Short Story: The Villain And The Hero

Hullo, friends! Unlike some of the short stories I’ve posted recently, The Villain and the Hero is firmly planted in my usual genre: superhero. I had a lot of fun writing this one, and it was nice to get back to writing with superheroes after a little break for other projects. Enjoy!

I’m in love with a boy, and unfortunately, he hates my guts. I know that if he got to know me, he would begin to like me, I just know it! But there’s not much chance for small talk when he’s blasting fire in my direction.

I stand firm as fire blazes towards me, and I throw up a forcefield with one hand. It’s virtually invisible, but I can see the air shimmering slightly in front of me as I hold my hand over my head. With my other hand, I stuff the rest of the money from my latest robbery into the inside pocket of my long black trench coat. Torch’s fire hits my forcefield, reflecting off and shooting straight in the air. I hear him yell in frustration, and I drop my hand, letting the forcefield dissolve. I reach up and scratch around the black mask on my face. Paired with the dark wig, it hides my identity, but I can’t wait to take it off. Talk about itchy.

Torch stalks toward me, his anger and frustration clearly evident. Unlike my dark mask, his black one with flame details makes him look even more attractive. Then again, I’ve always liked guys with brown hair. “Give yourself up, Mirror!” he yells.

Okay, let’s be honest here for a second. I could easily win this fight. It’s as simple as throwing a bubble forcefield around him and making it shrink. Easy peasy, no more Torch. That’s the dumb part about having a crush on your superhero. You tend to go easy on them, even if you’d be better off getting rid of them.

Then again, I’m just stealing from overly rich corporations to pay off student loans, and killing someone wouldn’t help with that anyway.

I put my hands in the air slowly, in a show of surrender, eyeing the distance between the two of us. “You win, Torch. Take me to jail.” The air shivers ever so slightly between us, and I grin. “Or you could take me to dinner instead.”

Torch looks at me suspiciously and rolls his eyes, but he walks towards me. After two steps, he smacks into my invisible forcefield. He yelps and steps back, rubbing his head and glaring at me.

I shake with laughter, letting out a snort on accident. Dang it, Alexis. Play it cool. I try my hardest to smother my laughter, but the glare on his face makes it really hard. Why does he have to be so cute when he’s annoyed? “Sorry, Torch!”

“That’s cold, you know!” he yells back, although I swear he’s hiding a smile. My smile fades when he calls me cold, though.

I throw a disk forcefield on the ground in front of me and step onto it. The other forcefield dissolves automatically. Only being able to make one forcefield is one of my weaknesses that no one has figured out. Not yet, at least. I crouch down and salute Torch, winking. “Until next time, hot stuff.”

At my command, the forcefield raises slightly off the ground and takes off over the nearest building. The wind blows through my hair—at least, the hair on the wig—and I breathe deeply. The air smells of car exhaust and pollution. For a second, I miss the fresh country air from my childhood, but I shove down those memories. This is my home now, and I need to love every part of it. It’s not like the time I spent in the country was any better. Living with my mom was a nightmare.

I lower my forcefield, dodging in between buildings and down alleyways. I come to a stop and dissolve my forcefield, landing on the ground. No one’s around, so I ditch my costume and hide it in the usual spot. I let my long blond hair down and slip on my favorite sweatshirt. Back to my normal college student self.

It doesn’t take me long to make it back to school, and I unlock the door of my apartment. Some kind of Latin music fills the air, probably coming from the kitchen, while I can hear Riley yelling at a basketball game in the living room. I can’t even hear the door close behind me as I walk in.

Lucia does, though. She pokes her head out of the kitchen. “Alexis, amiga! You’re just in time for dinner. Everything’s almost ready.”

I sniff, inhaling the scent of Mexican spices. “Yum! I can’t wait.” I kick off my shoes by the door. “Have the neighbors complained about the noise yet?”

An unintelligible shriek of triumph rises for the living room, and Lucia winces. “Not yet, but I would not be surprised.”

She slips back into the kitchen, singing in Spanish along with the music. I cross into the living room to find Riley flopping back onto the couch, still in her running clothes. She glances up at me and then turns her focus back to her game. “How was your shopping trip?” she asks, reaching for a bag of chips.

I grab the chips before she can get them. “I didn’t get to do any shopping. Mirror and Torch were fighting right by the mall.” At her glare, I set the chips back down, just farther away from her. “Lucia says dinner is almost ready.”

A few minutes later, Lucia calls us into the kitchen. She always makes the most amazing food, and Saturday nights are sacred “Roommate Dinners” for the three of us. After dinner, we all hang out in the living room together, watching a show or talking about our lives. Tonight, we gather all of the junk food in our apartment and sprawl out in the living room. The fight with Torch is still lingering in my mind, and I glance at my two roommates. I love these girls, but if they ever found out about my secret identity, they would go crazy. At least I’m just a supervillain who steals, not one who kills people. I mean, I’ve hurt a few people, but I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve met some villains who are much worse than me.

We’re halfway through our show when Lucia gasps. “Oh my gosh!” Riley and I both turn to look at her in surprise, and she turns her phone around to show us. “Mira!”

A breaking news alert lights up her screen, with a picture of Torch, mid-fight with a supervillain that I immediately recognize. My stomach sinks. Riley snatches the remote and changes the channel to a news channel that’s covering the fight. The voiceover crackles with panic, sending a shiver down my spine.

“…no one knows what Glacier is doing in the city, but so far, she’s been giving Torch quite the beating…”

I tune out the voice on the TV, focusing on the footage. Even from the view of a helicopter, I can tell he’s tired. “Oh, he’s got this,” Riley says, popping a chip in her mouth. “She must be a nobody. I’ve never heard of her before.”

On the TV, Glacier shoots a blast of ice out of her hands, and Torch barely manages to dodge it. Glacier smirks up at the helicopter, and I feel like she’s staring into my soul with her icy gaze. Lucia winces. “I hope he’ll be alright.”

Riley switches the channel back to our show, but my hands are shaking now. What if something really bad happens to Torch? At least when I fight him, I go easy on him. He’s not going to be able to walk away from this fight. Glacier would never take it easy on him.

Before I can think about it, I’m standing up and heading to the front door. Lucia looks up from her phone. “Where are you going?”

I unlock the door. “I’m just going for a walk. I’ll see if the laundry room is open.”

She nods. “Just stay away from downtown. That’s where the fight is happening.”

I nod and smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not going that way at all.”

As soon as I get out of view of our apartment, that’s the exact direction I go. I run to my hiding spot and retrieve my costume, changing as quickly as I can. This is one of the many reasons I chose a trench coat for my costume, instead of some skintight outfit. It’s so much easier to put on. A forcefield materializes underneath my feet, and I zoom off in the direction of the fight.

The closer I get to downtown, the more unsure I feel of myself. What am I even going to do? Fight Glacier? I’m pretty sure I can fight her, yeah—I’ve improved a lot since the last time I fought her—but as soon as I defeat her, Torch is going to turn on me.

But I also can’t let her hurt him… or kill him.

Ugh, feelings are dumb.

I know I’m getting close to the fight because I start feeling blasts of heat and cold. I lower myself behind a building. I’m even more nervous now, but mostly because I feel more cold than heat in the air. I duck around a few corners and finally come across the fight. I immediately cringe. I’ve fought Torch enough times that I can tell he’s exhausted. His fire blasts are weak, barely reaching to Glacier.

Glacier is smirking at him, clearly toying with him. Her skin shimmers, coated in a frosty layer, and her long, dark blue dress sparkles with ice, too, glittering like stars set against a backdrop of night. Her dark hair, streaked with gray, sparkles with a layer of ice too. She looks like a queen, and I shudder at the sight of her. I could have ended up ruthless and cold, just like her.

I step out of the shadows, the wind from Glacier’s next blast of ice whipping my trench coat around my legs. Torch shoots a blast of fire at Glacier’s ice blast, melting it just before it could hit him. He’s almost done, and Glacier can tell. She starts to stalk towards him, just like he did when he was fighting me earlier.

Then she catches sight of me.

A smile slithers across her face, something sinister lurking behind it. “Hello, dear,” she calls out, her voice deeper from the cold air. “Don’t worry about this. I’m finishing the job you’ve never been able to handle.”

Torch glances in my direction just as I glance at him. Anger flashes across his face, but then it fades to nothing. He’s losing hope.

I’m in the middle right now, off to the side, not committed to either one of them. I look over at Glacier. “You’re a monster,” I whisper, my voice carrying on the breeze.

She shrugs and steps closer, towards me instead of Torch this time. “It took you long enough to figure that out.” With a quick flick of her wrist, she sends icicles shooting in my direction.

I know she expects me to put up a forcefield to block the icicles, but I don’t. I react instantly, swirling my hands in the air and then pushing towards her. A bubble forcefield surrounds her as I jump to the side. I feel the impact from one of the icicles, and cold spreads through my shoulder.

Glacier laughs and starts to walk toward me, but she runs into the forcefield. She reaches out and puts her hands on it, her smile fading as she realizes she’s completely trapped. I look at her, and she stares back at me, horror growing on her face. I hold up my hand, and she backs up, hitting the back of the bubble. “No!” she shrieks.

I slowly begin to close my hand into a fist, and bubble shrinks around her, and she panics, trying to make herself as small as possible. The bubble tightens more. I find myself shaking in anger as I glare at her. Out of nowhere, someone’s hand grabs the one I’m holding up. I turn to find Torch, his hand grasping mine.

“Don’t kill her,” he rasps, his voice weak. “You’re not like her. Don’t become her.”

I look at him in shock and then look back at Glacier. Fear covers her face as she sobs into her own skirt, curled up in the fetal position inside the forcefield. It’s barely big enough to fit her now. Horror floods my body, and I let my hand drop. The forcefield dissolves, but Glacier stays on the ground, still sobbing in terror.

Torch helps me to my feet, and cops descend on Glacier. He holds my arms, looking over me. “Are you okay?” he asks, looking at my face. I stare at him, surprised to see concern in his eyes.

“I’m fine.” I lean against a wall nearby, looking over at the icicle lodged in my shoulder.

Torch puts a hand on my arm and inspects the icicle in my shoulder. “Why would you do that?” he asks, searching my face as if he would find answers there. Ambulance sirens echo in the distance.

I look back at him and give him a weak smile. “You’re just trying to do your job. I knew she wouldn’t leave you alive.” I stare off as the police put power-eliminating cuffs on Glacier and push her in the back of a cop car. Relief and sadness tug at opposite sides of my heart. A whisper slips out of my lips, stolen away by the wind.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

Lightporter Release Countdown: Chapter Two

Hullo, everyone! Today I bring you the second chapter of Lightporter, which means we only have one week left until the release tour starts! I can’t wait! If you’re new, you should definitely read Twinepathy first, or you can just try out the second book. Click here to read the first chapter of Lightporter. Hope you enjoy this chapter, and don’t forget to comment your theories and ideas below!

The alley fades away and we appear in IDIA headquarters, in one of the big black circles that I learned are teleporting rings—places for teleporters to safely teleport to without worrying about people. No one’s supposed to walk in them, and no one does. After dropping us off, Blaze immediately disappears, leaving us there with barely a nod.

“This is so weird,” I say, frowning at the spot where Blaze was. “Let’s get to Data’s office so we can figure out what’s going on.”

The teleportation rings are on the opposite side of the huge lobby of IDIA from Jen’s office, so it would be a long trek—that is, if we had to walk. But Maddie’s here, so we don’t have to. She’s been working on her powers with another telekinetic, Push, and her powers have strengthened a lot. She just learned how to fly recently, and while I’m still nervous, I trust her. Mostly. I do wish I had some way to hold onto the ground, just in case. Flying still feels unnatural.

Maddie uses her telekinesis powers to push herself off the ground, then pulls us up behind her. A moment later, we’re hurtling across the lobby, near the high ceiling—which Jen told me was made specifically for flying to be possible. It doesn’t take us long to reach the other side, and I’m very glad to be back on the ground. I barely wait for Brooklyn and Maddie before heading over to Jen’s office door.

The desk outside the office where Com used to sit before he betrayed us is empty. Jen said she might look for a replacement, but it’s been three months since the end of that whole fiasco, and she still hasn’t gotten one. My guess is she doesn’t want to go through that whole thing again, but who knows. If there’s one person I’ll never be able to understand, it’s Jen.

And apparently Blaze.

I knock on Jen’s office door and hear her call for us to come in. She looks up as we enter and smiles. “Good, I’m glad you made it.” She motions to three chairs in front of her desk. “Have a seat, please. This’ll be quick.”

“And clear, I hope,” I comment, sitting down in one of the chairs. “What’s wrong with Blaze?”

Jen’s expression turns solemn, and she nods. “You noticed, then.”

“It was kind of hard not to,” Brooklyn admits. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” Jen says. “That’s why I wanted you three to come here. Blaze has been acting very odd for the past three days. He’s been quiet, snappish, and the opposite of his usual cheerful self. I’ve known him for years, and he’s only been like this twice. But he also won’t open up to me at all, so I know he’s hiding something.”

“And you want us to figure out what that something is?” I ask with a frown.

“Yes and no.” Jen leans forward. “I don’t want to endanger any of you, and I don’t want to make Blaze suspicious, either. I just want all of you to keep your eyes and ears open, and if you hear even a hint as to what’s bugging him, let me know.”

“Can I ask him what’s going on?” I ask.

Jen nods. “Just don’t mention me or make him suspicious.”

“Okay.” I frown. “You said there were two other times when Blaze acted like this. What were they?”

Jen studies me with a frown of her own. “One is classified, the other involves Blaze’s own personal life, and I’m not at liberty to share about that. I can tell you that in both of those situations, Blaze was willing to talk to me. Only one of them was a serious situation, and it was one I already knew about. So I can only conclude that his unwillingness to talk means it’s something I wouldn’t like.”

I’m thoroughly confused, but I’ve come to expect vagueness from Jen. “Okay…”

Jen glances at her watch. “We need to get to the meeting. Be careful, all of you, especially Albany.” She gives me a warning look. “I don’t know what Blaze is up to, and I don’t like to think that he’d harm any of you, but I still want you to be careful.” With that final warning, she stands up and motions to the door. “We’re in room four.”

The three of us follow Jen down the hallway, more solemn than we were before. Whatever’s going on with Blaze is not good, with a capital everything. I can’t help musing over it in my mind. What if Blaze has started working for FOE, the mysterious villainous agency that Com was working for? Not likely, but possible. I don’t know anything about his history or his family, not even his real name, so who knows what could be going on. Maybe his family has worked for them for years or something. But even then, I can’t imagine Blaze working for the bad guys. Maybe something’s wrong in his non-superhero life.

We reach the meeting room and go inside. No one else is in it when we enter, but Jen motions for us to sit. “Blaze is bringing Push,” she tells us.

We don’t have to wait long. Blaze and Push come in only a minute or two after we get settled. They take their places at the table quickly, and Jen begins to debrief us.

“As most of you know, Com betrayed us because he was working for an organization—or maybe an agency—named FOE. He told us he was hired by someone, and that was the only person from the agency he ever met. After his capture, I read him.” She flexes her hands absentmindedly and her expression darkens a little. “I know what his contact looks like. Unfortunately, there’s a very great possibility that his appearance was a disguise. But through their conversation, I was able to pick up a few clues as to where he was holed up—a hotel in Chicago.”

“You think he’s still there?” I ask doubtfully.

Jen shakes her head. “Most likely not. But this hotel keeps a backlog of guests, so we can figure out how long the man was staying there. If he’s still there, in the hotel, I want all of you to carefully investigate. If he’s not, see if there’s any way you can check the room he was staying in. He might have left something behind that could give us a clue. Either way, Blaze, I want you to keep everyone invisible the entire time. Pop, you will be here at headquarters, keeping in contact with Jazz through your connection.”

Brooklyn sighs in relief, and so do I. That means I get to go on this mission, at least. I can’t wait. I don’t know how Brooklyn can actually like staying here at headquarters. Just goes to show how different we are.

“Jazz, Maddie, Push, and Blaze, you four will be investigating, looking through the records. I have their location at the hotel for you, and I also have the exact date he checked into the hotel.”

“How?” Push asks, frowning.

Jen smiles slightly. “Com was the one who picked him up and checked him in.”

“Wouldn’t that give us his name, too?” I ask.

“No. Unless his name really is John Smith,” Jen replies. “Which is highly unlikely.”

“The cheesiest of all cheesy fake names,” I say with a grin in Blaze’s direction. My smile falters when he ignores me. Of course.

Jen gives us more details, like the location of the records room and small details that might help us. She also gives us a picture of Com and a picture of what she says is the FOE guy. He looks normal enough… too normal, come to think of it. “This is what his appearance was for the most part when he met with Com. You can use this to ask some of the hotel staff about him. Push, I’m putting you on that. Maddie, I’d prefer for you to stay on lookout. Blaze and Albany, you two will go through the registers for information. Understood?”

We all agree, and Jen looks us over. “You can do this. Blaze.” She nods at him, and he teleports the four of us away.

A mission! I can’t wait to find out what happens next… 🙂 Come back next Monday for the third chapter and the start of the release tour! Also, don’t forget that the sign-ups for Lightporter‘s release tour are still open, so you can still sign up if you would like to participate!

Enjoy the chapter? Comment below with your thoughts and theories!

Lightporter Release Countdown: Chapter One

Hullo, friends! So in preparation for the release of Lightporter, I decided to release the first three chapters of the book here on my blog! I know I said I would post this on Monday, but… I forgot. So for the next three Mondays until the tour starts, you can stop by and read the chapters! If you’re new, you should definitely read Twinepathy first, or you can just try out the second book. Enjoy!

Hello, my name is Albany York, and I never thought I’d see Anvil mowing our lawn. Maybe he makes awesome macadamia nut cookies and “killer” lasagna, but mowing the lawn seems awfully… normal. It just doesn’t seem right for a dangerous secret superhero guy.

Brooklyn and I are supposed to be working on homework, but I’m reading my new favorite book, and she’s staring out the window, daydreaming. That’s unfortunate, because those daydreams keep sneaking their way into my head—one of the cons of having a telepathic connection with your sister. Maddie’s at Keller’s house, since it’s the weekend. I’m in the middle of the climax of my book when Brooklyn straightens, staring out at the yard.

“Albany!” She presses her nose to the glass. “It’s Anvil!”

I look up in surprise. “What?!” My mind immediately starts going over all the terrible reasons he could be here. Did something happen to Maddie? Or Blaze? Or Jen?

“He’s mowing the lawn,” Brooklyn announces, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. She gets up and heads to the door. “I’m gonna go say hi.”

She’s out the door before I can protest. I go to the window, and sure enough, Anvil’s pushing a rumbling lawn mower across our yard. Not normal at all. More importantly, though, why is he here?

I tramp down the stairs and discover Brooklyn in the kitchen. “What are you doing? I thought you were going to talk to him,” I say.

“I’m making lemonade for him. It’s hot outside,” she replies. By her easygoing attitude, you’d think it was Denver mowing the lawn, not Anvil. I shrug and head outside.

I step out onto the porch and wave to Anvil. He spots me and stops the mower, and I hurry over to talk to him. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

He swipes a hand across his forehead. “I’m mowing your lawn.”

I cross my arms. “Well, duh. But why?”

He looks down at me. “Your mom hired me.”

“Why?” I ask again, getting more frustrated by the second.

“Mission,” Anvil finally says. “Details after I finish.” He nods at the lawn mower, hinting.

I sigh. “Fine. I’ll go help Brooklyn with the lemonade.”

About twenty minutes later, the rumble of the lawn mower stops, and I help Brooklyn carry a pitcher of lemonade and some glasses out onto the porch. Anvil accepts a glass and guzzles it down. “Thanks. It tastes great.”

“You’re welcome!” Brooklyn pours him some more. “I squeezed the lemons myself. I actually experimented with the recipe a little, and added less sugar than usual…”

I clear my throat. “You said something about a mission, Anvil?”

The corner of his mouth twitches in an almost-smile. He pulls an envelope out of his pocket and hands it to me. “Times and details inside. Blaze will be here to pick you up at whatever time.”

I frown. “You don’t know the time?”

Anvil shrugs. “I’m not on this one. I’m just delivering the summons.”

“Hello!” Mom hurries up the walkway and joins us on the porch. “I see you’ve met my daughters, Cade. The lawn looks wonderful.”

Great. I forgot that Mom would know Anvil by his real name, not his IDIA code name. Now I’ll have to remember to call him Cade around Mom and Dad.

Anvil nods at Mom. “Thank you. I’ll start the back in a minute. Your daughters just brought out some lemonade.”

Mom looks at us with a smile. “Good. Come inside when you’re done, Cade, so I can pay you.” She starts to go inside, but I hold out a hand and stop her.

“Mom, I forgot to tell you, we have to study with Blaze later tonight.”

Mom nods slowly, throwing a glance in Anvil’s direction. She knows about IDIA, and so does Anvil, so I could easily say what I really meant: we have an assignment tonight. But Mom doesn’t know that Anvil’s an agent, and Jen stated clearly that our family should only know about me, Brooklyn, Maddie, Blaze, and Jen herself. Understandable. My only complaint is a big one—this means Denver doesn’t know about Ezra.

“All right,” Mom replies. “Let me know how long you’ll be gone, okay?”

I agree, and Mom heads back inside. Anvil finishes his lemonade, gives Brooklyn and me a quick nod, and heads back out to finish the yard. I drag Brooklyn upstairs and pull open the envelope. Because of all the notes we’ve gotten from Blaze about missions in the past three months since we joined IDIA, I’ve learned to recognize his handwriting, and I know instantly this isn’t his. It’s way too elegant.

Jazz and Pop are required for a mission. Please report to Lava Java Café to be picked up by Blaze at three o’clock. Meet me privately when you arrive, as I also have a private mission for you. Do not mention to Blaze. –Data

Jen, of course. I look at Brooklyn, surprised. I’m pretty sure this is the first time that we’ve gotten a note from her. Why doesn’t she want us to tell Blaze about this “private mission”?

“That’s weird,” Brooklyn says with a frown, reading over my shoulder.

I nod. “I guess we’ll figure out what this is all about at three.” Waiting. If anyone ever wants to torture me, that will be the best way to do it.

Brooklyn gives me a look. “Keep in mind it would be best if you didn’t try to find out before then.”

Having a sister who can read your mind—literally and figuratively—is not always beneficial. “The thought didn’t even cross my mind,” I say innocently. But for once, I agree with Brooklyn. I should probably wait. “Don’t worry, I’ll wait.”

I grab my book and flop on my bed, but in spite of how reluctant I was to put it down earlier, now I’m antsy with anticipation, and it’s almost impossible to concentrate. Eventually, I put the book down and force myself to work on homework instead. My mind keeps going over the possibilities, trying to figure out why Jen wants to meet with us privately. It can’t be about the dumpster incident with Blaze last week, since Brooklyn wasn’t involved in that. Sure, there have been a few mishaps since then—maybe more than a few—but I’m able to rule out almost all of them. The only one even mildly possible is the Chipmunk Escapade, and Jen already lectured me about that. The only other reason I can come up with is that Jen has a special, secret mission for us. That theory only makes me more antsy.

Brooklyn makes me wait until it’s almost three before we leave. Anvil’s long gone, and we tell Mom we’re not sure how long we’ll be. I hope we’re home for dinner, because I’m pretty sure I saw Mom’s shrimp scampi recipe on the counter. My favorite kind of seafood ever. But I might have to make a choice: top secret mission or shrimp scampi. Hopefully I don’t have to make that decision.

We head over to the fake Lava Java Café, and since there aren’t any illusions inside, I’m guessing we’re supposed to meet out back. I lead the way into the alley, since Brooklyn hates dark, narrow streets, and I’m surprised to find Maddie waiting by the back door.

“Maddie!” Brooklyn exclaims, going over to her and hugging her. “Aren’t you supposed to be at Keller’s?”

Maddie smiles and wiggles her way out of Brooklyn’s too-tight hug. “I was, but I got a note from Data about a mission. I didn’t know you were coming.” She smiles at me, her eyes bright.

I can’t help but grin back. “We didn’t know you were going to be here, either. Did you get any details?” I really want to ask about the secret meeting with Jen, but I don’t know if I should. Jen only said not to tell Blaze…

Maddie shakes her head. “No, but Data wants to meet with me before.”

Brooklyn looks around and then speaks in a low voice. “Did she tell you not to tell Blaze, either?”

Maddie nods. “Not sure what that’s about.” She taps her mask. “You guys should mask up.”

Blaze appears next to us as Brooklyn and I slip on our masks. He’s frowning, a rare sight for him. Other than that, he looks normal, with his black mask and fudge brown hair. “Ready?”

“Ready as a dragon,” I say with a grin. Blaze said the same thing to me a while back, and I’ve been looking for a chance to use it back to him. But instead of throwing out his patented grin, Blaze just sends me a glare. I put my hands on my hips. “Really? I’ve been waiting to do that for ages. Not even a smirk?”

Blaze sighs. “Ha. Ha. That better?”

“What’s wrong?” Brooklyn asks. “Are you all right?” I can’t tell if she’s concerned or if she’s trying to get more information for our meeting with Jen.

Blaze sighs, running a hand through his hair, which makes it stick out in all directions. “Nothing. I’m just really stressed out, and I’m not in the mood for joking around, okay? So let’s just get you guys to HQ, all right?”

I gape at Blaze. Moody and snappy? That’s something I’d expect from Trav, Blaze’s perpetually frowning teleporter friend, or Anvil, but Blaze? No way. “Since when are you not in the mood for—”

Brooklyn gives me a look, and I close my mouth. Whatever’s going on, I hope it stops soon. I already miss cheerful Blaze. Brooklyn turns to Blaze. “Let’s go, then.”

Oooh, Blaze being grumpy? And a mission! What do you think will happen next? Comment your thoughts below, and make sure to tune in next Saturday to read chapter two!

Also, don’t forget that the sign-ups for Lightporter‘s release tour are still open if you would like to participate!