The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 24

Not sure what to do, the bartender at Eight Ball’s looked nervously from Nathan to Elizabeth.

“Look, Jacob,” Nathan said. “May I call you Jacob?”

“My name’s Bam Bam,” the bartender growled.

“Jacob, I don’t want any trouble. I j—.”

Nathan suddenly stopped and asked,

“Bam Bam? Really?”

The bartender responded with a scowl, keeping his eyes fixed on Elizabeth as she picked up a knife off the bar, slowly bent the blade into a circle, dropped it then checked her nails.

“Look, Jacob, what I need is a package left here by Daniel Lincoln. I know he frequented this place,” Nathan insisted.

When the bartender didn’t budge, Nathan sighed,

“C’mon, Jacob. His name is scribbled by the dartboard on the list of scores to beat, and the initials DL are carved into this bar right there,” Nathan said pointing. “Besides, you have his picture on the wall behind you with ‘Pay first. No credit’ written across it.”

Then he leaned over and whispered,

“Listen, Jacob. Daniel’s dead. Somebody blew him up, and the package you’re hiding for him might give me a clue as to who killed him.”

“Lincoln’s dead?” Jacob asked.

Nathan held up both fists then expanded his fingers while mouthing the word boom.

“Hey!” someone yelled from across the bar.

Nathan slowly turned to see a giant of a man standing well over six feet, his arms like tree branches as he flexed his thick muscles. Shoving aside the bar patrons in his path, he slowly made his way through the crowd and stopped just short of the bar.

“Meta or not, no one comes into my bar and throws my boys around,” he barked.

“And who are you?” Elizabeth asked.

“Let me introduce you to Hank,” Nathan explained, “or as his friends call him, Jackal. He owns this place.”

“That’s right, pal, and no two-bit supers are going to come in here and threaten me or my boys. We don’t bend to The Shadows, and we won’t bend to you,” Hank asserted.

“Now this should be fun,” Elizabeth smiled. “I skipped the gym this morning, so I’ve been looking for something to balance that out.”

“You may be tough, lady, but you ain’t bulletproof!” Hank sneered.

“Let’s go,” Elizabeth challenged, taking a step forward.

“Wait,” Nathan said, reaching out to stop Elizabeth.

“What?” Elizabeth asked.

“Our buddy Hank is right. You’re not bulletproof,” Nathan pointed out.

“What?” Elizabeth asked in surprise.

Just then front doors swung open and Jericho stepped in.

“But he is,” Nathan smiled.

Suddenly the bar went quiet and Hank took a step back as Jericho walked through the crowd to Nathan and Elizabeth.

“What are you doing here?” Elizabeth asked him.

“He’s been tracking us,” Nathan said.

Outraged, Elizabeth snapped, “What?”

“Now don’t be upset, Elizabeth. I know Nathan can be a bad influence on you,” Jericho teased.

Then he turned to face Hank. Although Hank stood a full three inches taller than Jericho, he slowly backed down.

“They attacked two of my patrons,” Hank said, his voice a bit softer.

“Well I’m sure they didn’t want to, and I’m certain they’re sorry,” Jericho said.

Turning to Nathan and Elizabeth, Jericho asked, “Aren’t you?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, paused then nodded reluctantly.

“See? No problem,” Jericho said.

Nathan turned back around to Jacob and asked,

“Now, Jacob, what about that package?”

Without a word, Jacob left the bar and disappeared into a back room.

“It’s a good thing my meeting with the mayor ended early. What are you two doing here in Sandy Grotto anyway?” asked Jericho.

“The victim Daniel Lincoln lived just up the street from here,” Nathan said.

“And you’re investigating his murder alongside the police?” Jericho asked.

“Sure we are,” Nathan answered, turning away from Jericho.

“Nathan, what’s going on? I don’t mind helping out, but I don’t like getting involved with a murder investigation outside police jurisdiction.”

“Oh we’re not,” Elizabeth assured him. “Detective Shields knows we’re involved.”

Jericho’s eyes grew wide as he asked,

“Cassandra’s involved in this?”

Then he paused and relaxed.

“Well if she knows, I guess you’re okay.”

Jericho turned away trying to hide the blush that crept up his cheeks.

Before Nathan could make any snide remarks, the door behind the bar opened and Jacob came out carrying a thick envelope.

When he dropped it on the bar, he said,

“Daniel told me to hold onto this in case anything happened to him. Look, he was a good guy and we all want whoever killed him to pay.”

Inside the envelope, Nathan found photos of an older man with a younger woman. Pulling some of the pictures free, he spread them out onto the bar.

“Any idea who these people are?” Elizabeth asked.

“Nope,” Jericho said.

Nathan studied the pictures for a moment then said,

“The man is Martin Armstrong, chairman of the board for Pearson Plasma Technologies. The girl is Jessica Alexander, an engineering student at Crescent Bay University.”

The photos seemed innocent enough until Nathan emptied out the rest of the envelope’s contents and saw shots of Armstrong and Alexander in a nightclub, embracing at their table, kissing on the dance floor.

“Armstrong is married but not to Alexander,” Nathan explained.

“You think Lincoln was blackmailing Armstrong and got killed for it?” Elizabeth suggested.

“Good chance,” Jericho replied.

Stuffing the photos back into the envelope, Nathan said,

“We’ll have to question Armstrong and find out.”

“No you won’t,” a voice behind them said.

Turning toward the doorway, Nathan saw Graham Prescott followed by four men. He wore the same dark blue suit from earlier in the day.

“Did I not tell you to stay out of this?” Prescott asked.

“Technically, you threatened me,” Nathan replied.

“You say potato; I say tomato. Point is, you’re still involved. Now I’ve got to rectify that,” Prescott said as he unbuttoned his jacket.

“None of you are cops, so get out, every one of you,” Hank demanded. “I’m not having any metas throwing down in here, messing up my bar. Get out!”

Suddenly a shot rang out and Hank fell backwards dead. Prescott returned the pistol to one of his men then retrieved his cane.

“I wasn’t asking his opinion. Does anyone else here wish to share their thoughts?”

“You’re going to pay for that,” Jericho said, stomping forward.

Slowly, Prescott turned sideways, flipped his cane upside down, and held it like a golf club. When Jericho drew closer, Prescott swung the cane up. As it made contact with Jericho, a flash of blue energy shot out, sending Jericho flying backwards, crashing through the back wall.

Then with a flip of his wrist, Prescott turned the cane right side up and suggested to the crowd,

“Unless you want to die, I’d leave if I were you.”

As bikers stumbled over each other scrambling for the exit, Prescott’s men poured into Eight Ball’s.

“Do what you want with the girl,” Prescott told his men. “Makes no difference to me.”

Then looking towards Nathan he said,

“Since the king’s off limits, I guess I’ll have to settle for the Prophet.”

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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 23

Daniel Lincoln had leased an apartment on the fourth floor of Medallion Heights, a rundown building in the low rent part of Sandy Grotto.  Nathan maneuvered his bike around the potholes and pulled to a stop. Trash piled up in the alleys outside the long neglected and overlooked buildings. It was a place of gray despair. Nathan let his eyes wander over the boarded up broken windows, graffiti, and filth of Medallion Heights. This was what Lincoln had called home.

Sandy Grotto was an island just off the coast of Crescent Bay. The poor part of town, it was a thorn in the side of Crescent Bay’s city fathers, one they would like to remove, especially the wealthy who lived in Blackstone, the jewel in the city’s crown. To that end, the small, humble housing for low-income residents was gradually being converted to upscale lofts for young professionals, housing far beyond the reach of the poor.

Nathan heard the sound of children and turned to see three kids playing ball in the grass of an empty lot while another child played alone, chasing a plastic bag that danced through the air just out of her reach. Watching Nathan were three men sitting on the steps leading into Medallion Heights. They wore matching colors, the uniform of The Shadows, and Nathan had dropped himself right into their territory. One of them stood, the leader Nathan figured, and started walking toward the bike, followed by the other two men. His head was cocked to one side, and he wore an arrogant smile.

“Marco Collazo,” Nathan thought. “Overcompensates for his lack of esteem. Afraid of the dark and snakes.”

“Nice bike. You lost?” Collazo asked.

Just then Elizabeth landed behind Nathan with a thud. When she kept her wings extended, the men hesitated and stepped back.

“Is there a problem?” Elizabeth asked.

“Not anymore, chica,” Collazo said. “You know who I am?”

“Should I?” Elizabeth returned.

“Mr. Collazo, I need your help,” Nathan interrupted. “I want to take a look inside the apartment of one of the tenants, Daniel Lincoln.”

“Why would I help you?” Collazo asked. “What’s in it for me?”

“I know who keeps breaking into your mom’s house,” Nathan said.

Collazo went white with rage and took a step toward Nathan.

“You?” Collazo demanded.

“No, not me. But I can give you the name of the guy. And if that isn’t enough, I can always inform Shadow Leader why your crew came up short two weeks ago,” Nathan explained.

“You threatening me?” Collazo barked.

“Nope. I don’t threaten. . .,” Nathan paused to point to Elizabeth.

“She does.”

Taking Nathan’s cue, Elizabeth walked over and picked up a discarded water pipe then bent it into a circle. She held it up for a moment, bent it back to its original shape then tossed it aside.

Collazo’s eyes grew wide with amazement.

 

Nathan slipped his hand into his pocket and removed a small notepad. He scribbled something then tore the sheet free.

“I need for you to run interference for me while I check out Lincoln’s apartment. Here is the name of the individual who has broken into your mother’s place twice. He’s caused people a lot of pain, and in two days he’s going to murder someone. Don’t be gentle.”

Nathan handed the paper to Collazo then stepped around him.

As he watched Elizabeth walk away with Nathan, one of Collazo’s associates said,

“Esa chica está bien, pero ella es peligrosa.”

The other man smiled, “Estoy enamorado”

As they stepped inside the shabby lobby of Medallion Heights, closing the door behind them, Elizabeth asked,

“They’re with The Shadows?”

“Yep,” Nathan replied. Sensing her next question, he added, “The Shadows don’t discriminate based on race, nationality, gender or even living status. Anyone can join.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth said. “Wait! What?”

“Julian Sharpe, or Shadow Leader, is a meta with the ability to summon and control the dead. He formed the gang and because he can manipulate shadows, his gang took the name The Shadows and he became known as Shadow Leader.”

Nathan and Elizabeth walked up four flights to Lincoln’s apartment. Trying the door, he found it was locked.

“The manager has a spare key. Let me go find him. I’ll be right back.”

“You certain it’s locked?” Elizabeth asked, hitting the door with her open palm. Under the force, the lock splintered and the door swung open.

“Oh look,” Elizabeth said coyly. “It’s unlocked.”

“That’s against the rules,” Nathan chided.

“What rules? I didn’t sign any special employment contract. I can do whatever I want,” Elizabeth said, sashaying into the apartment.

Lincoln’s place had a musty smell. In several spots, the wallpaper was peeling, exposing patches of mildew from leaky pipes in the walls. The carpet, once a plush rich tan, was now flattened by years of footsteps and covered with brown and black stains. Opposite the door sat an old couch, its bright, vibrant colors faded into dull weary reminders scattered across the torn fabric and misshapen cushions.

The moment he walked through the door, Nathan was flooded with the apartment’s secrets down through the years.

Lincoln’s sister had slept on the couch during a bad snowstorm that kept her from flying home after her visit. It was the same couch where Lincoln suffered a bad reaction to drugs bought from money he’d stolen from his sister’s purse. At his feet, Nathan could feel the memory of the wet carpet from the many times Lincoln had walked home in a rainstorm drunk and crashed to sleep off hangovers. One large window to the right of the couch was stained brown from the mud and paint that had been thrown at it during a riot that took place years ago.

Nathan closed his eyes and concentrated on blocking out the flood of foul memories.

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked.

“I will be,” Nathan responded.

“This place is absolutely filthy!” Elizabeth said, curling her lip in disgust.

“You have no idea how filthy,” Nathan said as another memory made him gag.

“Any idea where Lincoln would keep his blackmail file?” Elizabeth asked.

“None. If I open my mind, I’ll be inundated with every revolting thing that happened here, so let’s try doing this the old fashioned way,” Nathan insisted.

“Okay. We can start by looking around,” Elizabeth suggested.

“Right. Just be careful not to touch anything. The cops haven’t searched this place yet,” Nathan advised.

“Of course,” Elizabeth replied.

After searching for five minutes, Elizabeth called out from the bedroom,

“You find anything?”

“No blackmail file but a lot more than I wanted to know,” Nathan frowned.

Joining Nathan in the living room, she saw him looking intently at something out the window.

“What are you looking at?” she asked, coming alongside him.

“That bar across the street with graffiti and bars on the windows. Coltrane’s. Looks like it might be the watering hole for the locals.”

“Can we go now? I don’t think Lincoln ever cleaned up! This place is littered with trash and matchbooks from some bar called Eight Ball’s.”

Nathan turned away from the window and looked at Elizabeth.

“What was the name of the bar?” he asked.

“Eight Ball’s,” Elizabeth repeated. “Why? Is that important?”

Nathan took a second look at Coltrane’s and said,

“Let’s go find this bar Eight Ball’s. See what it has to offer in the way of information. What’s the address?”

 

 

*          *          *

 

Eight Ball’s turned out to be a biker bar less than five miles down the street from Lincoln’s apartment. Out front, motorcycles were lined up like horses outside a saloon. Nathan got a few side-glances while Elizabeth was welcomed by a chorus of catcalls.

The wood porch thumped under the weight of Nathan’s boots. When they stepped inside the bar, they were hit with thick smoke, suspicious glares, and excessively loud music.

Elizabeth followed Nathan as he headed over to the bar. The bartender, a short man sporting a Mohawk, stopped wiping a glass long enough to ask,

“What’ll it be?”

“I’m looking for information a friend of mine may have left here. His name’s Daniel Lincoln.”

“I might be able to help you,” a man’s voice said behind them.

He walked straight to Elizabeth, winked at her, and said,

“Name’s Gordon, little lady. What’s your name?”

“Just tell me what you know,” Elizabeth ordered.

“Not here,” Gordon said. “Follow me.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Nathan advised.

“I’ll be fine,” Elizabeth assured him.

As they walked away, Nathan said,

“I was talking to him.”

“What’s keeping me from having you thrown out?” the bartender asked.

“Wait a minute and you’ll see,” Nathan said.

A few moments after Elizabeth disappeared into a back room with Gordon, there was a loud thump and the door splintered as Gordon crashed through it, flew across the bar and smashed through a window. Elizabeth stepped out of the room, brushing herself off. The bar patrons quickly backed up as she walked over to Nathan.

“That’s why,” Nathan told the bartender.

Turning to Elizabeth, he asked, “Did he know anything?”

Elizabeth carefully smoothed her hair, returning loose strands to their place, then said,

“No, except where not to put his hands.”

“That was my boy!” one of the bikers growled as he stormed up to Elizabeth.

With one of her wings, she grabbed the man by his shirt, slammed his head into the bar and threw him backwards across the room.

When he crashed into the jukebox, the bar went silent.

“Sorry about your jukebox,” Nathan said nonchalantly. “Now what can you tell me about Daniel Lincoln?”

When the bartender hesitated, Elizabeth glared at him and Nathan asked,

“Please?”

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coming Up Next on “The Prophet of Starfall”

Nathan and Elizabeth confront a gang led by one of Crescent Bay’s meta villains.

Published in: on October 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 22

“A public spectacle?” Elizabeth repeated.

“Yes, Ms. Hayes. It has been proven that when meta humans get involved, the situation tends to escalate,” Prescott explained.

“What if I am unable to leave this alone? I tend to get singularly focused on things, almost to the point of obsession,” Nathan asked although he already knew the answer.

“Then my company will be forced to intercede on behalf of my client and his request to keep this investigation out of the public eye,” Prescott replied.

“Is that a threat?” Elizabeth asked as she stepped forward, her hand moving towards her pistol.

“No, no. If all goes as I hope, this will be the last time we speak. I’m simply giving you a word of advice. Your. . .,” Prescott paused searching for the words, “. . .red sky in the morning, if you will.”

“Pleasure,” he added before turning and walking to a waiting car.

“The nerve of that guy making threats!” Elizabeth growled.

Nathan paused and said, “Maybe he’s right.”

“What?” Elizabeth snapped. “You’re just going to roll over?”

“My interference could drastically affect the outcome of this investigation. Perhaps it would be wise just to go back home and leave this to the police,” Nathan suggested.

Elizabeth stared at Nathan for a moment then asked,

“You’re serious?”

“Yep,” Nathan replied. “Lately, I haven’t been feeling well, and maybe I’m just chasing ghosts. I think I need to go lie down. A nice long nap will do me good.”

For a moment, Elizabeth eyed Nathan suspiciously then said,

“All right. If that’s the way you want to go, I’ll leave you to it. But, listen. Jericho asked me to keep an eye on you, so let’s meet up later.”

“I’ll call you,” Nathan said.

Elizabeth spread her wings and shot into the air. When she was well out of sight, Nathan climbed aboard his motorcycle and headed for Crescent Bay University, home of the Fighting Stingray’s and the last place Daniel Lincoln was seen alive.

* * *

The campus of Crescent Bay University was buzzing with students, running to class or sprawled out under the spreading oaks in groups, talking and laughing. Near the corner where Nathan parked his bike, some beefy guys were throwing a football while a tall, lean man grilled up hamburgers.

Nathan stood still, taking it all in. The smell of the sizzling meat was enticing. He never had the chance to go to college, and from what he saw around him, he had really missed out.

“You look like you could use a beer,” the man cooking the meat said. He reached toward Nathan with a cold beer, water droplets slowly working their way down the metal.

“No, thank you,” Nathan said with a smile.

“What about you, Miss?” the man asked, offering the beverage to someone behind Nathan.

“Thanks, but no,” Elizabeth said as Nathan turned around to meet her eyes.

“Liar,” Elizabeth accused.

Nathan noticed that her gun belt was gone and her wings were tucked behind her.

“I wanted to speak with a psychologist about my insomnia,” Nathan lied.

“Can it, Nathan! You wanted me to go home where it was safe and. . . what? Do my nails? Truth is you’re far more fragile than I am, so if anyone needs to go home, it’s you!” Elizabeth argued.

“I’ll be fine,” Nathan said heading towards the main building.

“Fine?” Elizabeth asked, walking alongside him. “Compared to me, buddy, you’re a porcelain doll.”

As they crossed the campus, the guys with the football stopped the game to whistle at Elizabeth.

“I understand you ditched the gun belt because this is a university campus, but it’s going to be hard to blend in with you wearing that skintight body suit,” Nathan said.

“What? It reduces wind resistance,” Elizabeth explained. “It’s not my fault I look amazing in it.”

“Well at least I know they won’t be looking at me,” Nathan said.

Elizabeth couldn’t help but laugh.

* * *

Once inside the main building, Nathan didn’t hesitate. He walked past teachers and students as if he’d been there many times before. Turning left, he headed down a long hallway then paused just as a student came out of a classroom, his arms loaded with books.

“Excuse me,” the student said as he struggled to keep a grip on the small library he was carrying.

A few more turns and Nathan came to a door locked with a key pad. He punched in six digits, opened the door and turned on the lights. The large room was filled with sinks, workbenches, and garbage cans and had a wide drain in the floor. A shelf opposite the door held stacks of chemicals and beakers. Nathan stopped in the doorway and slowly looked around.

“Are we going in?” Elizabeth asked.

“No need,” Nathan said. “The police will be here soon, and I don’t want to disturb anything.”

“You think the killer was here?” Elizabeth asked.

Nathan closed his eyes for a moment then opened them.

“Nope. Just Lincoln and the other members of the custodial staff. One of them is having an affair with a teacher,” he said.

When Nathan flipped off the light, Elizabeth glanced over the darkened room then asked,

“In there? Yuck!”

She let the automatic door close and followed Nathan through the maze of hallways to the building’s front entrance.

Campus walking traffic was still heavy as people crossed the grounds from every direction. A group of students had settled down at one of the stone tables under an oak and was eating lunch. Suddenly a teacher approached the group and began scolding one of the students.

“What teacher is having the affair?” Elizabeth asked.

“That one,” Nathan said pointing to the angry teacher.

“Not only is she sleeping with Harris, one of the janitors, but she’s also having an affair with one of her students,” Nathan explained.

“Wow!” Elizabeth reacted.

“Imagine how her husband will feel when he finds out in two weeks,” Nathan sighed.

Elizabeth frowned and shook her head in sorrow as they walked back to the bike.

“What about we—.”

Nathan stopped when he realized Elizabeth was no longer beside him. He turned around and saw her a few yards back watching a group of students gathered in a circle.

Elizabeth was clenching and unclenching her fists as Nathan walked up.

“What is it?” he asked.

“That guy in the middle. He’s tormenting that student we saw in the hallway a few minutes ago, and everybody’s just standing around laughing.”

“It’s not our place to interfere,” Nathan pointed out as he tried to keep his mind focused on the mystery.

“Fine! I’ll just break him in half!” Elizabeth said.

“Wait,” Nathan advised, “I’ll handle it.”

He and Elizabeth walked over to the crowd. The young student’s books were strewn across the grass, and every time he picked up one of the books, the bully mocked him and knocked it out of his hands.

Nathan stood watching until the bully noticed him.

“What’s your problem?” the bully asked.

“Nothing, Trevor,” Nathan said.

“I know you?” Trevor asked.

Nathan shook his head no.

“Wait a minute. I know that guy,” one of Trevor’s friends said, pointing to Nathan. “He’s been on TV. And the chick with him, she’s one too.”

“Chick?” Elizabeth snapped and started towards them.

Nathan held up his hand, holding Elizabeth at bay.

“See now the lady here would very much like to snap you into pieces, but I told her you could be spoken to rationally, like an adult,” Nathan said. “Isn’t that right,. . .Bunny.”

Trevor froze and his skin went pale.

“Who told you about that name?” Trevor asked.

“No one. I just know a lot. Like what happened when you were doing squats in the gym, or what you’re deathly afraid of, or what show is your guilty pleasure.”

Nathan leaned in and whispered,

“Or why your uncle called you Bunny.”

Trevor’s face suddenly went from white panic to flush with anger.

He threw a wild punch at Nathan only to have Elizabeth catch his fist. Trevor winched in pain as Elizabeth slowly tightened her grip.

Nathan heard Trevor’s hand begin to crack and said,

“Now do me a favor. Leave Mr. Price here alone. Would you?”

Trevor nodded and cried out, “Okay. Okay”

When Elizabeth released his hand, Nathan advised,

“You really should take that hand to the hospital.”

As Trevor and his friends ran off and the crowd dissipated, Nathan turned to help Price collect his books.

“Thank you,” Price said.

“No problem, Ethan,” Nathan said.

“Maybe you should get a bag for those,” Elizabeth suggested.

“I will. I just can’t afford one right now,” Ethan explained.

“Ask Susan in your American Lit class. She’ll be more than willing to help you,” Nathan winked.

“Really?” Ethan asked with excitement.

“Really,” Nathan replied.

As they left behind the smiling boy, Elizabeth asked,

“Who’s Susan?”

“Susan Frost is a girl from Ethan’s high school who currently shares several classes with him. She’s been crazy about him for years, but he’s always thought she didn’t know he existed.”

“That’s nice,” Elizabeth said. “Good job, Nathan. Where to now?”

“Lincoln’s home,” Nathan replied.

Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 12:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 20

Thirty minutes later, the interview concluded and Brian and Bonnie went into a commercial break while Nathan and Jericho slipped out of the studio.

“I’ll be right back,” Nathan told Jericho as he headed for the bathroom.

While Nathan splashed cold water on his face, Jericho went outside to make a call.

The cool water helped revive his weary muscles and give him a bit of an energy boost. Grabbing a few paper towels, Nathan stepped out of the bathroom and looked around to find Jericho. As he patted his wet face with the coarse paper towels, Brian White walked over.

“Hey, man, thanks again for your help with my sister. That was amazing!”

When Brian extended his hand, Nathan gladly accepted it.

Having just seen Nathan exit the bathroom, Brian looked down at the wet handshake with an expression that tried to hide his disgust.

In a rare mischievous moment, Nathan took the opportunity and said,

“Oh sorry. Haven’t had a chance to wash my hands yet.”

As Nathan released Brian’s hand and walked away, drying the water off his hands, he imagined the look on Brian’s face and chuckled when he heard the bathroom door open behind him. Seeing Jericho outside on the phone, he headed for the exit, tossing the wad of paper towels in a waste receptacle.

When Nathan stepped outside, the warm breeze tousled his hair and lifted his spirits. For just a moment, he forgot about what he had seen in the latest vision.

“Today is the kind of day when family and friends should get together and cook out, play ball,” he thought.

Jericho saw the smile on Nathan’s face and asked,

“What’s so funny?”

“Oh nothing. I was just enjoying the weather,” Nathan said, crossing to his motorcycle.

“Hold up a minute,” Jericho called.

“What is it?” Nathan asked, looking back.

“I’m waiting for somebody,” Jericho explained. “How about you wait with me?”

Putting aside his thoughts of cookouts and ballgames, Nathan turned away from his bike, sat on the bench with Jericho and closed his eyes while they waited.

A few minutes later, Jericho saw the shadow of Elizabeth cast across the sidewalk as she flew in and landed. She was dressed in full gear, a yellow and black body suit, a gun belt, and a pair of tinted flight goggles.  As she walked over to Jericho, she lifted the goggles to her forehead and folded in her wings.

“Hi. What’s up?” Elizabeth asked. Then she added,

“How’s Nathan? He looks a bit rough.”

“He says he’s okay, but I’m not so sure. According to him, he hasn’t had a full night’s rest since he got here,” Jericho replied.

“Seriously?” Elizabeth exclaimed. “But that was four weeks ago. How is he even able to function?”

“I have no idea,” Jericho admitted. “That’s why I called you.”

Suddenly Nathan snapped awake with a snorting sound. After he blinked a few times to clear his eyes, he spotted Elizabeth.

“Hey, you. Good to see you up and about,” he smiled.

“Thanks. Are you feeling all right?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes ma’am,” he yawned.

Nathan stood, stretched his muscles, and wiped his weary eyes.

“May I go now?”

“You seem to be in a hurry,” Jericho pointed out. “What did you see back there in the studio?”

“What are you talking about?” Nathan asked.

“You know what I’m talking about. After the interview in there. I know you saw something, Nathan. You got that look. Your face goes blank and, I don’t know if you know this or not, but your eyes go white like all the color drains out. When I first saw it, to tell you the truth, it was a little creepy,” Jericho explained.

“Is that what that was?” Elizabeth asked.

Jericho nodded then asked again, “What’d you see?”

“Nothing,” Nathan lied.

“Please, Nathan, tell us what it was,” Elizabeth pressed.

“I saw Jericho in the park playing with puppies,” Nathan replied.

“Fine. Keep it to yourself,” Jericho said.

“Look I’ve got to meet with the mayor about clean up after the Thymatec incident. He wants to discuss options to prevent future robbery attempts. While I’m gone, Nathan, Elizabeth’s going to keep an eye on you.”

“She is?” Nathan asked.

“I am?” Elizabeth asked.

“If you don’t mind. It’s just until he can get some rest,” Jericho clarified.

“Cool,” Elizabeth said. “We had fun last time.”

“Got to go. You two be careful,” Jericho said as he left.

Elizabeth turned to Nathan and asked,

“So what’s up with the insomnia?”

“It’s nothing really,” Nathan said.

“Tell me or I’ll body slam you from a thousand feet,” Elizabeth demanded, hands on her hips.

Finally, Nathan relented.

“I can’t say too much. It’s just that every time I close my eyes, I only get a few minutes sleep before a vision of the future shocks me awake.”

“How bad is it?” Elizabeth asked. “Must be pretty bad to keep you awake.”

“I can’t say, Elizabeth. But believe me, it’s important. Save the world important.”

“How so?” Elizabeth pressed.

“Right now the future is undecided, and any hasty decision I make may change things for the worse,” Nathan said.

“Nathan, you can’t carry this burden by yourself,” Elizabeth protested.

“Hopefully, I won’t have to for long,” Nathan said.

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked.

Before Nathan could answer, they heard an explosion in the distance.

When Elizabeth whirled around to pinpoint the area, she heard Nathan’s motorcycle start up. She turned just in time to see him pull away.

With a deep sigh, she slipped the goggles over her eyes, spread her wings, and lifted into the air.

 

*          *          *

 

Elizabeth flew over the city toward the area of the explosion, following Nathan below as he masterfully maneuvered the motorcycle in and out of the stream of traffic. She couldn’t help but worry about him.

“I’m afraid this sleepless night business will eventually catch up to him,” she thought.

Up ahead she saw a billowing tower of black smoke and slowed her speed. They were right above the train yard where police were busy cordoning off the blast area and moving people back behind the yellow tape. Firetrucks screamed through the streets on their way to contain the blaze, and ambulances pulled up from every direction to tend to the wounded and dead.

Nathan parked the motorcycle a safe distance away and shut off the engine just as Elizabeth swooped down and landed beside him. Nathan figured that with her skill, she could probably land on a dime.

“You can’t end a discussion by driving away you know,” she scolded, removing her goggles.

“True, but right now, this is more important,” Nathan pointed out.

“What happened?” Elizabeth asked.

“Someone was murdered,” Nathan told her.

Moving through the crowd of gawkers, Nathan made his way up to the barricade tape and got the attention of the nearest police officer.

“I need to speak with Detective Shields.”

“No supers right now,” the officer said. “Not until Crime Scene has finished up.”

“She’ll want to speak to me,” Nathan assured him.

“And why is that?” the officer asked.

“The victim’s name is Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan said, “and he was murdered.”

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 19

A light wind swept away the clouds, and sunlight broke through as a flock of birds passed overhead. Sirens, gunfire, and cries of the wounded interlaced into an urban fugue. As Nathan fell backwards away from the building, he looked into the face of the man who murdered him, and time seemed to slow.

“When I first landed in Crescent Bay, the city of heroes in the universe of Starfall, everything felt like a wonderful dream. Fighting alongside my favorite heroes, saving lives, bringing evil doers to justice. Looking back, it sounds corny, but isn’t that how dreams seem when you wake up? Sadly, this dream turned into a nightmare, as clichéd as that sounds. Now here I am, after having single-handedly started a war, falling to my death, failing once again. If I’m right and this is all just a dream, I sure hope I wake up before I hit the ground!”

 

The Fall of Jericho

Previously

 

It was Monday, 6:00 a.m., and Jericho waited on a bench outside the WLIM radio station. In the studio, “Brian and Bonnie In the Morning” had just come on the air. The show was slotted for 6-10 every morning and featured Brian White and Bonnie Baxter. Today’s special guests were Crescent Bay’s heroes Jericho and the Prophet. In the days following the failed heist at Thymatec, reporters were scrambling to get an interview with Jericho who had once again saved the city. This hero was no glory hound, though, for he took every opportunity to remind people that the victory had been a team effort with exile alien soldier 4 21, Scorpio and the Prophet doing their part. In order to protect their identities, Jericho never referred to Elizabeth and Nathan by their real names. Nathan didn’t care if people knew his name, but things were different for Elizabeth. She had her father to think of. Whenever she wasn’t saving the day, she attended community events with him, wearing the leather band Lavinia that Ethan Evermore had given her to conceal her wings. Nathan had grown distant over the past weeks, disconnected as though he had bigger things on his mind. Jericho felt sorry for the weight Nathan carried, the burden of always knowing what was going to happen. He wondered how anyone could live like that.

Jericho shook the daydream away as Nathan pulled into the parking lot on his motorcycle. Wearing a new outfit, thanks to Elizabeth’s father, Nathan retied the laces on his sneakers, brushed some dirt from his jeans, and loosened the top button on the blue dress shirt. After adjusting his leather jacket, he slipped off the Yankees cap and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Morning,” he said with a smile as he walked up to Jericho.

Jericho noticed the stubble on Nathan’s chin and the bags under his eyes.

“Did you sleep last night? Man, you look drained.”

Nathan shook his head and said,

“Nope. Haven’t slept well in a while. That’s why I’m late. Come on. They must be waiting for us.”

“When is the last time you slept?” Jericho asked.

Without responding, Nathan walked up to the front door security pad, punched in the code, and opened the door when it clicked.

“How did you know the. . .,” Jericho began. “Never mind.”

Nathan stopped in the lobby and looked back at Jericho.

“Sorry,” he said. “Was I supposed to wait for them to buzz me in?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Jericho said. “When was the last time you slept?”

Nathan thought for a moment then asked,

“How long since I landed in the middle of the street?”

“Two weeks, give or take,” Jericho answered.

“About that long,” Nathan said.

He turned and started walking toward the confused and awestruck receptionist.

“That way?” Nathan asked, pointing past the receptionist to a closed studio door. “They don’t have a commercial break for another three minutes. I promise I’ll be quiet.”

The receptionist, a young girl with round apple face, just nodded without a word.

“It’s okay,” Jericho said, trailing behind Nathan. “He’s with me.”

Nathan opened the studio door and he and Jericho slipped inside. At a large desk in the center of the room, each wearing headphones and speaking into mics, sat the morning show hosts Brian White and Bonnie Baxter. They motioned for Nathan and Jericho to sit across from them and put on the earphones.

“Well everyone can officially be jealous of me,” Brian said. “Our city’s savior Jericho has just entered the studio with who I can only assume is the Prophet. Am I right?”

Jericho pulled the microphone in front of him closer and said,

“Yes, Brian. He is definitely the Prophet of Crescent Bay.”

“Wow!” Bonnie exclaimed.

Brian laughed and said,

“She’s sitting next to Jericho and gives you a wow. I’d say someone has a crush.”

Brian, the older of the radio hosts by a couple of years, exuded charm. He smiled even though no one could see him but the guests and director. Scratching his scraggly dark blonde beard, he looked at Bonnie for a retort.

“That’s not what I meant, Brian,” Bonnie laughed. “I’m just surprised that he’s sitting next to Jericho yet looks so unassuming.”

“Well, my director’s telling me it’s time for a commercial break, so I guess we’ll see you guys when we come back. This is Brian White,” Brian said.

“And Bonnie Baxter,” Bonnie responded.

“We’ll be right back with “Brian and Bonnie In the Morning” on WLIM 572.2 FM,” Brian finished.

When the director gave them the all clear, Brian and Bonnie removed their earphones and Brian said,

“Wow, guys! Thanks for coming!”

Just then, Brian felt his phone vibrate and excused himself to answer it.

“Hey, sis. I’m on the air right now. What’s wrong?”

While Brian continued his conversation, Bonnie looked at Nathan and asked,

“So what type of prophet are you? Can you see the future or are you more of the tarot cards and lucky numbers kind of psychic?”

“I can’t really see the future. I only see the immediate and certain future. Anything beyond that is still undecided. It’s kind of like when you’re driving through a fog, you can’t really see anything far ahead of you unless it’s something big,” Nathan explained.

“So you can see big events like natural disasters?” Bonnie asked.

“So far catastrophic events,” Nathan said.

“Cool!” Bonnie responded.

Brian reminded Nathan of an upbeat game show host whereas Bonnie seemed a serious, ambitious woman willing to work for what she wanted. A little one-dimensional though. Nathan thought them an odd pair for a radio show.

“Don’t let him fool you. He can also tell you almost anything about someone,” Jericho bragged.

“Really?” Bonnie asked.

“Yep,” Jericho said. “To tell you the truth, I was a little creeped out at first. But now? I just think it’s neat.”

“I can imagine,” Bonnie smiled.

Brian’s phone call drifted back in to the conversation.

“No, sis. I don’t know where your keys are,” he assured her. “Sorry, Janine, but I really don’t know.”

Nathan reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He slid it across the table to Brian and tapped it, indicating for him to open it.

“No, I’m not teasing. If I knew where they are, I would tell you,” he said, opening the note.

When he paused to read the note, he looked up at Nathan confused.

Nathan just nodded his head.

“Janine, listen. Try looking in the guest bedroom under the bed,” Brian instructed.

“I don’t why they’d be in there. Just look.”

After a few moments, Brian’s face showed an expression of surprise.

“Excellent! I’m glad you found them. No, Janine. I didn’t hide them there,” he sighed.

As Brian tried to end the call, Bonnie’s face lit up.

“Amazing!” she said.

“Told you,” Jericho said, reaching out and slapping Nathan on the back.

The second Jericho’s hand touched Nathan’s back, his vision went white.

 

*          *          *

 

It was a bright sunny day with dense beautiful clouds floating across the blue sky. Balloons of every color filled the air at Sapphire City Park. On the ground, people who had come to celebrate Crescent Bay’s Founder’s Day Picnic were screaming in panic, running in every direction. Police officers had surrounded a man standing on the park’s small stone bridge. He wore a large, polished breastplate with an elaborate bomb fused to it, far more sophisticated than a typical explosive made with C4. As the digital time on the bomb ticked down from 5, the man looked up with tears in his eyes. It was Jericho.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

The bomb exploded, jerking Nathan back to the studio.

Brian and Bonnie looked confused and a little uneasy. Jericho moved his hand from Nathan’s back and looked into his eyes with concern.

“Are you okay, buddy?”

Nathan, struggling to make sense of what he had seen, murmured,

“No. No I’m not.”

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 18

It was about 8 o’clock in the morning when Ryan Hayes left the hospital. He would let Nathan into Elisabeth’s penthouse in Sandy Grotto then grab some of his daughter’s things before heading back to the hospital. The doctor had said she was on the mend, but right now she needed her dad.

“I know it’s a bit much,” Hayes said as he opened the penthouse door, “but it’s my little girl’s first place of her own. I admit I spoil her, but what can I say? She’s all I have left.”

When Hayes turned on the lights, Nathan was stunned. The place was amazing, better than anything he could have imagined.

“Polished wood floors in the living room, carpet in the bedrooms, and marble tile in the kitchen and bathrooms,” Hayes announced. “At 3400 square feet, my girl’s got lots of room. If she had asked, I’d probably have bought two. The main bedroom is Elisabeth’s, but there are two spare bedrooms. Choose whichever one you want. I have groceries delivered, and a cleaning service comes in every two weeks.”

“Impressive,” Nathan complimented.

“Oh let me show you this,” Hayes beamed.

Hayes hurried over to a large set of double glass doors, unlocked them, and pulled them open. A massive balcony looked out over the lake.

“It cost me a little more than I had planned, but an unobstructed view of Sapphire Lake was a must.”

Hayes turned to Nathan and asked, “Did you know that the people who settled Crescent Bay came up with the name Sapphire Lake because the water is as blue as a sapphire?”

“I did not know that,” Nathan said. “It is blue, isn’t it!”

“It is! Anyway, I’m talking your ear off. I’m going to throw a few things in a suitcase and get back to Elisabeth. Do you have anything to unpack?” Hayes asked.

“No sir. I didn’t bring anything with me, other than what I’m wearing,” Nathan said.

“Well tomorrow, I’m taking you out to pick up some things, and when Elisabeth is well, we’ll take you shopping for a proper wardrobe,” Hayes replied.

“No, really, sir. That’s not necessary,” Nathan protested.

“I insist! It’s the least I can do. Mind you if you refuse, I’ll just have to guess your size,” Hayes laughed.

Nathan paused then said, “Thank you, sir.”

“You look exhausted, Nathan. Go get some rest. I’m just going to jump in the shower then get back to the hospital. I’ll lock up behind me,” Hayes smiled, patting Nathan’s shoulder.

“Thank you again, son. My little girl means the world to me.”

While Hayes headed off for Elisabeth’s room, Nathan chose one of the spare bedrooms and collapsed on the bed without bothering to take off his shoes. Glancing at the clock, he saw the blue digital numbers change to 9:00 a.m. He was out before 9:01.

* * *

When Nathan came to, he was lying on the hood of a car looking up. The clouds were a mix of black and deep blue. His head ached, his joints were sore, and he felt as though a great weight were pressing down on him. Slowly he sat up and saw that he was dressed in combat fatigues and a gas mask with a rifle at his side.

Dead bodies and stalled cars filled the streets, and the pavement was buckled and cracked. Some buildings lay in piles of rubble while others stood undamaged. Nathan slid off the car, bracing himself against the hood as he struggled to stand under the weight of the gear. When he walked around to the side of the car, he glanced at his reflection in the glass. Lifting the gas mask, he was shocked to discover that the face staring back at him was not his own.

“What are you doing?” someone yelled. Running up to Nathan, a man yanked the gas mask down over Nathan’s face.

“This air is poisoned! Do you want to die here in the street?”

Nathan looked up to see a soldier frowning at him from behind his own gas mask. His name tag said he was Sergeant Braden Gold.

“Come on! Get inside before somebody sees you!” Gold instructed.

Nathan followed him inside an old grocery store.

“What’s going on?” he asked Gold.

“Don’t be stupid, rookie! You know what’s going on. Captain wants to brief us before we move out, and I was sent to find your dumb butt,” Gold complained as he lead Nathan through the store’s aisles past armed soldiers standing guard in pairs.

“Why do I get stuck with the idiots?” Gold grumbled as he walked through a pair of swinging back doors into the storage area. Standing before a large map facing a platoon of soldiers was Captain Stanley Dukes.

“Thanks for joining us,” Dukes said sarcastically. “Gold, what was West up to that just couldn’t wait?”

Nathan glanced down to see the name tag on his shirt. David West.

“West was out front patrolling. Thought he saw movement. False alarm,” Gold lied then glanced back at Nathan with a scowl.

“Well next time, don’t go alone, rookie,” Dukes ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Nathan replied.

Gold pulled Nathan into a chair and whispered,

“Keep your trap shut and your head in the game. I can’t babysit you and fight at the same time.”

“Sorry,” Nathan said.

While Nathan tried to figure out where he was, what was going on, Dukes continued his briefing.

“At 0100 hours, a scout returned with intel on more food and supplies. I don’t have to tell you how important this is. The enemy is heavily guarding this location, so we’re going to split into teams. Team Alpha will make a direct assault while Team Beta and Charlie will hit the flank. Team Delta will move in from the back and engage any targets guarding the supplies. We need this win, men, so stay focused and don’t be a hero. Follow orders and we will win this day.”

As the men cheered, a side door opened and a large figure walked in wearing a gas mask and long coat.

“What’s wrong?” Dukes asked.

Suddenly gunfire erupted outside. As the soldiers readied their weapons, the masked figure drew two pistols from the coat.

Just then a group of enemy soldiers poured into the room.

In the middle of the gunfire, the figure in the coat fired off the pistols then holstered them and began tossing the enemy around like rag dolls.

A door opened behind Nathan, and he felt himself move involuntarily as another enemy soldier charged in firing his weapon. Nathan spun then ducked, dodging a spray of automatic gunfire. Without looking, he reached out and fired his rifle at the soldier, killing him and two more who ran in behind him.

Minutes later, every enemy soldier was down.

Dukes’ men all turned to look at Nathan.

“What?” Nathan asked worried.

“That was amazing,” Gold said, “the way you avoided the bullets. I haven’t seen anyone move like that since the Prophet.”

At that remark, the figure in the coat whipped around, looked at Nathan then lumbered over. Grabbing Nathan by the collar, the figure lifted him into the air and demanded,

“What’s the name of the universe?”

“What?” Nathan asked, thinking he recognized the muffled voice.

The figure pulled Nathan closer and demanded, “What’s the name of the universe?”

Nathan hesitated then said,

“Starfall.”

The figure paused a moment. Suddenly two bat wings exploded from under the long coat and the figure flew out the open door, taking Nathan along.

Up into the sky the figure flew then dropped down onto the roof of a greenhouse. When a door opened, Nathan was dragged in. After a hiss of air, a second door opened and the figure tossed Nathan inside.

“Who is this?” a man asked. Nathan noticed he was wearing a pair of old Converse high tops with the laces untied.

When the figure slipped out of the coat, Nathan saw that it was a woman. Tossing the coat aside, she reached up and removed the gas mask.

“Elisabeth! Nathan thought. “Older, but Elisabeth!

Her face was scarred, and she wore a patch over one eye.

She reached out and pulled off Nathan’s gas mask.

“It’s him,” she said.

The man took a good look at Nathan then said,

“Nah. That’s not him.”

“Yes! It is,” Elisabeth insisted. “Remember he said he would return through the eyes of another.”

“What’s going on?” Nathan asked.

“No time for questions, Nathan. I have a message from you. This is not a dream; this is real. The butterfly was released and we’re fighting for our lives against Dr. Gishlain and his army. You made a terrible mistake, and now it’s time to wake up and fix it. Do you hear me, Nathan?” Elisabeth asked.

“Nathan,” Elizabeth shouted, slapping him across the face, “it’s time to wake up!”

* * *

Nathan snapped awake in bed at Elisabeth’s penthouse where he had fallen asleep. He looked at the clock. It was 9:30 a.m.

“Nathan?” Hayes called as he walked into the room. “I heard you thrashing about in here. “Did you have a nightmare, son? Is everything all right?”

Nathan looked around and said, “No. I don’t think so.”

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 17

Nathan bent down to check Stafford’s pulse. He was dead.

“I’m so sorry, John,” he said with remorse. He had stopped Stafford from releasing the virus but couldn’t save his life. Without looking back, Charlene Reynolds walked out of the room, yelling at someone on her phone as she left. Nathan saw no point in stopping her. Besides, he was far too focused on Elisabeth, her injuries. He stood up and walked over to the ladder that would take him down to her. At the last step, he paused then slowly moved past Horton’s dead body and an unconscious Morton, slumped against the wall where Elisabeth had flung him.

“You had no choice, Nathan,” Elisabeth insisted. “You had to shoot Horton.”

“I know,” Nathan said walking over to where Elisabeth was sitting against a wall.

When he extended a hand, Elisabeth took it and pulled him down beside her.

“I was really hoping I could make it through this without anyone dying,” Nathan said.

“I’m afraid that was a bit unrealistic,” Elisabeth pointed out. “If you’re going to keep doing this, sometimes you’ll have to play by their rules to win.”

“I know,” he nodded his agreement.

Exhausted, Elisabeth let her headrest on Nathan’s shoulder.

“What’s Starfall?” she asked.

“What?” Nathan responded with surprise.

“Back there when I was talking you up to face Stafford, you said ‘before I came to Starfall.’ So what’s Starfall?” Elisabeth asked again.

Nathan took a deep breath and leaned against the wall.

 

“Where I come from, they have a name for this world, this universe.”

“It’s not Crescent Bay?” Elisabeth asked.

“Crescent Bay is the name of the city. Where I come from, the universe is called Starfall,” Nathan answered.

Elisabeth let this sink in then said,

“Well wherever you come from, your people are weird.”

“How’s that?”

“For one thing, we don’t name everything here.”

Nathan laughed and said,

“You’ve been injured. We need to get you some help.”

“Just five more minutes, Daddy,” Elisabeth wearily laughed.

“Come on, young lady,” Nathan insisted.

He stood, scooped up Elisabeth in his arms, and slowly carried her toward the building’s exit.

By the time he got her outside, she was unconscious.

When Jericho spotted them, he hurried over.

“She’s been shot,” Nathan said.

Jericho took Elisabeth from Nathan’s arms and ran over to the nearest waiting ambulance.

Just then 4 21 appeared and walked over to Nathan.

“Thank you for your help, Prophet,” he said.

4 21 watched as the police arrested Garrison and his goons, clearing the way for the EMT’s to move forward and tend to the injured.

“Stafford was the guilty party after all. Perhaps I was mistaken about Ms. Reynolds,” 4 21 added.

Suddenly Nathan’s vision blurred and in a flash of white, he was standing in Reynolds’ office the next morning. A knock sounded at the door, and without waiting for an invitation, someone walked in.

“I don’t wish to be disturbed,” Reynolds ordered, her back to the door.

“Your wishes are of no concern to me,” an older man with a German accent said.

Reynolds spun around and when she saw who it was, she immediately lowered her head in respect.

“Sir, I am sorry for what happened,” Reynolds apologized.

“Your repentance is as worthless as you. You would be dead if I had no further use for you,” Dr. Heinrich Ghislain sneered.

Ghislian’s tone and coldness gave Reynolds no hint as to what was next.

“I had to sacrifice a pawn to clean up your mess. It would have been easier to replace you!” Ghislain pointed out.

“I am so sorry, sir,” Reynolds repeated.

“If you fail me again, you will discover that the dead have no remorse,” Ghislain warned as he turned and left the office.

Once the door closed behind him, Reynolds fell to her knees and began to sob.

 

*          *          *

 

When Nathan’s vision cleared, 4 21’s remarks came back to him.

“Stafford was a lost man,” Nathan said. “Shame we didn’t get to him sooner.”

“Take care, Prophet,” 4 21 said as he lifted into the air.

Nathan watched 4 21 disappear into the clouds then he closed his eyes and shook his head clear.

He saw Jericho standing by one of the ambulances waving to him. Before he could respond, Ethan Evermore walked up behind him and said,

“You must be careful, Nathan.”

Nathan turned around to face him.

“How so?” he asked.

“The timeline seems to be secure after the changes you made, but death is a sore loser,” Ethan explained. “Elisabeth was supposed to die this night, but you saved her. Death is not pleased by your interference. He may seek to reclaim Elisabeth or whoever was near her at the appointed time of her death. Either you or Jericho may die.”

“Why us?” Nathan asked.

“Life here is about balance,” Ethan explained. “Saving a life may cause another life to be lost.”

“John Stafford and Joseph Horton died,” Nathan explained.

“Hopefully, their lives will be enough,” Ethan said. “But if death is dissatisfied, you must be on your guard. Your fight may not be over.”

“Well if it helps, I’ll probably be leaving soon,” Nathan announced.

“You’re going back?” Ethan asked.

“I think so,” Nathan said. “This all started when I was struck by lightning. I figure this is all just an elaborate dream. I’m probably lying in a hospital bed somewhere.”

“If that is true, then I wish you safe passage,” Ethan said.

“Thanks,” Nathan replied.

When he heard approaching footsteps, he turned to see Jericho running up to him.

By the time he reached Nathan, Ethan was gone.

“They’re taking Elisabeth to Evergreen Medical,” Jericho informed. “We need to take your motorcycle back to its owner and get over to the hospital.”

“It’s my bike,” Nathan said absently, his mind turning over and over what Ethan had said.

“I’m not sure how things work where you come from, but here you can’t just take something and claim it’s yours,” Jericho laughed.

“I know,” Nathan said, giving Jericho his full attention. “What I mean is, it really is mine. Whatever force brought me here apparently felt I needed transportation.”

Jericho considered Nathan for a moment then shrugged his shoulders and said,

“Okay. If you say so.”

 

*          *          *

 

In the waiting room of Evergreen Medical Hospital, the first rays of the sun were just peeking through the mini blinds of the frosted windows. Nathan had been up all night, drinking hospital coffee as he struggled to stay awake. He waited with Jericho and Elisabeth’s father Ryan Hayes for news of Elisabeth.

Finally, the doctor came out with an update.

“She’ll be fine,” he reassured.

“Thank you, doctor,” Mr. Hayes said.

“The bullet to her right wing went straight through. She’s already on the mend and should be able to use the wing again within a few days. Other than some minor bruising, she will be good as new in no time,” the surgeon said.

With a big smile, Mr. Hayes looked at Nathan and Jericho.

“She’s always been a fast healer.”

“Thanks again, doctor. May we see her now?” Mr. Hayes asked.

“Yes but better not to stay too long. She needs rest,” the surgeon said.

 

*          *          *

 

Still groggy from the anesthesia, Elisabeth weakly smiled when her father entered the room.

“Hi, Daddy,” she mumbled.

“Hey, Princess. How you feeling?” Mr. Hayes asked.

Nathan and Jericho stood back by the door while Elisabeth and her father talked.

“So where are you going to stay?” Jericho asked.

“I don’t know,” Nathan said. “I haven’t given it much thought.”

“I know some people who would be willing to put you up till you find your own place,” Jericho offered.

“That won’t be necessary. But thanks anyway,” Nathan said.

“You sure?” Jericho asked.

“You can sleep at my place,” Elisabeth broke in.

“Nah,” Nathan responded.

“I insist,” Mr. Hayes said, walking up and hugging Nathan.

“It’s the least I can do for the man who saved my little girl’s life.”

With his arm still around Nathan, Hayes turned back to Elisabeth and said,

“Since Elisabeth will be staying with me till she’s completely healed, you’ll have her apartment in Sandy Grotto all to yourself until you find your own place.”

Sandy Grotto was an island just off the coast of Crescent Bay. It was part of the crescent shaped coastline that gave Crescent Bay its name.

“Daddy, I’ll need to get my stuff,” Elisabeth said.

“Of course, dear,” Mr. Hayes said, releasing Nathan and moving closer to Elisabeth’s side.

“That’s fast work,” Jericho whispered. “Just got here and already you’re crashing at her place.”

“Shut it!” Nathan returned as Jericho stifled a laugh.

Mr. Hayes looked back at Nathan and said, “Let me finish up here, and I’ll show you how to get to my Lizzie’s apartment.”

“No need,” Jericho said.

“Why not?” Mr. Hayes asked in confusion.

“Because he already knows. After all,” Jericho smiled, “he is the Prophet.”

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 16

As Nathan inched his way toward John Stafford, his boots clicked on the metal walkway suspended above rows of large tanks containing hazardous waste marked for disposal. His back turned toward Nathan, Stafford and his hostage Charlene Reynolds were cornered at the other end of the walkway with nowhere to go. Nathan took a deep breath and slowly let it out as he cautiously drew closer.

With hands raised, Nathan called, “Stafford?”

“Stop struggling!” Stafford yelled at Reynolds. “I’m trying to find a way out and you’re not helping!”

“John?” Nathan tried again.

Suddenly Stafford spun around, turning his pistol onto Nathan.

“Stay back!” he shouted.

“I just want to talk,” Nathan explained.

“Don’t come any closer or I’ll shoot,” Stafford threatened.

“John, listen to me,” Nathan said, keeping his hands raised. “I know you’re nervous. I know you’re scared.”

“You don’t know anything!” Stafford yelled.

“I know exactly what you’re going through. Graduated third in your class. When you were hired by Thymatec, the largest pharmaceutical company in Crescent Bay, you felt you had accomplished your dream. You had the job you wanted, and now you could go ahead and propose to your girlfriend. You finally had something to offer her, a solid future,” Nathan said.

Stafford’s hand dropped a little and his eyes took on a faraway look.

“Joanne was the prettiest girl you’d ever seen, wasn’t she? Athletic, charming. No wonder everyone loved her. Yet for some crazy reason, she only had eyes for you.”

Nathan smiled in sympathy.

“She said yes before you could even get the question out.”

Stafford laughed softly, a tear breaking free and rolling down his cheek.

“The wedding would have been the most amazing moment in your life, and a future full of possibilities lay ahead,” Nathan said.

After a pause, he continued.

“That was until she got sick. No one could have predicted how fast it would spread. Before Joanne could plan her perfect wedding, you had to plan her funeral. It was the worst time in your life. You were heartbroken, defeated, vulnerable. That’s when he approached you.”

Nathan waited to let the words sink in.

“The doctor,” Nathan said.

 

*          *          *

 

Elisabeth took several quick breaths then focused on slowing her breathing. When a bullet ricocheted off a railing and struck the tank just above her head, she moved out from her cover and fired two shots at Horton and Morton then she tumbled forward and rolled back to her feet to face them.

Morton lifted a forklift over his head and said,

“Catch this, little bird.”

Elisabeth quickly holstered her weapons and caught the forklift, her feet scraping against the concrete floor as she strained to hold on to it.

Bracing her knees, she threw it back. With his rifle aimed toward Elisabeth, Horton slid under the forklift.

Elisabeth dove at Horton and grabbed the riflescope. Then she twisted the weapon with enough strength to throw him into a wall, forcing him to drop the weapon.

As she turned toward Morton, she saw his enormous fist coming right at her.

 

*          *          *

 

Stafford’s gaze shot back to Nathan, and his arm stiffened as he raised the gun.

“He promised he could help. All you had to do was make some arrangements, see that a few people were hired. Nothing serious. Just one man trying to make a difference. You believed what he said, what he wanted. It wasn’t until you were in too deep that you realized you had sold your soul to a monster.”

Nathan kept slowly moving forward.

Stafford lifted a shaking hand to his forehead, wiping away the sweat. When Nathan took a step closer, Stafford fired a wild shot just missing Nathan.

“I. . .said. . .stay. . .back!” Stafford shouted, emphasizing each word.

Nathan took a quick step back, keeping his hands raised.

“Just because you think you know me doesn’t mean you understand!” Stafford yelled.

Nathan held his breath for a moment then said,

“I made the same mistake.”

“When my parents died, I was barely out of high school. Lost and drifting, I almost drove my life into the ditch. But then I met a man who saved me. He straightened me out, taught me how to cope with loss, and even got me my first real job. He was a surrogate father to me, my mentor. I looked up to him until the day I realized he was using me. The only reason he helped me get the job was so that he could steal a diamond exchange. I was so buried in trouble I couldn’t see a way out that wouldn’t land me in jail. Somehow I found the courage to turn against him and call the cops. The judge gave me probation while he was sent to prison.”

“That’s not the same thing!” Stafford yelled. “He made promises.”

“Joanne. I know. He promised he could bring her back. But, John, think about the clones that work for him. Anyone he brought back would be just as dedicated to him as they are. She would look like Joanne, but she wouldn’t be Joanne,” Nathan explained.

 

*          *          *

 

When Morton’s fist made contact, Elisabeth dropped the rifle. She felt one of her teeth crack as she slammed into the wall, sending pain racing up her back.

As he struggled to stand on shaky legs, Horton looked up and saw Nathan on the walkway with Stafford.

“It’s the prophet!” Horton yelled.

“Shoot him! I’ll finish off the little bird,” Morton yelled back.

Horton ran for his rifle as Elisabeth slowly stood up and pushed off the wall.

“Oh no you don’t!” Morton yelled, coming at her.

Elisabeth knew she couldn’t reach Horton in time to keep him from shooting Nathan, so she had to stop him some other way. But before she could pull out her pistol, Morton was on her. He grabbed her hands and squeezed until she cried out in pain.

“No more running, little bird,” Morton insisted.

As Morton held her, Horton lined up his rifle on the back of Nathan’s head.

“Some prophet,” he sneered. “You don’t know anything.”

 

*          *          *

 

Knowing that Elisabeth was fighting for her life beneath the walkway made it hard for Nathan to stay focused on Stafford. Appealing to him seemed to be working, but then suddenly everything clicked in Nathan’s mind and he saw what was coming. He had only seconds to act.

“John, I need you to trust me. I can promise you safe passage out of here if you will just lower your weapon and lie down on the floor right now,” Nathan said.

Stafford seemed to consider the idea for a moment but then scoffed,

“You can’t promise anything! You’re not the police! You’re not a hero!”

“Please, John,” Nathan pleaded.

“Back off!” Stafford yelled as he pushed Reynolds away.

Everything seemed to happen all at once.

Horton aimed at the back of Nathan’s head and fired a shot. . .Stafford raised his pistol to shoot Nathan. . .Nathan leaned back, pulled out The General, and fired off a round.

Horton’s bullet missed Nathan and struck Stafford in the head as the bullet from Nathan’s weapon sliced through the air, brighter than an evening firefly, and lodged in Horton’s chest.

As Horton fell dead to the loading area floor, the counter on Nathan’s colt clicked up to 2.

 

*          *          *

 

When Morton saw Horton fall, his face filled with surprise and fear.

“Joseph?” he called.

Turning back to Elisabeth, Morton snarled,

“He killed Joseph!”

As Morton’s grip tightened on Elisabeth, she pulled back her hands, forcing him to tumble off balance towards her. Pushing her head forward, she struck his jaw with her forehead and heard a satisfying crack. Morton quickly released her hands and held his broken jaw.

Grabbing his shirt, Elisabeth lifted Morton into the air and snapped,

“He’s the prophet!”

She twisted her hips, spinning Morton a full 360 degrees, then threw him into a concrete wall with enough force to crack it.

Looking up at Nathan, she saw that he was watching her. She sighed with relief and waved. Nathan smiled back and returned the gesture.

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 15

Determined to get his hands on the butterfly, Kyran McAddams and his men laid siege to Thymatec Laboratories. While Jericho and 4 21 fought off McAddams and his men, Nathan and Elisabeth hurried down the hall to find John Stafford and his hostage Charlene Reynolds.

Moving farther and farther away from the action as they ran deeper into the building, Nathan and Elisabeth came to a split in the hallway.

“Which way?” Elisabeth asked.

Nathan hesitated then said,

“You have spatial awareness. So where is he?”

“It doesn’t work if the target is too far away. Besides, why are you asking me? Just tell me where he went.”

Nathan nervously looked from one hallway to the other, uncertain which one to take.

“What? You got stage fright now? Hurry up,” Elisabeth snapped.

“I don’t know which way. Okay?” Nathan blurted out.

Surprised by Nathan’s uncertainty, Elisabeth asked, “What do you mean you don’t know?” I thought you were the man who knew everything. How can you not know?”

“Where I come from, everything that’s been happening here is right out of a graphic novel. I’ve read that novel and its sequels so many times that I memorized it cover to cover. Problem is, what I know ends with the battle going on outside. I don’t know what happens in here where we are,” Nathan explained.

With an indignant tone, Elisabeth asked,

“So this entire time your confidence, your arrogance, your smug smile, were all because you knew what was going to happen because of some book?”

Nathan just nodded.

“Do you even have abilities?” Elisabeth demanded.

“Yes!” Nathan insisted. “I still can sense things just before they happen. I can still tell you anything about anyone I meet. And I still have visions. But my knowledge of what happens next isn’t as extensive as it was.”

When Elisabeth saw that Nathan was clearly upset, she felt guilty for coming on so strong.

Calming herself, she tried to reassure him.

“You’ll be fine. Trust your instincts. Okay? Now which way do you think?”

“I don’t know,” Nathan said, his voice faltering.

“Just relax and trust your gut,” Elisabeth suggested.

“I can’t do it. Can’t seem to think straight,” Nathan confessed. “Back home, I never took risks without a backup plan, an exit plan. Before I came to Starfall, the biggest risk I ever took was cheating on a Biology exam. I knew I was going to fail the test anyway, so getting caught cheating wasn’t much of a risk.”

Elisabeth sighed deeply then looked up at him.

“Okay, Nathan, let me ask you a question. When you saved me after I was thrown off the building, what was your exit plan?”

Nathan thought for a moment then shook his head, “I didn’t have one.”

“Right. You didn’t have one because you weren’t thinking. You acted on instinct,” she pointed out. “My father used to say that you can know everything about the wild and still be a lousy hunter. Sometimes life is moving too fast for us to think about it. We just have to react and trust our training.”

“I don’t have training,” Nathan replied.

“You have everything you need, Nathan,” she said. “I’ve seen it. You just need to trust your instincts. Let me prove my point.”

She turned to face Nathan and said,

“I’ll tell you exactly what I’m going to do, so there’ll be no surprises. You’re fast enough to react properly. Just trust your instincts and don’t think about it.”

She held up her hands palms out and said,

“I’m going to swing at you with my right hand, and then I’m going to throw you toward the wall and draw on you with your own gun. Ready?”

Nathan nodded nervously.

When Elisabeth swung her open palm at Nathan, he easily ducked it but then felt her right wing hook onto his jacket as her left hand grabbed his pistol. Then she twisted, extending her wing, threw Nathan across the floor, and pointed his pistol at him.

She walked over, helped him to his feet, and returned his weapon.

“See. You were thinking too much, and it cost you. This time, trust your instincts and you’ll be fine.”

“Now,” Elisabeth said turning to face the two hallways. “Which way?”

Nathan closed his eyes and concentrated.

“The left one,” he said.

Suddenly a gunshot rang out and Nathan pulled back his head just as a bullet whizzed past and punched into the wall.

Whipping around, Elisabeth saw Horton and Morton running right at them.

“Go!” Elisabeth snapped.

Nathan ran a few steps down the left hallway then stopped and turned back to Elisabeth.

“I’ll be fine. Just stop Stafford!” Elisabeth ordered.

“Wait!” Nathan yelled.

Before he could move toward her, Elisabeth punched the wall with all her strength, causing it to buckle and block the end of the hallway.

Now Nathan had no choice but to keep going forward, hunting for Stafford.

As he hurried down the hall, he kept considering what Elisabeth had told him, trying not to over think things. If Stafford were cornered, he would release the butterfly. Nathan knew he didn’t have much time, but he couldn’t stop worrying about Elisabeth.

 

*          *          *

 

Spreading her magnificent wings, Elisabeth shot down the hallway on the right, pausing just long enough to keep Horton and Morton following her.

“Bad little bird,” Morton said.

“Come and get me,” Elisabeth dared.

Horton raised his rifle and fired a shot through the scope. The moment he pulled the trigger, Elisabeth moved to the side, out of the way.

“You’re bad at this!” she yelled back.

She could easily take down both of them, but for now, she had to keep them busy long enough for Nathan to find Stafford.

She flew down the hallway until she came to the point where it opened up into a large room filled with loading equipment and tanks marked with hazardous material warnings. She could hear Stafford and Reynolds in a heated argument.

“What are they doing?” she wondered.

Suddenly a chunk of concrete struck her in the side. She turned just in time to see Morton pulling another chunk of concrete out of the floor. What she didn’t see was Horton raising his rifle.

He fired off a shot and the bullet split the air, tearing through one of her wings.

Elisabeth fell to the floor, pain surging through her injured wing. She knew she couldn’t fly until it healed.

Carefully pulling in her wings, she dove for cover behind one of the tanks just as Horton fired a second shot.

Closing her eyes, she concentrated.

She counted four people in the room: Horton, Morton, Stafford, and Reynolds. Suddenly  Nathan stepped from another hallway into the other side of the room near Stafford.

Elisabeth smiled and thought to herself,

“Go get him.”

She opened her eyes, withdrew her pistols, and readied herself for a fight.

“Come out, little bird,” Morton said in singsong, “so I can tear off your wings.”