Kyle Larson always thought he was a normal kid—a little smarter, a little more intuitive than most, but a normal kid.
Then he learned the truth…that he wasn't normal at all. In fact, he wasn't even from our world.
Gifted with the ability to "alter" the reality of technological items, Kyle is running from those that over-threw his world. Beings that need the genetic material of Kyle—and his missing sister—to unlock the greatest power of their world.
Beings that will do anything to find Kyle, and his sister, and claim a power that would let them rule all of the known realms…
…unless Kyle can find his sister first.
The Larson Chronicles
"Tracks, Trails, and Pursuers"
Berch's Base Of Operations…
The warehouse sat at the far end of the shipyards, another lone building that had seen better days, all but forgotten to those at the Port Authority. Strangely enough, the warehouse did not exist in any records, written or computerized, and it never drew any attention. Someone always assumed someone else was checking the place out, the warehouse never turning up on anyone's schedule for inspecting, the building not "officially" existing at all.
Those that had, over the years, grown interested in the building, and had investigated it on their own, had either disappeared or come away from it with a false memory that indeed it was just an empty warehouse.
The truth had been very well concealed, and it was maintained that way.
Berch sat before the large, tinted-glass wall of his office, silently looking down at the activity of the warehouse, angered that his people still were unable to find any trace of Kyle or Stephanie. The last month had seen his task force increase greatly, the agents recalled from the other realms, now that they knew that the Maylon siblings were both on this world, but it had not made much of a difference—the youths were still avoiding them.
A brief light flashed behind Berch, for a moment causing his reflection to become visible in the window, and he grimaced at the sight of his scarred face. The wounds he had received, as a result from his first encounter with Prince Maylon, while no longer painful, were proving quite resilient to treatment, leaving him heavily scarred despite their advanced medical technologies.
It served to fuel his desire to find the Prince.
Turning around, Berch smiled at the petite woman now standing in his office, admiring her beauty. She was just shy of five feet, with short-cut blonde hair that sparkled nearly as intensely as her blue eyes. She had a soft, oval shaped face that gave her a dainty appearance, and Berch had always marveled at how misleading her looks were. Seeming frail and harmless, the woman was anything but, and she was definitely one of the more ruthless persons in their field of expertise.
"Fallon," smiled Berch, not rising from his chair. "Welcome to earth."
"Why did you ask for me, Berch?" demanded Fallon, her voice sounding tired and bored. "You know how much I hate leaving Midgrawn."
"I have need of your special gift, my dear," cooed Berch, laying on a charm that was almost sincere. "And since Ampherous promised me anything that I needed…"
"What do want?" she asked, accepting that she had to follow this task through. There was no denying anything that Ampherous wanted—it wasn't conductive to a long life span.
"I need two Trackers," stated Berch, smiling at her shocked response.
"You can't be serious," argued Fallon. "Trackers are outlawed. Even Ampherous doesn't want them set loose on our world."
"Yes, but we aren't on our world, now are we?" snarled Berch, dispensing with the hospitalities. "I need two Trackers, and I need them by tomorrow morning."
"There are procedures that have to be followed," she said, privately looking forward to the challenge. It had been a long time since she had created a Tracker—before the reign of peace that had come to their world—and she was wondering if she were still up to it. "The proper chamber, the right equipment. And what about the source of the flesh? I need to examine them, make sure that they are adequate."
"Every thing has been arranged," smiled Berch, leaning back into his chair now that she had agreed. "As for the source flesh, we have secured a few volunteers from the local population."
"Earthlings? For Trackers?"
"I'm sure that there are political prisoners that we could request, but that would take time. Don't worry, I've chosen prime candidates for you. Young, athletic men. Football players, they're referred to as. From one of the local schools."
"Strong?" she asked, intrigued at the thought of getting to morph alien flesh. She had studied some of the data files before 'porting to Earth, and while the humans were similar to their race, there were still differences.
"For humans," he replied, confident that he now had her completely involved in the task. He could tell by the gleam in her eyes that she was beginning to look forward to the procedure, and that ment that she would give it her best effort.
"Take me to them," she directed, turning towards the door of Berch's office. "I'd like to examine them before we begin."
Taylor Memorial High School
Mayfield Falls, Michigan…
Kyle was doing his best to act nonchalant, trying to appear as one of the many students visiting the library, making use of the computer terminals that they offered. Though he had withdrawn all of his savings before running away, fleeing from the traitors of his world, the money was quickly running out, and Kyle couldn't think of a legitimate way of getting more without exposing himself.
While he was certain that he was heir to whatever money and possessions his 'earth' parents had left him, he was also just as certain that Berch was monitoring for any attempt by him to claim it.
Only a month on the road, and Kyle was rapidly learning that the life he used to lead had been a sheltered one, the world a much darker place when you didn't have the comforts of a family and home. He had witnessed a few acts that had repulsed his sense of humanity—if that word truly applied to him any longer—and he was determined not let himself sink that low. He might be a fugitive, by circumstance, from another world, but he was not a thief…or worse.
That still left him the problem of finding a source of income, and he doubted that many places would hire a sixteen year old runaway—except for the kinds of places he wanted nothing to do with. The only option left to him, as he saw it, was his gift—his ability to alter the reality of technological items—and what better way than enhancing the capabilities of a computer and printer?
Kyle had, as slyly as he was able to do, scanned the few bills that he had left—a ten and some ones—and was now standing at the printer, keeping a hand placed on it, concentrating. He was picturing in his mind how the printer could surpass its limited abilities, achieving the ultimate perfection of what it was intended to do, printing out exact duplicates of what ever had been scanned.
The sheet of paper that was slowly coming out of it was different than when it had gone in, transformed into the same secretive, cloth-like material that money was printed on. A ten and four ones were printed on the sheet, perfect copies front and back, and Kyle smiled at his success.
It was a time consuming process, Kyle having to move back and forth between the scanner and the printer. He "altered" them each time he used them—he didn't want to leave one of them changed and have another student use it—but within an hour he had twelve sheets of the copied money. It wasn't a lot, but it would be enough to see him through the next week, as long as he stayed put for a few days.
Kyle froze as he heard someone behind him clear their throat, an obvious signal that they were observing him, and his mind raced to try and find an excuse for the sheets he held in his hand.
"It won't work, you know," said a strong, but definitely girlish, voice.
Turning around, prepared to spin an elaborate tale of making sheets of money to teach his little brother the aspects of the monetary system, Kyle's heart skipped a beat as his eyes fell on her.
Wow, she's beautiful,he thought, gazing at her with wide eyes.
"I read a story a couple of years ago about a couple of collage kids doing that," she said, pointing at the sheets of printed money he held. "They didn't get away with it for long."
Her hair was a deep, dark brown, so much so that it was almost black, and it was long enough to be tied into a tail that hung down between her shoulders. Her skin was a soft, almost caramel color, and seemed smooth as silk. Her eyes, a rich, emerald green, were wide and sparkling, as if attempting to take in every thing that they could see.
"For one thing," she continued, her voice sure and confident, yet warm and friendly at the same time, "all of your serial numbers are the same. An observant clerk, as rare as that is, will spot that in a minute."
Kyle tried to say something, to explain the cover story he had devised, but he found that his tongue and lips did not want to work at the moment, apparently tied around each other.
"You could try changing them, but the library computer's not going to have any program good enough to let you do that."
His throat suddenly dry, a knot forming in his stomach, Kyle could only nod his head in agreement, at the same time wondering why in the hell he hadn't thought about the serial numbers.
"My name's Cassidy," she informed him, holding her hand out. "Cassidy Yohaman."
"Kyle," he finally responded, shaking her hand.
"Larson," he added, cringing inwardly as he realized he had given her his real name, something he had been adamant about avoiding for the last few weeks.
"You're new here, aren't you?"
"Uh, yeah. I just transferred here from Baltimore," he said, spinning the cover story he had devised before entering the high school. He had hoped to pass himself off as one of the students, and he really saw no reason that he couldn't. "My family just moved here, over on Oak Street."
"Oak Street?" she asked, sounding puzzled. What ever she thought of his statement, she must have dismissed it as she then said "we've got a decent set-up at home, or at least that's what I'm told. I'm not all that computer literate. Any how, if you think you can use it, you can stop by tonight, maybe print out something with different serial numbers."
"You're kidding, right? You'd actually help me with this?"
"Don't you think your parents might object?" he asked, beginning to feel a little leery of her offer.
"I don't know, I never met them. My foster parents, on the other hand, are hardly ever home, and really don't have a clue."
"Oh," said Kyle, suddenly feeling a kinship with the girl. "I never knew my real parents either."
"You a State Kid, too?"
"No, not really," he offered, wishing he could change the subject. A moment later, he didn't have to, as it was time to change classes.
Saved by the bell,thought Kyle, the dinging cutting through the library, and the rest of the school, in its grating way.
"So much for sixth period," muttered Cassidy. "I've got to get to Mister Krenshaw's math class."
"Maybe I'll see you around," offered Kyle, still trying to play the part of one of the students.
"A word of advice, Kyle. Miss Palmer, the librarian. She gets real suspicious of anyone in here longer than two periods, and since you were here when I came in, I think you're about to get the third degree from her."
Kyle tried to put on an air of innocence, but he knew that she wasn't buying it for a second. She just frowned at him and shook her head.
"Just stop by my house tonight, around five," she said, making her way towards the doors of the library.
"I don't know where you live," he reminded her, seriously thinking that maybe he'd take her up on her offer.
"Twenty-one Oak Street," she said, smiling at him as she took a few steps backwards. "Shouldn't be to hard for you to find."
"Uh, yeah," he gulped.
"Maybe then you'll tell me who you really are," and with that, she trilled around and all but skipped out of the library.
Kyle stood there, watching her vanish around the corner, a huge grin on his face. He couldn't pin it down, but there was something incredibly alluring about Cassidy Yohaman—besides her looks—and he thought that he'd probably end up visiting her tonight.
"Do you have some place to be, young man?" asked a shrill voice that snapped Kyle out of his thoughts.
He turned around to see a rather old woman addressing him, her face wrinkled and angry looking, with eyes that sent a chill through him. Kyle had no doubt as to why she was still a Miss, her very being generating the word "stern".
"I suggest you get a move on, before the tardy bell rings."
"Yes, Ma'am," complied Kyle, exiting the library at a brisk pace.
These kids now a days,thought Miss Palmer, turning to make her rounds of the library. They think that they can just…what on earth?
Miss Palmer picked up the sheet of paper laying in the tray of the printer, her eyes going wide as she saw what was on it. She turned the paper over, gasping as she realized that the back matched up with the front perfectly, and she looked towards the doors, trying to catch sight of the young man that she had just chased off.
The strange young man was long gone, but Miss Palmer knew the girl that he had been talking to, as did all of the faculty. Of course it would come as no surprise to anyone; if there was some sort of trouble at the school, you could bet your last dollar that Cassidy Yohaman would be involved.
Fallon gently stroked the hair of the young man strapped to the table before her, her other hand holding a finger to his lips, her voice softly telling him to "hush" his whimpering. She slid her finger from his lips, slowly moving it down his chest, finally stopping to trill it in tiny circles around his stomach.
"You are a finer specimen than I had expected to find on this primitive world," she whispered to him. "Strong. Muscular. Too bad your intelligence is so limited."
"Wh-what are you going to do with me?" his trembling voice asked.
"I'm going to improve you," she said, smiling wickedly at him. "I'm going to make you so much more than you are. That's my gift…"
The young man began screaming out in agony, Fallon's hand merging with his flesh, sinking inside of him as easily as it would water.
"…to change the flesh."
The other technicians in the room, the ones assigned to aid her by Berch's orders, began shuffling about uneasily, the young man's screams unnerving them. In the interest of maintaining a friendly working environment, Fallon slid her free hand over the boy's mouth, sealing it to stifle his screams.
Next time she would have to pick her own people to help—ones that enjoyed the simple beauty of the screams as much as she did
Kyle edged along the eastern side of twenty-one Oak Street, using the already thick shadows of dusk to hide his presence. He had spotted a police cruiser, and a dark sedan, parked in front of Cassidy's house as he had rounded the corner of the street, and he had immediately taken to the back yards.
Moving as close to the front porch of the house as he dared, Kyle strained to hear what was being said. He only caught bits and pieces of the conversation, passing traffic and a blaring stereo from inside drowning most of it out, but what he did catch, he didn't like.
The sedan belonged to a couple of Federal agents, a young, African-American woman, and a tall, skinny Caucasian man, investigating suspected counterfeiting. The cops were along because they knew Cassidy all too well, the young girl a regular visitor to the precinct.
Kyle's mind began racing, trying to figure out how they had discovered the money already, but he could only come up with one theory, and it wasn't one that he liked.
She did call them, he thought. She had to have.
A moment later, that thought was proven wrong, the female agent's voice raising a few notches as she berated Cassidy for her attitude, and threatened to lock her up if they found out she was withholding information. Cassidy's rebuttal, almost louder than the agent, brought a smile to Kyle's face as he realized that she was covering for him, despite the fact that she had just met him a few hours ago.
The verbal confrontation finally quieted down, the Federal agents warning Cassidy that she had better call them if she heard from the mysterious boy, and they stomped to their cars, they conversation lost in the distance.
Waiting until he was sure that they were out of sight, Kyle climbed up the side of the porch and knocked on the door, blanching slightly as Cassidy flung it open, screaming "you better have a freakin' warrant!"
"Hi," greeted Kyle, hesitantly, waving a hand.
"Oh, Kyle, sorry," she offered, stepping back and waving him in. "Come on in."
"Are you sure?" he asked, looking up and down the street. "I wouldn't want to get you into any trouble."
"In case you hadn't heard, chivalry's dead. Beside, you're a couple years too late to keep me out of trouble. Now get in here before they circle the block."
Kyle quickly stepped inside, Cassidy shutting the door and locking it behind him, and he stood quietly in the small foyer, waiting for her to say something. Cassidy looked him over, shaking her head slightly as she thought of how timid he seemed, for someone wanted by the FBI, and she just smiled and waved for him to follow.
"Alice ain't one much for housekeeping," she said, leading him through a dingy living room that had papers, clothing, and dishes scattered about.
"This year's foster mom," she explained, turning on the lights in the dinning room as they continued on. She led him to a desk at the back of the room, a computer, scanner, printer, and other techno-toys setting on top of it. "Her and Todd keep trying to make me their freaking housekeeper, but I figure it's their mess, they can clean it up."
Kyle held his tongue, unsure of what to say to her proclamation. When his parents had been alive, they had all shared in the daily chores of the house, and the thought caused a brief sense of longing to pass through him. They might not have been his birth parents, but they had been the only parents he had ever known, and he missed them greatly.
"So, what'd ya think? This do it for you?"
"Yeah," he answered, looking over the set-up. It couldn't have been more than a few months old, equipped with the latest features, and Kyle knew he'd have no problem using it to supplement his income. "This baby's got everything."
"That's what Todd keeps bragging about. Alice is always complaining that he gets a new computer, like, every couple months.
Kyle slid into the desk chair and turned on the computer, surprised to see that it had Windows XP2 as an operating system—which wasn't due out for another three months—and smiled in anticipation of getting to use the machine. Of all the things he missed since being forced to runaway, he missed his computer the most, and he had constantly wished that he could've gotten a hold of a lap top.
Pulling one of the chairs over from the small dinning table, Cassidy sat down next to him, resting an elbow on the desk to prop up her head as she gazed at him.
"You could get in a lot of trouble for this, you know," he said, looking sideways at her. "If they find out that you helped me."
"Then maybe you should tell me everything," she countered. "The cops already told me that you don't go to our school, and they wanted to know you're name. I didn't figure you'd be stupid enough to give me your real one, so I gave them the name you gave me."
"Crap," muttered Kyle.
"You did give me your real name," realized Cassidy, shaking her head in disbelief. "Boy, do I have a lot to teach you."
"Teach me?" admonished Kyle. "What can you possibly teach me?"
"Well, for beginners, how to survive on the street. I haven't always lived in foster homes, I'll have you know. I've spent a lot of time out there, and you're easy pickings my friend."
"You don't even know me."
"I know the feds are looking for you, and that's not a good thing."
"Just think about it," she said, standing up and moving towards the kitchen. "I'm going to make us some sandwiches, while you make your…funny money. Oh, and just so you know…I wasn't planning on sticking around here much longer anyway. Todd and Alice are a couple of big time creeps."
Kyle turned back to the computer, thinking over what she had said, and he found it hard to concentrate on the task at hand. He had never met a girl so…so…dependent. That was the term he wanted, dependent. Cassidy seemed so full of life, so sure of what she wanted, that it was like he was getting caught up in her own gravitational pull.
That, and she had killer good looks.
Stifling a chuckle, Kyle fished his wadded up bills out his pocket and placed them on the scanner. Focusing his concentration on the computer, he went to working making his "funny money".
"What is it?" demanded Berch, glowering at the man who's face materialized on his monitor.
"One of our monitoring stations as picked up a back ground check on the name Kyle Larson. The inquiry revolves around an investigation into counterfeiting."
"Counterfeiting?" wondered Berch.
"Involving an unknown, Caucasian male, between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. His name was listed as being given by an undisclosed source."
"Prepare a reclamation team," ordered Berch, growing excited that they had a lead on Prince Maylon. "I want every bit of information that you can find on this investigation"
Berch broke the connection, then contacted the lab, pleased to see that the Trackers were ready, standing in the foreground behind Fallon.
"You said I had until morning, Berch," snipped Fallon, wiping blood and…other things…from her hands.
"We've just gotten a lead on the whereabouts of our missing Prince. Are they as read as they appear?"
Fallon cast a glance over her shoulder, then looked back at the monitor, nodding in confirmation. "Yes, they're ready. But I can't guarantee them—I've never worked with human flesh before."
"I'm sure that they'll do fine, Fallon. Your reputation is the only guarantee that I require."
"How benevolent of you," remarked Fallon, not attempting to hide her sarcasm in the least. "It's a good thing that you had four of them. As frail as they were, I had to merge two of them to make one."
"They do have everything that I requested?" asked Berch, worried that his rush to have the Trackers operational had compromised his specifications.
"Don't worry, Berch. They're complete. I even installed a few of my own choice devices."
"Good," said Berch, smiling and nodding. "Take them to the Deportation Room. We're going on a hunt."
"We?" asked Fallon, rather surprised.
"You do want to see the fruits of your labor in action, don't you?"
"Hmmm, why not?" agreed Fallon, after tilting her head to one side and seeming to ponder the question for a moment. "The last millennium has been rather boring. Peaceful, but boring."
Berch closed the channel, smirking, then rose from his chair to head for the Deportation Room. He was going to enjoy this hunt—provided that it was indeed Prince Maylon that the was being investigated—and he was going to enjoy it for as long as Maylon could live…under his skill with certain surgical instruments.
Mayor Philman's Office
"I want no interruptions, Janet," ordered Scott Philman, dismissing his secretary with a wave, after she had led in his unscheduled visitor.
The man, a tall, gaunt looking fellow in his late fifties, seemed like he would be more at home in the setting of a mortuary rather than being a private detective. Thin, almost spindly in stature, the man brought to mind the outdated description of "beanpole", with shallow features that highlighted his eyes and cheekbones. If he had been pale, Scott would have found him eerie looking, but as tanned as he was, the man reminded him of…a frontiersman.
Yeah, that's it, thought Scott, sizing the man up. He looks like he just walked out of the saloon, ready for a gunfight.
The man's worn looking duster, faded jeans, and black shirt added to his appearance, and rightly he would have fit in, leaning against a hitching post, examining his "six-shooter".
"I take it that you've agreed to my terms," said the man, his voice a drawl that only further enhanced his image.
"Three hundred a day, plus expenses," rattled off Scott, sliding open a desk drawer and removing an envelope from it. "Though rather exorbitant, I accept. You've come highly recommended by Chief Schmitts, and, after looking at your record, I must say, it's not undeserved."
"I use the gifts the Good Lord gave me," said the man, smiling through his handle-bar mustache. "I'll find this boy for you, Mister Philman, you can count on it."
"Kyle's… Kyle's a good kid, Mister Henshaw. He took his parent's deaths hard, as any kid would. I really thought that Cheryl and I could help him through it, though."
"Don't you worry none, I'll bring him back to you, just like I said. I brought this along, as a show of good faith," countered Henshaw, handing his own envelope over to Scott.
Slipping Scott's down payment into his jacket, Henshaw sat silently for a few moments, letting the Mayor read over the pages from the envelope. Scott's face contorted as he read the information, obviously distressed by what the papers told him, and he finally looked up to Henshaw with questioning eyes.
"Maybe Kyle's not as clean cut as you think he is," said Henshaw. "Of course, it could all be some mistake. Hell, might even be a coincidence. Somebody with the same description, and name."
"It has to be," muttered Scott, shaking his head. "Counterfeiting? Where did you get this…this…malarkey?"
"I have a number of friends, Mister Philman," answered Henshaw. "Just be glad you called me when you did. I can call in a few favors, pull some strings. They'll back off enough to give me the chance to straighten this all out."
"Kyle's always been like a son to us," said Scott, sternly. "I want him home, Mister Henshaw."
Rising from his chair, nodding in understanding, Henshaw said "I'll get him back, Mister Philman. Getting him out of trouble…that's your problem."
Stark Industrial Park
Mayfield Falls, Michigan…
The building had been home to several different types of businesses, none of them lasting for more than a year, but now it sat empty and desolate, a lone building at the end of a stretching road that housed various, more successful businesses. Complete with a loading dock, small warehouse, and several offices, the building made a nice lay-over spot, and it had taken little "imaginative" work on Kyle's part to adapt it to his needs.
Electricity, water, and gas still ran to the building, and upon finding it, Kyle had quickly set up living arrangements in the room furthest from any entrances. It hadn't taken much too much to erect his own alarms, using several pairs of cheap walkie-talkies converted by his special "touch", and Kyle had slept securely in the building since he had discovered it three days ago.
Kyle had returned here less than an hour ago, exiting through the rear of Cassidy's house upon her foster parents' return, well after midnight. He had returned to the building via the Orb, his experiments with the device over the last few weeks confirming that it worked in tangent with his memories of places that he had been before.
Unable to sleep, his mind totally focused on Cassidy and their shared evening, Kyle simply paced about the room, trying to think things out. Cassidy had wanted to know everything about him, and Kyle had held nothing back—of his earthly life. Of the other things, of the truth of his heritage, and of his gift, he had not dared tell her, but he had seen something in her eyes…something that told him that she suspected that there was more.
He had, finally, after what seemed endless questioning on her part, revealed where he was staying, telling her about the "for sale or lease" building he was calling home. It wasn't too far from Cassidy's, only a couple of miles, and she had told him that she'd visit him here tomorrow, after school. Divulging that secret had lightened her up some, and she had finally started answering some of his own questions.
Cassidy's own stories, of her being handed over from one foster family to another, of her "run-ins" with the local cops, and a lot of other trouble that she hadn't got caught for, had somehow touched him. Kyle had never associated much with trouble makers, the rebellious kids from his previous days of innocence, but something about Cassidy made all of that seem unimportant.
She wasn't malicious or vindictive, he was certain of that, but she certainly did like causing trouble—or being the center of it. Kyle believed that, when she jokingly said she did it to throw back at society some of the crap that it had thrown at her, that she was closer to the truth than she would ever admit.
After he had printed out a small fortune, enough to last him for several weeks and then some, they had eaten the sandwiches that Cassidy had made. Washing the grilled cheese down with some milk, they had played cards and talked, the night dwindling away before either of them had realized how late it was until they had heard a car pull into the drive.
"Tomorrow night, I'm out of here," Cassidy had said to him, just before he had slipped out the back door. "With or without you. You don't know what it's like here. You don't know what Todd's like."
Kyle had seen it in then, a fear that she wasn't ready to disclose to him, and he knew that she ment what she had said. He wasn't keen of the idea of her coming with him, if only because he feared for her safety, but neither did he like the thought of her out on her own.
Why's everything got to be so complicated? he thought, finally dropping down on the small cot that was his bed.
There was a soft burst of static, emanating from a walkie-talkie setting on a cardboard box, and Kyle immediately became alert, the signal sent from his alarm system. The static was coming in a series of short, two burst intervals, telling Kyle that the side doors of the building had been opened, at this late hour he doubted that it was someone showing the place to prospective renters.
What if it's some other homeless person? I can't really kick them out, it's the same reason I'm here, he thought, softly treading down the short hallway that separated the prefabricated offices.
"I wish I could turn invisible," muttered Kyle, hearing the footfalls of someone moving about in the warehouse section of the building.
A familiar warming sensation flared up against the side of his leg, and Kyle looked down in wonder to see that his pocket was glowing brightly from inside—the pocket that held the mysterious Orb.
"What the…" he started to ask, his wonder turning to astonishment as he saw his leg vanish.
"This is so cool," he nearly squealed, waving his hand in front of his face and seeing…nothing! "I'm invisible."
Kyle looked up as he heard the squeak of a knob turning, the door at the end of the hall edging open to admit a dark shadow. Leaning against the wall, hoping that the intruder wouldn't brush up against him, Kyle watched in anticipation as the form moved into the hallway.
Deputy Elliot Goldstein hated sneaking out back for a smoke, but since he had bragged about how easy it had been to quit, he wasn't about to let everyone know that he had succumbed back to nicotine's sweet addiction. Besides, it was only the occasional smoke, usual when he and Edith were fighting, or the job was getting particularly nasty.
Tonight it was Edith's fault, his wife having threatened all day long to leave him and move back to her mother's if he didn't get his head out of his rear and ask the sheriff for a raise. He couldn't really blame her though, she had a good point. They were expecting their third child, and their second one had already strapped most of their savings, having forced them out of their tiny apartment and into a house.
The yellow flare of his lighter was nothing compared to the flash of blue that herald the arrival of six figures standing in the rear parking lot of the Mayfield Falls' Police Department. His cigarette falling unlit from his mouth, Elliot gaped at the strange persons, five men and a woman, and all dressed in black business suits, just like those Federal agents from this afternoon.
For a brief second, as the flash of their arrival had faded, Elliot would have sworn that two of the men weren't men. It had happened so fast, the flash and their arrival, that he couldn't swear to it, but, for just an instant, Elliot thought that he had seen some…things.
Two of them, actually.
Dark, towering shapes that vaguely resembled something human, but with purplish patches of skin that hinted at trauma, and gleaming bits of metal and cable that were unnatural and obscene.
Blinking, thinking that he was seeing things—which he had to be, because people just didn't pop in out of thin air—Elliot had looked again to see that the two monstrosities were indeed just men.
Somewhat strange looking, and very tall, but just men.
"What the hell's going on here?" demanded Elliot, his hand dropping to his holstered weapon and unbuttoning its clasp.
"At ease, officer," said Berch, reaching into his jacket.
"Hold it right there," growled Elliot, pulling his gun and leveling it at Berch. "Just pull your hand out of there nice and slow."
Smiling, Berch withdrew his hand to show that it held a small, black leather case, and he flipped it open to show his credentials.
"Special Agent Berch, FBI," he said, handing the wallet over to Elliot. "We're here to follow up on a suspected counterfeiting operation."
Elliot had never seen a real FBI identification, but even if he had, he wouldn't have been able to tell any difference—even the FBI wouldn't have been able to. Nodding slightly, acting as if everything were in order, he handed the badge back to Berch.
"Didn't know that there'd be more of you showing up," countered Elliot, still wary of the group. "I thought you boys were just handling things until the Treasury got a couple of agents out here."
"We're more concerned with young man thought to be connected with the investigation. A Kyle Larson."
"Personally, I think that little hood, Yohaman, has more to do with it than what she says."
"Yohaman?" asked Berch.
"I better take you to the Sheriff," said Elliot, turning towards the doors. "It'll be up to him to tell you everything."
"They have his scent," whispered Fallon, causing Berch's lip to twitch in an almost smile.
"That won't be necessary, deputy," said Berch, reaching out and clasping the deputy by the back of the head. "We have our own leads to follow."
The air became charged, filled with a faint crackling sound, and tinged with the subtle smell of ozone, reminiscent of an electrical storm. Elliot's hair slowly began rising, his entire body building up a charge of static electricity, and thin tendrils of smoke started curling off of his uniform.
Elliot tried to scream, both in pain and for help, but the charge built too fast, burning through him and ravaging his body. His skin turned black, charred and crispy, and his uniform burst into flames. In less than a few seconds, Deputy Elliot Goldstein was dead, only a black, ashen husk left to mark that he had even been there.
"Nice to know that you haven't lost your touch," commented Fallon.
"We all have our gifts," said Berch, smiling at her. "We should make use of them when we can."
Smirking, Fallon turned to her two Trackers and waved a hand, setting the beings into motion. She was pleased that their holographic images held, disguising their true appearances from human eyes, but she thought it rather amusing also.
The two Trackers, looking like two, rather tall, human males, began loping down the street, moving much like the apes of this world. They would stretch out their lengthy arms, then swing their legs forward, covering a good bit of distance quickly.
"We'd better hurry or we're going to lose them," said Fallon.
"Don't worry yourself, dear," countered Berch, turning and nodding to one of his men.
The man, Culdar, if Fallon remembered correctly, held his hands out, with his arms against his sides, and a look of mild concentration fell across his face.
A faint, green glow enveloped the four of them, lifting them a few inches off the ground before shooting forward, catching up with the Trackers in seconds.
The streets of Mayfield Falls were quite, as was usual for the small town, at two in the morning, and the group traversed with little concern of being witnessed.
Of course, who would believe that they saw two giant men loping down the center of the street, followed by four others in a floating, green ball?
Stark Industrial Park…
Kyle shook his head in dismay as he realized who the intruder was, not believing the gall of her to come after him. He watched silently as she traipsed down the hallway, finally reaching the room that he had been calling home for the last few days, and he resisted the urge to tap her on the shoulder.
Part of him wanted to chastise her for being so bold, sneaking out her house in the middle of the night to pursue him, and another part of him admired her courage for doing just that.
Why do girls make everything so complex? he thought, following her into his room.
"Just like a guy," muttered Cassidy, looking about the room. "Tells you he's going to be somewhere and he's not."
Oh, but it's okay that you said you weren't going to leave home until tomorrow night, thought Kyle. Jeez, since when…hey!
"Cute," said Cassidy, holding up a pair of purple underwear so that she could set down on the cot.
I don't go around picking up your… Kyle let the thought remain unfinished, feeling his face suddenly flush, and he was glad that he was invisible.
"And I thought my digs were bad," muttered Cassidy, looking about the small room. "Well, he's doing better than I thought he would."
Kyle felt a small sensation of pride at that statement, but he quickly dismissed it, concentrating on the problem at hand. Namely, what was he going to do about Cassidy being here? He wasn't about to leave his possessions behind, as meager as they were, and he still didn't think it was a good idea to let her come with him.
Maybe she'll leave on her own, he hoped, thinking that he could then gather up his stuff and leave.
That hope was dashed as, a few moments later, she slowly slumped to the left, her eyes already closed.
This just keeps getting better and better, he thought, watching her quickly fall asleep.
Slipping out of the room, Kyle made his way to the small warehouse of the building, carefully pulling the Orb out of his pocket. It wasn't quite as easy as he thought it would be, with both him and the Orb being invisible, but he managed.
"I want to be visible again," he said, a blue energy crackling over his form as he slowly materialized.
Leaning against the wall, Kyle slid down to floor, setting there silently, gazing at the strange Orb that Mister Black had given him. He knew that the Orb could teleport him to places that he knew, or, at least, to some of them.
He had tried, once, to visit Midgrawn, but the Orb had not taken him there, and he had no idea why not. Now, with the discovery of this second power that the Orb had, he was realizing just how invaluable it was.
Turning the Orb over in his hand, Kyle whispered "I wish I knew what all you…"
His sentence was drowned out by the roar of an explosion, the far wall of the warehouse erupting in a shower of steel, concrete, and electrical sparks.
Bolting to his feet, choking on dust from the explosion, Kyle gapped at the group standing on the other side of the hole in the wall, his eyes going wide as he saw Berch.
Berch was lowering his hands, faint sparks of electricity dancing around his form, quickly dissipating.
"Take him," said the smallish woman standing at Berch's side.
Two of the other men with the group, tall, ungainly looking men, stepped through the improvised passage, their forms shimmering as they moved. The very appearances of the men changed, rippling away from two human-looking beings to things that were…not human.
The things stood nearly eight feel tall, their flesh a patch-work of colors ranging from white to purple to black. Their right arms, from the elbow down, were metallic, made up of a boxy looking device with several side tubes on it, and a barrel protruding from the end.
They reminded Kyle of gattling guns.
Their faces, partly covered by greenish, metal helmets that appeared fitted to their craniums, were lacking noses as such, but held two, oblong black holes, much like a skinned skull. Their mouths, while devoid of lips, opened wide to reveal twin rows of tiny, needle like teeth.
Tubes entered and exited various areas of their bodies, carrying a thick, yellow substance that seemed to be regulated by the compact metal packs they wore on their backs.
They looked at Kyle with eyes that were both flesh and mechanical, one a dull black, the other a hexagonal metal rim filled with a glowing, red lens. Somehow, seeing the red lens that substituted for a left eye, Kyle doubted that turning invisible again would help him.
The cold concrete of the wall pressing against his back was nothing compared to the cold terror he felt gnawing at his soul as he watched the two monstrosities advance towards him.
Mayfield Falls Municipal Airport…
The plane was a small, private passenger job, readily available and just as costly, but it was only another expense as far as Henshaw was concerned. His clients either footed the bill or they hired someone else to do the job, that was Henshaw's motto—just one of many that he operated on.
Henshaw stepped down the small folding stairs of the Lear, holding onto his hat in the gusty wind blowing across the runway, and headed towards a small sedan parked a few dozen yards away. A rotund, middle-aged man got out of the car and walked towards Henshaw, shielding his eyes from the dust being stirred up by the roaring engines of the Lear as it slowly turned around, moving towards a distant hangar.
"Mister Henshaw?" asked the man, extending a hand. "Ed Bundy. Your agency contacted me, said you needed some local assistance."
"Looking for a runaway rich kid," said Henshaw, shaking the man's hand. "Think you can smooth things over for me with the local cops?"
"No problem," said Ed, opening his door, "But we'd better wait until the morning. One of the deputies had some sort of accident a little while ago, killed him."
"What kind of accident?" asked Henshaw, slipping into the passenger side of the car as Ed started it up.
"Electrical, I heard. Really bizarre," said Ed, shifting the gear into drive and circling for the exit of the small airport. "Ernie, that's the sheriff, didn't have time to tell me a lot of details, but I could tell he was freaked out about it."
"Well, I can imagine that losing a deputy would do that," commented Henshaw.
"Eh, maybe. Ernie's usually a pretty tough cookie. Didn't even get all that rattled when his wife died a year ago. He kind of keeps stuff like that in, you know what I mean?"
"What ever happened to Goldstein, the deputy that got killed, it must have been pretty nasty."
Henshaw spent most of the ride in silence, watching the dark landscape past by as they headed through the countryside of Pearson County, making way for Mayfield Falls.
Stark Industrial Park…
Kyle's first thought was to teleport to safety, somewhere, anywhere, but here, but then he thought of Cassidy, asleep only a few rooms away, and he knew that he couldn't leave her behind. Any other thoughts that he might have given the matter were put on hold, as he was suddenly fighting for his life, the nearest of the creatures lunging for him.
Leaping to the side, barely avoiding the hurtling bulk, Kyle slid along the concrete floor as it crashed into the wall with a resounding thud. The beast shook its head groggily as it rose, the second one already making to leap at Kyle.
"We don't need him alive," snarled Berch. "We simply need a large portion of his DNA."
The second creature hesitated, looking to Fallon for approval, and Kyle scrambled through the door and into the hallway.
Kyle collided with Cassidy, both of them tumbling to the floor as she screamed out in surprise.
The second Tracker raised its arm and unleashed a barrage of Teflon coated slugs, the rounds blazing red streaks as they tore through the thin walls of the building, stitching a trail of smoking holes. Cassidy screamed again, Kyle grabbing a hold of her and directing her to the nearest doorway, and they scrambled into the dust covered room.
Cowering behind an old desk, Kyle held her tight as she trembled with fear, her hands over her ears in a vain attempt to block out the roar of the chain gun shredding the walls.
The roar of the gun suddenly stopped, a desolate silence falling over them, and Cassidy raised her eyes to look at Kyle, her lips trembling.
"What in the hell is going on?" she demanded, her voice quivering.
The silence was short lived, the screech of tearing metal and the crumbling of drywall replacing the thunder of the gun, and the two peered over the desk to see the Tracker ripping through the wall.
Cassidy began screaming again, her eyes locked on the monstrosity bearing down on them.
The Tracker grabbed hold of the desk by one end and flung it across the room, its particle board composition smashing apart, showering the room with bits and pieces.
Raising its weapon, the Tracker centered on Kyle's face and fired. The slugs tore through empty air, Kyle and Cassidy vanishing in a blue flash, a split second before the Tracker had opened fire.
Berch stormed through the opening that the Tracker had created, ranting and raving at the creature. His curses caught in his throat as the Tracker suddenly turned on him, its weapon pressing against his nose, its face contorted in anger.
"I'd watch what I say around him, Berch," offered Fallon, stepping through the hole in the wall. "I may control him, but he's a little unstable. Being an earthling and all, strong emotions let him shake off some of that control."
"What, exactly, emotions could he possibly be feeling?" asked Berch, slowly backing from the Tracker.
"I think he's a little more pissed that Kyle got away than you are," said Fallon, softly placing a hand on the Tracker's arm and gently nudging him to lower his weapon. "I made them an offer. As a sort of incentive."
"What could you possibly offer them?" asked Berch, dusting himself off.
"Once we find Kyle, I told him that I'd make him human again," said Fallon, smiling at Berch.
Berch knew fully well that she intended no such thing, but he admired the way that she thought, manipulating the Trackers as an added insurance that they would do her bidding.
"Did you manage to trace him?" demanded Berch, turning from Fallon to face Culdar.
"No, Sir," replied the man, his eyes turned downward. "It was too short of a jump, not enough time to get a lock. Where ever they went, it was close."
The distant wail of sirens could be heard, drawing nearer.
"Do you want me to send them after him?" asked Fallon, referring to the Trackers. "His scent will still be strong, if he's as close as Culdar thinks."
"There's three cruisers coming down the road," called the fourth man, standing by the ruined side of the building.
"Send them," snapped Berch. "The rest of us will return to Gateway."
Activating their holographic disguises, the two Trackers bolted into the night, leaving the warehouse quickly behind. Berch gathered his team together, teleporting them all back to Gateway Station as the first cruiser pulled into the parking lot, the flash of the teleport blotted out by the strobing lights of the vehicle.
Taylor Memorial High School
Cassidy's scream finally trailed off as she recognized her surroundings, as dark as they were, and she pulled herself away from Kyle, looking at him with wide eyes.
"Uh, look, I'm sorry that you got involved with all that," he began, not looking her in the eye.
"What the hell were those, those, those things?" she asked, her voice still full of terror.
"I don't know," Kyle nearly shouted, his own nerves nearly frayed to their endurance. "And why are you yelling at me? It's your own fault, you weren't supposed to runaway until tomorrow night. What did you think you were doing anyhow? Sneaking in and going through my stuff?"
"How did you know I was looking at your stuff?" she asked, the fear that had been in her voice fading.
"Uh, I, you see, I was…hell."
"You knew I was there, didn't you?" she asked, smacking a hand against his chest. "What, were you spying on me?"
"Hey, you're the one that broke into my home!"
"Kyle. It was an empty building. You broke into it first, I was just coming by to see you."
"At two in the morning? Come on, Cassidy."
"How did this get turned around?" she wondered, throwing her hands up, then turning and stalking away from him. "You were supposed to be telling me what those things were. Or, better yet, how in the heck we got here."
"This," answered Kyle, holding up the Orb. "It brought us here."
"That," said Cassidy, crossing her arms and looking at him with her head tilted. "That little blue ball brought us here?"
"I just wish I could show you my world," Kyle muttered, starting to pocket the Orb.
"Your world?" asked Cassidy. "What on Earth are you…"
Cassidy trailed off as the Orb suddenly blossomed into a wash of blue light that quickly overpowered their senses, and engulfed them completely. When the glow finally began to fade, they were no longer standing in the library, but were floating in the air, over the sprawling city that had been the kingdom of Kyle's heritage.
They were over Midgrawn.
No wonder the Orb couldn't bring me here, thought Kyle, thinking of a time just last week, when he had tried to use the Orb to return to his home world. This is some kind of hologram.
"It's…it's so beautiful," said Cassidy, taking in the spectacular visage of the city, and the luscious world around it.
"This is Midgrawn," said Kyle, sadly. "It's my home world, and I don't even really know where it is."
"Aren't we here now?" asked Cassidy.
"No, it's not real," informed Kyle, his eyes burning a little as he noticed the changes beginning to take place to the city. "It's a hologram, a recorded image of the city as it was…and how it is now."
Cassidy's eyes went wide as she watched the city shift in form, changing to a shattered landscape of ruin. Spiraling towers toppled. Elevated roadways fell. Life, bright and glowing, was extinguished. A darkness spread over the once bountiful land, tainting it with death and terror.
"Oh, my, God," whispered Cassidy.
"This is why I'm running," said Kyle. "I have to find my sister. Together, we might be able to fix this…travesty."
Cassidy looked at him with sad eyes that were full of questions.
He saw in her, an empathy that went beyond any he had ever seen in anyone before. He could tell that she felt for him, that though she didn't know the truth, she hurt for him and she wanted to help. In that instant, he decided to trust in her, and he told every thing.
At least every thing that he knew.
The blue light flashed its brilliance once more, and the library faded back in existence around them.
"I want to help," said Cassidy. "Please, Kyle, let me do that. Let me help you."
She needn't had to ask that, he had already felt in his heart that if any one could help him, it would be her. He smiled at her, nodding, and she returned his smile with one of her own, and it was the warmest thing he had seen for the last few weeks.
The moment was shattered as the far doors of the library crashed down, the two giant men from the warehouse standing in the ruined frame, both glaring at the teenagers with anger.
Though their holographic camouflage was in place, Kyle knew what the two things actually looked like, and he wasn't about to wait around for a second confrontation with them.
The jump would be a step back in the direction that he had been heading, but it didn't matter when compared to their safety. Wrapping an arm around Cassidy, Kyle instructed the Orb to take them to a truck stop he had visited about a week ago.
He only hoped that it was far enough away that the two creatures wouldn't be able to track them.
Stark Industrial Park…
"I thought that you'd be long gone by now," said Henshaw, walking over the ruined side of the building. When Bundy's scanner had picked up the call of the disturbance, and the involvement of Yohaman, he had directed the private detective to take him there.
Bundy hadn't been too thrilled about it, but Henshaw's money more than persuaded him.
"So did I," replied Agent Wendling, stepping outside through the hole in the side of the building. "We were suppose to just hang around until the Treasury boys got here, but you know Bea, she likes to know what's going on, even when it's not our case."
"You sure the kid's involved in this?" asked Henshaw, standing back as the local cops went over the devastated building.
"That guy over there," said Agent Wendling, pointing to a man setting at the rear of an ambulance, wrapped in a blanket, and getting the third degree from the Sheriff. "Deputy Lamkin. He followed the Yohaman girl here, then waited to see what was going on."
"Why's the Sheriff tearing him a new ass?" wondered Henshaw.
"The deputy says he was setting in the lot across the road when he saw two guys in suits arrive on the scene, being followed by, and get this, a group of four other people that were floating through the air."
Henshaw fixed the Agent with a disbelieving look.
"Honest to God truth, Burke," swore Wendling, holding up his hands to stay off Henshaw's questions. "Swears that they bathed in a green light, and floating at least a foot off of the ground."
"You showed up a little faster than I was expecting," said a familiar voice. "Of course, where something weird's involved…"
Henshaw looked over his shoulder, smiling as Agent Johnson came stepping through the hole in the inner-wall of the warehouse. She flashed her own smile back at the man, her brown eyes showing the admiration that she had often voiced for Henshaw.
"Hey, Bea," greeted Henshaw, accepting a kiss on the cheek from her. "How you been?"
"Sugar, since that stuff that you got us involved in, in Wyoming…. Let's just say that every thing since then has been a walk in the park."
"But I bet you're still packing a few silver rounds," joked Henshaw, winking at her.
"Two clips," she responded, patting the side of her jacket. Then, pointing to her throat, added "and now wearing a cross."
"Glad one of you learned something," quipped Henshaw, giving Wendling a sideways glance.
Agent Wendling just rolled his eyes.
"So, I guess our tip panned out for you," she said, changing the course of the conversation. "You are here on the Larson case, aren't you?"
"Well, things just got a lot stranger. Did you tell him?" she asked, looking to her partner.
"Was just getting to it," said Wendling. "The Deputy also says that one of the floating people, well, they blasted this hole in the wall by shooting bolts of lighting from their hands."
That bit of information caused Henshaw to raise an eyebrow.
"Add that to the Deputy that got electrocuted tonight, and it seems like we got some heavy, underworld hitters that are also after our boy," noted Belinda.
Henshaw crossed his arms, turning to look back out over the cruiser filled parking lot, wondering just what it was that he was getting involved in.
"What'cha think, Burke?" asked Wendling. "Should we call in the DPI?"
"Those bunch of amateurs?" decried Henshaw, turning around to face the two agents with a look of disdain on his face. "Not unless you want Larson to end up on an examining table."
"You know we trust you, Burke," said Belinda, placing a hand on his shoulder. "What do you think we should do?"
"I think we should keep this in house," said Henshaw. "For as long as we can, any ways."
"Otterman'll be pissed if he finds out about this," said Wendling, simply stating what they all knew. "The DPI doesn't like being kept out of the loop."
"I don't know what this kid is," said Henshaw, "and that scares me."
"Burke Henshaw scared of something?" admonished Belinda. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"You should always fear the unknown, Bea," Henshaw said to her. "You never know how big its teeth are."
A/N: And yes, I'm still not sure where this will all be leading, but I think it's mixing up rather well—wouldn't you agree?
Anyhow, there will be more coming…just give me some time.