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?
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.