A New Summer Program for Wood LIbrary

This summer, Wood Library hosted a week-long summer Writing Workshop for teens grades 6-12. The group worked with Canandaigua Academy creative writing teacher, Mike Sisson, to create their characters and story and met with author, Erin McRae, to learn about self publishing in both print and in e-book format.

Each day is a chapter (or page break) in a story. Many decided halfway through the week that they wanted to continue on with their story so while some may end on a cliffhanger, know that our teens are working away to further their stories. We would love to hear your (constructive) comments below!

-Katie Smith

Teen Services Librarian

The Clone Wars by Drew Glitch

Chapter 1:

“Ok, bye, Mom!” I called out after the silver convertible that was pulling out of the driveway.

“Dinner is in the fridge! And, Jenna, no boys!” yelled my mother sticking her head out the window. I stood in the doorway waving to my mother until the car was sufficiently out of view. With a sigh, I walked across the marble floor towards the kitchen, letting the front door shut behind me. I waited just a few minutes to make sure my mother wasn’t going to return for a forgotten toothbrush or tampon before I whipped my phone out of my pocket and dialed.

“Hey, Molly! Yeah, she’s gone,” I giggled into the phone.

“And you’re sure she’s not coming back?” the girl on the other end murmured.

“Yes, absolutely. Her flight leaves in twenty minutes, so if she comes back now, she’ll miss it.” I tucked a curl of my black hair behind my ear and waited for an answer.

“Ok, fine. I’ll be right over.”

“Great!” I cheered. Hanging up the phone, I kicked it into high gear. I straightened up the blue throw pillows nestled into the brown couch, organized the many shades and flavors of shampoo lining the shower, used a bobby pin to pop open the wine cooler and pristinely placed two glasses, half full of expensive red wine. My mother was sure to notice that it was gone, but better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right? Soon enough, the doorbell rang and standing there was Molly. Her honey blonde hair was draped gently over her shoulder and her crystal blue eyes popped against her sun-kissed skin. She looked beautiful.

“You look, uh, you look-”

“Thanks,” she cut me off, brushing past me and into the kitchen. She sat upon a barstool at the island in the center of the kitchen and picked up the wine glass set out for her. I joined her at the stool next to her and raised my own glass. “To business trips,” she smirked.

“To business trips,” I replied, taking a sip.

“So, when does your mom get back?”

“Two days,” I mused, falling deep into her eyes. Her tight red dress matched perfectly in hue to her lipstick. “Clearly she made an effort, which means she’s into me…”  I thought.

“So, is anyone else coming?” she took another long sip of her wine.

“No, uh, just you,” I stuttered, tapping my glass with my finger tips. Suddenly, the sound of shattering glass echoed throughout the house. Molly jumped off of her stool and clutched my arm. It wasn’t a wine glass that broke.

I set my glass down on the counter in front of me and starting walking towards the origin of the sound. Molly still clung tightly to me as we tip toed forward. Gingerly, I pushed opened the door to my mother’s office and looked in. It almost felt like I was in a horror movie and I was yelling to myself, Don’t go in there you stupid bitch! And yet there I was, stepping through towards the sound.

“Jenna-” Molly whimpered slightly.

“Hello!” I called out. “I called the cops they’re on their way!” I made my way to the dead fireplace and grabbed one of the metal pokers. Whoever was in here, they must’ve left the house.

“Jenna. There’s no broken glass,” Molly said letting go of me and looking around the room.

“What?” I gasped slightly looking down. She was right, whatever broke had definitely come from here, but there was no glass anywhere. Molly and I both searched around the room looking for any sign that someone had been here, but the room was spotless.

“Jenna! Look!” Molly called out. She was standing in front of a bookcase with a red book in her hand titled Close. Inside there was a small red button. Molly shot me a puzzled look before slowly lowering her finger onto the button. My heart raced as she got closer and closer to pushing it, I had no clue what pressing that button my do, or might release. Finally, she pressed it down and with a gentle ‘click’ nothing happened. She pressed it again and still nothing.

“Wait, it says ‘close!’ There has to be another book that says open, right?” I said, scanning both bookshelves, but there was nothing.

“Maybe it isn’t a book.” Molly set down Close and began scanning the room. With a gasp she zipped to the far corner and picked up a cigar box. On the side in gold letters it said “Open”. She opened it and pressed the small green button inside. The room began to creak and shift as the bookshelf behind me moved out of the way and revealed a secret tunnel.

“What the hell?” I sighed, moving towards the darkness in front of me. I crept in with Molly close behind me.

“It’s way too dark in there to see.” Molly stopped.

“We’ll just have to brave the darkness, trudge ahead at our own peril and hope that-” I was cut off when the lights turned on all around me.

“Or we could just flip the switch,” Molly laughed.

“Yeah, that too…” I said, awkwardly shuffling forth down the tunnel. Soon the narrow cement walkway widened into a giant space the size of an airplane hanger. In front of me was a large console with multiple monitors and keyboards, like the Batcomputer™. I approached it and began typing, trying my best to turn everything on.

“Jenna.”

“What was my mom doing down here?” I murmured as the monitor finally started to turn on.

“Jenna, look.” Molly sounded scared, but I was too focused on the monitor to look up.

“Project Footmen? What in the world is that?” I continued reading the bright blue text in front of me.

“Jenna, Goddamnit look!” Molly screeched finally pulling my attention away from the screen.

“What-” I started looking over the lab. Finally, I noticed what made Molly so scared. Rows and rows of tubes filled the large space and inside each and every one of them was a girl. And they all looked exactly the same. “Is that?”

“It’s you, Jenna.” Molly clung onto me again, “They’re all you.”

 

Chapter 2:

“Yes, there’s been a containment breach.” A familiar voice resonated down the tunnel towards Molly and me.

“Shit, my mom’s here” I hissed pulling Molly to the side.

“Jenna look!” Molly pointed to the broken tube that lead us down here to begin with. Green liquid flooded the ground around it and keeled over on the floor was one of the me’s. Yup, there are multiple me’s… still getting used to that one. “We have to help her.”

“Her?” I scoffed.

“Yes, Jenna they may be clones but they are still people,” Molly said.

“Maybe…” I sighed.

My mother finally emerged from the entrance into the lab. Her phone was pressed against her ear and she moved towards the computer with a purpose. “4456 broke the glass on her containment. Yes, it looks like she has expired, I’ll need a clean up crew tomorrow. We have bigger problems, 3878 made her way to the basement. I understand, I will find her and exterminate her. Yes, sir, I know you warned me about keeping one for myself, but- yes sir. I’ll take care of it.” My mother hung up the phone and placed it on the desk next to her.

“Jenna… Jenna, we have to get out of here.” Molly whispered.

“She- she called me 3878.” I felt tears welling up in my eyes. My mother, the woman who raised me and who I thought loved me unconditionally, said she would exterminate me.

“Jenna, I’m sorry, but we really don’t have time to-”

“Jenna!” Called my mother, cutting Molly off. I clung to the concrete wall behind me, scanning the large space for hiding places. I noticed a small set of stairs leading off the metal platform and onto the main floor with all the tubes.

“If we can get to those stairs, we can hide behind the tubes.” I said, gripping Molly’s forearm to grab her attention.

“Great, so we’re running.” She huffed pulling off her heels and clutching them in her right hand, “Allons y” she smirked. With that we bolted for the stairs, ducking to try and remain as unseen as possible. I could see my “mother” scanning the room, but she was looking the wrong way.

“Jenna, listen sweetie, I can explain everything.” She yelled out over the lab as we ducked behind a tube. “I know it looks bad, but if you’d just trust me-”

“How am I supposed to trust you?” I called out. She whipped her head around trying to discern the origin of the shout, but she couldn’t see. She began to walk down the very same stairs that lead us to where we were and approach us.

“What are you doing?” Molly hissed.

“I have an idea, the tubes, they’re reflective.” I started.

“Yeah, they’re made of glass.” Molly raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah! So you know in movies when the protagonist gets chased into the funhouse and the use the mirrors to confuse the villain?”

“Yeah, but-” she started, but I had already run off, “Jenna!” I ran behind a group of tubes and watched as my reflection ran through all of them.

“Mom!” I yelled. Through the glass I could see her spin around towards me. When she saw my reflection, she smiled.

“Oh, Jenna, there you are. Listen sweetie, you have to understand. I did all of this for us.” She started towards me.

“Oh, give me a break.” I huffed. My mother approached slowly, but she approached the wrong reflection. She smiled as she got closer and closer, but when she rounded the corner, I wasn’t there.

“Oh, you clever girl.” She sighed, “Unfortunately, I’m smarter.” a wicked grin crossed her face as she raised a pistol and started firing at all my reflections. I ducked as a bullet hit the tube in front of me, shattering it. A limp body fell on top of me and pinned me down. I squeezed my way out from under and looked back. The bottom of the tube read “8769” and laying behind me, was yet another me. I scrambled towards the nearest tube and rested my back against it. My mother made her way around the lab, glass crunching under heels as she walked. The crunching got closer and closer as she walked.

“Such a waste of R&D. No matter, they are replaceable. As are you.” She whipped around the corner to where I was sitting. With a shriek, I scrambled to my feet and made a break for it. Bang. Another gunshot resounded throughout the lab, followed by a volley. Bullets whizzed by me, just barely missing the most vital parts of my body. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Molly dash towards the console. You go, Molly I thought I’ll keep her occupied.

I weaved between tubes and the sound of shattering glass followed me wherever I went.

“You stupid girl! You’re going to get me fired!” The gun-toting maniac formerly known as “Mom” shouted from behind me.

Finally, I made my way behind a tube and Dr. Vasquez, it seems inappropriate to continue calling her mom at this point, went in the other direction. Gasping for air after the marathon I felt like I had just run, I turned to look at the tube I rested against. This one, however, was empty and labeled on the base was “3878”.

“Oh my god,” I threw my hands over my mouth to quiet my outburst, “It’s my tube. I- I.”

Chills ran up my spine as the warm barrel of my mother’s pistol stabbed into my back. “You were never born, never raised. You came out of a tube just like all the rest of them. You aren’t special, you just got lucky.”

“Then shoot me. Just kill me, what’s the point.” I sighed, accepting my fate.

Just then, an automated voice resounded, “Security systems activated.”

“What?” My mother looked up towards the ceiling.

The automated voice continued, “Target acquired.” With that, red lasers started firing towards me. I bolted out of the way, but the laser didn’t strike me. As my mother tried to dodge the bolt, it hit her directly in the leg. She screamed out in pain and I looked up at Molly, who was giving me a big thumbs up. I ran towards her, but my mother grabbed my ankle and tripped me.

“You’re not going anywhere, 3878!” She wailed.

“Her name is Jenna!” Screamed Molly, holding my mother’s pistol. With a final BANG! A shot fired directly into her forehead. Molly dropped the gun and helped me up. “It’s ok, we’ll be-” I cut off with a kiss. Her hand nestled into my hair on the back of my head and held me close. She pulled away and met my gaze, we stood in silence for a moment. A beautiful moment. “I’ve been waiting for you to do that.” She smiled grabbing my hand, “Now let’s get out of here.”

“What about my mom?” I stopped suddenly. Even after she tried to kill me, I still was kinda sad about her, you know, dying.

“Oh, yeah don’t worry. She’s a robot.” Molly smirked casually.

“What?” I gasped.

“Oh yeah. You’re real mother is in Chicago, like she was supposed to be. That robot was sent here by her to deal with the containment breach. It’s all there on the computers.” Molly lead me towards the main console. “There’s something else you should probably see too.”

“Like what?”

“Well, you being a clone comes with some, uh, special powers…” Molly turned on the console. “Apparently, the whole point of this project was to create a-”

“Police Force?” I interjected in awe.

“Yeah, sure, I was gonna say that, but you can take my moment it’s fine.” Molly sighed.

“So, what does this mean?” I stepped back.

“It means we’ve got some bad guys to find.” Molly smirked, taking my hand, “Allons y!”

 

Chapter 3:

Molly and I sat quietly in the dead of night. I could already feel the hard wooden park bench bruising my butt. Crickets chirped cutting through the uncomfortable silence that rested on our shoulders.

“So, what now?” I sighed. I looked over at Molly. She looked straight ahead. Her crystal blue eyes lacked any sort of life behind them. I laid my hand on hers, snapping her 0ut of her trance.

“Sorry, I’m just…” She breathed deeply, “It’s still a little weird. I have that image in my head of your mother. And I know it wasn’t really her and she was a robot, but it’s just…” I laid my head on her shoulder and clung to her arm. She didn’t need me to say anything, she just needed me to be there.

The quiet night was interrupted by the sudden sound of ice shattering. I shot up from the bench and turned towards the scene.

A man in a McDonald’s uniform was chasing down a man in the ski mask. In his right hand he held some sort of machine that shot ice. He was firing icicles at the retreating robber, but his aim was subpar at best. The robber dodged a shot and swept a leg under the employee’s feet. He slammed onto the ground and his ice gun slid across the ground towards Molly and me. Then, two more armed men in masks came out of alleyways and surrounded the downed vigilante.

“Well, time to put your new powers to use.” Molly smirked, “Here, I snagged these from your mother’s lab.” she said handing me a small black bean shaped object.

“What is this?” I asked rolling it around between my fingers.

“An earpiece, this way we can talk. All of  your mom’s work is on my laptop now, so I can advise you as you go.” She gripped my hand tightly, “Now, go save McFlurry over there.”

With a nod I bolted into the fray with McFlurry’s ice gun. I kicked one of the armed men in the back, sending him flying into another one. McFlurry clasped my hand as I hoisted him up off the ground.

“Thanks,” he grunted in a comically low, raspy voice.

“Yeah,” I huffed handing him his gun.

“Ok, so, powers,” Molly spoke into my ear. It was weird hearing her voice so deep inside my ear, like she was whispering to me. It was also comforting. “It says here that once you hear the codeword you’ll have super strength, laser eyes, rapid cellular regeneration, and adoptive muscle memory,” she said in awe.

“So, what’s the codeword?” I said, panting as I dodged punches thrown at me by the armed robbers. McFlurry dealt with one of them by freezing him to a wall, but the other two were still kicking, literally. McFlurry fought one, but the other came at me, and with no powers or combat training, most of my effort went towards dodging.

“Uhh, hang on let me look here,” Molly mused in my ear. A punch went right over my head as I ducked out of the way. He kicked at my leg and sent me to the ground.

“Codeword!” I shouted.

“Uh, Magpie!” Molly screeched into the earpiece.

“I don’t feel anything?” I sighed, kicking the assailant in the balls and scrambling away. He keeled over onto the ground and clutched his groin.

“Try Mirth!” she pleaded.

“Nope!”

“Ruminate!” she squealed. I felt a surge of energy overcome me. All the bumps and bruises I had attained started to fade away and I could feel my blood boil, but in a hot way, you know?

I leapt up and faced the robber. His head cocked as if was confused at my sudden second wind, which was fitting because I was too.

“Kick some ass!” Molly giggled in my ear.

“Hell yeah,” I smirked. The robber didn’t stand a chance. I walked towards him and with a single punch he flew back into the wall. “Oh yeah, that’s the stuff,” I said rubbing my knuckles. He stood up and picked his comrades gun up off the ground. He started firing at me and with a scream I collapsed. Luckily for me, I dodged all the bullets. I charged him and slammed him into the wall; well, that was the plan, but in reality we went through the wall. Clearly this was too much for the criminal’s body, because he didn’t get back up after that.

I spun around just in time to see McFlurry nail the other guy with his freeze gun, freezing his feet to the ground. He wiped his brow and came over to me.

“Good job,” he groaned in the same stupid voice.

“Thanks, Shawnathan,” I said wringing my hands.

“Shawnathan? No I am the icy avenger, the cold crusader, the-”

“McDonald’s employee wearing a name tag.” I raised an eyebrow pointing at his chest. He grunted and tore the name tag off his shirt.

Just then, an overzealous employee came out of an alleyway. “Woah, dude! That was so cool, this is the best night-” He stopped dead when he saw me, “Who are you?”

Molly pranced over and threw her arms around my neck. “You were spectacular!” She squealed, topping off the compliment with a kiss.

“Lesbians. Nice,” the second employee, whose name tag read “Craigory”, said with finger guns. Molly and I both scoffed at him.

“Thanks! I’m just happy I dodged those bullets!” I laughed.

“No you didn’t dodge them they bounced off you,” Molly said. I gasped slightly at my newfound powers. This was all going to take some getting used to. I turned back towards McFlurry.

“So you’re all into the whole crime fighting thing?” I asked.

“Yes. Seeking justice for those who have been wronged, giving the little guy the-”

“Yes will suffice,” I groaned. “Listen, we’ve got sort of an issue,” I glanced at Molly who simply nodded awkwardly, “and we would could really use some help if you could spare-”

“Yes!” McFlurry cheered.

“Dude?” Craigory protested.

“Craigory, this sounds big, like first arch-nemesis level big! We have to do it.” McFlurry grasped his shoulder. “We’ll help you,” McFlurry said turning to me, “Now tell me about my first arch-nemesis.”

 

Chapter 4:

“So your mom is an evil scientist who gave you superpowers?” Craigory said in awe under thinly veiled sympathy. I decided to withhold the fact that there were an army of me’s out there.

“That sounds like a big deal.” Craigory winced. “We might need some back up.”

“Justice never needs backup,” McFlurry said triumphantly.

“Craigory is right,” Molly said, “We might need some- wait what the hell.” She stopped herself looking over at something.

“What?” I placed my hand on her shoulder.

“That woman, she’s my customer. She comes to Tim Hortons every other week or so and gets the same thing every time. It’s 2 AM what is she doing out?”

“Let her live,” I laughed. But then I instantly regretted saying that, when I saw the frail old woman vaguely resembling Elizabeth II unhinge her jaw and throw an iguana inside. “Oh my god!” I wailed a little too loudly. The old lady whipped her head around towards me. Her eyes glowed yellow in the dark and she disappeared into the brush around her.

“Where did she go?” bellowed McFlurry raising his gun.

“Right here!” screeched a lizard woman leaping on his back. “You have seen too much, humans, and now you must DIIIEEEE!” she hissed.

“Kill it!” Craigory cried, “Kill it with fire!” I grasped the lizard’s back and threw her off. She slammed into a tree and shrieked. She leapt up and came at me with her claws. I ducked under her swipe and punched upward. She flew up into the sky and screeched.

“There, no more of that,” I said placing my hands on my hips. But my celebration was far too early as the screeching sound got louder and louder again as the lizard woman plummeted back to the ground. Her body smacked onto the earth with a series of sickening cracks. “Nope, actually, that’s the end of that.”

“No. It’s not!” wheezed the reptile. She lunged at me, but McFlurry blasted her out of the air and froze her to the tree. She struggled, but she couldn’t break free. Finally, she transformed back into the old woman we watched eat the poor lizard she had for dinner.

“Ma’am!” Molly gasped.

“Molly?” the reptilian beast said dropping back onto the ground after the ice melted just enough for her to break. “Oh dear, I didn’t know you were here. Oh, here dearie.” She rustled around in her coat pockets. Eventually, she pulled out a butterscotch and placed it gingerly in Molly’s hand.

“Thank you, um, what’s going on?” she asked, popping the candy in her mouth.

“Well, my name is Reba Reptillia, Queen of Mars.” She stood up straight and put her right hand against her forehead vertically.

“Oh, huh, is that why you got so many teas?” Molly giggled.

“No, those were for Shmebulon.” She nodded.

“Jenna! Maybe Reba can be of help.” Molly beamed at me.

“The crazy lizard lady?” McFlurry cried. Reba hissed at him baring teeth and then smiled back at Molly.

“The more the merrier.” I smiled. “Reba Reptillia, how would you like to help me kill my evil mother?”

“Oh, I’d be delighted, dearie.”

Day 5:

The ragtag group of vigilantes we had created probably looked pretty strange walking down a small residential street at 3 AM. Two teenage girls, Two McDonald’s Employees, and the American Queen Elizabeth walking around someone’s neighborhood late at night was definitely not normal. Luckily, no one seemed to notice, at least it seemed that way for most of the walk.

“Jenna?” A timid, but a familiar voice called out of a doorway.

“Imogene?” I said turning towards the girl. A plaid cast decorated her right arm which she held in front of her.

“Jenna! Oh thank god, I’ve been trying to call you!” She said coming up and hugging me. This was certainly a strange reaction to Imogene seeing me. We were… friendly I suppose, but I barely knew her. I just signed her cast to be nice.

“Why?” I looked down at the short girl.

“Jenna listen! You’re not going to believe me, but your mother is evil, like pure evil type evil.” Imogene wailed through the still night.

“Yeah, we know,” Molly responded.

“What?” Imogene said dazedly. The look on her face told me that she was more than a little disappointed to not be of help.

“We’re on our way to murder her.” Reba squealed.

“Murder!” A slightly automated feminine voice bellowed, “I will stop you, criminal!”

“No, Francine it’s me,” Imogene waved, “That’s my neighbor, Francine,” she turned back towards us and lowered her voice, “She’s a good egg.”

“Wait so you’re like a Vigilante?” Molly grasped Francine’s arm.

“No!” Francine said too loudly, obviously lying.

“Do you want to help me kill my psycho mother who experimented on me?” I asked casually. Francine looked at Imogene who simply nodded.

“Yes,” Francine said with a bright grin.

With Francine and Imogene added to our group, we now had four teenage girls in our vigilante team. It was like discount Avengers, but not the half-off like the full street corner crack deal.

We kept walking until we got to the nearest bus stop. Molly, Imogene and I sat on the bench, leaving everyone else standing around. Molly pulled out a laptop and looked through.

“Your mother has trackers for herself and all her robot selves.” Molly started.

“Wait, all her robot selves? There are more?” I whined.

“Yes. Wait! Your mother isn’t in Chicago anymore!” Molly gasped.

“Where is she?” Francine leaned forward.

“She’s at your house!” Molly cheered.

“That’s a good thing?” Imogene whimpered.

“Yes, we’re trying to take her down,” I stood, “Let’s go home!”

We started for my house until Molly shouted out. “Wait! She’s on the move!”

“Where is she going?” I sighed.

“She’s headed for… some blacksite?” Molly raised an eyebrow.

And so, we changed directions and started for the blacksite. This time she stayed put, it was probably some sort of government lab where my mother worked, so going after her there was going to be dangerous. However, we didn’t have much choice as we had to take her down before she could hurt anyone. Suddenly, rustling in the brush around us warned us of someone nearby. My mother popped out of every bush and tree in the park, surrounding us.

“Ready for a fight!” I said bumping Francine.

“Affirmative!”

I went at the robot with all my might. Throwing a punch, I attempted to dispatch it, but it caught my hand. I tried again, but it was caught again. With a shriek, I tried my laser vision for the first time, cutting the robot in half. “Why did I use any power but this?” I thought to myself.

“Behind you!” Molly shouted into the ear piece. I spun around just in time to dodge watch a robot fist slam into my face. I flew back into a bush. Spitting out leaves I leapt up and soared into the air.

“Woah!” I screamed in mid air.

“New power!” Molly squealed. I started to plummet back to the ground directly towards the robot. Using the momentum, I slammed my fist down onto the robot, shattering it into pieces. “Nice” Said Molly.

I cut down robot after robot with me laser vision, but they kept coming. I backed up and was met by all the other vigilantes. We all stood in a circle back to back as the robots closed in on us.

“What now!” Reba screeched yet again.

“Just-ice!” McFlurry roared charging at the robots. We all followed suit and working together we were almost able to defeat all the robots, yet there were still too many. The remaining robots stood in the street in front of. One of them shrieked like they were calling for an attack, but before they could charge they were all smashed to bits by a yellow Dodge car thing. I don’t know cars, but I’m sure to someone who cares it was something to look at.

“Get in, Clone” The driver who had a thick German accent said.

“Wilhelm, don’t be an ass.” The same man spoke again, this time with no accent.

“Who are you?” I said stepping forward towards the car.

“I am Wilhelm,” The man said with the accent again, “We are two souls trapped in a single body, I know it might be shocking but-”

“Ok.” I interjected hopping in the passenger seat of the car.

“Wait that’s it?” American driver said.

“Yeah, sure.” I waved at the group. Shawnathan, Francine, and Imogene hopped in the back seat. “What about you guys?” I asked looking at the people who couldn’t fit.

“I’ll get in the trunk.” Said Craigory climbing in.

“I’ll be alright, I can fly,” Reba said casually, “I can carry Molly.”

“What?” Molly protested, but Reba was already picking her up.

“Alright,” I sighed, “To my mother’s lab!”

The schizophrenic who we apparently trusted to drive us around was zipping through the desolate city streets. If there were any cops waiting to issue a ticket, they would’ve had a field day here. Yet, we made it to the black site soon enough and remarkably safely. As we arrived, Reba landed next to us with a terrified Molly wrapped around her.

“I just realized I hate heights.” Molly gagged.

“Are all of you ready?” I winced.

“Yes,” Reba hissed, “Let’s get her!”

We marched forward into my mother’s lab and when we opened the door, we were met by a squad of agents. The one in front looked like he wasn’t very experienced. Molly must’ve noticed this as well.

“You look scared?” She said cooly, with a wicked grin on her face.

“What?” The agent shivered, “Me, no not at all.”

“All the good agents in the field on mission right now?” I joined in. The man shook violently and dropped his gun.

“In truth, I don’t trust Dr. Vasquez enough to die for her.” He sighed.

“Dr. Vasquez is evil,” I glared at him, “We’re here to kill her.”

“You know, I always thought she was kind of eccentric, but evil? Yeah I believe it?”

“Wanna help?” Molly smiled.

“Sure why not! Men, after Vasquez!” He charged. Clearly this was why he wasn’t allowed to do field work.

We crept forward, hoping to get the jump on Vasquez. I peered around a corner into her lab. On the table was a young girl. She had a faint glow to her that was slowly fading. Her stomach was cut open, like she had been dissected. Behind her was Vasquez standing in front of a restrained young boy with bright red hair.

“Please, please let me go.” He whimpered.

“Oh, dear, no. I have plans for you. You are going to be the prototype for my army’s general.” Vasquez smirked. “You will lead the army that will destroy the world as we know it and usher in my regime.” Her evil smile was dripping with confidence. Before we could do anything, she injected a small syringe into his arm. He squirmed and screamed in pain. The horrific contortions of his body made me sick to my stomach. Then suddenly he stopped, and when his eyes opened, they glowed bright green. “Now everything is set.” Vasquez laughed maniacally. She clicked a small remote and the wall in front of her opened, revealing a massive hangar filled with an army of Jennas.

“How are we gonna stop her now?” Molly shivered.

“I have no idea.” I said looking around at our small ragtag group of vigilantes. This was going to be the fight of a lifetime.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Shawnathan, Employee of Justice by Luc Pereira

Chapter 1

Shawnathan Salexanders was not one most would consider a success. Perhaps this was because he had never gone to college. This may have been so because at age twenty-nine, his only source of income was the local McDonald’s he had worked at since his days in high school. It could have also been attributed to the fact that at this time he was still residing in his parents’ basement, six years after said parents had moved out. At first glance, and perhaps second and third, too, Shawnathan was a talentless failure with nothing to contribute to society. However, the world would think otherwise if it was revealed that he is the reason the ice cream machine at the local McDonald’s doesn’t work.

One may well say, “Wait a minute, that sucks! This guy’s worse than I thought!” One must understand, however, that by destroying the old ice cream machine, which, in his defense, was likely days from its demise anyway, he began a righteous crusade against crime and corruption in his neighborhood. Using his keen technological knowledge, which he was previously too lazy to employ to get a half-decent career, he engineered a freeze ray from the parts of the machine, which he dissected one night after he failed to stop a robbery that cost the restaurant all of its cash register money, several gallons of Diet Coke and the location’s entire supply of Chicken McNuggets.  Once the thieves had fled, and Shawnathan had constructed his McFlurry freeze ray, he turned to his night shift co-worker, Craigory.

“Do you believe in vigilante justice?” Shawnathan asked with a deep, agitated voice, which contrasted from his usual wimpy inflection.

“Hey, chill out man, I already called the cops” responded a concerned Craigory.

“Oh, I’ll chill out, alright,” Shawnathan said as he raised his freeze ray, jumping on the opportunity to make a pun. “I’ll chill them out.”

Craigory, pretending he didn’t hear the subpar quip, tried to rationalize with him “Dude, it’s just a McDonalds! They’ll just restock it or something!”

“Maybe to you this is just a McDonald’s. But I’ve been working here for thirteen years. Everything that matters to me resides within these walls. I’ve built everything I am on Big Macs and Happy Meals.”  He pointed to the statue of Ronald McDonald standing outside. “That man was more of a father to me than anyone else in my life. If I let these petty crooks get away, I’m turning my back on one of the two places I’ve called home- and the other one is my parents’ basement.”

It may have been pity or the simple fact that Craigory wanted an excuse to not have to stay cleaning deep fryers that changed his attitude, but with a few moments of internal conflict he gave in. “All right,” he agreed, “but you’re a moron if you think you can go after them alone, especially in that broken down minivan of yours. I’m coming with you.”

Chapter 2

Shawnathan smiled contently at his co-worker, realizing this was likely the longest conversation they had had in their half decade of working the night shift together. The late hours of the shift left the two of them in a mood that didn’t desire conversation. They stayed out of each other’s way and tried their best to make the other’s job easier, and thus developed a mutual respect and an unspoken friendship.

Shawnathan rushed out the front door, as Craigory locked it behind them to prevent another robbery.  Scanning the nearly empty parking lot, Shawnathan spotted the culprits. He was hiding under the counter when they entered previously to have their way with the defenseless fast food joint. But in the parking lot he could see the thieves clearly under the light of the glowing, golden “M” suspended above. There were four men, all armed. One wore an eyepatch and sleeves of generic tattoos, clearly going for the stereotypical bad guy look. Another man stood by silently with keys in hand, prepared to drive away. Shawnathan smirked as he noticed the other two struggling to stuff their massive haul of McNuggets into the back of their black van. “Fools,” he thought to himself. “Slowed down by their own greed.”

At the sight of the two McDonald’s employees, the four robbers drew their guns, two of them dropping the bag of stolen processed food.  The eyepatched man nodded at the driver, indicating he should start the van.

“Back off, clown!” he shouted to Shawnathan. “If ya know what’s good for ya.”

Shawnathan fearlessly drew his new weapon and fired it at one of the McNugget men’s feet. As he pulled the trigger, a vanilla aroma filled the night air, and the now frosty-footed thief dropped his gun in shock. He struggled to move, unable to take a single step. The eyes of the other men widened with fear.

“Let’s bail!” the eyepatch guy exclaimed. The men rushed into the van and the driver slammed the gas, leaving their frozen comrade and McNuggets behind.

Craigory’s jaw dropped at the sight, washed over by a new sense of thrill he had never felt before. “That was incredible! How’d you-” He suddenly remembered there were still three more men yet to be apprehended. “Forget it. Let’s catch some bad guys.” He rushed to his car as Shawnathan followed.

Once they were on the road, the black van wasn’t hard to spot. Who else was crazy enough to be out driving at 2:00 AM? Once they were on the van’s tail, the eye-patched man leaned out the window, gun drawn.

 

Chapter 3

Craigory suddenly snapped out of his excited haze. “Is he gonna shoot at us?” A bullet flew through the windshield and just missed Craigory on his right. “YEP! WE’RE GETTING SHOT AT!  We’re actually gonna die tonight! Why did I let you talk me into this?!”

“Don’t panic,” Shawnathan responded coolly.  “I’ll take care of ‘em.”

“Oh, I’m way past panicking here, buddy!” Craigory exclaimed.  Shawnathan, ignoring him, fired his Mcflurry beam at the passenger side window, rammed his elbow, into it, and shattered it with ease.

“Did you just-” Craigory started as he realized what his co-worker just did. “Shawn, what is wrong with you?!  Ever heard of opening a window?!”

Shawnathan ignored him still, as he fired the freeze ray directly at the eyepatch guy’s gun, covering it in ice and freezing it to his hand.

“How on earth is your aim that good?” Craigory asked in disbelief.

“Justice never misses,” Shawnathan replied. Craigory nodded, disregarding the ridiculous nature of the explanation.

“So how’re we gonna stop these guys?”

Shawnathan pondered for a moment. “Get me in front of them. That is, if you think your car is fast enough.”

Craigory smiled. “You can bet your Big Mac it is.”  He slammed the gas and the car sped forward and swerved around the black van.  Shawnathan fired backward, this time hitting the road instead of the van.

“Looks like ‘justice’ just missed, my guy,” Craigory chuckled, glancing at the shot through his rearview mirror.

“Just wait for it,” Shawnathan insisted.  Sure enough, as the black van approached the icy patch on the road that the freeze ray had formed, it slid off the road and crashed into a ditch.

“I stand corrected,” Craigory admitted. “Let’s go get the stolen goods back.”

The two fast food employees exited the car and approached the crashed van as the eyepatch man crawled out.  Shawnathan raised his weapon. “Make one more move and I’ll make you stop moving.”

“You shoulda just minded your own business,” eyepatch guy scolded. “There are things goin’ on here that you don’t understand. Mortality as you know it is gonna be a thing of the past.”

“This became my business as soon as you walked into my restaurant and abused our free refill policy.”  As Shawnathan approached the man, he took a closer look at his tattoos. One of them stood out to him- the McDonald’s ‘M’, upside-down. “You should ask your artist for a refund,” Shawnathan joked, pointing at the odd tattoo.

“It’s not supposed to be an ‘M’, idiot,” eyepatch guy corrected.

“So it’s a ‘W’,” Shawnathan inferred. “A ‘W’ for what?”

“Wilhelm.”

“Wilhelm? Who’s Wilhelm?”

“I ain’t saying another word.”

Shawnathan took another step forward, as Craigory pulled out his phone and began typing ‘Wilhelm’ into Google.  “You’re gonna tell me everything you know or you’re gonna become an eyepatch-sicle. Take your pick.”

The eyepatch guy remained silent. “I warned ya,” Shawnathan said as he pulled the trigger. This time, nothing happened. The eyepatch guy smiled and ran off.

“Well, that’s unfortunate. But the cops are on their way to pick up these guys, and well,  y’know how they can be about vigilantes, so… maybe we should skiddaddle,” Craigory remarked.

 

Chapter 4

Shawnathan nodded.  “We need to get back to McDonald’s.  I can refuel my gun using Big Mac grease.”

Craigory, unfazed by hearing the odd means of powering the weapon, checked his watch.  “Yea, that’s not gonna happen, my shift’s over.”

Shawnathan frowned. “But we need to-”

“I’m just messin’ with you, man!”  Craigory interrupted. “But for real, that’s probably not a great idea. The cops are gonna be there too.  What do you say we go to my place and try to figure out the deal with this ‘Wilhelm’ guy?”

Shawnathan shook his head.  “My place is closer. Plus, I have what I need to refill the freeze ray there.”

“You have an apartment?”

Shawnathan hesitated.  “Not exactly.”

The two McDonald’s employees left the scene and arrived at a small, run-down house with boarded up windows.  The outer walls had few remnants of its once full coat of red paint. The roof was decorated with a crumbling chimney.

“Well, aren’t you living the good life?’ Craigory commented sarcastically.

To Craigory’s surprise, they were met by a baggy-eyed man sitting in front of a computer.  On his screen was what appeared to be webcam footage of a neckbearded fellow trying to dip a Cheeto into a glass of Mountain Dew, as if it were a cookie in milk.

“How’s it goin’, Sam?” greeted Shawnathan, as Craigory struggled to think of a reason anyone would have such footage on his monitor.

“Another day in paradise,” the man muttered drunkenly.

Shawnathan gestured for Craigory to follow him to the stairwell, and they descended into the basement.

“Didn’t know you had a roommate,” Craigory remarked.

“I don’t,” Shawnathan corrected. “This was my parent’s house.  He bought it after they moved out.”

“Oh, okay, that’s… gotcha?” Craigory said, trying to mentally piece his co-worker’s living situation. “Y’know, I’ve got an extra bed in my apartment if you want a better place to crash… you’d need to pay rent, of course, and, not to mention, pay to fix my car window, but-”

“I’ll think about it,” Shawnathan replied as he opened a mini fridge near the bottom of the stairs.  Upon seeing it opened, Craigory realized that the fridge was absolutely stuffed with an assortment of McDonald’s products. Shawnathan removed a Big Mac and began squeezing its grease into a valve in the back of his freeze ray.

“Wow, you’ve got quite the… McStash,” Craigory said hesitantly, disappointed in himself for making such a joke.

Shawnathan chortled at the joke, clearly enjoying it far more.  “Guess so. Did you find anything on that Wilhelm guy?”

“Oh yeah!”  Craigory pulled his phone out of his pocket and began reading the top Google search result: “The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect of a man screaming that has been used in 388 movies and-”

“I don’t think that’s it,” Shawnathan interrupted.

“Yea, I didn’t think so either,” Craigory agreed, scrolling down. “Looks like Wilhelm is a pretty common German name… there was a German emperor named Wilhelm… another German emperor named Wilhelm… a German mad scientist who attempted to use vampiric magic to achieve immortality named Wilhelm-”

“That’s it!” Shawnathan interjected. “That eyepatched thug said something about mortality being a thing of the past.”

“Well, those are some intense words for a guy robbing a McDonald’s,” Craigory laughed.  Shawnathan was not amused.

“He must think the key to immortality lies in McDonald’s,” Shawnathan smirked.  “I knew it.”

“Right…” Craigory yawned.  “Well, what do ya say we get some shuteye and investigate the McDonald’s tomorrow?”

“No!” Shawnathan exclaimed.  “Time is of the essence! We have to… have to…”  Before he could finish the statement he was passed out on the floor.

Craigory smiled.  “Night, buddy.” He headed over to a torn up couch on the other side of the room and crashed almost immediately.

The next morning, Craigory awoke in a cold sweat.  An especially cold sweat, actually, because Shawnathan had frozen his pillow to awaken him.

“Wh- what’s wrong with you?” Craigory shouted angrily.

“I told you time was of the essence,” Shawnathan explained. “And you were… out cold.”

Craigory rolled his eyes.  “Oh shut up. Apparently I can’t sleep anymore so let’s get going.”

As soon as the two pulled into the McDonald’s, Shawnathan rushed into the building while Craigory stayed in the car to call a car repair shop and figure out how much it would cost to get his window fixed.

Chapter 5

Shawnathan froze in the door, without the help of an ice-cream weapon, at the sight of eyepatch guy sitting alone at a two-seat table at the window, enjoying an Egg McMuffin and an iced coffee.  Trying to avoid drawing the attention of other customers present, Shawnathan casually walked over to the table, sat down across from him, and carefully drew his freeze ray while keeping it hidden under the table.

“We didn’t get to finish our little discussion last night,” Shawnathan said, gesturing to the weapon under the table.  “I hope our delicious Egg McMuffin has you in a more talkative mood.”

Eye-patch guy smiled.  “Last I checked, that little toy of yours didn’t work. And I’ve got a toy of my own.” He gestured to his own gun, also hidden under the table.

Shawnathan smiled as well, mocking him. “It’s recharged. And last I checked, that little toy of yours was frozen to your hand.”

Eye-patch guy smiled wider, mocking Shawnathan’s mockery. “I thawed it out.”

Shawnathan smiled as widely as possible, mocking eyepatch guy’s mockery of his own mockery. “Well, I suppose that leaves us at a stalemate.”

The two attempted to stare each other down as Craigory walked over to the table, his phone keeping his attention away from the man sitting across from Shawnathan. “So, fixing the window isn’t gonna be cheap,” Craigory began. “Turns out ‘freeze ray’ isn’t a believable reason for having a broken window-” He looked up from his phone and noticed eye-patch guy.  “Oh… you’re… uh…”

“Craigory, could you order me an iced mocha?” Shawnathan asked, keeping his gaze into eyepatch guy’s remaining eye. “I could use the caffeine.”

“Uh, yea… sure thing…” Craigory walked away in a daze.

“You seem to care a lot about this place,” eyepatch guy guessed. “Ya might as well know the power held here.”

“We looked up your ‘Wilhelm’ guy,” Shawnathan nodded.  “He seemed to be into vampires.”

“That’s right,” eyepatch guy smiled. “And we’ve received word that he’s comin’ back, meaning his magic worked. So I’m gonna use his method to become immortal.”

“There’s definitely some magic here at McDonald’s,” Shawnathan agreed, as Craigory returned to the table with two cups of coffee and pulled up a chair.

“You have no idea,” eye-patch guy insisted.

“But what does McDonald’s have to do with vampires?” asked Shawnathan

Eyepatch guy pointed out the window to the statue of Ronald McDonald, his smile shining in the sunlight.

Craigory spit out his coffee.  “Oh gosh… you’re not saying…” he began. “Ronald McDonald is a… a…”

“A vampire?” Shawnathan finished.

“Exactly,” eyepatch guy answered sinisterly. “Think about: the pale complexion, the blood-hued hair.  He was almost unstoppable, they only managed to defeat him by turning him to stone outside this very McDonald’s.”

“That’s insane,” Craigory said. “He’s a mascot, a fictional character!”

“That’s the lie they created!” eye-patch guy exclaimed. “The Wizard who turned him to stone, Timothy Horton, built this chain restaurant franchise so no one would uncover the truth and resurrect him!”

“So you’re trying to say that that the founder of Tim Horton’s, is: A, a freaking wizard, and, B, also the founder of McDonald’s?” Craigory asked.

“He must’ve created Tim Horton’s as an extra diversion!” Shawnathan realized.

“You’re a smart guy,” eyepatch guy observed.

“So why’d you try to steal our McNuggets and Diet Coke?” Shawnathan asked.

“In order to transfer my very being into Ronald McDonald, I need to fill myself with as many McDonald’s foods as possible. Which is why I’ve been here all morning filling up on McMuffins.” Eyepatch guy gestured to the Egg McMuffin on the table. “This is my eleventh. I’m going to commence the transfer at midnight and destroy this McDonald’s so the world will be free of the lie they’ve been told for so long.”

Shawnathan frowned. “You know I can’t let you do that.”

“I know,” eyepatch guy nodded. “Which is why I didn’t come alone.”

Before he could say a word, Shawnathan’s arm was jabbed by a needle from a man behind him. Craigory gasped.

“Don’t worry,” the man insisted, who Craigory recognized as the black van’s driver from the night before. “It’s just a sedative.”

“You’ll never… get away… with…” but once again, his statement was cut off by lack of consciousness.

Shawnathan awoke in a bed at a place he’d never been before- an apartment, likely Craigory’s. Sure enough, Craigory sat in a chair across from the bed, looking at his phone.

“Rise and shine,” Craigory said, not looking up from his phone. “I was gonna take you to a hospital but I didn’t wanna reveal your whole vigilante thing.”

Shawnathan tried to remember all that had happened. “Eyepatch guy… he’s gonna…” He checked his watch. “It’s 11:45! He’s gonna take the form of Ronald McDonald and destroy the McDonald’s in fifteen minutes!”

“I know,” Craigory said sadly. “There’s nothing we can do about it now though.”

Shawnathan stood up.  “Why not?!”

Craigory stood as well, blocking his co-worker’s exit. “Because if you try to stop them they’ll kill you.”

“That didn’t stop me before,” Shawnathan reminded. “It didn’t stop you before either.”

“Well before you were just the guy I worked the night shift with. But within the last day…” Craigory paused. “Shawn, you’re kinda crazy and it’s a bit concerning but it’s clear you’re a guy that cares about what’s right, and fighting bad guys with you has been the most fun I’ve had at this job, or ever, actually. You’re a friend to me now, man, and I’m not about to let you get yourself killed.”

Shawnathan smiled, placing his hand on his comrade’s shoulder. “Thank you Craigory. You’re honestly the only friend I’ve ever had. But you know what the McDonald’s means to me, and nothing’s gonna stop me from saving it.”

“Yea, I figured you’d say something like that,” Craigory sighed, reluctantly handing Shawnathan his freeze ray. “But we gotta be smart about this. Do you have a plan?”

“Not really,” Shawnathan admitted. “We can work out details in the car. I’m not about to be late for work.”

The two employees spotted eyepatch guy as soon as they cruised into the McDonald’s parking lot. He wasn’t difficult to spot to begin with, as he stood in the center of a circle lined with french fries in front of Ronald McDonald’s ten foot statue, his driver standing off to the side with a gun ready. Shawnathan glanced at the clock in Craigory’s car. 11:59. Having nearly a minute at best, he stepped out of the car and immediately encased the armed driver in ice before he had the chance to shoot.

“It’s over, eyepatch guy,” Shawnathan stated.

Eyepatch guy frowned “I’ve got a name, y’know!”

“What is it?”

Eyepatch guy hesitated. “Well that’s none of your- forget it! You’re too late! Any second now the transfer will occur and I will become an immortal fast-food vampire and annihilate the establishment that you lo-“ He was cut off by Craigory’s car, which, at this time, was being driven forcefully into him by Craigory himself.

“He wouldn’t shut up,” Craigory explained to Shawnathan.

“Good instinct, Craigory,” Shawnathan complimented as he made his way over to examine the car-struck eyepatch guy. “Let’s just hope he’s not-“ Suddenly, dark clouds began to form overhead, and powerful winds began swirling around the lot. In the distance, ominous bells rang a slow “bada bop bop ba” to the tune of the McDonald’s jingle. Lightning struck eyepatch guy, then the statue of Ronald McDonald soon after. Deep, sinister laughter was emitted from the statue as it came to life.

“We’re too late,” Shawnathan realized with horror.

The statue, under the control of eyepatch guy, stared intently at his hands, examining his new form. “This body… so full of power!” He smirked. “I’m lovin’ it!”

Craigory stepped out of the car. “I don’t think hitting this guy’s gonna do my car any good.”

Shawnathan released an unrelenting blast from his freeze ray, burying Ronald McDonald in several feet of ice. Ronald stood a few moments in frozen silence before shattering his icy prison and running towards his attacker. Shawnathan continued to blast ice at him, but this only slowed him slightly. Once Ronald was only three feet from him, the ray stopped firing.

“That thing really tends to stop working at the worst times, don’t it!” Ronald laughed in a booming voice as he slapped Shawnathan clear across the lot. Struggling to get up, Shawnathan glanced over to where Craigory previously stood. His car was still there, but Craigory was nowhere to be seen.

“You foolish burger flipper,” Ronald began as he punched Shawnathan back to the ground. “You really thought your mixed up McFlurry machine could stop destiny? Everything you’ve worked for is a lie! The only reason your precious ‘McDonald’s’ is to hide the power I now possess! The eternity that awaits me. Because of your ignorance, you will die one day like everyone else. And because of your interference, that day is today.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure!” Craigory interjected from behind as he threw a frying pan at the clown-vampire’s head. While Ronald wailed in pain, Craigory tossed a Big Mac to his fallen coworker. “Of course!” Shawnathan thought. “Craigory had run inside to grill a Big Mac to fuel the ray!” Shawnathan began squeezing the grease into the gun, marveling at his friend’s resourcefulness.

“Why do you pathetic mortals insist on resisting!” Ronald bellowed. He reached for the towering McDonald’s sign, tore it from the earth and slammed it like a club into the ground where Shawnathan stood just after he had kept away. “I am an immortal vampire! You are nothing to me!”

This statement gave Shawnathan an idea. A vampire! Of course! He lightly tapped the trigger of his freeze ray, causing a sharp icicle to emerge from the tip like a bayonet. With all the strength he had left, Shawnathan sprinted toward Ronald McDonald, ducking under the McDonald’s sign as his adversary swung it at him. When he was close enough, he jumped up and stabbed the vampire in the chest with the icicle-tipped ray.

“I… I don’t understand!” The dying Ronald McDonald exclaimed. “You’re just a miserable McDonald’s employee!”

“Dang right I am,” Shawnathan agreed. “Would you like fries with that?”

Ronald McDonald let out one last scream in pain before he dissolved into a pile of Chicken McNuggets.

“Gotta say, that was pretty freakin’ impressive!” Craigory said, high-fiving Shawnathan. “Just can’t believe that worked.”

“You can kill a vampire by driving a stake into his chest,” Shawnathan explained. “I didn’t have one, so I improvised.”

“Well, you saved the McDonald’s… sign excluded, of course.”

In the weeks that followed the two co-workers fell into a routine not unlike the one they had before the McDonald’s robbery, and it seemed as if the two crime-fighting fast food employees would never seem action again. One night, two weeks after the battle with Ronald McDonald, Shawnathan and Craigory heard a boom in the distance. An explosion, to be exact. Craigory looked out the window to see where it had occurred. “It’s Tim Horton’s! Someone just blew a crater into the roof of Tim Horton’s!”

Another explosion from further away followed. Shawnathan looked out to see where it had come from. “Someone did the same to Taco Bell.”

Craigory took out his phone “Looks like it’s not just those two- it’s all over the news- all the fast food joints in the city are going up in flames… except the McDonald’s!”

Shawnathan retrieved his freeze ray, which he had kept under the counter. “I’ve been waiting for some action. Let’s get to the bottom of this.” Before they could out the door, however, a customer entered the building.

“Hi, can I get a… uhhhh…” the customer began.

“What are you doing here?! Have you looked outside?!” shouted Craigory. The customer looked out the window, unfazed by the flaming fast food buildings.

“Yeah, uh, listen, can I just get a McFlurry? With, like, Oreos in it?”

“Sorry, buddy,” Shawnathan chuckled, as he and Craigory began running out the door. “The ice cream machine is broken.”

Everlast by Maddie taylor

Lilibet sat on the hill that overlooked the lavender field. It was cold out today and she debated going out into the field once more. This was her place. The place she came to be alone and be herself. The one place she didn’t have to hide the secret.

Lilibet was around 117 years old. When she turned 17, she was caught in a major storm. She was separated from her family, who eventually died. She was found by a man when she was close to death, who brought her to safety from the storm. In order to save her life, he gave her the elixir for immortality. She never knew the man, but had vague memories of him. Eventually, through much research, experiencing different signs of her immortality, and a lengthy visit from Laurelina, she discovered what she was and learned to live with it. She chose to take her opportunity to live anyway she wanted whenever she could. She had lived in Indiana, Florida, Hawaii, and even London. These past few years, she chose to enter a foster home at ‘sixteen’  where she knew she would be taken in by folks who weren’t the greatest parents, but would still love and provide for her. She was now a seventeen-year-old girl in her senior year, living with her foster parents in a small town.

She wouldn’t really mind people knowing about her immortality, but she was bound by the Laws of the Everlasting not to tell anyone. The Laws had been created by the first immortals around the beginning of time. These laws kept them safe and secret. Lilibet had always done a superb job keeping her big secret but sometimes it hurt her to be left on her own in the big world to live forever.

As she made her way down to the field once more, she took her time to smell the everpresent odor of the lavender plants surrounding her. The light breeze brushed through her long, caramel-colored hair. She knew her emerald eyes would sparkle in the sun. As she revelled in the sunlight, she could see the glow of her immortality shimmering onto the puddles from the previous rain shower. Her skin glowed with a beautiful golden light. This was the only place she could reveal herself. No one had ever found out about her immortality…unless they were immortal as well. Just as she began to relax, she heard a rustle in the plants behind her. She panicked and immediately shot back up, ready to make a break. She then heard the sound again and turned to see a young man. A young man who seemed to be glowing with the same immortal shimmer as she. He smiled at her and slowly moved closer.

“Lilibet, correct?” he asked.

“Depends on who’s asking,” she replied.

“I think you know who’s asking.”

Oddly enough, she knew exactly who was asking. His name appeared clearly in her mind despite never having seen him in the past: Jared Moore. She knew it had to do with her abilities. As an immortal, she had many unusual skills. She could read minds, visually see feelings, and manifest things with her mind.

“Let’s say I do.”

“Then you also know why I’m here.”

She saw it all. Something had happened to Laurelina, the current keeper of the Laws. She saw fire and destruction and suffocation and heard the faint screams. As the internal images faded away, she looked down in sadness. After a few moments, she met his eyes and saw the fear hidden behind his strong, brave figure. Suddenly, out of random impulse, she met him with an embrace. They stayed there together for a moment and breathed in the sadness and the taste of the lavender. Then, they pulled away. She could see, in his mind, he was asking her to come with him. To visit the ruins of the disaster. All the immortals were being asked to meet so they could re-elect a new ruler and grieve their lost one. She wasn’t ready to leave. She knew she’d have to be gone for awhile because there was sure to be chaos in Everin, but senior year had just started. If she left now, who knew when she’d be back or how much time would pass. Her teachers would be furious and it’d take some time to catch up. In Everin, the time isn’t the same as it is in the Earthly realm. It is much slower and, often, newbies get very confused after re-entering the Earthly realm. Not to mention, what would she tell her parents?

“Lilibet, you already know what has to happen. We have to leave soon. Very soon.”

“But Jared I–”

“Lils, look, I know you don’t wanna leave but you know you have to.”

Something about the way he said her name. Like he knew her well enough to give her nickname a nickname. That was the thing about immortals. Since they could all read each other’s minds, they knew just about everything about each other within the first ten minutes of meeting. She had met only a few immortals in the past and they were all members of the Council. It always caught her off-guard when a random stranger knew her life story, even if they were immortal like her.

She looked at him, studied him. His eyes were a deep blue and his hair was a dirty blonde. His figure was strong, yet sensitive and she could tell by the way he spoke that he definitely wasn’t from around here or anywhere close to it. She didn’t get much from touching him either. He somehow managed to keep that part of his life hidden from her. She wondered why he did it and what he might have been hiding. He had tan skin and toned muscles that shown through his white t-shirt. His khaki pants went well with the red flannel and large glasses he wore, although his figure didn’t quite fit the dorky style he wore so proudly. Then again, she was just being stereotypical. To put him simply, he was beautiful and mysterious. She realized she was staring and had no idea how long she had been like that. His thoughts and expression told her he had been studying her as well.

“How much time do we have?” Lilibet concentrated on the situation.

“24 hours at the most.”

“Goodness. That really doesn’t give me a lot of time.”

He laughed and replied, “I know it’s difficult, but I’d be happy to help you figure things out and come up with something to tell your family.”

She sighed. “That would be helpful, thanks.”

They then sat in the open space and watched as the sun began to set. She looked at this tall, mysterious stranger that she had clicked with so quickly. She felt this…connection with him that she had never felt with anyone else. She had always wanted a best friend to spend all her time with and share all her secrets with, but it’s hard when you’re an immortal who’s bound by universal law to shut off a huge chunk of her life around others. She decided there was no point in trying to make such a close friend when she couldn’t share the one thing that made her into the person she was. Life got lonely pretty quickly. Maybe Jared could provide some great company for a little while.

 

*   * *  

As Lilibet turned onto the dirt road that led to her house, she practiced what she would say to her foster parents. She and Jared had spent an hour or so coming up with the best alibi they could muster. Here was the story: Lilibet was having trouble with the beginning of her senior year and wanted to get away for a little bit. She was going to visit her grandmother in Wyoming who conveniently didn’t own a phone. She would be gone indefinitely and she needed to get out as soon as possible. They most likely wouldn’t approve but they were out of town so often that there wasn’t much they could do. As soon as she got home, she ran upstairs to meet Jared in her room. He offered to come over and help her pack and, despite it feeling a little strange, she couldn’t help it. She really wanted to spend more time with him. He was the best company she’d had in forever.

He climbed through the window just as she was entering her room. He tripped on the way in and they both giggled. She pulled her duffle out of the closet and Jared looked around the room, probably recognizing some of the objects from the flash of her life story he received after touching her. Lili got some outfits out of her drawers and tossed them on the floor, along with the bag. Jared picked up the clothes and set them in the bag gently. Once everything was packed, they sat on the floor together and talked about things. It was so great to talk without worrying about whether or not she might reveal something she shouldn’t. She discovered that Jared had been alive almost a hundred years longer than she, but they had both been turned at the same age. They discussed different times when they almost revealed their secret to someone unintentionally. They laughed and talked for about an hour before they heard her parents coming upstairs. Jared hid in the closet while Lili offered her previously rehearsed story. Her parents were against it but she knew they were leaving tomorrow morning for another business trip and didn’t really try to stop her. They acted worried for her and pretended to care but she knew their minds were somewhere else. They went to bed early and left her to fend for herself for a late dinner.

“This pizza is amazing!” Jared exclaimed as they sat on the couch in her large living room and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls. They discovered they both had a hilarious obsession with the show.

“Lisa’s Pizza is the best pizza around.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

Eventually, they decided they should get some sleep. Jared made a bed on the couch while Lili went up to her room to get him a pillow and a blanket. When she came back downstairs, Jared was gone. She had no idea where he could’ve gone.

“Jared?!”

“Yeah?” He peered around the corner of the hallway.

“Oh, I uh-I got you a pillow and a blanket.”

“Thanks,” he said with a toothy smile.

She smiled back at him. “G’night.”

“Night.”

Lili went back up to her room and got into bed. She lay there and stared up at the ceiling, picturing what tomorrow might look like. She knew they’d have to go to a specific place in order to enter Everin but she had no idea what that place might be. She imagined the open spot in the lavender field might suffice but she couldn’t be sure. As she drifted off to sleep, she pictured the ruins she had envisioned earlier that day and was suddenly filled with a fear of who they might encounter once they arrived in Everin.

 

*  * *

“This is not at all what I had in mind.” Lilibet stated as she stared out into her backyard from the tall oak tree that housed her favorite reading spot.

“It keeps us hidden and it’s fun.”

Lilibet laughed as she climbed onto the same branch as Jared, hoping it wouldn’t break. As she attempted to sit next to him with her bag in hand, she heard the branch begin to snap and they both tumbled out of the tree and onto the ground. They lay there laughing and saw her bag caught on a branch just above them. Moments later, that branch broke as well and the bag fell right on Jared. This caused them both to burst out laughing again. They climbed the tree again and avoided standing on the same branch this time. Once they were up, they sat in concentration and began to transport themselves to Everin. It took a lot of concentration to get there and Lili didn’t have a lot of experience doing so. She struggled for a bit but it came easier than she expected it to.

Everin is beautiful. It’s a paradise of your own making. Everything pulses with energy and vibrant colors. Once you arrive, you never want to leave. At least, that’s how it used to be. Lili stepped through into Everin and was met with an image of pure destruction. It was like nothing she had ever seen before. There were burnt ruins everywhere and people moved in despair. The statue of Laurelina that was once towering over everything on top of the Council building was now being moved into a beautiful memorial ground for the few previous rulers who had somehow been destroyed.

“Lils…”, Jared said as he pointed in the direction toward the Council building that now sat in complete ash.

Lili gasped and started toward the scene. What could have happened? Who could have done this without anyone seeing it coming? Lili’s mind raced with questions while she took it all in.  Once she and Jared arrived at the Council building, they saw that people were gathering around Enzo, second in command of the council, who looked like he was going to give a speech. Her and Jared noticed that outsiders had come as well. The vampires, who were one type of immortal that they did their best to keep tabs on, were represented by a few of their kind. Lilibet recognized one of them from a previous visit. She couldn’t quite put her finger on his name. Wilhelm? Henry? He had come to see Laurelina a while back about his certain history. Something about not being a true immortal and vampire. It didn’t matter now. A few other kinds of immortal creatures were there that neither Jared nor Lilibet could identify. Enzo’s speech slowly became more audible.

“…and she will be greatly remembered. It has come to our attention that whoever…” he cleared his throat; “-murdered our dear Laurelina survived the tragic event. We do not yet know who it was but we will find out. I can assure you of that. I would like to thank our immortal allies the fairies, vampires, Atronachs, elves, and the like. We know you’ve made quite the journey to be here and to show our gratitude, we will provide you all with a place to stay whilst you are with us. The official memorial will be held in two days and the official re-election will be held the day following the ceremony. Our candidates are three of our current council members: Claudia Emerson, Teryn Alessandro, and myself. The voting will take place tomorrow afternoon to give those of us the opportunity to count the votes. Thank you all again for your time and patience. You can make your way to your quarters and enjoy our beautiful paradise while you are here.”

Everyone dispersed to find their rooms. Jared and Lilibet found out that they would be sharing a connected room which they both anticipated could get awkward. Lilibet took the room to the right while Jared took the room to the left. She unpacked her things. She knew that she didn’t really need to bring anything with her because she could create anything she needed with merely a thought, but it was nice to bring some things from home with her anyway. Outfits that she wore on a daily basis and toiletries she’d already worn out. It made things feel a little more normal. Once everything was unacked, she lay on the large white bed that took up much of the space in the even larger room. She suddenly realized how fast everything had happened recently. She went from a normal day at school to lying on a bed in an enchanted realm next door to a guy she had met only 24 hours earlier. It had never occurred to her to stop and take a breath, mainly because she didn’t have time. She began to relax. She could feel the tension in her shoulders she had been carrying since Jared came to find her in the lavender field. It slowly began to release and she sighed with relief. Once she felt well-rested, she took a hot shower, dried her hair and placed it in her usual half-bun hairstyle. She changed into a newer outfit of her own making: a small, grey, floral dress, white Vans™, and a little black bookbag. Her and Jared had planned to meet at a diner they had seen across the street at 7:00. She still had about an hour and decided to do a little walking around. It had been awhile since she’d been to Everin and she wanted to see the vast sightseeing attractions they made a point of advertising.

She first went into a little shop that caught her eye. Lacy’s Faux Fad Five-and-Dime. She had always found it funny that they made such big deal about creating stores and eateries and attractions in a place like Everin. You could make anything you could imagine with merely a thought and yet the streets and sidewalks were occupied by the immortal buyers who looked very focused on what they wanted to buy. Lacy’s seemed to be an adorable little thrift store. Lilibet loved thrift shopping. She made her way to a rack full of sweaters of different pastel colors. After purchasing a few sweaters, a pair of grey sneakers, and a pair of earrings, she realized she only had fifteen minutes left. She left the store and started toward the diner. As she strolled down the clean, white sidewalks, she felt this unnerving chill. She glanced around while trying not to look suspicious. She felt as though she was being watched. Picking up speed a little, she made for the red glass door of the diner and saw Jared waiting at a booth by the window. The diner was busy with the sound of chatter, forks hitting plates, chairs being moved, and the everpresent hum of an AC hidden somewhere in the back. She realized how quiet it had been outside compared to inside. Had she been alone? Were there people around her when she was walking outside? She glanced out the window and noticed a ton of people wandering the streets and cars and bicycles passing by. Where had everyone gone? And why had she felt so weird out there? Her mind raced with questions as she stared out the window of the diner.

Lilibet didn’t notice Jared appear next to her. He had noticed her standing by the window and sensed her uneasiness.

“Lils, what’s going on?” He laid his hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him and noticed the very concerned look on his face.

“Oh sorry, I got distracted.” She focused her thoughts at him. I can’t talk about it here. I’ll tell you later.

He nodded in understanding. “That’s all right. I got us a table over here.”

They made their way over to the table. A tall blonde waitress approached them with a small notebook for taking orders in hand. She wore an old-fashioned waitress outfit and rode on roller skates.

“Hello, dolls, I’m Mandy.  Have you decided what you’ll have?”

“I think I’ll have a burger and fries.” Jared said as Lilibet continued to scan the menu.

“What would you like to drink?”

“Lemonade with extra ice, please.”

“Alrighty.” She scratched down his order. “And for you, dear?”

Lilibet didn’t respond. “Lils,” Jared said as he nudged her with his foot under the table. Lilibet looked up, startled.

“Hm?” she sputtered.

“I asked what you’d like to eat, deary.”

“Oh, I’ll have whatever he’s having.”

“Sure thing. Your orders should be ready in a jiff!” The woman rolled back to the kitchen with a cheerful chip in her step. It kind of annoyed Lilibet. Here she was, overly stressed about this silly feeling she got outside, and this Mandy girl has the nerve to be overly cheerful. She sighed and noticed Jared’s skeptical gaze. He focused his thoughts at her.

Are you okay?

I’m just worried.

Lils, we can leave if you’re that bothered. I want you to feel safe.

No, I’m fine. Let’s just enjoy our meal that seems to be on it’s way out…

Dandy Mandy came back with their plates and drinks and set it all down on the table.

“Enjoy your meals, dearies!”

Jared and Lilibet ate their meals in silence and went back to Jared’s room. They needed to talk about what Lilibet had felt, but she didn’t know what to say or if anyone would be listening. The leaders of Everin were nice, but they did their best to keep an eye on what they could. Evidently, after Laurelina’s sudden death, they’d take precautions to make sure no one got into their blind spot again.

After sitting for a few moments in silence, the television suddenly sparked to life. Enzo appeared on the screen in front of a dark red background. Lilibet turned up the volume as Enzo began to speak.

“Attention my dear friends, we have discovered who assassinated our dear Laurelina. It pains me to inform you all that it was our old friend Asher Black. Black was once the beloved of our Laurelina. Black is incredibly dangerous, as we have seen in the past. For those of you who are not familiar with this dreadful man, posters will be up throughout Everin and we would like you all to know that you are safe. We will catch Mr. Black and bring him to justice. We have a slight lead on where he may have gone and have sent out our most qualified search partners. If you have any information on Mr. Black, we ask that you deliver it to our temporary admissions office as soon as you can. We thank you all for your patience and ask that you continue to enjoy your stay.”

A picture of a man who looked to be in his twenties appeared on the screen. He was a very attractive man. He had long, curly, black hair that reached his shoulders. His eyes were a stunning shade of violet and his eyelashes were long. He was cleanly shaven and looked directly at you with a very serious expression. The picture remained for a few more moments before the screen went dark again and they were only accompanied by each other. They looked at each other, neither one knowing quite what to say. They both had the same idea.

J, we can’t just stay here. That guy is running around somewhere. Who knows who he could be hurting right now?!

I agree but…what do we do?

We have to find him. We can do that, right?

But they have search parties already looking for him and they have a lead. We have his image.

Jared, that’s it!! Lilibet stood up rather quickly and ran outside. Jared followed her and they ran to the street. Lilibet snatched a poster of Asher Black from the wall of the building and folded it up. They made their way back inside, Jared’s face showing with recognition as he realized her plan.

We can take this poster and attempt to somehow track him.

That could work but I’m not exactly sure how we’d do it.

We could maybe hold the poster and envision where he is?

Is that even a thing? Can we do that?

Only one way to find out.

The next day, they quickly went through the voting process. They both wanted Enzo to win, of course. He was a good guy and they knew him well. After voting, they went to their room and into Lilibet’s bathroom. Since they still couldn’t be sure they weren’t being watched, Lilibet offered to create a black wall around them with her mind while Jared attempted to execute the first part of their plan. They had no idea how he’d do it but he would do his best. Lilibet created the wall and Jared held tightly to the poster. He envisioned Asher doing what he imagined an evil murderer would be doing at this hour. It wasn’t the ideal way to find Asher but there was nothing else they could really do.

At first try, nothing happened. Jared cleared his mind and focused on it once again. Again, nothing. He tried a third time, but excluded his own thoughts on what Black might be doing. This time, an image began to appear but quickly disappeared.

Jared cleared his mind once more, and concentrated his energy for a fourth time. Suddenly, he was transported in front of a large factory. It was old and run down. He recognized the area as being in southern Los Angeles.  He went toward the sizeable doors and went inside. The place was covered in…pictures of Laurelina. Hundreds of pictures and mementos of Laurelina. What in the world?!  

He had just begun to walk further into the strange building when he heard something resembling a snarling sob. He turned to find the origin of the sound. It was coming from behind one of the machines towards a far corner.

“Hello?” Jared called in the direction of the awful sound. There was no response. Jared slowly moved toward the machine. He peered around the side and saw a man clutching something on the floor. A picture frame? He couldn’t tell. He recognized the man’s hair and realized who he was. He stumbled back in fear and gasped. Black did not seem to notice him. Jared picked up a piece of debris that sat near him and tapped Asher’s shoulder. The wood went right through him. He realized that he wasn’t actually there, but merely seeing it all in 3D.

Asher looked up in Jared’s direction and he was startled. Asher looked nothing like the pictures he had seen all over Everin. This Asher was very disheveled. His hair was a knotted mess, his violet eyes were outlined with very heavy guyliner, his beard looked like it hadn’t been trimmed in years and his clothes were no better than the rest of him. His eyes were red from crying and Jared could see that he clutched a picture of Laurelina. As he leaned closer to get a closer look at a strange marking on Asher’s hand, everything faded away and he was suddenly back in the hideout Lilibet had created. He fell forward in surprise and landed right in front of a startled and confused Lilibet.

“J? What happened? Where’d you go?”

Jared looked around, then up at Lili. “I saw him! I found him. He’s in an old factory in Los Angeles. It was so strange. I was there but I wasn’t really there. He was a mess.”

“Do you know where in LA?”

“It looked like Torrance.”

“Well then I think we know where we need to go.”

“Why don’t we just tell Enzo what we know. He can inform the search parties.”

“We could get in trouble for meddling with this stuff and I don’t know how much I trust the council. They’ve always seemed kinda sketchy.”

“Yeah…”

“And besides, I really want to help. Everin and possibly the world needs us. Don’t you want to help?”

“Of course I do.”

“Well then, I think we know where we need to go.”

 

*  * *

They had absolutely no idea how they’d get out of Everin unnoticed. Enzo knew they were there, and they could only get out through the center of town. They left everything in their rooms and tried to keep everything looking like they were still there or were out temporarily – which was technically true. Decidedly, they didn’t bring anything along to keep things light.

La Fontaine Centrale was a gorgeous fountain that was there, not only for beautiful decoration, but also for transportation in and out of Everin. It made for a fun way to travel and a good place to start when first entering Everin. They began to casually make their way toward the center of town and the large fountain that many were sure to be gazing at.

What on earth are we going to say if someone catches us? Jared shot a thought at Lilibet.

I don’t know. We have every right to leave. Do you think they’ll try to stop us?

No, but Enzo might get very hurt if he finds out one of his own is leaving at a time like this. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

I’m sure he’ll understand if we’re homesick or something. Maybe we have a small issue at home that needs to be taken care of ASAP.

I mean…it’s worth a shot, I guess.

Upon their arrival at La Fontaine, they noticed quite a few muscular men in black suits and wearing shades. They looked like the bodyguards the president might have in some cheesy spy movie. Jared attempted to get close to the fountain but was met with a very buff forearm blocking his entry. It made no sense to Lilibet why they needed security guards like this. Immortals were stronger than the average human and could fight mostly anyone of their kind with an even chance of success for either person.

“Sorry, young man, the fountain has been restricted. It’s too dangerous to go out into the world with Asher Black running loose.”

“Sir, I have a very important family issue at home that my fiance and I need to deal with,” – he placed a hand to the side of his mouth and whispered to the man – “You know how the inlaws can get.” Jared tried again to walk past the man.

“Excuse me but I’m not permitted to let anyone past under any circumstances. I’m going to have to ask you to back away.”

They knew they would have to get through the hard way. They shot each other a look and both lunged toward the running water. Lilibet had to duck under the swinging arm of one of the men, while Jared’s foot caught the side of the fountain and he tumbled into the water. Several of the men dove into the water and another proceeded to call someone who must have been Enzo or another member of the council. One of the men caught Jared’s foot and another caught his arm. Lilibet watched as they managed to carry him out of the water and away.

“Lilibet, keep going!!” Jared screeched after her.

She stumbled onto the streets of Los Angeles and into oncoming traffic. She quickly jumped up and dove out of the way and onto the sidewalk; her speedy escape followed by a wave of honks and angered shouting. She landed on the sidewalk in a fit of gasps and breathlessly called out for Jared. A woman in a leopard-print dress and tall heels and hairstyle that did not belong in this century gave her a judgmental glare.

“What’re you looking at? Never seen a person yelling in Los Angeles before??” The woman looked away quickly and began to walk faster. Lilibet got up and felt a sudden panic. Holy shhhhhhhoot, I can’t do this on my own. I’m a 117-year-old girl. I can’t catch an immortal murderer! I don’t even know where this freaking factory is! Jared, why can’t you be smaller and faster?! Lili paced back and forth as she attempted to remain calm.

Once she caught her breath, Lilibet assessed her surroundings. She was somewhere in LA. She knew that for sure. When she was 55, she flew to LA and spent about three years in Bakersfield. She could recall a few friends over the years who had mentioned Torrance but she had no idea where it was or how to get there. She decided, instead of trying to figure out where she was, it might be easier to let someone else do the work for her.

A yellow taxi came into view and Lilibet whistled as hard as she could and waved for the taxi. It came to a screeching halt in front of her and she jumped inside. The taxi man looked like any strange person you might encounter in California. He wore a relatively tasteful beachy style and looked very tan. He could have been normal, except for the fact that he wore very obnoxious American flag sunglasses and his hair was colored a rather abhorrent shade of green.

“Uhh Torrance, please.” The driver nodded and sped back into traffic. Lilibet took the opportunity to manifest a bag, some cash, a cellphone, and some sunglasses. She used her phone to do research on old, run-down factories in Torrance. She wasn’t seeming to have much luck until she came upon an obscure website that referred to Sauder’s Mill that went out of business in the late 60s. She decided that was her best bet. “I’m looking for Sauder’s Mill.” She hoped the driver could hear her over the gawdawful music he was playing. What is this music? Some annoying hip-hop singer rapping about his “girl that ain’t his girl no more”. She manifested some earbuds and turned on a classical playlist on Spotify.

After a drive that seemed to take forever – and Lili had some experience with forever – the taxi stopped in front of the factory. Lilibet paid him what she owed and stepped out of the car. The driver took off again and she was left standing alone in front the towering metal door that sat cracked open, awaiting her entry.

The factory was dark. Too dark to see anything, in fact. Great, I’m in the same room as an assassinator and I get to wander around and find the freaking light switch. God, I hate being alone. Lilibet swallowed her fear. Dude, you’re immortal. You can manifest anything you want. You’ve lived 117 years in tons of different situations. Sure, this is the hardest thing you’ve ever done but it’s fine. You got this. After her mini pep talk, Lili began to make her way through the darkness. She ran into a few machines and nearly tripped over a few pieces of debris before finding what felt like a light switch. She decided to flip and watched as the room lit up.

“Oh. My. God.” She looked around at the hundreds of pictures of Laurelina covering the walls and floors. “He’s got it baaad.”

The pages rustled under her feet as she moved through the gigantic space. Her hands brushed over the many conveyor belts and cold, metal structures. Upon touching the cold metal she realized she was freezing. She manifested a jacket and zipped it up.

Why doesn’t he turn up the heat or something?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a snap and a loud cry. She ran toward to origin of the sound. Another snap and pained wail. Racing past the machines, she stumbled upon Asher. He was lying on the ground holding his arm, which was bent horribly out of shape. Jared wasn’t lying when he said Asher was a mess. She gasped at the sight. He stopped mid-sob and turned to face her. There was a shattered picture of his late lover lying on the ground next to him. She then noticed it wasn’t the only picture that had been shattered. There was a pile of torn, broken, and burnt pictures not far from the first one she had noticed. He tried to stand but was cut off by a series of small cracks and fell to the ground once more. She noticed he had two broken legs and a broken arm. A picture frame flew past her head as he screamed at her.

“Get the hell out!!! Just get out!”

She ducked and moved behind a table. “Please! Don’t hurt me! I don’t want to hurt you.”

“No! That’s exactly what you’re here to do! She told you what I did, didn’t she? I knew she’d tell everyone. I deserve to be hurt. Maimed, beaten, tortured. Just take me,” he cried between sobs. “I must see her again!”

He snapped another arm, as the other had already healed.

Lilibet gasped as he cried in pain. “Stop!!! Mr. Black, please! I’m not here to hurt you,” — she came out from behind the table, hands out in front of her — “just to take you in.”

“My love, my Laurelina. She left me. I can’t believe I’m losing her. How could this have happened?!”

Lilibet looked deeply concerned. Black was completely insane. He could barely think straight. He didn’t even seem to know what was going on. She moved closer.

“Asher…do you remember what happened?”

He attempted to calm down. “I went to see her. I wanted to see her. I wanted to ask for forgiveness.” — he looked at her with crazy, bloodshot eyes — “She wouldn’t take me back. I needed her. She was all I had. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I loved her. That’s all I’d ever done. I didn’t betray Everin, I wanted to protect it. He couldn’t keep her safe like I could. I was always suspicious of him.”

“Who?”

“Enzo. He said he loved her and that I wasn’t good enough for her. He roped her in. He took her from me.” His breath quickened.

Enzo? Why had no one ever known of their secret affair?? “I’m sure he didn’t–”

“HE TOOK HER!!!!!” He smashed his fist into one of the glass frames. The shards caught in his hand and blood began to trickle down his forearm. He began to sob once more.

“Mr. Black, please! Stop hurting yourself!!!”

“I hurt her. I hurt her. I deser–” He looked up at her slowly. His expression suggested he had an idea. Lilibet backed up a little. “YOU! You can take me to her!!!”

He jumped up and lunged for her. Excited, he grabbed her arm and looked at her, with great anticipation. She gasped at his sudden movement and was ready to defend herself. He realized he had scared her and backed off slightly, but remained close. She looked at him with utter confusion. She suddenly realized what was going on. He thought Laurelina was still alive.

“What exactly happened when you went to see her?”

“I-I pleaded with her to take me back. I begged and begged, but she wouldn’t listen. I told her Enzo wasn’t right for her. She belonged with me. I know she knew it, too. After she refused for the final time, I got upset. I, uh, flipped out and knocked over some of her books. Or maybe it was an entire bookshelf, but it doesn’t matter! I realized I had upset her and I left. I didn’t bother her anymore, I swear.”

“Where did the books fall?”

“I don’t know. Why does it matter?”

“Where was the bookshelf?”

“Next to the fireplace, I believe. Why are you asking such irrelevant questions? Take me to see her. Now!”

“Asher, Laurelina…”

“What? What’s wrong?” He saw the saddened look on her face and started to panic.

“She’s dead. One of the books must have landed in the fireplace. The Council building burned to ash. Laurelina didn’t survive. I’m sorry.”

He was lost at ‘dead’. “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!” He fell to his knees and pounded his fists on the cement, sending Lilibet and any nearby picture frames to the ground.

“I’m so sorry. I know you loved her a great deal and she loved you, as well. How about we go back to Everin and you explain what happened. I’m sure they’ll pardon you. Laurelina would’ve wanted it.” Lilibet began to move closer but jumped back, startled at another one of Asher’s loud wails.

“She’s goooone!! I did this! How could I have done this?! I don’t deserve to be pardoned! I deserve to be killed; I deserve to be sent away to the Void!!”

The Void was the place an immortal went when they were ‘killed’. It was so much worse than death. Despite immortality being one of the coolest things to ever happen to her, Lilibet knew the many disadvantages to immortality. The Void was a dark, eternal hell. When an immortal was sent there, they were forced to spend eternity in total darkness chasing after the things they wanted most in life. They always remained just out of reach. It drove any immortal who experienced it completely mad. She hoped she would never have to experience it.

“No one deserves that! You didn’t mean for this to happen and you were with her only out of love. Come back with me. We’ll figure this out and you don’t have to get hurt.”

His breath quickened and she saw his heart shatter in his eyes. She had no idea what he might try to do. She attempted to calm him down.

“Asher, I really am sorry. Please, just come with me. You can explain what happened to the Council. They’ll understand.” I hope.

“You think I should just go back there?? I can’t do that. I don’t deserve it. They shouldn’t understand. I’m a murderer!! I killed her!! She’s gone and I’ll never get her back! I SHOULD be sent to the Void!”

He placed one hand under his chin and the other on the opposite side of his head. Lilibet feared what he was going to do.

“If you won’t take me to the Void, I’ll send myself there. I hope Laurelina knows I love her…”

Lilibet lunged forward and screamed as his neck snapped and his head flew to the floor.

 

To be continued…

Reba the Lizard Queen by Quinten Sager

Day 1:

Memories of red beaches swirled through Reba’s head as she slept under her custom sized heat lamp. Her tail hung off the end of a queen sized bed, with just one too many pillows. She was used to the luxury of her palace back on Mars, but those days were far behind her now.

An iPhone on the nightstand beside her began to chirp and rouse Reba from her sleep. She reached over in an attempt to silence the phone, but the touch screen had difficulty reading her movements through her scaly hide. After some struggle, she managed to silence her phone and looked at all the notifications she received overnight. Twitter rant, twitter rant, twitter rant, five likes on her new Instagram post, and a few daily reminders. Everything was normal.

With a heavy yawn, she rolled out of bed and rubbed her eyes. Reba let out a sharp hiss as her feet hit the floor, a nasty habit that she developed over eons of life. She took her claw and picked out the last remnants of last night’s hunt.  The town none the wiser about her making a feast out of the local pets. Thanks to her martian technology she could glamour herself into any form she wished which prevented her from ever getting caught.

At the moment, however, her current goal was to destroy Reba McEntire for sharing the same name she did. Luckily for the country singer, Reba Reptillia the Queen of Mars was more focused on eating than claiming revenge.

Reba made her way to the closet and pulled out one of her many camouflage devices. She slid a sterling silver necklace with a comically large turquoise gem at the center. With a few twists of the stone, Reba went from her regular dilophosaurus features to a kindly old woman vaguely resembling Elizabeth the second.

With a jaunty whistle, the lone martian made her way downtown to grab her morning coffee before the weekly Alien Support Group. Today happened to be Reba’s turn to pick up the coffee and donuts for the group, a task she did so with great care. Shmebulon had nine different stomachs–four of which required a different types of donuts, and the other five enjoyed different varieties of tea, Norvinalexa, on the other hand, only wanted black coffee gently flavoured with the tears of an orphan, and Ooblek was just an amorphous blob so no one really knew what he craved.

Reba entered the Tim Horton’s, shuffling awkwardly to the counter. Her hands were close to her chest like a mantis’ before they strike their prey.  

“Hi, what can I get for you?” asked a young girl with a ponytail pulled ever so slightly too tight.

“I would like, five small assorted teas, a medium black coffee, a medium hazelnut iced coffee with cream, a dozen donuts of any kind, and a twenty pack of Timbits.”  Reba’s eyes stared in two different directions, one at the cashier and the other down at the pinpad. The girl instructed Reba to insert her card while trying to decide which orb to make eye contact with. She chose correctly.

“Thank you, and your order will be right up!”

Reba’s pin pad eye recentered onto the girl and she gave a content nod, “Give me one second dearie! I have a hard candy somewhere in here.”

“Oh. You really don’t have to do that.”

“Of course, of course I do! You’re such a sweet girl, and when the reptiles take over you shall be made ruler of any sector you wish,” With that, Reba fished out a rather old looking hard candy from an oddly shaped handbag and gave it to the confused cashier. Who, in stunned silence looked at the candy and then back to the old lizard waddling to the pick up lane.

 

Day 2:

Reba marched her way into the upper floor meeting room of the public library. Shmebulon booked the same room every week for their AARP meetings, the Alien Association of  Reptilian Pride, not to be confused with the American Association of Retired Peoples. That being said, Shmebulon was a proud member of both.

“Eeeeughlurg!” Ooblek vocalized, his ooze wiggling like happy jello.

“Its about time, Reba. We have new members!” Announced a young looking brunette. Norvinalexa preferred the younger, hotter models instead of the elderly women Reba impersonated. From her extensive stay on earth, Reba learned that few humans struck as much fear, awe, and sympathy as old biddies.  Norvinalexa, however, believed that seduction was the path to power. In fact, anytime a politician got caught up in a scandal that involved a young girl, or boy for that matter, were most likely by Norvinalexa in a disguise.

Reba glanced into the crowd — a whole six members not including herself, she noticed one girl with green eyes and luxurious caramel hair. A sweet familiar smell hung around her, the scent of the ethereal, but it had been so long since Reba had actually come into contact with one of them. She thought of her beautiful palace, and glowing markets where creatures from all over the universe would shop.

“Reeeebaaaah! Can we have our food already?” Shmebulon droned.

“Oh of course, dearies!” Reba shuffled to the table and set out the morning feast for all the hungry members. Like ravenous pigs set out to eat the slop laid before them, the members new and old wasted no time. Reba sat down at the head of the table and slowly sipped on her iced coffee. She studied the members of the group, especially the three new members, and noticed that they all appeared to be in their teens. Reba glanced down at her own appearance and wonder if maybe an upgrade was in order. She reached for her necklace and fiddled with the gem once more.

With a shimmer of light, the Queen of England departed and in her place sat a seventeen-year-old girl. Fair skin, dark hair, with piercing yellow eyes, all in all, her Instagram got an upgrade. Reba McEntire, eat your heart out. The new members seemed quite confused, but the older members were used to shifting in front of each other.

“Oh, look who finally joined the twenty-first century,” Norvinalexa teased in between sips of her coffee.

“No need to be harsh, dearie,” Reba was stunned, “ss that my new voice? I sound so young!”

“And you still speak like old woman. Anywho, can we get on with official group business today?”  Norvinalexa had an affinity for business.

“Oh yes! Welcome new members to the Alien Association of Reptilian Pride, also known as the AARP, but you do not have to be a reptile in order to join the club! My name is Reba, and I am the old queen of the martians! She/her pronouns would be preferred.” Reba gestured to the rest of the group as they all introduced themselves. The new members had difficulty understanding Oobleck’s dialect, but with time they’d learn to understand.

A young boy with a beanie toyed with a donut before clearing his throat and breaking the silence, “I’m actually not an alien… I’m just here for my friend Ziggy.” He gestured to the edgy female to his right. Of course she was an alien, no normal human had that much edge.

“Oh dearie! We love a good alien ally!” Reba clapped her hands vigorously, “We hope you bring many other friends to the AARP. Our mission statement is the peaceful coexistence of humanity and their alien counterparts.”

“Aren’t you the one who wants the reptiles to take over?” Norvinalexa raised an eyebrow.

“That’s only if the AARP fails in its mission statement!” Reba chuckled dismissing such a silly question, “Today we are going to play a series of bonding games! How about some euchre?”

A series of groans filled the meeting room, but Reba fished out a deck of cards from her purse. The group formed into teams and rearranged themselves accordingly.

“Reba, not to be a buzzkill, but I don’t-” Ziggy was interrupted by a series of shattering windows, and dozens of people in yellow suits labeled “AHF” in large black letters. Guns were pointed at the AARP members as orders to surrender peacefully came from muffled voices. A woman parted the sea of hazmat suits, and pointed to Reba.

“I, Linda Vasquez, shall be the one to dissect the last martian!” Her eyes were tinted with blood lust.

“RUN!” Reba screeched as she jumped onto the table. Her camouflage disappeared and two giant neck frills shot out from the sides of the lizard’s face.

Day 3:

Acid flew through the air and burned through agent after agent. Screams filled the room as Reba launched herself at Linda Vasquez. The poor woman didn’t even have time to react before her throat had been ripped out, and motor oil splattered the room. Reba wasted no time in contemplating if she had killed an actual human or just a robot, she needed to kill all the people in the room so her friends could get away safely. She hoped that all the murder wouldn’t put an end to the AARP’s mission statement. Although Plan B wasn’t a bad option either.

“AAARGH!” Reba screamed at the agents in varying degrees of melting. Unfortunately, the paintings on the walls also suffered from casualties. Reba shed a tear.

“Get her you idiots!” Linda Vasquez ordered from on the floor. Belly up, her body now resembled something out of a horror film. She was in a contorted crab walk, her limbs extended far beyond what was ok. Her back arched high enough for a toddler to crawl through, and her head rotated to face the crowd right side up. She crawled towards Reba, her limbs spasming and crushing the skulls of any unfortunate agent who got in her way.
“What do you want from me?” Reba tried her best to keep her calm, but Lind’s lack of a lower jaw and refusal to die made that difficult.

Linda’s one good eye turned red, and zoomed on the martian, “That information is classified,” she continued her march of horror and the rest of the agents pointed their guns at Reba.

Reba assessed her situation, and began to panic. She scanned the room and noticed her one escape option, the last unbroken window in the room. Reba let out a mighty glob of acidic tar and blinded the last few shambling members of the AHF. Then with no other options left to her, she jumped. Reba landed in the front yard of the of the town library and sprinted down the main street in all of her lizard glory. Unfortunately, Spider Linda also jumped out of the library window and chased Reba down.

The citizens walking down the main street had multiple reasons to feel unsafe that day. One reason could have been the vigilante superhero trying to stop a mugging from happening, but instead he accidentally froze half the people walking on the sidewalk. Another reason could have been an army of what Reba believed to be clones marching into town hall in an attempt to overthrow the local government. Finally, it could have been the dilophosaurus being chased by arguably the world’s creepiest robot to be created.

In an attempt to stop Linda from chasing her, Reba weaved into oncoming traffic. Linda however also followed suit an began scrambling across the street. It did not take long for the drivers to stop in their tracks to the dismay of Reba, but thankfully a semi did not stop in time and ran over Linda.

The sound of shattering plexiglass echoed through the street. Reba stopped on the sidewalk to catch her breath, but her peace and quiet was short lived.

“You cannot get rid of me that easily!” Linda’s voice became a distorted mess.

“Why won’t you die?” Reba backed into an ally to the side of her.  Panic began to sink in as her chance for survival seemed to get lower and lower. Reba ran to the end of the alley, but there was nothing there to aid her in her escape.

“If you want to live then follow me.” The voice came from nowhere, and Reba had a hard time trusting disembodied voices.

“Get back here, Reba!” Metal scraped against concrete, and a cracked face rounded the corner of the alley.

“Quick! Now!” The brick wall behind Reba opened up revealing the figure of a young man with short blond hair. He wore a field agent suit and aimed a gun at the approaching Linda. He began to shoot at her in the hopes to slow her down. Reba ran past the blond and into a dimly lit hallway, and Linda crawled faster in order to catch up.

“REBA!” Linda screamed as the brick wall reformed, separating her from the martian.

Day 4:

The blond man introduced himself to Reba as Blake Johnson and explained the reasoning behind the attack on the AARP. As it turned out, Blake’s husband Sam had been the one to actually catch Reba in her true form. Reba heard the rumors that the government watched its citizens through their phones and computers, but she never actually thought it was true. She regretted all those searches of “mature male komodos,” and all the videos of how to properly prepare game meat.

Reba was a refined creature.

“Wait, so it was your husband who ordered the attack?” Reba scratched the underside of her scaly chin.

“Oh of course not! Sam may be a drunk, but he has a soft spot for lizards. In fact, his great-grandmother was a lizard woman!”

“Wouldn’t that make him an eighth lizard?” Reba furrowed her brow.

“That would explain why his tongue is so good at-”

“You can stop right there!” Reba interrupted while shivers ran down her spine.

The duo made their way down the dimly lit hall, passing the occasional flickering fluorescent bulb. Blake explained that the “woman” who had attacked the AARP was actually a very well respected scientist. However, crazed evil genius fit the situation far better. Linda Vasquez used to work for the same organization that Blake and his husband. In fact, they went through training together as best friends, but something changed when Sam and Blake began dating. She started to turn dark and callous. As time went on, she became more preoccupied with her experiments and rarely left her lab.

In the weeks prior, Linda attacked the Intergalactic Social Services headquarters. Her goal was to collect subjects from all across the universe to create the ultimate army. Blake’s eyes looked remorseful, as if he could have done something to stop her dark descent.

“What’s your plan to stop her?” Reba looked at Blake and questioned his ability to stand up against someone as insane as Linda.

“I’m creating a group of unique individuals, and together we are going to fight her and her army together!” Blake exclaimed, his cheeriness rubbing off on Reba.

“Ok! That sounds amazing,” reality sunk back in, “but who is in this special group of yours?” Reba questioned how many amazing people could actually be in her small town.

“Well right now, there is my husband, some sort of crazed vampire, three teen girls, some sort of automaton— who is also a teen girl, and a vigilante justice warrior!” Blake seemed proud of his little crew.

“Is he the one with the freeze ray?”

“Yep.”

“I passed him in the street earlier.” Reba flashed back to the frozen civilians.

“This is the fourth time this week! He really needs to tell us when he leaves the building.” Blake pouted.

“That brings me to my next question! Where are we exactly?”

“Oh! We are under the town,” Blake looked at the ceiling above him, “right now, Tim Horton’s is above us.”

Reba nodded as if it all made perfect sense.

The lizard and Blake rounded a corner and bumped into a young man. Blake instantly recognized him and went in for a kiss.

“Sam!” he exclaimed, “This is Reba!”

“Grandmama?” Sam’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh dearie!” Reba was stunned.

“Wait! This is the lizard woman you were talking about?” Blake was stunned.

“Uhh.. yeah… I just didn’t know how to tell you. That’s the real reason why I wanted you to save her.” Sam looked slightly ashamed of himself.

“But!” Blake awkwardly pointed to both Sam and Reba.

“Well, dearie, the 80’s were a crazy time.” Reba looked into the distance reminiscing the human she fell in love with.

“But that math doesn’t add up.” Blake raised an eyebrow.

“The 1880’s!” Reba shook her head as if she was talking to a small child.

“Grandmama,” Sam tried his best to make the situation seem normal, “Blake, the meeting is about to start.”

Blake looked at his watch and swore under his breath, “You’re right!”

The trio made their way down a few more hallways and entered a door labeled ‘utility closet.” Reba had hesitations about entering, but given the choice between a closet and Robo-Linda, she chose the closet. Reba was surprised by what she saw before her. A large conference table sat a group of people, who Reba assumed to be the members Blake had mentioned earlier. They turned to the doorway all with various degrees of shock, and fear.

Reba gave the biggest smile she could and waved her claws, “Hello, dearies!”

Sam-Sam, the FBI Man by Teagan Acoff

Chapter 1:

Samuel Johnson does not hate his job, per say. There are a lot of benefits. He is paid well, has decent health care, and gets a good dental plan. Sure, maybe he’s seen one too many naked teenage girls, or had to watch hours upon hours of frog-fighting videos, or listened to that god-awful Rick Astley song on repeat for days straight, but can he really complain? If people find out he spies on them through their webcams, the hell to pay will be far worse than a few weeks of “Heartbreak Playlist #67”.

Sam cracks open his sixth bottle of vodka that morning and witnesses a man with a beard only covering his third and fourth chins film himself mixing two liters of Mountain Dew and one bag of Sweet Chili Doritos in a monstrous blender. Yeah. His job is great.

He’s not even really sure of what he is watching for. Anyone smart enough to build a bomb or hatch a functional (or even completely disastrous) doomsday plot is smart enough not to plan it online. Everyone is afraid of the government these days. Half the webcams he peers through are covered by tape, and most of the “red flag” web searches are done on highly protected servers. The biggest national threat he’s come across in fifteen years was a very fat man eating furry and blue mayonnaise directly out of the jar.

Sandwich dinners at the Johnson house got a lot more complicated after that. Who knew you could get PTSD from moldy condiments?

Sam’s focus is blurring between the screen and his liquid lunch when Blake walks in, covered in purple goop and missing the left lens of his government-issued sunglasses. Sam does not notice him at first, not until the bottle he is nursing on like a wounded baby calf is removed from his hands and placed out of his reach on the control panel.

“Guess what I did?” Blake smiles down at him like he shot down Hitler himself. A drop of purple goop drips onto Sam’s shoulder. He brushes it off uncaringly. He really isn’t in the mood for another adventure tale, but there Blake goes, talking loudly about some weird device made with purple dish soap, a nuclear reactor, and baking soda, while gesticulating wildly with both hands.

Blake is shorter than he, and less muscular, but still was chosen to be a field agent over Sam’s stocky, thick build. Not that Sam’s jealous, of course. His husband is fast, stronger than he looks, quick with his gun, and good at talking people away from their various villainous devices. Blake is practically a superhero, even if he looks like the lovechild of a pageant drag queen and the color pink.

Yay for Blake.

Sam looks at the flickering fluorescent lights, pointedly ignoring the story. For such a high stakes operation, his office is extremely low-quality. He found thirteen roaches having a lovely Last Supper moment over his twinkie last Wednesday. Maybe he should make a call to HQ, warn them about his “aversion” to mold, demand-

Blake whaps the back of his head. “Samuel. Pretend to be excited, for like five seconds, please?”

Sam turns his head and smiles and pretends his teeth aren’t gritting. “Yay for Blake.”

His husband sighs and leans against the control panel. “Listen, honey, I get it. But can you try just a little harder to care about what I do? This is big stuff, and it could mean a raise, and that could mean- I don’t know, a kid or something, or an actual house, or full meals instead of bread, whiskey, and a nap. Your job sucks. I won’t take that away from you. I wouldn’t want to be stuck watching…” Blake peers into the screen. “What exactly is this I’m watching?”

“Uh,” Sam squints and leans forward. “That would be a man drinking a concoction of chips and soda out of a fedora with a bendy straw.”

“Right.” He sighs again, heavier this time, and lets Sam reach by him for the vodka. The emergency alarm is blaring in the hallway anyway. “Make an effort. For me. And will you please stop drinking that shit? It’s a wonder you haven’t keeled over by now.” Blake’s hands stroke his short black hair once and then he’s gone, back to the field, back to saving the world, while Sam watches a strange man choke on rogue Dorito.

And no, he isnt going to call an ambulance.

It takes him a few minutes to sink back into his drunken haze, where he can blissfully fade in and out of consciousness, and a few more to realize that the alarm outside has not yet stopped blaring, and the base is far more silent than it had been in years. Sam could not even hear Bobby Brown’s post-lunch trumpet show across the hall. Taco Tuesday does a number on that man.

Sam stands, stumbling only slightly (truly a feat), and pokes his head out of his office. Papers are strewn throughout the hallway, the water cooler is tipped to the side, and someone managed to lose their pants- on the ceiling? He’s known this base was a mess, but this seemed wrong, even for them.

A loud, unnatural roar echoes from somewhere to the left, where the President’s secret apocalypse bunker is hidden, followed by screams. Sam draws his gun. Unless Bobby got into the beans again, this day is about to get a lot more life-threatening.

Eh. Whatever. Beats the dying fedora man.

 

Chapter 2:

Problem #1: Sam is not a trained field agent. He is a trained sit-on-his-ass-all-day agent. He barely remembers how to shoot the gun strapped to his hip, let alone how to deal with foreign enemies on base.

Problem #2: His bullets are rubber. Meaning, Sam can really piss off whatever is behind those doors, and that’s about it. Which, brings him to-

Problem #3: He definitely is not fast enough to outrun anything, especially if it’s angry. Last week he got chased down by a bitter Girl Scout when he refused her cookies. Blake had to buy six boxes of Savannah Smiles just to get her off Sam’s back, literally.

Sam pauses his hand above the keypad. If he goes in, he could die, or get maimed, or be dismembered, or have his kidneys stolen, or have alien eggs implanted in his stomach. But, on the off chance he survives this, the agency might promote him to field agent. No more webcam duty. No more “Is cereal a soup?” searches. No more moldy mayonnaise incidents.

He types in the code. 1234.

High stakes operation his ass.

“Hey,” Sam calls, absolutely not jumping as the door slams shut behind him. “I told you guys my birthday isn’t for another month. You can come out now.” Haha. As if anyone in this place likes him enough to celebrate his existence.

Silence. Shock and awe. Sam grumbles low in his chest. “Surprise parties are overrated anyway.”

Sliding his hand along the wall (literally sliding, Jesus Christ, what’s that fluid he’s touching?), Sam finally finds the cracked light panel and flips the switch. The bunker glows dimly from the few surviving (but shattered) computer screens as they flutter on. All the lights above him are completely destroyed. Bodies of his coworkers, frozen with wide eyes and detailed in blood, line the room in piles. Sam can see gouges in sets of three cut into the walls. Whatever the hell this thing is has claws sharp enough to pierce metal made to withstand nuclear explosions. And, of course, with the computers down, Sam has no access to any of the security footage in that room. So, he gets to fight an unknown, clearly bloodthirsty creature with weapons made to subdue protesters. Alone.

What kind of horror movie bullshit is this?

He kicks the gnawed-off leg of some unfortunate agent and groans. Look, he hasn’t seen Blake’s remains so far, so everything is fine. Maybe he managed to escape and has a better idea of what to do here. Maybe he rounded up a troop of survivors and already has a plan of action in motion. Maybe Sam should’ve just stayed in his office, out of the way, and drunk himself unconscious.

He hears a shuffle nearby. At that moment, of course, the final sparks from the flickering computer screens die out and drench the room in black. Sam whips around as the floor shifts and creaks. Then, he freezes. Maybe this is a T-Rex situation. If he doesn’t move, he won’t be-

Something clutches his leg. Shit.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

Yes, okay, he screams, but can you blame him? A second ago, everything in this room was dead. Whatever is touching him now was probably the culprit. At least he doesn’t pass out when the long, thick nails dug into his skin. Sam screams, and screams, and screams, until his voice gives out about five minutes later and he realizes that he’s still alive. And also still being clutched. So this must be another survivor. But, if seemingly all the agents are dead, then who-

Yoooo-hoooo!” An elderly woman’s voice calls from the floor. The computer screens flicker back on to show President Reba herself, sitting on the floor and latched onto Sam’s leg like a lifeline. “Are you all right, dearie? That was quite the scream. Thought I grabbed onto a young girl for a minute.” She snickers. “Help an old lady up?

God, Sam really wished he had just stayed in his office.

Chapter 3:

Because Sam is still frozen, processing the knowledge that holy shit, the President is holding my leg, how the hell did she survive this, where’s my flask when I need it, President Reba pulls herself up using his arm as leverage. One hand rests on her hip and the other strokes a large pendant on her throat as she surveys the room with an air of acceptance. “Oh, dear, that’s unfortunate. It happens, though, I suppose.”

“How are you alive?” Sam says, ever gentle with these topics.

The President laughs. “I have no idea! I took one look at that thing and fell right over like a fainting goat. You know? The ones that freeze up when-”

“Wait! You saw it?” Sam grabs her shoulders. This is probably illegal somehow, but he doesn’t particularly care. “What was it? What did it look like?” Figure out what it is, figure out how to kill it. Good thinking, Sam. He can give himself an extra shot of vodka after dinner for that. They’ll make him a field agent in no time.

“Dear,” President Reba starts, “I am very old. At my age, it’s a blessing I remember when to take a breath.” Well, there go his leads. And his vodka. The President removes herself from his grasp and gathers her shawl into her arms, poking a finger through one of the many rips. “That’s a shame. My grandmother knitted this for me many years ago. Have I told you this story? Of course I haven’t, I don’t know you. Are you new here? Anyways, one afternoon, my grandmother-”

“Madame President, are you hurt?” Sam frantically runs his eyes over her hunched body. He probably should’ve asked earlier, but he was a little preoccupied being terrified of her presence. Could he lose his job for this? Technically, if she is hurt, it did not happen in his care, but now she’s under his protection. God, he’s too drunk for this. No, he isn’t drunk enough. Where’s Blake when you need him?

President Reba throws the shawl over her shoulders and smiles. “Hurt? Oh, no, dearie, I’m fine. Let’s get you out of here though, hmm? I’m surprised you’re still standing with all that alcohol in your system.” She grabs his wrist and pulls him towards the door. It is then that Sam sees the adjacent exit, the one leading to the science labs.

“Wait!” He pulls free. She gives him a stern look. “Madame President, I’m sorry but- what if there are more survivors? We- okay, no, I need to keep searching. You need to head out. Keep yourself safe.”

The President gives a strained huff. “No, no, we need to leave. The police will look for survivors.”

“Madame President, we are the police.” Sam sighs. “Just wait outside. I need to do my job. Or, well, my future job. Hopefully. I’m sure someone will come-”

“No, we’re leaving now-”

“You leave, I need to search-”

“There are no survivors, trust me-”

“Hey!” Something clangs outside the science lab door. “Were those voices? Are there other survivors? Hello!”

Sam peels away from the President’s side and ignores the hiss he gets for it, quickly unlocking the door and revealing a tall, thin woman with a calculating gaze. Her glasses sit low on her nose and her dark brown hair is pulled into a tight ponytail. The left arm of her lab jacket is ripped off, but she looks otherwise unscathed.

“Dr. Linda Vasquez.” She introduces herself, holding out a hand. “And you are?”

“Leaving!” President Reba clears her throat. “Leaving, dearie, we’re leaving. It was a pleasure to meet you, and other formalities, yadda yadda. Now, if you’ll excuse us,” she grabs Sam’s wrist again, pulling hard, her mouth set in a determined line. The more Sam looks at her, the more he realizes she vaguely looks like Elizabeth the Second. “We must be going. Good luck to you, dearie.”

Sam, again, pulls away from her. “You’re alive. Did you see what it was?”

Dr. Vasquez scoffs. “See it? Of course, I saw it. It was a goddamn dilophosaurus, you don’t miss those easily. The disgusting thing broke into my lab and killed every scientist there. I only escaped because I used the intern as a shield and hid in the freezer.”

Sam cannot even begin to pick apart how terrible that is, so he settles for scrubbing his hand over his face. Great. He has an old woman, a shifty scientist, and absolutely no backup. And they’re facing a- what is that, a freaking dinosaur? Do they even make those anymore? Maybe this scientist is shiftier than he thought. She could have been the one to kill all these agents, hiding behind fiction to save her own ass. He needs to get President Reba out of here.

He takes a deep breath, and thinks of what Blake would do. “Alright, there, Dr. Hammond-”

“Dr. Vasquez.”

“Uh-huh,” he continues. She really must be evil if she can’t appreciate a good Jurassic Park reference. “That’s a lovely story, really, tell it to your kids someday.”

The scientist made a face. “My child is not raised that way.”

“But right now we are dealing with reality, and sorry to break it to you, but dinosaurs died out a long time ago. And right now, you’re looking pretty sketchy. Why don’t you come along peacefully?” Yeah, he can arrest people, right? Not like there’s anyone around to reprimand him. He’s starting to think he’s his own default boss now.

Dr. Vasquez’s eyes widen, and she laughs, and it’s ugly. “You idiot. You think I did this?” She leans close to his face. “I don’t leave witnesses,” she spits. Her eyes flit over to the President, who has since made herself busy looking through her pockets frantically. Dr. Vasquez drops her voice to a whisper. “She, on the other hand, I wouldn’t trust farther than I could throw her.”

“Ooh!” The President holds up a hard butterscotch candy. “I found one!”

Sam is- well, he’s really only half listening. He’s thinking about the bottle of whiskey he left under his desk. Hell, he wouldn’t be surprised if he hallucinated this whole thing. He looks at the scientist with a blank expression. Where did he leave his handcuffs again? “I have a good arm. Let’s go.”

“You daft man!” Dr. Vasquez cries, digging her hands into the lapels of his suit. He just pressed this jacket, too. “I saw it! I saw that horrific mutant, that repulsive reptile with my own eyes! It destroyed half of my lab, ruined my life’s work, destroyed my prized experiment! You can’t arrest me, I’m the victim!”

“More so than your dead coworkers?”

“Yes- no, listen-”

“Hold on just a second, dearie.” President Reba looks at the scientist with hard eyes, glinting yellow in the soft lighting, and pushes past Sam. “Who are you calling repulsive? I saw your research. I saw what you’ve done. I’m not the monster here!”

Dr. Vasquez bristles visibly, then stares the President down with a confused gaze. “You’re not-? Wait, I knew it! I knew it! The damned creature was wearing that same necklace!”

Sam inches around the pair until he can see President Reba’s face. Her eyes are, indeed, bright yellow, not just reflecting light from the computer screens, and fixated on the scientist. She reaches up, twists the pendant of her necklace, and then a twenty-foot dilophosaurus is standing in her place, leering down at them both.

“You couldn’t have just left with me, could you, dearie?” It sneers.

Dr. Vasquez takes one, two steps back. “Is it treason to want to dissect the President of the United States?”

“Probably.” Sam walks backward until he joins her. “I think we should run.”

 

Chapter 4:

Dr. Vasquez pulls a handgun from her lab coat pocket (why does she just have that?) and fires three shots at the dilophosaurus. It rears back in caution as each bullet misses, ricocheting off of the metal walls and falling harmlessly to the ground. The creature roars, and the frills around its neck fan out, and-

Wait. Pause.

Should Sam still be calling it Madame President? What the heck does that pendant have to do with this whole deal? Does it like, control the transformation? Which form is the actual President Reba? Is this like, a Danny Phantom situation, where this thing and the President are the same beings in different forms? Or is it a Hulk situation, where they’re two different personalities transforming depending on the situation?

The dilophosaurus stops its attack for a moment. It lifts its clawed foot, revealing the crushed remains of several butterscotch candies. “Oh, shoot. I’ll have to go back to Dollar General for more of those. Clumsy me!”

Yeah, okay, that thing is still the President.

Sam grabs the remaining arm of Dr. Vasquez’s coat and pulls her towards the hallway exit. President Reba has brushed the last candy crumbs off her foot, and is again ready to attack. They take off down the hallway with a very displeased elderly dilophosaurus on their heels.

“Jesus,” Dr. Vasquez yells over the sound of talons scraping the tiled floor (shit, nevermind, it’s on the ceiling). “I thought James was crazy when he said we were controlled by reptilian overlords. I’d tell him just how right he is if he wasn’t, well, dead.”
Sam rolls his eyes and pulls her down another corner. “You’re surprisingly okay with all this death!”

“I’m more upset that I lost all my research,” the scientist pants. They burst through the doors that lead to the outside world. “People are replaceable. It’s more of a nuisance than anything. My project was not.”

“What the hell was your project about anyway?”

“Cloning.” Dr. Vasquez grabs his shoulders. “I created an entire superpowered police force in my basement by cloning a teenage girl.”

Sam laughs, ignoring the scornful look he gets for it. He laughs hard, and it takes a minute for him to regain the ability to speak. “Sweetheart,” he wheezes, wiping tears from his eyes. “That is so illegal.”

The doors to the Blockbuster that hide their base (well, who the hell uses Blockbuster anymore?) explode behind them in a burst of glass, and the night air is filled with the hisses of an ancient beast. President Reba fixes her eyes on Dr. Vasquez and twists her lips in the semblance of a smirk. Sam plays with the idea of kicking the scientist in the knees and running off, leaving her as an appetizer for the dinosaur, giving himself enough time to take off and not become the main course. He’d be doing the world a service, anyway. Sam’s pretty sure this chick is a psychopath. However, the agency would find out, and they’d never make him a field agent after that. Damn his employer loyalty.

“Come on!” He shouts, ducking under a claw. “I know somewhere we can regroup!” He pulls her towards the McDonald’s, where they hide their secondary base.

“Where are you going, dearie?” The President snarls, kicking a yellow 1973
Dodge Challenger out of her way. It crushes and shatters under her weight. “Pretty hard to outrun a martian dinosaur!”

“My car!” A young man yells, standing across the street from the Challenger’s remains.

“How are we supposed to get unbonded now? Arschloch!” The same man, now with a thick German accent and apparently using the royal ‘we’, curses at the President. Sam might be more weirded out by this if he wasn’t caught up on the fact that the prehistoric thing on their heels is, apparently, also from space.

Is it possible for God to hold grudges against people? Because, if so, Sam is feeling pretty attacked right now.

Sam and Dr. Vasquez race across the streets, ducking and weaving between street lamps and road signs. One girl with a plaid cast sees Dr. Vasquez and immediately rears back, eyes wide, and takes off running down a separate street. Civilians scatter in their wake, not exactly eager to face the dilophosaurus chasing them, despite how many times it sings “excuse me, pardon me” as it passes.

Sam really, really can’t blame them.

Dr. Vasquez taps her wrist bracelet twice, and it expands over her palm. She shoots a blast of light over her shoulder at the beast behind them, which shrieks in response.

“Yep!” Sam chuckles, popping the ‘p’ and gesturing to the weapon. “Definitely illegal.”

The scientist’s eye twitches. “Saving your life here.”

“Unlawful discharge of firearm, illegal firearms of non-specified origin,” Sam slams his shoulder into a stop sign and winces. “Probable child abuse. Does that about sum it up?”

“I can shoot that thing or I can shoot you.” Dr. Vasquez gives him a side-eye glare. “Choose quickly.”

“Threatening a federal officer-”

President Reba scales the building next to them, frills spazzing around her neck, and prepares to jump. Dr. Vasquez knocks her off with another blast and looks to Sam expectantly.

Sam smiles. “You’re welcome for not arresting you.”

The scientist huffs. “You’re a drunk and I hate you.”

They make it about three-quarters of the way to McDonald’s before they run into a problem. Literally. Okay, well, another problem. Sam’s just stacking them up at this point. Maybe he’ll use all these issues to build a shelf to hold his rapidly-growing alcohol collection.

Anyways, the problem.

Sam is very drunk.

Which, normally, might not warrant the status of ‘problem’. ‘Inconvenience’, perhaps, in Blake’s eyes, when Sam’s so deep in moonshine that he can’t manage to hand over the remote. But add uncoordinated, slow, lethargic Sam, too drunk, stumbling, confused Sam, and ding ding ding! Recipe for disaster. No, not just disaster. An excruciating cocktail of chaos.

Sam loses his footing for exactly one step, fumbles for a moment, and then falls ass-first into the nearby trash can. Dr. Vasquez keeps running. Sam is not surprised. President Reba eyes him from her perch atop a light pole.

“Shit,” Sam says, rather eloquently, considering his BAC level is probably well above lethal. “Shit shit shit shit shit!”

The President stops in front of him. “Language, dearie. There are children around.”

“Because my swearing is going to traumatize them, but a 20-foot dinosaur running rampant in the streets won’t?” Wonderful. The alcohol finally obliterated the last of his survival instincts. Hopefully, she kills him quickly.

President Reba sniffs in a strangely offended way. “No, because they’re young and impressionable. You’ll ruin their manners. How many children have you seen transform into a giant lizard?”

“As if these ones will live long enough to try.”

“I don’t kill the young, dearie, unless they’re weak.” Sam raises his eyebrow. “That was a joke. Ill-delivered?”

“Delivered just fine. I’m only wondering what you consider weak. You killed an entire department of highly-trained FBI agents.”

“I’m wondering what you consider children. Those agents were forty years old at the youngest.”

“Touché.” Pause. President Reba’s black, beady eyes pierce his own, and Sam pulls the plastic straw stabbing his lower back out of the trash. He doesn’t feel nearly as nervous as he thinks he should. “So. Is this where you eat me? Rip me in half? Use my bones as toothpicks?”

The dilophosaurus laughs. “If I wanted to kill you, I would have done so back at the bunker. It’s not you I’m after.”

“But-” Sam frowns. “Why-”

“Dearie,” the President smiles. “I don’t drink on the job. Consuming you could knock me out for a week straight. I’d like to think I’m a little classier than that. Now, if you’ll excuse me?” She takes back off after Dr. Vasquez, using the lamp posts as leverage.

Sam stares at the wall ahead of him for a moment to process, then pulls out a flask from the inside of his jacket and sucks it empty.

 

Chapter 5:


“Sir? Sir!”

Sam blinks his eyes blearily. He’s only been here a minute or two, but the adrenaline drop mixed with his brandy was killer. The focus of his vision swims for a moment between resting on- oh, that’s nice, they’re making robot girls now.

“Wha’?” Sam slurs.

The chilled, metal fingers against his pulse are removed. “How are you alive?”

“Alcohol.” He mumbles, tonguing his teeth. Christ, what did he eat? His mouth tastes disgusting.

The girl furrows her eyebrows with a whir. “That’s what should’ve killed you. Your BAC is over the moon and halfway to Pluto. How much did you drink?”

“Not enough.” Sam shrugs again. Hell, he’s just as confused as Jenny Wakeman over here. All he knows is he’s tired, he wants his husband, and he still has to go track down a giant space dinosaur before it kills an evil scientist.

When did his life get so weird?

The robot girl waves a hand in front of his face. “Do you, uh, know where you are?”

How could he forget? He’s got the sleeve of his last good suit in something resembling old mac and cheese and there’s a bottle digging into his underarm. “Trash can. In the name of the law, help me up.”

She does. Sam takes a moment to curse God for mechanical strength when he ends up face-planted into a wall for her efforts. “Ugh.”

“Oops.” She sticks out a hand. “I’m Francine.”

“You,” Sam says, stretching out his now-sore shoulder. “Are a robot.”

“Automaton, but yeah.” Francine gestures down the sidewalk, which is littered with overturned trash cans, outgoing mail, and scales. Some boy with red hair tucked under a beanie dodges the rubble and ducks into an alleyway. A different man pulls a girl with caramel-colored hair out of the way of a falling street lamp. “You after that thing? I saw you running earlier.”

“Oh yeah. It killed my agency.”

“Tragic.” Francine makes like she’s cracking her knuckles. “Well, I’m bored. Want help killing it?”

“No killing.”

“Fine. Apprehending?”

“How old are you?”
“Fifteen.” Francine smirks. “Also, technically, eight.”

Not the weirdest thing he’s dealt with today. “Okay, fine. Let’s go.”

Sam is a simple man. He likes watching high-tension action shows and hates reality television. He has whiskey for breakfast, vodka for lunch, and brandy for dinner. He hates his job but he can’t quit until Blake makes enough to support them and maybe, someday, a kid. That is, unless his husband is already dead and gone. Until today, he thought all he wanted was to be a field agent, but God, if this experience hasn’t flipped that around on him. The things he wants are varying from moment to moment. Right now, he’d kill to not have to take another goddamned step in these wingtip shoes.

He grabs Francine’s arm as she goes to take off down the sidewalk. “Listen, you’re new here, but I’ve been running to and from this bullshit all damn day. Gimme a sec.”

Swerving down the center of the street, conveniently, is a black van, trailing what looks like chicken nuggets as it goes. Behind it is a car, with what looks like two McDonald’s employees following the van at a distance. One of the employees fires icy blasts at the tires of the van, spitting out terrible snow-related puns.

Sam jumps in front of the car and squeezes his eyes shut as the brakes squeal.

What? Either this plan works, or it’s no longer his problem.

When he opens them again, the car’s bumper is a hair away from his knees. Looks like the dinosaur is still his issue, then. He fumbles in his pocket for his badge. “FBI! I’m- shit, I’m, uh, commandeering this vehicle? In the name of the law?” He looks back to Francine. “Is that something I can do?”

Francine looks at him blankly. “No.”

“Uh, what the shit?” The guy driving the car stumbles out. “We almost hit you! What did you- why did you- what?”

The other guy slides out of the open window and aims his freeze gun (???) at Sam’s head. When he speaks, his voice is comically deep. “You’ve gotta get up pretty early to surprise this frosty vigilante.” Groan. “For what do you interfere with my vengeance?”

Sam rolls his eyes, and starts to answer, but- something about this guy is familiar. Eerily familiar. He’s pretty sure he’s seen those McFries socks in his laundry before. Wait a sec- “It’s you! You’re that weirdo who lives in our basement!”

The guy narrows his eyes, and his partner squawks in question next to him. “I don’t know qu-ice what you mean.”

Francine shudders. “Did you just try to turn quite into an ice pun?”

Sam jabs his finger into the guy’s- Shawnathan, his name tag reads- chest. “My husband said you were a drunken hallucination! He tried to force me to an AA meeting!” Blake hadn’t believed a word Sam said when he swore someone was listening to the McDonald’s advertisement on repeat late at night.

“Ahem?” Francine elbows his side. “Space dinosaur?”

“Yeah, whatever.” Sam grumbles. He holds out his hand. “Give me your keys. We have a federal issue to deal with.”

The driver (Craigory? Really? What are these names?) makes to give Sam the keys, but Shawnathan stops him. “And we have a burglar to freeze out.” Francine chuckles. Shawnathan glares at her. “This is snow laughing matter, ma’am. This is an icesue of justice.

Craigory slaps him on the shoulder. “Buddy, this is like, just, incredibly sad. You’re just shoving ‘ice’ where it shouldn’t be put.”

Shawnathan frowns. “That’s not very nice-”

“There is not nearly enough alcohol in my system for this.” Sam’s lip twitches. “Keys. Now. Unless you’d rather deal with that alone?”

He gestures down the street. A block away, President Reba and Dr. Vasquez are mid-showdown. They trapeze around poles and wires, dodging claws and blasts of energy and the occasional stray citizen. The President’s frills are out and she hisses as she jumps from building to building.

It’s terrifying, to say the least.

Craigory shrieks and throws the keys to the ground. “Shit, okay, take my car, keep it, I don’t care- Shawnathan, we need to go.”

“But the McThieves-”

“Man, my shift ended, like, an hour ago.” Craigory throws his hands in the air and backs away. “You wanna risk your life for a few nuggets? Be my guest. But did it ever occur to you that we left the actual, physical restaurant abandoned? People are probably out stealing fries and shit. I’m going.”

Shawnathan, hesitating a moment, follows his co-worker with a hanging head. Sam yells after him. “Hey, buddy, leave the freeze ray on the ground. That’s an illegal weapon. Also, move out of my basement. I know you’re drinking my beers!”

Shawnathan tosses the gun to the ground and shuffles off.

Sam smiles. Listen, the kid deserves it. You know how weird it is to wake up and find the bathroom occupied while your husband is next to you in bed?

Francine steals the keys from the pavement as Sam bends to grab them, hopping in on the driver side of the car. “No offense, Sammy, but you’re drunk off your ass. My mom will kill me if I let you drive. Get in.”

“It’s Sam.” Wait. “How do you know my-?”

Francine smiles. “Get in, or I’m leaving without you.”

Sam hops in and pulls his seatbelt across his lap. “Do you actually know how to drive?”

“Nope!”

“God help me.” Funny. Like God hadn’t abandoned him long ago. That became apparent when the President turned a giant lizard and his flask ran dry.

She guns the engine, immediately running a red light. Sam clutches the roof of the car. With luck, he guesses, he can make it out of here with at least two limbs still attached. With more luck, he can go home to Blake and fix the strongest cocktail he’s ever made. With maximum luck, this girl’s driving won’t end him before the battle actually begins.

Sam swallows the bile rising in his throat. If this doesn’t kill him, he’s totally quitting tomorrow.

 

TO BE CONTINUED… OR NOT?

Scouting for Myself by Katie Egan

Chapter 1

“Scout, sweetie, time to get up! It’s the first day of school!” called my mom up the stairs. Ugh. Why? Why do I have to go to school?

Who thought school was a good idea? Who said to themselves, “What is the best way to torture myself and others, even though other people did absolutely nothing wrong to me? Oh, I know. Let’s make school a thing. Let’s make anti-social people have to socialize. Yeah! Let’s do that”?

I, unfortunately, peeled myself off of my galaxy bed sheets and out from under my comforter. Why do kindergarteners have a nap time, but teenagers don’t? Little children are full of energy and never utilize their nap time. For me, during the duration of nap time, I would read books. How I regret that now! For a whole school year, I had fifteen minutes of nap time everyday that I never utilized. What was I thinking?!

After contemplating why I never took a freaking nap during freaking naptime, I drowsily made my way to my dresser. I pulled out some blue jeans and a black and white striped t-shirt. I walked over to my bed and reached under the bed for my black and white Vans. I then proceeded to the bathroom to comb my curly ginger locks. Of course, the gosh dang comb got stuck in the curls. Ugh! This is why no one likes curly hair!

“Audrey! Can you help me?” I called my fellow ginger-haired sister.

“What do you need help with this time?” she asked, still inside her room.

“Um, I may have gotten the comb stuck in my hair,” I replied awkwardly.

“Scout, we all have curly hair in this family. How are you the only one who gets a comb stuck in his hair?” she asked. I genuinely couldn’t answer that question. Audrey swiftly walked out of her room and entered the bathroom, which we shared. “Goddamn you,” she stated as she began to tug at the comb in my hair.

“OW!” I yelped as she aggressively pulled out the comb from its entanglement.

Meanwhile, Audrey stood there smiling evilly, “It’s not my damn fault that you got your comb stuck in your hair.”

“Audrey, we have almost the same exact hair.”

“Yes, but I never get my brush stuck in mine,” she retorted. I could hear her faintly say

“You’re welcome” as she went back down the hallway and into her bedroom again.

She was so annoying, but I didn’t have time to argue with her. I opened the bathroom door and ran down the spiral staircase.

While I wasn’t exactly of the richest sorts, I still did come from a family of decent wealth. My father was an author, hence why my name is Scout and why I have a certain affiliation with books, and my mother was a doctor. Therefore, our amount of annual income was a pretty good number, but my parents put their money entirely into their work, donation, and only our necessities. So, pretty needless to say that I am not one of those wealthy bitches who brag about all of the money they are bathing in.

I walked through the entryway and into the pristine kitchen with top of the line kitchenware…Okay, maybe not 100% of our money went to pure necessities, but my father loves to cook. He comes from Italian descent, so needless to say that he has a fascination with food.

“Hey, sport, good to see you finally decided to join us!” my dad exclaimed as I walked towards him and the food that he sprawled across the marble countertop. He had waffles topped with whip cream and strawberries, french toast that was drizzled with raspberry sauce, and scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs were my mother’s favorite. At least once a week,

“I wish I didn’t have to get up,” I stated while rubbing my eyes.

“Well, I wish I didn’t have to see my patients dear, but I still have to go,” stated my mother rather quickly upon hearing what I had to say, “Scout, would you be willing to take your sisters to school as well?”

“Why?”

“Because-” started my sister Taylor, entering from the living room that was just off of the kitchen, “-we really just don’t want to go on the bus. No offense to him, but bus driver Pete is creepy as hell.”

“He must be really creepy if he creeps you out, being that you bathe in creepiness with that snaggle-tooth and all,” I stated jokingly; Taylor didn’t like that joke.

“Mom? Dad? Aren’t you going to say something about how rude Scout just was?” she asked.

My mother turned to my dad and asked, “Richard, what do you think?”

My father glanced between Taylor and me for a couple seconds before saying, “-I thought that was goddamn hilarious.”

“Dad!” exclaimed my sister in disbelief.

“Maybe I could write that line into my next book. I don’t know where the hell I would put that, but I’ll find somewhere to appropriately place it. Nice one son-” said my father as he gave me a fist bump that I wasn’t ready for, so I accidentally went for a handshake, “-Well, one of these days you’ll come out of your awkward phase.” I hoped this was true, but I highly doubted that would ever happen.

“Oh!-” exclaimed my mother as she looked at the clock, “-It’s 6:45. You better start heading to school.” I picked up my Harry Potter Hufflepuff backpack, that I bought at Hot Topic ™, and I watched as my sisters did the same, except they didn’t have backpacks as cool as mine. I went to the entryway and removed my car keys from the hooks hung directly to the left of the front door. I jogged back to the kitchen and told my sisters, “Hey! If you want to avoid creepy Pete, then let’s get going.”

Just as I went to make my way towards the door, my mother called, “Scout? Could you come here sweetie?” Oh no.

I turned back towards my mother; my sisters snickered at me as they made their way to the door. “Yeah, mom?” I asked.

“I know you aren’t exactly the most confident of sorts, but you will blossom. You will turn into a beautiful peacock who just wants to show off his feathers.”

“Honey-” interjected my dad “-if our son were a peacock, scientists would come and take him away and experiment on him.”

“Oh, Richard, must you take everything so literally?”

“I’m a realistic fiction author. I have to take things literally,” answered my father, getting a smile out of my mother and me.

My mother turned back to me, “Sweetie, just try and associate with others. Maybe you will build enough confidence to where you aren’t so awkward, but so that you aren’t an animal in the zoo.”

“Okay, Mom.”

“Oh, and would you please wear these-” she said holding out a dark green hoodie and a grey beanie, “-I heard it’s going to be a little chilly out, and I don’t want you to catch a cold.”

“Fine, Mom.”

“Good choice to not argue with someone who has to do an open heart surgery today,” she said in a chipper voice.

“Bye!” I said as I put on the grey beanie and ran towards the door.

“Bye son! Let me know if you meet any cute girls!” said my father teasing. I paused for a moment.

If only he knew that I’m not interested in girls.

My sisters had burst through the doors of Bradshaw Academy before I was even out of the my car. The school’s title sounds very posh, but the interior of the school was not as luxurious as it sounded. The drinking fountains hardly ever worked, and when they did the water was warm. Also, the classrooms were no bigger than a small guest room. To be honest, I kind of like how small the rooms were. It meant I didn’t have to associate with so many people every single class. Well, when I say “associate”, my way of “associating” is cowering in the far corner and hoping that no one makes any eye contact with me. Welp, hopefully, this year would the year that I actually made eye contact with someone other than my friend, Ziggy.

Ziggy is just her nickname. Her real name is Zigana Williams. Ziggy is stuck in her emo phase, and she has been for four years now. At this point, I’m starting to think it’s not a phase. However, she is completely aware that she is emo and she takes great pride in it. She always says, and I quote, “My skin is just as dark my soul.” She is just so angsty. Every morning, Ziggy draws a cracked heart on her cheek with eyeliner; she is THAT kind of emo. She also puts all of this black eyeshadow around her eyes. To be fair, the black makes her chocolate brown eyes pop. She wears a black velvet choker almost everyday. If she’s not wearing that damn choker, then she must be ill. Her hair is usually in a side-braid because she doesn’t want her long hair getting all over the place when she is painting. For such an angsty woman, she loves to paint beautiful things, such as butterflies settled on tulips.

I finally decided that I would have to get out of my white, Volkswagen beetle, from 1963, and face the hell that was school. Luckily, it was only the first day so I wouldn’t really have homework. I would only have to get parent signatures for the courses I was taking. Whoopity-doo! The same papers that I had signed every single year. Maybe I could have one good day of the school year. Of course, that was not going to happen.

 

Chapter 2

I briskly walked through the double doors of the school hoping that nobody would notice

my presence. I made my way to the information center, that was just to the right of the front doors, to pick up my schedule for the semester.

“Hi. I’m Scout Adams, and I’m here to pick up my schedule,” I said, my head lowered to avoid eye contact.

“Adams? Isn’t your father Mark Adams? The author?” asked the woman working the desk.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Oh, of course, he named you Scout! However, why did he name you, a boy, Scout when Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird is a girl?” she asked. I paused for a moment. Why did he pick Scout as my name? I didn’t have time to care; the bell was going to go off soon, and I did not want to be late on the first day.

“Can I just get my schedule, please?”

“Sure thing, dearie. Would you tell your father that Ms. Stewart deeply enjoys his books?”

“Of course!” I said, somewhat enthusiastic. This was not the first time that someone had asked me about my father. The more people that ask, the more socializing I have to do; for someone who is the kid of an author, I’m wasn’t exactly the greatest with my words, nor writing, sports, or drawing. I was just a hot mess.

“Here’s the schedule,” said Ms. Stewart, knocking me back into reality.

“Oh, thank you,” I said as I took the paper from her hands. I glanced down at the schedule as I walked towards the doors, but me being me, I ran into the glass doors. Ms. Stewart sat up straight to fully admire the kid who ran into the doors because he wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. School technically hadn’t even started yet and I had already embarrassed myself. Why does this always happen to me?

I briskly opened the doors and made my grand escape from the horror that was my own awkwardness. I glanced back down at the schedule. Oh no. How was this possible?

My first class of the day was P.E. Was this a prank? Did one of the jock’s break into the school during the summer and change my schedule just to be cruel? No matter if it was a prank or not, I still had to get to class. I slowly, but surely, found my way to the gymnasium. Why was this my life?

~~~~

“Good morning class! My name is Mr. Wood. I will be your Phys. Ed. teacher for the semester, if not the whole year-” started Mr. Wood, “-Now, I don’t want to get into the paperwork stuff and say, “Oh you can have the class to just relax and get your lockers,” and stuff. I’ll hand you the course requirements as you leave today, but today we’re actually going to start our basketball unit.” What?!

“Excuse me, sir?” asked a kid from the back row of the bleachers, whose face was covered by the hat that he was wearing.

“Yes, son?” asked Mr. Wood.

“Um, yes, hi. I was just wondering if the devil possessed you?” the kid asked in a snarky voice. His question made all of the boys on the bleachers laugh, including myself. I didn’t have the faintest idea as to what he was doing.

“I beg your pardon young man?”

“What? I didn’t stutter. I asked if you were possessed by the devil That’s a simple yes or no question. Can you not comprehend?” pestered the kid once more. What was he doing? He would surely get kicked out of class. That was his idea.

“Are you implying that I am stupid?”

“No. I’m saying you’re stupid.”

“That’s it! Go to the principal’s office,” Mr. Wood screamed, seething with anger.

“Cool! At the least the principal’s office has a/c!” said the kid in an almost too joyful tone.

“I am going to call the office and tell them to expect…what’s your name?” asked Mr. Wood, still enraged.

“Oliver,” stated the kid in a calm tone.

“Yeah, and your last name?”

“That’s for me to know and you to never know,” Oliver stated in an overly cocky voice. He got up from his spot on the bleachers and slowly walked down the stairs. As he went to exit through the gym’s doors, he gave a cheeky wink to Mr. Wood and blew kisses to everyone on the bleachers.

“Ugh! Class, just play basketball or something until I get back,” Mr. Wood ordered before retreating to his office to call the office and to cure the wounds that had been inflicted on his ego.

Some of the kids got up from the bleachers to actually play sports. Among these kids was Sam Hill. He was the number one jock in the entire school. He participated in lacrosse, football, basketball, and wrestling. I thought that he had more abs than I had number of years left on my life and I was only seventeen. Sam was in my first and second-grade classes and I had had him in at least one of my classes since the sixth grade. He was the biggest nuisance known to mankind. He was the kind of person who cheated on tests because he couldn’t retain anything he learned.

I decided to make use of my time in the gym and look at what class I would have next. I pulled out the folding schedule, that I had placed in my backpack upon arrival at the gym, and looked at the class that was listed in the second period column. Study hall in the cafeteria. Well, at least the cafeteria was just down that hall so I wouldn’t have to walk far. I thought that after the fright of nearly having to exercise I would just get to go to study hall and have some peace and quiet to just read and sit in a corner; my plans were, of course, derailed.  

Before I knew what was happening, someone screamed, “Watch out!”

I glanced upward to see what was happening. All I saw was a basketball plummeting towards my face and then everything went black.

 

Chapter 3

“Hey, are you alive?” asked a womanly voice that sort of faded in and out throughout question. A light shined directly into my blue eyes.

“Ah! Yes, I’m alive,” I said, touching my eye which was sore for some unknown reason. The basketball.

“Do you know what year it is?” she asked.

“I think so? Is it still 2018, or did I just time travel?”

“Nope. It’s still 2018,” said the woman, sighing.

I pulled myself off of the burgundy leather bed and realized that I was in the nurse’s office.

“How did I get here?” I asked, holding my right eye.

“Oh, Mr. Hill dropped you off after you got hit with the basketball,” answered the woman.

My head was aching as well.

“If I got hit in the eye, then why does the back of my head hurt?” I asked.

“Well, according to Mr. Hill, after you got hit, you tumbled down each row of the bleachers. He said you looked like a rolling tumbleweed,” she answered with a cackle at the last statement. Oh no! Did I really tumble down the bleachers? Am I that much of a loser that I can’t take getting hit with a basketball?

“Can I maybe get some ice for my eye and head?” I asked, still aching.

“Well, we don’t have any ice left, but we do have band-aids.”

“What am I supposed to do with band-aids?” I asked, still confused on why the nurse’s office, the one place that is supposed to have ice, didn’t have ice.

“I don’t know. You’ll figure something out,” she said. I reluctantly took the singular band-aid from her clammy hand and grabbed my backpack. As I retreated from the nurse’s office, I did my signature walk of shame.

~~~~

It was finally the end of the horrendous day. All I had to do was put my Psych binder in my locker, get my backpack, and then I would be home free to wail about the eventful day I just had. While I was at my locker, I strung up my Pickle Rick string lights and I gingerly placed my neon cat lamp on the top shelf of my locker. As I was taking my backpack out of my locker, a familiar face approached me.

“Hey ginger ale-” said Ziggy, “-What happened to your eye?” She obviously noticed the black eye that was settling in.

“An accident in gym.”

“Did you have a Charlie Brown moment with a football?” she asked jokingly.

“No. I was assaulted with a basketball.”

“How?” she asked, slightly more concerned.

“Sam Hill.”

“So, he can’t even play sports correctly, now? Wow! But if he’s not smart, and if he can’t play sports, then where will he go?”

“Hopefully, in the dumpster with all his pathetic friends,” I said a little too sincerely.

“God, I hope so,” she said with a smile. I turned around to face her when something caught my eye.

Across the hallway from my locker was a poster. On the poster was a giant rainbow with three letters on it, not including the writing in smaller font towards the bottom of the poster. It said “GSA”. As I went to cross the hallway, to further inspect the poster, a girl with black, curly hair brushed past me. She was too busy talking to someone on her phone; she referred to the person on the other end as Molly. I would’ve yelled after her if I weren’t so awkward. I turned my attention back to the poster.

“What is GSA,” I asked Ziggy, slightly confused.

“GSA stands for Gay Straight Alliance. It’s a club.”

“Gay Straight Alliance? What do you even do in the club?” I asked, even more confused.

“It’s basically kind of a way to bring members of the LGBTQ+ community and straight allies together to make them feel like they are not alone and that they are loved,” answered Ziggy, in a gingerly tone.

I stood there for a moment, gaping in awe at the poster. I would love to join. Maybe this is what I needed: to feel not so alone. It would be nice to know I’m not the only one in this blasted school who has the same worries and concerns that I do.

“Maybe we should join!” Ziggy said enthusiastically, knocking me back from dreamland.

“What?” I asked right as my voice cracked.

“Woah, welcome to puberty, Scout! And I said, we should join!”

“Us? Join?” I asked once more, growing more and more anxious by the second.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m a straight ally, and you’re a whole homo-”

“Shoosh! People can hear you!” I interrupted.

“Why don’t you want people to know?” she asked, confused.

“I don’t know. I, uh-I’m just worried that people will look at me differently,” I answered, sighing.

“What other people think does not matter! Scout, you are an amazing, awkward, but amazing person! If people just see you for your sexuality, then they can be “EXTERMINATED” by the Daleks for all I care,” Ziggy stated, in a loving and sweet tone, despite the aggressiveness of the last statement. I smiled knowing that she cared so deeply about me and how desperately she wanted me to be happy.

“Thanks, Ziggy,” I said, still smiling.

She placed her right hand on my left shoulder and started to quote a vine, saying, “I love you, bitch. I ain’t ever gonna stop loving you-”

“-Bitch,” we said, perfectly in unison with each other. No matter what we did, we were always in unison with each other. Eye-to-eye to the finest extent. Now, we would have another thing that we shared.

“Okay. Let’s join GSA!” I said slightly louder, feeling more confident than ever.

“Yay! I love the confidence-” she started before she gave me a cheeky smirk and said, “-It’s a good look on you,” with a wink at the very end.

“Hopefully, it’s a look that I’ll keep.”

“I hope so too! When does GSA start?” she asked excitedly. I quickly glanced towards the poster again. My eyes drifted to the very small font at the bottom of the poster.

“It says ‘2: 30 on Thursdays.’”

“Aw! Today’s only Wednesday!” she said, slightly sadder than prior.

“I think we can wait a day.”

“I guess. Maybe we could just get dinner tonight?” she asked. We would sometimes go out to dinner just to be with each other and have a good time, being that neither of us had a lot of friends nor any boyfriends.

“Sure. Maybe we could grab some McDonald’s, or something?” I asked.

“Oh, didn’t you hear?” she asked.

“About what?” I asked, slightly more confused than I normally am.

“Some guy freeze-rayed a couple intruders at McDonald’s, and he was an employee!” she exclaimed, slightly terrified. Ziggy was never the type to be terrified.

Most people would ask “Are the people okay?” but I asked,“-Where did he get the freeze-ray?”

“I don’t know! Anywho, how about we go to Michael’s Valley Grill?” she asked. Michael’s Valley Grill is a fairly expensive restaurant unless you are the sort to just get a salad and call that dinner. While my family is a little more on the rich side, I don’t like taking money from them. So, I got a small job at Starbucks so I wouldn’t have to pester them for money, but if we went to Michael’s Valley Grill, the total would come to almost forty dollars. I had already spent all of my money on the complete saga of Star Wars; I did not regret wasting that eighty dollars at Target. However, I would not have enough to cover dinner for the both of us.

“Ziggy, I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough money for the both of us.”

“That’s okay. I’ve got it covered.”

“How? You don’t have any-” I stopped mid-sentence when I noticed that Ziggy pulled out a fifty dollar bill from her pocket. “-How did you get that much money?”

“Easy. From all of the drugs I’m selling,” she answered rather quickly.

“What?!” I exclaimed, deeply convinced.

“Hey, I’m just kidding,” she stated, beginning to laugh.

“Oh, thank goodness,” I said, joining her in laughter.

“I stole it from my dad’s wallet,” she said rather calmly.

“WHAT?!” I nearly shrieked.

“As if you haven’t stolen from your parents’ wallets.”

“No, Ziggy. No, I haven’t.”

“Oh-” she said looking up and down the hallway, “-Just me, then?”

“Yes.”

“Oh…Anywho, what do you say?” she asked, with a crooked smile.

“Only if you let me pay your dad back when I get paid.”

“You know, I don’t really understand your fascination with being a good guy. It’s oh so boring,” she said yawning at my own boredom.

“It’s not a fascination. It’s called being morally correct,” I stated.

“I have no morals,” stated Ziggy.

“I know.”

“Hey!” she exclaimed, giving me a swift punch to the gut; I doubled over in pain.

“Gee, I don’t know what’s worse. The basketball or you!”

“Obviously me,” she answered for me. She gently wrapped her arm around my waist and began to guide me back over to my locker. As we were walking back to the row of lockers where mine was situated, another girl bumped into me, sending me and Ziggy to the ground.

“Sorry!” said the girl. I’ve seen her before. She was a senior this year, like me, but she was the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that. She was a mystery, but frankly, I was a little scared to solve that mystery.

Ziggy rose to her feet and held out a hand for me. She pulled me up and escorted me back to my locker. I was in more pain now than I was before. What is it with people running into me today?

I decided to not pay any mind to it even though it hurt me to know that I was easy to push around. Literally.

“Hey-” Ziggy began, taking in the emotions that were written all over my face, “-Where did the confident little bean go?”

“Under the covers to cry.”

“Don’t cry out loud!” she began to sing in a terrible voice, “Just keep it inside! Fly high and-”

“Okay!” I said interrupting, but starting to giggle at just how weird she was.

“There’s that smile!”

“Yeah, and I’ll have an even bigger smile if we could go get food now.”

“Okay, Shaggy. You just have to hold on a little bit longer, then we’ll go to Michael’s after we get out of this hell hole.”

I obviously couldn’t not do a Shaggy impression. “Like, man, I need some food.”

“And perhaps we could top the food off with some impression classes.”

“I thought my impression was dead on,” I said, making a frowny face.

“Well-” Ziggy began, as she linked her left elbow with my right elbow, “-You also thought no one knew you were gay, but I thought you were hella obvious.”

I stared down the hallway for a moment. “Shoot! If that ain’t the truth.”

“You can’t handle the truth!” we said in perfect unison as we walked out the double doors and away from the hell of school. We both giggled, and we would giggle and chuckle all throughout our dinner.

 

Day 4

The following morning, I leaped out of bed and ran to my dresser. I didn’t know what to wear; I wanted to make a good impression for my, hopefully, soon-to-be friends. Unfortunately, I was not the type to own dress shirts or dress pants. So, I decided I would just have to look like my normal trashy self and wear a nerdy periodic table shirt, and normal blue jeans. I slid, in my Rugrats socks, down the hallway and into the bathroom. I picked up the comb, that had visible hair strands in the teeth from the morning before, and began to sing Hound Dog by Elvis Presley into the comb. I had no particular reason for doing so. It simply just felt right. Today, the comb didn’t get stuck once. I couldn’t be happier. For the first time in my life, I actually succeeded at something!

“Do you need help with the comb, again?” asked my sister, Audrey, entering the bathroom with her arms crossed and an evil smirk.

“Actually, I don’t!” I said, joyously.

“Really? Good,” she said reluctantly. She gave me a gentle smile and then walked down the hall and down the stairs.

After finishing up in the bathroom, I went back to my room to grab my Vans ™. I laced them up rather hastily, but I was just too ecstatic to care. I hopped down each step of the stairs and into the kitchen. To my surprise, there weren’t piles of food decorating the countertop.

“Hey, Mom?” I asked my mother, who was facing the stove.

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Where’s Dad?” I asked, slightly concerned.

“Oh, he had a meeting with his publisher early this morning-” she answered, “-So, I thought I would make us some pancakes.” She gently slid the spatula under the pancake, that was in the pan, and lifted the pancake onto a plate; she placed it in front of me. The pancake had been so overcooked that it was the same color as charcoal, and it probably tasted like it too. My mother was never good with cooking. It was a good thing she married my dad: someone who can actually cook.

“Yum! Thank, Mom!” I said, smiling through the pain the burnt smell had inflicted on my nostrils.

“You’re welcome, sweetie!” she said, ecstatically.

I glanced down at my watch and said, “Oh! Would you look at the time I’ve gotta go!” I slid the dish across the countertop to my mother.

“But it’s only 6:20,” stated my mother.

“I know, but I’m promised Ziggy that I’d help her with an art project,” I said, beginning to sweat in fear that she would catch me in my lie.

“Oh. Okay, but, sweetie, I have to ask, do you like Ziggy? Are you interested in her?” I nearly choked on my own saliva.

“Mom! No! We’re just friends!”

“That’s fine, dear. It’s just that you two are so close and I thought-” she paused before singing, “There might be something there that wasn’t there before.”

“Nope. Falsehood. Incorrect, and I gotta go!” I said walking away rather quickly. “Audrey. Taylor-” I called up the stairs, “-Let’s go!”

“But it’s only-” Taylor began.

“I said let’s go!” I interrupted.

“Okay! Okay, let us just get our stuff!”

At this moment, my mind wandered back to the thought of GSA. I wondered if anyone in the club has gone through the same thing I do with my parents. I became more and more curious about the club by the minute. I pulled out my phone and decided to Google what other schools GSA clubs are like. I thought it best to turn on incognito mode first, just in case anyone was to look through my history. As I typed in “What are GSA clubs like?” and hit search, I received a strange text on my phone.

“Why must you do that incognito mode shit?”

“What?” I asked, texting the strange person back.

“Why must you make my job hard for me? What are you trying to hide, boy?”

“Nothing,” I replied.

“Mhm.” That was the last text from that number. Who the hell just messaged me? Was it one of those FBI agents that look through webcams? I’ve seen too many movies about these scenarios and they never end well. Am I gonna die?!

“Hey!” said both sisters in unison.

“Ah!” I screamed.

“Wow! What a coward!” Taylor laughed.

“I don’t see why that’s so funny, Taylor,” Audrey scolded. Taylor looked at Audrey in disbelief. She couldn’t believe that she was protecting me, and frankly, neither could I. Taylor marched out the door and towards the car. As I watched her get in the car, a Dodge Challenger Rallye 340, from 1973, raced down the street. The person in the car appeared to be yelling to himself for some odd reason. I turned back to Audrey, who gave me a gentle smile once more. She followed the same path as our sister. I eventually joined, after I jolted myself out of the shock that my sister had tried to help me.

 

TO BE CONTINUED!!!!

Wilhelm by Nick Thomas

Chapter 1

In a rather unfortunate turn of events, two absolutely opposite individuals are no longer individual. We have a man of pure evil, born 1830 to a wealthy German family. An only child, Wilhelm grew up a very odd boy. Not that only children are odd, but his parents had two ways of raising him. His father, who had obtained much wealth and knowledge from his time as an explorer, spoiled his son frequently. From candy to entire properties, you name it. However, the mother was quite strict. She, being raised to be in the military, believed in the idea of whipping someone into shape. While she wasn’t exactly mean, she was very stern, blunt, and at times could seem emotionless. Although she never made it to the military, for she injured herself many times in a house fire, she very much wanted the military for her son, while her husband wanted their child to become a man of intelligence. One thing was certain, they wanted their son to be well respected. Wilhelm however, was content to be an idealist. He had been raised right in this one way; that he should help people. He used his wealth to invest into his various ideas, even the wackiest ones, including his idea to attempt to backward engineer vampiric magic to heal people. This didn’t go too well for Wilhelm. While he surprisingly made some advances with this idea, he was treated as a criminal for interfering with such entities. He grew up despised, for doing what he believed was going to help people. One day, when his mother’s injuries became too much for her, now that she was older, she committed suicide. His father at this point had lost most of his company due to his ‘partner’ taking advantage of his generosity. Wilhelm began to lose hope, now in his late forties, his life would be coming to an end soon. (This was the 19th century, of course.) He did something of pure desperation, and out of a lust for vengeance. He attempted to fuse himself with an immortal vampire. The fusion worked, to his shock. However- this vampire was very much dead. I’m the narrator and I’m still not sure how exactly that even happened. But, this left Wilhelm trapped in this body for quite a long time.

Fast forward to the 21st century. 20-year-old Henry was essentially a loser. You could argue that he still is, but we’ll get to that. Henry was the result of a sperm-donation reaching a woman who thought she was unstoppable, and frankly, better than everybody else. Her arrogance ended up resulting in her child being quite ignored. Henry is no moron, but having given up on truly achieving anything, he resulted to reading comic books and playing entire video games series in mere hours. That being said, you could say he was pretty good at figuring things out. However, when he left his mother’s house with the intent of not going back, he stowed away on the wrong ship. Leaving a port in Pennsylvania, he left to Europe, exploring what appeared to be a church or temple. He played along a little, and just for the hell of it, stuck with them. They barely noticed him anyway. Little did he know, that when they open up the coffin containing a particular someone, something magical happened. And I don’t mean magical as in Disney happy magic I mean literal dark magic consumed these innocent studying people, but seeing young, healthy Henry, chose him. Wilhelm and Henry became one, and unlike Wilhelm’s expectations, he didn’t get full control of Henry. When the scientists finally snapped out of the trance they were in upon seeing this horror, Henry spoke in a bellowing voice, “Bow to me.” And while some of them did, Henry was laughing. Not Henry’s body, but Henry.

What? Haha, AHAHAHA! I’m not lau-aahhahaha!”

In this confused state, Wilhelm didn’t know what to do, and both minds attempted to leave this temple at the same time, so they stumbled out clumsily, and had a nice conversation.

“You imbecile! Get out of this body! It’s mine!”

“What? This is MY body, I don’t know what you did that tickled me so much, and put this voice in my head- er-, in… in me?

“I’m not supposed to be in you, I am supposed to be you! That vampire was going to fall for my trick and I was to be immortal!”

“Wait- vampires are real?”

“What? Yes, vampires are real, how do you explain the hundreds of lives they take each year…?”

“VAMPIRES TAKE HUNDREDS OF LIVES EACH YEAR?!”

“Enough of this. Who are you? Where am I?”

 “My name is Henry. We’re in an old temple in Germany. Who are you? Where are you from?”

“I am Wilhelm. I am from here! I did not realize how long I’d been…dead…”

“According to those guys, you’re hundreds of years old.”

“Hmmm… How long ago was the new world discovered?”

 “New world? Do you mean America? Columbus’s travels?”

“Precisely.”

At this time, the scientists had followed them out, and police sirens echoed in the distance.

“What is that wretched noise?”

“The sirens? They’re police sirens.”

“You have law-enforcing sirens, but you were hesitant to believe in vampires?”

Now, Henry took control, and managed to start a light jog away from the last remnants of familiarity he had, and into the German town.

“What-? Never mind, we have to go. I don’t know about you, but I’m not supposed to be here.”

“Are you a FUGITIVE?!”

Henry’s body bellowed this voice out loud in front of a crowd of children, who screamed, and both parties ran in opposite directions. Whispering, Henry spat;

“Look, we’re stuck together, at least for now. Could you keep it down? Maybe you can even help me out here. I know it’s quite different from what you remember, but we need to escape authorities right now. Got any ideas?”

“I have no idea where we are. The only thing I know is that this is where I lived years ago. You’re on your own here.”

“Great.”

As Henry ran, he stumbled upon a group of police officers, and froze.

“Wohin gehst du, kind?”

 Henry lost control, and Wilhelm spoke coldly;

“Dafür haben wir keine zeit…”

Wilhelm used his abilities that are now bound to his soul, and teleported to the shores of Italy, in front of a brothel.

 “Why’d you take us here?”

“This is supposed to be a front for the vampiric society! Scheisse!”

“But more importantly, how did you take us here?!”

Henry feels around his body, making sure he’s all there.
“Jesus… Okay, where are we?”
“We’re in Italy. It’s the only place I’ve ever tried to teleport.”

Henry noticed a ship leaving, with people waving American flags.

“Get us there.”

 

This is probably where Day 1 starts

I won’t walk you through every single step they take, but they of course, stow away again. Once they make it, Wilhelm explains his position, and Henry insists on learning all of their new abilities. Wilhelm demonstrated his abilities of enhanced strength, speed, teleportation, and the ability to read minds, barely. All of this requires a high concentration of power, which will require Wilhelm to take what will be deemed later as ‘majority’. Which is pretty self explanatory.

Upon returning home, Henry tried to contact a friend of his, Molly. But- she doesn’t pick up. What could be more exciting than this?

However, Henry didn’t know that all those fancy abilities have another penalty; fatigue. Wilhelm insisted that over time the body would become accustomed, but shortly after, this conglomerate thing just collapsed and went to sleep for a solid 10 hours.

Chapter 2

Henry awoke from what he thought was an extraordinary dream, but instead, he awoke to an extraordinary life. Wilhelm managed to snag control upon this consciousness, and he shot up, and looked around.
“What is this filth that you live in?”
“Agh- hey gimme my body back!”
“Be glad I lack the strength to shut you out completely, you miserable fool. What is this magic?”

Wilhelm flipped a light switch. On. He flipped it back. Off. This amused him, he wondered how this lamp could light and go out so easily without issue.

“Wh- dude that’s just a light switch! I thought you were alive for that!”

“Evidently not. What powers the lamp?”
“In the late 19th century a man named Thomas Edison refined the lightbulb for more practical use, it’s just electricity. You know that at least, right?”

“Of course. That American ‘discovered’ electricity. How does it work the lamp?”

“No, were you listening? It’s something called a lightbu- hey could you not mess with that?”

Wilhelm began to turn the dials on the thermostat, making the target temperature 20 degrees.

“Why? You’re not a total idiot I know that you know what you just did.”

“70 degrees? Are you mad? Not even a vampire would survive for long.”

“What?! Oh, you use Celsius don’t you- duh.”

“The Americans use Fahrenheit?”

“It’s not the most practical but yes, we use imperial measurements instead of metric.”

“Imbeciles.”

Wilhelm shuffled through a rack of CDs, then moved on to the PlayStation 4.

“Whoa, hey I have a lot of progress on that thing, don’t mess with it. Ah jeez, where’s my mother? What am I supposed to tell her?”

“You live with your parents in this tiny home?”

“Yeah, my mom and I. She insists that I stay here.”

“And your father?”

“Oh- right- that’s rather complicated but I’ll explain when I have more time.”

Internally, Henry fought to regain majority, but Wilhelm had a tight grip on this body. At this point, Wilhelm was examining a copy of Twilight.

“You have documentation of vampires in your home, and still you question?”

“Trust me, that is not a portrayal any vampire would want.”

Taking the book with him, Wilhelm stepped out of Henry’s room, on the top floor, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. Only now did Wilhelm feel the need for food.

“I am not sure how these powers will work without feeding on human blood, the spells could have been altered.”

“Okay, if you try to eat somebody, I’ll put a bullet into our brain. You understand that?”

“Not entirely. I can estimate that you are referring to suicide.”

“Bingo.”

“Bingo?”
“Bango!”

“Enough!”
“Bongo!”

As Wilhelm was about to surely explode, Henry’s mom entered at the other side of the house.

“Crap- we should leave. Let me take majority, or else we’re both in for it.”

“I am capable of escape. Many times I had to run from mobs.”
“I’m not sure that’s something to brag about. Lemme get my phone and some stuff and then we can get out of here.”

“That is fair. Regardless, I will take us out of here. Where is your phone mounted?”

“Dude, this is my house! In my time period! I can get us out of here faster!”

Reluctantly, Wilhelm silently allowed Henry to take majority of his own body. Henry ran as fast and as quietly as he could to his room, grabbed his phone, and his charger. He still had his wallet on him, and he quickly stuffed clothes into a bag and flew down the stairs, and out the living room window. But now what? He looked around, and then remembered his mother always talked about a car she had put away for him at his aunt’s house. But she never felt he’d earned it.

“All right, Wilhelm, how do I use these fancy powers?”

“I would be very surprised if you managed to use them.”

“Worth a shot; you already did it in my body, right?”

“Fine. I will teach you. I presume you want to relocate somewhere?”

“Yeah if I can teleport somewhere I can get us a vehicle.”

“Okay. You’ve been there before?”

“Yeah, quite a few times. Just not recently.”

“You should hope it has not changed.”

“I doubt it has. It’s just my aunt’s house.”

“Very well. Can you picture where you want to go very clearly? It does not have to be exact, but maximum precision will help the process.”

“Well, it’s pretty clear. I used to spend the night there sometimes.”

“Then now you must channel an energy you have never encountered before. Once you find it, reel it out of yourself. It may take time; be patient.”

Henry took the time to imagine his aunt’s garage. The car had always had a grey tarp around it. The ground was stained from oil and grease, there was a large tool rack with an almost complete set hanging on it, the garage door was always closed, and the lights had flickered for as long as he could remember.

“I can feel your thoughts. Now, find the energy. I will try to assist you.”

Wilhelm pushed vampiric energy to Henry’s fingertips, and instinctively Henry placed his fingers on his temples, and he opened his eyes, which had turned into a solid deep red. He then inhaled, and in nearly a blink, he exhaled and a cloud of dark floated away, as he looked at the tarp-covered automobile.

“Holy- that’s so awesome!”

Henry then fell to his knees, and winced.

“This form is still not used to the energy. It will pass. What is this, vehicle?”

“Jeez… I’m not sure. My mother never lets me use it. Even after getting my license.”

As Henry was about to pull the tarp off of the mystery car, his aunt entered the garage, and yelped with surprise, then hugged him.

“Heeennnnrryy! Oh it’s so good to see you! Where have you been? Your mother is worried sick! You grew out your hair! And you got so tall!”

She gestured to him no longer shaved hair, which was a dark black. Henry also managed to get something of a 5 o’clock shadow going, it was working for him as far as he knew. He had managed to reach 5’11” in the three years it had been since he had seen his aunt.

“Hi, Aunt Trinity. I just, had to get out. You know how mom is.”

Aunt Trinity sighed.

“Yes, I had hoped that by the time you were eighteen she would’ve let go of you a little. What brings you here?” she looked past him to the car. “Ah, you want your car.” she smiled.

“Yeah, I think I could use it.” Henry sighed. He turned away and whispered to Wilhelm;

“Wait, what exactly are we gonna do? Do you know how to separate us? And if so, do I get to keep the powers too?”

“I am working on it. I believe I read somewhere in ancient texts how to separate bonded souls, although I also read that it’s hard to get into this particular situation in the first place. Just my luck I suppose.”

“You mean our luck.” Henry turned back around to see a beautiful yellow 1973 Dodge Challenger Rallye 340.

“Oh wow…” Henry could barely speak, tears were forming in his eyes. His mother had kept him from a classic muscle car.

“Ein automobil…” Wilhelm had only read about the beginnings of such a machine in his time.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” Henry’s aunt smirked and opened up the door, revealing the interior. Henry stepped forward and peered in, examining this beauty of engineering. Trinity took his hand, and placed keys into it.

“It’s about time you- or even anyone except for your uncle- got to take it for a spin. Should still have gas in it, we test it every year to make sure it works still.*

“Thank you, auntie; this is- this is crazy!” Henry hugged his aunt, and he got into the car, and started it. And revved the powerful engine.

“Take it easy, Henry.” she said with a playfully stern tone. She opened up the garage, and Henry drove out. He flipped on the radio, and enjoyed “Fortunate Son”.

“What is this music?”

“You don’t like it? This was a popular song during a war in Vietnam.”

“I am unsure. I think I enjoy it, at the very least, I tolerate it.”

“Good, ‘cause I’m not changing it. It ain’t’ me, it ain’t meeee!”
Henry enjoyed his ride, and he explained the knowledge he had about cars to Wilhelm, and also caught him up on some important history. Wilhelm was, to say the least, not happy about what his beloved country had been involved in during the years 1915-1945.

“There’s also this thing called fast-food. Food can be purchased right from your car. Here, let’s stop by a McDonald’s.”

“Who is that demon?”

Henry glanced around, looking for what he could possibly be talking about, and only saw one possible culprit. A statue of Ronald McDonald. Henry was laughing, and amidst the confusion, Henry shrieked when an armed man slid across the hood of his car, and booked it towards a motorcycle.

“You snow the drill.” a grizzly voice said, as a man with some sort of freeze-ray froze this man to the pavement.

“It’s another immortal!” Wilhelm exclaimed.

“What?” Henry began to question, but Wilhelm had already taken control. This vigilante saw Wilhelm’s next move and froze his hand to the car.

“Agh! Wilhelm, stop! You’re gonna break my new freaking car!”

“It is not a concern.”

Wilhelm’s eyes filled with dark red, and he broke free of the solid ice restraining his hand. The vigilante didn’t seem too phased by this, and began firing rapid icicles and creating slippery spots in a battle that would be talked about for at least hours.

Luckily for Henry, his body was beginning to adapt to this newfound energy, and Wilhelm was good at using it. He managed to dodge most of the blasts, and retain balance, and when he finally got close to this iceman, another employee bashed Wilhelm over the head with a tray, and in that moment of distraction, both Wilhelm’s feet were frozen to the ground.

“Who do you think you are?” asked the ice-wielding warrior.

“I should ask you the same, fairy,” Wilhelm responded.

“Excuse me?”

Henry used all of his strength to gain enough control, and spat the following as fast as he could;

“Wilhelm I don’t know what you think this guy is but you can’t go around calling people fairies in the 21st century, that’s really not okay.”

“How else could he use the powers of ice? Unless the elves finally mastered the arcane…”

The vigilante understood that there were two people in this one body, and began to unfreeze their feet.

“Look, guys. I’m just your average Joe, with a freeze gun, and a thirst for justice at your local fast food restaurant. I have no magical powers, nor am I anything more than a human being.”

Wilhelm, still in majority, narrowed his eyes at whose name tag read Shawnathan.

* * *

Chapter 3

After getting a free 10-piece McNugget meal for the troubles at McDonalds, Henry drove himself to a motel, and checked in for a night. While preparing the bed, Wilhelm took majority, and listened very carefully to the voices he heard coming from the next room.

“Who- Wilhelm are we reading someone’s mind?”

“I am reading someone’s mind. You are listening.”

“I’m not sure what could’ve happened. All the immortals went, but things are too important here. The idea of the last true martian being here, on Earth… It’s probably just a rumor… But I should…”

The voice slowly faded out and slid into nonsense.

“I can only detect so much, but it looks like we have a real immortal here. I’ve only heard legends passed down by the vampire lords…”

“What does this mean for us?”

“It means that they could easily detect me here. I am not sure what they would do about it, I am certain that once we’re done talking about it, it will not matter anymore. But, on the other hand, this particular immortal could be the answer to our dilemma.”

“Is that like, unsafe?” Henry inquired.

“That is questionable. But if I am correct, it sounds like the home realm of these immortals is in danger. Perhaps we could slip in and slip out undetected in such chaos.”

“That definitely sounds unsafe,” Henry croaked.

“Unless you have a superior suggestion, I think this is the best way for us to maybe get me out of your body.”

“Agh, fine. Have you been to this place?”

“No. I am not even aware of its name. I have only read about such a realm. The vampires have knowledge of it, and some had the nerve to document it, against the will of their leaders. I wonder if any of those texts have survived the turn of the last two centuries…”

“If they’re supposed to be secrets kept by immortal super-powered people, I’m willing to bet that they didn’t.”

* * *

In the morning, Henry followed this ‘immortal’ loosely. And eventually they reached a place that was private enough for an encounter. The man pulled off into a barn, and Henry parked outside of it.

As Henry approached the barn, he could hear the thoughts again, but now there were more.

“Wilhelm, are there more people in there?”

“Move closer, and be silent.”

Henry made his way to the barn door, and sat down outside of it. Wilhelm focused their energy, and picked up the thoughts.

“…is it really gone? And Laurelina, she’s gone too? Damn… it’s way worse than I thought. I’m sorry, Melody. If I’d known I would’ve come. Things here were urgent.”

Then, a female voice.

“Really, Fred? That’s the best excuse you could come up with? Some woman cloning her daughter and some alien aren’t as important as our entire realm to you?”

The thoughts gave out again.

“There is another immortal in there. They are using telepathy to communicate.”

“Can we do that?”

“Unfortunately not. At least, I never read anything suggesting that any vampires can.”

“So, what do we do?”

“Well, it appears we have two options to choose from. We could ask for immortal assistance, or we could look into this cloning idea… Cloning is not something common, even in this time period, correct?”

“Yeah, we know how to clone but we don’t do it on humans as far as I’m concerned.”

“Whoever this person speaks of clearly does. If we could clone you, or even clone my old self, we could split our minds again.”

“Could that like, kill us or anything?”

“Doubtful.”

“Well, what do you think they’d do if we asked the immortals for help?”

“I am unsure. Most likely, we will have to go to another realm and seek help. Perhaps a more experienced vampire or someone who is more familiar with the arts than I.”

Henry thought to himself, but then he heard footsteps. Before he managed to get up, arms pierced the wood, and grabbed him.

“Oh, Jesus Chri-” they pull him through the wood, and he slid across the floor.

Henry and Wilhelm looked up at two seemingly normal people. But Wilhelm knew the extent of their power.

“Listen to me, immortals. We mean you no harm.”

The female looked at her colleague, then back to Wilhelm.

“Who’s ‘we’?” she asked, equipping a chrome revolver.

“Please. We seek your help” Wilhelm moved up to his knees, and Henry moved their hands into the air.

“We are two souls from different times, trapped in the same body. We wish to be separated.”

The two immortals were confused, and paranoid. The male one also was equipped with a pistol, this one more elaborate, different attachments and gadgets.

“Look, I don’t know if I should trust you two. If you really mean no harm, I don’t think you’d be following me and hiding.”

Henry knew if he was going to act, it’d have to be fast, and unpredictable. These people can read minds too. So when the two immortals looked at each other, he seized his opportunity.

His eyes turning deep red, he leapt from the ground, and kicked off of one of the immortals, and landed into the other with his heel. In their surprise, he also knocked the revolver out of the girl’s hands, and rolled on the ground and picked it up. He aimed it at the male, who still had his fancy glock.

Wilhelm took control, and learning quickly, shot the unsuspecting man in the face, which aside from knocking him down, gave him quite the headache. Wilhelm turned to the girl, and shot her several times in the torso, knowing it wouldn’t kill her.

“I know how you immortals work. Now hear my proposal. I only want to be separated from this child.”

“I’m twenty years old!” Henry broke out.

“Silence! I have been dormant for over one hundred fifty years. I am unfamiliar with the times, but in my time, the vampires and the immortals were allies.”

The female, her wounds starting to heal, said this:

“Yeah well I’m no ally to a spy- and not even a real vampire.”

The male sprung up, blood trailing from his left eye, and kicked the gun out of Henry’s hands. Henry responded by headbutting him in the nose, and pulling his gun from his hands. Henry attempted to fire at the immortal but the female pulled his arm and he fired the automatic gun into the air sending bits of hay and wood chips all around.

The female managed to hold Henry for a moment while the male punched him repeatedly in the stomach. Henry then focused his power, and broke free, then throwing an elbow into the girl’s face, and catching a kick attempt by the guy, and breaking his leg with an audible snap.

“Oh my god…” Henry held his stomach, he’d never broken somebody’s bones before. It was kinda gross. But he recovered swiftly as he dodged a knife slash towards his face, and then pulled the woman’s arm on her next attempt, over this shoulder, and then, you know, pulled down, breaking her arm.

“I’ve had enough of these insolent curs.” Wilhelm absorbed lots of energy, and when the male got up again, Wilhelm punched straight through Fred’s torso. And while Henry’s expression was absolute disgust, he threw the shocked immortal at his everlasting friend. The throw was powerful enough to knock them through a support beam. After thoroughly scanning their minds, Wilhelm left in a huff, and they sped off to find Dr. Linda Vasquez, a cloning specialist.

 

Chapter 4

Wilhelm only gathered some information about this woman. Hopefully, they’d find her at the airport, she would be returning from a business trip in Chicago today. At this moment, it was 8:14 am, Henry was cruising along in his Challenger. “Mr. Jinx” by Quarashi was playing. It was sprinkling rain, not many other cars on the road. Earlier the radio station had stories of reptilian sightings, a crazed gang assaulting McDonalds, and apparently the marriage of what sounded like some sort of Queen of Atlantis and a golden archer. Big news. Explains the empty streets.

It was nearing nine o’clock when Henry finally parked at the airport. Henry equipped a pair of silver aviators, and slid on a Wolverine hoodie. After briefly explaining what Marvel Comics is to Wilhelm, they moved in on the airport.

“Do you know what we’re in for?” Henry whispered.

“No. I know some details about her character, but not enough to truly decide how dangerous she is.”

“But you know what she looks like?”

“Of course. Keep an eye out for a girl with black hair.”

“Yeah, that’s helpful.”

“I have images. I will find her.”

They wandered around, and the flight came in shortly after. Henry sat down, and scanned the people coming in from the flight.

“Anything?” Henry murmured.

“No. Wait- her!”

They turned totally away from the plane traffic, and looked at two teenage girls, storming towards the crowd. Henry recognized one of them.

“Is that Molly?!” Henry gasped.

Molly, hearing her name, turned and saw her friend Henry.

“Henry? What are you-”

“There she is!” the girl walking next to her shouted, as a woman in the crowd stopped and glared angrily towards the girl.

“Wilhelm, I think that’s who we’re looking for.”

“I agree. You know those girls?”

“One of them, the blonde one.”

The woman coming off of the plane flipped her suitcase, which shot out legs and deployed itself as a computer station, set with antennae and a screen. She was furiously typing away and was done by the time the angry teenager came and kicked the whole thing into the air, and sliced it open with laser vision.

“We can’t do that, can we?”
“I am afraid not. We should intervene before our only hope is murdered in front of our eyes.”

Henry ran over to Molly, and noticing her talking into an earpiece, he waved and mouthed, ‘What’s going on?’

“That’s complicated. Short explanation- my friend Jenna’s mom is a psychopathic scientist that cloned her to make an army. Now we’re trying to kill her. I guess. Actually now that I think about I’m not sure that’s the best-”

Jenna flung her mother down an escalator, and suddenly ten or more of Jenna’s mother climbed down from the skylight.

“Okay- what’s the short explanation for that?!”

“Robots.”

“Oh, that was really short. Anyway, I need her mother alive. I’m in a predicament and I need a clone.”

“Did- did you already know about this?”

“Yeah- it’s complicated. I don’t have a short explanation for it. But please, I need this favor. I’ll help take out these robots.”

“But-” Molly started, but Henry sprinted into action.

She shouted after him:

“I don’t think she’ll need much help, Henry!”

Henry didn’t hear her call, as he drop kicked one of the mom-bots into a kiosk, where it exploded. He made his way toward the escalator where Jenna was fighting off four or five bots all on her own. The mom was making a run for it.

“Stop!” Henry yelled, chasing after her.

She kept going, while even more of her robot selves came running in to hold the trio back. Henry kept up comfortably until he was surprised by a robot jumping on his back, dragging him to the floor.

“Ugh- hey knock it off, I don’t have time for this!” Henry grunted at the bot, who was attempting to pin him down. It started opening its mouth, where some sort of sharp device then poured out of. Horrified, Henry just forced the robot’s mouth shut again, and shoved it off.

He began to stand up, and in what seemed like a split second, he fell back down. His ears were ringing, and he felt numb. He looked up and saw Ms. Vasquez aiming a smoking pistol at him. Henry recognized it as a Colt M1911, from all his video games. Not that it mattered, because the bullet currently lodged in his chest was making it hard for him to comment about her unoriginality.

While Ms. Vasquez ran off, Jenna was barely surviving the barrage of robots, now using all sorts of powers and gadgets in an attempt to bring her down. Molly had rushed to Henry’s side, and was attempting to aid him, despite realizing how little of a chance he had of surviving. However, she still did not know about Henry’s newfound powers, so it was quite fortunate that she decided to try to help him anyway.

Suddenly, Henry felt an incredible cold, and shivered slightly, but was unable to keep his eyes open. He heard a familiar voice say:

“This should stabilize him for now. I’ll take care of him. Help your friend. Here, I made this for Craig, but he said he’d rather not use it. You look like you could.”

Henry felt himself being carried, and heard distant sirens, and what sounded like a busted vehicle starting up. The radio played a soothing “What it’s like” by Everlast, and Henry drifted in and out of sleep.

After some time, Henry silently allowed the two friends to carry him into a shabby house. Henry took a note of the complex government surveillance PC and some military issue gear.

“Who the hell are you guys? What’s that for?”

“It’s not mine,” replied Shawnathan.

They carried him down to a filthy basement, loaded with all sorts of gadgets and McDonalds food and merchandise. Henry looked at a map that had all the McDonald’s locations on it, and distinguishable green tacs at the locations they’d recently been to.

“Were you tracking me?”

Shawnathan removed some of his gear, and Craigory took the liberty of cleaning out the signature freeze-gun, which now looked far cleaner, and appeared to be running off of some sort of paste- wait- is that ketchup?

“Yes. I believe a cult of McDonalds robbers is after your second personality. Wilhelm, is it?”

“What do they want with a two-hundred-year-old man?”

“My guess is that they know what you tried to do. I’m thinking that they wanna try to imitate your process, and become immortal themselves. He claims ‘mortality will be a thing of the past’. Maybe their motive isn’t entirely sinister. But I don’t know what McDonald’s has to do with-”

“I know exactly what they think. They must believe I worked with the vampire lord Ronald McDonald.”

Henry spoke out:

“Ohhh… that’s why you called the statue of him a demon, isn’t it?”

“What? No, that looks nothing like Ronald. It is just disturbing.”

Shawnathan chuckled, and Craigory handed him his gun back. He then attached some sort of barrel extension, with a flip up sight.

“Well, whatever their motive is, I intend to stop them- cold in their tracks.”

He then fired six times, hitting six different mannequins in their heads.

“Nice shot.” Craigory remarked, and then proceeded to do the same with a wrist-mounted ice gun.

“Not bad yourself.” Shawnathan returned the compliment. “But remember; no killing.”

“Of course.”

Shawnathan put his gun down, and used a small mounted freeze ray on his watch to re-freeze Henry’s wound. He also handed Henry his now broken aviators.

“I didn’t know if you’d want those back. Maybe as just a memento.”

Henry nodded, and examined his wound.

“Wilhelm, is this gonna fix itself?” he asked aloud.
“It should. But it will take focus. I can do it.”

Wilhelm took over control, and his eyes turned red, and his body began to heal faster. Hopefully he’d be in good shape by tomorrow. Apparently he’d made quite a few enemies in the past 24 hours.

 

Chapter 5

The following morning, Henry woke up, the bullet had risen to the surface of his skin, Wilhelm took majority to pull the bullet out. While it still hurt, it was not longer truly impairing.

“Thanks for taking me in, Shawnathan.” Henry said to Craigory and Shawnathan.

“Of course. I’m happy to help.” Shawnathan responded. “But what now?

Henry thought for a moment, then decided to call Molly.

“Henry, you’re alive!” she expressed with great relief over the phone.

“Yeah, I am. What happened while I was out?”

“Well, Ms. Vazquez got away, but we know where she’s going. I told Jenna you wanted something from her mom, we both decided it made sense to not just take her out.”

“That’s great to hear. Where is she going?”

“We’re almost certain she’s heading to an underground government surveillance area. It’s a location frequently mentioned in her files.”

“Where’s that?”

“I’m working on locating it. I know a decent amount about computers but this is pretty intense.”

“Okay. Text me any updates you get.”

“Can do. Shouldn’t be too long. If you plan on going after her too, be sure to gear up. Also, I figured you won’t mind, but I took your car. Not because we needed to, but to keep it safe.”

“Noted. And I appreciate that, thanks Molly.” Henry ended the call.

Shawnathan, Craigory, and Henry headed upstairs. Now, there was what appeared to be a drunken man watching webcam footage in the sophisticated computer station Henry had seen earlier.

“You good Sam?” Shawnathan asked the man.

“Good as I’m gonna get,” he muttered.

Henry just then got a text about the location of the lab, and showed it to Shawnathan, who read it out loud. His roommate Sam turned around confused, and inquired:

“How do you guys know about that?”

“It’s uh, apparently where a psycho cloning lady is going. We’re trying to catch her.” Henry explained.

“Hm. You must be talking about that bitch on project Lazarus. Yeah, she always seemed a bit…sinister.”

Sam struggled to stand, but once he was on his feet, did surprisingly well, given the amount of whiskey bottles underneath his desk. He picked up an M9 handgun from inside a mini-fridge loaded with various alcohols, checked the chamber, then holstered it.

“I can take you guys there. ASAP, I take it?” he looked at the trio with glazed eyes.

“That’d be perfect.” Shawnathan said, seemingly unconcerned about the state of this man’s mind.

Henry let them all to go outside, and hung back. He then picked up some of the equipment sitting around. He strapped on a bulletproof vest, and picked up a laptop-suitcase labeled ‘EMP’ which he was pretty sure shuts off electronics.

He also picked up another, larger case, and went outside and loaded them into the back of the car, as he got another text from Molly saying they were en route to the base.

Shawnathan pulled out a still in-package McDonalds toy from the 90’s.

“Henry, the man who is after you wants to mimic Wilhelm’s strategy and become immortal. Except he wants to use the body of Ronald McDonald. Luckily I was able to intimidate on of the higher-ups to relocate the statue that apparently contains the real deal. It’s in a warehouse now, but this guy, we call him McPatchy because he wears an eye-patch, is onto us. According to a scan I did of my own insides, it must’ve been in a drink I ordered during one of our confrontations. He will most likely arrive at the same time as us, if he’s been hanging at that same McDonald’s.”

“Alright. How much of a threat is he, exactly?”

“He’s developed what seems to be the opposite of me. Some sort of heat-ray. Not quite a flamethrower but, something that produces a lot of heat. I haven’t seen it in action, I didn’t really get a good look at it either.”

“I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” Henry sighed.

Sam’s NSX (an early 2000s NSX, at that) wasn’t in the best shape, but it was moving them along just fine. Craigory produced a CD copy of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and played “Hell’s Bells”. Henry zoned out, and let the music hype him up for the inevitable battle that was to come any minute now. 

They pulled up to a cafe, the name of the place simply called “Gary’s Cafe”. Seemed innocent enough. But as soon as Sam got out, everyone inside reacted as if they already knew him. Henry fetched the things out of the trunk, and the crew walked in, and Sam made his way to the counter.

“Hello sir, may I take-”

“I’ll take last week’s special.” Sam interrupted.

The cashier who was originally feigning a smile now quit, put her arms on her hips and said.

“Who are these people, Sam? You know they can’t enter without permission.”

“They’ve got mine.” Sam grumbled, as he reached by the cashier, and pulled something under the counter. The lights flickered slightly, and a section of the wall in between the men and women’s bathrooms slid away, revealing another door.

“Whatever. If this whole place explodes, it’s not on me.” the cashier retorted.

Sam nodded, and waved the crew to follow him. The wall slid up again after they’d all gone in and the door was closed. They proceeded down some stairs into a bright hallway, all white walls with various doors that had codes written on them.

“What are all these?” Henry said to Sam.

“Mostly traps. Only one actually goes anywhere.” he replied.

SCRT-LB-123 labeled the door Sam approached. He looked into a retinal scanner.

“Access denied.” a voice that sounded just like Siri said.

“It never works when I’ve had a drink or two.” Sam groaned. “Activate manual override.” he told it. A little keypad slid out, and he entered a code, which made the door open.

Henry went to take a step, but Sam wouldn’t go through the door.

“Is everything okay?” Shawnathan put his hand on Sam’s shoulder.

“I think- I think the last time I was here I had my memory erased.” he stuttered.

“By what?” Henry asked, but it was too late. Sam was swept off of his feet by what appeared to be a tail, and Shawnathan immediately rushed into the room, Henry following.

“Is that a giant dilophosaurus?!” Craigory screamed from the doorway. The beast turned around with an elderly sounding “Huh?” Shawnathan had already slid under its legs and frozen them to the floor.

Henry observed the situation, and it looked like Vazquez is working with this thing. He saw Jenna and Molly dealing with more mom-bots, meanwhile Shawnathan and Craigory were taking turns with the dinosaur, one froze, the other attacked, and they alternated.

Henry rushed to help the girls, who were surviving, but struggling. Molly was using a similar device to what Craigory used. Henry rushed over to them, practically plowing through the unexpecting robots.

“Henry! You made it!” Molly shouted, while smacking the wrist device in an effort to make it work.

“Yeah. How’s that working?” Henry asked, while setting a case down.

“Barely. It got damaged.” Molly proceeded taking out bots, while Jenna practically tore the bots apart.

“Here.” Henry slid her a case.

She snapped it open, and pulled out a military issue MP5A3 submachine gun. She whistled at it, then loaded an extended magazine into it and unleashed hell unto these poor robots. While they were tough, They were not bulletproof. It was actually horrifying to Henry seeing them bleed. After all, they were designed to look and act like a real person.

He then pulled out the EMP, and started trying to activate it. Molly ended up taking over after seeing him struggle. Henry joined Jenna in tracking her psychotic ‘mother’

“She tricked that shape-shifting alien into helping her.” she explained as they ran, faster than any normal person could, to the opposite end of the lab. Here, apparently Linda was attempting to store all her research and documents so she could escape.

They rounded the corner, and saw her frantically plugging and unplugging devices, presumably to make sure she had all the data.

“It’s over, ‘Mom’, just give yourself up.” Jenna commanded, angrily.

Vazquez just laughed.

“Come on! You have nowhere to go you maniac, just surrender! What are you going to do with all that research now?” Jenna yelled, now visibly furious.

“You stupid girl. Do you really think I was going to try and just escape with all this?” Vazquez gestured to all the laptops and hard drives scattered about. “I already know I’m doomed against you. At least, like this.” she smiled, and hit a button on the control panel, and then she collapsed. Henry ran to the body, and noticed a cable leading from her back to the computer.

“I think- I think she uploaded herself.” he said in awe.

Bad Connection by Caroline Ryan

Chapter 1

Like most people, Francine didn’t know who had invented Wi-Fi, nor did she know who had founded Starbucks. Usually, not knowing things wasn’t much of a problem for her – whatever she didn’t know was just a thought and a mental Internet search away. As she tried to open her databases to find out, though, she was greeted with bright red letters, flashing in front of her eyes: NO INTERNET CONNECTION.

If she ever found out who was behind the Starbucks Wi-Fi, Francine was going to have words with them. Many words. Many rude, four-letter words. And probably some punching, for good measure.

“Come on,” she muttered, tapping at her laptop keyboard as the signal vanished for the fifth time that day. The coffee she’d ordered solely for aesthetic purposes had already gone cold, and she had barely made any progress in her research project, although it was debatable whether that was really the WiFi’s fault. Grumbling, she shut her laptop and leaned back in her chair, glowering down at her neon green UFO sticker.

She could wait for the signal to blink back on and actually get started on her project due next week. That was definitely a possibility that she could consider, if she felt like it.

… Or, she could do literally anything else. And with that thought in mind, Francine tossed her full coffee cup towards the trashcan (5.3 miles an hour at a 37.6 degree angle, her measurement systems unhelpfully supplied), picked up her laptop, and hopped out of her seat. A bell jingled as she pushed open the door to Starbucks, stepping out into the chilly night air.

At least, it would be chilly, if her temperature sensors weren’t malfunctioning yet again. The orange warning sign in the corner of her vision was the least of her technological problems.

The city was weirdly silent for eleven at night – usually, by this point, at least one weird thing was going on. Francine didn’t usually get too involved with the shenanigans happening around her, but they gave her something to pay attention to when ignoring her homework, and every now and then, following an exciting car chase or an avalanche of frogs would lead her straight to someone who was asking for trouble.

(Her mom insists that “vigilante justice” isn’t a good hobby, and Francine should make better use of her time. Francine agrees to disagree on that.)

Unfortunately for her Batman impersonation, the streets around her were quiet – almost too quiet, if there was such a thing. She headed down the sidewalk, the street lamps blinking on and off above her head. Her boots crashed loudly against the concrete, and the sound echoed against the nearby buildings, creating a discordant harmony. Any minute now, she told herself. Any minute now, something cool was going to happen.

A text message blinked into the upper left corner of Francine’s vision. From Dad, twenty-eight seconds ago – where are you?

One of the curses of literally being technology was that there was no way for Francine to have “accidentally” missed the message. be home soon, she sent back.

Text from Dad, seventeen seconds ago – home by midnight?

Of course, Francine had been planning on saying yes. She had been all set to send the message and head for home, jogging as quickly as an automaton can. She had every intention of going to bed at a reasonable time, and waking up early tomorrow to finish her research paper. Without a doubt, all of those thoughts were definitely going through her head, and she was definitely going to do all of those actions, and that was the absolute truth.

A black van roared past her on the street, with tinted windows and a very suspicious look. Small objects kept falling from its windows, one of which rolled towards Francine. Careening after it was a small blue car, and hanging out of the window was a frazzled-looking McDonald’s employee, brandishing what she was pretty sure was nothing less than a freeze ray. Rounding out the trio was – and Francine did a double take – a neon yellow 1973 Dodge Challenger Rallye 340, driven by a man who appeared to be shouting at himself. The cars veered around the corner, tires screeching, and disappeared, leaving deafening silence in their wake.

Leaning down, Francine picked up the object that had rolled towards her and turned it around in her fingers – it was a slightly burnt chicken nugget. She felt her face quirk up into a grin. If nothing else, this night had just gotten a hell of a lot more interesting.

We’ll see, she sent to her dad, and took off running without reading his response.

 

Chapter 2

The three cars barreled down the streets of the city, the roar of their engines only interrupted by the occasional loud ice pun or German swear word. The black van in front had maintained a steady lead, but that was slowly slipping now, as the ice sticking to its tires was causing some problems. In the car behind them, the McDonald’s employee kept shooting his freeze-ray, although his aim appeared to be getting worse and worse – half of the sidewalk lampposts and quite a few pedestrians found themselves stuck to the spot after each terrible joke. The yellow car didn’t seem to have any purpose in the chase, aside from swerving violently across the lanes and changing the music station every five seconds from rock to classical. However, Francine had no real reason to be there, either, so she couldn’t really judge.

Speaking of Francine, she was pretty sure she had earned herself an Olympic medal in dodging by this point. As she’d chased the cars into the downtown area, the number of stray blasts from the freeze ray she’d had to avoid was reaching numbers even she couldn’t calculate – and she could count pretty damn high. She hopped around another frozen person on the sidewalk and ducked away from another freeze-ray blast, doing her best to keep up with the line of cars.

Despite the McDonald’s employee’s aim, a few more shots of ice hit their mark, and the black van veered off of the road, spinning its way into an old Blockbuster parking lot. The other two cars followed it off of the road; the yellow car parked haphazardly, while the blue one appeared to be parallel parking behind it.

“Craigory,” bellowed the McDonald’s employee, still hanging out of the window of the blue car, “we don’t have time for traffic rules! There is injust-ice to be fought!”

“Man, I’m just trying to park,” said the driver, who Francine now saw was yet another McDonald’s employee.

The freeze-ray employee’s response was lost in a loud crash, as the black van careened into the defunct Blockbuster store. Glass shattered as the engine sputtered, and the men in the van threw their doors open and stumbled out, coughing.

“Thieves!” shouted the McDonald’s employee, hopping out of the window and leaving Craigory to his parking job. “Return what you have stolen, or face my wrath!”

“Dude,” said one of the thieves, “it’s just chicken nuggets.”

What ze hell is a chicken nugget?” demanded a voice in a heavy German accent, and Francine turned to see the driver of the yellow car. He shook his head and answered his own question, dropping the accent: “Uh, it’s like a tiny piece of chicken? I’ll explain later.”

Francine ran the numbers – 35% chance of just being slightly eccentric, 30% chance of pretending to be slightly eccentric for fun, 25% chance of practicing a ventriloquy act, and 10% chance of being a ghost vampire trapped inside a contemporary man’s body, or other such supernatural nonsense. Knowing her luck, it was the last option.

“Just chicken nuggets?” the McDonald’s employee repeated, aiming his freeze ray. “Prepare to be… pulver-iced.”

“Shawnathan, that was awful,” Craigory muttered from the blue car.

Despite pointing the ray directly at the thief who’d spoken, ice and snow flew all over the parking lot as the employee pulled the trigger. Francine ducked to avoid a particularly nasty-looking snowball, which exploded on the concrete behind her. The thieves scattered, but with accuracy and precision errors that high, there was nowhere they could run, and ice soon covered the feet of all three of them.

Shawnathan kept the freeze-ray aimed at them. “Any last words?”

“Yeah,” said one thief, pointing at Francine and the driver of the yellow car. “What the hell are they doing here?”

Francine looked over at the driver, who gave her a hapless shrug.

Shawnathan didn’t even give them a glance. “They’re watching justice get served,” he said. “Now – ”

The Blockbuster behind him exploded with a loud roar, and the entire parking lot plunged into a deep shadow. Francine squinted up at the store; something was rising out of the crushed ceiling. Something with a very long neck, and some frills on that neck, and a tail. Something that looked a lot like – like –

Is that a dinosaur?” Craigory screamed from the blue car.

Francine flipped through her databases, trying to match up the silhouette. “Uh – dilophosaurus!” she shouted. “Early Jurassic, bipedal, about twenty feet, state dinosaur of Connecticut – ”

The dilophosaurus roared, stepping out of the Blockbuster and onto the thieves. Shawnathan managed to roll away just in time to avoid its claws.

“Who cares!” Craigory shouted, starting his car. “We gotta go!”

“Not so fast!” Shawathan declared, pointing his freeze ray at the dilophosaurus.

“That’s a dinosaur!

“It’s stepping on the chicken nuggets!”

“To hell with the chicken nuggets!”

As the employees bickered, Francine took a step back – at least, she tried to. With growing horror, she glanced down at her boot – completely encased in ice and stuck to the ground. She tugged at it, trying to move, but it wouldn’t budge an inch. (It budged 2.7 millimeters, according to her measuring systems; still not enough to make any significant progress.)

If she got out of this parking lot alive, her first step was fixing her temperature sensors.

“Uh, little help here?” she said, turning to the driver of the yellow car, but she was too late. The yellow car was already in motion, swerving out of the parking lot and as far away from the dinosaur as it could get, leaving nothing but the faint sound of German yelling in its wake.

Slowly, Francine glanced up to see the dilophosaurus. It wore a gaudy-looking necklace in between its frills, and its jaws were curled up into what might’ve passed as a smile, if it wasn’t on a creature that should’ve died 200 million years ago. It caught her eye, and seemed to give her a wink before surveying the rest of town.

From between the dilophosaurus’s feet, two figures came stumbling out of the Blockbuster – one in a stained lab coat, and the other in a stained three-piece suit. “Run, run, run!” shouted the man in the suit. “We have to – why the hell are there so many people here?”

“Justice,” Shawnathan said.

“This is an abandoned Blockbuster!”

“Evil often strikes in the most inopportune of places.”

“We don’t have time for this,” the scientist cut in, her eyes wild. “I don’t know if you all noticed, but that’s a dilophosaurus, from the – ”

“Jurassic period,” Francine said. “Can one of you – ”

“We gotta go,” the man in the suit insisted. “We gotta, we gotta evacuate or something, we – ” He froze, staring at Shawnathan. “Wait a second, you’re the guy in my basement.”

Shawnathan gave him a thumbs up. “I left my rent check for this month in the mailbox.”

The man in the suit kept staring for a moment, then sighed. “I’m not drunk enough for any of this.”

Francine scanned him over: blood alcohol content of 20%. She blinked and scanned again, wondering if her decimal system was broken. “I… I think you’re good,” she said.

He pulled out a flask from his pocket and downed the entire container. “No,” he said. “Now I’m good. Dr. Hammond – ”

“Vasquez,” the scientist snapped.

“Hammond,” the man repeated. “We’ve gotta get out of here.”

“I’m stuck,” Francine said. “Can you, like, unfreeze me, or – ”

The scientist took a knife out of her pocket and tossed it at the block of ice. It whirred in a technological fashion, slicing Francine’s boot free, then flew back to the scientist’s hand like a boomerang.

“Okay,” Francine said. “I’m gonna have to ask – ”

The dilophosaurus roared, stepping forward.

“Later!” Francine shouted. “I’ll ask later!”

And with that, Craigory drove off like a bat out of hell, the other four sprinting behind him.

 

Chapter 3

 

Fortunately, the four of them running had managed to yell loud enough to convince Craigory to pull over and let them all pile into the car. Unfortunately, Shawnathan had called dibs on shotgun, so Francine found herself squished in the backseat between the drunkest man she’d ever met and a highly suspicious scientist.

Not the team she’d pick to fight a giant dinosaur with, all things considered.

“Okay,” said the drunk man, leaning forward. “Where the hell are we going?”

“Uh, I dunno,” Craigory said, pulling away from the curb and continuing down Main Street. “Away from the dinosaur?”

“Fair enough,” the man said. “But we’re gonna need a better plan than that.”

“I dunno, Sam,” Shawnathan said, glancing back at him. “This seems to be working so far.”

“Not to be rude,” Sam drawled, clearly intending every drop of rudeness, “but you live in my basement, so I don’t really trust your planning skills.”

Shawnathan nodded, turning back around. “Yeah, that’s fair.”

Francine turned to the scientist – Vasquez, she was pretty sure was her name. “You’ve got that tech knife,” she said.

Vasquez shrugged. “I was bored on my lunch break. It’s a simple magnetic – ”

“English, please,” Sam interrupted.

Vasquez blinked, startled. “I – I didn’t even start my complex explanation. That was two words.”

Sam waved his empty flask at her. “Do I look like I can understand anything at this point?”

Francine scanned him again. He was up to 23% blood alcohol content. “How much have you had to drink?”

He shook his head solemnly. “Not enough.”

“Anyway,” Vasquez said. “The knife is a simple magnetic tool. It functions like a boomerang. Simple enough?”

“Not really,” Sam said, “but I’ll live.”

Vasquez rolled her eyes. “Why?” she asked Francine.

Francine shrugged. “Do you have any other useful tech?”

“I have… hmm.” Vasquez frowned, her eyebrows furrowing together. “Maybe – Craigory, is it?”

“That’s me,” Craigory said.

“Take the next left.”

“Where the hell are we going?” Sam asked, leaning forward to glare at Vasquez around Francine.

“My lab,” Vasquez said. “We’re going to pick up a few items.”

Craigory slowed to a stop at the next red light. “You said a left, ma’am?”

“Yes,” Vasquez said. “Why are you stopping?”

A loud roar echoed in the distance behind them.

“The light is red,” Craigory said.

“Your name’s Gregory?” Sam said.

“Uh, Craigory. My parents were – ”

“I don’t really care,” Sam interrupted. “I am… an FBI agent, goddamnit. And I am giving you permission to run this stupid red light.”

“Are you sure? That’s kind of against the – ”

“I know the law! I am the damn law!”

“I just don’t want to get in trouble!”

“Gregory,” Sam said, pausing to take a drink from a different flask, “every other FBI agent in this town has been eaten by a dinosaur. Just run the damn light.”

“Okay, okay, fine,” Craigory said, turning left just as the light turned green.

Vasquez and Sam muttered identical curses under their breath.

“So… are we there yet?” Francine asked.

“I’m going to kill you,” Sam said.

“You can’t kill an automaton.”

“Try me,” Vasquez said, her voice icy.

Francine itched to make a sarcastic comment, but she had a bad feeling that Vasquez was someone who could, and would, follow up on that threat.

“So,” Shawnathan said, turning around in the front seat to look at Sam, “you’re an FBI agent?”

“Yeah.”

“How do you feel about vigilante justice?”

“At this point?” Sam said. “If it can help us fight a giant dinosaur, I’m all for it.”

Shawnathan nodded. “The dinosaur stomped on my chicken nuggets. Its crimes must be stopped.”

“What?” Vasquez said, frowning at the McDonald’s employee.

“Look,” Sam said, “this guy’s lived in my basement longer than I’ve owned my house. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to stop questioning what the hell he’s talking about.”

“Which house is yours?” Craigory asked, squinting at the identical-looking suburban houses.

“The white one.”

“They’re all white.”

“It’s this one,” Vasquez said, and Craigory pulled into the driveway of a house that looked exactly like all of its neighbors. “All right, everybody out. We’re going to my lab.”

Francine hopped out of the car and followed Vasquez in the front door, down a pastel hallway, up a flight of stairs, into an elevator hidden behind a bookshelf, down what seemed like twenty floors, and through the elevator door into a large, metallic room. What seemed to be thousands of large tubes covered the entire floor, each one holding a girl inside. Francine scanned one: 50% chance of life. Schrodinger’s science experiment, apparently.

“You know,” Sam said, taking another sip of his flask (he was up to 27% and rising), “as an FBI agent, I feel like having all these teenage girls in your basement is something I should arrest you for.”

“Oh, shut up,” Vasquez said. “They’re not even fully alive.”

“That makes it even worse, Hammond.”

Vasquez rolled her eyes, striding through the tubes towards a gigantic metal closet. “All right, everyone grab a gun,” she said, opening the door to reveal what looked like an armoury.

“Yep,” Sam said, popping the P. “Definitely illegal.”

“Listen,” Vasquez snapped, grabbing a gun and pointing it at Sam’s face. “Do you want to bicker for the next ten minutes, or do you want to kill a dinosaur and find your husband?”

“I know where Blake is,” Sam said. “He’s – uh.”

“Exactly.” Vasquez tossed the gun at him. “That’s a freeze ray.”

Shawnathan nodded approvingly. “Excellent choice.”

“Can I have a flamethrower?” Francine asked excitedly.

“Uh… yeah,” Vasquez said, tossing one at her. She picked up a laser beam for herself and tossed a pistol at Craigory, who went pale. “All right, move out. We’ve got a dinosaur to catch.”

“She shouldn’t be too hard to find,” Craigory said as they filed into the elevator. “Right, Sam?”

Sam was too busy staring at his flask to answer. “Where the hell is Blake?” he muttered to himself. Francine scanned him again – 30%. His way-above-lethal amounts of alcohol appeared to be finally having an effect on him.

A loud roar thundered through the lab, snapping them all to attention. “Okay, we gotta go,” Vasquez said, hammering the button and closing the elevator doors.

They went up, then down, then out, leaving the house in the same single-file line they’d entered in. They probably would’ve piled back into Craigory’s car, if not for the mass of people outside – five teenage girls, two teenage boys, the half-German ventriloquist from Blockbuster, and…

“Is that the President?” Craigory asked.

Francine ran a quick scan. 50% President of the United States. 50% Queen Elizabeth II. 100% taking butterscotch candies from one of the girls and eating it.

“Jenna,” Vasquez shouted, “get away from the President!”

One of the girls glared at Vasquez, but didn’t respond.

“Uh, hi, Mrs. Vasquez,” said another girl; this one had a plaid cast on her arm. “I wanted to ask if you had any idea where the evil is coming from?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“The evil,” she said. “There’s a huge source of it from somebody near this house. It’s not you.” She pointed at Francine as she said that. “Because you’re a robot.”

“Automaton,” Francine said.

“Is there a difference?”

Francine shrugged. “It sounds cooler.”

“And it’s not these two,” the girl with the cast continued. “They’re just immortals, they’re trying to solve a different murder. And it’s not your daughter or her girlfriend, and I don’t think it’s Scout or Ziggy, either. There’s a vampire in this guy, which is suspicious, but that’s not the source.”

Everything about that explanation flew right over Francine’s head except – “I knew he was a vampire!”

The driver of the yellow car gave her an awkward finger gun.

“Okay,” Sam said (33%). “As the FBI agent here, I’m asking all of you idiots to please get the hell away from the President of the United States. She is… kind of very dangerous.”

“Oh, I’m not dangerous, dearie!” the President said, smiling widely. Her teeth looked sharp. “Molly here was just giving me some butterscotch!”

“Excellent,” Sam said. “Molly, whichever one you are, give her all the butterscotch and then get away from her.”

One of the girls hesitantly handed over a small pile of butterscotch, which the President snatched up eagerly. The pile of people slowly moved up the lawn towards the other five.

“Mom,” Jenna said, frowning. “What the hell is going on?”

“That’s too complicated to explain right now,” Vasquez said.

“The President’s a dinosaur,” Sam said.

“… I guess that works,” Vasquez admitted.

“The President’s a what now?” one of the boys blurted out, eyes wide. He looked very nervous.

“Chill out, Scout,” said one of the girls. “This is probably, like… a giant prank or something.”

“Not a prank,” Sam said. “I would be way more drunk if this was a prank.”

“You’re at 38% blood alcohol content,” Francine said. “And it’s still rising.”

Vasquez looked horrified. “You should be dead twenty times over.”

Sam shrugged. “One of my… many talents.” He appeared to be swaying.

Vasquez shook her head. “Okay,” she said, turning to the gaggle of teenagers. “Jenna knows how to get to my lab. There’s an armoury in there – I need all of you to go grab a weapon.”

“A weapon?” repeated one of the girls. She was glowing slightly, as was the boy next to her, and Francine ran the odds: 65% the immortals the cast girl had mentioned, 20% fae, 15% put on too much highlighter this morning.

“You said dinosaur, right?” the glowing boy said, frowning.

“Dilophosaurus,” Francine said, rattling off the facts again. “Jurassic, bipedal, state dinosaur of Connecticut – ”

“Uh, okay,” the glowing girl said. “I think… we’ll just be going, now.”

With a brief flash of light, the two of them were gone.

The driver of the yellow car – the vampire – shook his head. “Immortals,” he grumbled in his German accent.

“Ziggy,” said Scout, growing pale, “I don’t think this is a prank.”

“Anyway,” Vasquez said loudly, trying to catch all of their attentions away from the disappearing duo. “I’ve got weapons, in my lab. Good dinosaur-fighting weapons. If you all could just – ”

Someone shouted from the right, and Francine turned to see another man in a suit, this one blond with a 0% BAC, sprinting down the street. “Sam!” he hollered. “Sam, where’s the dinosaur?”

“Blake,” Sam said, lifting his flask in greeting. “She’s right there.”

Blake skidded to a halt once he reached Sam, panting. “Right – right where?”

Francine pointed at the President, who was finishing off the last of the butterscotch candies. “Apparently, there.”

“Uh,” Blake said. “That’s the President. We’re looking for a dinosaur.”

“No, you don’t get it,” Sam said. He swayed on his feet.

Blake eyed him warily. “How much have you had to drink?”

“He’s at 42% and rising,” Francine said.

“The President,” Sam said, “is – ”

“Molly, dearie,” the President interrupted, giving the crowd of people a wide grin, “do you happen to have any more butterscotch?”

“No,” Molly said.

“Hmm. A shame!” Her hand reached for the necklace she wore – which, Francine realized too late, was a 99.7% match for the necklace on the dilophosaurus. “I suppose a few more agents and the rest of you will have to do instead!”

A quick turn of her fingers, and the dinosaur surged up in front of them, neck frills flaring in the night gloom.

Someone screamed. Someone cursed. Someone burst out crying.

“Oh,” said the girl with the cast. “There it is.”

Sam downed the rest of his flask, then tossed it away and drew his weapon. “Francine,” he said. “What am I at now?”

“45%.”

“Still not enough.”

Francine took a deep breath, staring up at the dinosaur. It winked at her again, baring its teeth. She held up her flamethrower – 89% chance of hitting the target – and put a finger on the trigger. “It’ll have to do,” she said.

 

To be continued… maybe.