Trials: Part Thirty Nine

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Jude floated above the roof of their house. A few hours ago, DSR agents began to form a perimeter around their house, about a hundred yards away. The neighbors for the most part had evacuated, having seen armed men forming up around a house. The agents hadn’t made any move yet, so right now Jude was just keeping watch.

He couldn’t believe that Mr. Rodriguez wasn’t angry with him. He definitely wasn’t happy with the situation, but Jude would’ve been furious with the idiot who led his daughter into such a dangerous position.

Jude noticed a black SUV approaching the perimeter. He wondered if this was Paul or more reinforcements. He looked down at his phone, and saw it was about 7 PM. Paul should definitely be getting here soon. Mr. Smith had confirmed picking him up a little bit ago, so they should arrive soon.

The car stopped at the edge of the perimeter, and one of the agents stood by the window for a few minutes, before waving them forwards. The car eventually stopped in their driveway, and Jude flew down to meet it. The windows were tinted, so he couldn’t quite see who was inside.

The door flew open, and Jude stepped back. Anastasia ran forwards, and wrapped her arms around him.

“Jude! I’m so glad you’re okay! I got worried when I saw the police or something. What’s going on?” She asked.

“I’ll explain everything inside.” Jude nodded.

A few seconds later, Paul stepped out of the car with the help of Mr. Smith. Jude nodded to Mr. Smith, as he stepped around to the trunk, and stepped forwards to give Paul a hug.

“Glad to see you buddy.” Jude clapped Paul’s back. “I take it they didn’t cure your vision?”

Paul shook his head. “No. No time to worry about that, though. We need to get on this.”

Mr. Smith returned from the trunk with a few suitcases, and handed some off to Jude. “Sorry, I didn’t bring any of my staff, because I’m not quite sure who I could trust anymore. Aside from Jean who is indisposed, and Gregory, who is at the house on standby.”

“No worries, probably best to keep this too as few people as possible.” Jude nodded, and took the bags. “Let’s go inside. I’m worried about the agents moving in while I’m not looking, so let’s make introductions quick.”

“No need.” Mr. Smith shook his head. “I told Daniels to give me a couple of hours to work things out. I finance them, so I imagine I have at least one hour.”

Jude nodded again, and led the group inside. Arte, Deven, Zoey, and Mr. Rodriguez were all sitting in the living room chatting, but got up when Jude entered.

“Alright, everyone, this is Paul, Anastasia, and Mr. Smith.” Jude gestured at each person in turn. “And this is Arte, Zoey, and Mr. Rodriguez.”

“I see you’ve made new friends.” Anastasia remarked, after going around and shaking everyone’s hand.

“Yeah, it’s a long story. Not really relevant how I know everyone, I don’t think.” Jude waited a moment for everyone to quiet down, then addressed the group. “Alright, here’s what we know. Vanessa was supposed to go to a hotel in San Francisco, but she never actually arrived, and the driver has been delivering false status updates to Mr. Smith.” He turned to Paul. “We need you to figure out where she is, can you do that?”

“I don’t know where she is. I’m not going to find that out using my power.” Paul shook his head. A wave of despair washed over the room, but Paul continued. “However, I do have some other information. They are being held in a prison in a forest. In the prison, the prisoners all have powers, and some of the guards do. The leader is a teenager who can produce fire.”

Jude was slack jawed for a moment at the sheer volume of information Paul had just dumped on them, before coming back to his senses. “What do you mean ‘they’? Just the other prisoners?”

“No, I mean Arte’s girlfriend and Vanessa.” Paul replied flatly.

“Girlfriend?” Jude replied, but was met with no answer.

Arte jumped up, and stepped forwards. “Wait, Ashley’s in a prison? Is she okay?”

Jude put the pieces together. Ashley was Arte’s girlfriend. “They’re both there?”

“One question at a time. Bodily yes, she is fine. She’ll definitely need intense therapy once she gets back. And yes, they’re both there. The odds of that being a coincidence are low. There is one-”

Arte stepped closer to Paul. Jude was unsure about the look in her eye. “How long have you known about this?”

“I’m not sure of the flow of time where I was, but I assume you’re worried about if it was before the phone call. Yes, it was before I first spoke to you.”

“Did you know Daniels was going to find out about Zoey?” She was right in front of him now.

“Yeah, but-”

Arte clocked Paul in the face, before being pulled back by Jude. Paul slowly rubbed his face where she had hit him. The whole room stood in stunned silence.

“Well, alright then.” He nodded. He looked blankly forwards for a while, before continuing. “Anyways-”

Jude put himself between Arte, who was still fuming. He couldn’t believe Paul right now. “Wait a second. Don’t just ‘anyways’ us, why didn’t you mention that?”

“Well, because it doesn’t really matter. She was the best suited to handle the problem. Frankly it’s on you for not coming up with a better plan if that was your goal.”

“Who the hell is Daniels?” Anastasia stepped into the mix, as Mr. Rodriguez and Zoey stayed back.

Jude groaned. This was devolving into a mess. They weren’t going to get anything done at this rate. “Alright, that’s enough. We’re all tired and tense.” He turned back to Anastasia. “After you had left, and Vanessa went on her trip, Mr. Smith basically fired me, and Daniels more or less put me on comfy house arrest.”

“Listen, I’m sorry, Jude. It’s-” Mr. Smith started, but Jude cut him off.

“I’m not mad, I’m just laying out what happened.” He turned back to Anastasia. “Daniels and I are basically at a standoff right now, and he’s threatened Zoey. So we have like four different situations all going on at once, and we can’t afford to be fighting right now.”

“Now, if I may continue…” Paul waited a moment for objections and carried on. “I do not know where Vanessa and Ashley are, but Mr. Smith does.”

Mr. Smith went wide eyed and began to step back from the group.

“He was hoping that I could figure out her location on my own, to absolve him of association with this.” Paul paused for a moment.

“Is this true?” Arte turned to him with a somehow more enraged look.

Mr. Smith started to answer, but Paul cut him off. “However, I brought Mr. Smith along for a reason. He will be more than happy to personally take us to the site where they are being held. As a matter of fact, Gregory is actually on standby in the private jet, waiting for us to arrive. Isn’t that true, Mr. Smith?”

“Yes. It’s at a site in Northern California. We can fly near it, but we’ll need a helicopter to get us the rest of the way.” He hung his head.

“Now, all that is left is to get there, but I believe Jude already knows what he needs to do for that to happen.” Paul smirked, and gestured towards Jude.

“Fine. Everyone with powers, except for Zoey, get ready to go.”

“Actually, she and her father will both need to go with us. They can wait in the helicopter if you like, though.”

Arte turned to Paul again, and Anastasia stepped between them.

“First, when this is over, you and I are going to have a long talk. Second, if I find out you’re putting Zoey in danger again, I will not hesitate to end you.” She glared around Anastasia.

“These conditions are fine. I would not have insisted they go if it weren’t absolutely necessary.” Paul nodded, “Now go Jude, we’re on a tight clock!”

Jude nodded and went over to Arte and Deven. He easily ripped off both of their ankle monitors, and took off out the door. He soared over to the biggest collection of vans, and threw down the two ankle monitors, before ripping off his own. This had gone on long enough. If Daniels wanted to stop him, he’d have to force him to.

Daniels jumped out of one of the vans and stormed over to him. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Our arrangement is over.” Jude spoke calmly, but stern. “Some of my friends are in danger, and we are going to go get them. If you let us go, and don’t tamper with any of our, I will be more than happy to come to a more agreeable arrangement with you. Are these terms acceptable?”

Daniels took a step back and looked down for a few seconds, before looking back to Jude with a look of resignation. “Yes. My men will leave the scene now. The house and all of your things will be waiting for you when you get back. Please call me, and we’ll set up another meeting.” He paused for a moment. “Good luck.”

Jude nodded, and took off back towards the house. Everyone was already piled into Mr. Smith’s SUV, with Deven in the front seat. He climbed into the last open seat, and found himself next to Arte.

“Alright, let’s go.”

His head was throbbing. He would definitely need a nap after dealing with all of that.

 


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Hello everyone! Again, an announcement about season 3 and a potential hiatus (don’t know if I need one yet, wouldn’t be more than a month), is to come. I’m well on track to finish season 3 in time, unlike I was with season 2 if any of you were around for that. I assure you I have learned my lesson from last time.

Remember, love one another, Black Lives Matter, and trans people are valid. 

 

Trials: Part Thirty Eight

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Click here for part one.

Ashley was trying her hardest to keep her calm. She had to, for the sake of the people she was trying to save. She already looked out of place in Jones’s baggy and bloody uniform, she couldn’t also be looking terrified. The disguise wouldn’t hold up to much more than a brief glance from a distance, but it was something. Not to mention it offered some protection, even if it was ill fitting and battered. She only needed to wear this for a little bit, then she could get a better fitting one that she hadn’t taken off of a dead guy. They were still in the cave, waiting for Vanessa to scope it out using Darryl’s power, so she had a second to pull herself together.

She couldn’t get Jones’s face out of her head, nor could she forget the pain. It was like nothing she had ever felt before, and she inflicted that onto someone else. She killed him. Vanessa may have dealt the final blow, but she killed him. She wondered if Arte would even want to see her. She wasn’t the same person she was before.

She shook her head. Now was no time to fall into a spiral. She needed to think positively. She may have done some bad things along the way, but she had done this to save more than a hundred people from torture. Even the guards were really prisoners here, if what Darryl said was true. They had to put a stop to this at all costs, and she couldn’t let her own preferences get in the way of that.

Vanessa finally opened her eyes and stood up. “Alright, we need to move out now. Our window is small. Most of the guards are at an assembly right now, but there are still a few on patrol. Stay close to me.”

She took off at a brisk walking pace out of the cave, and Ashley and Darryl both followed suit.

The tunnel suddenly turned from natural stone into concrete, and they were in a small room with a prison cell. Darryl made his way to a cabinet, and unlocked it. He pulled out two pistols, and handed them to Ashley and Vanessa.

“These have tranquilizer rounds.” He handed another pistol too Ashley. “This one has live rounds. Use your own discretion.”

Ashley was about to object, but Darryl and Vanessa had already taken off. She quickly holstered both of them, being careful to put the tranquilizer one on the right, where she could quickly reach it. She followed out the way they had left, and almost ran into them when she saw them at a complete stop.

Vanessa held up three fingers and counted down, before running around the corner of the T-junction.

After they rounded another corner, the walls were lined with prison cells. Ashley had been here for a while, but she wasn’t sure where this control room that Darryl had referenced was. She had a vague idea of where the locker room was, but she only really knew that relative to her cell or maybe the cafeteria.

Her heart nearly stopped when a guard came around the corner. He had appeared at the end of the hallway, and there wasn’t any way to hide now. Darryl motioned for them to keep walking, and drew his gun. As Darryl drew his gun, the other guard drew his, and continued a cautious advance. They both kept them pointed at the floor, and eventually were close enough to whisper.

“Darryl, what the hell is going on? Who the hell are they?” The other guard whispered. His name patch said ‘Gaines’. They couldn’t see his face from under his mask.

“Marques, I’m gonna need you to trust me. I know that you know this is wrong. Help me put a stop to it, or at least step aside.”

Marques hesitated. “Do you have a plan? A good one?”

“Yes. It’s the best option we have, but I’ll need some backup from as many guards as we can. Can you do that? We’ll need numbers to take on Takeo.”

He holstered his gun and nodded. “Alright. I think I can do that.”

Darryl also holstered his gun. “I’ll need one other thing. Make sure anyone who’s sympathetic is somewhere safe or ready, because I’m gonna release all of the prisoners.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.” Darryl nodded.

“If that’s what you gotta do. I’ll meet you at the control room, I guess.” Marques nodded before taking off.

Vanessa motioned and they took off as well. After a few minutes, they reached the locker room without incident. Once inside, Darryl followed along the lockers before motioning to Vanessa, who threw a disk which broke off the lock.

“Mara is on vacation, and she’s about your size.” Darryl tossed each of them a clean uniform, before going outside to keep watch.

Vanessa and Ashley quickly changed, and transferred what equipment they had into their new uniform. They discarded their old ones, and met Darryl in the hall.

“Alright. Now that we have actual uniforms, we shouldn’t need to sneak around quite as much.” He nodded. “But do be wary of closer inspection. If they try to ID you, they’ll see that you’re faking.”

Ashley and Vanessa both nodded in understanding, and Darryl led the way to the control room. As promised, they didn’t run into anything along the way. They stopped outside of the door, and Vanessa placed a hand on Darryl. After a moment, she opened her eyes.

“There’s one guard inside. Darryl, you lead.”

 


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Happy almost Christmas! Hope you’re doing well. I believe I’ve finally got the post-timing down with the new system and my new schedule, so we should be returning to every Friday at noon. 

I will put out a blog post at some point discussing my plans for season 3 and the holidays, so you have that to look forward to within the next week or two. 

Remember, love one another, Black Lives Matter, and trans people are valid. 

 

Trials: Part Thirty Seven

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Click here for part one.

Jude stood in his kitchen with Deven, Arte, Zoey, and Mr. Rodriguez. The pizza was set to get here soon, and he was starting to get hungry. Everything had gone off about as well as he’d hoped, and Arte’s injury was only minor. They figured out what Zoey’s salt can do, they took care of the impostor, and now they should be allowed some degree of freedom again.

Arte tapped Jude on the shoulder, and gestured for him to follow her into the den. He obliged.

“Hey, Jude, have you heard anything from Daniels?”

“Nope. I’m guessing he’s probably worked out that we got rid of the bugs by now, huh?”

“Definitely. I’m worried about how much else he’s worked out, but Paul said it would be fine to send her, right? You trust him, right?” Arte looked really worried.

“With my life. He’s never been wrong before.” He nodded.

“Alright.” Arte nodded and sighed. “You’re probably right. I’m just worrying too much.”

Jude was about to say something, but his phone began to ring. He looked down, and saw it was Mr. Smith.

Arte moved in close so she could hear.

Jude picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Jude, I’ve had some of my men look into something, and I think Vanessa has gone missing.” He sounded more panicked than Jude had heard him since Vanessa got put in the hospital last year.

Jude’s heart sank. “What? What do you mean?”

“The hotel’s records say she checked in, but she was never even there. The driver was supposed to be keeping tabs on her, but he must have been sending me fake info.”

“What can I do?”

“I want you to see if you can get in touch with Paul. See if he can find her. I’ll pay for his flight back, just get him here.”

“I’ll call him, and let you know what he says. Anything else?”

“That’s it for now. Thank you Jude.”

Jude hung up, and was about to dial Paul when the doorbell rang. Jude swore, and started to move, but Arte went to get it. He called Paul, and the phone began to ring.

Jude heard a voice he recognized, coming from the front door. He turned around, and it was Daniels. Jude was standing a ways away, but he could definitely make out that the guy looked pissed. He made his way over, and handed the phone to Arte.

“Wait do you want me to…” Arte trailed off, before taking the phone and heading into the living room.

Jude turned to Agent Daniels. “Why don’t we step outside?”

“Works for me.” His stern expression didn’t waver.

Jude stepped out into the driveway. “So, did you need something?”

“Cut the shit, Jude. I know that was Arte and the neighbor girl at the mall.”

Jude’s heart sank. They hadn’t been careful enough. Had Paul been wrong? He didn’t let his doubts break his equally serious expression. “Alright, yeah. It was us, but so what? We got the bad guy, and no civilians got hurt.”

“When I took you on, one of the only terms was that you cease vigilante action, and that was exactly what you did!”

“What do you mean, ‘one of your only terms’? Or ‘took you on’ for that matter?” Jude scoffed. “You arrested me, and put me on house arrest!”

“Because you’re a danger, Jude! How did you even know about the attack in the mall before it happened? Do you realize what this looks like? I should have you all arrested!”

“Are you suggesting we worked with the impostor?”

“I’m not having this conversation.” Daniels shook his head. “Nobody is to leave this house. We’re putting a monitor on the girl, then we’re going to figure out what to do with you.”

“You put one hand on her, and watch what happens.” Jude’s eyes began to glow. He couldn’t believe Daniels for threatening to do this to a child, and he couldn’t believe himself for approving this plan. What did it matter if her dad was okay with it? Why would Paul let this happen?

“We’ll just see about that.” Daniels turned around and stepped into a black van.

Jude swore and ran back inside.

Arte was waiting for him at the doorway, and he noticed Deven and Zoey leaning around the corner, looking in. “What happened?” She handed him his phone back.

Jude leaned against the wall and sighed. He tried to keep from shaking. “Give me a second, did Paul pick up?”

“Yeah.” Arte nodded. She pulled up a list on her phone. “He evidently already knew about Vanessa, and was already coming back, but he didn’t know where she was. He said to make sure Mr. Smith personally drove him here from the airport, for some reason?” She shook her head. “Jude, are you sure this guy’s alright? He’s being really cryptic and leaving out details.”

“I’m not so sure how I feel about him right now.” Jude shook his head and sighed. He leaned in and whispered. “Daniels wants to put a monitor on Zoey, and says we’re all stuck here, and that we should be arrested for collaborating with the impostor.”

“What!?” Arte’s eyes went wide. “He found out? Shit!”

“I’ll tell Mr. Rodriguez what’s happened in a second, I just need a second to get my head straight…” Jude had a headache now, and went to take a seat on the couch. This was all his mess. He couldn’t pin this on Paul, there was no way he could’ve seen how this would play out. He had gotten desperate, and stupid, and he’d ruined a girls life. He put his face in his hands. He was just so tired of all of this.

Jude felt a heavy hand on his back. He looked up to see Deven smiling down at him.

“It’s okay, Jude. The good guys always win.”

 


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Finally started writing on season 3 again (approaching halfway done, and it’s shaping up to be considerably longer than 1 and 2). As per usual (so it feels like now), sorry for the delay. Thanksgiving had me messed up, but I should’ve scheduled this beforehand like someone who possessed planning skills. Oopsies. At least I’m actually working on season 3.

 

Trials: Part Thirty Six

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Click here for part one.

It was nearing sunset when Paul and Anastasia neared the edge of the monastery. She looked out over it one last time. It was beautiful, and it was a shame they had to leave. As she was about to turn around and cross the threshold, she saw a flash of light, and out of it materialized Siobhan and Coombre. Anastasia dropped her bag and ran to hug them.

“We’ll miss you Anastasia” Siobhan patted her back.

Coombre reached into his pocket, and pulled out a book. “Adara said to give this to you.”

Anastasia took it, and saw it was one of the empty journals from the desk. It had a brown leather cover with an ‘A’ embroidered on the front. On the first page was a photograph and a note. The photo was of her, Coombre, and Siobhan when they were cataloging one of the rooms of artifacts. The note read as follows:

For Anastasia, may your curiosity never rest, and when we are rejoined, I hope you will have remembered to write some of your findings. -Adara

Below that, she saw that Siobhan and Coombre had both signed it as well. Her eyes welled with tears. She hugged them both again.

“Thank you.”

“We’ll miss you.” Siobhan stood back and waved.

“Until next time.” Coombre nodded.

Anastasia put the journal in her bag and waved. She took Paul’s hand, and crossed the threshold. Siobhan, Coombre, and the monastery disappeared, and were replaced by the same rocky beach.

“Alright, Paul. Let’s go.” Anastasia wiped a tear from her eye.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” Paul asked.

“Yeah,” she nodded, “Sometimes you just have to say goodbye. I think I’ll see them again.”

“Well, we’d better get going. I guess we need to go buy plane tickets.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Anastasia began to walk forwards, when she saw a man step out from behind a rock. “Oh, hey Jean. I was wondering when you would show up!”

“Jean? What’s he doing here?” Paul asked.

“I suppose my skills have slipped.” Jean shook his head and made his way towards them. “I thought for sure I had remained unseen. That dastardly Adara…” He looked off into the distance with a smirk.

“Wait, what? You know Adara?”

“Don’t worry about it Paul.” Anastasia laughed. “You don’t have to know everything.”

“Yes, I apologize for not revealing myself earlier, Mr. Darbyshire, but I was instructed to not make my presence known until you were ready to go home.” He smiled warmly. “Mr. Smith asked me to keep an eye on you both, not to mention I had some business with Adara myself.”

“Very funny, everyone’s in on the secret, whatever.” Paul sighed. “Let’s just get going.”

“I took the liberty of retrieving your plane tickets. Your flight leaves at midnight, so that gives you plenty of time to get to the airport and through customs.” Jean handed Anastasia two plane tickets.

“Why do I get the feeling that you’re not coming back with us, Jean?”

“Oh, I just have an errand to run first. Business in Algeria.” Jean turned and began to walk away, before turning back for a moment. “If I’m not back within a month, please do tell Mr. Smith to assume I am deceased.”

“Good luck Jean!” Anastasia called after him.

Paul and Anastasia were silent for a moment. They listened to the waves, and to the crunching of Jean’s footsteps.

He nodded blankly for a moment, before turning to Anastasia. “Why do I get the feeling that you were up to much more than a cleaning project, while I was training?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Anastasia smiled. “We’re both allowed to have our secrets.”

“You’ve changed, Anastasia.” Paul chuckled. “I think I like it.”

Anastasia recalled the original reason that she had taken this trip. Sure there were all of the pretenses of helping Paul, and of her first vacation, but the real reason was to get closer to Paul. She laughed a little. She had hardly managed to spend any time with him, since they were both so busy with their own things. They still had a little time left, but now she felt pretty happy with the way things were. She had other mysteries to solve, and really didn’t need to give Vanessa more of a reason to hate her. She looked off into the sunset, and for the first time that she realized it, she was happy with herself. She didn’t need something or someone else.

Her heartfelt internal monologue was disrupted by the sound of Paul’s phone ringing.

He picked up, and raised it to his ear. “Hello, this is Paul… Yeah our flight leaves at midnight, we were already coming home… Yeah I know she’s missing… The same way I know most things… No, I don’t know where she is… Arte calm down, stop shouting into the phone… Yes I’d call that shouting…” He began to make static noises with his mouth. “Sorry signals bad, gotta go. Make sure Mr. Smith personally drives us to your place from the airport…” He hung up.

“Who was that? Who’s this Arte person that keeps calling you?” Anastasia recalled he said the same name while he was on the phone in that café.

Oh, you don’t have to know everything.” Paul replied in a mocking tone.

“Oh shut up, Paul.” She elbowed him and laughed. “Let’s get going then.” She began to lead him, but he didn’t move.

“Oh well, you should probably know this thing, though.” Paul’s face went serious. “Mr. Smith called Jude. He said nobody knows where Vanessa is. She went on a trip, but she never got to the hotel she was going to.”

Anastasia’s jaw dropped. “Paul! Don’t just not tell me something like that as a joke!”

“Well, in my defense-”

“No, don’t start with that!” Anastasia scoffed. “Is there anything else I should know?”

“Probably, but I’ll let them fill you in on it.”

Anastasia rolled her eyes, and led Paul back to the road. From there, she called a taxi, and didn’t speak another word to Paul until they returned.


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My month of writing is going quite successfully (Read: not one word that wasn’t for school). How about yours?

 

Trials: Part Thirty Five

Content warning: Gore and Death

 

You are joining an ongoing story.

Click here for part one.

Ashley’s heart was racing. She had actually almost died, and she really wasn’t sure why she didn’t. She heard the gunshot, and she saw the muzzle flash. She saw Vanessa standing over her, with tears running down her face. She wondered if she was actually fine. She shook her head. This was not the time for panic.

Ashley jumped up from the ground. She looked down at Darryl and Jones bleeding out on the ground. She rolled Jones off of Darryl.

“Vanessa,” she began dishing out orders, “disarm him, and if he tries anything, stop him. I’m not letting anyone die!”

Vanessa looked startled for a moment, but nodded, and attended to Jones.

Ashley went to take a look at Darryl. “Darryl, can you hear me?” She lifted his head, but he wasn’t responding.

She felt his jugular, and he still had a pulse. She turned her attention to his wound. This was definitely beyond her skill to fix. It was bleeding a lot, even with the knife still in the wound. She hadn’t really had formal medical training, her parents were just both doctors, so she picked up some pieces along the way. As best as she could tell, if she left this alone, Darryl would die. She wasn’t really sure if it would work well to transfer the wound to herself. Figuring out how much to transfer to not kill either of them didn’t seem like a good option. If it came to it, she would save him, but they weren’t there yet.

“Vanessa, does Jones have a pulse?”

Vanessa went in to check. “Yeah, I think so. He doesn’t look great though. What about Darryl?”

“Vanessa, I’m not sure what to do…” Ashley shook her head. “I can’t just wrap this up, and I don’t think I could take just a part of the wound and say for sure that neither of us would die. I have one other thing I could do, but I’m not sure…”

“What is it?”

“Well, the thing is, I don’t just have the power to take wounds. I also have the power to give them, so I could hypothetically put all of the wounds on one person, but they’d definitely die.”

“Put them all on Jones!” Vanessa responded quickly.

“But that would kill him for sure!”

“He tried to kill you!”

“That doesn’t mean he’s bad! You heard his story! He had to do this!”

“Look Ashley. You can have two people that will probably die, or you can have one person who definitely dies. That’s your decision here.”

“What gives me the right to say who lives or dies?” Tears began to roll down Ashley’s face.

“Your powers! That’s what says you do! Do you want Darryl to die?”

“No! Why can’t I just kill myself?!” Her heart felt like it could explode at any moment. That had to be the right answer, to take all the pain herself.

“What would your girlfriend say? What do you want me to say to her, when I have to go tell her that she’ll never see you again?”

Ashley froze. She couldn’t do that to Arte. Vanessa was right. This was the only way to go. They needed Darryl. They could never break everyone out of the prison, and get them all to safety without him. She had to do it.

“I’ll do it.” Ashley nodded. She sat down between the two bleeding men, and grabbed both of their hands. She had never attempted this before, but it had to work. She knew it would, because it had to. She took a deep breath, and pulled the knife out of Darryl.

She began to pull Darryl’s wound into herself, while also pushing it over to Jones. She began to feel a pain in her shoulder, and saw some blood beginning to come out. She looked down at her other arm, and noticed her burn was going away.

The pain began to intensify. At first it felt like she’d just been cut, but now it was deeper than that. She had never felt anything like this before. She looked over and saw that Jones wasn’t bleeding from his shoulder yet. She began to panic. Would she have to take the whole wound first?

Vanessa knelt down on the ground in front of her, and placed her hands on Ashley’s knees. “You’ve got this.” She smiled confidently.

“It- It hurts so much! I don’t know if I can do it!” She began to sob. Darryls wound had to be deep, because the pain kept going deeper.

“Yes you can! I’m right here with you. I can’t take the pain for you, but I know you’ve got this!”

The pain kept getting worse, until it eventually reached a crescendo. Ashley cried out. She couldn’t believe Darryl had just taken this.

“Ashley, look!” Vanessa pointed to Jones’s shoulder. Blood was beginning to seep out of it.

Ashley felt joy for a moment, followed by disgust. She was rejoicing over someone’s death. She wondered if this was the right move after all, and winced. It had to be, because it was her only option. This was for Arte, for Darryl, and for everyone still trapped in that prison.

Eventually the pain began to alleviate. After a few moments, Ashley was back to normal. She smiled weakly, then fell forward onto Vanessa’s lap in tears.

“You did it Ashley.” She felt her hand rest on her head.

A few moments passed, and Ashley pulled herself up. She wiped off her face, and got to her feet.

“I’m going to take care of him. Keep an eye on Darryl.” Vanessa hugged her, and turned to Jones.

Ashley looked down at Darryl, and winced as she heard a wet cutting noise. She felt like she should be feeling more, but she just felt overwhelmed and tired. She shook her head, returned her attention to Darryl, and checked again for a pulse.

Once she found he had a pulse and was breathing, she turned to Vanessa, who was now beside her.

Vanessa wrapped her arms around her, and Ashley whispered, “Thank you…”


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Trials: Part Thirty Four

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Zoey and Arte sat at a table in the Vanguard Mall cafeteria. Her heart was racing. Not only was she going to fight a super villain today, but she was also in public dressed like a Dayspring fan girl.

“Do I have to wear this?” Zoey pulled her coat over herself to conceal as much as she could.

“What? You don’t like it? I thought you said you were a fan of Dayspring?” Arte was clearly suppressing a laugh.

“Very funny. It’s embarrassing. I look like a kid, what if someone from school sees me like this?”

“Oh, come on. Nobody would recognize you, that’s what we did the makeup and the hood for. You worry too much.”

Zoey rolled her eyes. She just had to hope Jessica didn’t see this. There’s no way she wouldn’t recognize her. “Why do you get to wear normal clothes?”

Arte laughed. “Because, I don’t want to draw attention. Looks normal for you to wear something like that. People will assume you’re just a fan. Me wearing that would draw more eyes.”

“So in other words its embarrassing?”

“Why are you so worried about someone from school seeing you? Is there someone you like?” Arte poked Zoey’s arm over and over.

“No!” Zoey scrambled away and rolled her eyes. “It’s not like that…”

“While we’re on the subject, how is school going for you?”

Zoey sighed. Her classes were going great, but it hadn’t really gotten more enjoyable. At least Jessica had laid off the harassment, but now it just felt like she didn’t even exist. “It’s going good.” She forced a smile.

“Something the matter?”

Zoey’s heart dropped. That had always worked on her dad and any other adults who ever asked her that, how did Arte see through it that quick? “It’s nothing…”

Arte sighed and sat back. “You know, I don’t know if I told you this, but for the past few months, I’ve been all over the state looking for someone, so I’m basically a full blown detective now.” She took a sip of her drink. “What I’m saying is, I’ll go to your school and figure out what’s going on myself if I have to.”

Zoey almost jumped out of her chair. “No! You don’t have to do that, it’s fine!”

“I’m kidding.” Arte laughed, before pausing. “You know, you can talk to me, though.”

Zoey sighed. She wondered if someone older than her might actually be able to help. “Well, there’s this girl. She used to pick on me a lot, but now she knows I have powers. I’m not sure what’s going on. At first I thought she was scared of me, but I don’t think that’s it…”

Arte was about to say something, when she suddenly jumped out of her chair, and in front of Zoey. She fell over sideways, and Zoey jumped up.

She looked around and saw Dayspring floating in the air above a fountain. Her heart sank. This was the impostor. She had to do something.

“Citizens of Atlanta. This is my mall now, and you have ten minutes to get the hell out!” He laughed in a way she had never heard Jude laugh.

People began to scramble out of the food court, and Zoey turned her attention to Arte. She knelt down beside her, and turned her over.

“I’m fine.” Arte shakily stood to her feet. She had a burn on her arm, and Zoey froze. “Go get him kid. I’ll be right behind you.”

Zoey nodded, and turned towards the impostor. He was floating above the fountain, surveying the chaos around him. He looked like he was enjoying himself.

Zoey’s whole body was shaking, but she pulled her hood up and began to walk towards him. She had the training, and Jude said she was ready. Arte wouldn’t have let her do this if she wasn’t ready. Zoey looked back and saw Arte coming up behind her. She was holding her arm, but she didn’t look scared at all.

She was about half way to him, whenever he locked eyes with her.

“Who’s this? A fan?” He floated down towards her, and noticed Arte as well. “A fan and her angry mom?”

“You need to stop!” Zoey shouted, as assertively as she could muster.

“Are you going to make me?” He laughed for a moment, then looked back at Zoey. “Oh you are, are you? You’re serious? A kid in a costume is going to take down Dayspring! And your mother is okay with this?”

Arte stood her ground and glared at him. Zoey couldn’t help but not how calm and cool she seemed. She really believed in her.

“Alrighty then.” He turned back to Zoey. “So what’s your plan? The power of friendship? Are you going to talk me into being good again?”

“I have powers too, you know!” Zoey shouted. She had finally managed to get her body to stop shaking, but her heart was still racing faster than it ever had before.

“Oh, boy!” He did a twirl in the air. “You have powers too? Well then, it seems we have a duel on our hands.” He grinned, and floated down, until he was on the ground, about ten feet away. “I am a gentleman, so I will allow you the first shot.” He closed his eyes and held his arms out.

Zoey took a deep breath. This was just like in training, and all she needed to do was… She began to panic. She had no idea how she was going to stop someone with Dayspring’s powers. She had salt. That was it.

“Come on, hit me with all you’ve got.” He smiled, his eyes still closed.

Zoey looked over to Arte, who nodded. She took a deep breath, and wound up. She materialized some salt, and threw it at him with all her strength. Her heart sank as she felt it crumble in her hands. She watched as a hail of salt went over the man.

For a moment, nothing happened. Zoey saw Arte take a step forwards, but suddenly the man collapsed to the ground. Zoey took a closer look, and saw that he was no longer Dayspring, but instead a scrawny white teenager. He tried to get to his feet, but Arte was already on top of him.

He laughed nervously, “Hey, take it easy! It- It was a practical joke! Yeah-” He looked up and met eyes with Arte. “Okay! I’ll tell you everything I know! Please, I had to do it! He made me!”

“Tell it to a judge.” Arte looked into the crowd and waved a couple of police officers over. She then looked over to Zoey, and smiled. “I told you you could do it.”


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Apologies for the delay! WordPress did some scheduling shenanigans again. Really am trying to work this out, my bad.

Trials: Part Thirty Three

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Darryl sat alone by a dying fire. He sighed in contentment. Being around kids that weren’t crazy was really refreshing. He wondered if he did actually have anyone still alive back home, or if he could really still call that place home. Is a place still your home when you abandon it for twenty years? When you left it vowing to never return? Were the mistakes of a boy forgivable?

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Something was coming. He jumped to his feet, pulled out his gun, and whipped around. There stood Jones, wielding his own pistol.

“I see you’ve been getting on well, Darryl.” His smiling face was faintly lit by the fire.

“Yes. I appreciate you sparing my life.”

“Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, Takeo wouldn’t. I made a mistake, but that works out in your favor.” He sighed, and began to slowly pace around camp. “I want you to come back with me.”

Darryl kept his gun trained on him. Jones was trying to get him to reveal where the girls were sleeping. He glanced over to a nearby bush, then back at him.

“If you want me to come back with you, make a gesture of good faith, and give me your gun.”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense if we both just lowered our guns?”

“Don’t try that with me Jones. I know what you can do.” Darryl glanced over at the bush again, then back to Jones. “You with a knife puts you on an even playing-field with me with a gun.”

“Fine.” He lowered his gun and approached.

Darryl backed away, keeping the same distance between them. “Nope. Put it on the ground.”

Jones rolled his eyes and slowly crouched down, leaving the gun on the ground.

“Now back away.” Darryl almost glanced at the bush, but stopped himself.

“As you command.” Jones backed away until Darryl was finally at the gun.

Darryl kept his gun and eyes trained on Jones, and picked up the gun. He knew it was loaded with blanks, but he held it pointed behind him.

“Alright, Darryl. You have my gesture, now I want something from you. Where are the girls?”

Darryl swore. “How’d you know?”

“I know you think you’re smart and all, kicking up dirt to cover the pink glass, but it’s not enough to fool me.”

Darryl slowly moved the gun from behind his back to in front of him, and leaned up against a tree. “Well, I hate to tell you this, but they already left. If you go on down the river, you might be able to catch them.”

Jones sighed and shook his head. “Darryl, I’d hoped you’d be honest with me. We already established that you’re not smarter than me.”

In a flash Jones was gone. Darryl took a shot with the gun loaded with blanks, then tossed the other about a foot in the air and caught it.

“Keep hidden!” He shouted.

There was a blur, and Jones was back where he stood before. “Well, I guess you are smarter than I gave you credit for. You were giving me a fake tell, so that you could wake them up.”

Darryl smiled, and began to move away from him, while keeping both guns on him.

“So, since tonight is your shift, who is covering for you, while you go take care of me?”

“Dmitri.”

Darryl nodded. That was good news. Gaines was supposed to fill in if they both couldn’t, but Gaines would report the situation. Dmitri on the other hand, could be persuaded to silence. That meant Jones was here in secret.

“It’s a shame Darryl. I really did like you, and I was actually going to give you a chance to come back with me today. What would make you side against your friends for the sake of these monsters? More importantly what did you think you’d accomplish?”

“You know what they’re doing is wrong, you’re a good man, Jones. I intend to stop it. You could join us. With the three of us, we could easily take them.”

“You know I have to keep this job, Darryl. I’m so close to paying off my debt, and that won’t happen if I let you go.” He shook his head. “I have to do this.”

“What of the reward money that the government would give you for defecting?”

“You know very well they would arrest us both if we went to them.”

“I want you to know I really did like you too.”

“As much as I’ve enjoyed our final conversation, I think you know it’s time to end this.” He began to move towards Ashley’s hiding spot. “You know, I’ve been studying where you were walking, and I think I’ve figured out where one of them is…”

Darryl sprinted over between him and Ashley.

He saw a blur, and suddenly one of his guns was missing. Jones stood over Ashley with the gun pointed at her. “That was a clever trick you did with switching the guns, but when will you learn I’m smarter than you?”

He and Darryl fired their guns at the same time. He knew Jones would close in to Ashley to dodge, so he fired a foot off from him. Vanessa leapt out of her hiding spot and ran towards Ashley.

Jones crumpled to the ground, and Darryl approached. He glanced over to Ashley, and saw she was fine. Definitely shaken up, but fine, and Vanessa was making sure of it.

He suddenly had a sense of impending dread. He tried to raise his gun, but couldn’t get to it in time. He felt an impact in his shoulder.

Jones collapsed forward onto Darryl, knocking both of them to the ground.

Darryl looked over, and saw a knife jutting out of his shoulder. He couldn’t quite feel it yet but it looked bad.

“Sorry…” Jones wheezed. His face was blank, but a single tear flowed down.

“I am too.” Darryl said, before shooting him again.


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Happy day before halloween!

Trials: Part Thirty Two

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Click here for part one.

Jude sat in the kitchen with Deven and Ashley. It was already Friday, and Arte said Zoey had’t made any noteworthy improvement after the first day. He had faith in Paul, and if Paul said Zoey could take him, he trusted him. However, that still didn’t mean he didn’t want someone there to provide backup. He was doubtful that Daniels would approve all three of them to go, but he figured he could get at least one of them there. Paul had also been remarkably unspecific when he said to go to ‘the mall’ on Saturday. He wasn’t sure what mall, or when Saturday to be there.

Deven seemed to be eager to get out of the house. He said something about wanting to go to a gardening store to get some new seeds.

Jude’s phone began to buzz. Arte and Deven both went silent, and Jude picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Yeah, this is Daniels. Why do all three of you need to be at the mall tomorrow?”

“Well, Zoey, the neighbor girl, has a big test today, and we wanted to take her out to celebrate.”

“Alright, but isn’t Arte the one tutoring her?”

“Well, yeah, but-”

“So wouldn’t it make more sense for her to take her out?”

“Well, I mean, we all know her though, so-”

“Alright. It sounds to me like you just want an excuse to get out of the house. I’ll approve Arte for tomorrow, but that’s it. I don’t want you or Deven to be out while the impostor is still at large.”

“Come on, it’s been like a week and a half-”

“That’s my final decision. Goodbye Jude.” Daniels hung up without another word.

Jude lowered the phone and sighed. While this was about what he was expecting, it was still getting to him to be stuck in the house so much. He wondered if Daniels would ease up or double down after they caught the impostor.

“Well, that didn’t exactly sound like good news. What’d he say?” Arte asked.

“It was about what I expected. He only approved you, Arte.”

“No!” Deven shouted and slammed his fist on the counter, leaving a dent.

Arte jumped back, and Jude stood up. He needed to defuse this quick.

“Hey, Deven, I know you’re upset, but-” Jude started

“No! She always gets to leave! She’s left every day! It’s not fair!” Deven was panting now, and swatting at the air.

“Deven, you have to understand-” Jude edged closer, and narrowly dodged a swing of Deven’s arm.

“No! I want to leave! I hate this house!”

“I know…” Jude edged closer again, and Deven watched cautiously. “But I’ll be stuck here with you, we could-”

“No!” Deven swung his arms wildly, and Jude went flying into a cabinet, knocking it off the wall and sending plates flying.

Jude looked up, and saw Arte standing over him. She looked panicked. He stood up and dusted himself off. He was surprised at how little that hurt. He figured it was most likely shock, because that had to have at least broken a rib. He gave Arte a firm pat on the shoulder, and as comforting of a look as he could.

“No! I want to go!” Deven shouted.

Jude had an idea. After the last incident with Deven during the house raid, he realized that he was going to need to be prepared to deal with super powered tantrums and meltdowns, so he did some research.

He went to the fridge, and ignored Deven’s shouting. He pulled out a box of leftover pizza that he had ordered a couple of days ago, and put two pieces in the microwave.

“What are you doing?” Deven was still panting, but had stopped hitting things.

Jude grabbed a plate that was still in tact from the wreckage of the cabinet, and pulled the pizza from the microwave. He moved the plate over to the island, picked a piece up, and began eating.

Deven approached, and looked down at the pizza.

“Do you want some?” Jude asked as casually as he could. His heart was racing, but this was the best plan he could muster.

Deven thought for a moment and then nodded.

“Alright.” Jude slid the plate over to Deven, and ate his own slice.

After a couple of minutes, Deven and Jude had both finished their pizza. Jude looked to Deven, and saw that he had calmed down considerably.

“Alright, tomorrow, you and I will order a fresh pizza, and have a movie day.”

Deven nodded.

“I know you wanted to go to the mall too, but after Arte takes care of this with Zoey, we’ll be able to leave the house again, okay?”

Deven nodded again.

Jude was aware that he very well could be wrong about that statement, but he wasn’t sure how long he could keep this up. Deven was getting just as stir-crazy as him, and something was gonna have to change. After this, Daniels would just have to understand.

Jude was about to start cleaning up the wreckage of the cabinet, but heard the doorbell. He went to the door and saw a man with a package. He opened the door and smiled.

“Hey, delivery from Mr. Smith.” The man handed off the package. “Also, he mentioned that you had noticed some bugs around the house. I’m really an exterminator,” he winked, ”And he wanted me to take the package with me. More efficient I guess. Now a bad time?”

Jude looked behind him, and shrugged. “About as good of a time as any.”

“Alright, I’ll run out to my car real quick, and me and my coworker will take care of it. Those bugs won’t know what hit ‘em.” He winked again, and ran back out to the car.

Jude sat the package on a table, and opened it. Inside was a some kind of white uniform. It looked similar to his Dayspring uniform, but it was smaller, and had some kind of armor on parts of it.

“Thank you, Mr. Smith.” He muttered, before replacing it in the box. “Arte, Zoey’s present is here!” He called into the house.


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Apologies for last week’s post being delayed. They rearranged the scheduling calendar on the wordpress site, so I’ve pressed the wrong day a few times! This one’s definitely good on my end, so hopefully it’s posted Friday at noon.

Hope you enjoyed. I don’t do the after-post bits every time, but things are starting to ramp up, so if you’re just joining us and debating on whether it’s worth it to read the backlog, trust me, it is! Have a great weekend.

Trials: Part Thirty One

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Click here for part one.

Vanessa, Ashley, and Darryl all sat by the fire. Darryl had prepared a stew out of some meat that he hunted, and some herbs he had found. While it wasn’t gourmet, it was much better than Ashley had expected. They ate carefully using some pieces of one of Vanessa’s disks as utensils. Having full stomachs now, everyone seemed to be in far better spirits. She was certainly thankful for that.

“So, Darryl, where are you from?” Ashley asked. He had something of an accent so she figured he had to be British or Australian.

“South Africa.” He nodded.

“Oh, wow.” She nodded. “Vanessa and I are both from Atlanta. Well, I was actually born in New York, but yeah.”

Vanessa shot Ashley a look, as she said that she was from Atlanta. She wasn’t quite sure what she did wrong, but she mouthed ‘sorry’.

“So how did you get your ‘training’, or whatever that guy was talking about?” Vanessa asked. “Were you in the military or something?

“I was in the military for a little, yeah. Then the British took a liking to me, so they took me to train for an ‘off the books strike team’. That was what they called it.” He scoffed. “I did that until they were done with us. I learned that off the books meant that when we had done our jobs, we didn’t get a pension or decent wages. So I had to do contract work. From there, you know the rest.”

“That’s awful what they did to you…” Ashley shook her head. “Do you have a family?”

“Well, I couldn’t tell you.” He looked down and shook his head. “I haven’t been home, or heard from my parents in over twenty years. I don’t have a wife and kids or anything, if that’s what you meant.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…” Ashley was quiet for a moment. It seemed like they were just digging up bad memories for him. Her parents always loved her, and she had always had them. Sure it was a little rocky when she came out, but they came around eventually.

“Well, you girls are young. What do you have waiting for you in Atlanta?”

Ashley winced a little, she’d been trying to avoid that topic. She figured she should stall as long as possible, and gestured to Vanessa.

Vanessa sighed, and looked over to the fire. “I’m not even sure what’s waiting for me… I stormed out, and said I was going to go ‘find myself’. My boyfriend broke up with me, and went on a vacation with another girl. It’s also kinda weird how many connections my dad has from this place, so I’m not even sure what’s going on with him.” She wiped her eye and looked back to them. “Yeah, I’m kind a mess.”

“Well, speaking from experience, if you’re not happy with how you left things, you should probably go fix them.” He shook his head. “My mother tried to stop me from leaving, and I said some awful things to her… I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, so don’t carry regrets with you.”

“Yeah. I know I should… I guess I have to get back first.” They all went silent again. “Well, what about you Ashley? You went quiet.”

Ashley wiped a tear from her eye. She really hadn’t wanted to think about this, so she felt like an idiot for bringing up the question. “Well, I guess I don’t know what’s waiting for me… I had a great girlfriend, but I’ve been gone for so long she’s probably found someone else. I’ve probably lost my job…” Ashley looked up and realized what she said. Her face went red, and her heart was racing.

She was trying not to say that. Arte had always told her she needed to be more careful who she outed herself to. Her heart raced and tears started flowing down her face. She heard Vanessa get up, and she tensed up. She felt an arm around her.

“Hey, it’s alright,” Vanessa said. “You’re an amazing person, I’m sure she wouldn’t give up so easily. If you’re worried about your job, I’m sure my dad can take care of it.”

She over at Darryl, and saw he hadn’t moved, and looked unfazed. “Do you guys not-” She sniffled, “Not care that I’m gay?”

“That doesn’t change anything as far as I’m concerned.” Vanessa hugged her.

She looked over at Darryl, and he looked mildly surprised. “Oh, me? I grew up in South Africa during apartheid. I travelled the world, and saw that we are all human. There is no sense in discriminating on things.”

Ashley leaned into Vanessa, and couldn’t help but laugh a little. She knew they were good people, so there was no need to worry after all. After a few minutes, she pulled herself up, and wiped off her face.

“I guess we should talk about what we do now, huh?” Vanessa said, looking off into the fire again.

“Well, we got lucky coming out by a river. If we follow it downstream, we should eventually find a city, or the ocean.” Darryl nodded.

“Yeah, but what about all the people still in the prison?” Ashley asked. She was glad to have made it out, but wasn’t ready to abandon the people in there.

“That’s a good point.” Darryl nodded.

“Well, but right now, nobody knows about it. So if we were to go in, and we were to fail, then nobody would get to go home.” Vanessa replied.

“Well, the thing about that is that since we escaped, and they won’t find our bodies in there, they will realize we have gotten away. After that they will have to move the prison. Depending on how fast we move, they might not have time to move everyone, but at least half of those people in there would have no chance then.” Darryl shook his head. “That’s if anyone survives Takeo’s wrath when they figure it out. I figure we have at least a couple of days before they figure out we’re gone.”

“He’s right…” Ashley shook her head. “We have to go back.”

“I think you two should go downstream. You’re young, and you have lives waiting for you back home.” Darryl looked off into the woods. “I’m old, and I have nobody waiting for my return. Not to mention your lack of combat training.”

“Well, actually, I have some combat experience. Not like you, of course, but I did a little bit of superhero work.”

“Well, that settles it.” Ashley got to her feet. “We’ll all go. That gives us the best odds.”

“Alright, well, I won’t turn down the help.” Darryl stood as well. “However, I’d suggest you go to sleep. I will take watch.”

“Wake me up to switch off with you at some point, Darryl.” Vanessa stood and looked around for a second. “So where are we sleeping?”

Darryl laughed. “Find a patch of dry ground that looks soft. Some people like leaves for cushion, I prefer dirt. Less pokey.”


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Trials: Part Thirty

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Arte sat on the concrete floor of Zoey’s unfinished basement. Her dad had said this would probably be the best place to train, since he wasn’t too worried about sweeping up salt from it. She was reading Jude’s notebook, but it honestly seemed like it was all common sense. She thought he had said he was a professional trainer for some rich guy’s daughter, so she assumed he would know what he was doing, but the instructions were more or less as follows:

First, see what she has already gotten down. Second, get her to be able to make a rock out of salt. Third, see if she can make the rock go faster than just throwing it. Fourth, see if she can make a salt sword? Maybe a wall of salt? If you run into any problems just think of it in a different way.

Arte sighed. She had honestly expected something more detailed. It looked like she was gonna need to start from scratch. Jude had some good goals. Ideally, if Zoey was gonna fight someone with potentially any power, she would need offensive melee and ranged capabilities, along with some form of defense. It might be a challenge to get all of that together in four days. She didn’t trust Paul’s statement that she didn’t even need training at all. She couldn’t believe that guy was going to be her last bet to find Ashley.

“Alright, Zoey. To start off, I want you to show me everything you’ve worked out so far.” She pulled out a pen to take notes.

“Alright. It’s not gonna be very impressive.” She gulped, and took a deep breath.

Zoey took a step back, and concentrated. A rock of salt began to form in her hand. After about thirty seconds, she had one the size of a baseball. She shifted her grip, and the whole thing fell into dust.

She sighed and hung her head. “Ta-da.”

“That wasn’t bad! It’s not like your powers came with an instruction manual.” Arte got to her feet. She felt bad for the girl, because Arte’s powers had, in fact, come with an instruction manual. “Can you do it again?”

Zoey nodded, and repeated the process. This time it stayed for a second before falling apart.

Arte nodded. According to Jude she needed to ‘think of it in a different way’, whatever that meant. She thought back to her chemistry classes. Salt, as a crystal, forms an intricate lattice, so it would naturally take time to construct. Zoey seemed to be taking her time and concentrating, so if it was going to be useful by Saturday, that had to be the wrong approach. She couldn’t believe Paul was giving them three days to do this.

“Alright… So when you try to make a larger crystal, it looks like you’re straining yourself. I think I have an idea.” She pulled out the notebook. “So when you want to draw a straight line, it’s usually best to just take one quick stroke, than to take your time and try to draw the perfect line. When you take too long, you end up with a squiggly line, instead of something almost straight. So it’s possible that your powers are like that. Why don’t you try loosening up, and doing it quickly?”

“Alright…” Zoey took a deep breath, and swung her arm, like she was pitching a softball. Something solid flew out of her hand, and made a crack as it hit the wall. It clattered to the floor, and broke into a few large pieces.

Arte picked one up and examined it. It was an opaque chunk of solid crystal. She tried to crush it with her hand, but it held up. Arte smiled with satisfaction. “Take a look at this.” She placed the crystal in Zoey’s hand.

“Alright! I did it!” She jumped up and down with excitement. “I’ve been trying so long! I didn’t think I’d ever figure it out! Thank you so much!” She wrapped her arms around Arte.

Arte was caught off guard, but reciprocated. “Hey, it’s you doing the work, I’m just over here talking.”

“Alright, what now?”

“Okay, so I want you to try to make something bigger. Like a wall big enough that you could hide behind it.”

“Gotcha…” Zoey crouched down, and put her hands on the ground. She sprang up to her feet, and two separate towers of crystal formed.

Arte was about to congratulate her, but noticed Zoey was starting to stumble back. She ran up behind her and caught her, as she began to fall back. “Are you okay?”

Zoey slowly looked up to Arte. Her face was red. “I’m fine, just a little light headed.”

“Alright, let’s call it there, and maybe we can get back to this tomorrow.”

“Okay.” She got to her feet, and took a couple of steps, before stumbling and being caught again.

“How about I carry you upstairs, okay?” Arte scooped Zoey up in her arms and made her way to the couch upstairs. She was nearing the edge of her stamina, but made it just fine. She gently laid her on the couch, and took a seat next to her.

Zoey regained consciousness, and started to sit up, but Arte stopped her.

“Hey, it’s alright. Just lay back down. I think your dad left, but I’ll stay with you.”

“Thanks.” Zoey yawned.

“I’m sorry, I think I pushed you too hard. We’ll keep it small next time.”

Arte waited by her for a few minutes, and she seemed to have largely recovered. She got up from the couch and went towards the kitchen. “Alright stay there, I’m going to make a couple of phone calls.”

First she called Zoey’s dad, but he didn’t pick up. She called him again, and after he didn’t pick up, she left a message.

“Hey, Mr. Rodriguez. This is Arte. I just wanted to let you know your daughter fainted while we were training, I think I pushed her too hard. She’s fine now, but I’ll stay with her until you get home.”

She then pulled out her notebook, and dialed the second number. It rang for a moment, then someone picked up.

“David Smith, who’s this?”

“Hi Mr. Smith, I’m a friend of Jude’s, and I’m helping him with this case. He wanted me to let you know we’d need a couple of favors…”


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