Sunday, May 31, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 23. Peach

The portal flashed behind Ian. Peach was already cursing.

“They did it. Oh, god, they let that thing free.”

“Yes they did,” Smith said. “They let the host walk right back to our world.”

“What do we do? Caelus—you know the stories. The legends.”

“Oh, I know them.”

“You don’t seem very bothered by this,” Peach said. “We just let a monster loose from his prison.”

“I know,” Smith said. “It’s why I came to this hellhole in the first place.”

The words sunk in just as Smith turned. His fist whisked through the air. Peach watched it close, faster than she could react.

Peach tried to move, tried to dodge the sudden assault by a man she thought was an ally. But it was no use. He was too fast. He caught her along the side of the head. She staggered back against the wall of the room.

She was momentarily dazed as he loomed over her.

“For someone clearly as old as you, you’re a damn fool, girl. You didn’t even question me. You didn’t even question why I was so willing to help you all. It was simple. I was told to help you. I would have let you die out there if I didn’t need someone to unlock the gate. But it’s open now. So you’re useless to me.”

“You’re not just some thug,” she said. “You’re an immortal.”

“Clever girl.” Smith laughed. “You figured out something any fool could. I see how you let the beast take control of you. You may be older than most humans, but you’re no wiser. There’s a reason we ruled over you for thousands of years.”

“You’re an Olympian!” She felt the fire grow in her belly. She had little power left, but if she failed it wouldn’t matter. She needed to stop him before he could get back to Earth. She couldn’t let him do whatever it was he planned.”

Smith drove a foot hard into her chest. Peach went down to the floor. Her breath left her. Her ribs were broken.

“You’re just a little fool. Do you really think I can’t tell you’re summoning your power?”

“I was hoping you might be too busy talking.”

He drove a boot into her side.

“You’re lucky I’m in a hurry. I like my women mouthy and dumb. I could have a lot of fun with you.”

“I’d rather die.”

Smith looked out into empty expanse. “It looks like you’re have plenty of time for that.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small canister. To an untrained eye, it might look like some kind of half-size soda can. She recognized it for what it was: a pulse grenade. It wasn’t an Earth weapon, but they both knew he would have access to such a weapon.

She tried to get up, tried to stop him, but a boot to the side of her head sent her sprawling back to the ground. Her head rung as he depressed the trigger on the pulse grenade.

There wasn’t a choice now. She had only one option. The worst option.

She didn’t have to concentrate or even think about it. She only had to let go. A moment later, her body wasn’t hers. The beast rose up inside her frame, subsumed her into just a passive viewer.

The beast brought her body up, seemingly unaware of the pain. The beast wanted to kill. The beast would take revenge for her simply because the beast loved to cause death.

She lunged at Smith, a fury of insanity. He was already running towards the open portal. He turned as the beast unleashed a roar. He turned and pulled another device from his pocket. The beast ignored it, but Peach knew what it was.

Stop! No, stop!

The beast paid her no heed. It ran headlong towards Smith. He held out the tiny device, aimed the small aperture in the tube outward. With a roar of sound and fury, the force blast struck her body square in the chest. Beast or not, Peach’s frame could not stand up to the brunt of the blast.

She felt her ribcage cave. It was agony as her body fell backwards. She landed hard on her posterior and back, but neither she nor the beast could make her body get up.

She could only watch as Smith simply walked through the portal. She could only watch as the pulse grenade flashed on the floor just a few feet away. She took a deep breath and waited for the end.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 22. Alli

It wasn’t like Smith’s teleportation. The warp was far more violent. Alli felt her body rip through space and time. It felt like a roller coaster, but one that ran a hundred thousand times too fast. Her stomach lurched as she saw the stars fly by around her. It was all a blur, beautiful and confusing all at once.

She came to a sudden stop just a moment before the sight could drive her insane. She was used to the corners of reality, but this was far past her comfort zone.

As she lurched to a stop, she dropped to her knees on to cool wet grass. It had been hours since her last meal, but the remnants of it still came up in violent heaves.

She wiped her face clean just as she heard the wisp of wind and energy as the portal activated again. Phoebe fell through the portal a moment later. Unlike Alli, she landed comfortably on her feet.

She walked over to Alli’s side. “I am sorry. I did not think about the effects the transition might have on a mortal’s constitution. It will pass.”

Alli climbed to her feet. “Yeah, I guess. Uh, welcome to Earth, I guess.”

“Yes, thank you. I—” Phoebe’s head snapped back. Her body started to shake wildly. Her eyes rolled back.

Alli rushed to grab Phoebe, but it was already too late. Phoebe’s body pitched back. She landed hard on the ground, the grass far from enough padding as her head snapped against the ground.

She continued to shake violently, her body seemed locked in some kind of epileptic attack. Alli wasn’t even sure how to treat a human epileptic during a seizure, let alone an immortal being from outer space.

“Phoebe? Phoebe? Are you all right?”

Alli coughed as a strange mist rose off the immortal woman. It smelled of ozone and something unique, something not quite of this world.

The portal whisked open again behind her. She heard Ian fall through and hit the wet grass with a dull thump and a sharp, surprisingly high-pitched scream.

“What’s going on? What happened to Phoebe?”

Ian rushed over to Alli’s side and stood over the unconscious immortal.

“I don’t know. One second we came through and talked. The next she was falling down. Something came off her, but I’m not sure what.”

Ian reached down and pressed two fingers into the side of her neck. He wasn’t sure if it would do any good. He didn’t know much about her anatomy. But he felt a dull pulse there, so at least in that regard her human appearance seemed correct.

“Her hair,” he said. “It’s different.”

Alli hadn’t noticed, but he was right. Phoebe’s formerly black hair was now a deep blue. Though dark, it was clearly a color not seen in human hair. She wasn’t sure she ever saw anyone even dye it such an odd shade.

“What took you so long?”

“I heard something,” Ian said. “It was Peach and Smith. I heard them yell, just as Phoebe passed through. They were saying something about not letting her go through. I tried to stop and wait for them, but I lost my footing and fell into the portal.”

“Why wouldn’t they want Phoebe to come through the portal?”

Ian looked at the unconscious woman. “You heard her story. She said it was a prison. We only had her word about her crime. Maybe she did something much worse. Maybe we unleashed a monster.”

Phoebe was unconscious. She seemed almost at peace, just asleep on the carpet of grass. She didn’t seem like a monster, just an ancient being free from her personal hell.

None of it matters, Alli thought. She looked around the grounds. They were in Rhode Island. They were where Marilyn was.

“We have to leave her.”

“What? We can’t.”

“Marilyn is here. Phoebe’s breathing. We can call a doctor for her, but neither of us has any way to diagnose her. But Marilyn may be in trouble. She might be in danger.”

Ian scowled. She could see on his face that he cared. He was worried about the strange woman they just met, even if he didn’t quite trust her. She could understand the feeling, but she couldn’t let it stop her. Marilyn needed her.

“Look. You can stay here if you need to, but I need to find Marilyn.”

Ian nodded. “I understand. You’re right. We can come back to her. We can call a doctor. Is your cell working?”

Alli pulled it out. The screen showed no service.

“We’re in a city. How do I have no service?”

Ian shook his head. “Come on then. Let’s find Marilyn.”

But before they could take another step, the portal flashed again.

Smith came through the portal, but he was alone. A row of cuts bled down the side of his face.

“Smith! What happened?”

Ian rushed to his side. Smith groaned as the boy closed.

Ian didn’t even see it coming. Smith took a wild swing, but the blow was perfectly aimed. The blow caught Ian hard in the jaw. Ian’s head snapped back. His body seemed to float in mid-fall for a long moment before he crashed down to the ground next to Phoebe.

“What is this?” Alli said. Her hand whipped the Sticky Gun free. She trained it on Smith a second later. “Why are you doing this?”

Alli realized the four cuts were from fingernails. Peach.

Smith smiled despite the gashes. “Just following orders, baby.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 21. Cyrus

Pluto and Persephone stood over them at the height of the tower before them. Cyrus could not help but feel there was no need for this trial. The judgment was already passed in the gods’ eyes. He was already guilty.

And so is Marilyn, he thought. All because I was a fool.

“Cyrus, son of Pluto, you stand accused before your regal father, charged with the betrayal of the pantheon. You turned against your own family, worked against us, even struck your own blessed sister. How do you plead?”

“Not guilty,” Cyrus said.

“We will see, Cyrus. You make a poor choice by dragging out these proceedings Your father might have been lenient if you would have admitted your guilt.”

“I would have to be guilty of something for that, mother. Yet I feel no guilt here.” Cyrus stood tall in the face of his mother and looming father. Pluto merely stared down at his son. But Persephone looked annoyed at her son’s rejection of her words.

“You have chosen to continue this trial,” Persephone said. “Let the record reflect the arrogance you show in doing so.”

“Call it what you will, mother.”

Persephone turned to her daughter. “Melinoe, you stand as prosecutor to Cyrus. Tell us your experience with his crime.”

“Of course, my queen.” Melinoe turned and gave her brother a smirk as she spoke. “I remember the time well. You had left for your annual pilgrimage to stay with the honored Demeter. Cyrus and I both remained behind to serve watch over Hades House. Father showed little interest in the house’s day to day affairs as is often the case when you are away.”

This brought a smile to Persephone’s face. Mother always liked to hear stories about Pluto’s mad love for her.

“However, Cyrus proved to have no interest in his godly duty. As soon as he was free of his parents’ oversight, his attention turned to the human world.”

“I object. We live in the human world. Why are we even pretending otherwise?”

“You have no right to speak at this time,” Persephone said. “You will get your chance to defend your actions, Cyrus. Now is not that time.”

Cyrus crossed his arms as Melinoe continued. He would listen to his sister’s words, but he didn’t have to like it.

“Dear Cyrus immediately started packing. He wanted to leave and he wouldn’t let anyone stand in his way. He would not be dissuaded, not even when one of his dearest friends tried to stop him.”

I don’t like where this is going, Cyrus thought. None of this makes sense. I just left. I didn’t talk to anyone. I don’t know what Melinoe is playing at.

Marilyn squeezed his hand. He gave her a nod as Melinoe continued.

“It was horrific. Patreus grew up alongside Cyrus. He was nothing but a human grandson of Zeus, yet another of a thousand bastard children. But Patreus came to us when he was young. He grew alongside Cyrus. And Cyrus killed him.”

Patreus is dead! No, it can’t be. That cannot be right. He—I should never have left here. Cyrus buried his head in his hand.

“I watched it all,” Melinoe said. “My brother did not think I was near, but I stumbled upon him when he tried to leave. He argued with Patraeus. I thought at first it was some kind of lover’s quarrel, but I never knew the two to be so intimate. Patraeus seemed distraught.”

None of this happened. I simply told Patraeus I couldn’t stay. He tried to convince me to stay, but we didn’t yell. We didn’t fight. She’s lying.

“Cyrus pushed Patraeus. Patraeus fought back, even though he knew he had no chance of victory against a true child of a god. With no reason or recourse, Cyrus decided to use his powers against the poor young man. It wasn’t loud, not like I expected. But it was a low steady hum. I could feel the force of the vibrations even from across the house. I watched as Cyrus’s powers flayed the skin from his dearest friend.”


Marilyn’s words broke up the affair. She pulled away from Cyrus as she said it, but her words were directed towards Melinoe. “It isn’t true!”

“Silence, mortal!” Persephone’s words rang through the room. “Another outburst and I will pass judgment on you now. You are a fly before us. Do not forget that.”

Persephone turned to her daughter. “Finish your story, daughter.”

That’s all it is, Cyrus thought. A story, a piece of fiction. I thought I was to face a few decades of confinement. But this is a frame up, a con job. I didn’t think even Melinoe could want me dead.

“I have little use for mortals as you well know,” Melinoe said. “But I also know that demigods are protected under Olympian law. Cyrus didn’t care. He wanted his freedom and would not let anyone stand in his way. He didn’t even seem troubled by his crime. I watched him take his bag and walk over the blasted corpse of his friend. Little more than a skeleton was left of the boy.”

“Is this all of your testimony, Melinoe?”

“It is, mother.”

“What do you accuse your brother of?”

“I accuse him of the murder of a child of Zeus. He willfully killed a child of Olympus. And he did it to abandon his sacred duties.”

Persephone turned to Cyrus. She peered down at him as Pluto stood silently beside him.

“You have heard the charges against you, my son. These are dire charges. You know that they could lead to your death or your exile to the lower realms. These actions are indefensible, but you have time to speak, son. I suggest you make the best of your remaining few minutes. Let it not be said that your father does not know mercy.”

The room fell silent. Cyrus could feel everyone’s eyes on him. He knew his mother expected him to fall to his knees. He knew she wouldn’t really listen to any of his words. He could save himself by pleading and begging. But none of it mattered. It wouldn’t save Marilyn. She would be punished one way or another. A hundred years in confinement here would be a pain for him ,but it would mean her death. He couldn’t have that burden on his soul.

“Melinoe is lying. I didn’t even know that Petraeus was dead. I spoke to him before I left. He tried to convince me to listen to you and stay. But I didn’t do that. I left. I freely admit to that crime. I thought that was the crime I stood trial for today. But I have never taken another man’s life. I’m still trying to believe that my friend is dead.”

Melinoe shook her head. Persephone joined her. Cyrus could feel his chances sinking. He would fight if need be. He wouldn’t let them frame him for a crime he did not commit.

“Your words sadden me, son. I suspected truth from the son of death. Instead, you make excuses. You deny the sworn word of my blessed daughter. You turn against the gods words and then have the gall to deny your guilt.”

“I deny nothing!” Cyrus’s voice echoed off the walls as he raised it. “I admit I left Hades House. I admit that I hid to keep from returning. I admit that I grow tired of horrible standoffish behavior of this family. Our era is a thousand years past. Maybe it's because I never saw the heyday of our era, but I see that fact clearly. The age of the Olympians is dead. I wanted to see the world and understand humanity. Not hide from it.”

“We don’t hide from the world. The world belongs to us!”

Cyrus shook his head. “You are so deluded you cannot see what is before you. You think mortals so lowly that you could think I would kill a friend. I loved Petraeus. He meant more to me than anyone else in this room. But he was a lowly to you despite his grandfather. You are so lost in your world that you truly cannot believe that I looked at Petraeus as an equal. I could never kill him.”

“Enough! You will say no more!” His mother’s fury echoed through the room. Her eyes seemed to flare as she spoke.

Cyrus rose up to his full height. He breathed in deeply. “I will not be silent! Not anymore!”

“You will not speak!” Persephone’s rage shook the room. “This is my court, not yours!”

Pluto’s hand reached out and rested on his wife’s shoulder. His head moved slow as his wife and everyone in the room turned to look at him. But the nod was obvious.


Pluto said nothing. He only looked at his wife.

She turned and threw a hand into the air. “Fine. Speak.”

Cyrus felt all eyes on him.

“I did not kill Petraeus. I didn’t even know he was dead. I—it’s still hard for me to think that my friend is dead. I do not know what motivates her, but Melinoe’s story is a fabrication. I left Hades House. Petraeus and I spoke before I left. He tried to persuade me to speak with you before I did. But I knew that conversation would be pointless. I knew you didn’t want the connection to humanity that I want. I’m tired of pretending we’re somehow better than them just because we live forever and have some power. Thousands of them can say the same thing.”

He shook his head. “I love you, but I cannot be like you. So I said goodbye to Petraeus and left.”

“How dare you!” Melinoe’s words echoed through the room. “I am not a liar. You are a murderer and a false witness!”

“I don’t know what happened to Petraeus,” Cyrus said. “But now that I do, I will bring his killer to justice. Find me guilty or innocent but his death will not go unavenged.”

He met Melinoe’s eyes as he finished his threat. Cyrus turned back to his mother and father.

“I left you under my own volition, mother and father. Punish me for that if you see fit. But I have not killed my friend.” He looked to Marilyn. “Mortals are far more important to me than you could ever imagine.”

No one said anything for a very long moment. They don’t trust me, Cyrus thought. But they don’t fully trust Melinoe either.

Persephone looked between her two children. “You challenge your sister’s word. But you also admit to your own wrongdoing. Her word does not give us reason for question. But yours do. You willingly stepped away from your duties as a god of Olympus. I do not—”

“I have no duties as a god of Olympus. Ancient Greece is three thousand years dead. The last of the Romans gave up on us more than a millenium go. We survive on the power provided by a few outlying worshipers. Beyond that Olympus is just a myth. The humans look on us as a story. They don’t even know I exist.”

“That would have changed, Cyrus. You would have rose to be a great force in Olympus. You could have—”

“I could have done nothing, mother. You hold on to a dream that no longer exists. You had your followers. Petraeus would have followed you both anywhere. But I am not the person for that. I no longer see myself as some god. I am a man, a gifted man, but just a man.”

Persephone’s eyes widened in shock. “Sacrilege!”

“No, mother. It is the truth. We can no longer live above them. We are already forced to live among them. Let’s not play games with what that means.”

“How dare you? This is your way of life! You cannot just say no and walk away. That is not the way of our people. You may not live in Olympus, but you are an Olympian. You are a god and you must learn to act like one.”

“I know very well how to act like one,” Cyrus said. “And I don’t want to do it anymore. I won’t do it anymore. So make your judgement, but do not pretend this is anything but a farce. My friend was murdered and I’m being aimed as the patsy.”

Cyrus turned to Marilyn. He spoke in hushed tones. “I’m sorry. I wish you never got involved in this. I was afraid you would just be forced to grow old next to me. But they want more than that.”

“How much more?”

“My sister wants me dead, Marilyn. I don’t know why, but she’s murdered my friend.”

“How can you be sure? How do you know this Petraeus is even dead?”

Cyrus stopped short. She was right. The gods were fickle if nothing else. It wouldn’t be unlike Melinoe to simply lie about Petraeus’s fate. A missing demigod could be as good as a murdered one if her story was right.

“I demand to see the evidence held against me.”


“I want to see the body of my friend, mother. It is the least you could do if you accuse me of his murder. I only have the words of those around me that he is even dead. I will not be condemned for a crime that I didn’t even know happened. Not without seeing the proof.”

“No,” Melinoe said. “No, you cannot let him do that, mother. It is too terrible! He—”

“Enough, Melinoe. He speaks truth. He does have the right to see the body.” She turned to her husband. Pluto nodded. The courtroom began to shift again.

Beneath their feet, the floor shifted downward. Marilyn grabbed on to Cyrus. He wrapped a comforting arm around her. He knew she wasn’t used to the behaviors of Hades House. Trapped between two planes, the Estate was set at the whims of Pluto.

“It will be fine. Just watch and wait.”

“I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff in my life,” Marilyn said. “But this might be a new record.”

“I’m afraid we’re only just getting started. Brace yourself for some real oddities. This isn’t a normal world. There’s a reason why I left.”

The floor continued to drop directly beneath them, even as the rest of the courtroom opened. Persephone and Pluto lowered down next to Cyrus and Marilyn. His father was still passive. Persephone showed no emotion, but Cyrus couldn’t help but feel the doubt she felt.

Melinoe sat high above, still in her booth. The fact that Pluto didn’t bring her down also made Cyrus wonder if they didn’t trust her either.

Something was off about this whole affair. Petraeus’s death made no sense. Melinoe had no reason to kill him, not that he could grasp.

The floor came to a stop a full two stories beneath the surface. Cyrus knew his parents could take them down much farther, but the underworld had no real answers for them. Instead, they would just travel to the crypt, a simple stone crypt for the honored dead. Petraeus would rest there until his grandfather Zeus gave an answer to his final resting place. But that could not happen until the trial was complete.

The room shifted behind Persephone and Pluto. The moving walls opened to expose the crypt. Cyrus had only visited the tomb once before, when a demigod in the service of Apollo was killed by a messenger of Hermes. He didn’t remember it to be a pleasant experience.

Pluto turned and yanked on the large stone door. It opened with ease.

Marilyn squeezed in closer to him. She didn’t really seem afraid. But she did seem to need some kind of comfort. He was happy to provide it as they moved to follow his parents into the tomb.

It was black inside the crypt. Persephone brought the torches to life with a wave of her hand. “This way.”

They walked through another door inside the massive crypt, which Pluto opened as easily as the first. As soon as they entered, Cyrus saw him. He lay in perfect state atop a stone slab. Petraeus was still and white. His body had been cleaned up and cleansed. His corpse was perfect, clean and still.

Cyrus pulled away from Marilyn and stepped towards the body. “Oh, Petraeus. I’m so sorry, my friend.”

He stared down at his dead friend. For the first time the loss felt palpable. For the first time he truly regretted leaving his parent’s home. He couldn’t help but feel that his friend would still be alive had he remained.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there to protect you,” Cyrus said. “I’m so sorry.”

Petreaus’s bright blue eyes shot open. “Don’t be sad, godling. I’ve been waiting millennia to meet you all.”

A sly grin filled the face of Petraeus. But Cyrus knew this wasn’t his friend. It was something else. Something old. Something very, very evil.

“What are you?”

Petraeus sat up, still smiling. “Don’t you recognize your old friend, Cyrus? It hasn’t been that long, has it?”

“You’re not Petraeus.”

Pluto stepped forward. His hand came up. Energy crackled through the room. For the first time in forever, Cyrus saw an emotion on his father’s face. It was fear.

Petraeus—or whatever he was—raised a hand. A burst of power struck Pluto head on. Cyrus watched his father suddenly consumed by energy as dark as his own.

Pluto fell to his knees. Persephone moved to her husband’s side as crumpled face first to the floor. She bent over him, even as Pluto shook from whatever strange energy fell over him.

Cyrus stepped between his parents and the monster in his friend’s corpse. “Who are you? What are you?”

Petraeus’s body smiled. “You would never hope to recognize me, little human. I am greater than this tiny demigod body. I am greater than the gods that sit before you. I am the darkness, the universe from which this world was formed. I am Caelus and after a thousand, thousand years, I am free.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

River City History: The Regal Hand of Gold

For the most part the Hoods would prove successful, but their masks would influence a greater evil as the Great Depression overtook the country.

He was known as the Regal Hand of Living Gold. A descendant of ancient Indian royalty, he traveled to River City in 1934. He claimed to be there to build his fortune in a new homeland. But his real goals proved far more sinister.

The Regal Hand ruled over a dangerous order known as the Ten Fingers. A group of deadly assassins, the Regal Hand used his minions to completely cement control of the city. Even Merry Mann’s Hoods proved no match for the super-genius criminal. They died by the dozens, often killed in ways that seemed all too natural.

Merry proved to the Regal Hand’s final victim, killed by the Regal Hand himself. With a knife left in her back, she was meant as a message to any that would come after her that the Regal Hand of Living Gold now ruled River City.

Fortunately for the city, all hope wasn’t lost. Merry had a daughter, hidden even from her. With the city in the hands of criminals, it would come to a young woman named Gloria to free the city from the Regal Hand’s tyranny.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 20. Ian

Their path seemed almost endless. Ian didn’t really know how long they walked or how far they traveled. He just knew it felt like they would never stop. It felt like they would never get anywhere ever.

“You’re quite lost. Though I suspect you’re far more lost than you could ever dream. That is the nature of this place after all.”

Ian and Alli both turned around at the same time. A woman stood before them. She was taller than both of them, dark-skinned with long kinked hair. And she was completely naked.

“What the hell?”

The woman smirked at Ian’s sudden shock. With a wave of her hand, dirt and sand rushed off the ground. They flooded around her frame. Over the course of several seconds, they tightened and formed over her frame. They came together and formed a shiny silver fabric that hugged her skin.

“I apologize if I disturbed you by my sudden arrival. I mean no harm. I only wish to meet the people that found their way to this dead world. It isn’t often I find strangers appear here. I only wished to welcome you and inquire how you came here.”

Ian looked to Alli. He was wary, but he knew they couldn’t overlook the woman’s sudden arrival. Any sign of life in this world would be a key to their survival. If she knew how to escape, how to find their way back to their dimension, they needed to take it.

“Thanks,” Ian said. “I’m Ian. This is Alli. And we’re not quite sure how we came here. Our friend was supposed to teleport us a few hundred miles, not to a death dimension or whatever this is.”

“Death dimension?”

The woman’s question caused Ian to look to Alli again. Turning back to the woman, he simply said, “We aren’t in another dimension?”

The woman stopped as if she was thinking about it. After about twenty seconds, she finally said, “I can’t really be sure. You’re certainly not in a death dimension though. This is a stable reality. This is just a less hospitable corner of it. Probably why I don’t get any visitors.”

“Who are you?” Ian said.

“I am just a simple entity that was trapped here a thousand years ago. I haven’t had a name for a very long time, but you may call me Phoebe.”

“Like Friends?”

“Are we friends? I do not know, Ian. You would have to tell me that.”

“No, nevermind,” Ian said. “I just—nevermind. It’s good to meet you, Phoebe.”

“It is very good to meet you both. As I said, it felt like I would never see another soul on this world. But with you here. With you here, I may finally have a chance to escape.”

“You know a way off this world?”

“There is a portal,” Phoebe said. “But it is cut off from my reach. An immortal cannot enter the cavern. Alas, my long life has become a curse here.”

“You’re immortal?” Ian looked to Alli. He was becoming used to hearing strange things. But immortality certainly wasn’t one of them.

“It happens,” Alli said. “Where is this portal?”

“It is not far.”

“Show us,” Ian said.

As they walked, Ian couldn’t contain his curiosity. “You said you’ve lived here for a thousand years, Phoebe. How did you come to be here?”

“It is a long story, Ian. And not a kind one. I was imprisoned here for crimes I did not commit. Only one other prisoner calls this world home and he is a great danger. Thankfully we keep to ourselves.”

“There’s only two people on this entire world?”

Phoebe nodded.

“And you are both immortal.”

“Indeed. The universe is a vast place. We are certainly not unique across the frontier. But immortals are rare. Immortals with great power are much rarer. This world was designed to contain us and forget us.”

“Why?” Alli said. “What could you have done that forced you into an eternal existence alone?”

“I did nothing,” Phoebe said. “But they claimed that I committed genocide.”


“It was a world a thousand light years from here. A single race of hominids populated a small corner of the world. They were wiped clean by some force. I do not know who. They claimed the energy signature matched my own. They convicted me on those grounds alone. I might have been able to fight my way free, but that would just make me the monster they claimed I was. So I let myself be damned to this place until a day I could find my way free.”

“It’s a good story,” Alli said. Ian could detect the unspoken question that went with it: but how do we know it is true?

“You do not trust me,” Phoebe said. “I suppose that is expected. If you don’t know my story, you have no way to know whether I lie or tell you the truth. You have only your own sense of trust and that is truly one of the hardest things in any world to gain.”

“It’s more than the hardest thing,” Alli said. “It’s—”

“Do you want off this world or not?” Ian’s word cut her off. “We’ve lost hours already. Think of Marilyn. If we can get back to Earth, we might be able to find her.”

“Earth?” Phoebe said. “You are from the Earth?”

“Yes,” Ian said. “You’ve heard of our world.”

“Everyone has heard of the planet,” Phoebe said. “It is an ancient world, one connected to a thousand others. It is known as the lost colony to many, a world cut off from the rest of the galaxy for reasons unknown.”


Phoebe shook her her head. “It was another prison planet, a planet cut off from the rest of the universe because of dangerous beings trapped there.”

“What kind of dangerous beings?”

“You know nothing of this?”

Ian shook his head. “No, we don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Then we truly must move.”

Alli sent out several messages through the two-way as they followed Phoebe down her path. But none brought an answer from Peach or Smith. Ian could tell she was getting worried as they walked towards a small cliff face.

The outcropping stood maybe ten feet off the ground, but in the vast expanse of these plains, it stood out like a mountain. The opening was little more than a crawl hole, but it was the only shelter anywhere in this vast expanse.

“Is it safe?”

Phoebe turned to him. “Nothing is safe here.”

“Very reassuring.”

She gave a weak smile.

“I can’t get Peach on the line,” Alli said. “We need to find them.”

“If your communicator does not reach your friends, they are almost certainly dead.”

“I’m not willing to accept that, Phoebe.”

“Nothing on this world should block your communications. But if they walked away from you, it is possible they encountered one of the monsters that roam here. You are lucky to have found me before you encountered such a beast.”

“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” Alli said.

“You did not ask. I did not understand the concern. I mean no disrespect to you and your friends.”

Ian could tell Alli didn’t like Phoebe’s response. He couldn’t blame her. They barely knew this woman. But he knew that she was their most likely path home. Blowing up at her wouldn’t help anyone. He pulled Alli aside.

“We will find out what happened to them. But first, we need to find this portal. See if we can open it. I know we’re not exactly friends, but we have to think about Cyrus and Marilyn. We need to get back to them. Right?”

Alli nodded. “I still don’t trust her.”

“You don’t trust me either, but we’re in this together.”


Ian turned to Phoebe. “Show us the way.”

They followed her down into the small cavern. The entrance was barely large enough for them to crawl through. But as soon as they entered, it was clear that the area was far from a natural occurrence. The inside opened into a full chamber with a ceiling high enough to stand. The walls were not carved rock, but some kind of plastic. It was firm to the touch as Ian ran his hand over it. He had the feeling it was far more solid than any plastic on Earth.

The chamber wasn’t particular large. It dug into the ground maybe twenty feet back. It was a simple rectangle, maybe eight feet wide at the most. The back end held what looked like a large door. It was round and a large metal iris kept it closed.

Between it and them was a large blue wall of energy.

“So that’s it,” Ian said.

“That is the warp door,” Phoebe said. “It creates a wormhole through space and time. I’m not sure how well your world understands the physics of it, but through it one can connect from this world to their home planet.”

“So it will send us back to Earth if we open it?”

“Indeed. I will accompany you to your world. Though another quarantine world, it seems almost certainly more hospitable than this one.”

“That it is,” Ian said. “But how do we know it will drop us somewhere safe. What if it drops us in the middle of the sky?”

“It cannot,” Phoebe said. “I do not pretend to understand the technology beyond the basics. It certainly runs on systems past typical knowledge of any single galactic citizen. But it is designed to drop people on where they focus. Safety protocols keep it from being somewhere fatal to the chosen species.”


“Yeah, real fascinating,” Alli said. “We have people to help. Smith and Peach may still be out there. Marilyn could be in danger right now. We need to get back now.”

“You’re right,” Ian said. “How do we get through the field?”

“You must only walk through,” Phoebe said. “It will not block a mortal. Once you’re through, you may open the iris with simply a touch. Contact should bring the field down and send us back to your world.”

“Sounds easy enough.”

Ian started towards the glowing blue energy. It felt like he was getting ready to walk into a wall as he stepped forward. But Phoebe said it wouldn’t make a difference. It would be easy.

He closed his eyes to get the thought of the wall out of his head. He took a step into the field.

Lightning shot through Ian’s body. It didn’t feel at all like walking into a wall. Instead it felt like every ounce of his body was on fire. He wanted to scream, but his body wouldn’t let him. He could only smell burning and wonder if it was his own skin.

He felt his body fly backwards. He struck the ground just inches from Alli’s feet. He could see smoke rising off of his body. He ached all over. But he was still very much alive.

“I don’t understand. I thought I was supposed to be able to just walk through. Why did the field stop me?”

Alli turned to Phoebe. “What kind of game are you playing? Are you trying to lure us into some trap?”

“I mean neither of you harm,” Phoebe said. “You must believe me. I do not understand why your friend could not go through the field. It only works against immortals. I have seen it in action before. The only way he wouldn’t pass is if he did not age. He too would have to be an immortal.”

Alli turned to Ian. He could feel the thought projecting from her head. It was the same thought he had. He remembered the news articles they found, the history of Ian Page from decades before. Maybe it wasn’t some other Ian. Maybe it really was him.

One more unanswered question, he thought. If only I could remember something. Anything at all.

“I don’t remember my past,” Ian said. “Not even that. Could it be possible?”

“I do not know,” Phoebe said. “My knowledge of such things is quite limited.”

“There’s one way to check,” Alli said. She looked back at the field.

“Alli, the pain—you don’t have to do it.”

“Yes I do, Ian. I don’t have a choice. We’ve got to go back. We have to find Marilyn.”

She looked towards the field. With a deep breath, she took a step towards it.

Alli passed through the energy with no trouble. She didn’t even recoil as she tried. Ian envied her confidence. If he saw what the field could do, he would never have tried. But she took the walk with a calm and grace.

She turned on the other side and looked at them. “I guess that answers one question.”

“The iris,” Phoebe said. “Open the iris.”

Alli turned back towards the gate. She walked up to it. Ian clenched his fists as she examined it for a second. With the same confidence she showed before, she reached out and touched the metal gate.

The field flickered in front of Ian and Phoebe. A second later, it was gone. The black woman, this strange immortal figure, smiled a broad grin. She seemed ecstatic, but her demeanor did not let her express it in any way past the simple grin. Ian thought if he had been imprisoned for a thousand years or more, he might show a bit more excitement.

The iris started to telescope back into its recesses. Ian walked past the field, Phoebe at his side. The iris fully opened, but only blackness showed through the gate.

“Is it ready?”

“It’s ready,” Phoebe said, stepping towards the opening.

Ian looked to Alli. “You ready for this?”

“Let’s get home.” She put the two-way down on the floor of the room. “Hopefully Peach can find her way to it as well.”

“I hope so.”

Alli looked back at the other end of the strange chamber.

“I feel bad leaving them behind. What if they’re still alive out there?”

“We have to choose between them and Marilyn. What do you want to do?”

“We need to go.”

She turned and stepped into the blackness. Phoebe stepped up to the aperture next. Ian watched her slowly walk up into the path.

“No! Stop! Don’t let her through.”

He turned and saw Smith and Peach running towards them.

“No, she’s dangerous! You can’t let her escape. She has—”

Something grabbed Ian from behind. He felt a tug from the gate and he fell backward through it. He caught just one more glimpse of Peach charging towards him, her hand out. A moment later, the blackness consumed him and he didn’t see anything at all.