You’ve entered the world of The Realm Jumpers. The adventure with Riley and his trusty gang continues…
“You need to practice or you’re gonna kill someone by accident.” Braeden held out his last steel baseball bat.
“Duh. That’s why we’re doing this.”
“I think I liked you better when you were saying ma’am and sir all the time.”
I laughed. “Okay. If I get this, we’re going for mint chocolate chip ice cream.” I’d absolutely pulverized the last three bats we’d tried, though, so ice cream probably wasn’t in my near future.
“Wait,” Braeden said, hopping to his feet. “Look.”
We hustled to my window.
“Mom and dad are headed up here. Quick. The safe hidden?”
I’d propped it beneath my desk where it’d sat for three whole days. J2 never seemed to be gone at the same time so we could sneak into The Cave to try and open it.
Hope plopped down on the chair at my desk and grinned. “I got it covered.”
“Boys?” Janet and Jeff clomped up the steps.
“Yeah.” Braeden met them at the top. “What’s up?”
“Oh, hi, Hope,” Janet said, waving to her. “Say, we’re going to head out for a late dinner. Just the two of us. You guys got Tish?”
“Sure. Yeah.” I sat on my desktop, near Hope. “No problem.”
“She’s already in bed. Tired her out today, boys, playing with her. Nicely done.” Janet smiled and Jeff waved. “Be good.”
“Always,” Braeden said, grinning.
Jeff huffed and followed his wife down the stairs. I held my breath until I heard the garage door shut.
“Okay.” Braden pulled the cover off the safe. “We’ve got an hour, two if Mom’s chatty. Hope, you watch for Tish to wake up. Me and Riley will go to The Cave and see what we can do about this thing.”
“No way. I’m wanna see The Cave!”
“You’re not even supposed to know about it, human.”
“Jerk mutant creepo.” She smacked Braeden. “I’m not stuck with sitter duty while you all have the fun. Not fair.”
“Come on. What if she wakes up and we’re all three down there?” I said. “Please? I’ll take you next time.”
“Fine,” Hope said in her most whiney voice ever. “You totally owe me chocolate. Tons of it.”
“I’ll get you a pound,” I said as I snatched up the safe and tucked it under my arm. “You guys first. Make sure it’s clear.”
“I can’t believe you’re carrying that so easily.”
We snuck through the house and left a scowling Hope at Tish’s door as I followed Braeden into Jeff’s office. My hands were so sweaty I thought I’d drop the darn safe.
In about two minutes I could learn more about myself. Who I was. As in really was. Who my parents were. I gulped. Parents. Mom. That’s all I ever wanted.
Well. I think so, anyway. If I had my memory, I bet that’s what I’d have thought about.
Braeden pulled on The Great Gatsby book on the third row, and the shelves groaned, moved out several inches and then separated like elevator doors would.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Cool, huh?” Braeden grinned from ear to ear.
We stepped onto an elevator lift of some type, but there weren’t any doors. The bookshelves closed, and we started going down. Darkness surrounded us as we plummeted.
As in darkness so thick I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.
“Don’t move,” Braeden said.
“Wasn’t planning on it. I can’t believe this is beneath this house. I never would have suspected.”
“That’s the idea. Every few years Janet and Jeff move out and find a new house. But really it’s just another of our teammates homes. We keep moving around so we’re harder to track.”
That didn’t sound like very much fun.
“Sometimes it’s across town or another town all together. Sometimes they change names. Get a new cover story.”
“Cover story. Meaning Jeff working at the school?”
“School janitor is the best cover of all. They have their ear to the ground.”
“Looks like Hope’s how not to be a dork training missed something.” Braeden laughed. “Means, they hear things. Know what’s going on. And honestly, it’s kids who are the victims most of the time. Being near them is good.”
“More vulnerable. Susceptible.”
“How long have you been in this house?”
“One year. We came from Richmont. It’s in the SW corner of the state. Now that house was sweet.”
Okay. Brain implosion eminent.
I almost wished for the port to my brain to work so they could upload everything I needed to know about this Kurator stuff.
“Don’t worry. It’s a lot to take in. How you doing carrying that thing?”
“Fine. Ready to see what’s in it.” And get into the light. This darkness thing while moving, not my ideal.
“And get back to soccer, right?”
“Yep. Will you tell me, honestly, what you found out so far about me? Because you went to that house to search it even though it was against the rules. Why?”
“Just wanted to see if I could find anything more. We only know little bits.” He coughed.
“Um…it looks like, well, that you might have lots of dads.” The elevator started to slow.
Light bled into the darkness from the bottom as we eased to a stop. We faced an open room, and Braeden stepped off, but I stayed put. Not by choice. My stupid feet wouldn’t move.
Lot’s of dads?
“The files on those thumb drives we grabbed when we got you were corrupted, but we were able to recover some information. It’s a hot mess, but it mentioned something about Realms and how they were combined with your DNA.”
“That can’t be good.” My legs finalled started working.
“That’s why we need more information. And I didn’t want to wait for those Council Triad jerks. They take their time with everything. Sucks.” He pointed to a desk in some sort of receiving area. “Here’s the main entrance. Little desk there, I’m the acting secretary sometimes.” He laughed as he led me through the main doors into a humongous room.
It was one open room that went on forever. “Are we beneath the neighbor’s house?”
“About six stories down. Put that thing on that center table there.”
Up ahead there was a lab-like table with a black top. Microscopes and computers were at the far end but up above was another huge microscope hanging from the ceiling. Wow. Made me wonder what they brought down here that needed one so big.
“I’ll just hook these up.” Braeden came in with a device a little bigger than my cell phone, but it had wires coming from it and there were sticky pads at the end of them.
“What is that?”
“Decoder. It’ll break through and find us the combo to get into this bad bear.” It had a keypad that looked like the one on my cell phone. Smaller screen though and it had red lines across it.
He affixed the pads to the steel door then started turning the dial. “This safe looks super old. Not sure this’ll work. But we have other toys we can try if it doesn’t. Would have been easier if it had an electrical lock, but oh well. I love a challenge.”
“Says freakishly strong genetic freak who can heal people.”
I punched his shoulder.
Numbers started scrolling on the tiny screen. I glanced around the big room again. It was mostly white. Like a lab. I turned and the bottom of my sneaker squeaked against the shiny linoleum.
“What do you do down there?” I pointed toward the other end of the room. It was filled with big screen TVs, mounted high on the walls, nearly to the ceiling.
“Teleconference with the Triad. No one knows where they are.”
“How’d this Council get in charge?”
“Been around forever.” He shrugged. “And they know stuff.”
“Do they have powers?”
“I don’t think so.” He grinned. “I never asked, actually.”
“Why don’t you like them?”
“They’re a billion years old. I don’t know. They take forever on things. Always so cautious. Sometimes you just gotta act.”
“Like you did when you snuck out.”
He nodded. “I get the whole idea that they keep an eye on things. Back us up with tech-toys, cover stories. There’s nothing they don’t have their fingers in and they can make just about anything happen, but it’s like they like the power too much. You know? Want to jerk us around.”
“So they’re like the Kurator police,” I said.
“I’m not sure there’s a jail for us. I’ve broken enough rules that I would have seen one by now, so there must not be.”
“But J2 trust them?”
“Then we should, too, right?”
Something in the safe unlatched.
“Yes!” Braeden cranked the handle but before he opened it, he motioned me back behind him.
He slowly opened the thick door. It squeaked, but thankfully nothing blew up. I stepped out from behind him.
“An envelope?” I reached in and snatched it. “What the heck? All that for an—wait, something’s in here.” It felt heavy on one side.
Braeden reached into the safe and patted all the walls. “Ha. Knew there had to be more.” He pulled out a small thumb drive. “Taped to the ceiling.” He huffed. “As if we wouldn’t check that.”
“I wouldn’t have.”
“That’s because you’re a clueless little kid.” He shuffled over to the computer at the end of the table as I slid my finger beneath the flap.
There was something gold inside. I tipped over the envelope and it fell into the palm of my hand. It was a coin. Heavy, too. The lights flashed on it like—
It blazed red.
My skin sizzled.
“Ouch!” I whipped it onto the table.
“What?” Braeden looked up from the computer. “What’s wrong?”
“Burned me. Son of a gun.”
Holding a pointer of some sort, Braeden poked at the coin like it was a dangerous animal or something.
The image on the coin matched the red welt on my skin. It looked like half of a chicken wishbone with a minus sign at the curve. The lines were thick, too.
“What is that?” I asked.
Braeden snapped a picture of it. “I’ll run it. See if we can come up with anything. You okay?”
Nowhere near okay. My palm warmed up. “I think I’m starting to heal.”
“Man. Any little cut all healed up. Think how awesome that’ll be when you start shaving. Lucky jerk.”
“I think I’d rather be more normal.”
“If I were you, I’d forget about ever being normal, buddy.”
Easier said than done. I watched as the red burn faded. Funny, though, instead of disappearing, it darkened. “Wait. Something’s happening. It’s turning black.”
The phone buzzed in my pocket, and I pulled it out. “Text from Hope.”
“Crap!” I said, showing him the screen.
“Must have gone to fast food!” He ripped out the thumb drive from the laptop and bolted to me. “Come on, take the safe—”
“Where?” I grabbed the coin, slammed the safe door shut then hoisted the thing into my arms. “Think we can make it to the garage?”
“Not if you stand around asking questions.”
We hopped onto the lift and darkness covered us again.
“Dang it. I wanted to see more of The Cave.”
“We need to tell J2.”
“After we check this drive out. I want to show them some good stuff when we tell them everything we’ve done. It’ll lessen the blow.”
“Not sure I trust your judgment, old and wise one—oh wait, you’re only sixteen—You’re going to get us all in trouble.”
“There’s no going back, so zip it.” The lift stopped and the bookshelves slid open.
Hope was in there, squirming around by the door. “Oh that’s so freaking cool!” She jumped up and down then waved us to the door. “Hurry.”
“Hey boys!” Janet called out.
I slammed my back against the wall near the office door. Braeden ran out. “Back so soon?”
“What are you doing in there?” Janet asked.
“Just working on a few things for Riley’s identity. Did you bring me any dessert?”
“Hope,” I whispered. “Open the window. Quick.”
The shelf of books was still parted. Crap. Which book did Braeden touch to open it?
“Here,” Hope said.
I looked out the window, all clear. I hefted the safe out. Branches cracked.
So much for the bushes.
I scrambled over to the bookshelf. Which book was it? Withering…no…
“I can’t believe there’s an elevator behind there. Was it cool? What did you see? When can I—”
“Great Gatsby!” I shoved it in place and winced at the squeak when the shelves started moving.
“Shhh,” Hope said. “They’re gonna hear!”
“Like I can control that.” I pushed her toward the door.
“Where’s Riley?” Janet asked, sounding way too close.
Hope froze, hands over her mouth and her eyes wide. Looked like she was doing the potty dance I’d seen Tish doing the other day at the supermarket.
“Oh. He’s up in his room,” Braeden said super loud.
“We’ll go say goodnight.”
Hope pushed me back into the office. “Hurry.”
Shoving my six-foot-four frame out a small window, yeah, that didn’t work so well. I sprinted across the back yard but saw Janet through the kitchen window heading to the back door.
I was never going to make it.
Hope pointed up. “Up!”
That’s right. She’d climbed up the side to get into my room.
I grabbed the lowest branch of the tree beneath my window then pulled myself up. At least it held me.
Working my way close enough to the house, I hopped onto the ledge, about five feet from my room. My fingers burned from the prickly bark.
The window was shut, of course, dang it. Did I lock it?
“Yes,” I whispered. It was open.
I hoisted it up and crawled through. Mental note to self: move the desk. I slid off the top of it and snatched my laptop inches before it crashed to the ground.
A quick spin and I missed the end table beside my bed—er—where my bed used to be before training with the pipe. I stumbled forward and landed face first on my mattress. I snatched up my book and rolled over just as Janet’s head appeared over the stair well.
Jeff followed close behind.
I took in a deep breath and flipped my book over. Wouldn’t look good trying to read it upside down.
“Hey. What’s up?” I asked. Too bad my voice cracked.
“Just wanted to say goodnight, honey. You okay? You look flushed.”
If she only knew.
Join us Friday for Chapter 14 of Watcher of the Realms. Be sure to subscribe to the site to not miss a single chapter of Riley’s adventures.
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See you soon….