I do want to see the Boardwalk,” Griff said.

“True enough. How about some carnival games while we digest our food, then the rides afterward?”

“Excellent plan, Captain Nicholas. Let’s win us some prizes!”

After a couple of hours of water pistols, throwing darts at balloons, throwing basketballs into hoops, and playing tic-tac-toe with beanbags, both boys had won prizes they were happy with. Nicholas won a stuffed monkey that was carrying a surfboard for Griff, and Griff won a giant stuffed penguin for Nicholas. “I sure hope we don’t lose these on any of the rides. I love this penguin!” Nicholas said.

“Surfer Monkey shall not be lost!” Griff laughed. “Let’s hit the ferris wheel first, it’s right here.”

There wasn’t much of a line at The Wheel, so the ride operator let Nicholas and Griffin have the six-person gondola to themselves. There were a lot of starts and stops on their way up to the top while other passengers got on and off the ride. The two boys stood at the side of the gondola and stared out over the city. “This is an amazing view!” Nicholas said.

“You can’t even see that the dock is under us. It’s like we’re right out over the water!”

Nicholas stood behind his boyfriend and rested his chin on Griffin’s shoulder. Nicholas wrapped his arms around the other boy. “The view is even more beautiful because we’re here together.”

Griff turned to face Nicholas, still wrapped in his arms, and looked into his lover’s eyes. “Anywhere would be the most beautiful place on Earth as long as I’m in your arms, Boo.” Griff leaned down just enough for their lips to meet. Nicholas slid his hands up Griff’s back, and he wrapped his arms around Griff’s neck, pulling him deeper into the kiss. It seemed like no time at all passed, but then they heard a noise and heard someone clear their throat. They turned towards the door to the gondola and saw the ride operator standing there with a goofy grin on his face.

“This isn’t a hotel room, boys. The ride is over. Time to go.” Nicholas and Griffin both blushed bright red and fled the gondola. They spent another hour riding more rides and then decided that it was time to go in search of dinner.

“I want something a little more substantial than pizza and funnel cakes for dinner.” Nicholas laughed. “Let’s head back to the main street and look around.

“Yeah, a nice dinner does sound good. It’s been an awesome day, Boo.” Hand in hand they left the Boardwalk and started searching for a restaurant. Griffin was scrolling on his phone, trying to find a restaurant, when music caught his attention. He looked up and standing on the street corner was a young guy, maybe a few years older than he was, playing a guitar and singing. The guy had a hat out on the sidewalk for tips. Griffin stopped, Nicholas felt Griffin stop, and he stopped also and looked around.

“What’s up? Why’d we stop? Did you find something?” Nicholas asked.

“No. I wanted to listen to him for a few minutes,” Griff said, stepping closer to the musician.

“Oh, wow. Yeah, he’s good,” Nicholas said.

The musician noticed the two boys, and he also saw that they were holding hands. He winked at the boys, and then he stopped the song that he was singing and started a new one. Griff recognized the song right away and smiled. It was “Young and In Love” by Ingrid Michaelson.

“We’re young and in love

And we’re running like the wind, we got it all

We’re never alone

If we got each other, we can save the world

Explosions in the sky, I see colors fly

It’s like the Fourth of July in your eyes

Old enough, old enough, old enough to know that

We are young in love, young in love, young and in love

You and me, we can see, time will stand still

If we stay young in love, young in love, young and in love

Yeah, we are young and in love

Yeah, we are young and in love

Yeah, we are young and in love (oh, oh)

Yeah, we are young and in love

Yeah, we are young and in love

Yeah, we are young and in love (oh, oh)

We’ll turn it up

Play the music loud so we can sing along

And teach me all the words to your favorite songs

We can…”

The young musician was into his song and playing right to Griff and Nicholas. Someone walked out of the crowd that had formed and went as if he was going to put a tip into the hat. Instead, he reached down and grabbed the hat, and took off running. Griff noticed right away and yelled out, “Hey! Stop!” The man didn’t stop. “I’ll be right back!” Griffin yelled to Nicholas and he took off after the thief at top speed.

The RV Chronicles (Chapter 27)

Chapter 27

Written by: (KenW9270)

Nicholas closed the door firmly behind himself, then started to walk toward the rear door. Griffin reached over and grabbed his hand. “Nicholas, we’ve checked all the doors and windows three times. Everything is locked up tight.”

“Should we just stay here today? We’re gonna leave by one or two anyway.”

Griff leaned down, so their foreheads were touching and stared into Nicholas’ blue eyes as he spoke. “No. Let’s stick to our plans. Whether it was some kid looking for money, or something more sinister, I think if anything were going to happen, it would have happened yesterday. Don’t let it ruin our fun.”

Nicholas leaned in for a kiss. “You truly are my rock. I don’t know what I would ever do without you. Let’s go have some fun.”

“I guess your idea of fun is eating my dust on the go-kart track!” Jamie said with a smirk.

Casey rolled her eyes. “Come on, children. Let’s get moving if we want to do this. There’s no sense wasting our last day together.”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

Nicholas leaped out of the go-kart almost before it stopped moving. He pumped his fist in the air and yelled, “Total victory is mine!”

Griff and the two girls got out of their go-karts and walked over to Nicholas. “You were lucky! I was just settling into a good groove. A couple more races and I would have caught you,” Griffin said.

“We agreed on the number of races and point system before we started. Don’t be a sore loser, Peaches!” Nicholas retorted.

“At least I tied with you,” Jamie said, poking Griffin in the side and laughing.

“Can we not talk about who finished where, and just agree that we all had fun?” Casey asked with a grin.

Jamie spun and faced her sister, “That’s only because you finished last, sis!”

Casey shook her head, “Oh, please. I took it easy on you guys because I knew I’d destroy you all at mini-golf.”

“That sounds like a challenge! Come on, let’s go!” Griffin shouted and led the group away from the go-kart track and under the sign which read ‘Fire Mountain Mini-golf.’

By the time that they played seven holes, Nicholas and Jamie saw that the game was going to be a battle between Casey and Griff, so they conspired together to try trick shots to get hole-in-ones and attempt to gain some ground. “Nicholas! No! Don’t hit it yet.” Jamie ran up to Nicholas just before he hit the ball. “Don’t hit it through the loop-de-loop. Angle it off to the left and ricochet off the wall. If you do it just right, it should go right into the hole.”

“Ok, I see what you’re trying to do. I’ll try it that way.” Nicholas said and shot the ball. The ball went just like Jamie said it would but stopped a few inches short of the hole. On Jamie’s turn, she hit it harder than Nicholas had, but the ball flew past the hole, missing it by only an inch or two.

On the sixteenth hole, Griff and Casey were tied for the lead. The obstacle to the hole was a windmill. They had to hit the ball through the hole in the mill and avoid the spinning blades. Griff lined up his shot perfectly and hit the ball. The spinning windmill blade swooped down and covered the opening just before his ball arrived. Griff’s golf ball smacked into the blade and caromed off backward, almost back to where it started. Griffin cursed his bad luck and finished the hole in five shots. Casey’s shot went perfectly under the windmill and stopped just a couple inches from the hole. A light tap into the hole, and she was now three shots ahead of Griffin.

Griff kicked at the turf. “Great shot, Casey. I still have two holes to catch up, though!” Griffin’s comeback was not to be. They played even on the last two holes. In total, the course was a par fifty-four. Casey ended with forty-four, Griff with forty-seven, Nicholas with fifty-one, and Jamie with fifty-six.

Just as they were about to leave Fire Mountain, a teenage boy who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen ran up to Jamie. “Hey, baby. These two,” he motioned toward Griff and Nicholas, “don’t look like they’re paying a hottie like you enough attention.” He held up a hand in front of Jamie and was rolling two golf balls around in his hand. “Why don’t you come over here and play with my balls for a while.”

Griff started to step forward, but Jamie raised a hand to let him know that she could handle it. Jamie gave the other boy a sweet smile and placed her hand flat against his chest. “You’re such a charmer. I bet you get all the girls with witty lines like that, don’t you?”

“I do ok.” he gave her a cocky grin.

Jamie took another step closer, still smiling. “I bet you don’t. I bet that Junior,” her eyes flicked down toward his crotch. “has never even seen a girl in his life.”

The boy’s eyes grew wide. “Why you little b…” whatever else he was going to say never made it past his lips. Jamie’s smile grew even wider as she lifted her knee and planted it firmly in his groin. The boy screamed and fell to the ground, his hands clutching at his injured family jewels.

Two other boys ran up and knelt down by their friend. As they helped him to his feet, one of them said, “Dude, you’re such an idiot. We told you not to try that.”

“Shut up, Wyatt! You’re supposed to have my back.”

“I do, but you totally deserved what you got.” The rest of their conversation died out as they walked away.

Jamie spun back toward her sister and the boys. “Well, that was fun. Are we ready to go now?”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

Nicholas strapped himself securely into the captain’s chair and picked out a playlist to send them on their way. He looked behind him and grinned at Jamie. “As we roll outta Delaware and move on to Pennsylvania, let’s honor Jamie’s fallen suitor.” His grin widened as he hit play. They left Rehoboth Beach to the sounds of Queen.

Oh, let’s go

Steve walks warily down the street

With the brim pulled way down low

Ain’t no sound but the sound of his feet,

Machine guns ready to go

Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?

Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?

Out of the doorway the bullets rip

To the sound of the beat

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

And another one gone, and another one gone

Another one bites the dust

Hey, I’m gonna get you, too

Another one bites the dust

How do you think I’m going to get along

Without you when you’re gone?

You took me for everything that I had

And kicked me out on my own

Are you happy, are you satisfied?

How long can you stand the heat?

Out of the doorway the bullets rip

To the sound of the beat

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

And another one gone, and another one gone

Another one bites the dust

Hey, I’m gonna get you, too

Another one bites the dust

Hey

Oh take it

Bite the dust

Kinda dusty!

Hey

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust oww

Another one bites the dust hey hey

Another one bites the dust eh eh

Oh shoot out

There are plenty of ways that you can hurt a man

And bring him to the ground

You can beat him, you can cheat him

You can treat him bad and leave him when he’s down

But I’m ready, yes, I’m ready for you

I’m standing on my own two feet

Out of the doorway the bullets rip

Repeating to the sound of the beat oh yeah

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

And another one gone, and another one gone

Another one bites the dust

Hey, I’m gonna get you, too

Another one bites the dust

Oh shoot out, hey hey, all right.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

They arrived at the RV park just outside Philadelphia at four twenty-five, pretty much right on schedule. “I’ll be right back. I just have to run to the office and sign in.” Nicholas said as he climbed out of the RV.

“What time is your aunt getting here?” Griff asked Jamie.

“I’m texting her right now,” Jamie answered.

“Don’t bother. She just texted me. She’s here.” Casey said. All three of them exited the RV and walked toward the parking area near the office. Griff chatted with the girls on their way to the parking lot, but then he noticed that they both stopped dead in their tracks.

“Hey, what’s wrong? Not quite ready to part company with me yet?” He said and flashed them both a smile. His smile evaporated when he saw the look of fear on both of their faces. “Seriously, girls, what’s wrong?”

“Look. It’s him. It’s been him following us all along.” Griff looked where Jamie pointed, and he saw an older man and an older woman in what looked like a heated argument. The man was leaning against a beat-up red pickup truck.

“That’s your stepfather? Is that your aunt that he’s talking to?” Griffin asked.

“Yes. That’s Aunt Bev. I guess we better get over there and get this over with.” Casey said.

“I’m sure your aunt will take care of everything,” Griff said, trying to sound cheerful. As they got closer, they overheard the conversation between Aunt Bev and stepdad Roger.

“Those girls owe me! They’re coming back with me until they pay off my hospital bills. They left most of their stuff behind anyway. They probably want it back.”

“They aren’t going anywhere with you, Roger. I tried to get my sister away from you, and I tried to get the girls after she passed away. Now that both of my nieces are out of that house and over eighteen years old, there’s no way they are ever going back.”

“Listen, bitch, they’re coming with me, or I’ll call the cops and have them arrested for assault.”

Griffin spoke up. “Dude, I saw their bruises. You were beating them, and you probably beat their mom, too. You’re a child-abusing bully. Go ahead and call the cops. I dare you.”

Roger reached into the back of his pickup and pulled out a baseball bat. “Look, Jamie, I brought your favorite toy.” Then he glared at Griffin. “I don’t know you, boy, but if I can’t get my money, I’ll sure as hell get some revenge.”

“There’s four of us here. You don’t want to do this, Roger.” Casey said. Bev had distanced herself from Roger and was on the phone with 9-1-1.

“Get behind me,” Griff said to the girls. Then, when Griff looked back at Roger, he saw Nicholas walking across the parking lot behind the older man. Roger raised the baseball bat and started stalking towards Griffin, Casey, and Jamie. Griff was about to yell out to Nicholas to go get help, but then he saw his boyfriend lower his head and charge. Nicholas hit Roger like a linebacker sacking the quarterback. Roger’s arms flew up, and the bat went sliding across the parking lot. The two hit the pavement with a thud, Nicholas’ landing cushioned by Roger’s body.

Griffin raced over and helped Nicholas to his feet. “That was amazing! Are you ok, Boo?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I came out of the office and saw the red pickup. Then I saw that guy raise the bat and walk toward you guys, and I just reacted. I take it that he’s the stepfather?”

Casey and Jamie had joined the boys and had Nicholas in a double bear hug. They each kissed him on the cheek, and Jamie said, “Yes. That’s our stepfather, and you are our absolute hero!”

Roger groaned and rolled onto his back. He started to get up. Bev looked down at him. “Just stay on the ground, Roger. The cops are almost here.” In fact, at that moment, they all heard the sirens getting closer.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

Back in the RV, the two boys flopped down on the couch. “I can’t believe that just happened,” Griffin said.

“Which part?” Nicholas chuckled.

“All of it! You’re a bona fide hero, Boo!”

“Aw! You would have done the same thing, Peaches.”

“I’m just glad the girls are safe and with family now.”

“I’m going to miss the hell out of them, but some alone time with you will be nice,” Nicholas said, laying his head in Griff’s lap and swinging his legs up onto the couch. “Pass me the remote, please, Peaches.”

“Here you go, hero,” Griff said as he passed Nicholas the remote and leaned down for a kiss.

Nicholas turned on the TV and started up Netflix. “What do you feel like watching tonight?”

“Something fun. No more drama for me tonight.” Griff laughed.

“Hmm. It sounds like a night to continue binging ‘Grace and Frankie’ then.”

“Excellent choice,” Griff said, and they settled in for a relaxing night of comedy after their adventurous and drama-filled day.

The RV Chronicles (Chapter 26)

Chapter 26

Written by: (Flash2002)

Nicholas woke up earlier than Griffin for once. He could barely contain his excitement to finally get out into the ocean and see just how much of the surfing lessons that he’d retained. Having the love of his life by his side as his surf mentor was a definite added bonus. He went into the bathroom and started getting ready for the big day ahead.

Griffin woke up and felt around for Nicholas. He got a little worried when he wasn’t there. “Where in the world is he? He never gets up this early,” Griff thought to himself. Puzzled and confused, he jumped out of bed only to hear “Surfin’ USA” playing, and to his surprise, Nicholas was singing to the Beach Boys hit. “Mmmhhhmmm, Nicky-poo, you had me worried, but seeing you in here singing and dancing in the shower tells me that you’re excited about today.”

“Cool observation, and don’t call me Nicky-poo. You know I hate that, but you are correct,” Nicholas popped off. “I’m really ready to try to surf out on the real ocean and, with you out there, I’m not scared at all.”

“I’m so happy that you’re excited about surfing,” Griffin answered back.

“I’m going to finish getting ready and then you should shower before we wake the girls up.”

“Fine, you got a deal, babe.”

Griffin showered and got ready for the day and then went back to the bedroom to get his bodysuit on. He couldn’t find Nicholas again, so he opened the front door to the RV and, lo and behold, Nicholas was outside getting his board ready for the day at the beach. “Hi, honey! Boy, you really are excited. You keep on doing what you’re doing and I’ll get the girls up and cook breakfast. I love you, babe,” Griffin said happily.

Griffin walked into the living room and saw both girls still sprawled out on the pull-out sofa. “Rise and shine, ladies! It’s time to get up and get ready for the beach.” After a few groans from the girls, Jamie darted into the bathroom, so Casey sighed and picked up her cell phone to check her messages while she waited for her sister to get ready. Griffin went into the kitchen and started making pancakes and bacon. He also got out some fruit for pancake toppings. He turned the music on as he was cooking and selected a playlist. Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me” started playing as Griff began cutting up the fruit.

After about 45 minutes, Nicholas came back inside and, along with the girls, now dressed in their bikinis, sat down to eat.

“This is so good, Griff! Thank you for yet another great breakfast,” Nicholas said with a grin.

The girls both complimented Griffin on breakfast, but then Jamie, as usual, had to tease Griff. “Nicholas is so lucky. You will make a good wife for him one day.”

“That’s so funny, but don’t quit your day job any time soon. Oh, wait, you don’t work, little miss comedian,” Griff said with a laugh.

“Alright, we’re ready to go. Let’s head to the beach now to make sure we get good spots,” Nicholas said.

They all grabbed the stuff they needed and they headed out to the beach. They were quite the sight, two guys carrying surfboards and backpacks and wearing bodysuits and two girls in bikinis. They arrived and picked out good spots. The boys set up down close to the water, while the girls chose to set up close to the lifeguard shack. The girls set out their beach towels and started checking out the groups of guys that were playing frisbee on the beach.

Nicholas was eager to get out on the water, but Griffin cautioned him to wait a bit. Griff said that the waves would start getting bigger soon enough, and until then they talked about their plans for the day.

“Mom is going to just love that I did this today and conquered one of my fears, and it’s all thanks to you, Peaches,” Nicholas said proudly.

“Aw shucks. It’s you that will be doing it all, and I’m proud to share this moment and day with you.” Griffin said, blushing. They looked over at the girls and saw that they were already having fun flirting with all the guys. Casey was hanging all over one of the lifeguards, feeling his muscles, and Jamie had joined in with one of the frisbee games. The guys bust out laughing, and they went back to talking about surf and conditions.

“Okay, see that section over there? Try not to get into the currents and let the waves carry you into that rocky bluff area. Turn away from it if you can and do tricks going away from it. Also, see that part there? If you get into that area it has a lot of stinging jellyfish and other fish which could attract sharks. So, avoid that,” Griffin said.

“Avoid crashing into the rocks and avoid getting eaten by sharks. Those are the best two pieces of advice that I’ve ever gotten,” Nicholas said, laughing. “Seriously, I am paying attention to everything, Peaches. Thank you.”

“Can I continue now?” Griffin grinned and rolled his eyes. “Anyway, if you get into some big heavy waves, fall off your board, but remember to grab your board and hold onto it, so it can help keep your head above water. I know you got this, babe.”

Time passed by, the winds picked up, and the waves increased. “Let’s do this! It’s time to paddle out and see if we can catch some waves, Boo,” Griffin said with a huge smile.

Both of the guys got on their boards and paddled out. “It’s your turn, go for it, babe,” Griff told Nicholas.

With great anticipation, Nicholas caught his first wave and balanced well on his board. He rode the wave doing some minor tricks, and shouted out with glee, “Awesome, I did it! Wow! What a feeling of exhilaration!”

“Woohoo, I am so proud of you, babe,” Griff said as he paddled over to Nicholas and kissed him.

“Now show me what you got, Griff, don’t hold back. Show me how it’s done,” Nicholas said, smiling ear to ear.

“I forgot to tell you, I recorded you with my GoPro cam so you can show your mom, and I can upload it to our Instagram,” Griff said.

Griffin caught a great wave and did a lot of tricks, jumps, flips, and rode the tube really well. He was excited and told Nicholas, “You’re up next. I bet you do even better than before.”

The boys rode many waves throughout the day and only took short breaks all day long. They met some local surfers and made lots of friends. As a matter of fact, the girls were hanging out with a few of the surfers they met. They all agreed to meet at a bonfire on the beach later in the evening. The guys decided to call it a day after surfing and just hung out with all the local surfers.

Nightfall came, and they all headed over to the area of the beach where a huge bonfire had been lit. Nicholas was in awe of how cool it was to be a part of the surfing community and was just kinda speechless at first. “Hey, Griff, I now know why you’re so cool and love surfing so much. Everyone is so down to earth and friendly. They give you pointers and don’t really judge you that much. It seems like a close-knit family atmosphere, and it’s a welcome change,” Nicholas said.

“That’s for sure, babe, and everyone wants to see you succeed. You see, that’s what I have been telling you all these years. It’s really cool to be a surfer. Don’t get me wrong, you still have the arrogant douche bags, but overall it’s family,” Griffin said with pride. The two girls were still flirting with some of the local guys. Jamie was adding everyone on Snapchat and Twitter. Griffin and Nicholas made their rounds, sitting with different groups and telling their surf stories. Griffin let Nicholas do most of the talking, as it was his special day. Griff beamed with pride as Nicholas told everyone about his first time surfing out in the open waters.

Hours went by, and they were all tired and decided to head back to the RV. When they arrived, the door to the RV was wide open. Someone had broken in. Without hesitation, Nicholas dropped his board and ran inside to look around. “Nothing seems to be missing or damaged. The biggest thing is whoever it was dumped everything out of both girls’ backpacks and threw everything all over the living room. Casey, Jamie, check and see if anything is missing.” Nicholas said.

The girls picked up all their stuff and whispered nervously to each other before returning to Nicholas. “Nothing is missing. Why would someone do this, Nicholas?” Casey asked.

“I don’t know. This is so strange, but there’s no need to call and report it to the cops since nothing’s missing. We just need to double-check that we lock up tight when we leave. We may have left it unlocked by mistake,” Nicholas proclaimed.

“I agree, but we also need to keep an eye out for trouble or anything suspicious. Now let’s all get ready for bed. I, for one, am ready to crash,” Griffin said.

The girls changed into their pajamas and pulled out the sofa bed. “Goodnight, boys.” They both said practically in unison.

Griffin and Nicholas talked in bed about their day, and then after a few goodnight kisses, Nicholas wrapped his arms around Griffin, snuggled in close, and they both fell quickly asleep.

The RV Chronicles (Chapter 25)

Chapter 25

Written by: (Phoenix2020)

“Are we there yet?” Griffin hollered exactly six and a half minutes after Nicholas pulled out of the RV park.

“Don’t make me pull over, young man!”

“Ooooo … whatcha gonna do? Spank me?”

“Well, maybe later … but not in front of the children,” Nicholas winked. “Seriously, though … we should be in Rehoboth Beach by 7. I’m thinking we grab a couple of pizzas and stay in after we register and get the RV hooked up. The weather forecast says storms are supposed to roll through this evening and we don’t want to be caught somewhere and have to walk back in the rain.”

“Sounds like a game night. I hope it clears out by tomorrow … I have to get you on a surfboard in the actual Atlantic Ocean!” Griffin said, emphatically. “How long are we staying there?”

“I reserved the spot for two nights so we can head for Philadelphia on the 3rd to meet up with Casey and Jamie’s aunt,” Nicholas replied. “We can stay there a couple of nights so we can celebrate the 4th of July in the birthplace of the United States.”

Nicholas was beginning to believe that Spotify was telepathic as Bruce Springsteen began to growl …

“Born down in a dead man’s town

The first kick I took was when I hit the ground

End up like a dog that’s been beat too much

’Til you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A

I was born in the U.S.A

I was born in the U.S.A

Born in the U.S.A … ”

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The timing was perfect, as the pizza delivery arrived just as they finished hooking up the RV. Everyone washed up and settled in the living room to eat, with Jamie and Griffin occupying the sofa while Casey settled in the recliner and Nicholas sprawled out on the floor in the beanbag. Occasional flashes of lightning and thunder rumbling in the distance punctuated the conversation.

“So, any great ideas for how we should entertain ourselves tonight?” Casey asked.

“TV or games, maybe?” Nicholas suggested. “OH … I know! Pin the tail on Griffin!”

“Or …” Griffin had that glint in his eye that everyone was quite familiar with. “What about … ‘Strip Truth or Dare’?”

“I am NOT stripping in front of you boys!” Jamie exclaimed.

“Oh, fiddle dee dee,” Casey replied in her best Scarlett O’Hara voice. She was a bit too infatuated with the ‘Gone With the Wind’ novel she’d borrowed from Nicholas. “They are not the least interested in anything you may have to put on display.”

“Besides, you can choose ‘truth’ or ‘dare’, instead,” Griffin added.

“Well, okay. If Casey’s on board, I’ll go along,” Jamie conceded.

They played ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ and Nicholas won. He called Casey, who responded, “Dare.”

″ I dare you to …” Nicholas thought a few seconds. “I dare you to …”

POW!!!

With the lightning strike, the RV was plunged into utter darkness with Griffin squealing like a seven-year-old girl. “Everyone stay where you are,” Nicholas said. “I’ll get the flashlights.” He stumbled his way toward the front where the flashlights were kept in the emergency kit. Returning to the living room, he handed one to Casey. “I’ll hook up the generator if the power doesn’t come back soon.”

As everyone settled back down to continue the game, they heard a shout. Several more shouts followed, and soon the sound of many frantic voices motivated all four to run for the door and outside. A steady rain had begun, but they were oblivious to it as they saw people running south towards the road. A glance in that direction immediately let them know why all the commotion had commenced. They saw smoke streaming from the roof of a building, victimized by the earlier lightning strike. They joined everyone else pouring out of parked RVs up and down the campground and ran to see if they could be of assistance.

By the time they reached the road, sirens could be heard approaching. In such a small town, the fire department must be close by. The building, now engulfed in flames, appeared to be a large and, apparently, rather old beach house based on how quickly the fire seemed to be spreading through it. No one in the growing crowd acted terribly distraught, so it was probably currently unoccupied or, at least, whoever was staying there was not at home. Everyone retreated to the RV park side of the road to allow the trucks to approach as the rain began to pour more heavily, aiding the firefighters in their efforts.

As the blaze was brought under control, Nicholas, Griffin, Casey, and Jamie headed back home to change out of their uncomfortably wet clothing. As they reached the RV, the power returned, and the entire campground lit up instantly. If any one of them had been looking behind them at that moment, they would surely have noticed the man that dove behind a row of trash barrels along the dirt road and in front of the RV parked across from theirs.

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After stripping off their soaked clothes, drying off, and redressing, everyone plopped back down in the living room to finish off their now cold pizza. Nicholas reheated his in the microwave, but everyone else was content with the room temperature food. No one, except Griffin, was in the mood for Strip Truth or Dare, anymore, so they began to browse Netflix for a good thunderstorm movie and settled on the classic, ‘Poltergeist’. Casey was more interested in ‘Gone With the Wind’, however. Jamie chose to stretch out on the floor with the bean bag, which allowed Nicholas and Griffin to cozy up on the sofa to get their cuddle on.

Griffin, with his head in Nicholas’ lap, gazed up into his boyfriend’s blue eyes and smiled. Nicholas looked down and grinned back. “What?”

“How did we get here?” Griffin asked. “I don’t mean Rehoboth. I mean you and me, here … with my head in your lap and head over heels in love with you.”

“I know what you mean,” Nicholas responded. “I’ve been thinking the same thing the past couple of weeks. We’ve been best friends forever and even enjoyed learning about sex with each other, but it kind of feels like we’ve just met.”

“Yeah, it’s like we became different people, in a way, when we left home. Like we went from kids to adults, and our feelings changed from a kid friendship to an adult relationship, and now we’re getting to know each other all over again.”

“So … how long have you known each other?” Jamie asked, then sheepishly apologized. “Sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing. I mean you’re right there.”

“It’s okay, Jamie. We’ve been friends since Kindergarten,” Nicholas answered. “By middle school, we both realized we were gay, so we’ve been pretty tight since then.”

“Yeah, we kind of figured it out together and .. well … tried different stuff,” Griffin attempted to explain. “We didn’t know any other gay guys our age and were too afraid to ask anyone. We trusted each other, so it was a great way to learn!”

“Oh, yeah! More fun than algebra, for sure!” laughed Nicholas. “My mom couldn’t figure out why we suddenly started spending so much time in the treehouse my dad built for me when I was eight. We usually told her we were studying, just not WHAT we were studying!”

“The fact that the house wi-fi signal reached to the treehouse definitely aided the educational process, too,” Griffin winked and chuckled.

“Okay, okay! I get the picture!” Jamie waved her hands around her head in a feeble attempt to stop the images attacking her mind. “So, you were just friends, though … not boyfriends?”

“Yeah, uh … I guess I kinda started having those ‘feelings’ for Nicholas when we were about 13 or 14, but I didn’t really know,” Griffin admitted a bit awkwardly. “I mean didn’t know what ‘falling in love’ was all about, anyway. I just knew that I wanted to be with him all the time, but I was afraid he’d get sick of me, and I’d lose my best friend. So, I just kept it to myself.”

“I would never get sick of you! I can’t imagine my life without you in it every single day. I really wish you’d said something then, but it all worked out. Obviously, we were meant to be together, and now we are. I love you so much, Peaches … don’t you ever doubt that for a second!”

“I love you more, Boo,” Griffin whispered as he went in for a kiss to emphasize the sentiment.

“OH! Get a room, you two!” Jamie teased.

“Well, you started it, if I recall correctly,” Griffin fired back, “but that’s a great idea! Let’s go, Boo!”

“By the way, Casey and Jamie, be sure to let your aunt know that we will be in Philadelphia the day after tomorrow,” Nicholas said as Griffin was practically dragging him to their bedroom in the rear of the RV. “It would be easiest if she could meet us at the RV park. I’ll give you the address in the morning.”

“Say goodnight, Nicholas,” Griffin urged.

“Goodnight, Nicholas!” he shouted back as Griffin threw him on the bed and kicked the door closed behind him.

The RV Chronicles (Chapter 24)

Chapter 24

Written by: (KenW9270)

Griffin woke up and sleepily rolled over to get some good morning cuddles, but all he found was a cold, empty bed. “Wow. He’s up early,” he thought to himself as he got out of bed and pulled on a t-shirt. Griff padded out of the room looking for Nicholas. He got to the kitchen and saw Nicholas at the table. The two girls were on either side of Nicholas, each with an arm wrapped around him. Griffin was a little puzzled, so he walked over and wrapped his arms around Nicholas from behind. He rested his chin on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “Hey, Boo. What’s up? You’re awake early. What are you looking at? Are you making more travel plans?” Griff asked as he saw all the maps spread out on the table.

Nicholas looked up at Griff with tears blurring his normally crystal-clear blue eyes. “Hey, Peaches. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and started organizing some of the cupboards and drawers that we hadn’t gone through yet.”

Griffin nudged the girls out of the way and spun Nicholas’ chair sideways, so he could kneel in front of him. “Baby, what’s wrong?” He gently reached up and wiped the tears off of Nicholas’ cheeks.

“Nothing’s wrong. I’m not even sure if these are happy tears or sad tears. Look what I found.” Nicholas motioned toward the maps spread out on the table. “These are all my dad’s travel maps! He marked off routes and circled places that he wanted to take me. There are even notes in the margins in his handwriting about what he wanted me and him to do at some of the places. I thought mom cleaned everything out of here when she put the RV into storage. This… this is like a gift from my dad!”

Griff leaned forward and kissed the fresh teardrops from the corners of Nicholas’ eyes. “I’m so happy for you, Boo. This is amazing! We’ll add these in with the ones that you made, and we’ll know exactly where we want to go.”

Nicholas’ lips curled down into a frown. “Yeah. At least until I drop you off at college.”

“Don’t worry about that right now. There’s plenty of time before that happens. So much has changed for us in the last couple of weeks, who knows what will happen before we get to Ohio.”

“You’re right. Sorry for being so emotional. Go take your shower, and I’ll fix breakfast.”

Casey stepped forward and put a hand on Nicholas’ shoulder. “Organize your dad’s maps. Me and Jamie have breakfast covered today.”

“Yep. Chef Jamie and her fabulous assistant, Cookmeister Casey, at your service!” Jamie giggled.

Griff pulled Nicholas to his feet and wrapped him in a tight bear hug. “No apologies necessary. I know what your dad meant to you. He was an awesome dad.” Griff kissed Nicholas on the forehead. “Finding those maps was a sign that we are doing exactly what we should be doing right now, and we have your dad’s blessing.”

“You’re right. He loved you a lot, Griff. I know he’d be happy for us. Ok, let’s get this day started. Go get in the shower and I’ll finish up here. It smells like the ladies are already fixin’ us some breakfast!”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Nicholas’ hair whipped around his face, damp from the spray of the water. He let out a whoop and pressed down as hard as he could on the jet ski’s gas pedal. Only one more to pass and he’d be in the lead. The nose of his jet ski was now even with the tail end of Andy’s. Just as they reached the predetermined finish line, Nicholas pulled into the lead. He slowed the engine and glided to a stop at the dock. Nicholas danced and jumped his way down the pier and onto the beach where Griff waited, still taking photos.

“Did you see that? That was amazing!” Nicholas cheered.

“Not only did I see it, but I also recorded it! Your victory will be immortalized on our RV Instagram account, Boo!”

“I still can’t believe you have over a hundred followers in two days! Maybe we will go viral!” Nicholas laughed.

“Yeah, maybe we can be the next Alec in WILDerland!”

Andy strolled over and pointed up at the jet ski rental office. Ian is taking care of the paperwork. Are we ready to go get lunch?”

Jamie bounced over with her nearly perpetual grin, “Definitely! I’m starved.”

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

“I’m glad you chose this place,” Ian said. “It’s my favorite restaurant of all the ones that we’ve been to here in Chesapeake Beach.”

“As an added bonus,” Griffin chuckled, “the owner, Peggy, gives Nicholas a free piece of pie every time he comes in for saving that dude’s life earlier this week.”

“Wait… what? You have to tell us that story!” Jamie squealed.

So, as they ate, Griffin told the story of the Heimlich save. Nicholas retaliated by telling the story of Griffin saving Gustavo in the hang glider accident. Then, Griffin told the story of Nicholas’ tackling him in the mud to save him from the runaway RV.

Ian glanced at his watch. “Time to finish up here, guys and gals. Andy and I have to hit the road.”

As Andy stood from the table, Jamie nearly tackled him with a hug. “You have my number and all my socials, you better stay in touch, boy!”

Andy grinned and kissed her on the cheek. “Of course, I will. You’re my favorite girl.”

“Where are you heading next?” Jamie asked.

“Virginia Beach. Then on to my hometown of Savannah, Georgia.” Andy said.

“Post plenty of beach pics,” Jamie said with a wink.

Andy blushed. “For sure.”

Goodbyes were said all around, and then Ian and Andy left on their way south.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

Griffin raised his kayak paddle in the air and whooped in victory. “Oh yeah, baby! That’s game, set, and match! We win four to two!”

Nicholas and Casey shook their heads. “Should we ask for best of nine instead of best of seven?” Casey asked.

“Nah. Look at those two already dancing on the beach like they won the Olympics. Let them enjoy it.”

“It’s three-thirty anyway. You said that we should leave by four.” Casey said as she got out of the kayak and helped Nicholas pull it onto the beach.

“Yeah, let’s get these things signed in and get back to the RV.” Nicholas and Griff pulled the kayaks back to the rental shed and rejoined the girls for the short walk back to the RV.

While Nicholas was double-checking all the RV hookups and gauges to make sure they were ready to leave, Griffin noticed both girls kept looking down the road and whispering together. He walked over and put an arm around each girl. “Ladies, what’s wrong? And don’t you dare say nothing.”

Jamie looked up at Griffin then at her sister and finally back up at Griffin. She sighed, “I can’t lie to you, even if I wanted to. I’m not sure that anything is wrong, but I think I saw Roger’s beat-up red pick up parked out by the exit to the park. As soon as I saw it, it drove away, but I’ve seen it drive by two times since then.”

“Roger is your stepfather, right? The one who abused you both?”

Casey frowned. “Yes,” she swore under her breath, “I knew we shouldn’t have gone to Sarah’s party last night. If it is him, that’s how he found us. Some blabbermouth told him we were there!”

Griff ran a hand through his hair. “You two are both over eighteen, right? Those weren’t fake ID’s? Why would he track you down?” Nicholas had joined the group and was listening intently.

“We are both of age. He just thinks that he owns us. Plus, he’s probably pissed that I knocked him out with the baseball bat. He tracked us down because he’s a psychopath.” Jamie said.

“Well, you’re not sure it’s him, but regardless, even it is him, the sooner we get on the road, the sooner we leave him behind,” Nicholas said as he herded everyone into the RV. Once they were all buckled in, Nicholas started up his road trip playlist, and they pulled out of the park to the sounds of Aerosmith.

“I’m back

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m back

I’m back in the saddle again

Ridin’ into town alone by the light of the moon

I’m lookin’ for old Sukie Jones, she crazy horse saloon

Barkeep gimme a drink, that’s when she caught my eye

She turned to give me a wink, that’d make a grown man cry

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m back

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m back

Come easy, go easy, all right until the rising sun

I’m calling all the shots tonight, I’m like a loaded gun

Peelin’ off my boots and chaps, I’m saddle sore

Four bits gets you time in the racks, I scream for more

Fools’ gold out of their mines, the girls are soaking wet

No tongue’s drier than mine, I’ll come when I get back

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m back

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m ridin’, I’m loadin’ up my pistol

I’m ridin’, I really got a fistful

I’m ridin’, I’m shinin’ up my saddle

I’m ridin’, this snake is gonna rattle

Yodalayhe yodalayhe yodayahehoo

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m back

I’m back in the saddle again

I’m back

Ridin’ high

Ridin’ high

Ridin’ high.”