Broken Ashes, NaNoWriMo 2014

Chapter 1

Time seemed to go ever so slow as the spherical spaceship traveled through the dazzling blue lights of the Time Stream. Rendezvous, a gray-haired, aged man, sat sideways in his captain’s chair, feet hanging off the side, head hung over in boredom. To pass the time, the crew decided to play some classical music from Rendezvous’ home planet, Grailbad. The music only added to his boredom.

It was finally too much for him. Rendezvous stood up and huffed away out a side door. All the bridge officers stared in wonder as they watched their captain storm off the bridge. They wondered what the matter was. But their worries soon began to float away with the sounds of the music filling the control room.

Rendezvous shook his head as he walked into his ready room. He plopped down into the padded leather chair that sat behind his desk, and swiveled around to take a good look at the massive curved window behind him. It spanned from ceiling to floor, and from wall to wall. It was the perfect viewport for him to see what was ahead: A blue glow encasing the ship, red streams swirling behind it. As they passed, Rendezvous could note the different planets and star systems being sent back in time thousands of years. He wondered how it felt, to go back in time.

Swiveling around once more to face the room, Rendezvous reluctantly pressed a button on the side of his desk, and a blue image of a planet appeared in the middle of the room. Flying blue objects appeared around it, barely noticeable, as they were traveling so fast. A battle was being fought both above and below the skies. And this battle would come to a drastic end, Rendezvous knew.

As if a silent call had been made, the ships hovering around the planet seemed to back away from the planet, flying into nothingness as they vanished. And, all of a sudden, there was a flash of bright light emanating from the planet. A few seconds later, the light contracted back to the planet, and a blast blew from all side, sending a shockwave of rock, metal, and energy in every direction.

Rendezvous sat forward in his chair, leaning on his desk. He watched intently as the events, which he had all seen before, unraveled before his eyes. In a fit of rage, he slammed his hand down on another button on his desk, and the image disappeared. Tears fell from his face onto his desk. He stood up straight, wiped his eyes, and turned back around at the window, watching time being reversed as he stood there.

Then the words came. “Sir,” a low voice said through a speaker by the door, “we’ve arrived at the appointed time point.”

“Good,” Rendezvous responded in a menacing voice. As he did, the blue glow outside his window slowly faded away until all that was left was the blackness of space, dotted with the white glow of stars. He turned around and walked out of his ready room. He took his place back at his captain’s chair, and gave the command.

“Begin travel to planet Earth,” he said in an authoritative voice. The helmsman nodded, and stars began to fly by as they rocketed off to the pre-determined coordinates. Rendezvous’ eyes grew ever wider as they began to accelerate. This was finally his chance to undo a wrong, no matter how many lives may be taken in the process.

* * *

The buzzing of the alarm clock forced Kristen to open her eyes. Light was flooding in through a window on the opposite side of her bedroom, illuminating the large digital numbers on her clock. 6:30 is too early, she moaned to herself. She hid her head under her covers for a moment, trying to gain the strength to start the day. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and threw the blanket off of herself. She sat straight up, opening her eyes, only to be blinded by the light from across the room.

Kristen sighed. She already knew today wasn’t going to be a good day. She struggled to get her clothes on, and nearly broke down crying as she walked past her sister’s room. She had to sit down by the door to calm herself down and keep from turning into a mess. Walking downstairs, she didn’t even stop and get something for breakfast. She walked straight out the door.

It was early. Kristen could still feel the dew hanging in the air. She took in a deep breath of fresh air. It seemed to fill her lungs not only with refreshing oxygen, but hope also. After a moment of taking in the air, she slowly started to walk toward the road, until she stepped onto the sidewalk. She looked up and down the street, but saw nobody. She looked down at her watch, noticing that she was an hour early for the bus. So she simply sat down on the curb.

Minutes felt like hours as she sat there alone. She put her head down in complete boredom, counting the pine needles on the ground. As the morning slowly began to start, she heard cars whizzing by her on the street. Finally, after about half an hour, a girl, about Kristen’s age and height, walked outside. Her brilliant blonde hair shone in the sunlight. She sat down gracefully next to Kristen, who, in all black, seemed to want to be unnoticed.

“Hey,” the girl said in a sweet tone.

Kristen looked up in surprise. A warm smile slowly grew on her face. “Nina,” she noted. But after a few minutes, her depression took the best of her, and warm smile faded away, and she continued counting pine needles.

Nina could tell something was wrong. She had known Kristen ever since they were small children. Kristen was never like this. Nina knew about her sister dying of cancer, but she didn’t know how much of an impact it actually had on her. Nina leaned forward and tried to get a good look at her friend’s face, but Kristen only turned away.

After about another half hour of Nina trying to make conversation with no effect, the school bus arrived. The doors opened up, and Kristen looked up into what seemed to her as a looming darkness. She put her head back down, refusing to leave. But Nina, like all good friends, picked Kristen up and nearly dragged her into the school bus. The bus driver raised an eyebrow as they passed, but simply shrugged it off; they were teenagers.

The two friends slowly made their way to the back of the bus. There, Kristen was plopped down in the seat next to a buff guy who wore a white t-shirt and blue jeans. Kristen looked up at the boy. His distinct spiked-up hair gave away his identity. A smile began to grow on her face again as she kissed her boyfriend.

“How are you?” Alexander asked between pecks from his girlfriend. Kristen didn’t answer. She laid her head on his shoulder and simply gazed out the side window. After futile attempts to talk to her, Alexander got fed up. He waved his hand in front of her eyes, trying to bring her back to reality. “Hello? Earth to Kristen,” he said.

Kristen glanced up at him, but set her gaze back out the window quickly. She couldn’t stand having to face another day. Alexander, finally disgusted with her, pushed her off his shoulder as he scooted away, shaking his head. Kristen was snapped back to reality when she noticed what her boyfriend had done.

“Hey,” Kristen said angrily. “Why’d you do that?”

Alexander glanced over at Kristen in mockery, but then set his gaze back out the window. Kristen was mad now. She didn’t want pity or hostility; she simply wanted to be left alone. In a fit of rage, she grabbed Alexander’s face and gave him a nice flat-handed slap on the cheek.

Shocked, Alexander grabbed his face. He looked over at Kristen in amusement. It was fun to see her mad, he thought. So he continued with his witty attitude. “What, trying to put me in the hospital too?” he said with sarcastic humor.

Kristen froze after hearing that. The image of her sister lying helpless in a hospital bed popped into her mind. She remembered how devastated she felt. Then she replaced the image her of sister with Alexander, and all sympathy she felt was immediately dissolved. She turned back to her boyfriend and, without any sarcasm, said, “Maybe I am.”

Oohs and gasps were being heard all throughout the small bus. Alexander looked over at who he thoughts was his girlfriend, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. He was about to come back with a great line when the school bus stopped—quite abruptly, too. He looked out the window and saw hordes of students flocking the front door of the school, yet not one of them had noticed what was going on inside the bus.

Good, he thought. Can’t be looking like a dork. He looked down the aisle of seats on the bus, and saw all the other kids peeking out from the sides and tops of the leather cushions, looking back at him. They giggled and whispered to each other, but with one glare Alexander silenced them all. The doors to the bus opened, and the kids began to pile out, until only Alexander, Kristen, and Nina were left.

Alexander looked down at Kristen. He now realized something was wrong; her head was hung low, her face in her hands. Alexander put his hand on her back to comfort her, but she brushed it away, rejecting his embrace. He sighed, stood up, and with one last glance at Kristen and Nina, strode off the bus.

Nina watched as Alexander stepped down onto the concrete sidewalk. After he was out of her sights, she looked down at Kristen. She put her arms around her friend, and Kristen suddenly came to life. “You OK?” Nina whispered.

“Yeah,” Kristen replied slowly, as she sniffed away the tears. “I’m fine.” She stood up, walked to the end of the bus, and faced the open door. She saw all the other teenagers walking the campus, maybe some of them like her, maybe not. It didn’t matter, though; today was just another day, no matter what or who she encountered.

The day went by slowly. Each minute felt like hours. She didn’t want to stay and risk breaking down again. So she sat quietly in her seat, took notes, walked to the next class, and did the same. She didn’t make any fuss, didn’t walk in anybody’s way, and barely even made conversation with anyone.

Kristen was walking back to her locker after class when she bumped into another guy walking the opposite direction. Both of their books and papers fell, and Kristen immediately crouched down to pick them up.

“Sorry,” she said, intentionally not making eye contact. The boy didn’t answer. When she had finally picked her books up, she stood up and looked at the boy. He immediately recognized her, and his eyes narrowed.

“You better watch where you’re going, Summers,” he barked. Then, as Kristen was walking off, he added, “Or I’ll put you in the hospital, like your sister.”

That struck Kristen to the heart. She turned around, but the boy was already gone. Her heart starting pounding, her breaths getting more rapid; she could feel another panic attack coming on. She looked around, but all she saw were kids. Through the fog of the rustling crowd, she saw her relief: the bathrooms on the other side of the hall.

Kristen bumped between people, not caring what they said, hiding her face, and slowly making her way to the bathroom. As she made it to the alcove where the two bathrooms—guys and girls—split, she hung a right and entered the girls, immediately turning into a stall, putting her books down, and sitting on the top of the toilet, holding her knees. As her breaths came out quicker, she tried to calm herself down by taking deep breaths. The breaths came out as shudders as her whole body trembled.

After sitting in terror for a few minutes, Kristen heard the door of the bathroom open and close. Her breaths had become shallower, and she had almost calmed down all the way. She looked down to the floor, under the stall divider, and saw a pair of high heels. Kristen immediately recognized it as the school counselor.

Not wanting to be noticed, Kristen put her head in her jacket, trying to silence her sobs. But the counselor, just on the other side of the divider, could still hear sobbing from inside the silent bathroom. She grabbed a paper towel, wiped her hands off, and walked over to the door of the stall.

She knocked. “Hello?” she said in a low, sweet tone. “Is anyone in there?”

Realizing that she couldn’t run from this, and that it was probably the best option for her, Kristen unlocked the door and swung it back, revealing herself sitting on the toilet, her feet on the seat. The counselor gave a worried smile and sighed. She reached out for Kristen’s hand. Kristen reached out, and stepped out into the main bathroom area with the counselor. One good look in Kristen’s eyes, and the counselor could tell that something was wrong.

She grabbed Kristen and walked her out into the hall. All the other kids had gone to lunch; it was completely quiet in the hall, for once. She walked ahead of Kristen and guided her to the office, where the two were going to have a nice, long, meaningful conversation.

The front door of the school swung open. A tall, lean boy, dressed in a red sweatshirt and jeans, ran in. He caught the counselor and Kristen’s attention as he rushed past them, paying them no attention at all. He ran down the halls, racing toward the cafeteria. When he finally made it to the lunch room and opened up the doors, he took a step in, and noticed everyone had stopped eating and was staring at this strange boy.

After a long pause, the ruckus of the teenagers resumed, letting Tyler take a deep breath. He had just sprinted through the entire school. He looked down at his watch. Five minutes twenty-seven seconds, he marveled. A new record! As he fiddled with his watch, he realized it was noon; he was five hours late.

An alarm went off inside his head. He remembered what one of his teachers had said yesterday: “One more tardy attendance and you’ll be suspended, young man.” He didn’t want to be late again, but somehow it had happened. His mind raced as he rushed toward the lunch line. The food smelled good. Today’s special was pizza and mashed potatoes; a strange combination, but it tasted surprisingly good.

Tyler rushed to sit down at one of the round tables. He was in such a rush that, as he slammed his lunch tray down, his mashed potatoes and soda splashed in Nina and Alexander’s faces.

“Nice entrance,” Alexander remarked as he wiped soda off his face. “Sleep in again?”

“Yeah,” Tyler replied between chews. Alexander just shook his head and laughed.

Nina, on the other hand, was concerned about Kristen. “Have either of you seen Kristen recently?” she asked.

“I saw her coming out of Biology,” Alexander stated. “But I haven’t seen her since.”

“As I was coming in,” Tyler said, swallowing his food down, “I saw Miss Debra taking her into the office.”

Nina looked over at Tyler, her face a blur. She looked down at her half-eaten meal, and pushed it away. Alexander graciously slid the tray to himself, and began to devour what was left on it. While he ate the delicious pepperoni pizza, Nina watched him obliviously. Just as he finished, the bell rang; just in time, too. Any longer, and Nina might have been trapped in her trance. The three friends stood up and walked over to the door. They dispensed their trays, and began to blend in to the stream of rushing teenagers outside the door.

As they passed the counselor’s office to go to the next class, they saw Miss Debra talking to Kristen. The tall, dark-skinned woman brushed Kristen’s hair as she nodded to the counselor and slowly walked out into the frenzy in the hallway. She bumped against arms and shoulders which seemed to prevent her from reaching her friends. Yet, somehow, she made her way through the frantic crowd and to her friends, who were all pushing their way through the crowd also.

Kristen looked over at Nina. She was carrying her backpack on her back, but also held a stack of textbooks and notebooks in her arms. “Found these in the bathroom,” she said, struggling under the weight of both loads. “I thought you might need them.”

Smiling, Kristen grabbed her books. “Thanks,” she said, chuckling. They walked down the long hallway in silence; other than the crowd around them muttering in their own little world, the four friends said nothing. As Alexander and Tyler hung a right to go to their next class, Kristen and Nina turned left, and Nina pushed Kristen into an alcove in the wall, where they finally had time to talk.

“Alright,” Nina said, “what’s the deal?”

“With?” Kristen asked, confused.

“I saw you with Miss Debra,” Nina stated. As she said that, the smile faded from Kristen’s face. She looked down at the ground and stared into space. “What’s wrong?” Nina asked, looking down at her.

“Nothing,” Kristen replied, but after noticing her friend’s unbelieving expression, she explained the whole ordeal. Even talking about her sister made her break down into tears, so she didn’t mention that part of the story. She did mention that Miss Debra had asked her to come by after school. “Would you come with me?” Kristen asked, her voice shuddering.

Nina smiled. “Of course,” she said. She grabbed Kristen by the shoulders. Her wide smile was contagious, and soon they both began to giggle. They were both laughing loud by the time they entered the classroom. As they took their seats, they quieted down until they noticed the whole class was staring straight at them. They looked at each other and began to crack up again.

“Mr. Wertacy,” a voice boomed. Tyler, his eyes slowly opening, didn’t know what was happening. He popped his head up immediately to see his teacher, Daniel Schultz, looking over him with scowling eyes. “Would you like to tell me why you are asleep?” he asked, sarcastically.

“Um…,” was the only word that came out of Tyler’s mouth. His eyes were wide, and he could feel his face getting red. He bit his lip in embarrassment. His teacher, not amused with his actions, slammed a paper down on his desk. In large, red ink at the top was the mark, “D-“.

Tyler’s eyes widened. “D minus?” he said, almost yelling.

“If you want to announce your grade to the entire class, I’m fine with that,” Mr. Schultz said.

Tyler looked up at him, completely baffled, when he handed him a paper. It was pink, and said “Detention, Room 2B” on it. Tyler slammed it down on top of his test and slid down in his chair. Today was not going the way he wanted it to. He could only hope the day was going better for his friends.

But it wasn’t.

Alexander wasn’t having that great of a day either. The day started off bad. As he was walking to class, he bumped into another, smaller kid who knocked the books out of his hands. This made him angry, and for the rest of the day, he was furious. He hoped that football practice would calm him down, let him blow off some steam; but when he got there, things only escalated.

The team was doing tackling drills. Alexander, still miffed from the incident earlier in the day, tackled one of the smaller kids a little too hard, knocking them down onto the ground. Immediately as it happened, Alexander knew he was trouble, and regretted the act. The voice of the couch calling from the other side of the field was almost expected. But what he didn’t expect was what the coach was going to say.

“Detention?” Alexander bellowed. “What for?”

“Knocking that kid around,” the coach, aged and wrinkled in the face, said to Alexander. “Now after we finish here, you’re going straight there.” He looked Alexander dead in the eye, to make sure he understood. He almost sized up the boy, who was almost two whole feet taller than the old man.

Alexander sighed. “Fine,” he said. He threw the water bottle he was holding down on the bench beside him. He crumpled up the piece of paper the coach gave him and threw it in the trash can on his way out of the locker room. Along with the rest of the team, he walked out onto the field to finish practice.

Kristen, who had fallen apart during the middle of the day, was now in the counselor’s office for the second time. But this time, her good friend Nina was sitting beside her. Her bright blonde hair seemed to outshine everything in the room, and her radiant face seemed to draw attention from all corners of the room. Kristen was happy to have a friend such as her.

They both turned their gazes as the female counselor came to sit down in her chair across the desk. She slid up to her desk, which held a name plate that stated her name and position: “Miss Debra White, School Counselor.” She flipped her curly brown hair out of her eyes and looked over at the two girls sitting across from her.

“Well hello, girls,” she said, politely as always. Her tone softened as she continued. “I’ve wanted to talk to you recently, Kristen, about your sister.”

The last three words spoken made Kristen’s face turn pale. Nina looked over, and could tell her friend was distressed, so she reached out and grabbed her hand. Kristen looked over at Nina, who simply smiled back at her and nodded. Kristen nodded back, took a deep breath, and turned her head to the woman who was inquiring about her deepest heartache.

“Well,” Kristen said, sighing. “What do you want to know?”

Miss Debra gave a weak, compassionate smile, and started her inquiry; she shuffled the papers on her desk and asked silently, “Well, how have you been doing since your sister’s death?” She tried not to upset the obviously already touchy subject.

“The first few days,” Kristen said, looking over at Nina, who just smiled and nodded, “were the worst. I couldn’t stand it. After the funeral, I pretty much locked myself in my room for everything except eating.”

“You were out from school for that period, correct?” Miss Debra asked.

“Yeah,” Kristen replied. “The principal thought I needed some time to myself to grieve.” Kristen looked down, and muttered, “That was the worst decision ever.”

Miss Debra cocked her head down toward Kristen. “What was that?” she asked.

Kristen looked up. “Nothing,” she said, shaking her head.

Chapter 2

The evening was quiet while the four friends walked home. Lights above the sidewalk switched on as they walked by, illuminating the growing darkness. A cool wind blew across the road; it chilled Kristen’s already worked up nerves.

Kristen looked over at Alexander, and asked, “Where were you today?”

“Detention,” he said plainly, anger in his voice.

“Oh,” Kristen said, moving her gaze to the road beside them.

Alexander sighed and looked over at Kristen. “What about you?” he asked. “Where were you earlier?”

“I… Don’t want to talk about it,” Kristen said, slowly. Her gaze moved down to the ground. She was already shaken up. Talking any more about it would only upset the problem even more.

Nina looked over at her friend, worried. She knew the recent death had taken a toll on her, but she didn’t know how bad it was until today. What had been said in the counselor’s office opened Nina’s eyes to a new Kristen, someone she didn’t know; a darker side of her best friend.

Nina walked up beside Kristen and put her arm around her. She whispered in her ear, “How are you?”

Kristen had heard that too many times. She looked up at her friend, eyes dotted with fury. “Would everyone please stop asking me that?” she said under her breath. She blew a hard breath out of her nose, trying to push the subject aside.

Nina’s eyes widened. She didn’t mean to anger her friend, she was simply concerned. She backed away from Kristen, and followed slightly behind the rest of the friends. She looked down at the ground, her face slightly less radiant.

The day seemed like it was the worst day ever for Tyler. He knew it would only get worse once he got home, though. He sighed and threw his head up in frustration. He rubbed his eyes with his hands. The day seemed to take everything out of him. When he removed his hands, he saw a tiny light in the sky. It wasn’t a star or a plane; it burned bright red as it flew across the sky.

“Hey,” Tyler said curiously to the rest of the group, “what’s that?” He pointed to the mysterious object in the sky.

Alexander looked over at the designated object. “It’s just a shooting star,” he said dismissively, shrugging his shoulders. He was more interested in comforting Kristen, so he walked over to her and put his arm around her.

Tyler squinted at the object. He knew what a shooting star looked like, and this was not one. “No,” he said, “that’s not a shooting star.”

Alexander looked over at Tyler this time, his eyes narrowed. “What, you think it’s a UFO or something?” he asked sarcastically, followed by a sarcastic laugh.

“Leave him alone,” Nina piped up from the back. “He can dream if he wants to.”

“I’m not dreaming!” Tyler said, raising his voice. “That is not a shooting star. It’s something else, and I think it’s coming straight for us.”

“Give it a rest,” Kristen said, in an uncaring tone. She continued to hang her head low as she walked along.

Tyler looked around at his uncaring friends. He knew they were in danger, but nobody would listen. He waved at them dismissively, as if he didn’t care about them anymore. He had such a rough day at school that he really didn’t care what he lost. He looked down at the street beside him.

As the group walked under a group of trees, a bright red glow began to flood the street. It started as a light tint on the ground, but eventually grew to a large glow blocking out the sky. The kids looked up, and, coming through the trees, was a small rock, not bigger than a fist. It fell right at the feet of the walking group.

They stopped, and looked down. They were all frozen; they didn’t know what to think. The first person to say something was Tyler.

“See!” he exclaimed. “I told you it was coming for us!”

The rest just looked at him, their faces still wearing their shocked reaction. Tyler shrugged. He got closer to the object, which was glowing with a red pulse. He reached his hands out to the rock, and the glow began to pulse faster. As he lifted it up, it felt warm in his hands—slightly soothing, even.

“Stop,” Nina said, “don’t touch it. It could be dangerous. You could get hurt or vaporized or something.” Kristen looked over at her, confused. “What?” Nina added. “’I’ve watched a few science fiction movies.”

The groups watched as Tyler picked up the space rock and stood up. He turned around and gave the rest a look at this amazing specimen. Heat radiated out from it, along with a light red glow. Tyler had to hold it with his jacket sleeves over his hands. Although it wasn’t enough to kill someone, he still wanted to be cautious.

Kristen reached her hand out to it. “It’s warm,” she stated. The rest just nodded obliviously.

“Of course it is,” Tyler said. “It just came burning through the atmosphere.”

“Then why aren’t you getting burnt?” Alexander asked, curiously.

“It’s not hot enough to burn flesh,” Tyler replied. “Plus, I have a jacket on.”

Nina pushed between Alexander and Kristen, and gazed at the rock for a long time before reaching her hand out. Alexander, not wanting to be left out, reached his out also. But as they all reached their hands forward, the red pulsing of the rock stopped. The kids looked around at each other, curious and also cautious.

As they began to move their hands away, a shockwave emanated from the rock, knocking all four kids down onto the ground. They passed out even before they hit the ground. The rock fell in the middle of the group, perfectly placed back in the crater it made as it landed. As it hit the ground, it began to glow bright like a beacon, like it was calling out to someone.

A shadowed figure walked out from a nearby alleyway. He looked down at the passed-out kids as he walked between them toward the rock. His steps crunched as he entered the crater. He picked up the rock, and immediately it quit glowing, restoring the area to darkness. His face couldn’t be seen underneath the dark hood he wore.

As he walked back over to the alleyway, he pushed a button, and the lifeless bodies that lay on the sidewalk disappeared into a burst of light. He turned back to the alleyway, and vanished into the shadows. The neighborhood became dark and quiet once more.

Chapter 3

The next morning, Kristen’s alarm buzzed and she woke up just like the morning past. But as she entered her bathroom, and looked at herself in the mirror, she knew something was wrong. She remembered what happened the night before, but she didn’t ever remember coming home. How could she have come home without her knowing?

As she sat down on her bed, Kristen went over the events of the day before. She remembered she was in the counselor’s office with Nina, she remembered the kids walking home, and she remembered Tyler obsessing over something in the sky. Then she remembered the meteor—rock, fragment of an asteroid, whatever it was—and it clicked in her brain: Maybe what Tyler saw, and the rock that fell at their feet, had some effect on her memory.

She continued evaluating the night. Tyler picked up the rock; it was pulsing red. After they put their hands over it, the pulsing stopped and there was a shockwave that knocked them all out. But after that, everything was a blur. She remembered seeing a shadowy figure looking over them, but then everything turned black. After that, she remembered waking up this morning.

Something wasn’t right, and she knew it. But she knew she could do nothing except go about her normal business—school, homework; life as usual. She got dressed, brushed her hair, and headed downstairs. But there was too much on her mind to think about anything else. As she stepped down off the last stair and turned to enter the kitchen, she was wacked in the face with the refrigerator door.

The door closed, and Kristen’s mother saw her daughter lying on the floor by the stairs. “Kristen!” she exclaimed.

Kristen put her hands over her face, trying to conceal the pain she was feeling—not only physical, but emotional also. “I’m fine,” she said. After a moment, she began laughing. She removed her hands, and her face was red with laughter.

Her mother was baffled, not knowing what to think. Instinctively, she started laughing as well. She helped her daughter up, and the two stood by the fridge, laughing. Finally, they both calmed down, and Kristen looked her mother in the eye, but it was too much; Kristen started chuckling again. She walked past her mother, opened the fridge, and grabbed a glass of milk.

She closed the fridge and walked around the island that stood in the middle of their open kitchen. She sat on a stool that stood opposite to where her mother was, rinsing dishes in the sink. As Kristen drank her milk and munched on a pop tart, her mother looked up and over at her, obviously ready for a long, drawn-out conversation.

“So,” she said, putting her wet hands on the side of the sink. “Where were you last night? You were out late, and I didn’t hear you come in.”

“It’s a long story,” Kristen replied, her mouth full.

Her mother looked over at her, not amused. “Kristen,” she said, concern in her voice, “I just want to know where you were.”

Kristen looked up at her mother, not ready to tell her everything. But she did let out something she didn’t think she’d ever say. “I stayed late at school,” she said, looking down at the granite countertop. “The counselor wanted to talk to me.”

Kristen’s mother looked up at her, her motherly instincts immediately kicking in. “About what?” she asked.

“Recent events,” Kristen said suggestively. Immediately, her mother got the drift. She looked down at the sink, grabbed a towel, and began drying her hands off.

There was a quiet that came over the air. Neither mother nor daughter said anything for a long while. Finally, mother cleared her throat and said, “Shouldn’t you be going?”

Looking at the clock, Kristen nodded. She dropped her cup in the sink, stood up, and walked out the door. Outside, she stood with her back to the door, looking up and thinking. A cool breeze blew over her, just enough for her to get the energy to go. She walked out to the sidewalk and sat down on the curb, as was custom now.

Nina walked up just minutes later and sat with her friend on the sidewalk. Neither friend talked; they didn’t want to start another heated conversation. Finally, not being able to stand the silence, Kristen said, “So… Last night.”

Nina nodded. “Yeah,” she said. Looking over at her friend, she knew they were both thinking the same thing. Neither of them said anything, though. The school bus pulled up, they got on, rode to school, and got off without either of them saying anything to anyone.

But they couldn’t stay silent forever, though. The school day, once again, beat the girls down. Kristen still didn’t feel confident, and at every corner, she felt she was hearing people’s voices when nobody as talking to her. Maybe it was all in her head; maybe she was just paranoid.

And that was the pattern all day for all four of the kids. Nina seemed to fly through her Physical Fitness test. Alexander, in the same class, almost pulled the climbing rope off the ceiling, obviously not knowing his own strength. Tyler, who was actually on time for school that day, made all A’s on his assignments. It baffled not only his teachers, but himself.

To say the day was interesting wouldn’t even begin to sum up that day. These four kids, who previously had not been able to achieve such ‘amazing’ feats, were now passing through them with flying colors, like they were nothing at all. Not only did it baffle the teachers, but the kids themselves were speechless.

In fear of pulling too much unwanted attention, the kids decided to walk home. But the walk was quiet; nobody wanted to talk. And when they did start talking, they all started talking at once. It was like frenzy; nobody would listen to anybody else because they were too obsessed with their own problems.

So they parted ways, fed up with each other. Tyler walked off to his house, Alexander to his, and Nina and Kristen continued off to theirs. Silence prevailed for a long time, but as soon as the two boys left listening range, the girls started talking.

“So,” Kristen said. “I heard you did some amazing things in gym class today.”

“And I heard you were hearing voices all day,” Nina replied. She looked over at her friend, and they both broke into laughter. Both their days sounded weird, but it almost sounded like they were trying to out-do the other. At least the tension of days past had faded away.

“It’s strange,” Kristen said. “It’s like, if I concentrate hard enough, I can hear people’s thoughts.”

Nina looked over at Kristen, her eyes wide. “Are you reading what I’m thinking right now?” she asked, feeling her privacy broken.

“Of course not,” Kristen replied with a chuckle. “I told you, I have to be concentrating.”

“Oh,” Nina said, wiping imaginary sweat off her brow. “Then go ahead,” she said, stopping. “Tell me what I’m thinking.”

Kristen looked at Nina curiously, but she just nodded. Kristen, taking a deep breath, shook her head clear and closed her eyes. There was a long silence; Kristen looked like she was struggling. She stood, motionless, for a long time, her expression staying the same. But all of a sudden, she snapped back to reality, her eyes wide and her breathing heavy.

“So?” Nina asked, excitedly. Kristen just stared at her. “What?” She looked down at her shirt. “Do I have something on me?”

“No,” Kristen said, chuckling. “I saw… I don’t know… It was like…” She couldn’t come up with the words. “It was like… I saw what you were thinking.”

The eyes on Nina’s face widened, before her mouth finally grew into a wide smile. The smile was contagious, and soon both girls were walking down the sidewalk again, laughing as they skipped along. They put their arms around each other and began skipping in sequence.

They stopped in front of Kristen’s house. It took a moment for the girls to stop laughing so hard. When they finally did, they said their goodbyes and parted ways. Kristen wiped her eyes as she walked up the stairs; she had been laughing so hard, she was crying. As she walked inside, she was hit by a pleasant aroma; dinner was cooking.

“Mmm… What is that wonderful smell?” Kristen asked in a dazed tone.

“Roast,” her mother replied from the kitchen. Her voice carried a tone as though she wasn’t happy with something. Kristen looked over at her confused. Kristen didn’t bother the subject, though; she just rushed for the stairs and ran right into her bedroom, where she lay down on her bed. She closed her eyes and sat for a long while.

As Kristen was laying there in her room, a strange feeling came over her. She had chills. It felt as though someone was reaching out to her, trying to communicate with her. She felt a physical touch on her shoulder, and jolted upward. Nobody was in her room.

After a moment of heavy breathing, she finally calmed down and lay back down. But as she closed her eyes, she felt it again. This time, however, the touch was associated with a brief image, one of a gray-haired, young man in a suit. He looked dashing, but his eyes were full of fury. This image was also associated with fear and panic.

Kristen’s eyes snapped open, but this time she was motionless. What was that, she thought. She sat up in her bed and looked around; again, nobody was in her room. She didn’t know what was happening. All she could do was lay back down on her bed. However, this time she faced the tiny opening she called a window beside her bed. She looked out and watched the world go on around her.

* * *

That evening was like any other night. Kristen had dinner with her family, did her homework, and went to bed. But that image of the man stuck in her head. She was bothered by it the whole night. She couldn’t go to sleep, no matter how hard she tried. She sat up and looked out her window. She crunched up beside it, holding her knees. As she thought more and more about the vision, she wanted to close her eyes.

So she did. She closed them and concentrated on what she had seen earlier. She focused on the face. The face was young; it didn’t match the hair at all. But the eyes which rested on it had seen many tragic things. The hair, gray and torn, was long. It hid missing patches on sides. The suit, which didn’t look like any ordinary suit, was a very elegant suit; it composed of a white collared shirt, a black coat, and a black tie which ran underneath the coat to finish it off. It looked as if it was all made out of very elegant, exotic fabrics, things Kristen had never seen before.

This was all too much for Kristen. Her eyes snapped open. She took a deep breath, collecting herself once again. She thought about the day, while at the same time focusing on the face. She couldn’t bear it; it was too much for her. She grabbed her jacket from her dresser and jumped out her window.

She had done this before many times. Any night she couldn’t sleep, she would sneak out her window and give a visit to Nina. Unfortunately, Kristen’s bedroom was on the second floor of her house. Fortunately, Nina’s room was only on the first floor of her house.

Reaching the edge of the porch roof, Kristen looked down. It was a long way to the ground. She had done this numerous times, but it still scared her half to death to do it. Taking a deep breath, she jumped. When she hit the ground, she crouched low; she made sure no one could see her. Looking around, she slowly stood up and walked toward sidewalk.

She put her hands in her jacket pockets as she headed toward Nina’s house. She knew it was a long distance to walk. Normally she would have ridden her bike, but now she had time to think. As she passed underneath the street lamps, her short figure made long shadows on the road. She watched them as they appeared and disappeared with the light.

Then something caught her eye. It was a streak of gray light which passed by her shadow. The object was too fast for her to make out what it was. As it passed by again, though, she focused on it, and time seemed to slow down. What she saw both amazed her and shocked her.

The object was Nina. As she passed, she looked over at Kristen, her eyes slowly blinking. Her expression, which was one of excitement, changed into shock and confusion. Kristen blinked again, and time resumed with full force. Nina’s passing blew up a wind which nearly knocked Kristen back. She was just fixing her hair when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.

She wasn’t fast enough to dodge it. Nina ran into her full-force, knocking both down onto the concrete sidewalk. As Nina picked herself up, Kristen lay on the ground, grabbing her stomach in pain. Nina, truly concerned about her friend, looked down at her face. Surprisingly, it was a blur of tears and laughter. The laughter, as awkward as it was, spread, and soon both were cracking up.

Kristen stood up, slowly, and looked over at Nina wide-eyed.

“What was that,” she tried to ask, but was hushed by her friend.

“Don’t tell anyone,” Nina said, looking around. “You know how you said you heard I flew through gym class today?” Kristen nodded. “Well, this is why,” Nina explained. “Apparently, I’m super-fast.”

Chapter 4

Kristen was baffled. Her eyes were as big as marbles, staring at her friend. She had no idea what to think. How did this happen? How did any of this happen? Hesitantly, Kristen explained what had happened that night. Nina nodded, listening intently.

“That rock,” Nina muttered. She looked up at Kristen, who looked down at her, confused. “That rock that fell from the sky the other night,” she explained, excited now. “It was pulsing, like something was inside of it, or something was on it. When we touched it, it stopped and sent out some kind of shockwave.” She looked Kristen in the eyes. “What if that’s the reason we’re like this?

“We weren’t the only ones touching it,” Kristen added, staring wide-eyed at her friend. She wondered what this meant for her friends, who were there with her that night as all this happened. What did this mean for each of them? What did this mean for their friendship?

Nina looked up at the sky. “It’s midnight already,” she said, pointing to the full moon directly above them. Kristen looked up, and realized she had to get back home before her parents realized she was gone.

“I’ve got to go,” Kristen said, backing away toward her house.

“Bye,” Nina said obliviously, looking up at the sky. She moved her gaze back down at Kristen, her eyes full of concern. Without even saying a word, she put fright into Kristen’s soul. Kristen, wide-eyed, nodded, turned around, and headed back to the front door of her house, her pace quickening.

As she opened the front door, she knew exactly what was going to happen, but there was no way of preventing it. She took a deep breath and walked inside, ready for yet another fight.

Her mother was at the kitchen counter, as always, and her father, tall, skinny, and hairy, sat at his computer in the living room. As the door closed, both parents looked back at their child. Kristen looked down at the floor as they both approached her and began yelling questions and accusations at her.

“Where were you?” her mother asked.

“I thought you were in bed,” her father added.

“You could’ve been killed!”

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It’s past curfew!”

“Get in bed,” her father finally finished. This was the one thing Kristen wanted to hear. She quickly walked over to the stairs, her head still hung high.

“Kristen Alexandria Summers,” her mother said through a voice full of rage. Kristen quickly spun around and looked at her mother.

“What?” Kristen asked under her breath, her voice rising. “What do you want?”

“You will not speak to me that way,” her mother replied, glaring right at her daughter.

“Make me,” Kristen said. Her mother was about to rush over there, her towel handy, when her husband stopped her. She looked up, and he shook his head. Snatching her arm away from him, she looked back at Kristen, who was now heading upstairs.

She entered her room and slammed the door behind her. Kristen couldn’t believe her parents. She couldn’t help but let out a scream. Plopping down on her bed, she looked up at the ceiling while her thoughts floated around in her head. She stared at the angled roof for a long time, until finally she broke. A tear rolled down her face, and all at once she let it out; a loud, heavy sob, followed by several more.

Her parents, standing outside the door, looked at each other guiltily. Were they doing the right thing? Somehow, they didn’t know if they were good or bad parents. They listened to their daughter cry, but as the sobs quieted they came to their senses. They weren’t the one at fault. Lifting their heads back up, they walked away from the door, leaving Kristen all alone.

* * *

The darkness of night was immediately illuminated as Alexander walked into the garage. He went straight for the bench press in the corner of the room. He sat down, put on his gloves and lay down below the bar. He gripped it firmly, and took it off the hooks. He began to push it up and pull it back down toward himself.

Soon the weight he had on wasn’t enough; it was too easy. He took it off and chose a heavier weight. When that became too easy, he began to increment it. He had gone all the way to 250 pounds, more than a quarter over his own weight, and he still wasn’t at his max. Alexander put down the bar and sat up in amazement.

But the amazement faded as he heard yelling coming from inside the house. He hung his head in frustration as his father burst through the door, enraged. The peaceful garage exploded into a battle ground of screams. His father, finally having enough with the argument, threw a rag at the tearful woman standing in the doorway—his wife—and stomped over to the car. Getting in the driver’s seat, he started it up, and sped out the driveway.

Alexander looked back over at the door and saw his mother watching the car leave. She stared at the car as it sped off into the distance, carrying the man inside it far away. Alexander, now enraged himself by his parents, sat back down and started pressing the weights again. His rhythm became faster and faster until finally he threw the bar. All 250 pounds flew upwards, crashing into the ceiling.

As he sat back up, puffing, the weights fell behind him onto the floor. He stood up and walked over to the door. He looked his mother straight in the eye. She wore a blank stared on her face.

“You finally ran him off,” he said. “Didn’t you?”

She didn’t answer, though. She only stared at him with the same blank look. Alexander puffed, pushing his mother aside as he walked inside. He stomped through the hallway into the kitchen, slamming the door shut behind him. When he did, his mother, still standing motionless in the doorway, was snapped back into reality. Closing her eyes, she realized what she had done. She thought about walking back inside and pursuing her son, but she disregarded the thought; it wouldn’t help anything.

* * *

The next day at school, everything seemed to be the same. Tyler arrive at school half-asleep; he had stayed up all night working on robotics and mathematics—things he usually didn’t. When he found out there was an important test today, he immediately snapped out of his sheepish trance and started to panic. He hadn’t studied at all—he was completely unprepared.

The tests were handed out, and groans went out throughout the class. Those prepared casually picked up their pencils and began jotting down the answers. Those unprepared began to panic. Tyler, one of those unprepared, looked around the room, his eyes darting from person to person. His breaths became shallower and shorter.

But then like an angel from heaven, he was calmed. He looked down at his paper and picked up his pencil. Slowly moving his hand toward the paper, the questions seemed to answer themselves. His hands were a blur of graphite. After just two minutes, he slammed his pencil down and sat back as the teacher came and retrieved the tests. He was done first, which was amazing—he usually wasn’t.

Putting his hands behind his head and his feet on the desk, he sat back and watched the other students rush to finish. The ticking of the clock was the only sound in the silent classroom for thirty minutes. One by one the students finished, the smarter ones finishing first. As the teacher passed by, those unsure of themselves sat on the edge of their seats, biting their fingernails.

The bell rang, releasing the tension in the room. Students picked up their backpacks and piled out the doorway. As they were leaving, the teacher said something about picking up their tests the next day. Nobody heard her over the chatter and clatter of the loud teenagers.

As Tyler walked by the teacher, she stopped him and handed him a sheet of paper; it was his test. She had had enough time to grade the test before everyone else finished. Written in red ink on the top of the test was a large “A+” with a circle scribbled around it.

“Good job, Tyler,” the teacher said. She looked up at him and smiled. But when she looked at him, she noticed something in his face—surprise. But then he turned and walked out the door, leaving her to her own thoughts.

Tyler smiled as he walked out the door. He couldn’t believe what was going on; he actually aced a test. As he walked out of the classroom, he met up with Nina and Kristen, who were walking to the cafeteria.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Nina and Kristen replied in chorus.

Nina looked over at him suspiciously. “What’s with the smile?” she asked.

“Oh nothing,” he said. He raised his paper so they could see it. “Just this.”

Nina grabbed the paper. She looked at it, dumbfounded. “You actually passed?” she asked, looking up at him and noticing the bags under his eyes. “You were up all night, weren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Tyler replied, nodding. “But I wasn’t studying. I wasn’t prepared for today at all.”

“Nice job,” Nina said, patting Tyler on the back.

Tyler gave a wide grin. He was obviously happy with himself. The bell rung, the class finished, and they all piled out of the classroom in regular fashion. This new trend of Tyler’s, of acing tests on the first try, became popular—sometimes in the best way, sometimes not.

His teacher’s gave no argument about it; they were glad he was making good grades. However, it was suspicious that a former C-student suddenly began making A’s. The teacher became overly suspicious, and finally brought Tyler in to talk with him at the end of the day. The conversation went nowhere, though; Tyler just said that the answers came right to him, and walked off. Nobody knew the real secret behind it except Tyler, who grinned as he walked out into the hallway, hands in his pockets.

He walked out the front door and saw his three friends sitting at a concrete table on one side. He decided to walk over there and join them. As he sat down, he was soon hit with the popular conversation among the friends.

“It has to do with that rock,” Kristen stated. “We couldn’t have just magically waked up one morning with these supernatural powers.” She sat back, crossing her arms.

“But why would that be the case?” Nina asked. “We’ve run into other strange things, and they didn’t do anything to us.”

“But this is stranger than anything else we’ve ever seen,” Alexander added. He sat back in his seat, his arms crossed.

“How can we truly know this is what happened?” Nina asked, suspicious.

“Because we’ve all been affected by it,” Tyler said. The other three looked over at him, not realizing he was even sitting there. “Just think about it: I picked up the rock, it didn’t do anything. But when we all put our hands on it, it blasted or did whatever. Something happened, and I think it chose us, somehow some way.”

The other three friends were in agreement; this couldn’t just be a freak accident. The conversation died down, and after a moment, Kristen said, “So… Everyone else have an eventful night?”

Alexander grunted. He turned his head and looked out toward the road, his face wearing an expression of anger. Kristen looked over at him, expecting an explanation. Instead, he just stayed quiet, gazing out toward some invisible thing in the parking lot.

Nina was the first to speak up, after taking a deep breath. “Well,” she said. “I’m super-fast.”

Kristen nodded, grinning. “To say the least,” she added.

“Um, explain, please,” Tyler said, looking over at them.

“Super speed?” Nina asked, suggestively. “Super-fast? Super… Hero?” Do you not read comics?”

“Maybe,” Tyler said, grinning.

Alexander was getting fed up. He stood up and walked over to the wall—only a couple feet away. He sat on a concrete barrier just in front of the wall, putting his legs in front of him and leaning on the corner of two walls. He looked over at his friends, who just looked over at him.

He finally broke. He sighed and began explaining. “My parents are getting a divorce,” he said. A simple sentence turned into a long, drawn-out story about how tension has been between his parents ever since his sister moved out, and what happened the night before.

A simple sentence, which turned into a story, turned into a discussion that lasted until the final bus honked its horn. The friends looked back and saw that one single bus was sitting at the curb, waiting for the four kids. They stood up, grabbing their stuff, and walked toward the curb. The school bus doors opened, and they walked inside. As they took their seats in the back of the bus, Tyler looked at his watch and marveled at it.

“5 o’clock,” he said, whistling.

“Really?” Kristen asked. “My parents are going to kill me.”

“No kidding,” Alexander said.

The school bus stopped, and Alexander and Tyler walked off, walking in separate directions. The school bus continued down the road, and an orange glow emanated from down the road. The bus driver’s eyes widened as he saw it. He tried to swerve around, but whatever was in the middle of the road didn’t like that idea.

After a flash of blue light, the bus toppled over, flying in the air and flipping onto its side. It finally hit the ground, safely on its wheels, with the two girls still inside. They looked over at each other, to make sure they were okay. Besides a few bleeding cuts, they were okay. They were breathing heavy now, and they made their way toward the door. The bus driver was dead, and they had to push over his body to get to the door controls.

Alexander and Tyler, who were walking in different directions, heard a crash, and immediately thought about the bus. They looked at each other for a split moment before running toward the crashing sound. Through the trees, they could see the school bus they were just riding slammed onto the ground. Smoke billowed from the engine, and it began to glow with heat. They could just barely see Kristen and Nina inside, making their way to the front.

Alexander sprinted now, running toward the bus. He reached the door just as it opened. The two girls looked down at their heroic savior, who simply picked them both up and put them down outside the bus. He waved them away, running in to try and get to the bus driver’s body. However, feeling the heat from the engine and realizing the driver was already dead, he rushed back out, getting out just in time.

The hood of the bus blew into the air as fire exploded from the engine. Through the haze of the heat, the kids could see, in the opposite direction, a tall, dark figure. As the haze cleared, it was revealed that it was a man, hair grayed, wearing a black suit, and wielding a black weapon of sorts. The bus’s hood crashed behind him, but he didn’t flinch.

As the kids came into his focus, he smiled. “Hello, children,” he said in a slightly suspicious tone. “My name is Rendezvous.”

Chapter 5

The kids stared into the face of what would become their worst nightmare.

“I hear that you kids have been experiencing strange things lately,” he said, putting his gun down. The kids just nodded. “Well, consider me a doctor for all things supernatural.”

The kids were shocked at what they saw, and were frozen in their places.

“If you have no objections, I have something so say.” He waited for any of them to say anything. After a moment of silence, with a smirk on his face he said, “Alright then.”

“That rock you saw that fell from the sky the other night,” he started. “Yes, I know you have it. I know you picked it up. And I know you absorbed its energy. That rock was a fragment of my destroyed planet, the last fragment of my own home world I have.”

Rendezvous seemed to be enraged, but took a deep breath to calm him as he continued. “When you picked it up, it assumed you were another person from my planet. It was calling out to someone, and it found you. It had special powers in it, which all Grailbad soil had. When you touched it, it shot the power into your body. That sheer shock was enough to knock you out.”

He stopped for a moment to make sure they were all getting this. Once he saw they were still interested, he continued. “I’ve come to this planet as a peaceful friend. I see your planet, and I want to make it better. My own planet was destroyed, so in honor of it, I would like to share my technology with you.”

He stretched out his hands and a couple of robots appeared in a flash of light beside him. They held thin pads that looked like they were made of metal. “These,” he continued, “are Grailbad Tech touchpads. They allow you to control your own powers without actually having to train.”

The robots approached the children, handed them the pads, and walked back beside their master, where they disappeared in another flash of light. Rendezvous waited a moment for the kids to look at the pads before continuing.

“I have far better things up in my ship,” he said. “I could show you everything; all of time, all of space, anything you want. Just come with me.” He reached out his hand symbolically.

Tyler grabbed one of the pads from Kristen, and looked it over. He put his hand over it, and before his eyes he saw everything; it seemed as though the whole world was being explained in front of his eyes. He could tell exactly how the trees worked, how old they were, and how long they had been there. He could even tell the species and certain things about people.

As he lifted his hand off of the plate, everything he had saw magically vanished from view. But it felt as though something was wrong. He didn’t know what it was, but something felt wrong about Rendezvous.

“I don’t think we should trust him,” Tyler said.

“Oh really?” Rendezvous said, agitated. “Now why shouldn’t you trust me?”

Tyler looked into his eyes, and knew right away that Rendezvous was lying. “He’s lying,” Tyler said with anger in his eyes. He threw the pad in his hand down; it broke apart on the road.

The other kids looked at Tyler, confused. However, once they saw his demeanor, they knew he was telling the truth. They looked back at Rendezvous, this time defiantly and with anger. They weren’t going to go with him, no matter what he said to them or bribed them with.

“Oh, I see,” Rendezvous said, rubbing his chin. “You stubborn little kids won’t go with the alien man with stuff that’ll change your whole lives.” He thought for a moment, getting madder. “Well, that stuff you have inside you that gives you those powers, it’s mine. So, technically”—he looked straight at Tyler—“you belong to me.”

“We belong to no one,” Kristen said, her eyes full of rage now. “And we’re not going with anyone.”

“Fine then,” Rendezvous said, raising his voice. “I guess I’ll have to take you by force.”

The kids got ready to fight Rendezvous and whoever else he had with them. Although they were young and didn’t have full control of their powers, they were still going to put up a fight. Rendezvous gave a devious smile, and lifted his gun once more. He aimed it right at Tyler’s forehead, but just as he was going to pull the trigger, a voice called from behind him.

“Don’t even try it,” it said. The voice spoke with such authority, wisdom, and age. It sounded as if it knew Rendezvous, and that all this was nothing new to him.

Rendezvous’ eyes widened. His smile was wiped away. He put down his gun, and turned around to face who he was talking to. “Titus Kim,” he said, a bit of happiness in his voice. “How nice it is to see you.”

“Don’t even try,” Titus said. A blonde-haired, young man stood behind Rendezvous. Piercings lined his ears, and he wore a long black overcoat, covering a red shirt and black jeans. “I know exactly what you’re doing,” he said, tilting his head up.

“Oh do you?” Rendezvous asked, now getting mad. “And what is that?”

Titus looked straight at Rendezvous, knowing he wanted him to answer. But he wouldn’t do any such thing; doing so would just give into and feed Rendezvous’ ego. So, he just stayed quiet. And his silence tore Rendezvous to bits.

“Well?” Rendezvous said, waiting for an answer. “Aren’t you going to say anything?” After more silence, he said, enraged, “No answer? Well then, I guess I’ll just have to kill you both.” He pulled another of his strange alien guns out of his coat, and pointed one at Titus and another at the kids.

Titus stared Rendezvous down. He knew Rendezvous wouldn’t kill him. Rendezvous looked over at the kids, then back at Titus, who stood with his hands up, watching Rendezvous intently. Rendezvous’ hand holding the gun pointed at Titus began to shake. Finally, he dropped both his hands.

“You win, Titus,” he said, sullenly. He looked up, and all of a sudden, he disappeared.

After Rendezvous was gone and the haze has blown away, Titus stared down the children. He knew something was different about them; Rendezvous wouldn’t have messed with them if there wasn’t. He slowly walked forward and confronted the kids.

“Hello,” he said simply, his hands in his pockets. He looked completely nonchalant, as if nothing had happened at all. The kids wouldn’t say anything; they were traumatized. Titus sighed. “I heard everything,” he said. “I know exactly what happened, and I know what Rendezvous is really up to.”

Tyler was interested now. “What does that guy want?” he asked. “And what did he want us for?”

Titus looked around suspiciously. “We can’t speak here,” he said. “Someone could be watching. Meet me outside town tomorrow; I’ll explain everything.”

“If we’re not safe here,” Tyler replied, “how can he know we can be safe where you’re going?”

“Because I know,” Titus said, straight into Tyler’s eyes. “I used to know Rendezvous; I used to work for him. Then he betrayed me. I know all his tactics and I’ve been preparing for this day.”

Kristen was bug-eyed now. She didn’t know what to think. She gulped and turned to Nina. “Why don’t we go,” she whispered into her friend’s ear. Nina nodded, and they started to walk off.

“Where are you going?” Titus asked, noticing the two walking off.

“Oh,” Kristen said a weak smile on her face. “You know things to do. Typical… Human things.”

Titus shrugged, and the two girls nearly ran away. Titus was left alone with Alexander and Tyler.

“So,” Tyler said. “Are you going to kidnap us or something?”

“Of course not,” Titus replied. He looked at the two kids awkwardly. “Go, get some sleep; you’re going to need it. Don’t you have school in the morning?”

“Yeah,” Tyler said, backing up. “Well, see you later.” After taking a few steps back, he turned around and ran around the school bus.

Alexander, not caring about anything, just walked off, leaving Titus alone, confused. Humans, he thought. He turned around and walked off away from the city, his hands still in his pockets.

* * *

The night crept up quickly, and before she knew it, Kristen was standing in almost complete darkness. As she passed under a street lamp, she looked down at herself. Her clothes were ragged and dirty, smelling like smoke. Her hands were filthy, and she could feel cuts on her face. She didn’t even want to think about her ankles; they hurt every time she took a step. In sum, her whole body ached.

Kristen stood in front of the door, thinking of what her parents were going to say. After going through a million possibilities in her head, she finally gave up and walked inside. However, as she closed the door, she noticed that all the lights were off, and nobody was at the door to meet her.

She gave a sigh of relief. Maybe she wouldn’t be caught. As quietly and nonchalantly as she could, she walked over to the stairs and started to climb them. As she reached the top, she finally realized where her parents were.

Walking into her room, Kristen saw her mother sitting on her bed, looking out the window. She snapped her gaze over to the door and stood up. “Where have you been?” she asked her daughter, her voice carrying tones of both anger and concern.

“Long story,” Kristen said, walking past her mother. She took her book bag off and laid it at the foot of her bed, along with her torn jean jacket.

“Well,” Kristen’s mother said, crossing her arms. “I have a long time to listen.”

Kristen turned around and looked her mother dead in the eye. Her mother got the jest, but she wouldn’t give up the fight. The two stared at each other for a long while, frozen in their positions, before finally her mother gave up.

“Fine,” she said. “If you don’t want to tell me, then you’re grounded for two weeks.”

“What?!” Kristen asked, nearly yelling.

“You heard me correctly,” her mother replied, turning to the door. “Two weeks; you go to school and come back, nowhere else.”

Kristen’s jaw swung open in shock. Her mother just walked out the door and closed it behind her, leaving Kristen alone in her room. She stood in the same spot for a long time, staring at the door in shock. She didn’t know her own mother was leaning on the other side of the door, shielding her eyes in shame.

Inside her room, Kristen started to get enraged. She threw her arms around as she turned to her bed, and objects flew off her shelves and walls onto the floor beside her. She plopped down on her bed, and looked out the window, her face wearing an angered expression.

Back in the hallway, her mother heard the crashing on the floor, and thought it was Kristen throwing things off her shelves. She put her hands up to her mouth to muffle her sobbing as she cried. She turned around and walked to the end of the hallway, where she stood at a locked door.

Reaching up above the door frame, she grabbed a key and unlocked the door. Walking inside, she closed the door behind her. She stood at the door, looking at the room. It was all decked out in pink: pink bed covers, pink walls, even pink carpet. The only thing offsetting the pink overload was the white bedframe and desk.

As she looked around the room, she couldn’t help from crying. But now her sobbing had stopped; only tears flowed from her eyes. She went and sat down on the pink coverings of the bed, grabbed a pink heart-shaped pillow, and stuck her face into it. She began to sob again, this time not for her living daughter, but for her dead one.

* * *

Alexander headed for home, and even before he opened the door, he knew what he was going to hear. He opened the large, glass-fronted window, and was immediately hit with the sounds of yelling. He gave out a tiresome sigh. He closed the door behind him and turned to his right, climbing the staircase through the open front room up to his room.

As he was climbing the stairs, he saw his parents up on the balcony making their way to the other staircase, on the wall opposite of Alexander. His father rushed down it, continuing to yell at his wife who was following him. As alexander got up to the balcony, he looked down at his parents. He couldn’t understand what they were saying, but at one point he thought he heard one of them say something about a divorce.

This made Alexander’s eyes bulge wide. He gazed down at them in complete shock and disbelief now. He knew things were bad, but he never thought they’d ever resort to a divorce. He guessed he was wrong, then. As he continued looking down, he noticed his father glance up.

At that moment, his father pointed up to him, and his mother looked up. His mother put her hands over her mouth, realizing that her son had heard everything. She looked over at her husband, this time not with anger, but with compassion for her son.

“Maybe we can…” she started, but was interrupted by her husband slamming the door in front of her. She looked back up to the balcony, and saw Alexander walking off. She hurried over to the staircase and walked up.

When she got to the top, she could just see Alexander, dressed in his white t-shirt as always, walking into his room and closing the door behind. She walked over to it, and turned the handle, but he had already locked it. She pulled at it ever frantically, her panic getting worse by the second.

“Alexander,” she said caringly through the door. “Alexander, I want to talk to you.”

“Give it a rest,” was the reply.

Her face became tore when she heard that. “But, I need to…”

She was interrupted another time by the door opening. However, this time it was her son who gazed down at her, not her husband. He easily stood two feet above her, and had shoulders about as wide as the door. His face was sullen, gazing down into her wide blue eyes.

“A divorce, really?” were the only words he said before he closed the door once more. This time he nearly slammed it in his mother’s face, and locked it behind him.

His mother stood at the door, breaking down. It began as simple sobbing, and eventually turned into her falling on the floor and crying. Tears flowed into her elegant pink sweater which she wiped her eyes with. She put her back up to the door and sat with her knees up in front of her, thinking of how her family fell apart in only a day.

Alexander, on the other side of the door, stood in the same spot for a long time, listening to his mother sob. The arguments between his mother and father did anger him sometimes, but he did sincerely care about his mother, and hearing her crying nearly broke his heart. But he just walked over to his bed, lay down, and looked up at the plain white ceiling.

A moment later, the sobbing stopped. This eased Alexander’s heart. Alexander lay on his bed for a long while before he heard a knock at his bedroom door. It wasn’t a soft knock, as he’d expect from his mother, so he knew it was someone else. He expected it to be his father, but was surprised when he opened the door to see Tyler.

“Hey,” Tyler said awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. “Can I crash here for a while?”

Alexander looked down at Tyler, who wasn’t that much shorter than him. His clothes were filthy, covered in ash; he smelled like smoke. Alexander was hesitant to say anything, so he didn’t. He simply stepped to the side and motioned Tyler in.

“What happened to you?” he asked as the ash-covered boy walked into his room. He closed the door behind him.

“Uh, long story,” Tyler said.

Alexander stood with his back on the door and crossed his arms. He looked at Tyler expectantly. “I’ve got nothing else to do,” he simply said.

After pulling off his charred sweatshirt, revealing a gray t-shirt, Tyler turned to Alexander and began, “I was walking home, and I thought I smelled smoke. I assumed it was just the neighbors having a fire behind their house or burning in their fireplace again, but as I got closer, I noticed an orange glow coming from my house. When I saw a fire truck with sirens on, I began running toward my house.

“But when I got there, it was already too late. The house was up in flames, with everyone trapped inside. The firemen tried frantically to put out the fire, but I knew it wouldn’t work. I tried going in, or even going near the house, but this is what happened” –he gestured down to his ash-covered clothing. Alexander simply nodded.

“So now you have nowhere to stay?” Alexander asked, filling in the pieces. Tyler nodded. “Why didn’t you just go to Kristen or Nina?”

“Because I figured you were closer,” Tyler replied. Alexander just nodded. He got up from his position, and walked over to his window.

“Fine,” he said, noticing smoke coming up from a small distance away. He turned back to Tyler. “But you’re not sleeping here like that.” He alluded to the boy’s smoke-smelling complexion.

Tyler just shrugged. “As long as I have somewhere to stay,” he said.

Alexander showed Tyler to the shower, and while he was washing up, Alexander looked back out his window toward where the smoke was coming from. He thought of Kristen and Nina, and he also thought of his mother. Then the thought of Titus and what he said earlier popped into his mind.

He now had a choice: Stay with his broken family, which he knew would probably just get worse, or try for a new beginning with this new life he’d been offered. The choice was obvious to him, but he was still torn between his mother and his own desires. He looked back out the window, this time not at the smoke, but up at the starry sky. Possibility waited.

Chapter 6

The next morning glistened with the dew falling on the grass. The cool seemed to seep through the window onto Alexander’s skin. His eyes slowly opened to see Tyler lying away from him on the floor. He looked over at his alarm clock, which read 6:30 AM.

Alexander snapped awake. 30 minutes till the bus got there. He jumped up, and started getting dressed. Then he thought of Tyler, and went over to shake him awake. The seemingly lifeless body rolled over, and Tyler looked him dead in the eye.

“What?” he said.

Alexander shook his head. “Wake up,” he simply said.

Tyler sat up. “I’ve been awake.”

“Then get dressed,” Alexander replied. “The bus arrives in an hour.”

Tyler stood up and walked over to his pile of things; his book bag and the clothes he came in. He decided those were the only ones he could wear—ever. He had washed them in the sink the night before, so they didn’t look so ashy, but they still smelled like smoke.

They had no time for breakfast—and Alexander didn’t want to go down to the kitchen anyway. They just walked out the front door and stepped onto the curb just as the bus arrived. They got onboard, and sat in the back, as always.

Kristen didn’t look too happy; it looked like something was bothering her. Alexander tried to probe at her, to make her talk, but she wouldn’t say a word. He knew something had come up for her to be this way, and he knew it had to be with his parents. He thought about the night before, again.

“Later, after school,” he started, whispering, “how about we take a walk.” Kristen looked over at him, still angered, but now curious. “Outside town,” he added.

Kristen nodded slowly. But then she looked back over to the window she was sitting at, gazing out to the outside world, and watching the houses as they passed. They arrived at school and piled off the bus like any other day. However, the four friends knew, somehow, that today wouldn’t be a typical day for them.

The school day was normal. No tests, just lessons; just teachers talking, teenagers messing around, and the rain falling onto the side of the windows. School let out at 3 o’clock, as normal, and the kids piled toward the buses. However, Tyler, Alexander, Kristen, and Nina decided not to take the bus. They walked out on the sidewalk, and once they were in a secluded place by some trees, they stopped.

“Are you sure about this?” Alexander asked, now taking the role as leader of the group. “If we leave and go with Titus, who knows what he’ll do. We don’t know where we’re going, what we’ll be doing, or how long we’ll be gone.”

Nobody said anything; they all looked down. Finally, Kristen looked back up; her careless eyes now full of rage. “I’ve got nothing left here,” she said. “My parents obviously don’t care about me enough to care about me.”

Everyone looked over at Kristen. They all knew she had pretty good parents. They had no idea why she’d want to leave them. Nina knew from the little incident in the counselor’s office the other day that her sister’s death was taking a toll on her parents too, but she had no idea it would come to this.

“I’ve got nobody,” Tyler said, looking down at the ground. “My house burned up, everyone died.” He looked up at the others, his eyes full of passion for his family. “I’m in,” he said. He looked over at Nina, the only one who hadn’t said anything about her life.

She simply smiled. “If you guys are going, I can’t be left behind,” she said with a straight face. But her expression deteriorated as she thought of the consequences. “My parents wouldn’t even care,” she said, shrugging. “I doubt anyone would notice.” Overwhelmed with grief of losing her family, her chest became heavy as she took in the cool outside air.

Kristen looked over at her dear friend. Filled with compassion, she embraced her, kissing her beautiful blonde hair. “You don’t have to go,” she whispered in her ear. Nina, now in tears, said nothing. But after a few minutes, she pushed herself from her friend’s embrace and wiped the tears from her eyes.

“I’m going,” she said, nodding to Kristen. She looked out into the beautiful blue sky of the autumn afternoon. “If I have everything I could ever want here,” she said, “then there has to be something better for me out there.” She looked out toward the horizon, gesturing toward the city limits, where the houses and trees seemed to end.

The four friends were in agreement; they were all going to pursue this new opportunity. Even if it meant leaving their families and dying for a cause, they were committed to this thing. Alexander was the one who started the walk. He grabbed Kristen’s hand; she then grabbed Nina’s, who grabbed Tyler’s. The four friends looked forward and walked toward where the city ended, toward an unknown place.

* * *

They reached the edge of town, and the trees started to diminish. There weren’t that many people and houses were few and far between. The beauty of the city slowly turned into a barren desert, full of hills and valleys. In fact, this area housed one valley that gave the city its name, Night Valley. The city, Nightvale, was simply an addition to it.

As the kids walked forward, a large sign brought to their attention that they were leaving the city. The highway which they had been following curved off into the horizon, and they were left at a large plateau, rising a few feet above their current position.

Alexander looked over at the other three; they were all panting and huffing. He was fine; a brisk walk was good for the muscles. He knew getting up this hill would be easy for him, but he didn’t know how his friends would take it.

“You ready?” he asked the others.

Nina held a hand up, hunched over catching her breath. She took a deep breath, and stood up straight, nodding. She looked over at Tyler, who was sitting on the edge of the highway, writing stuff in the sand with his hand. She looked to the other side, where Kristen was hunched over heaving and coughing.

“I guess,” she said, shrugging to Alexander.

“Alright,” he replied.

Kristen straightened her back and walked over to the side of the almost vertical hill. She had no idea how they were going to get up there. She looked around, and saw a small cut in the hill. She wondered what it was, and went to explore it.

While Alexander was getting a good foothold on the hill, trying to climb it, Kristen looked around the corner and gave a sigh of relief. “Hey guys,” she said. “I think I found our way up.”

Everyone’s heads snapped over to her. Alexander hopped down from his place and walked over to his girlfriend with the others. When he turned the corner, he saw a set of stairs carved into the side of the hill, leading straight to the top. He looked down at Kristen, who smiled up at him. That smile, contagious as always, began to form on Alexander’s face.

“Well?” he said. “Aren’t we going to go?”

Everyone was wide-grinned, and as Alexander nearly ran up to the first step, the others followed quickly behind. He hopped up the last step, and looked behind him to know the others were following behind. When he was sure of that, he looked forward at the horizon, where the sun was setting, giving a glorious yellow-orange tint to the sky around it.

A shadowy figure rose from the horizon, hiding the setting sun from view. The figure was tall and lean; it wore a long overcoat which swayed in the wind. As it came closer to the children, they figured who this figure was. It was the man they were coming to meet, Titus Kim.

He walked into their direct line of vision and his face was clearly outlined, he stopped, looking at the young new apprentices which were at his doorstep. “Hello,” he said simply, tilting his head upward.

After a moment of silence, Alexander was the first one to blurt something out. “What, no grand welcome?” he asked selfishly.

Titus gazed at him. He knew exactly how Alexander would be now, and how he would have to train him. “Your first lesson,” he said, “one does not need a grand entrance when seeking the guidance of another stronger.”

Alexander looked at the man, confused. “Whatever that was supposed to mean,” he simply said.

Kristen sighed. “Forgive him,” she said. “He’s had quite a time these last few days.” She put her hand on his shoulder, but he just looked down at her, agitated.

“Yes, I know,” Titus replied. Both heads snapped to gaze at him. As their attention turned back to their now master, he turned to face the sunset. “Come,” he said, beckoning toward himself. He then started to walk, slowly, toward the position he came from.

Tyler shrugged and walked forward, slowly followed by the other three. They walked into the sunset, down another set of stairs carved into the side of the plateau, and onto the edge of a deep canyon. Kristen held tight to Alexander as they walked forward, and Nina cut ahead of them to Tyler, who was looking down into the abyss.

She grabbed his hand, and he looked over at her in confusion. But soon that confusion turned to delight, and a smile grew on his face. They continued to walk forward, being careful not to fall to their deaths. They walked uphill, and soon they were on another plateau, higher than the other one, overlooking the entire city; and one building, a bunker, situated in the center of the land mass, facing the city.

Titus walked up to the front doors and grabbed the edge of a large hangar door. He looked over at Alexander, who quickly ran over to the other side and grabbed the other door. Together, they pulled outward, and revealed a large room, taking almost the entire area of the bunker, filled with a living area, a full kitchen, and a loft with beds.

Tyler gazed at the large room, and marveled at something that was bigger than anything he had ever lived in. After a moment of pure shock, he ran inside, and plopped down onto a couch lying in the middle of the room. Nina smiled as she watched him run inside. He saw her and gave a questioning look at her; she simply shook her head.

The other four walked inside, and with a flip of a switch, Titus closed the doors behind them. Alexander gazed at the hundred-pound doors closing on their own. He looked over at Titus, who shrugged. He gave a mischievous grin and walked away. Alexander was left watching the last sliver of light disappear as the doors closed.

The bunker was nice; it had everything they would ever need. Kristen immediately ran over to the kitchen. She had always wanted to learn cooking, but her mother would never teach her. However, now that she had the things she needed and she was free to do anything, she was able to experiment and learn cooking on her own.

Titus walked to the back of the room, and looked out at the kids scattered around the room. “Before I let anyone stay here,” he said, “I need to know something; did you tell anyone about this, and do you have permission from your parents to stay here?”

All four of the kids said nothing. They stayed quiet and simply looked down at the ground. Titus knew the answer to that question already, but he wanted to make sure the kids knew the consequences to their action. After a moment of silence from the kids, he turned around and, with his head up, walked into a cornered-off part of the bunker.

Tyler snapped his head up at the sound of beeping. He turned to where Titus was walking into the room. It was flooded with blue light, and flashes of lights seemed to pour from it. Tyler jumped up and headed over to the room. Just before the door closed behind Titus, Tyler put his hand in the door, cracking it enough for him to see a supercomputer, one of legend.

He burst into the room, screaming, “No way! You have a supercomputer in here?”

The other three in the main lobby snapped their heads toward the noise. Each of them slowly made their way toward the room. As they walked inside, they saw Tyler fiddling with a large console, which was obviously the computer he was talking about. The boy looked like a hermit, hunched over the controls, focused. After a moment of fiddling with controls, the previously black screen flashed on, and a large display of numbers and letters appeared.

“That thing hasn’t worked for years,” Titus said, not shocked in the least that the super-genius child was able to fix the computer.

Tyler climbed out from behind the console. He looked back at Titus. “It was unplugged,” he said. Titus looked slightly embarrassed, but became amused as he watched the kid fiddle with the controls. After a moment, three other displays connected to the console turned on, showing different things; one showed the current weather, one a series of news broadcast, and yet another had statistics slathered onto it.

Titus chuckled in amusement. “Alright,” he said. “You have complete control over the computer; I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

Looking back up at Titus like a socially-deprived hermit, a smile grew on Tyler’s face. After a moment of gazing at Titus, he turned back to the computer and fiddled with it some more. Titus knew this was the best thing, and began to shove the other kids out.

“Let’s let him work,” he said as he closed the door.

Chapter 7

The day went slow for the most part. Titus was allowing the kids to explore their new home before he began training. Tyler was playing with the supercomputer, Kristen and Alexander were at the kitchen, and Nina was up in the balcony, simply looking around by herself.

Kristen threw a few more spices into the pot of boiling water. She took a spoon, scooped up some of the water, and carefully moved it to Alexander, who was leaning on the counter beside the stove. He opened his mouth, tasted the soup, and shook his head.

Putting down the spoon, Kristen sighed. She plopped down on a stool next to her. She thought cooking would be easy, but obviously she was wrong. Pulling over the cookbook she had next to her, she read through it again. She had done everything it said, but something still wasn’t right.

“What is it?” she asked to herself. She flipped through the cookbook, looking for some easier recipes, but everything in the binder seemed foreign to her.

“Maybe you should quit for a while,” Alexander said.

“That’s probably best,” Kristen replied, throwing the book down. She hopped off her stool, turned off the stove, and poured the soup she had made down the sink. “I just want to cook something,” she said.

Alexander hopped up from his position and stood behind Kristen, rubbing her shoulders. “Maybe,” he said into her ear, “you’re not meant to be a cook.”

Looking down at her, he could tell she wasn’t amused. She moved away from his grasp and over to a small island counter that stood just a few feet away from the stove. A light hung down from the false ceiling above, shining straight down on the island. Kristen walked over and put her elbows on the counter, holding her head up with her hands.

Alexander came around the other side and did the same, looking into Kristen’s eyes. The two sat there for a long moment, before Kristen realized something was different with Alexander. There was something in his eye that wasn’t there previously. Something changed in his life, more than just his parents getting a divorce.

“Hey,” she said, quietly. “What’s wrong?”

He snapped his head up, looking at her. “Hm?” he said, trying to evade her real question.

She leaned forward and really looked at him. “Alexander,” she said, grabbing his hand. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

No answer came out of him; he snatched his hand away and stood upright, looking down at Kristen. She stood up straight and looked over the counter at him. This had become more than a conversation; it was a confrontation now.

“I know something’s wrong,” she said. “You’re not your usual self.”

Alexander bit down in anger, his eyes showing his true feelings. After a long moment of staring at the one thing left that he cared about, he finally broke. “Fine,” he said. “You know my parents split, right?”

Kristen nodded. Alexander continued, “Well, the other night, my mom ran my dad off again, probably for the last time, and I was really mad, so I yelled at her and stomped up to my room. I guess…” He choked with emotion. “I guess that made her really sad. She sat outside my door crying, and I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take my mom, my dad, or anything. I considered just running away when I remembered this place.”

Completely baffled, Kristen looked into her boyfriend’s eyes. She grabbed his hand. Her mouth was open, but nothing came out. She mouthed the words, “I’m so sorry,” but Alexander turned his head. Tears were beginning to fall from his eyes, and he didn’t want her to see. He used his free hand to wipe them away.

He turned back to her, his eyes now red and watery. Kristen had never seen him like this, and she knew only the breaking up of his family could do this. “I miss them,” he said. “I really do. The whole day at school, I thought about them. When we got up the hill here, I tried looking for my house.” He wiped his eyes again. “I didn’t want to leave them.”

As he broke down in sorrow, Kristen tried to be his strength. She squeezed his hand as he bent down to the counter. He began sobbing; something Kristen never saw him do. She tried to think of something to say, to comfort him, but she couldn’t think of anything. A long moment full of sobbing had commenced before she finally thought of the right thing to say.

“Hey,” she said, trying to get his attention. “I miss my family too.” Alexander looked up, although not amused. “Although I argue with them,” she said, “they’re still my family. I don’t care how much I hate them or they hate me, they’re my parents and I love them. I guess it was impulse that brought me here, but once we had exited the city, I knew exactly what I had done, and I began to regret it.”

Alexander smiled. He had never heard Kristen confess something like that. “You know,” he said, wiping his eyes and standing up straight, “you’re a pretty big softy.” He looked at her, trying not to laugh, but soon it started, and they couldn’t stop. Alexander walked around the counter and reached his arms out to his girlfriend, who walked into his embrace.

The hug was long, and they loved every moment of it. The only thing that could separate them from each other was Titus walking over. He looked at them with a raised eyebrow, but soon their contagious smiles spread, and he was wide grinned, ear-to-ear.

The couple let go of each other and looked over at the blond-haired watching them. He crossed his arms and looked at Kristen. “It’s time to start training,” he said. Kristen nodded, and just before walking away with Titus, kissed her boyfriend on the cheek. Seeing Alexander’s smile, she smiled also as she hurried off to catch up with Titus, who was already heading for the ladder across the room that led to the balcony.

* * *

While Titus and Kristen were training, Tyler was across on the other side of the balcony fiddling with some computer parts. He had a laptop out—primitive compared to what he had been working with. He hooked it up to a metal box of electrical parts, and instantly, an image appeared on the screen. He was watching the kitchen from his laptop.

Tyler was slightly surprised. He smiled. He knew it would work, in theory, but putting theory into practice was a different thing. He fiddled around with the laptop, as he had been doing for the past half hour, until he realized somebody was beside him, watching his every move. His heart began to beat fast.

He snapped his head sideways and saw Nina, her beautiful blonde hair shielding her face from his view. He gave a sigh of relief. “Gosh, Nina,” he said, lying back against the wall behind him. “You scared me.”

Nina looked over at him, oblivious to what he was talking about. “What?” she asked him. “I’ve been here for a few minutes already. I thought you saw me come up.”

Tyler shook his head. “I didn’t hear a thing,” he said. “You’re like a ninja.” That remark made both of them laugh and the awkwardness that hung in the air slowly began to fly away.

Nina came over and sat next to Tyler. He looked over at her, and she looked over at him. He pulled a few parts from where he was sitting and looked them over. Going back into his technological trance, he fiddled with it, taking it apart and messing with the wires on the inside.

“What’s that?” Nina asked curiously.

Tyler looked up, spaced out for a minute. He shook his head and came back to reality. “It’s a wireless receiver,” he said, putting the box back together. “It receives a signal from any wireless device and transmits the data onto my laptop.”

Although all this seemed foreign to Nina, she still listened. She occasionally nodded, but while Tyler was babbling on, she understood none of it. Finally, Tyler looked over at her and realized she wasn’t getting it. Either the glazed look in her eye or her twiddling thumbs gave it away.

“You’re not getting any of this, are you?” he asked. Nina simply nodded. Tyler sighed. “Are you a purple polka-dotted monkey?” he asked. Although he knew it was silly, he already knew what Nina was going to say.

“Yep,” she said, nodding obliviously.

Tyler shook his head. Another one, he thought. He turned away from her and continued his work on his computer. After a few moments of no talk, Nina snapped back into reality. She looked up at Tyler, who had his back towards her, fiddling, again, with his technology. A twinge of guilt ran through Nina’s mind.

“Hey,” she said to him, “why’d you decide to come with us?”

Tyler glanced over at her, taking a moment to process her question. He looked back over at his laptop as he realized what she asked. He put down the screwdriver he had in his hand and sat back against the wall. He thought of his parents and his family again, and sorrow came over him.

“I don’t know,” he said, looking down. He looked up and over at Nina, realizing she had read the sorrow on his face. He tried to hide his face from her. “Maybe I just wanted a fresh start.”

Nina tried to look over at his face. “Why would you need a fresh start?” she asked, innocently.

Many memories of days and weeks past began to flood Tyler’s mind. He thought about his parents, his sister and his brother, and how they had all ignored him. He tried to talk to them about his problems and about different things, but they wouldn’t listen at all.

“I don’t know,” he said, moving back over to his laptop. He was now trying to avoid Nina, who grabbed at his arm. He tugged away from her.

She looked at him, confused, for a long while. What was so wrong that he didn’t want to talk about it? She looked down the edge of the balcony and saw Alexander sitting on the couch, looking around. Something seemed different in him since they had arrived. She wondered if the same was of Tyler.

She grabbed at his arm again. He tugged away again. “Tyler,” she said, trying to get his attention. This time, however, he turned around at her, his eyes filled with held-up anger. All this anger was now pointed toward Nina, an innocent target, as he looked at her.

“What?” he asked. “Are you going to listen now? Is anyone going to listen now?” He huffed as he said the words. After a moment, he realized what he had done and turned away from Nina. “I’m sorry,” he said calmly. “Things have just been stressful lately.”

Nina grabbed his arm again, but he tugged it away. Finally she grabbed at it and tugged him around. Now his eyes were getting watery. “No,” she said, looking in his eyes. “Don’t push me away; I’m not leaving. I don’t care what you’ve been through, but you’ve got to let it go if you want to live with yourself.”

Tyler was now all teary-eyed. He refused to break down, biting his lip. He took a deep breath. “Alright,” he said. “If someone’s going to listen to me, then I guess it’s time to talk.”

Nina nodded, and perked her ears up. What she heard was not what she expected. Tyler spoke of major sorrow and grief. He talked about everyone—his friends, even his own parents—ignoring him. All he wanted was for someone to listen, but nobody would. He said he fell into depression, and even considered suicide a few times.

This broke Nina down. She began getting teary-eyed. She grabbed the boy sitting in front of her and embraced him. Tears flowed from her eyes down onto his sweatshirt, the same one that he wore when he left his burnt home. The sorrow and anger which Tyler had been holding up was now gone, and all he could do was smile. He gave a deep sigh of relief, knowing everything was now out in the open.

Nina let go of him after a long while, and looked him in the eye. She began chuckling at Tyler’s expression. He was grinning from ear-to-ear. She lay down on the floor, looking up at the sky. She wiped her eyes and chuckled. The roof of the bunker was bland, a simply sheet of metal plopped on top of four walls. But Nina knew the perfect place to go with Tyler.

She hopped up and reached out for Tyler’s hand. “Come on,” she said, beckoning him. He stood up, and Nina grabbed his hand. She quickly led him across the width of the bunker to a ladder, which led to the roof. They climbed up, and hopped onto the flimsy metal of the roof. Nina lay down on the cold surface, and looked up at the starts. Tyler plopped right down next to her.

The two lay there, for a long while, gazing at the stars. Tyler pointed out constellations, and Nina told stories about them. They both laughed at how far they had come. The kid who considered suicide and the girl who was an inspiration to all; they were a perfect match together. But as they gazed up at the night sky, neither of them knew what was to come; they only cared about right then and there, that moment in time, with each other.

Chapter 8

Nothing much happened the next few days. The kids got situated into their new home, and training commenced. Titus trained them in both hand-to-hand combat, and he trained their specific abilities. Three weeks passed before anything exciting happened.

Kristen and Titus were up on the balcony, meditating. Both having their legs crossed, they closed their eyes and took deep breaths. The goal was for Kristen to reach into Titus’ mind, but she wasn’t having too much luck with it.

She opened her eyes and sighed. “This is never going to work,” she said. She looked down at the floor, discouraged.

Titus took a deep breath and opened his eyes. He looked over at Kristen and lifted up her head so he could look straight into her eyes. “If you think it’s not going to work,” he said, “then it never will. Your mind is a powerful thing, Kristen. You have to keep trying. If you don’t try, then you never will succeed.” He closed his eyes again and took another deep breath. “You’re fighting against your own will,” he said. “Your mind wants to reach out to me; but you will not let it.”

Kristen’s eyes narrowed. She guessed that was the problem. Being filled with newfound energy, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes once more. This time, she didn’t hesitate to let her mind wander. She tilted her head back as her mind searched the world.

After a moment, Kristen snapped her eyes open. Her head didn’t move; she didn’t dare disturb anything. When her eyelids parted, what she saw was not through her own eyes, but through Titus’. As Titus looked down, Kristen could see herself through his eyes.

She was completely baffled. “Oh my goodness,” she said, chuckling. “I can’t believe this is actually working.”

Titus smiled. “You’re more powerful than you think,” he said. He closed his eyes once more, and as he did, Kristen did the same. Titus took another deep breath and said, “Now read my mind. What am I thinking?”

Kristen struggled for a moment. She put her head down, trying to concentrate. It seemed as though the world around her had dissolved, and the only two people were her and Titus. She concentrated on Titus, her mind getting ever closer to him until finally the two minds fused together.

Her expression went from concentration to shock. She snapped her eyes open and looked around. She didn’t see the world, but a hall full of paintings. Each painting had a different image, and they all were moving. It seemed as though a thousand movies—or a thousand thoughts—were playing at once.

She picked a random one while she was walking down and stood beside it, watching it. She watched as a giant weapon descended on a planet far, far away. An orange glow began to form around it, and after a flash of light, the planet below was no more; it was destroyed.

It finally clicked in her mind; this was Titus’ planet. As she walked—ran, actually—down the hallway, she noticed painting after painting depicting life on an alien planet: playing with friends as children, fighting in a war as an adult, and fleeing, watching the planet below being destroyed.

As she continued to run, Kristen thought she heard someone. She looked down the hall, but saw nothing expect the pictures. She turned back to begin running again, but was met by a wall of bright white light rushing toward her. She couldn’t do anything; she only put out her arms to keep from blinding herself. As the barrier overtook her, she snapped back into the real world.

“Hey,” Tyler said as he climbed up the ladder to the balcony.

Kristen was breathing heavy. She didn’t know what the barrier was, but she could assume it was Tyler’s voice breaking her concentration. She looked up at Titus, who was taking a deep breath and just opening his eyes. After a moment to get back to reality, he looked down at Kristen, and knew exactly what happened.

He snapped his head to the side, and noticed Tyler walking over to them. As he sat down beside the two, Titus glared at him. “What?” Tyler asked, confused.

“You can’t just come and yell for Kristen while she’s meditating,” he said, obviously very agitated.

“Why?” he asked, as if it was no big deal. “It’s not like she’s going to die, right?”

Titus glared at Tyler again, and Tyler immediately knew the answer to that question. Titus took another deep breath to calm him down. “If you snap her out of her trance while she’s linked to another mind,” he said, solemnly, “then her mind might be ripped apart, and she might die.”

Tyler looked awestruck. He didn’t realizing making a small mistake like that could end somebody’s life. Tyler looked over at Kristen, who was just getting herself back together, taking a deep breath and calming herself down.

Stopping a moment to calm down, Titus took a deep breath and closed his eyes. After opening them again, he looked over at Tyler. “What is it?” he asked.

“It’s the computer,” he said. Titus glared at him, concerned now. Tyler fumbled as he continued, “It’s something I saw. Something’s coming down—descending—on Earth; something big and round. I just got a satellite uplink, and it looks like a”—Tyler fumbled for the right word.

“What?” Titus asked, now very concerned. “What is it?”

“A spaceship,” Tyler finished. Titus’ eyes bulged, and, without saying anything else, he rushed down the ladder, jumping off halfway down. He ran over to the computer room, and saw what was unfolding at that very minute.

Tyler squeezed in beside Titus and manned the controls. He pressed a few buttons, and an animation display appeared on the main screen. The three smaller screens were housing news reports, direct satellite images, and world responses.

“This,” Tyler said, gesturing to the main screen, “is a replication of what’s happened over the last—well, half hour.” The image was of a planet, obviously the Earth, surrounded by smaller satellites. As Tyler played the animation, a small spherical shape began to approach the satellites. Before long, it knocked out a few of the satellites, and they came crashing down to Earth. The larger ship took its spot about where the satellites were, seemingly unsuspecting.

Tyler stopped the animation. He switched the screen to the direct satellite uplink. “And this,” he described, “is what it looks like, currently.” Titus edged forward to the screen, allowing the other three kids to squeeze in. He put his hands on the console, steadying himself as he gazed at the screen.

And then it hit him, like a bullet right to the gut. His eyes widened as he backed away from the screen. The four kids looked at him, dazed and confused. He simply kept walking back until he hit the wall, where he took deep breaths to calm himself down. He closed his eyes for a moment.

When he opened them back up, he was not a man scared of aliens, but a fierce leader ready to lead his army into battle. He tilted his head up and walked over to the computer. “This, my friends,” he said, “is the Executor, home to our very good friend, Rendezvous.”

Alexander bit down as Titus said the words. Kristen’s eyes were bulged out, and Nina stood, motionless. “What are we going to do?” Tyler asked, looking over to Titus.

Obviously unsure, Titus looked down at the ground, rubbing his chin as he paced the floor. He nodded for a moment, and then began shaking his head. He was obviously thinking over his own plans. After a moment of thinking and pacing, he stopped in front of the computer and assessed the situation once more.

“Alright,” he said, turning to face his team. “Your training is finished.” The kids looked shocked, but he continued, “This is not because I want your training to be finished, but because we must be ready to defend ourselves, and the planet Earth, from the alien threat of Rendezvous.”

Kristen stared at Titus, thinking about their meditation session. She imagined him and Rendezvous playing together on an alien planet, but she just couldn’t see it. She sighed and listened to the rest of her leader’s plan.

“I’m giving you posts around the bunker,” he said. “Alexander and Kristen, you will guard the front door. Tyler, you’ll man the computer, and Nina and I will keep watch inside here. Alright?” He looked for some kind of expression of understanding from his team. After a moment, nods began to come from around the room. Titus nodded back to his brave team.

“Then let’s get out there,” he said, and practically marched out the door.

* * *

The day went by slow; everyone was anticipating something happening. But for hours, nothing happened. Tyler watched the computer screens carefully, Kristen and Alexander stayed on guard outside the bunker, and Nina and Titus stayed inside, doing nothing.

Tyler walked into the main living area. He had taken off his sweatshirt, revealing his torn gray t-shirt underneath. He walked by the couches in the middle of the floor toward the kitchen, but stopped when he noticed Titus and Nina sitting on opposite couches, playing with cards.

He looked down for a moment before Titus said, “Go Fish.” Tyler shook his head in amusement, and continued over toward the kitchen. Apparently Titus saw him, because he said, “Hey Tyler, what’s up?”

Tyler stopped at the island and looked over at Titus. “Oh, not much,” he said. He continued to the fridge to grab a soda can out of it.

“What’s the situation on the ship?” Titus asked, as he had been for the past few hours.

“It’s still in orbit,” Tyler replied. He turned toward Titus and started walking over to where he was sitting. “Still in the same position; nothing has changed at all.”

Titus looked down at the floor and rubbed his chin. “That’s not like him,” he mumbled.

“What?” Tyler asked, confused.

Titus shook his head and looked up at the boy sitting next to him. “Oh, nothing,” he replied, shaking his head. Tyler simply nodded slowly, as if agreeing, although he had no idea what to do.

Awkwardly, he stood up and brushed off his jeans. “Well,” he said. “I should probably go check on the computer.”

“Yeah,” Titus said, nodding. “You do that.” He looked up at Tyler with the sincerest, most meaningful eyes. Tyler, however, didn’t know how to react to this, so he simply walked away. Titus looked over to Nina, who was laughing. “What?” Titus asked, starting to laugh himself.

“Oh nothing,” she replied, picking up another card. “Just go.”

Titus looked up at her and burst out laughing. As they both laughed and played together, Kristen and Alexander were outside, sitting against the large hangar doors, watching the city below them. With their backs up against the cool metal, they had a perfect view of the city lights as the evening sun set in the west beside them.

Kristen sat with her head on Alexander’s shoulder, watching the city below. Not diverting her gaze at all, she wondered what her parents were doing at that moment. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to reach out to them with her mind, but all she got was static, or the equivalent.

She looked up at Alexander. “Hey,” he said, smiling at just looking at him.

“Hey,” he replied with a smile.

She turned her gaze back to the city as she said, “What do you think they’re doing right now?”

“Who?” Alexander asked.

“Our parents,” Kristen replied.

“Well,” Alexander started, trying to think of the best thing to say. “My parents are probably out there fighting again.” His smile dissolved at the mention of his parents. But not wanting to bring sorrow into the already grim conversation, he looked down at Kristen and asked, “What about you?”

She sighed, not knowing what to say. “I don’t know,” she replied. “They might be looking for me, but I doubt it.” She paused a moment, emotion filling her mind, before she continued, “My mom doesn’t even care about me. Why would either of them want to look for a lost cause?”

Alexander’s eyes narrowed as he looked out on the horizon. Putting his hand above his eyes to shield them from the bright sky, he could just barely make out the school which they were just at a few days ago. “Hey, look,” he said, pointing to the school.

Kristen looked where he was pointing and nodded, not quite interested. Alexander looked down at her, and realized tears were beginning to form in her eyes. It obviously was nothing new for her, but he still didn’t want her to cry.

He put his hand on her head and kissed the top of her head. Rubbing her beautiful brown hair, he whispered sweet sounds into her ear as she sobbed. Meanwhile, back inside, Titus and Nina were still playing cards when Tyler rushed in, as if something was wrong.

He plopped down on the couch next to Titus, who looked over at him, slightly amused, but still concerned. “What?” he asked. When Tyler didn’t answer, he turned and asked, this time more desperately, “What is it?”

After huffing for a moment, Tyler looked over at Titus, obviously very concerned. “It’s the ship,” he said. Without any other words, he stood up and beckoned to Titus. Getting up, Titus walked over to the control room. When he walked in, his anger for Rendezvous became stronger.

“The ship,” Tyler said, “has entered close orbit.” He looked over at Titus. “He’s planning to do something.” Titus nodded, and was about to say something when Tyler continued, “But it’s more than that. Almost the exact moment that his ship entered the atmosphere, he sent a message to all broadcast towers on the planet.”

Without interruption, Tyler played the message from Rendezvous. The gray-haired man’s face appeared on the screen. As his words of obvious deception filled the speakers, the transmission began to become degraded. Static filled the screen, at near the end of the message, the screen turned to complete static.

Just before his image faded out, Rendezvous looked straight at the camera, and said, “I’m coming, Titus.” The transmission ended, and Titus was left standing in awe. He looked over at Tyler, who was fiddling with the controls nervously. Something was wrong, Titus would tell.

“What?” he asked, his patience running out. “What is it?” He grabbed Tyler and spun him around. Tyler, with a shocked look on his face, was stunned and couldn’t say anything.

After a long pause, Tyler finally spit it out. “Something’s wrong,” he blurted. He tugged himself away from Titus’ grasp and looked at the computer. Running his fingers through his short brown hair, he looked back at Titus. “I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “Somehow, Rendezvous has jammed our communications. We don’t have the satellite uplink, the news broadcasts, anything.” He looked Titus dead in the eye as he finished, “We’re in the dark.”

Chapter 9

Titus knew exactly what that meant, but he didn’t want to admit it. He stomped out into the living area and ran his fingers through his long blonde hair, pulling at it. He looked around, thinking of something—anything—he could use to combat Rendezvous, but he knew the enemy was too strong. They were left in the dark, and Rendezvous was planning a surprise attack.

He spun around the room, taking in everything he had. Then he knew what he had to do. Scrambling to a corner of the room, he opened up a trunk and pulled out four armbands. They had some kind of device on the side of them. Tyler walked over and picked one up, fiddling with it.

The enraged, anxious Titus snatched the device from Tyler without looking behind him. “Don’t do that,” he said. He got up from the chest and looked over at Tyler. “You have no idea what those can do.” Tyler looked shocked and slightly confused, so he didn’t mess with any of the other stuff that Titus pulled out: guns, bombs, mines.

He finally stood up when the floor around him was so covered with stuff that he nearly couldn’t walk. He jumped out from the ring of weapons he had and stood by Tyler, one of the armbands in his hands. He looked up at Tyler, who was eyeing the armband with curious eyes.

“Tyler,” Titus said, huffing. “You need to know only one thing.” Vaguely, he began to explain how the armband worked; it kept the user in sync with universal time, negating the effects of any other temporal fields. It was all scientific stuff, but Tyler kept up with the hundred-mile-an-hour pace Titus was explaining it at.

“Got it?” Titus asked. When Tyler nodded, Titus said, “When something bad happens—and I know it will—all you need to do is slap this on your arm and press the green button, alright?” He handed the armband to Tyler, but before releasing it from his grasp looked Tyler straight in the eye. “I’m counting on you,” he said.

Tyler nodded. After Titus let go of it, he put it in his pocket. He looked back at Titus, who was rummaging through the pile of weapons he had on the floor. He asked, “But where will you be?”

Titus stood up, a rifle Tyler had never seen before in his hands. He looked at Tyler, but didn’t say a thing. His expression said it all. You needn’t not worry about that, it seemed to say. Tyler nodded slowly, as if understanding. Titus threw a handgun to Tyler, who held it with curious eyes.

He continued around to Nina. He threw another handgun to her. She simply held it low to the ground, holding it with both hands, aiming her shot at the floor. After a moment, it set in: why would she need a gun. She looked over and up at Titus, who was already walking out the door.

As he did, he noticed Kristen and Alexander sitting on the opposite side of the wall, looking at the city below. They looked over at him as he walked out, dressed in a bulletproof vest. He threw them both rifles. As Alexander caught his, he simply threw it on the ground beside him.

Kristen looked up at him, confused, and asked, “Why do we need these?”

Titus gazed down at her, his face emotionless, his true identity hidden behind years of calloused anger. “Get ready for a battle,” was all he said, looking out toward the horizon, where a flash of light signaled the teleport of a powerful adversary.

He called into the bunker, and Nina and Tyler both walked out, holding their handguns. As they looked out and saw Rendezvous, backed by an army of robotic warriors, marching forward for them, they both froze. Titus looked over at them, now lit with the fire of battle.

He grabbed Tyler on the shoulders and spun him around. “Don’t freeze,” he said with his voice full of authority and wisdom. “No matter, what happens,” he added, now addressing the whole group, “don’t freeze, even if it comes to death.”

Alexander looked over at Titus, who was aiming his rifle right at Rendezvous, who was approaching over a small hill that led to their location. When the adversary was only a few yards away, he stopped and gazed at the group. For once in his life, fear ran through Alexander’s body.

“Very good,” Rendezvous said, sarcastically clapping. “Very good indeed, mister Titus; I see you’ve gathered yourself a juvenile, untrained group of super-powered children.” He looked dead into Alexander’s eyes, sending even more fear into the boy’s eyes. “Not quite a wise move,” he said, not moving his gaze off of Alexander.

A moment passed, with neither sides firing or saying a word. After that moment was over, Rendezvous raised his hand and gestured forward, toward the bunker. Immediately, the robotic army that backed him walked around him and began firing at the group.

Titus, the first to shoot, looked over at his group. They were braver than he thought; they were fighting. He didn’t know they had that much courage inside of them. But he also knew that wouldn’t last long if they didn’t have some kind of cover; those robots were firing death missiles; with just one shot, you’re dead.

Titus looked over at Kristen. “Kristen,” he yelled through the fray. “Some cover please?”

Kristen nodded, and immediately turned her gaze to the bunker’s roof. Closing her eyes, she stretched her hands out. A piece of the roof ripped off, and was descending toward them. It was just large enough for them to duck under.

The four of them all, almost simultaneously, dove under the sheet of metal. Titus looked over at Tyler, who was bug-eyed. He had never known this type of war. Titus looked over at the other three, who were also in a dazed state of shock; however, they were still fighting. Titus, at that moment, knew he had chosen his actions well.

He gazed around the sheet of metal that he was not using as his shield. His noticed Rendezvous pulling out a pocket watch and looking at it. His expression was obviously one of discontent. He gazed up at the battle, a frown growing on his face. He pulled out another gadget from his pocket, this one simply a square box, glowing light blue.

Titus knew exactly what that was. He snapped his head over to the kids and said, “Cover me!” The kids, confused, looked over at him and watched as he ran out of the cover that shielded him, and ran out toward Rendezvous. Alexander, shaking his head, stood up and looked at who he was fighting.

“Hey,” he said to the mindless robots. “You want to fight someone? Come and get me.” He dropped his rifle, and without hesitation, jumped and dove forward toward a robot. As he hit the mechanical soldier, they both fell to the ground, and the robots around them looked down at the pile of flesh and scrap metal.

Alexander stood up and looked around at the group of emotionless, mindless minions. He smiled. “Alright,” he said, “who’s next?” The robots snapped their robotics arms holding their guns up, and Alexander’s eyes went bulged. He dove to the side, just barely dodging a bullet. He landed on the ground beside a robot, and as he slid across the red sand, he grabbed the foot of the robot, dragging it with him. He stopped at the edge of the canyon, where he threw the robot down. A moment later, a crashing sound met Alexander’s ears. He smiled.

Nina stood up and looked her adversaries in the face. Searching the crowd, she saw Titus skimming the edge of the army, making his way toward Rendezvous, now only a glowing figure. Nina looked down at Kristen and Tyler, who stood up beside Nina and faced the army together. Through the robots, they could see a blue glow forming around Rendezvous. Titus dove for the figure. Just before it disappeared, Titus grabbed onto its ankle.

One moment they were both there, the next they weren’t; it was the ultimate magic trick. The only thing left was a voice. “No!” it yelled. The robots turned around, and the kids immediately recognized it as Rendezvous’. Knowing that they were on their own, both groups of fighters sized up their enemy. After a moment of cease-fire, all hell broke loose.

* * *

Rendezvous appeared on a granite-covered platform. He was soon followed by Titus, who grabbed onto his ankle. A moment after the blue glow disappeared, Titus’ eyes closed, and he collapsed on the floor beside Rendezvous’ foot. Rendezvous kicked him off. “Teleport sickness,” he mumbled.

Two people, a man and a woman, walked into the room. Rendezvous called them over, and pointed down at Titus. “Take him into a room and make him comfortable,” he said. “When he wakes him, bring him to me.”

“Yes sir,” was the response as they picked up the heavy, motionless body. Rendezvous walked out one side of the room, and the nurses, carrying Titus’ motionless body, exited out the other side. The room was left, empty and silent, only the silent sounds of space to fill it.

* * *

Two young boys ran through the grass, laughing. As they chased each other, their yells filled the empty red sky. Their sight was hindered by the tall, brown grass they were running through. But as they entered a clearing, the two boys turned to face each other.

“I’m going to catch,” one of them said in a high-pitched, sweet voice.

“No you’re not,” the other said. He laughed, and began running off in another direction. The hunt was on, and the other little boy began running through the grass to catch his captor. But before he got too far, a strange noise filled the sky. He looked around, unsure of what it was.

His heart skipped a beat as he saw a large, metallic hovercraft descending, heading right for him. He ducked instinctively, but the ship came nowhere close to his position. As it passed, he stood back up and looked at the spot it landed. It spun around for a moment before touching down on the ground. As the engines began to die down, a ramp on the back opened, and a group of men, armed with rifles, walked out the open hatch.

A moment that seemed harmless and innocent soon turned into one of fear and anger. The men piled out, set up targets, and began shooting. This was obviously a military training exercise. The boys looked over at each other, scared and curious. One of the boys, a short, blonde-haired boy, dashed out from behind the bush he was hiding at. He darted toward the ship, and hid behind the ramp.

The other boy, dark-haired and a few years older, called out to the younger boy. “Titus,” he said, whispering, but the boy didn’t listen. He rolled his eyes, obviously aggravated at Titus. He dashed behind bushes, trying not to get caught. He finally made it over behind the ramp, beside Titus.

“James,” Titus said, aggravated.

“Don’t call me that,” the older boy said.

“Sorry, Rendezvous,” Titus replied, putting the emphasis on Rendezvous.

“We shouldn’t be here,” Rendezvous said.

“Oh, we’ll be fine,” Titus said, raising his voice slightly.

He should have never done that. A split-second after he spoke, a large hand reached behind the ramp and grabbed Titus. Rendezvous dodged the shot, sliding backwards. However, Titus wasn’t as lucky; he was drug out from behind the ramp and into the clearing with the men.

“Titus Kim,” one of them marveled. “What’s a little kid doing out here?”

Titus gulped; he was nervous. “We—I—was just playing in the grass,” he started, anxiously. “I saw your ship and wanted to come see what you were doing.” He gave a weak smile, which obviously didn’t work on the military men.

One of them grabbed him and picked him up to eye level. The heavy, bearded man looked him dead in the eye before throwing him back into the grass. “Get outta here,” he bellowed.

And Titus did just that. Without a look back, he fumbled up from the spot he landed and ran out toward the village. Rendezvous, still behind the ramp, made sure no one was looking before he ran out into the grass. He made a rustle as he ran into the tall, dark grass. The men looked backward for a moment before returning to their business.

Titus and Rendezvous met up in another clearing far away, just outside a small village. As Titus entered the area, he fell onto the ground face-first. Rendezvous came over and rolled the young boy over, who began laughing at the tickling sensation as he rolled over. He opened his eyes and looked at Rendezvous. Smiling, Titus grabbed Rendezvous and pulled him down beside him. The two laughed as they rolled around in the dirt.

Chapter 10

The room slowly came into focus. Titus’ eyes slowly opened, but once he saw the dark, lean figure standing at a window looking down at planet Earth, his eyes snapped open. He looked around, and noticed he was in a large, open room, with no more than a control center in the center. Beside the table he was sitting at, the room was barren.

Rendezvous looked over at the white table beside him. He noticed the tall, blonde-haired man sitting there, slowly stirring, and he smiled. Just in time for the show, he thought. He walked over to the table and sat at a chair sitting across from Titus; the only other one at the table.

Pulling the chair out in front of him, he sat down across from Titus and crossed his legs, looking straight at him. After a long moment of silence, Rendezvous finally spoke up. “You’re just in time,” he said, a slight smile on his smile. “I didn’t want you to miss the big event.”

Titus narrowed his eyes and gazed at Rendezvous. “What big event?” he asked with anger in his voice.

Rendezvous smiled. “The big event,” he said, gesturing out toward the window. Metal mechanical arms were detaching from the spherical ship and stretching over the planet below. After a matter of minutes, they encased the Earth. Rendezvous looked over at Titus, smiling. “Get it now?”

Shock and disgust grew over Titus’ face. He knew exactly what Rendezvous was going to do. “You’re going to freeze time,” he said, silently.

A smirk appeared on Rendezvous’ face as he stood up. “Correct, young Titus,” he said. He walked over to the window, putting his hands behind his back as he watched his prize come straight into his hands. He couldn’t believe that after so long, some kind of hope might come back to his life.

“But why?” Titus asked. Rendezvous snapped around at looked at him. Titus continued. “Why would you want to freeze time on earth? What did they ever do to you?”

Rendezvous snapped back around toward Titus, obviously enraged now. “Don’t you remember the great War?” he asked; his voice was calmer than his expression. “Don’t you remember how our planet was destroyed? The sky burned, the earth fell apart; and all this because of them, the humans!”

His rage had gotten the better half of him now; he was standing with his hands slammed down on the table and his forehead sweating. He took a deep breath and stood back up. “Has time on this wretched planet hindered your mind, Titus?” he asked. “If I freeze time for the humans, what will that mean for us?”

“You don’t have to do this,” Titus argued. “There’s other ways.”

“Tell me Titus: What will happen to us if I freeze the humans in time?” Rendezvous was raising his voice now, obviously annoyed with Titus’ aversion of his question.

Titus glared down at the marble floor. “The humans won’t be able to attack the planet and it will be restored.” His voice carried the tone of an unhappy man, more of one who had his mind occupied on other things.

Rendezvous sat down in his seat. “Very good,” he said. He gazed out the window again. The arms had stopped moving. Another human-looking person walked into the room, holding a metal pad in their hands. They walked over to Rendezvous, handing him the pad and whispering something in his ear.

He nodded, grabbed the pad, and turned back to Titus, who was looking down below the table. Rendezvous wondered what he was doing, but shook the thought out of his mind; it was no matter. The only thing that mattered was the plan. “Are you ready to witness a history-changing event?”

Titus looked up, oblivious to anything. As he looked at Rendezvous, a smile began to grow on his face. He pulled his hands apart, snapping the cuffs that held them together. Rendezvous snapped his gaze over to Titus, who was now rushing up from the table toward him. In a quick swipe, Titus rushed toward Rendezvous, grabbing the teleporter off his belt.

Rendezvous looked down just in time to see Titus grab the device, slide across the floor a couple of feet, and teleport down to the surface. Rendezvous dove for him, but only grabbed the floor; Titus was gone. Rendezvous stood back up, staring at the place his captor disappeared. He threw down the pad he had in his hand, shattering it on the floor. He glared back outside toward the planet below.

It was no matter though; his plan was in full affect. Just before he threw the pad down, he initiated the temporal field. A blue glow was nor forming around Earth, emanating from the metal arms around the planet. Rendezvous picked the shattered pad back up; only one button remained. He pressed it, and in a matter of minutes, a humming came from inside the ship. A smile grew on his face again.

* * *

Grabbing the head of the last robot, Alexander smashed it, grabbing the body and throwing it down the canyon behind him. He brushed off his hands and turned back to the rest of the group. He noticed some of them still fighting with a few zombies; Nina, in particular, was simply running around one, making it confused. Alexander smiled and started to walk over to her.

But suddenly, the sky began to dim. It didn’t seem like much at first, but after only a matter of moments, the sky darkened until it seemed like night. Alexander looked up into the sky, confused, and noticed a large metallic plate coming right for them. He had no idea what it was; it seemed like a large space ship, but it hadn’t entered the atmosphere.

After only a moment, something began to buzz. They wondered what it was, and eventually realized it was whatever was in the sky. They wouldn’t have to wonder what it was for long. Before any of them realized it or could react, a field of blue exploded from the piece of metal.

Tyler’s eyes widened. He realized what that was. He headed for the bunker, but before he could go anywhere, one of the robots pinned him down. He tried to fend the robot off, but it had him in its grasped. “Nina!” he called, without realizing it.

Nina couldn’t do anything either though; she was being pursued by a very smart robot who wouldn’t let her go. She tried her hardest, but she couldn’t shake him off. So she decided to do something drastic. She ran right for the robot. Confused, it tried to jump out of the way, but Nina was too fast. Diving straight for the mechanical soldier, both she and the machine landed just mere feet from the edge of the canyon.

Finding the strength to fight the robot off, Tyler ran over to Nina, but before he could get there, the robot shot a blast right into Nina’s stomach. Yet, at the same time, Nina pulled at some wires protruding on its back. The robot, after firing the deadly shot, shut down and fell limp on the ground. Nina, paralyzed, rolled over onto the dirt, holding her now bleeding stomach.

Tyler ran over to her side, his heart now beating faster than it ever had before. He moved her hand and looked over her wound, but he couldn’t take it; it made him sick. He caressed her face, whispering sweetly to her, “Stay with me, you’re alright. We’ll help you, just stay with me.”

Nina reached with her other hand out to Tyler’s face. Caressing it like he had, she whispered sweetly, “Go; save them.” But then her eyes darted away from his face and to the sky, where the blue glow had encompassed the entire sky. Tyler snapped his head around to watch as a white shockwave made its way toward the bunker.

Staring at the sky, Tyler froze. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to stay with Nina, but he knew he had to get those temporal shields before anything happened. He couldn’t let both Nina and the rest of the world die. Then he remembered the armband in his pocket. He reached in and pulled it out, strapping it around his arm.

He watched anxiously as the temporal shockwave moved ever closer to them. Closing his eyes, he reached over to the armband. His finger hovered over the button to activate it, but then he stopped. Everything stopped. The shockwave had come over Tyler and Nina, and time itself on planet Earth stopped.

* * *

Time stopped; everything in the world was frozen. The sky stood still, the wind stopped, and every human being, whether going along with their business or panicking because of the object in the sky, was frozen. Cars stopped mid-drive, computers froze, and the every-day life of Earth was on hold indefinitely.

Women were frozen holding their children in their arms. Men halted their work, frozen at their machines. Cars stopped, some of them facing each other, in emanate danger. The banks froze, some of them in the process of being robbed. World governments, ready to address this new threat that has hovered over the earth, was stopped.

And the team, the four young kids, standing outside the bunker, were frozen, their heartbeats stopped, their breathing halted. The eyes of Nina’s dying body were still fixed on Tyler’s face. Her hand held his face. But as time progressed—or as time froze—her hand slowly began to move.

After a few moments, a heat began to rise over the area Nina was at. Her body began to fidget, and the wound that bled out from her stomach began to heal. Her heart began beating, her lungs began breathing, and within a matter of seconds, she took a long, deep breath. Her eyes bulged as she looked up at the sky, surprised she was still alive.

She sat up, looking around, and saw the world around her frozen. She looked over at Tyler, who had his finger hovering over his armband. She grabbed him, trying to shake him, but he was rock hard; she couldn’t move him at all. Then she realized what he was trying to do. Pushing the button on the armband, a kind of force field engulfed Tyler, and after a moment, he also took a deep breath.

He looked over at Nina, who wasn’t wearing an armband. Not only was it surprising that she could move, but that she was alive. Her wound had healed, and she was in the best of shape possible. “How?” he whispered, panting.

Nina shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe it’s my powers.”

Tyler’s eyes darted around, as if he was thinking, and after a moment, it clicked in his mind. “That’s it,” he said, looking up at Nina. He noticed she was shivering, though ever so slightly, and little waves of air puffed off of her. “You’re vibrating; whether intentionally, or just your bodily functions, but you’re vibrating at just the right frequency to negate the effects of the time field.” He stood up, starting to laugh. “You’re alive,” he said, grabbing her hands to help her up. He hugged her, and repeated, “You’re alive.”

Nina hugged him back reluctantly. “Yeah I’m alive,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Tyler backed up and looked at her for a moment. However, the frozen figures of Kristen and Alexander caught his eye. He ran over to them, quickly followed by Nina. He crouched down to them and examined their situation. He looked back up at Nina, who shook her head.

“Go inside,” he said, “and grab two more of these arm bands.” He patted his own armband. Nina nodded and rushed inside. Only a few moments later, she returned with two of the armbands. Tyler grabbed them from her, thanking her.

He firmly secured them to the frozen figures’ arms, and activated them. Within a matter of moments, the two figures came to life. Alexander stood up, without realizing what happened, and looked around. He helped Kristen up, and they both watched the time-frozen world around them.

Then it hit Kristen: “Why aren’t we frozen in time?” she asked.

“Temporal shield,” Tyler explained, patting his armband. “It keeps us in sync with universal time; it negates any outside temporal effects.” Tyler looked over at Kristen, but could tell he was losing her. He sighed, and turned back to the point they were looking at, the city below them.

Blue light flashed behind them, and a figure appeared. They all glanced back and noticed Titus, lying sideways on the ground, looking up at them. He was in a pose almost like a model. He held the teleporter in his hand. His face wore the expression of both pleasure and excitement. After a moment, he hopped up and confronted the group.

“I see you did get the armbands,” he said to Tyler. He looked over at Nina and noticed she didn’t have an armband on. However, he didn’t regard it as anything; he assumed it was something to do with her powers.

“How aren’t you frozen?” Tyler asked, baffled.

“I was on Rendezvous’ ship,” Titus replied simply. He rubbed his hands together. “Well,” he said. “I think we’ve got a mission to do.” He looked around, and only saw confident faces. He smiled; he knew they’d follow him anywhere. He gestured toward the bunker, and they all walked inside, ready to discuss a plan.

Once inside, Titus turned to the kids and began to discuss everything he had seen and heard on the ship. He explained exactly what Rendezvous wanted to do, and he told them they had no time to waste, so after discussing their plan, they all walked outside. They found a nice open spot, and Titus held up the teleporter he had snatched from Rendezvous. “Grab on,” he said. They did, and he pressed the button on the machine. They dissolved into blue particles, and after a moment, disappeared.

A second later, they all fell down onto the marble floor of the Executor, Rendezvous’ ship. Titus stood up, holding his head. He still wasn’t used to teleportation, although he had done in two times in a row now. After a moment, he looked around at the kids. Tyler was wobbling around on the floor, Alexander was holding Kristen, who was wavering back and forth, and Nina was spinning her head. Titus shook his head in anguish.

“Come on,” he said, gesturing toward a dark hallway. As he walked into the darkness, the kids shook off their ailments and followed Titus. The group who was stumbling around in confusion just a few moments before was now sneaking under the cover of night, rushing from one doorway to another. As they made their way forward they made sure not to get noticed.

At one moment, Titus looked over at Tyler, who was scared, as always. Titus told the group to halt. He looked Tyler straight in the eye, as he could only do, and said, “This isn’t training anymore. Any fears you have, you have to drop them right here and now. If you don’t, you could get us all killed.” Tyler stared blankly at Titus. “Understand?” Titus asked simply. Tyler nodded, and his blank stare turned into a raging passion in his eyes. Titus smirked and nodded. He then led his group onward.

They approached what they assumed was the control room; the tension in the air became ever more evident. It grew, like a balloon filling with air, ready to pop at any moment. When they arrived at a single door at the end of the hall, that moment seemed it was about to come when, out of nowhere, the walls beside the group lifted upward, revealing light from underneath.

Looking around, Titus was confused for a long moment until he met the gaze of Rendezvous, watching the group with his usual evil grin. Titus sneered at Rendezvous, rage in his eyes. He readied himself in a combative position, ready to take on anything to come his way. But the only thing in the room was Rendezvous, and that control panel he saw before.

He turned his head to Tyler, who met his gaze. Without speaking, he looked over to the control panel. As if getting what he was subconsciously saying, Tyler nodded. Titus looked around at the other three kids, who took their stances in a circular position behind Titus. He turned back to Rendezvous, who was only standing with his hands folded in front of him, watching the group with his evil smile that seemed to be glued to his face indefinitely.

“Well, well,” Rendezvous said, his voice echoing in the large room. He had to speak over the humming of motors in the ceiling, but after a moment they stopped, and the room became silent. “Isn’t this a surprise?” Rendezvous continued. He grinned at the kids, tilting his head upwards at them and clearing his throat. “If you think you can just appear on my ship and stopped my plans,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect, “Don’t count on it.”

After he said the words, a metal clanging roared through the high-roofed room, and legions of robotic minions rushed through every door in the room. There were at least ten for each of the competitors. As they surrounded the group, they stopped, letting the silence of the room drop once again. The only thing that could be heard was the kids’ heavy breathing.

Through the group of robots, Titus could see Rendezvous smiling. “Minions,” he said, moving over toward a chair beside the window, “take them out.”

Chapter 11

Within a matter of moments, the room erupted into a fury of energetic blaster bolts, the sounds of grunting as the group dodged the blasts, and the clanking of robot bodies as they fell to the floor. What they were doing was smart; they dodged the shots, and let the robots take themselves out. However, the trick didn’t work, and before long, the robots adapted and stopped firing. Spreading out in lines, they sized up their adversaries.

“Do it!” Titus yelled, and a metal plate came crashing down from the ceiling. Titus grabbed Nina and dove out of the way, Tyler right behind him. Alexander grabbed Kristen and dove to the floor. The robots weren’t as lucky, however; many of the buckets of bolts were demolished, only leaving scrap metal piled on top of scrap metal.

A surprised smile grew on Kristen’s face. Not only didn’t she realize she could do that, but she didn’t realize she could have taken out their enemies that easily. She looked up at the ceiling; a piece of it was missing, revealing metal crossbeams and the outer hull. She turned her attention back down across the floor to Tyler, Nina, and Titus, who were just getting up from the field of debris Kristen had made.

Tyler eyed the control panel. It wasn’t just a simple control panel lifted off the floor; it was an elevated platform beside a large wall of monitors. Console surrounded a large, padded seat. Obviously this was not the bridge, but it certainly was the control area for the super weapon the spaceship was housing.

He quickly got up and made a dash for the console. Nina, looking up from her position close to the floor, could see Rendezvous eyeing Tyler. As if reading his mind, a few droids in the vicinity slowly made their way for Tyler. Although it hurt, Nina forced herself to stand up. Gathering the required energy, she rushed around the droids, drawing their attention onto her.

She stopped in front of a group of droids. She waved at them, giving a fake smile. As soon as they held their guns up, she was gone, only a streak of gray light left behind her. The droids followed her as best they could with their mechanical eyes. After rushing around them a few more times, they eventually malfunctioned and fell over.

Nina stopped, watching the droids as they twitched on the ground. She smiled at her work. She turned her gaze back at Tyler, who was walking up the steps of the console. She continued to smile as he hopped into the chair. But soon her smile was wiped away when she saw Rendezvous eyeing her. She looked over to his side and saw a group of robots rushing toward her. Her eyes enlarging as they started to fire at her, she rushed off into another direction, this time quickly being followed by the drones.

Alexander let go of Kristen as they both stood up. Robots had surrounded them; they were trapped. But that never stopped Alexander. He cracked his knuckles and watched as the robots snapped their heads to the side, confused. He smiled, and a split second later, two of the robots were falling to the ground, their heads smashed together.

He looked over to Kristen, who nodded. Putting their backs against each other, they spun around, eyeing their motionless targets. Kristen looked up at Alexander, who looked back down at him. He smiled at her, and she smiled back. Immediately, they split off and began thinning the army, one robot at a time. Though the robots were strong, the team was stronger; they were no match for the robots.

Tyler sat at the control console, watching a thousand buttons flash in sequence. He looked over the panel, confused. A moment later, it clicked in his mind, and he began tapping buttons furiously. As he ran through what he should do in his mind, the plans seemed to recreate themselves right in front of his eyes. He saw descriptions of items and arrows pointing to objects. He saw words, in his own handwriting, describing the things he was going to do. As he devised new plans or revised his plan, the writing seemed to change before his eyes.

Titus walked up behind the chair. He leaned over the shoulder and watched Tyler at work, his fingers only a blur as he fiddled with the controls. He had seen him do this same thing hundreds of times, but this time some kind of passion filled his eyes. This time it was personal, Titus could tell.

He leaned down to Tyler’s level. “Tell me something,” he said.

Tyler looked up at Titus briefly before he said, “I’ve gotten into the system; I have full control of the temporal field.”

“Can you deactivate it?” Titus asked.

“It’s not that easy,” Tyler replied. “There are a hundred levels of code locking the controls away. Without the correct passwords, I don’t know if I can unlock it.”

Titus leaned down at whispered into Tyler’s ear, “You can do this.”

As soon as Titus said those words, Tyler’s eyes brightened. He started tapping away again, babbling things. “I can get into it,” he explained, “but it’ll take me minutes—hours, even. I might not have time before the timer’s up.”

Shaking his head in confusion, Titus interrupted Tyler. “Excuse me, what was that?” he asked, trying to catch up. “What timer?”

Tyler looked up at Titus. “Didn’t I mention it? There’s a 24-hour timer on the device; after 24 hours, the field will lock and nobody can undo the damage.” He looked back down at the console and tapped obliviously.

“How many hours do we have left?” Titus asked.

“Twenty-three,” Tyler replied.

Staring at him, Titus said, “Well get to it,” and turned around, only to be met by a robotic guard. With a smile, Titus said, “Hello.” A moment later, he punched the robot in the face. It lay down on the ground, its circuits sparking. Titus brushed his hands together. As he walked away, he said, “Goodbye.”

Walking into the fray of the battle, Titus joined Nina, who was still running in circles, distracting the robots. Titus stood at one point outside the circle she was making. As she ran around by him, she said one word. “Need… Some… Help…” she said slowly as she spun around.

Titus nodded. After letting her spin around a couple more times, he grabbed her, and almost instantaneously, she stopped in her tracks. The robots, after straightening their disoriented heads, turned their attention not to Nina, but to Titus. They held their guns up, and Titus dodged their bullets as they shot at him.

He aimed Nina in front of the robot army. Letting her down on the ground and letting her go, she took off and rammed right into the robots, knocking them, along with her, down onto the ground. A moment later, she stood back up, flipping her curled blonde hair out of her face. She looked over to Titus with a questioning and slightly annoyed look. Titus simply shrugged.

Without missing a beat, the two ran back into the fray, helping Kristen and Alexander defend their position and buying Tyler some time. Rendezvous, watching all of the battle, wasn’t happy. He looked over to Tyler, who was tapping away at the computer, hacking right through his brilliantly coded firewalls. He became enraged at what he was seeing. Deciding the only thing to do, he stood up and, without anyone noticing, walked over to the control console.

He walked up behind Tyler unnoticed. Watching the screens in front of him, Tyler was completely oblivious to anything: the battle, the outside world, or the figure looming above him, casting a large shadow down on the console he was using. Rendezvous leaned down beside Tyler’s shoulder, watching him. He grabbed a knife in his pocket, and began to pull it out.

Alexander noticed something sparkling out of the corner of his eye. Snapping his head over to the console, he saw Rendezvous leaning over the chair, pulling something from his pocket. Squinting, Alexander could tell it was a knife. Kicking robots out of his way, he ran toward the elevated platform. He called out to Tyler, who looked to the side and just dodged Rendezvous’ shot.

A second later, Alexander tackled Rendezvous, sending him to the ground. Rendezvous struggled under Alexander’s super-human strength. Squeezing on his wrist, Alexander made Rendezvous drop the knife. It clanked onto the floor. Picking him up, Alexander grabbed the man’s neck and pushed him against the wall in front of him. A choking gargle came from the gray-haired man as he struggled to get free from the fatal grasp.

Titus heard the gargle, and turned to see what all the commotion was. When he fixed his eyes on the point, he saw what Alexander was doing. “No, Alexander,” he yelled. Alexander loosened his grip as he looked back, but he still held the man in his hand. “If you kill him, you’re as bad as him,” Titus said, and that caught Alexander. He froze. He nearly released his grip, though he still held Rendezvous firmly against the wall.

Rendezvous reached down to his pants pocket. He pulled a gun out of his pocket. He pulled it up and aimed for Titus. Kristen turned and noticed the gun. As she saw who it was pointed at, time seemed to slow down. Her movements became quick as she grabbed Titus, pushing him out of the way. She was just quick enough to push him to the floor before the blast from Rendezvous’ blaster hit her.

Chapter 12

A thud was heard as Kristen’s skull hit the ground. Alexander snapped out of his trance and looked back horridly. He saw Kristen lying on the floor, motionless. Alexander looked back at Rendezvous, who was only grinning. Alexander tightened his grip and threw the man to the side, knocking him out as well. He then ran over to Kristen, falling down next to her.

“Kristen,” he whispered as he jerked her head around. He brushed her hair out of her face as he looked at her. Her eyes were closed shut; her skull was bleeding. Nina walked over next to Alexander as he grabbed her head and pushed it up against his own, stroking her head. He whispered lightly into her ear as tears fell from his face.

“Done,” Tyler yelled. His voice echoed through the quiet room. As he heard only his own voice and Alexander’s sobbing, he spun his chair around to examine the situation. The robots were all lying as scrap metal on the ground, Rendezvous was passed out on the floor, and Alexander was holding Kristen’s motionless body.

Instinctively, he immediately jumped up from his seat and ran over next to Nina. She looked over at him with a grim expression. He raised his eyebrows; she just looked back down at the lifeless couple. As Alexander rocked Kristen, the words he said became ever louder, his voice rising, until finally he screamed, “I’m going to kill him!”

He set Kristen down and looked over at Rendezvous, who was just now awakening, rising from his spot drowsily. Alexander stood up, his stance implying that he was furious. He began to march over at Rendezvous when he was stopped by Titus.

“No!” Alexander yelled. “Let me get to him!”

Titus barely held the struggling boy back. “Don’t, Alexander,” he said quietly. Alexander stopped struggling and looked over at Titus. His eyes were full of anguish and pain. Titus looked at him with sincerity and sympathy. Alexander nodded, and Titus let him go.

Turning to confront Rendezvous, Titus only noticed one thing; he was holding a teleporter. “Wait,” Titus yelled, holding his hands up. Just before pressing the button on the blue box, Rendezvous stopped. He looked over at Titus, interested. “You remember when we were kids and we found that training party?” Titus said, edging closer to Rendezvous.

“Well of course I do,” Rendezvous replied. He let down his hand as he said, “We were just kids; we didn’t know what we were doing.” He looked down at the floor for a moment in distress. The next moment, he looked up at Titus. “What does that matter?” he asked, anger rising in his voice again.

“Why can’t we just be kids again,” Titus said, now very close to Rendezvous.

“Of course we can’t,” Rendezvous said, turning to face the window. “Don’t you remember the war? Don’t you remember seeing Grailbad burn? We’ve gone over this before; this is the only way to restore our home.”

“No, it isn’t,” Titus said, lowering his hands. “We can go about this differently.”

Rendezvous spun around and looked at Titus in rage. “These humans destroyed my home, my family,” he said, anger roaring in his voice. “We could have had so much. This is my victory; don’t steal it from me, not this time.”

Titus looked at Rendezvous concernedly. He shook his head. “This isn’t your victory,” he said.

Anger poured out of his eyes. “Yes it is,” he screamed through his teeth. “Somebody has to do something. This is the only way to save our people, our society, and our way of life.”

His adversary only shook his head though. “Let them rest,” Titus said. “Don’t try and revive the past. “Let them go, they haven’t done anything.”

“Yet,” Rendezvous interjected. “But you know they will!” Rendezvous held his head in anguish. He turned back around to watch the planet, holding the teleporter in his hands behind his back.

Titus edged closer, quietly, and in one fair swipe, grabbed the teleporter and smashed it on the floor. Rendezvous rushed around and saw Titus throw the device on the ground. He screamed as he watched. After the finished, there was a long paused, followed by Rendezvous diving for Titus’s neck. However, Titus dodged out of the way. Rendezvous fell on the floor. Titus put his foot on the man’s back. Surprisingly, he didn’t struggle at all. He knew there was no sense in fighting; his fight was over.

Titus turned to Tyler, who was at the console again, spinning around in victory. Titus smiled. “What is it?” he asked.

“I broke the code!” Tyler replied. “We’re in! I have full control.”

“Then shut the thing off,” Alexander said. He sat lifeless beside Kristen, who was slowly coming to.

Tyler nodded, turned back to the machine, and tapped at it. A few moments later, a humming noise emanated from the interior of the ship. Looking outside, Titus could see a yellow beam shooting down to the blue sphere. A moment later, the blue glow disappeared and the metallic arms around the Earth began to retract toward the ship.

Turning his head, Tyler watched his work in action, a smile on his face. He put his hands behind his head, swiveled the chair around, and watched as the Earth was saved. A few moments later, a bang was heard and felt on the ship, signifying that the arms had attached to the ship. Tyler, obviously ecstatic at his job, began to swivel his chair around in victory, cheering.

But then his victory turned to confusion when Titus, without moving from the window, said, “Blow it up.”

Tyler stopped spinning in his chair and looked at Titus. His smile began to diminish. “Blow what up, the Earth?” he asked.

“Of course not,” Titus said, turning around to Tyler. “The ship; blow the ship up.”

Startled and crestfallen, Tyler stared at Titus. “Blow the ship up?” he asked.

“Yes,” Titus said, turning back to the window. “Blow it up.”

Taking a deep breath, Tyler realized this was his duty, to prevent Rendezvous from doing any further damage. So, turning back to the console, he tapped on it furiously. He looked up at the screen with a twinge of despair on his face. But passion still burned in his eyes. Although he wanted to keep this technologically advanced ship, he knew he couldn’t, and he knew what his mission was.

After tapping a single button, Tyler started the self-destruct sequence. A siren started blaring inside the spaceship, and the windows began to shut. The light from the sun outside faded away, and the inhabitants were only lit by the occasional flash of the red alarm light. Tyler spun around in his chair and looked at the group.

He hopped down from the chair and walked down off the platform. “The self-destruct sequence is started,” he said. “We have ten minutes to get off before it blows off.”

Titus nodded. “You did the right thing,” he said to Tyler. Tyler, unsure of himself, just walked beside Titus, helping him pick Rendezvous off the floor. The man’s face was simply one big expression of defeat. They carried him over to where Kristen and Alexander were at, and set him down.

Kristen was now waking up. Her eyes were slowly opening. The first face she saw was Alexander’s, and she smiled. Her smile, as always, was contagious; Alexander caught it, and began smiling along with her. She caressed his face. He grabbed her hand and kissed it.

Rendezvous, sitting next to the reunited couple, sat in a state of insane distress. He could do nothing but laugh at his predicament. Titus shook his head at what his own brother had become. It wasn’t that long ago—or so it felt—that they were fighting alongside each other. Now, there he sat, rocking himself in an insane coma.

He took a deep breath and looked over at Tyler. “Ready?” he asked. Tyler nodded. Titus pulled out the teleporter he had grabbed from Rendezvous and squatted down beside Alexander and Kristen. Alexander, holding Kristen, put his hand on it. Titus grabbed Rendezvous and held it. Tyler walked over beside Nina, grabbed her hand, and they both put their hands on it.

Looking around the group, he noticed all four of the kids smiling confidently at Titus. He could only smile back to them, happy that they completed their mission. However, he had a feeling something wasn’t quite right. But he decided not to pursue it; this was their victory. They had saved the Earth, and now they were making their big escape.

Titus pressed the button on the teleporter, and they dissolved into blue dust, destined for the planet below.

Chapter 13

The group rematerialized on the surface of the planet, just outside the bunker. It was exactly where Titus expected them to land. Looking up at the city, he noticed life as usual returning to the world. People were walking around, going about their normal business, as though nothing had happened at all. He gave a sigh of relief.

Looking up into the sky, Tyler could just barely make out the sphere that comprised the Executor. He pointed up to it, and all the eyes in the group looked upward. They watched as the tiny sphere turned into only a white and orange glow. A minor shockwave hit the surface, but nobody really noticed the object exploding in the atmosphere.

“It’s beautiful,” Nina whispered into Tyler’s ear. He looked down at her, and she smiled. She kissed him on his cheek, and his expression turned to surprise. Nina looked at him, chuckling. “Don’t look so surprised,” she said with a laugh. Soon her laugh became contagious and both of them were chuckling.

Titus looked down and noticed his captor was out of his grasp. His smile faded away, but he didn’t think much of the action. The man was harmless, he had no weapons. What was the worst he could do? But Titus knew this was only the beginning. Rendezvous would not stop until the entire race was wiped from existence.

Kristen looked up at Alexander. They were still smiling. Alexander let her go, and she sat up beside him. They looked out toward the city, their former home. Alexander then looked back at the bunker, his former home. Though he knew where his loyalty was, he was still torn between his duties with his new powers and his family. He loved his mother; how could he just let her go like that?

Standing up, Titus walked over to the edge of the canyon. He looked out over the city, as everybody else was. Clouds were on the horizon, possibly a forecast of things to come. A shadowy figure standing on a hill on the other side of the canyon grasped his attention. The figure, obviously a very tall man, looked out across the horizon, his arms outstretched. A moment later, he ran down the hill into the city.

Titus narrowed his eyes. He knew there was more to come; he just didn’t know what was to come. And that scared him most of all. He knew everything in the known world; he had traveled the world, seen everything. But now there was something he didn’t know, a place he couldn’t go, that he knew darkness would be coming from. There was a rising storm, he could feel it.

But for right now, he was going to enjoy this victory. He turned back to the group, who were watching him. He looked down at the ground and slowly walked up the hill to the bunker. He opened up the doors and walked inside, closing them behind him.

The group watched him curiously. “What’s his problem?” Alexander asked. Nina just shrugged. She was too happy to care about it. She turned back to the city, where the sun was setting. The orange glow could be seen just above the rooftops. It seemed as though the joy of the sun flooded into Nina’s soul. She was happy, and nobody could take that away.

* * *

The night was cold. Kristen shuffled around in her sleeping bag. She mumbled things in her sleep. As the nightmare progressed, her words became louder until they became screams. Alexander woke up beside her and began shaking her to wake her up. A moment after he started, she startled awake, sitting straight up.

Her breathing was heavy; the nightmare was worse than any she had ever had. It felt as if it was real. She looked around the room, and only saw the others lying on the balcony. She sighed, closing her eyes and clearing her mind. She stood up and climbed down the ladder off the balcony.Alexander followed right behind her as she walked out the door into the cold autumn night. Everything seemed still; it was a perfect night. She looked up and barely saw the moon peeking between the clouds. It shone a dazzling light on the city below; the sleeping city, unknowing of what was to come.

She stood there, motionless, as Alexander put his hand on her shoulder. She looked over at him and grabbed his hand. She knew she wasn’t alone; she had the entire group with her. Through all of the chaos of the past day, she seemed to forget about her family and the sorrow she might have brought them. For once in a long while, she forgot the grief that the thought of her sister brought.

White specks began to fall from the sky. Looking up, Kristen noticed many of those white specks falling from the sky; however, there weren’t any snow clouds nearby, and it wasn’t the season for snow anyway. She put her hand out, and a few of the flakes fell into her hand; they were warm.

She glanced back and saw Titus walking out of the bunker, quietly closing the door behind him. He walked up next to her and looked up at the sky. He did the same thing as Kristen; he put his hand out and gathered some of the specks. Looking up at the sky, he immediately realized what it was, but he didn’t say anything.

“Is it snow?” Kristen asked, looking over at Titus.

“No,” he said, still looking up. “It’s just the debris from the ship burning up in the atmosphere.” That lowered Kristen’s spirits until Titus added, “But it is still beautiful.”

Smiling, Kristen looked back over at Titus. He looked down at her and began smiling also. She looked over at Alexander, who was still marveling the tiny objects falling from the sky. She looked back out to the city and saw her home—or rather, her former home. She knew things were going to be okay; there was no doubt in her mind.

But something didn’t seem right. Shadows were growing over the city, literally and metaphorically. Something was rising, and she could feel it. It may have been her powers or just her instincts, but something was coming, and the world would never be the same. They may have saved the world, but the battle still wasn’t over.

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