The heat of the room made it a verifiable oven.

Justin shook the man by the collar, his eyes threatening to leave his skull. "Where is she?" He leaned closer, inches from the other man's face. "Answer me!" His grip almost pulled the man off the floor. It would have been easy to throw him across the room, but Justin needed him conscious.

The man, seated in a wooden chair, his hands tied behind his back and his legs bound to the chair, looked away and replied, "I can't tell you what you already know, Atlas." A smile curled up half of his face. He licked his lips and said, "Follow the light of the sky umbrella."

Justin turned away, resisting the urge to break the man's face. "Don't call me that." Speaking of his face, there wasn't a drop of sweat on him, even though he had been kept in that suffocating room for hours. How does this guy not sweat? "That doesn't mean shit to me, anyway."

The seated man tapped his feet three times against the wooden floor of the shed-sized space. "Well, you only have a few more hours to figure it out, then." He started to laugh. "Atlas," he hissed. His hair was too pale to be blonde, yet it wasn't white or gray. It covered most of his face in long, straight strands like a curtain. Between locks glared forest green eyes set in a young man's face.

Justin stepped quickly to the door and slammed it on the man's cackles. Outside, the air greeted him with a fresh gust. Sweat slid down his face like free-running water, matting sandy blonde hair to his forehead. He wiped his face with the sleeve of his damp dress shirt. But he couldn't stop to change. There was no time.

There were three others clad in formal attire, waiting outside for him in the tall grass. Justin could see them clearly though the light from the sun had left them. A short female and two males of average height looked to him, questioning. He shook his head and turned to the woman, Noelle. She stood the furthest away, maintaining a distance of at least a few feet from the others. She was half his height, wearing a solid black evening dress with long, straight hair to match. Justin looked into those emerald eyes and said, "Read his mind again."

She looked at him, then everywhere else, taking a step back. One of the other two figures moved forward, tightening his grip on the white coat that hung over his shoulder, "You know she can't. His mind is too messed up to read. It could backfire. Don't make Noe lle do something dangerous."

"I don't care, we have to know," Justin said, folding his hand into a fist at his side. "I have to know!" He struggled against tears that demanded to exist. He lost Elena. They don't understand.

The man in the white coat, Vincent, replied, "Let's wait until Eve comes back from looking around. We can't really do anything until we figure out that riddle, right?" He stepped forward, placing a firm grasp on Justin's shoulder. His blue eyes pulsed in the darkness. Vincent said, "We will find her. Rushing will only cause mistakes."

Justin looked away, to the darkening sky, thinking. It was my mistake to start with. He turned away from Vincent's hold and felt his shoulders begin to sag beneath the invisible weight; the burden of his inability to save a friend. He sank into thought, trying to understand the riddle given to him. How can I have the answer, when I clearly don't?

The other man who had remained silent pointed to the sky behind Justin, "Eve is back." The group looked to the distance and saw nothing. Not that they expected to. After a few long seconds, he adjusted his glasses and nodded, "Thanks, Eve." He turned to the others and said, "She isn't around here, above or below ground. Eve didn't see anything out of the ordinary, either." The group knew of Eve's limited distance.

Justin looked to his feet, his dress shoes almost devoured by the grass. What do we do now?

Vincent pushed his arms through the sleeves of his coat. "Well, Eve gave it her best. Now it's up to us. If Elena isn't in this area of the city, let's go to another."

Justin shook his head. "Adam, go uptown and use Eve again." Justin turned to Adam, willing him to move.

"It would take too long to check every part of the city that way. We used up a lot of time just for this search alone." Adam crossed his arms and looked at the grass, "And I don't use Eve." He stepped a few paces away from the group. Suddenly, he blurted, "Of course he did!" The others looked at him, but their gazes met curly brown hair on the back of his head. "He thinks we don't care about Elena, too." Adam paused, looking at nothing visible, and said, "Maybe, but I won't forgive him for saying it. I would never use you."

Vincent stretched his arms toward Justin and Adam, "Fighting won't get us anywhere. Let's split up. I'm sure we'll find a clue on the other edge of the city. If we're all searching at once, it won't be wasted time." The light of the sun had been almost completely sapped by the overbearing darkness. The four stood alone in the tall grass, next to the derelict hovel.

Justin shrugged and crossed his own arms. "He said I know where she is. I just don't understand the riddle, or how it can relate to a location in the city. I've been thinking about it since he said it."

Noelle looked to the dim sky, searching for some kind of answer to their dilemma. "Maybe the sky umbrella isn't the stars, but the moon."

Vincent looked to the sky as well and said, "How would we use the moon for directions to where this bastard is keeping Elena? Or the stars, for that matter."

Noelle said, "The moon's light… Maybe he means its reflection?"

Then, it struck Justin. "I know where to go."


I feel like I should have developed Noelle a bit more. Please review. I didn't want to start with a completely introductory chapter where I'd only give you Justin. I wanted to throw you in head first to experience this new world so I can start somewhere else with the next chapter and build it up until you're in over your head again without even realizing it.