Retail Games Serial Intro

Welcome to InkBlot Serial’s first serial, Retail Games. This was written in 2009. This novel is special to me because it is the first novel I plotted from start to finish so that I could put “The End” on it! Previous to this, I pantsed (wrote by the seat of my pants, making it all up as I went), and never finished anything. I didn’t want that to happen anymore, so I plotted everything. This was my first finished project and I was so proud. I made one printed copy of this book, lent it to a friend and hadn’t seen it since. I was lucky that I had the foresight to put a digital copy on Dropbox and I just found it again! I’m going to see if people will be interested in this story enough to want to buy a printed copy.

Blurb: Henry Wainwright didn’t think he was going to be hired at the second hand store Fashion Emergency!, but as luck would have it, he did. Things were great, except for the constant bombardment of Fall Out Boy on the satellite radio, until customers, then employees start disappearing. How come the managers didn’t care? What secrets are they keeping? Henry feels compelled to investigate. But it might cost him more than his job.

Background: Why does this story exist? Well, in the summer of 2009, I worked at a boujie second hand clothing store called Buffalo Exchange. It catered to the University of Arizona students. (AZ 1 was the first store in the franchise. Now it’s everywhere!) Only cool fashion was accepted. The clothes were way more expensive than they should have been, and only the best were accepted. You could bring in five bags of well kept clothes and the buyers would only take two or three pieces of clothing and give you store credit. It was one of my favorite places to work. While I worked, I wondered what would happen if weird shit transpired and no one knew why. I had never written a story based on where I worked before and thought it would be fun, but had no real plan to write this. Then I was fired because I dared to document that a manager refused my request to perform a task that would help me save my job at my three month review. I wanted vengeance, so Retail Games was born. I really hope you enjoy this!

PS, Nevermind the name Nathaniel X. Summers on the cover. That was my pen name at the time!

Heroes of Lunde, Episode 4

You, Me, and the Demon, Part 1

PART 1

The demon agent, Kendryl, ran down a dark and empty downtown alley. The ground was wet from the summer rain earlier that day. The downtown district of the village Pantano, just outside the royal castle wall, was buzzing with activity. There was a monthly celebration going on. Every second Saturday, the village people pulled out all the stops and sold their wares, played loud music, and ate all the vendor foods. 

Kendryl was using all of this to his advantage. The streets were crowded, which provided the perfect cover, or rather it should have, but he was being followed. He could sense his pursuers’ energies. They weren’t too far behind him. He had to find somewhere to hide. He didn’t want to lead them to his final destination. His employers would not like that.

He ducked behind a dumpster for a few moments to see if he could get a glimpse of his pursuers. After five minutes of waiting, there was no sign of them. Did he lose them? He hoped he had. He poked his head out from behind the dumpster and scanned the area. He must be alone now. There didn’t seem to be anyone around.

He stepped out into the open and continued his journey to his destination. He still felt his pursuers energies, but they were further away now. He thought he had successfully lost them. Maybe they were sampling some food carts and forgot about him. He giggled at the thought of them eating on the job. It was then that his stomach growled. He remembered he hadn’t eaten yet. He supposed he could grab a bite to eat once his objective was complete.

He wished he had the power of invisibility so that creeping through the streets would be easier. Unfortunately, he was not blessed with that gift. So, sneaking visibly through the streets it was. 

He wore the quintessential long trench coat with the collar turned up so that it would be difficult to ID him from behind. That didn’t really matter because he was seven feet tall and had red skin. He knew he stuck out like a sore thumb, but wearing the trenchcoat made him feel better. It made him feel slick and sleek. He didn’t care if it was true or not.

Kendryl reached the end of the alley and back into the crowd of people enjoying themselves. He shoved his way through the crowd in a rough manner, causing people to cry out their frustration of being touched. He ignored their cries for soon they would all be dead if everything went as planned.

He made his way to Graber Avenue and took a right. The street was mostly empty. Just a few drunk men looking for a place to pee without being noticed by constables. Kendryl rushed by them and tried not to take a peek as he passed. 

At the end of Graber Avenue was an old abandoned building that had been condemned for what looked like ten years by the dilapidated state it was in. There was usually a security guard patrolling the place to make sure that no kids snuck in to do their devil worshipping and or vandalism. He was sure the security guard was not there tonight due to the celebration. The reason why he was sure about this was because he bribed the security guard not to show up to work tonight. He was sad that he had to spend his last fifty gold coins, but if he did his job right, then he’d get those fifty gold coins back and more.

Kendryl reached the abandoned building. It used to be a hospital. It looked like a pale green mansion smack dab in the middle of downtown Pantano. The moonlight made it look haunted. He chuckled because if it wasn’t already haunted by evil spirits, it definitely would be tonight.

He climbed over the fence that surrounded the hospital and landed square on his butt when he slipped. He wasn’t the most athletic demon in the underworld, but at least he had his looks. He stood up and brushed the dead grass off of him. He patted his butt in an effort to get feeling back into his buns. The landing had numbed them.

He checked behind him to see if anyone had noticed him, but no one was paying him any attention. Good. He snuck over to the entrance of the hospital and pulled off the wooden planks that had been nailed to the doors. He let them fall to the concrete ground and they clattered loudly. He looked behind him again, no one was watching. He cursed under his breath and told himself he didn’t need to draw any unwanted attention to himself. Once the planks were gone, he opened the door and slipped inside.

He carefully closed the door behind him. He let his eyes adjust to the darkness. His eyes had great dark vision. He could see everything there was to see: the front desk, the lobby, the waiting room with the white cloths covering the chairs. He could smell the dust hanging in the air. Dust was one of his favorite smells, right up there with old books.

Kendryl stood in the lobby for a minute and sniffed the air. He remembered that he wasn’t getting paid to suck air. He snapped out of it and made his way to the basement.

The sound of his heavy footsteps echoed up and down the stairway. There were two more floors before he finally reached the basement. The door was covered with plastic. When he tore that away, he found that the door was covered in wooden planks. He ripped those away in no time. Nothing could stop him now. 

Kendryl opened the door which led to a dark empty room. It used to be an overflow emergency operation room; this explained why the room was so expanse. He imagined how the room had been once littered with all kinds of medical equipment beeping and flashing their pretty little lights while people in scrubs raced around cutting into other people to remove or implant things in their bodies. None of that was here now. Only dirty white walls, or at least he assumed they were white, in the darkness it was hard to tell.  

He walked to the center of the room and got down on his knees. He placed his right hand on the floor and closed his eyes. He let his powers seep down into the floor and stretch far into the ground beneath the concrete. He could feel the heat of the underworld race up to meet him. When he was connected to the underworld’s power, he drew it up within himself. He felt the warmth of that power mixing with his. It was quite a rush because this power was more raw than his own, which had been muddled through the generations.  

Once he had drawn enough power, he withdrew his hand from the floor. It was time to work his magic. He summoned the power to collect in his right hand, which he used to draw sigils in the concrete in a circular pattern. The signs of the demon language shown in bright purple as he drew them. When he drew the seventh sign, a red circle appeared and connected all of them. He stepped out of the way and watched the light show. 

The gate was almost complete. It just needed to hear the ancient incantation that would usher the Lord of Darkness from the underworld to this world. He didn’t memorize the incantation like he was supposed to, but he wrote it down. He figured that he could wing whatever he didn’t know and everything would work out just fine. 

He pulled a piece of paper out of his coat pocket and unfolded it. He noticed that he had gotten barbecue sauce on the upper right-hand corner of the paper. He remembered the bacon double cheeseburger that he had enjoyed at lunch today. 

The bacon wasn’t exactly crispy enough. He didn’t like wimpy bacon. Wimpy bacon angered his stomach and his dignity. He was a warrior! He demanded a warrior’s bacon, which is crispy, dammit! He made a mental note to burn that restaurant to the ground later for the insult.

He examined the rest of the paper and saw there was a small drop that conveniently landed on a letter of a big word that was probably crucial to the incantation. He tried to scrape the hardened sauce off and only succeeded in smudging it. He winced and hoped that the word was not too important. 

Kendryl parsed the rest of the words and got the gist of it. This was a Level 10 incantation and he was proficient with Level 9s. He had slacked in his studies and had not passed the Level 10 test. He lied to his employer to get this job because he had gotten some unexpected expenses and really needed the money. This job paid a lot, so he did what he had to do.  

He concentrated his powers into his vocal cords so that he could cast the summoning incantation. He opened his mouth and took a deep breath to utter the first syllable when suddenly he heard the door slam open. Instantly, he received a sharp pain in his back. He grunted as he felt the tip of the arrow break his skin. He spun around to find a dwarf standing in the entrance with his bow in hand. Apparently, he hadn’t lost his pursuers. 

“You’re too late, Hero,” Kendryl sneered. “The gate is just about open. The Lord of Darkness is coming!” 

“I could have lived the rest of my life without hearing that,” Everett said. 

Kendryl puffed up as he grew frustrated by the pun. “Gross!” He raised his left hand and produced a fireball. He launched it at the dwarf and laughed as he envisioned him bursting into flame.  

The fire ball flew at Everett at a great speed, but it did not connect, which confused Kendryl. The fireball floated in midair, mere inches from Everett’s face. The demon wondered what devil magic this was. The answer soon emerged from the hallway.  

A dashingly handsome man wearing a silver and blue uniform complete with matching cape appeared. He had his right hand extended, exerting magical energy to keep the fireball from reaching its target. He closed his fist and the fireball was extinguished. “Is it me or was it getting a little hot in here?” he said. He chuckled at his own joke, if one could call it that. This caused Kendryl to sneer at the man’s arrogance.  

A moment later, a tall woman dressed in battle armor, an elven woman, and a giant wolf man arrived in the doorway behind the wizard. It seemed like there were too many people invited to this party. Kendryl didn’t know if he could fight all of them. He was not looking forward to going toe to toe with the werewolf. He looked bitey. He had to get the gate open. The Lord of Darkness was waiting to cross over. He wouldn’t be too happy with Kendryl if he failed. Now he wished that he had memorized the incantation. 

“I think you had better pack up and go home,” the warrior princess, Andrada said. She pulled out her sword and raised it above her head so as not to hit her comrades who had not vacated the doorway. 

Kendryl created another fireball, larger this time, and bounced it in his left hand. “Look. I really don’t have time for this. I’m just going to incinerate you and go about my business, okay? You all okay with that?” He surveyed their faces and saw that they weren’t exactly thrilled with the plan. He shrugged his shoulders and smirked. “Too bad.” He threw the ball at them anyway. 

The team braced for impact needlessly. Quil reached out his hands and caught the fireball inches from their faces. They felt the heat emanating from it. Quil tried his best to crush the ball, but it was a bit more powerful than he thought. So he did the next best thing, he pushed the ball back at Kendryl. 

Kendryl caught the ball and was impressed by Quil’s prowess, and also angered that this was taking longer than he expected. The magic in the sigils weren’t going to last much longer. He needed to wrap this up with the quickness. He pushed the fireball back at Quil. 

Quil stood in front of the team and caught the ball with his powers. He didn’t hesitate to toss it back to Kendryl. 

The team watched as Kendryl and Quil played volleyball with this fireball. Andrada thought it was time to try another tactic. She slipped past Quil and tackled Kendryl to the ground, landing in the middle of the ring of magic. They rolled around, each one struggling for the top position. Kendryl was strong, but Andrada was stronger. She wrestled him to the ground and proceeded to deal out the punches. 

Kendryl wasn’t used to being mounted and assaulted in such a way. He was momentarily confused by what was happening before he finally started to fight back. He pushed Andrada’s heavy armor off of his chest, allowing him to take a deep breath. He used some of the magic from the circle to bolster his strength. With the added boost, he shoved the princess off him and launched her across the room. He stood up and roared.  

This cued Jaco, the werewolf, to roar as well. Kendryl gulped as he realized what was coming next. He ducked as the werewolf dove for him. The wolf landed on the wall and rebounded, succeeding in knocking the demon to the ground. Jaco raised his razor sharp claws and prepared to tear into him. 

“Jaco, stop!” Quil called out. Jaco stopped in mid swing and looked up at Quil, his leader, his lover. “Sit.” Jaco immediately huffed and promptly sat his werewolf butt down on top of Kendryl’s back. “Good boy!” Jaco’s tongue lolled out and dripped on Kendryl’s expensive jacket. 

The light from the magic circle was dying out. Kendryl tried to wiggle his way out from underneath the werewolf, but the thing was heavy. This guy needed to be on a diet. He mentally cursed himself for allowing himself to be caught. This was not going to look good on his resume. He finally ceased struggling and just let whatever was going to happen happen. He was at the Heroes’ mercy. Or was he?  

Quil and the elven woman, Amareese, approached Kendryl and knelt down to face him. Kendryl wished that his throat wasn’t so dry so that he could spit on their really nice, expensive looking shoes. 

“Who put you up to this?” Quil asked. 

Kendryl snorted. “You think I’m going to tell you? You’re naïve! That or you’re really stupid.” 

Quil slapped Kendryl in the face. He withdrew his hand and shook it. The demon’s face was harder than it looked. “You will tell me, or I’ll have Reese here turn your insides into mulch for maggots.” He tapped Reese on the shoulder. She produced a flower at the tip of her index finger. “Imagine that crawling out of your skin from inside your gut. You’d be a pretty garden.” 

“You suck at scare tactics,” Kendryl said. “I mean, I’m no expert on interrogations, but you’re doing pretty badly.” 

Quil took a deep breath and allowed the critique to flow off his back. It was true that he hadn’t conducted many interrogations in the past, but that was mostly due to the fact that he hadn’t trained Jaco not to tear the suspects to shreds before the questioning. He seemed to have succeeded tonight. 

“Never mind my tactics,” Quil said, waving his hand dismissively. “I will make you talk or I will let the puppy tear you apart.” He caught Kendryl trying to put the incantation into his pocket and wrestled it from his hand. “What’s this? A spell?” He examined it and nodded his head. “Yep. I can take care of this.” He went to put the paper in his pocket when he remembered that he didn’t make this uniform with pockets. He would have to fix that. He was content to hold it. He looked at the summoning circle and frowned. That needed to be dealt with quickly. “Reese?”  

The elven nodded her head, knowing what he wanted. She materialized her giant earthen Warhammer and struck the floor with it, right in the middle of the circle.  

The summoning circle surged with power for a brief moment before it finally faded away. Kendryl let out a sigh of frustration. He had run out of options. Either he went with the Heroes and endured whatever torture they had planned for him, or he had to die in the service of the Dark Lord. He was pretty sure that he wouldn’t last long while being tortured, no matter how bad it was, and he’d talk, so that left the other option. Damn, he had enjoyed living so far. He supposed the jig was up. The Dark Circle would probably kill him for failing to release the Lord of Darkness, so it was better that he went out on his own terms. 

Quil stood up and patted Jaco on the head. The werewolf panted enthusiastically. “Okay, let’s pick him up and get him out of here.”  

Jaco stood up, relieving Kendryl and picked him up off the ground. 

Kendryl knew that it was either now or never. He reached deep within his mind and initiated the self destruct spell. His skin began to heat up and sizzle. This made it difficult for Jaco to hold on to him for very long. He eventually had to let go. 

“What are you doing?” Quil asked. He watched as Kendryl’s skin cracked to reveal bright burning red embers. “Stop that!” 

“Make me, wizard!” Kendryl stuck his tongue out at him. A second later, he burst into a million fiery pieces. The team shielded their faces to protect themselves from being burned. 

“What the actual fuck!” Quil shouted. Jaco whimpered sadly. 

“He blew up,” Everett said, sounding impressed. “Cool trick.” 

The ash rained down upon them. Jaco tried to catch it with his tongue. When he did, he was quite disappointed with the flavor. Quil made a futile effort to wave some of the ash out of his face. 

“So now what?” Andrada asked. “We don’t know any more than we did when we started.” Her frustration showed on her face; while she appreciated that the enemy died, she wanted his death to be by their hand for a truly flawless victory. 

“Well, we did manage to stop him from summoning the Lord of Darkness into our reality, so I call that a win.” Quil placed his hands on his hips and posed triumphantly. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.” 

“Agreed,” Reese said. “It is quite dreary in here. I feel that there might be some lingering spirits residing here.” She gave the room a scan in the hope and fear that she might see one of the spirits, but she saw none. 

Quil led the team out of the basement. As he climbed up the stairs, he felt something cold enter his body. He shivered for a few seconds before the chill left him. He had stopped walking as this happened, causing a back up. 

“Quil, are you alright?” Everett asked. “You seem to have stopped.” 

Quil didn’t know what had just happened, but he was sure that it was nothing. It might have been a bit chilly in the basement and it was just now affecting him. “I’m fine,” he replied. He continued his journey up the stairs, not noticing the concerned look on Everett’s face. He felt tired and the desire to be asleep overcame him. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long ride back to the castle. He mustered the strength to make home.  

The minute he got out of the buggy that stopped in front of the castle, he made his way to bed. He didn’t bother taking off his uniform before he crawled in bed. He didn’t understand why he was so tired all of a sudden, but it didn’t matter now. He was in bed. He was asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow. He didn’t dream. 

*** 

Quil woke up with a kink in his neck. He sat up and tried to pop his neck bones back into place, but they refused to be aligned. He sighed and resigned to having Jaco give him a neck rub; he had nice, strong hands. 

He got out of bed and did his usual waking up routine: potty; shower; brush his teeth, and getting dressed. He was unaware of what time it was, so he expected breakfast to be ready. He was surprised when he got to the dining hall to find that there was no breakfast spread waiting for him. He wondered what had gone wrong. He looked at the giant clock hung just above the door to the dining hall and gasped when he saw that it was 3:00 in the afternoon. He stood there shocked and amazed at how he could have slept for thirteen hours. 

“So, he awakes,” said his brother, Chrys, from behind him. “Did you stay up all night partying with your loser friends?”  

Quil resented the condescending tone in Chrys’ voice. “No, I wasn’t partying. Me and my loser friends were just stopping the Lord of Darkness from emerging from the underworld. What were you doing?” 

“I was patrolling the eastern borders if you must know,” Chrys replied. “You know, something useful.” 

“How is stopping the Lord of Darkness not useful?” Quil didn’t feel like getting into an argument with him right then, but he couldn’t stop himself. He was sick of Chrys’ self-righteous attitude. “You should come on a mission with us sometime and then you’ll see how useful we are. But I suppose that’s beneath you.” He gave his brother a hard glare. 

Chrys smirked for a brief second, but then his face changed from one of amused to concerned, and then to frightened. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” 

“I’m not doing anything,” Quil said, confused. 

“Your eyes…” Chrys took a step back. 

“What about them?”  

“They’re red.” 

“I’m tired. Nothing to be afraid of.” Quil rubbed his eyes to demonstrate how tired he was. The problem was that he wasn’t feeling tired. In fact, he felt pretty rested with the exception of the kink in his neck. He must have slept like a rock and didn’t move a muscle. That didn’t answer the question of why his brother was freaking out. 

Quil walked over to one of the mirrors on the wall and saw what Chrys was talking about. It wasn’t the whites of his eyes that were red, but the iris. He took a step back and touched his face. He had seen those eyes before. Didn’t that demon have similar eyes last night, he thought. What was happening? 

“Did you try to use magic on me?” Chrys accused. 

“No! Of course not!” Quil suddenly wished that he had. The image of Chrys being lifted off the ground, clutching at his throat as it was squeezed inward to the point of almost collapsing entered his mind. He felt amused by this. Before he got too deep into the fantasy, he caught his thoughts getting darker. He was frightened by this and shook the thought out of his head. “No… I wouldn’t think of it.” 

Chrys sighed and placed his hands at his side. “You better not.” 

An anger hit Quil out of nowhere. He spun around and shot a hard glance at his brother. “And what if I did, what would you do about it?” he shouted. “You would probably run sniveling to Father and cower in a corner in fear and shame.” As he approached his brother, he could feel his eyes growing warm. They were glowing orange now. He enjoyed the look of horror on Chrys’s face. “Why can’t you just admit that you’re jealous of my power? You weren’t smart enough to go to Wizarding School and now you look down your nose at me. Maybe I should do you a favor and put you out of your misery.” He felt his right hand twitch as energy flowed to it. He was running through the card catalog of spells in his mind as he powered up. 

“Quil, you’re starting to scare me,” Chrys admitted. “What’s wrong with you?” 

“I’ve finally had enough of your pompous bullshit,” Quil said. He took a few more steps toward Chrys with a menacing smile on his face. He extended his hand and a fireball appeared in it. Chrys pleaded for him to put it away, but Quil was not listening. With each step, the fireball grew larger. He was going to pay for insulting his team. 

“I will enjoy watching you burn, brother.” Quil prepared to launch the fireball at him when he suddenly heard a familiar voice behind him. 

“Quil, don’t!” It was Jaco. He was in his human form, dressed only in red spandex pants. He had just come from Quil’s room to find that he wasn’t there. He searched most of the castle for him and finally guessed that he might be in the dining hall. He arrived just in time to catch Quil in the act.  

Quil turned around and saw Jaco standing there, sweat glistening off his body. This immediately calmed him and he lowered his hand. The fireball was snuffed out. His thoughts were returning to him. For a moment his thoughts became cloudy and he was disconnected from himself. He didn’t know where he went, but he was glad to be back. He heard Chrys whimper something and he returned his attention back to him. He saw how terrified he was and instantly felt awful. 

“Chrys, I’m so sorry!” He reached out to comfort his brother, but he pulled away. This made him feel even worse. “I don’t know what came over me. I didn’t mean those things I said.” 

“Yeah, whatever, just stay away from me,” Chrys said as he straightened himself up. He didn’t dare to express any displeasure at what had just transpired out of fear. He just found somewhere else to be. Quil and Jaco watched Chrys leave the room. The door slammed loudly, displaying Chrys’ true feelings. 

Jaco went to Quil and hugged him. “What the hell was that about? Did he do something to piss you off?” 

“When doesn’t he?” Quil joked. When he and Jaco separated, he saw the concern in Jaco’s eyes. “Are my eyes still red?” Jaco shook his head. “Something is happening to me. I don’t know what it is. I just remembered thinking that I wanted Chrys to pay for insulting the Heroes.” He clenched his right hand into a fist and brought it up to examine. “I almost toasted him. I couldn’t control myself, Jaco. It was like someone else was controlling me.” 

Jaco furrowed his fuzzy brows. “That doesn’t sound normal. You need to see someone.” 

Quil scoffed. “I’m not seeing a head shrinker. I’m not crazy.” 

“You just said that you felt like someone was controlling you. I think you might be possessed.” Jaco placed a hand on Quil’s right shoulder. “You need to be exorcised.” 

Quil couldn’t help but laugh. “Possessed? That’s a little woo-woo, even for you.” 

“Come with me and we’ll see someone,” Jaco took Quil’s hand and pulled him toward the door. He felt Quil’s resistance. He looked back at him and raised an eyebrow paired with his award winning smile. “Trust me?” Quil nodded his head. “Then let’s go.” 

Quil’s stomach gurgled. “Can we get something to eat on the way. I’m famished.” Jaco agreed and the two of them left the dining hall. 

*** 

In a dark lair in some secret far away place, Mistress L entered her favorite chamber where her viewing globe sat on a purple crushed velvet cushion. She sat before it and waved her hands over it. It glowed with an eerie white light. She needed to find Kendryl. She noticed that the Dark Lord had not risen as per the plan. She wanted a report. She focused her power in finding him across the great lands. She searched the souls of the people in her path until she finally landed on her target… only it wasn’t her target. She leaned closer just in case her eyes deceived her. She thought about getting her glasses, but she hated wearing them because she thought that they made her look like a grandmother, and not one of those young grandmothers, but the really old kind.  

She examined the face in the globe and found she was staring at the face of the leader of the Heroes of Lunde. What did this mean? She conducted the search repeatedly and the results were the same. Quil’s face stared back at her with an irritating smile on his face.  

Mistress L sat back and pondered why this was. She assumed that something had gone wrong while he attempted to summon the Dark Lord. How Kendryl’s energy signature ended up on Quil didn’t make sense to her. What could have happened for this to be the result?

 She would have to consult the other members of the Dark Circle. Maybe there was still a chance to turn things around in their favor. She made up her mind that she was going to watch Quil to see if anything interesting happened. The thought of making popcorn also occurred to her. Food was making this much more interesting. Once she decided on popcorn, she left the chamber to prepare some, hoping that she wouldn’t miss too much. 

To be continued…

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Perils of S.P.A.C.E. Episode 10

Previously on Perils of S.P.A.C.E.: Astralyn and the boys head to Planet Destin to meet with Dr. Hartnell about a certain artifact, unaware of his possible sinister ulterior motives for giving it to them.


Episode 10: The Curse of the Minotaur, Part II- Ticking Box of Doom

“Doesn’t anyone else think that guy was a little creepy?” Timmy asked as they reached the parking lot. There were multiple rows of rocket ships waiting in the two suns for their owners to return. Sundance unlocked the StarTango and the three of them climbed inside through the back door. “I mean, anyone? Just me? Hello?”

“We heard you the first time,” Sundance said. He waited until Timmy and Astralyn had exited the airlock before he shut the door and locked it. “He did strike me as a little odd, but he’s an old man- old men are creepy.” He headed to the cockpit and prepared for take off.

Timmy reluctantly sat down in his seat and sighed. “My stomach is getting that feeling again.”

“Maybe you should have had more than a scone for breakfast,” Sundance said, switching on the ignition. “There were plenty of waffles and pancakes.”

Timmy patted his stomach and sighed again. “I didn’t care much for waffles and pancakes, sir.”

Astralyn couldn’t take her eyes off the Minos Cube. She played with it in her hands. She thought about asking Doctor Hartnell for a bag, but then she wouldn’t have been able to look at it. The little box was so cool to the touch and smooth, she never wanted to let it go.

“Are you enjoying your new shiny thing, Astralyn?” Sundance asked.

“Very much so,” she replied. “To think it came from Old Earth.”

“Imagine that.” Sundance smirked. “If you sell it, we could get more than enough money to pay for the gas it took to pick it up, and maybe some breakfast.” Astralyn did not appreciate the humor.

The StarTango lifted off and zoomed out into space.

Astralyn continued to examine the cube. She had seen every inch of it, but she couldn’t help herself. She gingerly caressed the cube with her thumbs. It suddenly shook almost causing her to drop it.

“What happened?” Timmy asked when Astralyn gasped.

“The cube… it vibrated.”

Timmy sunk down in his chair.

“Are you sure it wasn’t just the ship hitting some turbulence?” Sundance asked.

“Shh.” Astralyn slowly raised the cube to her ear. Timmy and Sundance held their breath as a faint ticking sound was heard. “I think it’s ticking.”

Timmy shot out of his chair and rushed over to Astralyn. He snatched the cube out of her hands. “It’s a bomb!”

“It’s not a bomb!” Astralyn said, standing up to retrieve her artifact.

“Then why is it ticking?” Timmy marched over to the airlock door and started to punch in the code to open it.

“TIMMY! WHAT HELL ARE YOU DOING?” Sundance quickly placed the ship on autopilot and jumped up to stop Timmy. He pulled him away from the airlock and sat him down on Astralyn’s chair. The box slipped from his fingers and fell to the floor. “What is it with you? You’re acting completely nuts.”

“It’s a ticking box of doom, sir!”

“Explosives haven’t ticked in ages,” Sundance said. “Snap out of it, man!”

“It stopped,” Astralyn said quietly.

All eyes were on the little black cube. They weren’t exactly sure what they expected it to do. Sundance slowly stepped over to it. He cautiously picked it up and tapped it three times. Nothing happened.

“So, I think it’s safe to say it’s not a bomb,” he said.

In a flash of red light, the cube shook and fell to the floor. It was the only passenger on the ship.

———————————————–

“I swear to God, Timmy, if you don’t stop complaining about your stomach,” Sundance mumbled as he slowly sat up. His head was pounding. He rubbed his forehead in the hopes of massaging the pain away. When his vision cleared, he realized that he was no longer on the StarTango. Thanks to a light somewhere above him, Sundance saw that he sat on a gray floor with the spectacularly gray walls that had to be fifteen feet high on either side of him. He looked behind him and saw that Astralyn and Timmy were lying unconscious on the floor. He crawled over to Timmy and shook him.

“Timmy. Timmy!”

“I don’t want any,” Timmy mumbled.

Sundance gave Timmy a little slap and he woke up immediately. “Captain?”

“Good.” He helped Timmy sit up.

“Where are we, sir?”

“I don’t know, Timmy.” Sundance crawled over to Astralyn and gently shook her awake.

A loud roar was heard in the not too far off distance of wherever they were and it echoed. All three of them stood up with their eyes searching for the source of the noise.

“Astralyn, I think we might have a problem.” A cacophonous snort backed up Sundance’s claim.

“I’m all for getting the hell out of here, wherever here is,” Timmy said. He saw an illuminated hallway that seemed to be the way out. As soon as he and Astralyn headed towards it, a wall slid up and closed them in. “That can’t be a good thing.”

Sundance and Timmy pulled out their laser guns and tried to make themselves an exit; the walls seemed impervious to their trifling laser beams. When they got the hint that it wasn’t going to work, they put their laser guns away.

The ground started to shake. They braced themselves against the walls as the shaking continued. They looked around in panic to see where they were and what could be making the racket. Timmy looked above him and saw a large creature that had enormous horns on a head that was similar to a bull.

“A minotaur?” Astralyn stared in amazement.

“A mino what?” Sundance asked.

The wall that Sundance and Astralyn were leaning on slowly lowered to reveal the full might of the twenty foot minotaur, complete with swing action axe. They stepped back as the minotaur stomped into the new opening. Its steely black eyes homed in on them.

To be continued…

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Perils of S.P.A.C.E. Episode 9

Episode 9: The Curse of the Minotaur, Part I- Gift Box

Sundance sat in the pilot’s seat as the StarTango lifted off the S.P.A.C.E. headquarters’ tarmac. Timmy sat dutifully in the co-pilot seat. He looked behind him to address Astralyn, she was sitting in the third seat.

“It was really nice of Admiral Graves to let you come with us on this mission,” Timmy said, smiling at her.

“Didn’t the Admiral tell you?” Astralyn almost looked amused. “It’s my fault you’re going on this mission in the first place.”

“Oh?”

Sundance mumbled something under his breath as he aimed the ship towards the sky. Astralyn and Timmy turned to hear what he was saying. “You were saying, Captain?” Timmy asked.

“While I’m sure Miss Winner undoubtedly enjoys our company, I don’t think we should be out mimicking Federal Express,” Sundance said. “We shouldn’t be out picking up packages of shiny things.”

“Not all space adventures can be about rescuing the damsel in distress, Captain.” Astralyn gave a short laugh. “Sometimes they’re about escorting said damsel to pick up an artifact.”

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Sundance said with a smile. Timmy and Astralyn chuckled uncomfortably.

“What exactly are we going to get?” Timmy asked.

Very glad that he asked, Astralyn leaned forward and replied, “It’s called the Minos Cube. It’s a very old artifact stemming from the Ancient Era on Old Earth about a billion years ago.” Timmy looked intrigued so she kept going. “Some have said that the artifact is cursed.”

“Cursed?” Timmy gulped. “Captain?”

“Oh, please,” Sundance said. “It’s as real as the Easter Bunny.”

“Bunnies are flat out evil, sir,” Timmy replied. He ignored Astralyn’s snickers as he pouted. “It’s true! They’re devious minions of the devil!”

The StarTango’s main rocket boosters kicked into high gear as it punched through the atmosphere. It sped off into the stars towards Astralyn’s destination.

————————————–

On the planet Destin, an old man peered out of his office window and watched as two men and a woman approached the front door. Damn, they’re early, he thought. He closed the window and made sure his office was nice and tidy. If all went well, his visitors won’t need to be in there. He clustered some errant papers together and placed all of his pens in a cup anyway. He stepped through the black curtains to the lobby of the museum. There were various displays of fossils and minerals placed throughout the area. People placed their hands on the glass even though the signs specifically said not to. He took a deep breath and ignored this as he greeted his visitors.

“Oh, you must be Astralyn Winner,” he said. “I’m Doctor Hartnell.” He shook the young woman’s hand. She smiled at him. “And these must be your handsome escorts: Captain Starmont and Lieutenant Falken.”

“We’re not escorts,” Sundance said, not wanting the professor to get the wrong idea.

“You have a charming museum, Doctor,” Astralyn said, looking around. “I would truly love a tour. Maybe when our business is done?”

“Quite,” Doctor Hartnell replied. “This way.”

The doctor led them away from his office and towards a room that was cordoned off by a green velvet rope. He unhooked the rope from one of the stanchions and allowed them to enter. Timmy gave him a peculiar look, though he dismissed it.

The walls were painted dark green, so dark they might as well have been black. There was only one display in this room. It stood on a pedestal with a single white light shining down on it. Underneath the glass case sat a small black cube; just looking at it sent shivers down Timmy’s back. Goosebumps were to be had by all.

Doctor Hartnell pulled some gloves out of his tweed jacket and put them on. He pulled the glass case off and carefully set it on the floor. Astralyn and Sundance approached the pedestal and watched as Doctor Hartnell lifted the cube from its velvet red cushion. “I present to you the Minos Cube. Hold out your hand.” Astralyn held out her hands and the doctor placed the cube in them. The box was made of steel and chilled her hands, like holding onto an ice cube.

“It’s so well preserved. Your clean up crew did a marvelous job.” Astralyn examined it in awe. “I really appreciate…” She caught herself and took a deep breath to try again. “The New Earth Museum of Artifacts thanks you very much for your donation.”

“Think nothing of it, my dear, Astralyn.”

Doctor Hartnell placed the glass case back onto the pedestal. He led them back to his office (much to his chagrin) to discuss the legal matters and small talk. When that was done, he walked Astralyn and her escorts outside. He waved goodbye as they walked into the city streets. When they turned the corner, his face went from light to dark.

He walked back into his office and as soon as he closed the black curtains, he let out a pained sigh.

“Has the deposit been made?” whispered a sinister voice in his left ear.

“Yes, master,” Doctor Hartnell replied. His eyes shot open and his skin chilled, clearly surprised. “They came, just like you said.”

“Do they suspect anything?” The voice was light and smooth, but there was something dark about it.

Doctor Hartnell scanned the office, looking for the body the voice belonged to, but could see no one. “No, Master.”

“Then you have done well.” The voice trailed off and the room got warmer. The doctor took a chance and spun around to face the voice, but there was no one there.

Hartnell’s heartbeat slowed as he sat back down at his desk. He tried to go about business as usual, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the fate those young people will soon face. He soon replaced this thought with one of cleaning his office, but the chill never left him.

To be continued…

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The Dark Kraft #5 “The Darkest Friday”


THE DARK KRAFT #5

“The Darkest Friday”

It was 11:50pm on Thanksgiving night, ten minutes before the electronic store Major Purchase opened their doors for Black Friday. The staff sat in the small break room listening to their store manager, Chace, list the sales goals for the Good Buy Sale. Expectations were high. Chace wanted $200,000 in the first hour. The staff murmured their disbelief at the goal, but Chace assured them good customer service would serve them well.

During the meeting, E.G. sat anxiously in his chair, staring at the red numbers written on the dry erase board. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt there was something sinister about those numbers: 667. Maybe because it was one more than the number of the beast, or simply because they were in red, it unnerved him. He waited for Chace to address them, but he never did. At 11:55pm, everyone filed out onto the sales floor to take their positions.

Chace followed E.G. to his cashier station and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, Egge. I was going to have Kelly and Stacy on cashier duty tonight.”

E.G.’s relief could not be overstated. He was not looking forward to having to deal with the customers in that capacity. “Then what am I doing?”

Chace handed him a tally counter clicker and smiled. “Corporate wants to know how many people walk through those doors.” 

E.G. noticed something dark in Chace’s eyes that made him shiver. He couldn’t figure out what he was feeling or what he thought he was noticing. It made his stomach churn, or maybe that was all the stuffing he ate earlier. It was what Chace said next that cemented his feeling of unease.

“Let me know when we hit 667, alright?” Chace winked at him as he walked away. 

What was the significance of 667? He wanted to believe maybe the 667th customer would get a free prize or something, but deep down he knew there was something worse in store for that person.

At 12:00am, the floodgates opened and the people poured inside, pushing and shoving each other aside to be the first to get the shiny things they craved. E.G. struggled to accurately count them, but he managed. 

This was E.G.’s first experience working retail on Black Friday, so it was haunting to see what he had only seen on Facebook and YouTube in person. People were arguing and fighting each other for electronics that would soon be obsolete the second they walked out the door. He stared wide-eyed as the greed of people who were so thankful mere hours ago compelled them to almost kill each other. He made a mental note to be sure to quit before next year’s Black Friday.

By 12:30, there were excruciatingly long lines to check out. E.G. observed that Kelly and Stacy were the only cashiers posted. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, except this was Black Friday. He expected Chace would have assigned at least two more cashiers. Alex and Steven weren’t doing anything, so they could definitely help break down the congestion. Alas, he was not the manager, therefore, it was not his call.

At 12:35, the 667th person walked through the door. E.G. alerted Chace of this via his walkie talkie. A moment later, red lights began flashing and a loud siren sounded, startling everyone. E.G.’s stomach churned more aggressively. Whatever he was dreading was about to begin.

An unseasonably warm breeze blew through the doors as they suddenly closed, and locked. The anti-theft gate lowered on its own and latched into the floor. The windows got the same treatment. Customers began to murmur their concerns about a fire drill. E.G. knew this wasn’t a fire drill. Far from it. He just didn’t know what it was instead.

Chace emerged from his back office carrying an old leather bound book, which emitted an eerie green glow. He read from it aloud in a language E.G. knew wasn’t English. Then the chanting began. His coworkers joined in repeating a singular phrase with more intensity with each iteration. 

“What the fuck is going on?” E.G. shouted over the deafening chorus. “Stop it! Stop it now!”

He ran to the gate and tried to unlock it, but it didn’t budge. The same eerie green glow seeped from the gate, threatening to engulf him in it. He stepped back in horror as the realization that dark magic truly existed.

“Zigoroth, we summon thee! Demon of Envy, Demon of Greed, we call to thee to collect your bounty.” Chace shouted enthusiastically. “See the crop of greed we have harvested for you! Please accept our tribute.”

Stacy and Kelly repeated “Please accept our tribute,” while Steven and Alex continued to chant the spell.

E.G. wanted to do something to stop this, but he was out of his element. How could he go up against his coworkers who had dark powers? What could he even do?

The floor quaked beneath their feet as if something was tunneling its way up. E.G. could feel its hot energy getting closer. It was huge, whatever it was.

The cell phone section of the sales floor suddenly exploded and scattered all over. Concrete and cheap cellular plans rained down on everyone. People screamed and ran every which way, but it didn’t matter, there was nowhere to hide.

A gaping hole stood where the phone kiosks once stood, emitting immense plumes of smoke and heat from it. Out of it rose a large green monster which hovered above them. It had large pointed ears, glowing red eyes, a mouth full of jagged teeth, claws that would make Wolverine jealous, and the torso of an Austrian bodybuilder.

He stretched his arms out wide and groaned. “I have come and I accept your tribute!” Zigoroth licked his lips and drool escaped his maw. “Your greed has doomed you all, you pitiful, filthy creatures.” He inhaled deeply through his nose, his nostrils flaired as the scent of greed filled him.

The customers stared up at the demon with terror, still clutching their prospective purchases, as it loomed over them. They knew it was all over for them and they deserved what was coming.

Zigoroth snapped his fingers and the entire floor short of the cashiers and the front entrance fell away, taking everyone but the employees down to the depths of Hell. The demon cackled as the screams of the damned rose to meet him.

“NO!” E.G. cried out, not believing what he had just witnessed. “How could you?” He turned to Chace and glared at him intensely. “You’re a monster! You’re all monsters! You should be in Hell, not them.”

Zigoroth cleared his throat. “And that brings us to the next item of business.”

Chace nodded his head. “That it does.”

“What business is that?” E.G. asked, afraid to know the answer.

“For the continued success of our store, we must offer a sacrifice,” Chace replied darkly. 

E.G. didn’t like the way Chace was looking at him. He didn’t have long to object. With a snap of the demon’s fingers, the floor beneath E.G. fell away, plummeting him into the hellscape below. His screams were music to Zigoroth’s ears.

“It is done,” Zigoroth said. “I’ll see you again next year.” 

The air pulsed with heat as Zigoroth descended below. When he was gone, the floor rematerialized like nothing had ever happened.

Chace shut the book and sighed. He gazed proudly at his staff and smiled. “Job well done, team! Another successful Good Buy Sale. Let’s tidy up and go the fuck home. Take tomorrow off!” The team went about their work joyfully, thankful to have survived another Black Friday. 

Perils of S.P.A.C.E. Episode 8

Previously on Perils of S.P.A.C.E: The Chicken Queen activates the laser cannon to destroy New Earth. Timmy and Astralyn put themselves in the laser beam’s path to protect the planet, and to give Sundance time to think of a plan, but the StarTango’s shields are quickly depleting. Sundance breaks free of his captors and now must face down the Queen.


Episode 8: The Crystal Eggs, Part VIII- Emergency Eggsit

Sundance and the Chicken Queen circled each other on the bridge, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Sundance knew that Timmy and Astralyn didn’t have time for him to play Chicken with the queen. He lunged at the pink chicken and tackled her to the floor. He sat atop her and began punching her face. His hand connected hard with her beak.

With a swing of her left arm, Chickadee flung Sundance off and sent him flying onto her throne. The captain’s head lulled as he waited for the world to stop spinning. Chickadee wasted no time in getting to him and threw him onto the floor. The poor human lay in a heap beneath her. She stood over him and laughed. “What, no witty quip?”

“No, fresh out.” Sundance gave a swift kick between the Queen’s legs. “Right in the nuggets!” He crawled out from underneath her and got back to his feet. “That witty enough for you?”

“You will pay!” Chickadee recovered from the attack and pulled a small knife out from underneath her feathers. “Your blood will stain my floors!”

“Might I suggest bleach?”

Chickadee made a few stabbing motions as she stepped towards him. Sundance wasn’t scared for a moment. He did a roundhouse kick and knocked the knife out of her hand. He also took this time to use his mini laser gun and shot her in the chest. The Queen clutched her breasts dramatically as she fell to the floor.

Sundance wasted no time in running over to the control panel with the Eggs. He opened it and pulled out each egg one by one. He proceeded to throw them on the floor and watched them shatter into many pieces. The laser beam stopped abruptly, leaving the StarTango free to move about. Once he saw that the beam had stopped, Sundance breathed a sigh of relief.

He triumphantly stepped over the crystal shards and the Chicken Queen and just as he was just about out the door, something grabbed his left leg. Before he could make out that Chickadee grabbed him, his face was on the floor.

“YOU. RUINED. EVERYTHING!” she screamed. She stood up and kicked him in the stomach. “My revenge is not yet complete, but I can exact it on YOU!” She grabbed Sundance’s neck with one hand and clutched her knife with the other. “DIE!”

Sundance tried to keep his airway open by prying the Queen’s hand from his neck while using his left hand to fend off the knife. She put more pressure on his neck. He was starting to black out. He heard her whisper, “Take your last breath.” He grew too weak to do anything but that. If he had to die he was glad that he was able to stop the laser.

“Get away from him, you bitch!”

A shot from a laser sounded and the Chicken Queen screamed in pain. Her hands released the knife and his neck. She rolled off of Sundance, dead. Sundance gasped as he sat up, rubbing his neck. He cleared the water from his eyes and saw that Timmy had rescued him.

“I thought I was fried for sure,” Sundance said as Timmy helped him up. “Nice quote, by the way.”

“I couldn’t come up with anything chicken related,” Timmy admitted.

“Go cluck yourself.”

“You are the wind beneath my wings, sir.”

“Eggscelent.”

The moment was interrupted as the ship took a massive laser blast. The ship shook; the bridge erupted in fire. “I think that was the Final Cannon,” Timmy said.

“Then it’s time to get out of here!” Sundance led the way out of the bridge, leaving the Chicken Queen and her minions to die.

Sundance and Timmy raced back to the StarTango and quickly sat in their seats.

“What the hell was that?” Astralyn asked.

“That was our cue to eggsit stage left,” Sundance replied. He started the engines and piloted the ship out of the docking bay. The Nugget suddenly exploded. The StarTango emerged victoriously from the flames.

—————————–

“We are here tonight to celebrate bravery,” Astralyn said. She stood behind a podium outside of the New Earth Museum of Artifacts in a diamond sequined black dress. Her blonde hair was allowed to hang freely past her shoulders. She looked to her right at Sundance and Timmy who were wearing their dress white uniforms. “We are celebrating the bravery of these two space heroes: Captain Sundance Starmont and Lieutenant Septimus Falken.” She raised her glass of champagne to them. “While we may not have regained the Crystal Eggs, we have them to thank for preserving New Earth, a true symbol of peace and hope. It is with great pleasure that I award them with the Golden Eggs of Courage!”

Two staff members wearing black suits approached Astralyn with two small black boxes. She took them and showed them to the audience. She then pinned the little golden eggs to their uniforms. Sundance and Timmy smiled at each other as Astralyn gave them both small kisses on the cheeks. The enthusiastic crowd ooh’d and aah’d as they applauded.

After the ceremony, Admiral Graves found them by the snack table in the courtyard. He was carrying a plate full of meat, cheese, and crackers and a glass of champagne. “You boys did me proud up there. You deserve it.”

“Oh, not at all, sir,” Sundance said. “You’re the one who shot the Final Cannon, saving our bacon.”

“Oh pish posh!” the Admiral said. “You boys go and party it up. That’s an order!”

“Yes, sir!” Sundance and Timmy said. The Admiral walked away to go talk to some other officers.

Astralyn, who was waiting for a moment, stepped up to them. Sundance shook her hand. “We had quite a time, didn’t we?”

“That we did,” Sundance replied. “I suppose we’ll always have the Nugget.”

“And thanks for the free passes to the museum,” Timmy said excitedly.

“Anytime,” Astralyn said.

“Otherwise how else would we see you?” Sundance asked, playfully.

“Well, I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of me in the coming weeks.” Astralyn chuckled in that ‘I Know Something You Don’t’ way. “Have a good evening, gentlemen.” She walked away, leaving the two of them in utter bewilderment.

End of Story 1

Onward to Episode 9

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Perils of S.P.A.C.E. Episode 7

Previously on Perils of S.P.A.C.E.: Sundance, Timmy, and Astralyn learned that the Chicken Queen planned to use the Eggs to power a mighty laser to destroy New Earth. The trio make a brilliant escape, but Sundance goes back to the bridge to grab the Eggs. He is recaptured and forced to watch as Chickadee initiates her revenge.


Episode 7: The Crystal Eggs, Part VII- What Would Sundance Do?

“NO!” Sundance shouted as Chickadee pressed the ignition button. The ship shook as the laser on top of the Nugget let out an immense pink beam of light. It raced down to New Earth and slammed into the ground, heating it up. She laughed maniacally as she watched the scene. Sundance struggled in vain against the ten chickens holding him down.

“Your planet is done for, Captain.” She turned to Sundance and lifted his chin with her finger. “You should be honored to have such a great view.”

“I have a feeling that spitting in your face would be lost on you,” Sundance growled. “You animal!”

“Contain yourself or I might have to kill you before the grand finale.” Chickadee slapped Sundance before she returned her attention back to the scene outside. She watched as the planet reddened with each pulse of the laser. Her revenge was almost complete.

———————–

Timmy and Astralyn ran as fast as they could to the StarTango knowing that their pursuers were right behind them. Timmy searched his pockets for the key but the chickens must have taken it when they confiscated his weapon. He wasn’t worried. He ran to the back door of the antique ship and knocked three times. The door magically opened. Just as Timmy and Astralyn made it safely inside, the chickens arrived with their laser rifles. They shot at the ship as the door slid closed.

“So now what?” Astralyn asked. “Do we wait for the captain?”

Timmy hadn’t thought of that. He was so focused on getting to the ship that he didn’t think of what to do afterwards. Sundance didn’t instruct him to wait. “I think he would want me to get you out of here.” He sat down in the pilot’s seat as the chickens continued to shoot at them. “Yeah, let’s get you out of here.”

Timmy pressed the ignition button and the ship’s rocket boosters fired up. When the ship left the floor, Timmy piloted it towards the closed bay doors. He fired two laser shots at them and they exploded. The oxygen quickly rushed out into space, taking the chickens with it. The StarTango flew outside to see that the laser was firing at New Earth.

“Oh my god,” Astralyn gasped.

“Something must have gone wrong,” Timmy said.

“Should we go back?”

“The captain ordered me to get you out of there and that’s what I plan on doing!”

Astralyn looked at the hot laser beam as it cut into the planet. “If the good captain doesn’t do something, there’s not going to be a planet to go back to!”

“Well maybe we can help him out.” Timmy pushed the rocket boosters to the max and flew above the egg shaped ship. The laser cannon was located on the top. “Let’s see how the Queen likes this!” He fired two torpedoes and hoped to see it explode, but the cannon was covered by a shield. “No way!” He fired two more shots. They yielded the same results.

“Now what?” Astralyn asked as she sat down in the co-pilot seat.

Timmy racked his brain. What would the captain do? Something reckless, no doubt. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He had to do something and he had to do it soon or New Earth would be doomed.

“Full power to shields,” Timmy commanded.

Astralyn looked at the control panel in front of her and searched for the shields. It was a small purple button that read ‘Shields’. She pressed it, and then pulled a lever down that controlled how much power went to them. “Shields at maximum.”

“I didn’t know you knew how to operate a ship,” Timmy said, impressed.

“My father is a pilot,” Astralyn replied. “Besides, pushing a button that says ‘shields’ isn’t rocket science.” Timmy shrugged. “I’m assuming you have a plan.”

“Boy do I.” Timmy kicked the ship into high gear and flew towards the laser beam.

“You’re not!”

“I am!”

The StarTango flew into the laser beam and impeded its journey to the planet. The shields started to absorb most of the beam’s power. Inside, the ship was shaking violently. Timmy and Astralyn braced themselves as they struggled to remain in their seats.

“What the hell are you doing?” Astralyn shouted.

“This should give the captain and New Earth some time,” Timmy said.

“But how much time do we have?” Astralyn looked at the shields display and saw that they were already down 25%. “We won’t be able to keep this up forever.”

Timmy was well aware, but he hoped that Sundance would be able to come up with a plan soon.

————————————–

“Sir, the beam has stopped a bit,” Ensign Harriman reported to Admiral Graves. “We have a lock on the enemy ship.”

“Then let’s give ‘em hell!” Admiral Graves said. “Fire the Final Cannon!”

Ensign Harriman typed in a few codes and the large cannon powered up. “Cannon will be ready to fire in three minutes.”

Graves prayed that they would pass swiftly.

——————————————–

Sundance watched as the StarTango placed itself between the laser and New Earth. He felt so proud of Timmy, but at the same time feared for his safety. The shields weren’t going to hold for much longer. If he didn’t do something soon Timmy and Astralyn would die. He knew that he was outnumbered, but he had to do something.

He looked down at his captors’ feet and gave them a mighty stomp. The ones that were holding him released him. Sundance quickly took out his mini laser gun and shot three of them. They fell to the ground and clucked in pain.

Three chickens rushed at Sundance only to have him punch them in the face.

“Restrain him!” the Queen shouted.

Sundance made quick work of the remaining chickens. They weren’t as tough as he originally thought. It was only him and the Chicken Queen left standing. This was going to be a fight to the death.

To be continued…

Onward to Episode 8!

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Heroes of Lunde, Episode 3

What’s Kraken, Part 3

The train slowly pulled into Wrightstown Station. Steam rose out from the sides and enveloped the people standing by waiting for their loved ones to get off. The people both on and off the train were concerned by the loud ripping noises coming from the sky. The sky itself was turning green and purple and orange, fading from one color to the next. Some of the people were entranced by the colors, while others were worried that they were a sign of worse yet to come. They didn’t know how right they were.


The Heroes exited the train and stared up at the sky. Everett groaned and took a swig from his flask. Reese petted him on the head.


“It’s starting,” Reese said darkly. “The Master spell has been broken. It is coming.”


“You always have the best news,” Jaco teased. Reese did not respond. He shrugged his shoulders.


“We had better hurry. Maybe we can still stop the Gogo-Kraken from coming through.” Quil ran into the station, pushed his way through the crowd and made it to the street on the other side. His team followed closely behind him. Quil stood on the curb and shouted, “Taxi!” A moment later, a man with an elaborately painted green horse drawn buggy pulled up to him.


The man was pleasantly plump with greying, straggly hair, which was combed over his otherwise bald head. He had a piece of straw sticking out of his mouth. He wore blue overalls with no shirt underneath. The Heroes gazed upon him queerly, but decided that there was no time to nitpick about the appearance of the man who was offering to take them to where they needed to go. The man asked them where they were headed. Quil told him that they were heading to the monastery to see Father Masonley. The man knew where that was and immediately got on the way. He was worried about what was happening to the sky, but his fare was more important. 


The ride to the monastery was uneventful. Everyone had their eyes to the sky. They watched as the colors faded into each other, one replacing the last until they went away all together. A dark cloud covered the entire sky and a low groan filled the air. Its bass vibrated everything in sight. The Heroes felt the vibrations in their chests, competing with their heartbeats. It was unsettling at best.


Quil stared up at the dark cloud and upon closer inspection, he realized that it wasn’t a cloud, it was a shadow, a shadow caused by something big blocking the sunlight. Was this the Gogo-Kraken? It had to be. It had finally broken through the dimensional shield and was entering the planet to begin its feast. He didn’t know whether he should mention his revelation to the team for fear of panicking poor, little Everett further. He decided against alerting the team. He simply stuck his head out the window and commanded the driver to go faster.


They arrived at the monastery within the hour. Quil tossed the driver five gold coins and thanked him for his expedient service. The Heroes got out of the buggy and made a beeline to the mauve painted buildings, the tallest being the chapel. The door to the chapel was wide open and the sounds of the monks chanting was heard from inside.


Quil was hesitant about just barging in during a ceremony, but he felt that this was very important, and any chanting could wait for a more appropriate time.


Fortunately, a monk who was not chanting walked by the entrance and saw Quil and his teammates. A smile grew upon his young, clean shaven face. “The Heroes of Lunde are here!” he shouted, interrupting the chanting. The other monks stood up from their kneeled position and greeted them at the door, each shoving one another to get a good glimpse of them.


“Alert Father Masonley,” one of the senior monks said. A monk quickly ran off. “Please, come in out of the chaos.”


“Chaos? It’s pretty nice out here considering the dark thing in the sky,” Andrada said.


In that instant, as if summoned, a big gust of wind swept in and almost knocked them over. The wind didn’t let up, either. It continued to whip sand and dust up into the air. The Gogo-Kraken was entering the atmosphere and unsettling the air.


The Heroes quickly accepted the senior monk’s invitation inside. A monk shut the door behind them. The Heroes waded in the pool of adoring monks who stared at them in awe as they passed. They were herded into the main hall where there were candles lit and cinnamon incense was burning. They didn’t know what to do but stand there and look at the hopeful faces staring at them. It made them feel uncomfortable, like they were expected to say something but had forgotten the notes to the speech at home.


Thankfully, Father Masonley arrived shortly thereafter. He was a short man, probably five-foot five, bald spot on the top of his head, leaving a ring of hair around it. He wore a maroon robe, the same as the others. He approached Quil and grabbed hold of his hands. “Thank God you’re here! We were beginning to lose hope!”


Quil puffed up his chest and grinned. “Never fear, we are here.” He ignored the annoyed looks from his teammates. He could have sworn someone rolled their eyes.


“Have you retrieved the statue?” Masonley asked, sounding panicked.


“We just got here. We haven’t had time to investigate,” Quil admitted.


“We came straight here hoping that you could fill in some of the blanks,” Andrada said. “We didn’t get much information from your letter.”


Masonley rubbed his grey beard in a fidgety manner. “Oh my. That’s the source of the power shield. Oh my.”


“Look, the Gogo-Kraken is emerging into our dimension. How do we stop it?” Quil asked, hoping to get to the point.


Masonley looked at Quil with his sea blue eyes and his lower lip quivered slightly. “Once it enters our dimension, nothing can stop it.”


“That’s bullshit,” Everett sputtered. “How did you stop it before?”


“You must understand, the Gogo-Kraken hasn’t been an issue for centuries.” He avoided Everett’s harsh eye contact. “The situation must have been wildly different. They were able to construct a powerful Master spell to repel it, but not destroy it.”


Quil’s brown eyes lit up. “Great! So, we’ll just make a new Master spell. I’m a wizard, so I know that you need several Master level wizards to create such a spell. Where are your Masters?”


Masonley lowered his gaze to the floor. “We haven’t any Masters. We haven’t needed Masters in a long time.”


Quil gasped dramatically. “Then we should send for some.”


“The closest Masters are three days away in Maine,” Masonley admitted. “They’ll never get here in time.”


“So what do we do?” Andrada asked.


Jaco flexed his fingers and licked his lips. “We kick some kraken ass!”


Masonley chuckled at Jaco’s enthusiasm. “The Gogo-Kraken is massive. The likes of you will not be able to accomplish its demise so easily.”


“We can do anything!” Jaco cheered. The fellow monks also cheered.


Quil thought about the predicament. He knew what was needed was a new Master spell. With the nearest Masters being three days away, there wasn’t a way to get them here in time. Then it hit him. He took out his talkie and waved it in Masonley’s face. “What’s their number?”


Masonley was confused for a moment, his eyes blinkly wildly. It took a second for him to realize what Quil was asking for. “Erm, they don’t have a talkie number. Talkies are distractions from the outside world that convolute our devotion to the Gods.”


Quil was unable to stop himself from rolling his eyes. After he realized what he had done, he apologized. “Then what will we do?”


Suddenly, the ground quaked as a loud boom sounded. The building shook so that tiny pieces of the ceiling and sand sprinkled down upon them. A loud roar followed the boom, and everyone knew what that meant. The kraken was among them, and it was close. The monks murmured loudly as they clung to each other.


Quil had to think fast. There wasn’t any time left. He grabbed Masonley by the shoulders and shook hard. “Where are your archives?”


“What?”


“You know, books? Where you record things! Where are they?” Quil didn’t care if he had a crazed look in his eyes. He needed to do something quickly or everyone would die.


“The books are in the back storage unit.” Masonley wrung his hands nervously. “They’re not in any organized fashion. They’re just sorta thrown in there. We’ve been meaning to go through it, but we just haven’t had the time… nor the desire to do so.” He couldn’t look Quil in the eye after admitting that.


“What are you thinking?” Andrada asked.


“There has to be a record of the Master spell used in one of those books,” Quil explained. “If I can find it, maybe I can perform it.”


“But you’re not a Master,” Andrada reminded.


“No, Andy, but I’m the closest thing we’ve got. I have to try.” Quil gave her his determined face, a face she knew all too well. There was no convincing him of anything other than what he’s already decided to do.


Andrada nodded her head and smiled. “You better not fuck this up, Quil.”


“Oh, no pressure!” Quil said. “Take me to your books!”


Masonley snapped his fingers and three young monks stood up and approached them. He motioned for them to lead Quil to the back of the campus.


“I’m coming, too.” Jaco said, holding onto Quil’s hand. “You’ll need another set of eyes.” Quil smiled and nodded.


Jaco and Quil followed the three young monks out of the chapel. That left Andrada, Reese, and Everett with the other monks staring at them expectantly.


“I guess we’ll take on the Gogo-Kraken while they’re off reading,” Andrada said sheepishly. The monks cheered. She exchanged glances with Reese and Everett. Everett looked nervous as hell while Reese showed no emotion. “Let’s go, gang!”


A loud roar shook the chapel to its very foundation. More debris from the ceiling rained down upon them. It looked like the building wasn’t going to be safe for much longer. This was greater incentive to get out there and fight the creature.


Andrada led the team outside, back into the wind. The Heroes looked to the north and saw the massive glory of the Gogo-Kraken of in the distance. It seemed to tower high into the sky. It would not have been surprising if the top of it entered space. Its skin glistened a bright pink with purple spots dotted along its tentacles. It walked on four feet that were akin to elephants’ feet. It whipped its tentacles around wildly, occasionally picking things up off the ground. The Heroes assumed that they were people.


“It’s at the next village, Lagrimos,” Masonley shouted from the door. “Hurry before there’s nothing left.”


Andrada scanned the area for any mode of transportation. There were no horses or buggies anywhere in sight. She felt a tap on her right arm. She turned to see Masonley drop a set of keys in her hand.


“Take the car,” he said. “It’s in the shed behind the chapel.”


Andrada wanted to ask how having a steam powered car convoluted his devotion to the Gods, but there wasn’t time. She instead thanked him and led the team to the shed. Inside was a small, sleek looking red vehicle that looked like it hadn’t been driven in a while.


Everett whistled as he walked into the shed. “Wow. I didn’t think a monk could afford something this cool.” He wiped his finger along the hood and collected some dust. “Could use a bit of a cleaning, but otherwise nice.”


“Stop drooling over it and just get in!” Andrada went to the left side of the car and opened the door. She sat down and realized that she couldn’t drive from there. She got out and walked to the other side. She sat down and immediately stuck the key in the ignition. It revved up loudly as steam rose from the hood. This brought a smile to her face. She felt immensely powerful. 

She looked outside and saw that Reese and Everett hadn’t gotten in. “Get your asses in here NOW!” she commanded. The two wasted no time getting in. “Strap in! Let’s see how fast this thing goes!” She revved the engine as she stepped on the accelerator. The car sped out of the shed. She nearly missed Father Masonley who shouted out to them, but they weren’t able to hear what he said. They just assumed he wished them good luck and they went on their way to Lagrimos.

                                                                                        ***

The village of Lagrimos was devastated. The Gogo-Kraken had wasted no time in beginning its reign of terror. The village people attempted to escape the area, but they were quickly hunted down and eaten. The tentacles laid waste to the cute little oddly colored buildings. Some people hid out in the local church, but with a swift swipe of a tentacle, the church was no more, and so were the people hiding within it.


Maltrice had managed to escape the village way before the kraken showed up. She was resting safely atop the nearby mountain. She watched with great glee as her mistress’ plan was unfolding before her. She wasn’t sure why Mistress L hated this village so much, but she had a sneaking suspicion that they had somehow crossed her and therefore deserved to be wiped off the map. Or maybe there was something about the nearby monastery that upset her, and the village was just a coincidental casualty. Either way, she was enjoying herself.


Some movement out of the periphery of her right eye caught her attention. She turned to the south and saw a line of dust trailing in the breeze. It seemed to be approaching the kraken’s location. She knew immediately who was coming for them. The Heroes of Lunde hadn’t met their end on the train and now they were going to interfere with her plans. She didn’t know how they had gotten past her colleague, but they weren’t going to get past her and the kraken. She commanded the kraken to stop attacking the village to deal with the incoming intruders. There was a thirty second delay between her command and the kraken’s acknowledgement of it. She supposed it had something to do with the translation of languages. While she was irritated that it took so long to obey, she was thankful when it moved to intercept them.

                                          ***

In the car, Andrada sped almost as fast as it could go toward the Gogo-Kraken. She enjoyed the speed and the thrum of the steam engine. She felt like a god. She had never driven a car in this life, but she felt it was second nature.


She looked into the rear-view mirror and saw the look of terror on Everett’s face. His already pale face was paler than she had ever seen it. This brought a smile to her lips and she increased the speed. This elicited a squeal from the dwarf. She checked in on Reese and saw that she was handling the situation very well. There was not a trace of any raised blood pressure or redness in her face to indicate that she was worried. She was stone cold calm. Andrada had always admired Reese for that.


“Princess, look!” Everett shrieked. He unbuckled his seatbelt and scrambled up to meet Andrada. He pointed forward and said, “It’s coming this way! It knows we’re coming!” Indeed, it was heading right for them.


“That can’t be good,” Andrada replied. “So much for the element of surprise. Oh well. It doesn’t alter my plan.”


“Which is?”


“Be prepared to jump on my mark.”


Everett gulped and squeaked, “Jump?” Andrada nodded and grinned. “Oh my god. We’re going to die!” He sat back in his seat and took another gulp from his flask. When it was depleted, he reached into his satchel and took out another and drank from it.


The Gogo-Kraken steadily approached them, one lumbering step at a time. Its tentacles swayed wildly in every direction as it walked. It was curious about the little red thing coming toward it. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to step on it or eat it. It was so tiny and far compared to where its eight eyes were located, which was way up near the clouds. It looked great for stepping on! It had decided.


Andrada put the car in a collision course. The car was near enough now to feel the vibrations of each footstep the kraken took. It would shake the car off course, but Andrada always put back in line. She unbuckled her seat belt. “Reese, Everett, get ready to bail!”


Everett said a prayer. Reese merely unbuckled her seatbelt and prepared to jump.


When the car was within a few hundred feet, Andrada gave the accelerator one more pump before she gave the signal to jump. A second later, all three of the Heroes opened their respective doors and leapt out of the car. They tucked and rolled a few feet before they stopped. They looked up in time to see the little red car fly right into the kraken’s left front foot. It exploded in a fiery ball of death. This caused the kraken to roar loudly.


“Really?” Andrada said aloud. In her opinion, the explosion wasn’t that big, so it shouldn’t have caused it that much pain. Maybe this thing was a big crybaby. If it was, then this thing should be a cinch to beat. She remembered that the point wasn’t to really beat it, but to give Quil and Jaco enough time to find the Master spell and seal it away. But being a warrior, she didn’t want to leave the battlefield without a definitive kill.


The kraken gave another loud roar. It was angry that it was deprived of the option to crush the car. It had inflicted pain upon it and now it was upset. It observed the three little morsels jumping out of the car and knew that they were the ones to blame. It decided they must pay the ultimate price of being its lunch.


The kraken moved as fast as it could, which wasn’t all that fast, really, to reach Andrada. She responded with drawing her sword and waving it at the kraken. It was a challenge. This delighted the kraken and it gladly accepted. It reached Andrada and attempted to step on her with its tree trunk sized foot. Andrada stayed put until the last second before she rolled out of the way. As she did so, she let her sword do some damage as she sliced its front right foot.


The kraken muffled a cry. It had cried out when the car hit it and it was unexpected how much that hurt. It was afraid that its tough facade may have slightly weakened. It had to save face now.


It stomped its feet in the hopes of catching Andrada, but she appeared to have escaped. Its eyes were so high up that it was very difficult to see the ground directly in front of it, a weakness it hoped that its prey wouldn’t pick up on.


Just as it was about to take a few steps back to see if it had indeed crushed Andrada, it received a poke in its butt. Before it could reach the spot to investigate, a hot flash pierced its slimy skin and burned it. It reached back and pulled out a burnt arrow. It looked down and saw the dwarf placing another arrow in his bow. Oh, it was on now!


The kraken’s tentacles on its right swooped down to grab Everett. The dwarf ran just beyond its reach. As he ran, he fired another arrow at its face. It landed squarely between two of its dark round eyes. It knew that it had to be fast. It reached up with a tentacle and pulled the arrow out just before an icy blast exploded from the tip. It still caught the left eye, freezing it over. It couldn’t help but cry out now, but not out of pain, but out of sheer frustration.


It swiped blindly at the ground until it found something squishy. A yelp and a cry for help confirmed that it had grabbed the little dwarf bastard.


Andrada and Reese watched as Everett was lifted into the air by a tentacle. Andrada ran at the kraken’s feet in the hopes of cutting them enough times to make it drop Everett. Reese had a better idea.


She summoned the winds and they swirled around her, lifting her into the air. She rose up to the kraken’s eye level and wagged her finger at it. “You’ve been very naughty.”


Everett watched this and shook his head. “Don’t reprimand it, KILL IT!”


Reese spoke a word and a giant green earthen hammer materialized in her left hand. She clutched it tightly as she swung down and hit the kraken right between the eyes, the same place Everett’s arrow had hit. She brought the hammer up and flew away just as a tentacle rose up to hit her. It was then that Reese’s superior elf sight noticed someone in a brown hooded robe standing on a mountain ledge. She was holding something. It had to be the stolen statuette. She had a suspicion that was the true power behind the kraken.


Reese’s attention had been drawn away too long.  She wasn’t able to avoid the tentacle that smacked her. She fell to the ground hard, knocking the air out of her lungs. Her hammer landed a few feet from her on her right. She wanted to catch her breath, but a foot was coming to squish her face. She wasn’t going to get away in time. She closed her eyes to make peace with the Great Maker of All Things. She heard Andrada shout, “Move your ass!” Reese opened her eyes and saw that Andrada had stabbed the kraken’s foot and was hanging from her sword as it prepared to set the foot down. Reese promptly did as she was told and rolled to the right, avoiding being crushed and reuniting with her hammer.


The combination of being stabbed in the foot and being smacked in the face at the same time, it had lost concentration on holding Everett. It dropped him like a hot potato.


Everett screamed on the way down. Reese hastily summoned the winds again and they answered her call. She rose up and caught Everett before he hit the ground. Everett was still screaming before he realized that he had been saved. He had his eyes closed and upon opening them, he saw his savior. “God bless you, Amareese!” She gave him a warm smile.


Reese set Everett on the ground and patted him gently on the head. “Stay out of trouble. Help the princess.” She rose up into the air again. She knew what she had to do next. She flew off in the direction of the nearby mountain.

                                          ***

The three young monks escorted Jaco and Quil to the back room which was locked. One of them took out a keyring with five copper keys hanging from it. The monk cycled through them to see if they were the correct one. Of course, it was the last key he tried. He successfully unlocked the door and opened it. The smell of old, dusty paper wafted out of the room. Jaco waved his hand in front of his nose to divert the dust away from his superior olfactory sense.


The room was wall to wall mountains of books. Masonley had been correct about them not being in any particular order. The old, brown books littered the floors in every available space. It was not a pretty sight.


“Well, here you go,” the young monk with the keys said. “Good luck.”


Quil furrowed his brow and said, “You’re not going to help us?”


“I’m afraid we wouldn’t be much help.” The shortest of the monks shrugged his shoulders. “We’re new and haven’t been taught the writings of the old ones. But, you’re a wizard. You should be able to recognize them. We wish you luck. We’re all counting on you!” He bowed and blessed them as the three of them left.


Quil and Jaco glanced at each other and took a deep, dusty breath. “I guess we had better get started.”


Jaco scoffed. “You’re joking, right? You don’t really expect to find what you’re looking for in this heap, do you?”


“We might find it quicker if you quit bitching and get to work,” Quil said, giving him a wink.


Jaco growled under his breath and started digging amongst the books that might be important. Quil followed suit.


Quil knew that Jaco had no idea what he was looking at, but it warmed his heart that Jaco wanted to help. He wondered how Andy and the others were handling the kraken. It was possible that they could die fighting something that eats planets. He hoped that he could find the Master spell in time to save them from that fate.


He frantically flipped through dirty books and found nothing of importance in them. They were mostly old recipes for various soups, spell ingredients, laundry lists, and letters of interest from prospective monks.


The two of them jumped whenever they heard the kraken giving its trademarked cry for blood. The reality that they needed to find the spell with the quickness was ever more present. They scrambled to reach for books to read. Some of the books crumbled in their hands. They just kept going, hoping that it wasn’t the book they needed.


After digging through the books after what seemed like hours, but had only been twenty minutes, they decided to call it quits. Quil thought that Jaco was right; there was no way they were going to find the Master spell before their teammates wound up dead.


Quil had to think of something fast. He stood there staring at the heaps of books wondering what other options he had at his disposal. He needed the other Masters help. He didn’t have the skill or knowledge to create a Master spell on his own. There had to be a way to contact them. And then it came to him!


While he studied at Wizarding school, he had learned about what was commonly known as the Wizard Superhighway. It was a way to reach out to wizards at a distance to assist each other. He thought it sounded ridiculous back then, but he came to realize that this might be his only chance to save the world.


Quil found a spot amongst the books to sit down and closed his eyes. Jaco was curious as to what he was doing, but he knew that he needed complete silence. Jaco took a few steps back and watched as Quil began to meditate.


“Oh, hey! When you’re done with the books…” a young monk said as he turned the corner. The next thing he knew, there was a hand covering his mouth. Jaco shushed him and pushed him back down the hallway he came from.


Quil’s body began to glow an eerie green-yellow as his consciousness slipped into the Superhighway. He was free of his body and floated in bright green space with a yellow stream of water stretching out into infinity. It was the Stream of Tranquility. It held the collective powers of every wizard in existence. It would be through that Quil could communicate with his brethren.


Quil concentrated on a distress signal sent from his mind and not his mouth. “Hello, brothers and sisters. This is Prince Jonquil Balthazar Theophilous the Third. I am in desperate need of your help. A giant kraken has entered our dimension. I need a Master Spell to expel it and create a seal to keep it out, or better yet, destroy it. Will the Masters please lend me your power to fight this evil?” He waited for a reply. He was left waiting for several minutes. He felt his frustration grow with each passing second. He wanted to tell them off for not responding sooner. Did their silence mean that he was on his own? Who the hell did they think they were to deny him a simple request that could save the world?


He was ready to tell them off when he suddenly felt a tingling sensation throughout his body. His spiritual body glowed red as the power of his brethren flowed into him. They had heard his call for help and they were lending him their power. He no longer thought the Wizard Superhighway was ridiculous. Well, maybe the name was a bit ridiculous. When this was over, he wanted to come back to suggest a better name for it.


With the power came the knowledge of a Master spell that could potentially seal the kraken from their dimension. His mind swirled with things he didn’t understand consciously, but his subconscious was soaking in all of the information. This download took about ten minutes. When it was complete, Quil felt himself drift back into his body. He opened his eyes and let out the air that he had been holding in during his meditative state. He noticed that he was still glowing, only red now. He examined his body to make sure that nothing had changed too much, like one arm becoming larger than the other or something.


Jaco hesitated to approach Quil, but a reassuring smile from his lover let him know that it was safe to come to him. He hugged Quil tightly. “You need to learn how to breathe whenever you do that. I thought you were going to pass out!”


Quil stood up and flexed his fingers. They buzzed as if they were connected to an electrical current. It was unnerving what some extra juice could do. “I have the power to end this,” he said, looking dead serious.


“Then what are we standing around here for? Let’s end this bitch!” Jaco grabbed Quil’s left hand. When doing so, he received a sharp shock that traveled up his arm to his head. He let go and shook his hand. “What the hell?”


“Sorry, babe.” Quil shrugged his shoulders and grinned weakly.


Jaco led Quil back into the main hall where the monks were still huddled together. They stared in awe as their glowing savior strode into the room. Father Masonley stood up from his pew and his mouth dropped open.


“What is happening?” the old monk asked.


“It’s the power of the Masters,” Quil replied. “I can recite the sealing spell.”


Father Masonley clapped his hands excitedly. “I knew you wouldn’t let us down!”


“Alright. Let’s start this thing.” Quil rubbed his temples as if to help the Master spell roll to the front of his mind.


“We’ll need the statue to bind the spell,” Masonley said, calming down from his excitement. “We haven’t got it.”


Quil gulped. He looked at Jaco and then at Father Masonley. “I suppose I should go out there and get it?” Masonley nodded his head. “Okay, I’ll get right on that.”


“You’ll need this.” Masonley pulled a set of keys out of his pocket. “It’s to my other car. Please…” He didn’t get a chance to finish pleading for the car’s safe return because Quil snatched the keys from his hand and ran. “It’s in the back of the campus!” he said to Jaco, who was following Quil. Jaco gave him a thumbs up. When both heroes were gone, he sat back down in his pew and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He didn’t know what worried him more: the welfare of the Heroes or the welfare of his cars. He hoped that the Gods would forgive him for this.

                           ***

Maltrice watched the battle from the mountain ledge with extreme satisfaction. She felt that she didn’t need to control the kraken as much as she thought. It looked like it was handling the fight just fine. She relaxed her power over it and gave it free rein. She had been watching the kraken so intently that she almost didn’t see the elf flying directly at her, but it was too late.


Reese dove and tackled Maltrice to the ground. In the tumble, Reese managed to be the one on top. She didn’t waste any time in handing out punches to Maltrice’s face. The witch attempted to shield herself from the blows, but she was too frail to stop Reese from pummeling her. She used her powers to create a blast force which jettisoned Reese across the small ledge. Reese rolled off the ledge, but held onto it with one hand. Maltrice sat up to witness this and grinned. She stood up and carefully walked over to stare at her.


“Oh dear, what a predicament.” Maltrice tsked her with a toothy grin. “You look like you need help. Oh my, there doesn’t appear to be anyone else around. I guess it’s up to me! Here, let me help you.” She proceeded to step on Reese’s hand. She laughed when she heard Reese exclaim in pain.


Reese wanted to pull her hand out from underneath the witch’s foot, but she knew that she’d fall. Her heart raced for a moment before a thought hit her: “I can fly.” She gazed up at Maltrice and gave a slight smile, which disarmed her. She summoned the wind and a gust of wind came up beneath her, raising her up. Reese used the upward momentum to land a kick square in Maltrice’s face. The witch tumbled backward.


The stone statuette flew from her hand and sailed to the other side of the ledge.  Maltrice cried out. Reese saw the statuette arc downward beyond the edge. She gathered the wind and flew to the other side and caught it just as it was about hit the ground below. She soared upward into the dark sky holding the statuette up high so that Maltrice could see it.


“You bitch!” Maltrice shouted. She raised her arms and shot pink lightning bolts at Reese. She missed several times before she got a hit. The lightning grazed Reese’s right shoulder. She cackled with delight as Reese lowered in the air. She would watch the elf crash and then she’d be there to collect the statuette.


Reese grimaced as she drooped. She didn’t plan on going out like that. She pretended to faint and dropped several feet until she hit the ground. She made her landing a convincing as possible. She waited.


Maltrice teleported nearby and saw Reese lying prone with the statuette conveniently placed on her chest. She reached down to grab it, but was suddenly interrupted when something grabbed her right hand. She looked down at it and saw a green vine had popped out of the rocky terrain and restrained her. She tugged against it, but it held. Her left arm received the same treatment. “What is this magic?” she cried.


“A little something from the elves.” Reese sat up and grinned. She had her hands rooted in the ground, controlling the vines. If she were a funny person, she would have figured out a pun for the moment involving vines and rocks and having a rocky time, or being between a rock and a hard place, or something, but she decided to leave the puns to the professionals. She simply concentrated on defeating the witch.


With all her might, Reese manipulated the earth beneath Maltrice to become quicksand. She watched as the witch slowly sank into the ground. For all of her screaming and flailing, Maltrice was not able to get free. When she was finally submerged in the sand, Reese had the wind blow rocks down from the top of the mountain. They rolled and landed on top of the sand pit. There was no getting out of that.


Reese pulled her hands free from the dirt and wiped them on her pants. She picked up the statuette and cleaned some of the dirt off. She blew on it just to make sure it was spotless. She turned around to see how Everett and Andrada were handling the kraken. They seemed to be keeping it busy. She supposed that she should quit dilly dallying and get back to the fight. She summoned the winds and they picked her up. She made her trip back to the fight.

                                            ***

Quil and Jaco were racing in Father Masonley’s larger black utility truck. The cab was so high that they needed a step stool to get in it. Quil had always dreamed of riding in a steam powered car, but never convinced his parents to get him one. They were new and were quite expensive. While the royal family was rich, his parents were very conscientious about how their wealth was spent. Death traps like steam buggies were not a wise investment if one were to die in them. Quil was having the time of his life. He sped down the dirt landscape with his foot pressing the accelerator all the way to the floor. “WHEE!” he shouted. He looked over at Jaco and saw that he was having an equally good time, though he kept doing the invisible brake thing with his right foot.


The battle ground was getting nearer. Quil showed no signs of slowing down. This made Jaco nervous. The closer they got to the action, it seemed the faster Quil drove. Jaco continued to press the invisible brake.


“You might want to slow down,” Jaco suggested.


“We’re going to ram this baby into the kraken!” Quil announced proudly.


“We’re gonna WHAT?” Jaco buckled his seatbelt and audibly said a prayer.


They finally arrived at the scene. Andrada and Everett were standing side by side attacking the kraken when Quil drove up. They heard the loud revving of the truck’s engine and instinctively dove out of the way. The truck collided hard with the kraken’s front left foot. This succeeded in causing the kraken to stand on its hind legs and utter a world shattering scream. It fell over backward and rolled to its side. The truck bounced off the spongy flesh and rolled backward several times before landing on its roof. Andrada and Everett ran to the steaming upside-down truck. Quil and Jaco climbed out of the windows and collapsed to the floor.


“Whoa! That was fucking awesome!” Andrada said, helping Quil up.


“That was fucking insane!” Everett added. He slapped Quil in the face as he stood. “What the hell were you thinking? You could have killed yourself!”


“But I didn’t!” Quil cheered.


“Dude, why are you glowing?” Everett stepped away and looked at his hand to see if any of the glow came off on it.


Jaco walked over to the group from the other side of the truck and folded his arms across his bare chest and said, “I’m okay too, you guys.” The others paid him no attention.


“Where’s Reese?” Quil asked.


“I’m here!”


The group looked up to see Reese lowering herself down from the sky. She landed next to Quil. A wave of dust flew up and obscured everyone’s view for a moment. When the dust settled, they saw that the kraken was attempting to stand up, but it was so massive it was having a hard time.


Reese noticed that Quil was glowing and figured it had to have something to do with the statuette. She promptly handed it to him. “I think you might need this.”


Quil felt the powers in his hands instantly increase. The statuette vibrated in his hands so much that he almost dropped it. Once he had a firm grip on it, he turned to the kraken and sat down. The others looked at him like he was crazy, but said nothing. Weirder things have happened. This just needed to follow its course.


Quil closed his eyes and allowed the power stored in him to flow into the statuette. It immediately started glowing green-yellow. His spirit left his body and drifted into the Wizard Superhighway. Quil opened his spirit eyes and saw that he was not alone. He was joined by seventeen Master wizards of various ages and genders. They were all joined by the hands. They called to him to join them. There was a spot open for him. He floated over and completed the chain of hands.


The rush of power flowed through him and into the other wizards. They all started muttering words in unison. At first Quil didn’t know what they were doing, but then something clicked, and he found that he knew the words. It was the binding Master spell, with a little something extra tucked in. He joined in with muttering. Their voices were dissonant at first, but then they slowly began to blend with each other until they all were speaking with the same voice. Their voices raised in volume until it was almost deafening. All of them began to glow red as their power levels rose to maximum completion.


An image of the kraken appeared in front of them. It wasn’t as massive as the flesh and blood version. It was the size of a baby elephant. It was in the same prone position it was in the real world. It struggled against its weight to stand up again. It was surrounded by the chanting wizards. The wizards bestowed their gaze to the creature and white light flowed from their eyes and hit the kraken. The spirit version squirmed as the intense light hit it. It struggled against the power for a few minutes before it started to fade away. Pieces of its spiritual body flew up and away in chunks until there was nothing left of it. When the wizards were sure that the kraken had completely dissolved away, they closed their eyes, trapping the light within themselves.


A minute later, Quil felt the power begin to fade and withdraw. The Master spell had been cast. The spirit of the kraken had been banished. The mission was over, or at least in the spirit world it was. He still needed to see how the spell worked in the real world.


“Well done, wizards,” said a wizard with a booming voice. He was wearing a conical hat. Quil assumed that he was the lead Master, or the Master Master as he called it. He turned his gaze to Quil and nodded. Quil responded in kind.


One by one, the wizards disappeared, breaking the link. They faded into the bright green background. Quil knew that he needed to retreat to his body. He cut the connection to the Superhighway.


Soon Quil was back in his body. He opened his eyes to see that his teammates were all staring at him. He blinked quickly a few times to allow his eyes to adjust to the dim light outside. He stood up, still holding the statuette. It was vibrating slightly, but not as excitedly as it had been.


Quil looked past his teammates and saw the kraken lying on its back. It was no longer struggling to get up. It wasn’t doing much of anything. It just laid there like a wet sack of meat… because that’s exactly what it was. He turned to Andrada and asked, “What happened?”


Andrada’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “You were glowing all these funny colors and you were shouting some strange words in a language that’s been dead for centuries. When you started shouting, the kraken rolled over on its back, shrieked bloody murder, and then went limp.” She made the sound of a deflating balloon. “It’s been like that for five minutes. It was like its soul was just sucked out of its body! Isn’t that wild?”


Quil cracked a smile and nodded. “Yeah, wild.”


Jaco hugged Quil and kissed him on the cheek. “You did it! You saved the world!”


Everett snorted. “I think he had a little help.”


“Emphasis on little,” Jaco retorted. He patted Everett on the head and pinched his cheeks.


“I wish people would quit petting me! I’m not a goat, goddammit!” Everett mumbled.


Jaco immediately started making goat noises. Everett threatened to shoot him with an arrow. Jaco persisted until Everett took steps to load his bow.


“I suppose we should get back to the monastery,” Andrada said.


“It’s going to be a long walk,” Reese said.


“Why walk?” Andrada was confused. Reese grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her toward the smoldering red car that she had driven into the kraken. “Oh.”


“We could always go back in the truck,” Quil chimed in. Reese turned him in the direction of the overturned truck that was steaming out of the front hood. “Oh, yeah. I could do a spell to reverse the damage!”


Quil walked over to the truck and placed a hand on it and uttered a spell. He waited for a few seconds. Nothing happened. He chuckled nervously and uttered the spell again. Nothing happened. He gave his mates a nervous smile and said, “I guess I used up all of my magic juice with that Master spell. Oops. Looks like we’re walking.” Everyone groaned.


“At least it’s cool out,” Everett said, trying to sound optimistic.


At that instant, the grey sky cleared to blue and the clouds covering the sun dissipated, releasing heat and light. Everyone turned to Everett and glared at him. He only shrugged and took a sip from his flask.


The Heroes began their trek to the monastery, proud of the job they had accomplished. They had defeated a Gogo-Kraken. This was sure to get them a few rounds of drinks at the pub. Tonight they party.

                                            ***

And party they did. The morning after, Quil took a stroll through the neighboring village to soak up more of the people’s admiration. Everyone smiled at him and bowed, thanking him for a job well done. He returned the gestures and continued on his way.


He found himself at the Retired Horse Tavern where he and his fellow heroes liked to party. The barmaid, Rosalind, waved at him, but she did not look happy to see him, she looked worried for him. In fact, it looked like she was waving him away. Before he figured this out, it was too late. As he stepped through the door, he saw why she was trying to warn him. Chrys sat at the bar and he looked pissed. He wanted to leave, but Chrys had already spotted him.


“Ahh, good morning, brother,” Chrys said through gritted teeth. “Come sit with me.”


Quil winced. “I’d rather take my chances in a tiger’s den.”


“That can be arranged.” Chrys patted the empty stool next to him.


Quil knew that there was no getting out of this, so he sat down. He could feel his brother’s angry heat emanating from his body. He pulled at his collar and released the air he had been holding. “So, what’s on your mind, bro?”


“I’m so glad you asked, ‘bro’!” Chrys pulled out a sheet of paper out of his back pocket and slammed it on the counter. He slid it in front of Quil and tapped it for emphasis. “Read it.”


Quil picked it up and read the scathing letter that Father Masonley wrote concerning the extreme damages done to his cars. He was requesting that the crown repay him for the cost of the vehicles and more for emotional damages. Quil felt a lump form in his throat. “He’s suing us?”


“You bet your sweet Aunt Fanny he is!” Chrys snatched the paper from Quil’s fingers.


“What does my sweet Aunt Fanny have to do with anything?” Quil asked, trying to get Chrys to smile, he failed.


“Thanks to your team’s recklessness, we now have to pay him an exorbitant amount of money!” Chrys jabbed his index finger into Quil’s chest hard. “You’re supposed to be saving us, not costing us money.” Chrys’s nostrils flared out, which reminded Quil of an angry cow. This image caused Quil to chuckle, which further infuriated his brother.


“Oh, you think this is funny, do you?” Chrys got off his stool and glared at Quil. “We’ll see how long you’re laughing when I have Father arrest all of you fuckers and throw your asses in jail as enemies of the crown. Will you be laughing then? Let’s find out. Keep fucking up. Not even Father will be able to save you.” He brushed against Quil’s shoulder as he left the pub.


Quil felt a cold chill run down his back. He hadn’t realized just how much Chrys hated the Heroes, but now it’d been made perfectly clear.


“You fancy a drink, love? It’s on the house,” Rosalind asked.


Quil answered in the affirmative. Rosalind poured him a glass of his favorite cider and set it down in front of him. He drank it down in several big gulps. He wiped the foam from his lips and sighed. He was no longer in a drinking mood. He was now poisoned by his brother’s shitty attitude.
Could Chrys really get them all arrested? Quil and the others would have to tread lightly from this point on. Lunde couldn’t afford to have their savoirs in jail. He sat at the bar and pondered the next steps the team needed to take to ensure their furthered employment.

                                      The End

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