Evoke | The First Chapter
Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Our Action Adventure novel Refractors Volume I: Evoke launches in February and we wanted to give everyone a chance to get a feel for the story and its primary protagonist, Serec. Let us know what you think in the comments.
I: Fatal Decision
The sickly green sky loomed overhead; a reminder of how far we’d come; how much we’d lost. Saldarian Flats sat at the far end of New Callastryne so it took nearly a segment to reach it by terrarail. The azure glow of Aio—our larger moon—beamed along the edges of the clouds, as the sun retreated behind the mountains. I navigated the cluster of condemned buildings and barred windows, trying to ignore the shifty-eyes targeting me from every direction. Busted street lumens littered the road replaced by several trash bin fires that filled the air with a noxious stench. I glanced at my timechain; 17.55. A segment on the ground and the smell was the worst of the threats I could detect. As I made one final pass, something moved erratically in my peripheral.
A shadow wildly flailing across an alley wall. I jogged over to investigate. But all I found was an empty corridor.
“Must’ve been my imagin—”
The cry pinged sharply in my right ear, then cut off as suddenly as it started. I raced down the alley and peeked around the corner.
The sight was enough to churn the bile in my stomach. A sloppy blob of a man was pinned over a woman. She kicked and shrieked as he tore at her dress like a starved predator ripping into prey. Her resistance earned her a hard smack to the face.
“Keep it up, and I’ll knock your teeth down your windpipe,” he spat.
The woman fell quiet. Her petite frame trembling in an attempt to stifle the sound of her breathing. But I could hear it all the same. The plea for help that accompanied every inhale; resonating so deep in my chest, I might as well have been in her place. I wish I could say this was an uncommon scene in Aruria. But, for as long as I can remember, the weak have been victimized under the inattentive eye of the Department of Peace. That’s where I entered the equation.
A flame ignited within me, setting my body on autopilot. My fists clenched, and my legs propelled me forward.
“Hey, you disgusting creep! Let her go before I bash your face into the pavement!” My voice was more forceful than I expected.
The fat man twisted around with wild eyes that gave me a once-over as I advanced. “You’re gonna regret sticking your nose in other people’s business, you little punk.”
I charged him. My jaw tightened in anticipation of would happen when my foot made contact with his teeth. But, just as I twisted my weight behind my attack, something blurred, and I was suddenly tumbling backward. He was quicker than expected. Too quick to ignore the obvious.
I sprang to my feet, and his dark sunken eyes trained on me, filling my veins with ice as I realized I was facing another gifted. My mind raced as much as my heart. But I tuned out my nerves and started toward him again.
“Don’t be stupid,” he grumbled. “Mind your damn business, or I’ll take it out on her.”
His words nearly stole my nerve. But, if I didn’t act, it just meant he could do what he’d planned from the start with no resistance from me or the woman under him. No threats he made against her could be any worse. Still, I couldn’t exactly take him on with her trapped under him.
Scanning the area, I spotted a loose metal pipe between some carbonized trash bins. I felt his eyes on me as I moved to pick up the pipe. My face didn’t show it, but my shaky hands probably did. Tapping the pipe on my heel brought reassurance. Sturdy enough.
I removed one of the trash lids, nearly gagging at the odor of rotting who-knows-what. Better than nothing. Maybe. With tools in hand, I turned and met eyes with Aruria’s fattest sexual predator. But I wasn’t about to give him the time to determine my next move.
I rushed at him, my elbow high as I reached across my body and launched the metal disc toward his face. He effortlessly leaned to one side, and the lid shot past him.
I knew he wouldn’t pass up on the chance to take another swing at me. Especially at such close range. But I wasn’t about to let him knock me out of striking distance this time.
His expression intensified, and his arm became a blur again. I lunged at him, swinging the pipe from my shoulder like a peace enforcement baton. His arm moved up just in time to deny me my target. Just in time to complete my plan. The hard thwack rang in the alley, from the trash lid curving around and catching him in the back of the neck. He nearly toppled over. It was the perfect setup to distract him long enough for me to strike him clean across the face with the pipe, sending a second hollow ping echoing deep in my ears as he lumbered to one side and collapsed.
I rolled him away so the woman could get up. “You okay?” I asked. She lifted her head, and my breath caught as her large autumn eyes snapped onto mine. A cold prickle crept down my spine. She’s stunning. Thankfully, the lapse between my thoughts and my words kept the situation from turning awkward.
“It’s you,” she whispered with wide eyes. There was a subtle edge to her voice that felt as sobering as it was serene. “I’ve finally found you.”
Before I could respond, she took my hand, and the world fell silent. Energy pulsed from her hand into mine surging through me like electricity. A blinding flash followed, engulfing everything around us in darkness. I found myself floating in cold, deafening nothingness. Separate from the world… separate from myself. Am I dead?
Another blinding light provided my answer. Bathed in radiance, the woman reappeared. Her golden skin gleamed. Her hair sparkled a fiery scarlet. Her eyes glowed a... luminous, winter blue. She looked like the woman I’d just saved in the alley. And yet, I somehow felt like I was looking at an entirely different person.
“Your path leads only to ruin. Intervention is required.” Her frigid voice resonated deep in my chest. It felt like she was speaking to my very soul. Infecting my consciousness with awe, until I could hardly speak. “Fate is an illusion, experienced by the ignorant.”
I tried to ask what she meant. But my tongue felt heavy; my mouth, disconnected from my brain.
“What if I told you this life is one of many — infinitely branching — on an endless river of time and space?” Every word she spoke was an invasion of my mind and body — becoming a seamless piece of me. “This world is full of beauty — a beauty that must be preserved.”
A rich array of images flashed before my eyes: A child playing, waves washing over the beach, a blooming flower, a vibrant sunset, Aio and Seiro glimmering in the night sky, each one pulled at me, compelled me. “A war rages in the shadows, as a great malevolence toils to bring it to light. I offer you the power to take arms against this force and break free of fate. Should you accept this power, you will embark on a journey unlike any other. Outside time. Outside observation. Outside reality itself. Mathematica, mens, animus, aether, tempus, materia, vis — all will bend to your will. You need only accept this mantle and begin your journey.”
I could hardly breathe. Much less make sense of her words. And yet, in that moment, I knew what I had to do. “I — I accept,” I said, taking her hand.
“So let it continue,” her voice boomed, as everything went dark. When the darkness lifted, I was at the edge of the alley. Alone.
I checked my timechain and nearly collapsed. 17.55?! How is that possible?! The answer was simple: it wasn’t possible. If it was 17.55, that meant that somehow I hadn’t yet stumbled upon... “No—!” a woman shrieked. “Stop!”
I turned to find the fat man backing the woman into the alley. The attack hadn’t happened yet. And this time, I would ensure it didn’t. I peeked around the wall. The hefty man had his back to me, fully engaged in forcing the shrieking woman down, as she fought with all she had to stay on her feet. The pipe was right where I remembered it. I grabbed it and crept up behind big rapey, my heart throbbing in my ears. With a grip so tight, I thought the metal would crumble in my hands, I raised the pipe high...and swung.
I was so determined not to screw it up, I nearly screwed it up, tripping over a crack. A grunt hissed through my teeth, and the man turned just in time to catch the pipe with his face. His eyes went dead, as he collapsed like a sack of oaniqun seeds.
I turned to the woman. Her eyes were back to their beautiful autumn hue. “You okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she sighed, reaching for my hand. I hesitated.
“Can you help me up please?”
I braced myself and took her hand, a little surprised when the woman only pulled herself back to her feet and brushed the dirt off her clothes. She offered a curious glance. “Everything okay?”
“Huh? Y-yeah. You?”
“Thanks to you.” She smiled. “My hero.”
A wide smile painted my face, as the word sunk in. ‘Hero.’ It sounded even better coming from a beautiful woman. But the moment was short-lived. A weak groan escaped the fat man. “You should go,” I prompted.
“What about you?”
“I’ll keep him busy. Call the PEDs.” Not that calling them would do much good. But getting her out of danger would at least free me up to make sure my new friend didn’t escape to find more victims.
She nodded and hurried off. “Be careful,” she yelled over her shoulder.
The groan intensified. He was already back on his feet, blood trickling from the open gash on the side of his face.
“Appalling how disrespectful kids today are. Interrupting other people’s favorite pastimes.” Malice overtook his eyes. “Guess I’ll have to discipline you like your dad should’ve.” He settled into a wide stance, closed his eyes, and loudly sucked the air into his flared nostrils. In almost no time the bleeding had slowed to a trickle, and his skin was knitting itself back together.
He has more than one ability?! It was the first thought to cross my mind, as he charged me. The second, more critical thought was that I probably should’ve run when I had the chance.
I narrowly dodged and made a show of cracking my neck to hide the trembling in my jaw. “Watch it, big guy. Or maybe I should call you Fat Felo.”
“What in hadal are you talking about?”
I don’t know why I’d said it. But at a glance, the guy was a saggy ball, turned human, turned sex offender. A fat guy who commits felonies: Fat Felo. “You heard me.”
His cruel eyes locked onto me as he inhaled; holding for a moment. Then, with a sinister smile, his image blurred momentarily then disappeared. I tensed, guarding my face just in time for something to plow into my forearms with enough force to nearly fracture them. Fat Felo stood in front of me with a toothy grin.
Pain drew my focus to my arms. And in that moment, something blurred in front of me at the top of my peripheral. Fat Felo was gone. Panic gripped me; my eyes darting through the empty whirling wind around me. By the time I thought I heard something, I was knocked into the air by what felt like a battering ram; jerking my head forward, while my body pulled in the opposite direction.
My turbulent flight was brought to a sudden stop by the hard embrace of a lumen pole. I slid to the ground, huffing as a thick, warm liquid trickled down my face and collected at my chin. Sharp pain ricocheted down my spine and ignited my limbs. I blinked hard, waiting for the ground to steady out. It didn’t. I closed my eyes and desperately took hold of my shallow breaths.
“You take hits pretty well. Let’s see how good you do when I throw some weight into it.”
The sound of air rushing through his huge nostrils was haunting. But, as my wits returned, it became instructional. Using the pole as support, I forced myself to stand in time for the thump of approaching feet to trigger my reflexes. I involuntarily dipped right, just in time for his fist to catch the light pole. I seized the opportunity to retreat across the alley and get to my feet. Fat Felo yanked his arm from the pole, and a hollow screech echoed as it bent past ninety degrees, the lumen halfheartedly flickering. He turned and smiled, probably noting how petrified I looked.
This monster of a man was more than I could’ve hoped to handle. And were it not for the fact that I’d actually saved someone, I’d have regretted ever stepping foot into that alley. Another breath, and he disappeared again. But his power was finally starting to make sense. Fat Felo only had to focus his breathing for his face to heal so perfectly that it looked like I’d never hit him. The super speed and strength were also connected to his breathing somehow. If I had that kind of power, I cou—
My head jerked left, and the rest of my body followed. Everything tilted to one side as the ground embraced me with open arms. Blood trickled across my cheek, rolling into a crimson pool. A stinging pain radiated from the right side of my face; my ears ringing so loud, my eardrums felt like they would burst.
I squeezed my eyes shut and slowed my breathing—my sole focus filling my lungs with air, and controlling the release. The pain radiating from my chest and face gnawed at my concentration, but I persisted; even as Fat Felo closed in on me.
Slower. Deeper. Control it.
I needed it to work or I wouldn’t stand a chance. I drew in one more breath, and something finally clicked. Suddenly, the echo of mad laughter abruptly cut through the ringing. Something was happening. The dizziness drained from my head and my body went from painful throbbing to buzzing with energy.
I opened my eyes to a world in vivid slow-motion. The air sparkled around me like near-microscopic stars. What is this feeling? And why do I suddenly feel so light?
“How are you standing?” he asked darkly, as I straightened.
I shrugged. “Maybe you hit like a girl. Is that why you pick on ‘em?”
His face went red—a vein bulging from his forehead, as his nostrils flared wildly.
Another enhancement. But this time, I was ready. I closed my eyes and visualized every muscle vibrating with energy. As I exhaled, a warm tingle enveloped me like a thick coat. My body went heavy. But this feeling was different. This feeling was...powerful.
Fat Felo let out a war cry and stampeded toward me. Four strides put me in striking range, where I leapt at him. I pulled as far back as my shoulder could manage, then hammered down, crunching my knuckles into Fat Felo’s jaw with all the force I could. A crack drowned out all other sounds at that moment, and his head jolted back so hard, his body couldn’t help but follow. Fat Felo teetered back like a massive tree uprooting from its base until finally, he crumpled to the ground with a loud thump.
“Doesn’t feel so good, does it?” I taunted. He took a beat before rolling over and pressing onto all fours; the struggle to control his breathing almost palpable. He was trying to heal. But I had other plans for him.
I took another step, and fire shot up through my legs. The air grew thin, and everything began to blur. I squeezed my eyelids shut; forcing shaky breaths. But my knees buckled, and I hit the ground.
Laughter was close in tow, and I forced my eyes open to find Fat Felo back on his feet. His prodigious girth eclipsing the street lumens.
“Pushed too hard?” he said, his voice thick with nauseating satisfaction. A sharp pinch from Fat Felo dug into the back of my neck, yanking me to my feet, and my arms locked in a painful shrug.
“Amazing how similar people are to animals,” he mused. “Even some of the pressure points. Since you cost me such a gorgeous piece of tail, how ‘bout I show you what I mean?”
Declining his offer was a no-brainer. But I could barely move my arms. Fat Felo cackled sadistically. “It’s more fun when they put up a fight. Thrill of the kill.” He smacked his palm against my temple, and the ringing returned. Darkness crept into my field of view. My body felt like it was shutting down. I had to do something—anything before it was too late.
So what do you think? Serec's journey is far from over and he will have to uncover the mysteries of his power if he is to prepare for the struggles to come. Let us know what you think in the comments and subscribe to stay up to date on everything Refractors!