Chapter One: Reason, Mystery Boy, and the Clockwork Cat

There has always been something strange about Reason Reed. It might have been her tall, lanky, pale figure or her white-blue eyes and dark brown hair. It might have been the fact her scientist parents worked for some unheard of company. But most of the population of Rhode, Texas believed it was the fact Reason had been raising herself since she was eight years.

Jonathan and Nancy Reed disappeared one night, leaving an eight year old Reason an unheard of fortune. Many tried to take the young girl in, but Reason refused to leave her family home with her star-filled room that stored her huge collection of reading material. In Rhode, if someone didn't want to be helped, then they are left alone, no matter if they're eight or 108 years old.

Reason was not totally left on her own. The Stewards from across the street checked in on her everyday and made sure she ate. The Stewards' daughter, Annie, became one of Reason's only friends at school. As the years passed, Reason and Annie grew. At sixteen, Annie was beautiful with her blond curls and blue eyes and creamy skin which made her looks like that of an antique doll. Reason, on the other hand, grew to be quite strange. It was not that she wasn't pretty because Reason had a unique beauty about her. It was because she started to experience something no one in her town could.

Reason called her strange experiences the Pauses, periods of time when time stands still. Her first Pause experience was the day of her sixteenth birthday. She was in class at the time, when all of a sudden, everything went silent. That's when Reason learned of the Pause. Everyone had come to a stand still in the middle of class. Not one person took a breath. That is, except for Reason.

Over the next few months, Reason learned many things about the Pauses. The Pauses were lit with blue light. Sometimes it was a red wash would saturate the world. Other times, the world looked like a black and white silent film. She didn't just learn about the light of the Pauses. She learned little tricks she could do and often used this time to study.

Mrs. Kingsbury stood at the front of her US History class, lecturing the students of Rhode High School on World War I. Reason Reed sat three rows back from the front and two desks left of the middle. She had decided to wear her light blue, petal-sleeved shirt and a pair of denim capris. She let out a yawn in pure boredom. Haven't I already read about this? Reason thought to herself as she adjusted her ponytail.

"Now," Mrs. Kingsbury bellowed. "Can anyone tell me what pushed our country to enter the war?"

Mrs. Kingsbury scan the room, looking for raised hands. Lee Baker, seated two rows in front of Reason, held his hand high. A few others also had their hands up; Sarah Mitch, Dylan Long, Edwin Gray and Jackie Redd to name a few. Mrs. Kingsbury skipped over her willing students and rested her hawk-like eyes on Reason.

"Ms. Reed," Kingsbury said. "Can you tell us why America entered World War I?"

Jeez, pick the girl who didn't wish to talk. Brilliant! Reason thought. She sifted through her memories for the data in the US History textbook. Bingo! She found it. "After Germany sunk some of our ships, people pushed for war. It wasn't until after the Zimmerman Telegram that America declared war on Germany."

Mrs. Kingsbury smiled, apparently please by the fact Reason had paid attention. Kingsbury continued the lecture and gave an assignment. Reason busied herself with the work. However, she was not to be focused on it for long.

"Can you believe her?" Cassandra Hale exclaimed to her friend, Demi Lovette. Cassandra sat to Reason's right and Demi was the next one over. Cassandra was your typical head cheerleader; busty, blond, and snide. "Reason is such a freaky know-it-all!" Cassandra continued. "I bet she was the result of an experiment by her mad scientist parents. She has the brain of an encyclopedia." Demi giggled at the comment. Reason inwardly grumbled at the rude remark. It made Reason annoyed enough to temporarily drop her quiet facade.

"Encyclopedia definition of Cassandra Hale: A snide, conniving, blond who has to make others feel inferior to boost her confidence. For more, look up the word Jerk," Reason muttered under her breath, only loud enough for Cassandra to hear. Cassandra's face contorted into a glare that made her look like a killer.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT ME, WITCH?" Cassandra had leapt from her seat in anger. Reason couldn't help the smirk that was now creeping across her face. The smirk only added fuel to Cassandra's rage. Mrs. Kingsbury had heard Cassandra's little outburst and was now standing between the two girls.

"Ms. Hale, I hope you know that such language is a taboo," Kingsbury said. The teacher gazed down at Cassandra with great intensity.

"It was Reed!" Cassandra accused. "That girl insulted me!" The cheerleader was now pointing at Reason, livid with hatred. Kingsbury turned her hawk eyes on Reason.

"Is this true, Ms. Reed?" Kingsbury questioned. Reason had to restrain her need to laugh. Who else is daring enough to insult Hale? Definitely not you, Reason thought.

"I just stated what I observed, Mrs. Kingsbury," Reason answered, her face blank. Kingsbury shudder. Everyone had a hard time staring Reason in the eyes because of their unusual color. This strange eye color was Reason's pride and joy.

"Well," said Kingsbury. "I must sadly..." Mrs. Kingsbury didn't even get to finish the sentence as a dark blue light washed across the room. Reason watched as Kingsbury's and Cassandra's breathing halted. Ah, thought Reason, Its the Pause. Time stopped for the world, leaving Reason behind. At least it came at a good time, she thought. Now I can do hypnotic suggestion.

Reason got up and leaned close to Mrs. Kingsbury's ear. "You were just telling Reason Reed about how quiet she is. You want Reason Reed to be a bit more social." After saying that, Reason got around and whispered into each students ear that they heard nothing from Cassandra. She left Cassandra alone, wanting her to be confused once time restarts. The blue light was getting lighter, so Reason hurried to her seat. When regular lighting had set in, time restarted.

"...you should be a little more social, Ms. Reed. You're very quiet for a girl your age," Kingsbury continued. Reason mentally grinned at the fact she had redirected Kingsbury's train of thought. Cassandra looked confused as Kingsbury turned towards her. "Ms. Hale, why are you out of your seat?"

Cassandra's jaw dropped. "But...you...Reed...detention..." she stuttered.

"I'm sorry," Kingsbury said. "What did you say?"

"You were about to give Reed detention for insulting me!" Cassandra exclaimed in frustration. Heads turned toward them.

"I'm sorry, I don't recall that." Kingsbury stated. "Please sit down."

"But..."

"Sit. Down. Now."

Cassandra fell into her seat, sending Reason another glare. Serves you right, you dumb cheerleader, Reason thought at Cassandra.

School had ended early. Reason was walking home. She was tempted to stop by Reality Sweets to grab some chocolate for Annie as a get-well present, but Reason had left her coin purse at home with her cash and change neatly tucked inside. She heaved a sigh and continued down the road.

A chill went down Reason's spine, making her shiver. It was the same chill people get when something bad is going to happen. Reason picked up her pace, turning right on Delaware St. As she raced toward Canyon Rd, the dark blue light settled on the world. Twice in one day? Reason thought quietly. What's going on?

She heard a sound that reminded her of gears grinding in her clock at home. Only this was much louder. Reason came to a stop and turned. There, on the sidewalk, was a huge cat. At least, that was what it was probably supposed to look like. It was crafted with metal and glass, and had two beady red glowing eyes. Its metal claws were like big knives. Through the glass, Reason could see gears and cogs moving, creating that clock-like noise.

"What is this?" Reason wondered aloud. "Its like something from one of my steampunk novels!"

The clockwork cat let out a mechanical growl that sent shivers through Reason. It crept forward in an awkward machine/predator way. Reason recognize this from a show on Animal Planet on lions. She didn't like how it ended for the poor gazelle. Reason turned and ran for it. Metal paws hit the ground behind her as the clockwork cat pursued her. She flashed passed families playing in the park and a few odd couples hanging out. There was even a couple on a picnic under the shade of a tree. She passed Reality Sweets where she glimpsed a boy sitting on the bench outside its door. It was only a glimpse but she could swear he watched her pass by. Its like some freaky wax museum with blue lighting when everyone is frozen like this, Reason thought briefly as she race towards Flint St.

Reason's heart was racing, making her feel as if it was about to burst. Her ragged breaths burned her lungs. She could barely hear the rhythmic noise of the machine's metal paws behind her because her blood pounded in her ears. A new set of footsteps joined the clockwork cat's and her own. Its got a friend! Reason thought in fright.

She leapt over a fence into someone's backyard. She was nearly giddy with adrenaline as she noticed the huge, tall oak tree. Reason scampered up the tree and found a thick, sturdy branch high up. She watched from her branch, hidden by the tree's leaves, as the clockwork cat made the jump with ease. And right behind it was the boy from in front of the sweet shop. Oh dear! she thought. Steampunk cat's friend can climb! I'm done for!

"Here kitty kitty kitty!" the boy taunted. "Why don't you play with me instead of the girl" The clockwork cat ignored the boy as it glared up at the tree. The boy, seeming pretty annoyed, picked up a rock and threw it at the machine. Reason gasped as the clockwork cat turned on him. It lashed out with its metal claws at the boy. He duck his head and lashed out with thin yet sharp needle-like daggers. He jammed them into the glass covered areas with the gears and cogs were exposed.

The clockwork cat began to smoke. The boy leapt away from it as it gave off sparks. The machine collapsed into a heap of metal on the ground. The boy took his time, removing pieces of the once functioning clockwork cat and tossing them away from it.

"You can come down now," he said. Startled, Reason nearly fell off her branch in surprise. She climbed down the tree and walked right up to the boy. He was at least a head taller than her 5 feet 7 inches. He's got a pretty face, she mentally noted.

"Why are you still moving about?" Reason question. It was strange but she didn't feel the need to maintain her quiet facade around him. "And who are you? I can tell you're not from around here."

He seemed surprised by her statement. "How can you tell I'm not from around here?" Reason pointed at his black shirt which read Sunny Boot Camp across the front. "Oh," he said. "I forgot. You guys don't have a boot camp around here."

"Answer my first question: Why are you still moving?"

The boy scratched his head, thinking it over. "I'm special," he replied. Reason gave him a look that seemed to say ya' think? and continued to stare at him.

"I mean why are you still moving during a Pause?" Reason stared him down. The boy seemed to be trying not to laugh.

"Pause?" he repeated. "You are calling the Timeless Blue spell something simple like the Pause?" The boy laughed. Reason was miffed. How dare someone like him laugh at her. After his fit of laughter, his face grew serious. "I'm sorry but we need to run. Its not safe here. Your house is 1319 Sunstone Drive right?" Reason nodded, confused by his behavior. "Then lets go!" The boy grabbed her hand and towed her out the backyard gate.

"Exactly why are we running?" Reason asked. The boy looked over his shoulder at her briefly and then back to the front.

"That clockwork cat you saw was a Tracker for a very powerful being," he said. "Now that it is destroyed, he'll be sending more Trackers for us. That is, if he doesn't come after us himself."

"Who might come after us? What does he want?" Reason stumbled over her white Keds as their pace increased.

"He's...Augh!" The boy ran face first into a wall of blue-black solid smoke and stumbled backwards. The smoke curled and contorted into something that resembled a human shape. It became more solid, more like a human. The new smoke man had greasy, long black hair and red glowing eyes. His skin was pale and he was tall and scary. A thought came to Reason's mind. He looks like a normal person would in Real Time. Who is he?

"Tut tut, little Reason. How dare you try to run away," smoke man said. His voice seemed to echo in the Pause. The smoke man noticed the boy and grinned evilly. "Ah. You have a Clock Keeper with you. How crafty." The boy took on a defensive position in front of Reason. This made the smoke man chuckle. "And not just any Clock Keeper, but the Kyle Sparrow! How long has it been since our last encounter, Sparrow?"

The boy, Kyle Sparrow he was called, gave a snide smirk. "Last summer at Berlin. Don't you remember the ass-kicking I gave you, Time Master?"

Reason was dumbfounded. Clock Keeper? Time Master? None of this made sense to her. Time Master and Kyle Sparrow stared each other down for a minute. The Time Master was the first to break the silence.

"I remember," he said. "Now step aside, Sparrow. My business is with the girl called Reason, not you."

Kyle's hand went to his belt. Reason hadn't notice before, but he had a small sword strapped to his belt. "And I'm afraid your time is up, Time Master. The spell is fading. You need to leave."

Time Master looked up to see the blue light growing lighter in color rapidly. It was only a matter of time before Real Time started again.

"I guess you're right," Time Master said. "I look forward to our next meeting, little Reason." And with those words, Time Master disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"What the heck was that all about?" Reason exclaimed. Kyle grabbed her hand again and dragged her down the street.

"We need to get to your place quickly. I'll explain later." They ran down Sunstone Drive, racing the blue light. Reason and Kyle stopped at her house. It was a two-story, Victorian style, gray house with white trimming. Reason fumbled with her keys, unlocking the front door. Kyle raced inside just as Real Time resumed. Reason followed inside quickly, shutting the door. She turned the lock with a click and turned to face Kyle Sparrow.

"Now, tell me what in bloody hell is going on?" demanded Reason.