Chapter 1: Last Days of Summer
Drew Jenkins was going to die.
Adrenalin kept him running down the alley. Footsteps crashed down, one after the other. Those weren’t his footsteps. It was the man. The man with the knife.
The flaming knife.
It was on fire.
Why was it on fire.
He heard himself screaming for help. The same cry that had gone unheard since he’d been walking home from the park and the dark faced man had appeared. Drew had seen that face before; it was all over the news. He was dangerous, near the top of the Super Powered Beings most wanted list. John ‘Red Jack’ Marrison was charged with any number of assaults, murders and rapes. That was the man chasing him now. He wanted to kill Drew, and he was going to enjoy doing it.
Drew Jenkins was going to die.
He ran down the alleyway. He had to find a way to escape, find somebody to help him. Where was everyone? There wasn’t a single person in the street he’d been walking down, no traffic, no sound, nothing. In broad daylight.
Just Red Jack.
Red Jack and his knife.
Drew ran out of alley.
He stopped. The footsteps didn’t. He was getting close. The fire escape! Drew’s eyes locked to it, he jumped, caught it. What was that pounding? Was it Jack, or just his head? Shaking it off, he made his way up the gray building. Locked window after window passed by. Drew went on, every limb shaking with terror and adrenaline. There had to be a way out, a door, an open window. Something. But there wasn’t any fire escape left. Drew could feel the metal shaking with every step Jack took. He had no place else to go. Jack saw him standing there, whatever look was nailed onto Drew’s face made him break into a grin. That grin promised nightmares. Drew backed up against the face of the building, his head brushed the roof. The roof! There was a roof! He tossed himself up, grabbing hold of the ledge, barely managing to get over the side.
Pain erupted through him as he landed. He clenched his teeth, eyes misted with tears. Straining, he heard nothing. The footsteps had stopped. He had to be quiet; Red Jack might go away if he thought he had missed him. Through his hazy vision he looked down at his leg. A knife was sticking through his thigh; its searing heat cauterizing the wound as it stuck inside. Jack must have thrown his knife at him. Not thinking, he reached down to remove it. The flesh on his hand almost boiled, he tossed it aside, screaming in pain. With the dull clang, clang, clang of the knife, the footsteps began again. Jack’s grunting breath was all too audible now.
Drew tried to drag himself away; his vision was blurred, the pain, the heat. A bandaged hand appeared. A mellow voice was speaking, Red Jack’s voice. “Quite a chase you gave me, little boy.” Drew saw the frame of Red Jack standing, framed by the sun. His image blurred in and out, Drew felt himself being lifted up, brought close to the face. That dark face. A rosy smell wafted around him. He saw the knife being pulled back. His head was pounding, limbs wouldn’t move. He spluttered, gurgled and finally, he screamed. The echo of the scream bounced through the rooftops. The hand about to bring down the knife, stopped. A crash, something massive landing.
“Found ya… Jack,” said a voice made of tin.
Drew fell to the ground, taking the force of the impact. Through what was left of his vision he saw Red Jack sweep his flaming knife around. As it blurred the air around it faster and faster, the flames faded. He saw Jack’s mouth slacken, his eyes almost burst as he found himself holding a simple knife. And finally he saw a fist, its silver glint connecting with Jack’s jaw. That was the last thing Drew saw for quite some time.
“Mr. Jenkins? Oh thank God, there’s eye movement. He’s waking up.”
Drew wasn’t on the roof anymore. It was some white, sterile, room. The pain in his leg was gone, but so was all the feeling. He could hear beeps and whirs of machines, and talking, a lot of talking. Before him was the face of a bearded, smiling man, relief flowed through Drew. It wasn’t that face. It was soft, lined with age. It was the face of somewhere here to help.
“Dre-Drew! Drew are you alright?” His mother’s voice. He could see that she was in the corner of the room being held by Drew’s father.
The man leaning over him looked up. “Mrs. Jenkins, Mrs. Jenkins please, he’s been through a lot. Let’s allow him to have some rest.”
“No its o- aghh- its okay.” Drew tried, and failed, to move. He felt a hand steady him.
“Mr. Jenkins, Drew you can talk but please don’t try to move your leg. You’re under some pretty heavy relaxants right now; I don’t want you falling out of bed.” Drew lay back, sighing.
“You saved my son’s life Doctor; You’ve done something that I- I can’t…” It was Drew’s father, his voice breaking. Drew felt tears.
“Please, Sir, don’t thank me. I… I’m just glad to see such a happy family together.” He moved toward the door, “I’ll give you all some time alone. Maybe I can talk Sidell into moving him to a real hospital soon.” Drew heard a door close and felt his parents moving closer to him.
“How’re you doing, Son?” asked his Father.
“Awesome,” Drew said.
His Father rolled his eyes. “You’re still our Drew.”
His Mother sat down on the end of his bed. “We’re going to stay right here with you sweetie, don’t you worry.” Drew felt the hand that tucked him in bed every night touch his forehead. “Don’t you worry.”
“How long have I been out?”
“A couple of hours. Dr. Meinstien saved you.”
Drew tried to look around the room. “This isn’t a hospital right? Where is this?”
“This is the Patriot Robotics Building,” said Drew’s father, “Dr. Mienstien brought you here first since it wasn’t too far away. They have their own medical facilities, but he still insists on transferring you to a hospital soon.”
The door opened and the Doctor came back in. “I’m sorry, but Sidell’s insistent on talking to Drew about what happened. I told him it was entirely up to you Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins.”
Drew’s father looked at him. “What do you think, Drew?”
Drew felt a slithering run through his stomach at the thought. But if anything he could say would lead to that monster getting what he deserved. “I’ll talk to him,” he said.
The doctor nodded and stuck his head out the door. “Colonel Sidell, he wants to talk to you.”
A man in uniform entered the room. Drew assumed this was Sidell. He was followed by a relaxed looking man in a casual outfit. “Thanks Meinstien, glad to hear it,” said Sidell.
“Just be careful with him Colonel.” He stopped on his way out next to other man. “Oh dear lord. It’s Dr. Flint isn’t it? Hah, didn’t see you out there. How’ve you been?” Flint’s mouth twitched as the two shook hands.
“Dr. Mienstien, pleasure to see you again.”
“Haven’t seen you since Flint Industries lost the military contract. Getting pulled away from your own company can do that.” Doctor Mienstien chuckled, “But at least you got on with SPB Affairs. Don’t worry; national defense is in good hands with us.” Slapping Flint on the back, Mienstien walked out.
Flint shook himself and turned back to the Jenkins’s. “My name is Dr. Flint. I’m the scientific advisor for UN Super Powered Beings’ Affairs. This is Colonel John Sidell, the director of SPB Affairs.”
Sidell stepped forward. “Mr. Jenkins, your son is quite the hero.”
Despite himself, Drew began laughing. “Seriously all I did was scream. Like, a lot.”
“You helped us catch Red Jack, Drew, I can’t tell you how important that is.”
“Does that mean I get a medal?”
Sidell smirked. “Not quite, but I do have some good news for you and your parents. Red Jack worked his way up America’s ‘Most Wanted’ pretty quickly. The man had money on his head. Four hundred thousand dollars to be exact. Technically Doctor Mienstien was the one to bring him in, but he’s already deferred the reward – to you Mr. Jenkins.”
Drew shot up out of bed. “Wha-what?”
“I’ve already informed your parents.” Sidell nodded towards them. “But I wanted to let you know, maybe make your recuperation a bit easier. You’ll be out of commission while your leg heals. Jack’s knife… well, it did a number.”
“They‘ve got a good medical staff here at Patriot but technically they’re not a real hospital. We’ll be moving you out as soon as you’re ready.”
“Doctor Mienstien’s been so kind already,” said Drew’s Mother. “If we don’t see him again let him know how grateful we are.”
“I’ll say!” Somehow, four hundred thousand dollars made Drew feel a lot better. “I know what I’m doing as soon as I get hom-“
“Yes,” said his Mother, softly patting him on the head. “You’re putting that money away for college.” He should’ve known his mother was going to pull something like that.
Sidell straightened himself. “There’s another matter to deal with as well…”
“John, wait.” Flint put a hand on Sidell’s shoulder. “We’ll get to that later.” The two began whispering; Flint threw his arms up and walked out of the room. Sidell stared at Drew, he felt like something was snaking his way through him. His parents presence came closer. Whatever this was, it was new to them as well.
“Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, Drew, Dr. Meinstein did a few tests because of the knife that penetrated your leg. He, well, he discovered an anomaly in your DNA.”
The Jenkins family was silent.
“We… have reason to think that Drew may be an SPB.”
“Red Jack – Apprehended!” The anchor’s plastered smile seemed more genuine than usual today. “Early this afternoon, one of America’s most wanted SPB threats was finally brought into custody after a three year killing spree.”
Leaning over the television, Magnus Loder’s eyes narrowed as he waited to hear who brought the man in. Magnus was the heir to the Lodestone dynasty, a title with a long record of service. A Lodestone was on every Vindicators team, even before the Flint Report exposed SPB’s to the world. One day, Magnus would be Lodestone. He would take his place at the Vindicators’ table and bear the responsibility of the title. You had to be respected to be Lodestone. Magnus was only 16 and to him, it was a perfect time to make a name for himself. It was a time to take down somebody like Red Jack…
“The press conference announcing just who was responsible for Marrison’s arrest is about to start, we will take you to it live as it happens.”
“Ugh, c’mon don’t keep us in suspense. Hey ‘Don are you watching this?” Magnus looked over. His friend was seated across the living room quietly reading a book. At least he was pretending he was. Magnus noticed his eyes darting to the screen. He had to look away, feeling a crawling sense of pity and anger.
Adonis Skraag had every reason to want to watch. Adonis was living with the Loders over break because right now, he had no other home. He was the only one who walked out of the ruin of what had been his home. Arson was the only explanation; Red Jack to this day was the primary suspect. Magnus couldn’t understand why Adonis was so cool about it all. He never mentioned it, barely acknowledged it when someone brought it up. Not even to Magnus, the two of them had grown up together. But apparently even he could not break his friend’s barriers. Their fathers had worked together closely, one as an activist defense attorney and the other as a Vindicator. Arthur Skraag and Jacob Loder were a feared team, credited with greatly furthering Neo-Sapiens rights and awareness in America. When Arthur and his wife Denise died, the SPB community received a wound it had yet to recover from.
Magnus was taken out of his thoughts by the anchor speaking up again. “-bringing you live in front of New York city hall. Colonel John Sidell is about to make a statement.”
Sidell was leaning on a large podium looking like he’d just won every medal at the Olympics. “Alright ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing this quick and easy.” The clamor of the press surrounding the podium began immediately. Sidell reached behind the podium. With blinding speed an object slammed down into it with a cacophony of screeching feedback and crackling wood, it looked a lot like a crowbar. The crowd died down instantly. Sidell put the weapon back behind the podium, moving with it like it was part of his body. “Hah, love doing that. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was saying that we were going to do this quick and easy. So here it is: Red Jack is indeed in our custody. We’ll be shipping him off to Alcatraz Island soon. Details as to how he was apprehended have been sketchy up to this point, but with everything finalized I can reveal some of the elements. First off, I’d like to thank the young man directly responsible for his capture. Mr. Drew Jenkins.”
“Who?” Magnus asked, leaning closer into the television.
The picture of a boy appeared on the left hand side of the screen. He probably wasn’t more than thirteen or fourteen years old. Magnus felt revulsion flood into his stomach. “This? This is what captured Jack? Seriously? Look at this ‘Don, this is just ridiculous!”
Adonis shook his head and kept reading.
“Mr. Jenkins is quite the hero. He was confronted by Red Jack and didn’t back down. We all have a lot to thank him for.” Sidell bowed his head, silent as the crowd cheered for Drew. Magnus felt his jaw tightening as he watched them. This kid, this little brat barely out of his diapers had taken down one of America’s most dangerous criminals. Countless experts spending years on the Red Jack case had just been shown up by a tit-sucking pre-teen. Magnus could feel his fists shaking as he watched the relieved faces of the crowd. Sure, they were grateful, but it was just a lucky break. They should be thanking the Vindicators, the ones who kept them safe from threats even worse than Jack every single day. Magnus flipped the television off, he didn’t hear to any more of that. “I need to talk to Dad, there has to be another explanation for this. I am not buying it that some… some kid did all this.”
“Why is it bothering you so much, Mag?” Adonis had put the book down, staring at his friend. “Isn’t it enough that it’s all finally over?”
The tone of Adonis’s voice, the earnestness of his stare, Magnus suddenly felt that his friend was right. “Ye-yeah ‘Don, it makes sense when you pu-“ he stopped, realizing what was happened. “Wait, you’re pulling one of your little tricks on me aren’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t screw with me ‘Don.”
Adonis smiled, shrugging. “You know me pretty well I guess, Mag. Okay. You can stop thinking like that.”
Magnus felt his mind returning to normal. “Don’t do that again okay? Your powers don’t suck; I’ll say it as many times as I need to so you can stop trying to prove it to me.”
“Mm, that’s not good enough. How do I know I’m not making you say that with all my mystic powers?”
“Ugh, maybe it’s because I’m not trying to make out with you, or whatever it is you do with that little gift of yours. I know you can do a lot more beyond going ‘Man, I get what you’re going through’ in a really, really convincing voice.”
“Yeah, I certainly can. On the other hand I can’t toss trucks around, like somebody I know.”
“That’s right.” Magnus pumped his arm. “You get to do stuff like that when you’re the Lodestone.”
Adonis got up and walked over to the fridge to refill his soda. “Not the Lodestone right now though are ya?”
Magnus frowned at the clock, it was getting late and his parents were still gone. “Hey, see what time it is?”
“Glad you finally noticed. You’ve been freaking out about that kid on TV so much I thought you might’ve neglected the real Lodestone being gone so long.”
“Ugh, think he’s helping wrap up the Red Jack stuff?”
“Sidell’s in the thick of it, so yeah, probably.”
Magnus sat back, gazing into the black screen in front of him. If his parents weren’t home in the next half hour, he’d have to go looking for them. They were the ones who wanted him calling every half-hour whenever he was out, they wouldn’t just disappear like that…
As the report of Red Jack’s arrest came over the evening news, Alexander Sway couldn’t help but smile. He felt a weight lifted. Lex noticed the fear, the way people walked, closed up in themselves as they passed him. People like Red Jack caused that fear. Jack was off the streets now, one less thing to fear. It was that knowledge that fired Lex’s soul. He picked up the phone and dialed the number of Jacqueline, or Jacque as he called her, his longtime girlfriend.
“Hey Jacque, you see the news?”
Lex heard Jacque giggle. “Uhuh, that Rift tour coming through town looks awesome; we should totally go to it.
Lex rolled his eyes. “…Right Jacque, right.”
“Yeah, I’m happy about Red Jack being put away too.”
“I think we should go celebrate, wanna get some dinner?”
She sighed; the sigh reserved for Lex alone. “Only you Lex. Sure, I’m always up for celebrating.”
“I’ll pick you up in a half hour.”
“Don’t be late, Mr. Hero-of-the-people.”
Lex got ready and headed out the door. He stopped, thinking that he should leave a note for his father when he got home. He just kept going, his father wouldn’t even notice he was gone.
Soon Lex was sitting with Jacque on the bus. Jacque looked up at him. “Okay, so where are we going?”
“Hey now, if I told you it wouldn’t be as fun.”
“Now I’m really curious…”
As she spoke, the bus began to slow down. Lex stood, nodding toward the doors. “Here’s where we get off.”
“Alrighty.” Jacque got up and squeezed through the crowd. She dropped to the curb; Lex was staring at the building in front of them. “So where’s- oh… wow.”
Towering before them was a building covered in lights, its brickwork shone in the streetlights. An elegantly dressed man stood before the velvety doors. Golden letters the declared its name to passersby: the Symposium.
“Thi- this is where we’re going? Lex this is just too expensi-“
“Hey hey hey, don’t worry about it. I’ve been saving up to take you to someplace really special.”
Jacque looked down at her blue jeans. “I’m not dressed right at all.”
“You’re never dressed right, goofy.” Lex grinned and put an arm around her. “They aren’t going to even notice, they’ll take one look at us and go ‘Wow, how’d that guy land such a hottie? I wish I was him!’ C’mon lets go show ‘em what we got.” Lex was getting the feeling that he may have just won quite a few points with his girl. He stepped forward to open the door for her. In an instant the gleeful sounds of New York’s elite flooded out into the street. They were standing at the entrance to a whole new world. Lex took Jacque’s hand and the two went inside.
The massive foyer was held up by columns that seemed to stretch on forever; chandeliers were reflected clearly in the sunken floor as people danced across it. They all were swept up in a dream, the music stole troubles away. To many in the upper crust of New York, the Symposium was the closest thing to heaven they might ever see.
“Greetings to you, young people.” A man in a tuxedo bowed. “Shall you be dancing this evening, or dining?”
“Both?” said Lex.
Jacque put a hand on Lex’s arm. “How about we just eat tonight?”
“Whatever madam wants.”
The man ushered them to an elevator that took them to the second floor. The music from below was just a tiny rumbling up here. They walked into the dining hall; conversations taking place at the many tables throughout the room mingled together. After some seating negotiations, a waiter led them to a corner table and went off to get drinks. “Non alcoholic I’m afraid, my young friends.”
“Hey,” said Lex “there are some other casual diners over there.” He pointed to a pair talking to the man who had brought them up. Their t-shirts and jeans were losing the battle against all the dresses, suits, and ties. One, by far the larger, was pointing at a staircase. The other stood against the wall, hands in his pockets. A face, probably seen more by the local health inspector, was all the usher offered them in return. Lex noted the man’s clenched fists and his muscles tightened instinctively, ready for trouble.
“I uh, don’t think they’re here for dinner.” As Jacque spoke, the man seated at the table near them got up and waved a hand to the usher. Unlike the new pair, he was dressed more for a night at the opera, his elegantly parted hair matched his dark skin perfectly.
“Excuse me; my associates are here to see me. Apologies for the trouble.” The usher relaxed. Lex thought that the tone of his voice had more to do with it than what he actually said.
Jacque’s mouth dropped, “Lex, that’s Bo Vidae.”
Lex nodded, sipping his drink. “Bo Vidae… Oh yeah, that lawyer.” It didn’t matter who he was, Lex was still keeping an eye on things.
”Yeah, this is just the sort of place he’d come to don’t you think?”
Jacque sighed, “Lex, c’mon, let somebody else do the watchdog thing for a night okay?”
He forced himself to take his eyes off the group. Jacque was right, tonight was more important. Somebody else could take care of saving the world for now.
“I wonder what Vidae’s hounds have dug up for him.” The pair seated at the other side of Lex and Jacque were also watching. The man’s beard formed a frown as Vidae put a microtape in his pocket and returned to his own table.
The other man at their table waved at the attorney before turning to his colleague. “I wouldn’t worry doctor. Let’s just enjoy the evening. We can talk about Patriot’s latest project perhaps?” His southern drawl was fit for a preacher; it practically flowed with milk and honey.
‘The doctor’ leaned forward. “Not here, Bedford.”
Patriot, Bedford, those two names didn’t quite go together in Lex’s head. The only Patriot he knew of was Patriot Robotics, a defense contractor working with the US Military. This doctor was probably Noah Meinstien, CEO. Bedford on the other hand, that was a different story. F. Nathan Bedford was a controversial figure in the political world, his wife Amy was currently running for Senate under the banner of greater regulation of SPBs. Threats like Red Jack helped to convince people to flock to their movement. Unlike a lot of his friends at the academy, Lex wasn’t ready to completely dismiss the Bedford’s views.
“The wheels are turning Lex, I can see it,” said a frowning Jacque.
“Sorry, sorry. Hey let’s get the waiter over here so we can order, okay?”
Just what was it Meinstien didn’t want to talk about here?
Lex was seeing Jacque home. The food, the atmosphere, it came together for a great evening. They probably wouldn’t see each other again before school started; Lex’s summer schedule had barely allowed him just one evening. He took her up to the front door, she kissed him. “Hang in there Mr. Hero.”
“Yeah,” Lex took her into his arms. “I know. I’ll see you in soon, okay?”
She nodded, smiled, and was gone.
He walked down the street, memorizing her smile. The thought of seeing that smile again would get him through the rest of break. He turned a corner, his watch told him it was getting late and he had an early day at mall security ahead of him.
Pain rushed through him as his head thudded against the pavement, coughing out the coppery taste in his mouth. On instinct he threw a punch, but there was nothing there to hit. Pulling himself up, he looked around; his attacker vanished. He could feel the blood pumping, he was under attack, and whoever it was still was out there, somewhere.
To be continued... wrote:Lex fights his archenemy, Drew finds himself in a whole new world, Magnus has a lot of growing up to do.
There is no reason at all for my panzer tank to be equipped with stained glass windows.