You’ve entered the world of The Realm Jumpers. The adventure with Riley and his trusty gang continues…
I landed on my back. All the air jetted out of my lungs. Hope screamed. Then Tish did.
Oh, crap. We landed in a nest of Barbarians, didn’t we? We were going to die.
Someone pushed my shoulder. “Get off me, man.”
It was Braeden. I opened my eyes and there he was. My body lay over his, and even though he had a few years on me, my size kept him pinned down.
Until he pushed me. I rolled off to the side, and my head rammed into the foot of my bed. “Ouch!”
“Sorry, Riley.” Hope stood up as she rubbed her head with one hand and held my lamp—broken shade and all—with her other hand.
“Who friggin’ cares about the lamp?” Braeden jumped up. “We made it. Sweet!”
“I don’t like the Barbarian world.” Tish shook her head. “That’s scary.”
“Riley?” Janet yelled as heavy footfalls hammered the stairs leading to my room.
“Crap,” Braeden said. “Whaddo we do?”
“Time to fess up, man, jeez.” Hope shook her head. “Big baby.”
Janet turned the corner of the stairs and skidded to a stop. Big, wide, green eyes examined each of us then she ran to Tish. “Oh my gosh.” She reached for me and waved Braeden and Hope to her. “You’re here. You’re safe.”
Tears sprung from her eyes as she pulled us into a hug. We didn’t all fit, but it still rocked. I liked this big, group hug.
I spread my arms around everyone, too, and Janet cried even harder.
“Sorry I broke your lamp,” Hope whispered.
Janet laughed. “You all are in so much trouble.” She cried harder.
More footsteps started up the stairs.
“Up here. They’re safe,” Janet yelled, hugging tighter.
Jeff joined the mess of tears and said, “You guys are so busted.”
Hope laughed, then the rest of us followed along.
Wait, the room was bright. Light was shining through my windows. “What time is it?”
“7:30 in the morning. You all have been gone more than thirty-six hours!”
“Oh my gosh!” Hope said as we all started to disburse.
Didn’t look like Tish was going to ever let go of Janet again. “Oh, honey. You’re shaking.”
Tish had been so confident in the cave, facing off with that creature. But now everything must be finally settling in.
Heck, I was even shaking a little now that I thought about it.
“You guys are okay? What happened to those army dudes?”
“Took care of them. For now,” Jeff said.
“Let’s get you tucked in. These guys can tell me what happened.” She glared at Braeden.
“And,” Jeff said. “I’m curious. Does any of this have to do anything with a safe I found outside my office window and Barbarians?”
“Whoa,” Hope said. “How’d he know?” she asked me.
I shrugged. At this point, I was so tired and confused, I couldn’t even think straight.
We all filed down the stairs like we were on death row then piled into the kitchen. While J2 dealt with Tish, I dug out some food. When was the last time we’d eaten? It didn’t feel like almost two days.
“Food!” Hope sighed as she bit into a cupcake.
“I don’t think that is classified as food.” Braeden whipped some sandwich meat at her. She squealed.
I bit into my PBJ. All I needed was mint chocolate chip ice cream and I was set.
“Toss me one of those,” Hope said, pointing at my sandwich.
I pitched one of the crustless PBJs at her. “This better?” she held it up at Braeden, and he just huffed.
“We’re so totally dead, aren’t we?” Hope asked.
“You maybe, since you’re not even supposed to know about all this.”
She sat up. “It’s Riley’s fault. He took us to another freaking reality.”
“Realm,” I said.
“Oh, sorry, Realm.” Hope crossed her eyes. “I don’t want to ever go back. Earth, as messed up as it is, is way better. I can’t even believe what I saw. I’m gonna need therapy for—forever.”
“You’re all in trouble.” Jeff sauntered in as he scrubbed his face. “The Council Triad wants to know the second you showed up.”
“What’d you tell them?” Braeden sagged into his chair.
“Haven’t called them yet.” Janet and Jeff leaned against the counter, side-by-side. “Still working out how we’re going to explain Hope’s involvement in all this. But they said once you’re back they’d convene and call us for a meeting.”
“What happened with the army guys?” I asked.
“We grabbed a mind wiper to work their magic,” Jeff said. “It was quite a bit to wipe, though. Everyone’s on high alert here. And surrounding areas.”
“We’re outted, aren’t we?” Braeden asked.
“Might be.” Jeff shrugged. “We knew this time might come. No matter how much we try to hide what’s going on out there, those guys coming here crossed a line.”
Braeden looked at me.
“What do you think happens when the world finds out about freaks like us?”
“Maybe these scientists will be stopped then,” I said. “If everyone knows what they’re doing?”
“Yeah, right.” Hope shook her head. “Let’s hope the mind wipe worked.”
“The Council is on it, too, covering this up. We’ll do our best,” Jeff said.
“How’d you know about the Barbarians?” I asked.
“One second we were here, then the next…” Hope’s voice trailed off.
“You were in the Realm of the Barbarians?” Janet finished Hope’s sentence.
I gulped. “How?”
“You left your computers on.” Jeff looked at Braeden. “Unsecured and on, son. Triad detected your mega-data usage and the fact that you were logged in remotely.”
“Nothing like getting sucked into a black hole to make you forget protocol.”
I nodded, and we told them about how it all happened. “How’d you guys figure things out?”
Janet let out a long sigh. “The files you had on your computer finished decoding.” She glanced at Jeff. “It’s about you, Riley.”
“Kind of figured that, ma’am.” I swallowed hard again but it still didn’t clear my throat of whatever was about to choke me to death.
The computer files. Answers. What am I?
“Like I said, The Triad got a hold of the files before we could read everything, but we saw some.” Jeff’s eyes didn’t meet mine.
Oh great. He couldn’t bear to look at me. This was going to be even badder than I thought.
“I’m part Barbarian,” I said. Might as well get to it.
Janet wiped a tear from her eye and looked at me. “Yes.”
“And Fae. And human,” Jeff said.
Hope dropped her sandwich. Braeden stopped mid-bite.
Heat clawed its fiery nails up the side of my neck and grabbed hold of my face. “And many fathers.”
Janet fell to her knees before me. “Doesn’t matter what—who—you are. You’re wanted, Riley. We want you. We care about you.” She grabbed my face. “You understand me?”
My eyes burned. The PBJ felt like an over-inflated soccer ball in my stomach right now.
“Riley? Say you hear me.”
“I hear you, ma’am.”
She brushed her thumbs beneath my eyes. “Then believe it. No matter what we find out or come up against, we want you with us. We care about you!”
“What else did the documents say?” I asked, totally scared to know, but really wanting to. “Do I have a mother?”
Janet looked down. “I’m sorry, Riley. They—the scientists who created you—the notes indicate she didn’t survive your birth.”
I killed my mom?
“There were complications.” Janet slowly rose. “Her human body couldn’t handle it.”
“Are you saying Riley here has a bunch of fathers? And a Barbarian is one of them?” Braeden asked. “How is that even possible?”
“The documents you found are not the actual scientific documentation of their experiments. Just subjective notes made from observations of Riley as he developed. I suspect it’s a small portion of the notes out there on him.” Jeff shoved his hands into his hair and looked at me. “Kiddo, it’s going to be fine. You’re fine.”
“How is that fine?” I pushed away from the table. If only I could remember something. Anything. “I’m not human.”
“I’m not either.” Braden flicked his wrist and the salt shaker in the middle of the table flung across the surface. “A human shouldn’t be able to do this.”
But he had human parents. A human mom and dad. One dad. I had many. Two of which weren’t even from this world.
That creature, in the cave. He’d called me kin. So did the boy Barbarian.
I’m a monster.
Join us Friday for Chapter 20 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….