“Have I mentioned how dumb it is we’re even at school?” Jason set down his water bottle. “With New Year’s Day on Wednesday they should have just given us the rest of this week off. Making us come to school for two days is stupid.”
“Totally.” Sadie smoothed a paper towel on the table in front of her, her silver charm bracelet tinkling.
Jason cocked his head. “You agree with me?” Sadie had always been a fan of going to school.
“Yes, I agree with you,” she said. “Being in school this week has not been productive. Even the teachers act like they don’t want to be here. But it’s nice to see everyone.”
“It’s nice to see certain people. If I never had to see Derek Goodman’s face again, I’d be one hundred percent good with that.” He stared at the back of Derek’s head five tables away. “At least he’s minding his own business and not in full-on-bully-mode.”
“I doubt it will last,” Sadie said. “He’ll accuse me of casting an evil spell on him as soon as he has an upset stomach or something.”
“Is he truly that bad?” Colette asked.
Jason’s mouth gaped.
“Okay, dumb question,” she said. “Carry on.” She took a bite of an apple.
“As for your powers, the real ones anyway,” Jason said to Sadie, “how’s it going figuring out Yowie life and the powers coming from the Calling?”
Author Wendy Terrien offers a free download of her Young Adult book “The Rampart Guards,” the first book in her series, with no obligation as “simply a gift for folks to give the series a try and see if the series is their cup of tea.” Download here.
“I’m reading a lot,” she said, fingering the hawk’s eye pendant from Mamo that always hung around her neck. “I’m studying the history of the Clan and learning about Garrison Devine.”
“I guess that’s good, learning about the guy who wants you dead,” Jason said. “Uncle A goes on and on about knowing the enemy as well as you know yourself.” He took a drink of water. “But what about being able to sense Yowie energy. Can you do that yet? And shapeshifting—have you tried anything besides your Yowie form? I think it would be cool for you to go all cheetah, and we could clock your speed.”
Sadie opened a package of carrot sticks. “Yowie sensing ability hasn’t shown up. And no, I haven’t done any shapeshifting. Connor wants me to take things slow.” She kept her gaze fixed at her veggies.
“Wait—your great-uncle, the only other Yowie you know, the same person who you said was practically begging you to accept the Calling, and the one person who can prepare you for a guy that wants to kill you and everyone related to you, wants you to take things slow?” Jason asked.
“I thought there was a sense of urgency,” Colette said, “lest your nemesis finds you before you’re prepared.”
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Jason smiled at Colette’s use of words that made her seem older than fourteen, a side-effect of growing up under the old rules at League of Governors headquarters.
“What?” she asked Jason.
“Nothing. You’re right.” He turned back to Sadie. “You need to up your game. At least come do training with me at Uncle A’s.”
“I have Tae Kwon Do classes with Brandon.”
“He just started. He’s five belt levels behind you.”
“So, I don’t think he’s the best person to train with, not for you, anyway,” Jason said. “It’s great for him—he can learn tons from you. But you won’t get any better.”
“It helps maintain my fitness.” She crunched a carrot.
Jason leaned forward. “Sadie, you can’t waste time. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m worried about you. When I got my powers—”
“Stop,” Sadie said. “You don’t need to worry about me. The cloak from the Calling is working, so no one can find me, or Connor, or Brandon, or you guys, or Shay and Finn, or any of us. We’re all safe. We have plenty of time. I have everything under control.”
“What about the invisibility?” Jason asked. “Is that under control?”
Sadie shifted her gaze and waved at someone behind him. “Nix the cryptid talk. Here comes Nessa.”
“Best friends!” Nessa squeezed into a space between Sadie and Colette and pulled them both close until her cheeks smushed into each of theirs. “I love you adorable people.” She released them and smiled at Jason. “I adore you too, especially since you brought this lovey back from England.” She tipped her head toward Colette. “And you two are the cutest couple in school.”
Jason gulped from his water bottle to cool the flush in his face.
“Though you know, if Brandon went to school in real life instead of online then Jolette would be second cutest,” Nessa inclined her head toward Sadie, “and Sandon would be first cutest.”
“Who?” Sadie added.
Nessa turned to Sadie. “You don’t like Sandon as your couple name? How about Bradie instead?” She squealed. “Oh! Epiphany! You and Brandon should name your first kid Bradie. Naming perfection. Works for a boy or a girl. No way you disagree with me.”
Sadie rolled her eyes. “You are getting waaaaaayyyy ahead of yourself.”
“Or . . .” Nessa touched the tips of her thumbs to the tips of her pointer fingers and held them high. “I see the future.” She smiled and dropped the pose. “Since Brandon is staying in our dear little town a while longer while his parents are off on their project thingy, is he going to join us at real-life Salton High?”
“I don’t think so,” Sadie said. “He doesn’t want to switch in the middle of the year, and he likes his teach—”
Nessa smacked Sadie’s knee. “Shh, shh.” Her eyes focused on something across the room. “I think he’s coming over here, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” Her voice faded to a whisper, and she tucked her hair behind her ears.
Kyle sat down next to Jason.
“You lost?” Jason asked.
“Shut up.” Kyle light-punched Jason in the arm. “I feel like sitting here.”
“Won’t it drop your cool factor if you have lunch with your kid brother?” Jason smirked.
“What can I say? I missed you while you were away.”
“I’ve been back for over two months.” Jason bit into a sandwich. “What’s really going on?”
“I just, ya’ know, want to spend more time with you,” Kyle looked across the table at Sadie, Colette, and Nessa. “All of you. It’s like . . . a new year’s resolution.”
A half-smile ticked up the corner of Sadie’s mouth. She’d told Jason about what Kyle did while Jason was in London, how much Kyle had stepped up and helped her with everything that happened with Mamo and the Calling, almost like a big brother. But Kyle didn’t seem all that different or more helpful to Jason since he’d gotten back. To him, Kyle still acted like he was cooler than everyone. Until now.
Kyle turned to Sadie. “How’s school going? Have you caught up?”
“Yeah, I did extra work over the break. Nessa is a great tutor.”
“Oh, I just, ya’ know, helped a little.”
“That’s cool,” Kyle said to Nessa. “I know you helped Jason catch up after his little jaunt to London, too. If I ever need help in any of my classes, maybe I’ll call you.”
“That means he’ll call you a lot,” Jason said. “He needs help with everything.”
Kyle grinned and punched Jason in the arm again. “Not everything. I get As in PE.”
“Right, of course you do.” Nessa giggled. “You could tutor me in physical education.” The smile dropped from her face. “Uh, I mean, not like that. I mean, like in regular . . . uh . . .” She looked at her phone. “Oh my gosh I have to go.” Nessa scooped up her lunch and scurried away.
“Call me later,” Sadie yelled after her. Nessa waved her hand in the air with her back still to the group.
“Is she okay?” Kyle asked.
“She’s fine,” Sadie said. “She’s just getting back into the school swing of things after the holidays.”
“I get that.” Kyle stretched and yawned. “I much prefer the no-school swing of things.”
Jason ducked as two Skyfish zoomed overhead. No one else flinched.
“Skyfish again?” Sadie asked.
“Yeah,” Jason said. “Have you noticed anything else weird happening?”
Sadie checked the apps on her phone she used to track all things cryptid. “Nothing unusual online.”
“Good,” Jason said. “I hope it stays that way. I like how calm it’s been around here, with no Rampart attacks, no mind-controlled League-bots.”
“And no Clan,” Sadie said.
“Definitely,” Kyle added. “We don’t need any more Clan or Calling or bounty hunting for a long time.”
“Or ever.” Sadie sighed.
Between what had happened in London, the news and sadness he’d come back to in Salton, and the fact that Sadie wasn’t focused on training, Jason didn’t think anyone was ready to tackle anything freakish or abnormal right now. Sadie needed time to adjust, to mourn, to connect with her great-uncle Connor. Colette needed time to figure out her new life in the United States, living with Sadie and Grandma Lena.
And Jason needed more time to rest, to recover, to train. And adapt to living with a new secret about his younger sister, Della.
He rubbed his fingers on the embossed surface of the Lex coin he now always carried his pocket.
They all needed a little more time.
After school, Jason walked into the front door of his house. Shay, his almost-full-grown pit bull-mix puppy, zoomed her white-bullet-body toward him.
“No jumping.” Jason used his serious voice. The pup skidded to a stop. “Sit.” She dropped her haunches to the floor, her tongue lolling, her tail wagging.
“Good job.” He dropped to Shay’s level and scratched her behind the ears. She licked his cheek and pressed the top of her head into his neck, snuggling close.
“How about we get a snack, then go hang out with Finn and Uncle A?”
Shay’s ears perked and she dashed off, heading to the kitchen. Jason followed.
Brandon sat at the kitchen table, his head face down on his folded arms, his laptop open in front of him. Jason bumped him with his backpack.
“I’m awake.” Brandon startled to upright.
“Your day at school must have been as entertaining as mine.” Jason hung his bag in the mudroom.
“Non-stop fun ride.” Brandon shut his computer. “At least it’s Friday. You going to train?”
“Not this time. I’m going with Sadie to visit Connor.” Brandon yawned. “And I gotta say, it’s still weird calling him by his first name, even though he told us to.”
“I know what you mean,” Jason said.
“Anyway, Connor has info on her problem, or power, or whatever it ends up being.”
Jason opened the refrigerator and scanned the contents. “The invisibility thing?”
“Yep. He says he’s learned how she can control it before it gets too out of hand, which is good. You know how bugged she’s been about it.”
Jason removed a block of cheddar cheese. “Can’t blame her. I’d be bugged too if random parts of my body turned invisible while I slept.”
“Right?” Brandon stretched. “By the way, Della is staying at a friend’s house tonight and your dad’s out. Said he’d be back later, and we should do our own thing for dinner.”
“Okay.” For a moment, Jason considered biting into the block of cheese rather than bother with a knife but decided the wrath of Dad wasn’t worth the convenience. He cut off a chunk for himself and tossed a smaller piece to Shay. She gulped it down whole.
“Please chew your food. I really don’t want to do the Heimlich on you.”
“Since you’re serving, I’ll take some,” Brandon said. “And I promise to chew it before I swallow.”
Jason chucked what remained of the cheese and Brandon snatched it out of the air. “Do you want the knife?” Jason asked.
“Nah.” Brandon took a big bite.
“You know that’s gross, right?” Jason filled a glass with water.
Brandon signaled thumbs-up while he chewed and then smacked his tongue over his top teeth. “Are you picking up Colette on your way to Uncle A’s? I’ll walk to their house with you.”
“No, I’m going straight to his place.”
“Colette’s meeting you there?” Brandon asked.
“I don’t think so.” Jason drained the glass of water.
“You didn’t talk to her about going with you?”
“No. I mean I just saw her at school. And we hung out over break,” Jason said. “I don’t want to push it.”
Brandon’s face scrunched. “Whatever.”
“I don’t know,” Brandon said. “You like her, she likes you, seems like you spend time together. I mean, I thought you were dating, but whatever.”
“We are dating. Seriously. And we have spent time together. You were there. We all spent time together.”
“And this afternoon you’re not spending time together,” Brandon said, “because . . .”
“Because we already did.” Jason punched his glass into the trigger to dispense more filtered water.
Brandon stood. “Colette has a limit on how much time she’ll spend with you?”
“No. I don’t know.” Jason blew out a breath. “Why are you asking me these questions?”
“Forget it.” Brandon headed out of the kitchen. “I just figure you like a person, you spend time with them. That’s all.” He waved. “I’ll catch you later.”
Jason drained his second glass of water, Brandon’s words replaying in his head.
After Brandon had gone to meet Sadie, Jason pulled on his coat, clipped a leash onto Shay’s harness and they headed out into the dwindling light of the wintry afternoon. Three times Skyfish zipped close and Jason dodged each one. Shay paid no attention to them.
Sadie’s right. I need to ignore them, or they will drive me crazy.
He paused, refocused on his route, and asked Shay to heel.
They took the shorter path to Uncle A’s house, traveling along the canal past thickets of chokecherry bushes and scrub oak, near the hidden cove where Jason and Sadie had first met, and where Jason had first encountered Skyfish.
As if triggered by the memory, a tingle crawled around the base of his skull. He scanned the sky but noticed nothing.
Shay froze and growled, her gaze fixed on a thick clutch of bramble on the other side of the canal.
A shadow shifted.
“Who’s in there?” Jason asked. He flexed his fist. Bolts of electricity zipped inside him.
Shay pulled to get closer to the bushes. Jason held firm. Steam pumped from Shay’s nostrils as she sniffed and cleared her sinuses, scenting what seemed to be hidden in the waning light of day.
He tightened his grip on her leash. “Hey,” Jason yelled, trying to trigger a reveal. Still, nothing moved. Shay sat but remained trained on the spot. He waited another moment, his senses still triggering, but saw nothing and presumed more Skyfish had caused the alarm. He called to Shay to continue along the path.
Seconds later, something crashed through the brush on the far bank behind them. Jason’s powers flared his arms blue and he pivoted, Shay yanking him toward the sound. A brown figure, seemingly on all fours, barreled into the canal, and cannonballed water in its wake. It scrambled up the bank and stopped about forty feet away, facing Jason and Shay, fixated for a moment while water dripped from its fur.
Sparks flashed from Jason’s raised arm.
The creature stepped closer.
His powers flared. Don’t do it . . . don’t make me do it . . .
Shay yipped and strained on her lead.
The creature sniffed the air once, twice, water gurgling in its nostrils, then turned and scrambled away.
Shay tugged to take chase. Jason countered her momentum with his and lowered his arm.
If that was a dog, it was the biggest, shaggiest dog I’ve ever seen . . .
Before using his power, he had to be sure a creature, a cryptid, was dangerous. He couldn’t let himself hurt something or someone when they didn’t deserve it, when they didn’t mean it.
Farther down the path, the figure faded from sight.
Jason’s arms still glowed a fiery blue.
Wendy Terrien, an international bestselling author, received her first library card at age 2, and a few years later started writing her own stories. She serves on the board of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is a member of Pikes Peak Writers, the Colorado Authors’ League and the Author’s Guild. Learn more about Wendy by visiting her website: wendyterrien.com.