Chapter 1 - Fields
I stood there on the sidelines, full of adrenaline and determination, as I glanced at the scoreboard. It was the 4th quarter, my team was losing 27 to 21, and we only had 9 seconds to find a play that would miraculously win us this game. It was the final game of the football season, Texas High School football, and the winner of this game would be given access to the playoffs. This could be our first ever playoff season in school history, and I wasn't about to let my team down. I was the star running back of the Treadwell High School varsity football team, the Treadwell Spartans, but today hasn't been a game that made me look like much of a star. I had 13 rushing attempts all game, but I barely managed to get 41 yards due to the opposing defense being all over me since the very first play of the game.
The opposing team was our biggest rival, the East Hill Warhawks. Every year, East Hill has beaten us, and many other teams, and gone on to the playoffs. They haven't won the championship game in seasons, but at least they've made it to the playoffs. We haven't even done that. They had the best defense in our entire school district, maybe even the entire state of Texas. Unfortunately for them, their offense has had an inconsistent season, which led them to their fate being decided by one final game.
My team, on the other hand, has had terrible seasons every season, except the last two. Last year, which was my first year on the varsity team and my junior year of high school, I rushed for 1,000 yards and even had 400 receiving yards. We were one game away from the playoffs, and none other than East Hill beat us by 3 touchdowns and advanced to the playoffs, leaving us with disappointment yet again. But this season, my senior year, I was up to 1,350 rushing yards (including this game) and 600 receiving yards. I was a beast; I was 6 foot 2 inches tall, weighing 223 pounds of pure muscle, and had my hair twisted into long strands that extended past my earlobes when I wasn't wearing my helmet. I didn't have a full beard, but there were scruffy hairs growing in that tried to form a beard. My skin was around the same color as milk chocolate, my eyes being slightly darker in brown. None of that is relevant, but that's who I am.
I could be the perfect NFL running back, with the proper training, but none of those dreams will matter if I can't help this team achieve what seems to be the impossible. Our coach called a timeout, so he could collect his thoughts and draw up a magic play.
"Coach Barnum!" I shouted to get the coach's attention, who was huddled up with our starting offense on the sidelines during the 30-second timeout. I knew they were about to go for a Hail Mary play, the endzone was 53 yards away and we couldn't settle for a field goal in this situation. Our head coach, Coach Andrew Barnum, was a hefty man in his mid-40s with bronze skin and a bald head and beard that only I could dream of growing. He was calling the plays all game, some of those plays leading to us being down on the scoreboard, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to win this game.
Coach walked over to me. "What is it, Fields?" He clearly wasn't happy with our situation, and he was desperate for this win as much as any of us. "Whatever you're about to suggest, save it. Our run game has been ineffective all game, and now isn't the time to get reckless!"
"But sir!" I exclaimed, the adrenaline in my body causing me to talk louder. "They're expecting us to throw it deep; they'll have their corners and safeties as deep as possible to stop it. We need to play this smart!" I wasn't a coach, I knew I had no power to force his hand, but I've watched film on this team for two months. I know exactly who they are, how they play, and what they're about to do before they do it. Coach Barnum knew that, because I could tell he was starting to consider my plan.
"Alright son," he said, unconvinced that his play would work, "what do you have in mind?" He handed me the electronic tablet that he used to draw plays on, and I began drawing an offensive formation that I knew in my bones had a chance of winning this thing.
"What do you think, coach?" I asked, unsure of how he would react. "Think we can still win this?"
He grabbed the tablet, studied the play, and brought it to the starting offense's attention. They all look confused, even our quarterback. Mario Vincent, the QB who has bailed us out of a few tight spots over the last few seasons. He was also a senior, but his stat sheet has only garnered the attention of a few of the smaller schools around the country. He looked over the play, and surprisingly started grinning.
"Well," Mario began, "looks like Field Day actually came up with something good." Field Day, that was the nickname I was given in high school. James Fields, or Jamie for short, was my real name. I always enjoyed having a good time, even if it was at home playing video games instead of out being a teenager. Unfortunately for me, I didn't have many friends at school. Sure, I was a football star, but I was also the geek who played video games and watched anime. Girls weren't too fond of a guy like that in their teenage years, not at my school.
Coach Barnum had a grin on his face, and he sent us to the field. This play required a lot of precise moves from many different players. We lined up 4 receivers wide, with my and Mario in the backfield 5 yards behind the offensive line. We both studied their defensive formation – 3 defensive linemen, 3 safeties back deep towards the endzone, one linebacker in the middle of the field, in case I decided to rush into the middle of the field, and 4 cornerbacks that covered our 4 wide receivers. I knew it. I looked over to Mario, standing 2 yards next to me, and gave him the nod. He acknowledged it.
"Charlie Frank! Charlie Frank! Tomahawk!" Mario shouted to the rest of our team. Charlie Frank was a cover name, meaning "change formation". Tomahawk stood for "trick play". We were switching the formation into the one I drew up. I ran from my spot and up to the line of scrimmage, right next to our offensive tackle. The linebacker glared at me in confusion, knowing I was preparing to do something unexpected. Then Mario gave the signal – "HIKE!"
The center hiked the ball, and the 4 receivers and I took off straight ahead. The offensive linemen did a great job blocking the defensive linemen so Mario could have enough time to survey the field. I ran 15 yards out and the linebacker covered me the entire way, but I knew his speed was no match for mine. I hit a sharp angle and cut straight for the middle of the field. He couldn't keep up, and Mario saw his opportunity. He threw the ball straight to me, and I caught it in my hands and began sprinting towards the endzone.
The other defensive players that were towards the endzone noticed this and stopped covering the receivers, and instead began running towards me. It was 7 of them against one man with the football, so I had to rely on my shiftiness and my teammates if I was going to make it all the way. One of the cornerbacks was barely 30 yards away from me and sprinted at me with all his speed. I headed straight for him, and just as we were about to collide, I planted my feet and jumped sideways, juking the poor kid onto the ground and running ahead. One down, six to go. I was at their 30-yard line, and I could smell victory, but I needed to focus as I wasn't in the clear yet.
The other defensive players were sprinting in my direction, preparing to cut me off. However, the 4 receivers on my team began clearing them out of the way. One by one, they knocked the defensive players onto the ground, and I ran around them. I was now 15 yards from the endzone, and I was out of energy at this point. I had to push through it. The only thing standing between me and my team's first playoff berth was the Warhawk's free safety, a lanky kid who's only about 5 foot 11 inches, 180 pounds. I could easily run through him, but I had no idea how strong he was or how weak I was becoming due to using up my energy on the long play. Instead, right when he was about to tackle me, I planted my feet firmly into the ground and shuffled my feet, spinning completely around him. I was so dizzy at this point, and I could feel myself begin to tumble over. I could see the line, I could see the end. I dove, well, fell forward, into the endzone.
All I know is I hit the ground and my head was still spinning. I didn't know where I landed and if the game was over. The confusion made my stomach hurt, and I felt nauseous. The sounds that echoed through the football stadium seemed to deafen as everything started to fade away. Just as I was about to drift away into unconsciousness, I felt my entire body being ripped up from off the ground. It was my teammates, standing in the endzone over me. I made it. I made it! My head began working again, and I could now hear our fans cheering in excitement. Coach Barnum ran down the sidelines, pumping his fists in excitement. We were going to the playoffs for the first time ever.
After the confetti stopped falling and the cheering sounds began to die down, our team started walking out of the locker room. We had changed out of our football gear, but we still smelled like outdoors. I had on a pair of athletic shorts and the compression shirt that I wore under my uniform, along with some tennis shoes.
"Ay, Field Day!" I turned around to see Mario following behind me out of the locker room and towards the parking lot. "You actually pulled a rabbit out of your ass, good job geek."
That wasn't the saying, but whatever. "Thanks," I said back, eager to go home and sleep after that long game. "Just doing what I can for the team."
"You did a hell of a lot for the team. Even if you are a geek, you're our geek." Mario was the most popular guy in our school, being the varsity senior quarterback. He rarely interacted with me outside of the football field, but in this moment, it felt like he actually respected me.
We parted ways, and I hopped on my 5-speed bike and peddled home as my teammates, the varsity cheerleaders, and some of the fans headed to celebrate. I could have gone with them, hell I should have gone with them. I won them this game, but I was a social outcast in that school. It was probably best if I let the cool kids do their own thing.
I peddled 3 miles down the road and approached an apartment complex with the ugliest grey bricks I have ever seen. The security gate is never closed… Management clearly doesn't care about their residents' safety. I made it to the back of the complex, building 13. I parked my bike by the stairwell and locked my chain around my bike and one of the rails on the stairs so it couldn't be stolen overnight. I didn't know anyone that lived here so I didn't trust anyone. I walked up the stairs to the second floor and stood in front of apartment number 1323. My apartment. I reached in my pocket and took out my keys and inserted a gold key into the lock on the door. Before I could turn the key to release the lock, the door creaked open on its own.
I was confused; nobody was supposed to be home. I lived with my mom, who works two jobs and was currently at her night job, and my older brother, who was out of town on a work trip. "Hello?" I called out into the dark apartment, hoping to catch somebody off-guard. It was probably a stupid idea, I had just given away the element of surprise if someone was inside. "Whoever's in here, I have a gun!" I didn't, but they didn't know that. I reached over to the wall next to the door and flipped the light switch to the up position, turning on the lights in the living room.
I was in complete shock. There was trash everywhere, the couch had been flipped on its backside and looked as if someone dug a blade throughout the cushions. Our tv was busted. My beautiful, 50-inch 4K HD-TV that I used to play video games on was destroyed. I knew it wasn't safe, but I needed to check the rest of the apartment for whoever did this damage. I walked down the hallway that led to my bedroom, and noticed a light was turned on in my brother's room.
I slowly approached the door to his room, which was partially closed, but opened far enough for light to poke through. Gulp. This is how I die. That's all I could think about, dying. This big, strong athlete is afraid of something. However, I couldn't let that fear cause me to lose focus. With a loud scream, I kicked open the door, hoping to throw whoever was in there off-focus. I jumped into the room, putting my hands up in a karate-like stance. I didn't know karate, but they didn't know that. I took some boxing classes just to stay in shape during the offseason, but I doubt this intruder would be up for a sparring match.
However, I wasn't expecting to see what I saw when I scanned the room. Standing in the far-left corner of the room was something that I couldn't even begin to comprehend. It stood close to 7 feet tall, had almost a werewolf-like body, and 6-inch claws coming out of each of its fingertips. I literally almost pooped in my pants. I was stuck in a trance of fear; I couldn't move, I couldn't speak, I couldn't breathe. When it noticed my presence, it let out a loud growling noise, loud enough to snap me back to reality and focus back on the situation. I was standing in the same room with a creature that I had never seen or heard of before, and it was about to kill me.
I turned around and ran straight out of the room and headed for the entrance. It leaped from the corner of the room and began chasing me, destroying everything in its path, including the walls. I knew it was going to catch me before I could escape, so I improvised. I ran towards the living room window, and right as I got near it, the beast dove straight for me. My football instincts kicked in, and I dove to the right, barely missing this creature as it flew through the window and down to the bottom floor. My only way out is down the stairs, and there's no way I can get past that thing in time to unchain my bike and get away.
"You want me, you big bastard?" I shouted at it as I reached the bottom of the staircase. "Come and get me!" I took off running towards the back exit of the apartment complex, hoping I can get the attention of someone nearby that could help me. Nobody was around. The beast got up off the ground and began chasing me down. This thing was fast.
It got within 5 feet of me, and I knew I was about to lose my entire life. I would never see my mom again, my brother, my team. The playoffs, oh man I won't get to play in my first playoff game. My team would suffer without me. As I was losing hope, I heard this weird noise coming from behind me. It sounded like one of those plasma guns you see in the video games. I stopped running and turned around, and saw the beast was laying on the ground in agony.
"You like that, Khal? You stupid furball!" A mysterious voice called out from the distance. It sounded like she was taunting the beast on the ground. In the distance, about 40 yards behind where we were running from, I saw a figure. A woman, roughly 5 foot 10 inches in height; she looked like an athlete herself, she was very much in-shape. She walked up to me, this mystery woman who's face I couldn't see because she had a helmet over her head. "You alright kid?"
I was so stunned by what I just saw, I didn't know how to speak. "Y-yeah, yeah I'm ok."
She put the giant rifle that she was carrying on her back into a holster. It definitely wasn't anything that our American military has ever had. "Good," she spoke, removing her helmet. "I wouldn't want humanity's only hope at survival to be killed by a measly Zly'ger."
I had no idea what she just said or what she was talking about, I was too busy staring at her. She was European, judging by her English accent. She had long, curly brown hair that went down to her shoulders. She had these piercing green eyes that were almost hypnotic. She looked to be in her late twenties, maybe early thirties.
"Hey kid," she said, trying to get my attention, "you sure you're good? Because if you're not, tell me now before we leave." Leave? What?
"What do you mean 'leave'?" I had no idea what was going on.
"There's already been an assassination attempt on you," she explained, "which means they know who you are." Who I am? What does that mean?
I needed answers. "What are you talking about? Who knows who I am? Why the hell did that thing try to kill me? What IS that thing? And WHO are you exactly?" My voice got louder as I started to get dizzy. The adrenaline pumping through my veins from almost being killed by, well, whatever that thing is.
She grabbed me by the arm. "Look, I'll explain everything back at HQ. We need to go. Now."
HQ? I was more confused than before. Who the hell is this mysterious British woman with the weird Sci-Fi gun? Before I could ask another question, she pressed a button on her armband. In an instant, a weird beam of light appeared 10 feet in front of us. Then, that beam opened up into a circular portal.
"Oh, hell no!" I said cautiously. "I'm not walking into that thing!" I didn't know what it was, but I've seen enough movies to not blindly walk into portals that lead into the unknown.
She looked annoyed. "Oh, you big baby." She said, rolling her eyes. "You don't get it, James. The enemy sent us a message. Earth is a target as long as you're here."
"What do you mean Ear- wait, how do you know my name? And why don't I know yours" I wasn't going anywhere until I got at least one of my questions answered tonight.
She sighed. "My name is Brianne. I was assigned to protect you until it was time to start your training. I guess that time is now."
"Training? For what?" I asked. My stomach was starting to get knotted, and I felt like I was about to have a panic attack. I almost didn't want to know the answer, but I had to. I had to know everything, and why I was nearly killed.
Brianne pushed a button on her wrist-gauntlet, which projected a hologram from it. Oh, this is definitely Sci-fi. On the hologram, there was a group of about 5 people. I think they were people. They were executing other people, shooting them down with a different form of the gun that Brianne had. Those people looked helpless, and they were surrounded by debris.
"This could be Earth's fate if you don't come with me," she began explaining. "For millions of years, humanity has only known about the Milky Way galaxy. Well, about 20 years ago, I found out that we weren't the only ones. In fact, there's an unknown number of galaxies out there, and we're not the only planet with life on it. All of these galaxies are connected through a life force that we call 'The Bridge'. It's pretty self-explanatory – it's a bridge that connects all of the galaxies together. I work with an organization known as the Datamites, who are dedicated to defending the Bridge and all of the planets that are synced to it."
I was having a geek-moment hearing all of this. "So, does that mean we get to travel to other planets?"
"No," she answered, breaking my heart. "You aren't prepared for that yet. There's an organization that's sole focus is conquering those planets and growing their own forces. They're called the Jhaxi, and they're extremely dangerous." She pointed to the beast on the ground, who completely stopped breathing now. "That thing's name is Khal. He's a Zyg'ler, a beast from the planet Zyglon. The Jhaxi attacked their planet a few hundred years ago and conquered it, converting the Zyg'ler people into their own personal hit-squad."
That geek moment quickly turned into worry. "So that's going to happen to Earth? My friends and family are going to get killed or turned into assassins?"
She stood right in front of me, placing her hands on both of my arms. "Not if you come with me. As I said, I was tasked with protecting you until the time came. You're the key to saving Earth. Hell, from what I've heard, you're the key to taking down the Jhaxi altogether."
When she said that, I could feel my knees weaken. An evil alien organization that wants to take over the universe? Didn't I see this in a movie?
"Hey, focus!" Brianne snapped at me, smacking me on the arm. "The Jhaxi know your identity now, which means its no longer safe for you to be here." She pushed the button on her gauntlet again, reopening the portal. "Once we get you off-world, the Jhaxi will leave Earth alone for the time being. They're after you right now."
I stared at the swirling blue portal, and slowly inched towards it. Then, I felt a hard shove to my back and I flew right into the portal unwillingly. At that point, I was no longer on Earth. Hell, I was no longer in the Milky Way. I had no idea where I was, but when I opened my eyes, I was laying on the floor of a giant rectangular room. In front of me, there stood a short, heavier gentleman with blue skin, short, black hair that was cut into a mohawk, and solid-white eyes.
He extended his hand out to me. "Ahh, James Fields." He knew my name? Since when do aliens speak proper English? I didn't know what was going on, but I grabbed his hand as I stood up. "Welcome to the Bridge!"