Welcome to the next chapter in our continuing saga. For Chapter 7, I did something I’ve never done… because one of the answers that wasn’t chosen included an element I was already thinking of using, I’ve stolen that element to flesh out the winning answer — because I can do that!
Before you begin, if you’d like to see the answers for Chapter 6’s question, “What’s the treasure Salinar/Sawyer is looking for?”, you can find them here. And in case you haven’t read them yet, here are the previous chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2 Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 & Chapter 6.
Please enjoy Chapter 7 of our story where we find out what Salinar is looking for.
“I’d love to help, little brother,” Rick said, going to the window and peeking out at nothing in particular. “There’s just one slight problem.” Rick turned to Jaden, that same stupid smile plastered to his face. “Not even the shadows know exactly what it is.”
“Then how the hell does Sawyer know what it is?” Jaden bellowed, clearly frustrated by his brother’s contradictory recounting. “And that the damn thing even exists?”
“It exists. The shadows wouldn’t need to send prospective Gifted through the trio of trials if they were still in possession of it. In fact, they created it for the sole purpose of tracking the Gifted.”
Jaden only grew more irritated the more Rick spoke. “The shadows created the stupid thing?”
“Then how do they not know what it is?”
It had been awhile since Rick talked to anyone who didn’t know the history of the Galaxy Gifted, completely overlooking Jaden’s utter lack of knowledge on the subject. He wiped his mouth and sat back down. “You understand who the Galaxy Gifted are, correct?”
“Guardians of the galaxy,” Jaden said quickly. “Protectors of all that is indecent and holy, yeah?”
Rick rolled his eyes a bit, but accepted the answer. “Long before the Galaxy Gifted were established, the shadows, or as they’re more affectionately known, the Majestrata, maintained balance and order among the realms by keeping them from burning into one another. I’m not sure anyone knows why, but at one point, the Majestrata started to weaken and could no longer hold the realms together without killing themselves, so they established the legion of followers who embodied the necessary attributes to keep order among the realms and bound them together with the treasure of Osteris, which, from what I’ve heard, was some sort of curved sheet of glass with twelve small jewels encrusted in a pattern that represented the Osteris sun. Does that make any sense?”
Jaden sat for a second, deciding whether or not he really did understand, then said, “They created a Borg hive.” He cracked a smile. Rick wasn’t amused, but it didn’t seem to offend him either. It was almost as if he’d heard it a dozen times before.
“The Gifted are connected, yes, but we’ve always been independent,” Rick clarified. “We share thoughts, emotions, fears and ambitions, but we can do as we please, as long as it meets the prime directive — protecting the realms from those who want them destroyed.”
Jaden nodded slowly… but nothing else.
If you have no thoughts in your head, keep your mouth shut, his father would say after getting in trouble for uttering something stupid, because the odds of getting your ass kicked rise ten-fold when you have no idea what the hell you’re saying.
Rick took that as his cue to continue.
“The connection we have with one another makes us stronger. Our life force is multiplied by the number of members we have in the legion… meaning when have all twelve, we are nearly invincible. But it also allows the bearer of the Osteris to track us to wherever we might be at any given time, and the weaker we are, the more susceptible we are to compulsion. When the shape-shifter faction learned of this inherit weakness, they found a way to steal the Osteris and started to —”
“Control you,” Jaden said for him.
“And kill us,” Rick said quickly. “Some of the Gifted were turned into zombie faction slaves, but there can’t be more than six of us in the legion for that to happen, so several Gifted were murdered.” Rick coughed a laugh, silently reminiscing for a second. “I remember tracking down one Gifted who had been turned before the Majestrata was able to regain control of the Osteris. He was so far gone, you could see the emptiness in his eyes. The Gifted were nothing more than an enemy and we could all sense his anger. Let me tell you, you do not want to have someone else’s pure, reviled hatred running through you like that. A joyride through Disneyland it is not.”
“Who’s in charge of this stupid Osteris?” Jaden was steadily becoming more curious with each beat of Rick’s story. “I mean, who keeps letting the damn thing slip through his fingers? And if they were able to find it once, why wouldn’t they be able to again?”
“Well, that’s the rub now isn’t it?” Rick shuffled into a more comfortable position (with his back arched forward and his elbows on his knees) to regale Jaden with the final piece of his story. “You see, shortly after the Osteris was stolen, a major war broke out. What was left of the Gifted converged on a planet known as Destra in the Helifar quadrant of the Twilight realm. Only two Gifted survived, but they overcame some major obstacles to reacquire the Osteris. The shape-shifters, with the help of the Gifted they had programmed against us, fought back hard, but the Majestrata couldn’t allow the Osteris to fall back into their hands. Destroying it would only sever the connection we all shared — which, let’s be honest, would be just as devastating — so the Majestrata devised another plan. Without the Osteris, it would be much harder to track and train new Gifted soldiers, but they were willing to give that ability up to keep us protected, so they created a self-perpetuating portal that the essence of the Osteris could use to jump from realm to realm, object to object whenever it pleased. It was the only way we could protect it. We never thought the shape-shifters were advanced enough to build a way to track the essence through the realms. The only reason Salinar is on Earth is because she tracked the Osteris here. Whether she’s been able to track its precise position is still unknown, but if she has, we have to find her before she jumps this rock.”
Jaden was speechless. Not in his wildest dreams had he ever thought anything like what Rick was describing was even remotely possible. He slid into the kitchen without a word and pulled a beer from the fridge. It was gone in two seconds and he popped the top of another.
“A little much for you, little brother?” Rick said with a wry smile as he sauntered back to the pantry for another bag of chips.
“You might say that,” Jaden said after taking another swig. “What I still don’t understand is if Sawyer’s only goal was to grab the Osteris, what the hell did she spend two years with me for?”
Rick flashed his eyebrows, pushing Jaden to figure it out himself.
“She needed a way to blend in until she could pinpoint its exact location.”
“You are the pawn in all of this, my friend.” Rick grabbed the beer from Jaden and took a drink, leaving cheese dust on the tip. “The question is, what was she tracking, and how big a part did you play?”
“I didn’t play any part in anything.” Jaden wiped the mouth of the beer, but set it down on the counter instead of taking another drink. He walked past Rick, shrugging his shoulders. “She was my girlfriend, that’s all. We never went anywhere that was out of the ordinary and she never asked me about anything strange or mystical.”
“She wouldn’t have chosen you for nothing. Something made you important. If we’re going to track her down, we need to figure that out.”
“I’m guessing you two have been butting heads for a while now?”
“We’ve had our scrapes,” Rick said with his mouth full.
“So for all we know, she chose me because she hates you,” Jaden said, a little spiteful. “She finds the Osteris and gets to hurt someone you care about at same time. Kill two birds with one stone.”
Rick tossed the empty bag on the counter and nodded, the wheels in his head spinning like a set of wind turbines in a hurricane. “Okay, let’s say you were just icing on the cake. If that’s true, that means anyone could have led her to the Osteris, so it’s most likely something anyone has access to.”
“Like something you might find in a store?”
“A store that would have much more security than most.”
“A casino, maybe?”
“Or something more precious.”
Jaden and Rick looked at each other with feigned expressions. They were definitely thinking the same exact thing.
“When did you propose to Salinar?” Rick asked.
“Last night,” Jaden said, exasperated.
“Damn it,” Rick bellowed.
“She picked the damn thing out as if it was only one in the store. I even tried to talk her into a more expensive piece and she wouldn’t even consider it.”
“And you let her get away with it.”
“Hey! You were the one who shot her,” Jaden reminded him. “But, Rick… I had that ring for nearly a month before I gave it to her. She could have fled with it a long time ago. Why wait for me to propose? Does the thing have to be gifted to her or something?”
Rick chuffed a laugh. “Come on, man, really?”
Jaden shrugged. It was a legitimate question.
“Anyone can use it,” Rick said, shaking his head. “At least I think they can…” He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to make sense of it all.
“What are you thinking?” Jaden asked.
“It’s just… it never occurred to me that the shape-shifters might not have stolen the Osteris the first time.”
“So it does have to be gifted,” Jaden reiterated with pride.
“No, it has to be more than that. There’s no way a member of the Majestrata would have voluntarily given the Osteris up so easily. The shape-shifters must have seduced him somehow.”
“But why? If it doesn’t have to be gifted, what purpose would it serve to seduce someone into giving it to you?”
“Not just seduce,” Rick said, smiling smugly. “Fall in love.”
“Sawyer needed me to fall in love with her? Why?”
“Maybe it’s the only way to access its power.”
Love is a bitch. Always keep one eye wide open or you’ll eventually find your nuts in her purse for safekeeping. Jaden’s father; who knew?
“It would explain the ease of the original breach and your two birds theory. Salinar could have forced anyone to fall in love with her, but she specifically chose you, not because you were some random guy on the street, but because you had meaning — you had purpose. If your love accesses the power of the Osteris, then it very well could bind you to it…” Jaden’s eyes went wide.
“What?” Jaden started to freak out — just a little.
“I need to contact the Majestrata,” Rick said. He grabbed Jaden’s shirt and pulled him toward the door. “Come on. We have to get back to my ship.”
“Wait,” Jaden said, nearly ripping his shirt to pull away from Rick. “What’s gonna happen to me if she uses this thing?”
“As long as we get it back, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
“You do realize she could be anywhere by now. Hell, she could be a snake in the weeds of a farmhouse. How are we supposed to find her?”
“The Galaxy Gifted are endowed with the ability to see the truth in anything,” Rick said.
“So you can see Salinar no matter what she is?” Once again, Jaden was excited by the idea — and now a wee bit jealous, too.
“How do you think I found Sawyer?”
Rick cocked his head and flashed a crooked smile. For a split second, Jaden swore he was in the midst of Han Solo himself. “You ready, kid?”
It didn’t take Jaden long to reply. “Hell, yeah!”
Just then, the doorbell rang. Rick wrapped his hand around his upper thigh and crouched into a defensive stance. Jaden, on the other hand, swung around behind Rick and hid like a little girl. (Good thing Rick was distracted, or he’d never hear the end of it. He still might.) Rick held up his hand to keep Jaden’s squeaks to a minimum and inched his way to the door. He leaned up to take a peek through the peephole and the tension in his shoulders instantly subsided.
“It’s a cop,” Rick whispered. He spun around to face Jaden squarely in the eyes. “Get rid of her.” Before Jaden could object, Rick scurried off to the bedroom.
Jaden stood erect and, out of habit, cleaned himself up a bit before opening the door. On the other side was Cartera, looking much sexier in her dark blue uniform than she had just hours ago. Her striking brown eyes gave him chills – there was something so familiar about them beyond having all but stared into them for hours on end. Maybe it was the moonlight, or perhaps his shock, but this didn’t seem like the same person.
“Good morning, officer,” he said with a little wink and the addition of a dimple on his left cheek. “What brings you here?”
“Mr. Reinhart,” Cartera said, taking Jaden’s arm and spinning him around. Before he knew it, handcuffs pinched his wrist. “After further investigation, you are under arrest for the murder of your fiancée, Sawyer Smith.”
“What the hell?” Jaden said before being forced up against the door. Cartera cuffed his other wrist as she spewed off the requisite Miranda rights. Before she finished, Jaden coughed out, “This is insane.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Reinhart.” Cartera’s lips were right against his ear. Her breath was warm and scintillating to say the least. “I know how you must feel, which is why I wanted to be the one to make the arrest.”
Somehow she was right. Her presence were just soothing enough to keep him calmer than he might have been had some thug detective with powder stains from his last donut still plastered across his lips busted him. He lowered his head and relaxed his body. At the same time, Cartera perked up like a cat that just heard a strange noise and was poised to run and hide. Jaden didn’t recall hearing anything, but it was perfectly conceivable that Rick accidentally did something that might have caught her attention. “Are you alone here?”
“Yes,” Jaden said quickly. “Now can we get this over with so I can post bail already?”
“Calm down, Mr. Reinhart.” Cartera closed the front door and pulled Jaden into the living room, keeping her eyes locked on the door to the bedroom. “You don’t mind if I take a quick look around, do you?” She pushed Jaden to the couch and pulled her gun from its holster.
“I do mind, actually,” Jaden said. “If you don’t have a search warrant —”
Cartera held up her left hand to silence him. That’s when he noticed the sparkle from the band of a silver ring. Though he hated to admit it, he had checked (perhaps on impulse — what guy doesn’t?) to see if she was married just in case —
— and unless she got engaged from the time he left the station until now (which couldn’t have been more than eight hours, at the most), there was trouble in little china.
But he had to be certain. As Cartera crept to the bedroom, Jaden quietly stood and shuffled around her to get a better look at the ring, which at first didn’t seem to be the same one he had spent over three grand on, but the more he stared at it, the more it became clear.
“Salinar,” he said, louder than expected.
Cartera turned to him, a bit shocked, and then slumped her shoulders in disappointment. “Ah, hell,” she said, and fired her entire clip through the bedroom wall. Jaden quickly cowered into the kitchen, doing everything he could to keep from vomiting. When the gunfire stopped, he peered around the counter to get a better look. Cartera dropped the clip to the floor and slammed in a fresh one, continuing to creep slowly toward the room as if she was still expecting something terrible to happen.
What Jaden wasn’t expecting was the massive explosion that splintered the wall into millions of pieces, sending Cartera flying into the kitchen where she left her indentation on the pantry. She fell to the floor, unconscious. Jaden was frozen in a state of shock, unable to think, much less do anything. He’d never been in a situation like this before — his life was way too boring.
“Salinar,” Rick said, his voice gruff and nearly unrecognizable. He appeared to be taller in some regard, the hobo outfit somehow transforming into badass gunfighter regalia. What caught Jaden’s eye, though, was the weapon prominently displayed in Rick’s hand. It looked like a thin, curved knife with three blue rings that lit up symmetrically along the tip. A slight wave shifted through the air around them, much like looking at the horizon of a desert in the scorching heat. It not only accentuated his stature, but it made his entire story all that much more believable.
Rick took very proud and distinguished steps toward the kitchen. Jaden sucked in a breath, hoping this was the end of everything he’d been forced into. What he wouldn’t give to be able to head off into the mountains and live like a hermit for the rest of his life. Then he had to go and turn to see if Cartera was still down for the count. What he saw was Sawyer’s eyes burning into his. He tried to pull away, but his love for her was unyielding.
Love is a bitch!
Jaden involuntarily stood. He was aware of what was happening, but his body wouldn’t listen to him — not one single command.
“Jaden,” Rick said. “Get out of here. I’ll catch up soon.”
He didn’t move. The most he could do was twitch his left eye. Damn if he didn’t kick himself for choosing to ditch the classes on Morse code to get high with his friends.
when he had the chance to learn Morse code and chose to ditch his classes to get high.
“Do as I say!”
“I can’t,” Jaden said (though not on his own volition) and walked out from behind the counter. He was no longer handcuffed and held the officer’s firearm.
Rick aimed his own weapon at Jaden. The rings lit up brighter, seemingly gathering molecules from the air around them. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t want to hurt him,” Jaden said, though his voice had a familiar metallic vibration to its tone. “I’ve only come here for one thing.” Jaden raised the weapon.
How does the standoff end?
Be as creative as you can, as outrageous as you want, and as detailed as possible. The best answer will determine where the story goes next.
Post your answers to Facebook, Twitter (using #WriteANovelWithMe and @phoenixmoirai) or in the comments section below by 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, January 1, 2015. You can give as many different answers as you want. The top 5 will be posted on Friday.
I can’t wait to see where your imaginations soar