Everything in this story is mine. So there! :) This installment is actually the revised version of "Saga of the Spectrum Force" (in case you are familiar with my original SF series). Once again, it is understood that all aliens are speaking their native tongues. When human beings who do not understand the alien/foreign language are present, I will enclose the non-English speech in parentheses. But when all present understand, I will eliminate that notation.|
Thursday, January 27, 2000
A young woman groaned as she blindly felt the space beneath her narrow bed. She then rose to her feet, sighing as she finished buttoning her white blouse. Once she fastened the cuffs, she hurried to her dresser, and pulled out a pair of tawny-toned stockings. After sliding the fine material onto her long legs, she quickly threw on a navy blue blazer and matching skirt, reaching several inches above her knee. She then rushed to her mirror, hanging against the wall just above her dresser, and pulled her dark brown locks into the confines of a barrette. Once she was satisfied with her hair, she stroked a light amount of makeup on her face, enhancing her naturally tan complexion, and emphasizing her large brown eyes with liner. Finally, a conservative spray of vanilla perfume completed the ritual.
She smiled nervously at her reflection, and looked down at her jewelry box. She selected a pair of silver hoop earrings, and a narrow silver band, with the design of leaves etched in its surface, and a sizable amethyst set in the center.
After a final appraisal, she left her small bedroom, and entered the common living room of the apartment.
"Jocelyn?" she called, glancing around the empty room. She then knocked on the door of the bedroom beside her own.
"Come in!" a voice called.
She walked into the room, still in frantic move-in disarray, and observed her roommate sitting at her computer, absently toying with a caramel-colored curl as she stared at the screen.
"Jocie, did you see my navy blue pumps? I can't find them anywhere."
Jocelyn Armand thought for a moment before shaking her head in the negative. "Your feet are two full sizes bigger than mine," she pointed out, "There's no way I'd borrow your shoes, Rachel!"
Rachel Castaneda frowned, folding her arms over her chest. "I hope Tammy gets back soon. She's probably got them."
She sighed inwardly, approaching Jocelyn. She peeked over her shoulder to the computer. "What are you working on? You can't possibly have an essay... we're four days into the semester!"
"Actually, I'm tweaking my schedule," the girl revealed, "I really hated the first lecture of Biology, but I need to take a Life Science course this term."
"Why this term?" Rachel inquired, "You're a freshman! You don't have to worry about fulfilling the requirements yet."
"Yeah, but I figure if I take at least one course in every basic field, I'll know what field interests me," Jocelyn hypothesized, "And from there, I can figure out which major I'm best suited for."
Rachel nodded, glancing up at the sound of a key turning in the lock. She hurried out of Jocelyn's room, and saw her second roommate, Tamara Fox, stroll into the apartment, an Express garment bag tossed over her shoulder.
"Hey Ray!" she said with a smile, holding up her bag, "You've got to see the skirt I got! It's adorable!"
She noted the frown marring her best friend's face, and rolled her large chocolate brown eyes absently. "What did you lose?"
Rachel's frown turned into a wry smile. "Navy blue pumps. You know, the ones I bought specifically for this outfit, specifically for interviews!"
Tamara sat down on one of the high stools beside the kitchen counter, lying her bag in front of her. She tapped her chin in thought.
"Oh yeah... you know, they match perfectly with the blue and gold tank dress I wore to the Thalia Theater Troupe dinner last night..."
"And what happened to them after the party?"
Tamara smiled guiltily. "Last time I saw them, they were in the coat closet."
Rachel sighed, hurrying to the closet and searching the contents. Moments later, she pulled out her shoes, and slid them on her feet.
"Thanks," she breathed, grabbing her purse, "I'm running late!"
"Wait, Ray!" Tamara called urgently, "How long are you gonna be gone?"
Rachel shrugged. "Probably for two hours or so. If they do hire me, they'll probably want to show me around the office. I should be done at seven."
"But you're gonna miss Keith!" she protested, "His flight's coming in at six."
Rachel frowned pensively. "Right." She fished into her purse, and pulled out her car keys. She tossed them at Tamara. "You guys can take my car. I'll take the subway."
Rachel nodded, opening the door. "Absolutely. And I'll definitely be back for dinner at Cosmos."
Tamara watched Rachel rush through the door, and then turned her gaze to the keys in her hand.
Then, Jocelyn emerged from her bedroom, leaning against the wall and raising her eyes to the ceiling tiredly.
"There's a Microbiology course offered Friday mornings," she announced, "It fits into my schedule."
Tamara frowned in disgust. "Didn't Matt take that course last term? He said it single-handedly ruined his GPA."
Jocelyn's brow wrinkled. "Oh yeah..."
Tamara rose from her stool, grabbing her bag. "Oh, I gotta show you my new outfit! Keith's eyes are gonna pop out of their sockets when he sees me in this!"
Jocelyn smiled in amusement. "Now isn't that a lovely mental picture?"
Swirling in the atmosphere of the planet Jupiter is a massive storm, which has existed for as long as Earth's scientists have been able to observe the planet. It has been called the Great Spot, and is approximately 30,000 miles in diameter. What is not known to Earth's scientists is this storm is in fact the home of a Hyperspace Portal, placed in the solar system by the Fespin explorers who first happened upon it.
However, with the sacred scrolls of the Ohana'Kree in the hands of the Denebian Empire, the secret of the Hyperspace Portal has been made known.
The enormous metal ring, hovering within the atmospheric distortion, began to rotate. It picked up speed, and continued spinning at a blinding speed. Suddenly, a disc of light generated in the very center of the ring, and panned out to the circumference. Through that wormhole emerged a gargantuan airship, it's hull made of a black metal darker than a starless sky, and easily the size of the state of Texas. The ship passed through the ring, and then launched itself through the storm with great ease, sailing through space towards the gleaming star that blazed in the distance.
Within the large ship, enclosed in her private study, sat the Empress at her desk, several scrolls of documents scattered in front of her.
She glanced up from her study at the whisper of the door sliding open. An officer entered, standing at attention before the Empress. Once she acknowledged his presence, he fell to his knees, bowing his head.
"We have arrived in the Sol system."
Phaedra smirked, casting a sharp thumbnail towards the large tinted window. "So I see."
"Take us into orbit of the third planet," she decided, rising to her feet. She carried with her one sheet of yellowed paper, and stared at it intensely. "It takes approximately twenty-four hours for the planet to turn completely, and according to these documents the planet rotates on a tilted axis. Because of this tilt, the planet's surface goes through four 'seasons', which are determined by how much sunlight that hemisphere is treated to daily. Currently, the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing 'winter', which is the coldest season with the least amount of sunlight."
She walked to the window, and gazed at the sun. Her ruby eyes narrowed disdainfully.
"This is a powerful star, and it will slightly hinder my conquest. Still, before I launch an attack, I want to know what this planet Earth has accomplished. These Fespin documents are outdated, and I want no surprises."
She tapped her nails against the glass. "We shall send a small scout party to the Northern Hemisphere," she decided, "Once we arrive at Earth, determine which area of the planet will just be experiencing sunset. That way, we will have the most time before the sun rises again."
The officer rose, and pulled a small transmitter from his pocket. He activated the machine, creating a 3D hologram of Earth, slowly spinning on its axis.
"At current speeds, it shall take approximately an hour to reach the planet. Unless I increase speed-"
"That will be unnecessary. There is no rush."
He nodded, pressing another button. The hologram froze, and a flashing red line appeared along the surface, just touching the western coast of North America.
"This is the area which will be just entering night at our arrival."
"Excellent," Phaedra said, "Now, conduct a scan to determine a high population density. Choose an area filled with Humans, so my scouts can collect information about them."
"Yes Empress," he stated, turning off the hologram. He prepared to leave, but the voice of his Empress brought him to pause.
"The scouts' goal is to remain secret. If they are spotted, make sure they dispose of the witness."
"So what do you think? Too bright for winter?"
The young man sighed under his breath with mild impatience, pulling his silver-framed glasses from their resting-place atop his thick red hair and sliding them onto his nose. Sharp green eyes rose from the colossal Organic Chemistry textbook, and focused on the excitable girl before him.
No surprise... the outfit was quite flattering. The black skirt with a silver-gray rose design that hung just above her knees cooled the bold yellow cotton peasant blouse nicely. To accent the look, a dainty silver chain adorned her slender neck, mid-length black boots elevated her three inches off the ground, and her lustrous ebony hair framed her face, off-setting her cream complexion.
His lips twitched slightly as his gaze returned to his book.
"You look good," he answered, after a short silence.
Tamara frowned, obviously taking his hesitation as a sign of contemplation. "Really?" she queried, a hint of self-consciousness in her voice.
He nodded, his eyes never leaving his text. "Absolutely. I don't know about that whole season thing, but you look good."
She smiled, her awkwardness vanishing as excitement took over. She fell into the seat beside the young man, and peered over his shoulder. "So, what're you reading, Matt?"
Matthew O'Conner frowned at the very thought of it. "Orgo," he moaned, "My professor is certifiably insane! Three chapters for tomorrow?! God, what's the rush?!"
She smiled tenderly. "Why do you insist upon taking the hard classes freshman year? Last term it was Calculus and Microbiology. Now it's Orgo, Advanced Micro, and... what else?"
"That's it for my pre-med courses," he answered, "Others are for the general requirement. For my History requirement I'm taking 20th Century America, and for Literature I'm taking Arthurian Legends."
"As in King Arthur? That sounds terrific! I was Guinevere in our high school production of Camelot. It was so much fun..."
"Hey guys!" called a strong male voice. "The Caffeine Train is here!"
The pair looked up, and saw Jocelyn and Craig Gillis round the corner, the former examining a Dreiser University Course Guide, and the latter balancing a tray of four large paper cups.
Craig shot a smooth smile to his friends, the vibrant whiteness of his teeth contrasting sharply to his dark chocolate complexion, and began handing out beverages.
"Let's see," he thought aloud, "one hot apple cider with a pinch of cinnamon..."
"That's mine," Tamara called, accepting the steaming cup gratefully.
"One Hazelnut coffee with double cream and sugar..."
"Right here," Matt gestured.
"One mint hot cocoa..."
He handed it to Jocelyn, who was completely engrossed in what she was reading.
"And finally, one vanilla Frappaccino!" he finished, pulling the final cup from the paper tray and pitching the tray into the garbage bin. He then sat beside Tamara, casting his long, muscled legs across the three empty seats beside him.
"Thank God for Starbucks," Matt sighed, sipping the steaming brew, "I never would've managed hauling my butt to the Meeber Lab at eight every morning last term without it!"
"Time?" Craig suddenly called out, taking a long sip of his chilled beverage.
"Quarter-of," Tamara answered, glancing at her chrome watch, "He'll be here soon."
"I... I just don't know, Craig," Jocelyn sighed, closing the book with a pensive frown, "Dr. Trepe is an incredibly accomplished psychologist! I know I'll be intimidated studying with her. I don't know the first thing about psychology."
"Jocie, Dr. Trepe is the greatest professor I've ever had here," he stated firmly, "She's the leading expert in victim crisis, even though she's only thirty years old! She's absolutely brilliant, but she's also very caring. Sheesh, when I took her course in Victim Counseling last spring, she invited the whole class to her house for dinner! I'm telling ya, she's amazing. And you're taking an intro course. You're not expected to already know Psych."
Jocelyn's frown softened slightly as she sipped her cocoa.
"Hey, if I didn't absolutely love her, she wouldn't be my advisor for my independent study project."
"Independent study," Matt sighed, almost longingly, "No class, no homework... just a thirty page research paper due at the very end of the term."
Craig grinned. "Pretty sweet deal."
"...and you're sure she won't mind me joining her class a week late?"
"Joce, relax! I'm sure it'll be fine. And then you can finally rest about that Life Science requirement."
The fragmented banter amongst the four teenagers was interrupted by the local intercom. ^Flight 447, direct from Tokyo to Langstrum Alps, now arriving at Gate 22.^
Tamara released a squeal of excitement, leaping from her seat so abruptly she almost knocked the steaming cup from Matthew's hand. He smiled with amusement, calmly placing a bookmark in his text and rising to his feet. He, Jocelyn, and Craig followed the rambunctious young woman to the group congregated just outside the gate. Through the large window, the Continental Airlines airplane was clearly visible.
After a few minutes, the passengers slowly exited the plane, meeting their loved ones and bursting into conversations. One of the first passengers to exit was a tall, athletic young man with sleek blonde hair. He strode off the ramp, a black duffel bag flung leisurely over his shoulder.
Before he even saw her, a body leapt into his arms, forcing him to drop his bag.
"Hey, Gorgeous," he whispered, a warm smile erupting on his face as he held her tightly, "I've missed you."
Tamara stepped back, a gentle grin on her face as she planted a soft kiss on his lips. "I've missed you more."
His smiled widened, as his gaze absorbed her appearance more thoroughly. "You look terrific," he observed, "Of course, you'd look great in a paper bag."
She giggled, clasping his hand. "Yeah right... a short paper bag."
Keith quickly grabbed his forgotten bag, and let Tamara lead him to where the others were waiting. Jocelyn wrapped him in a tight hug, and Matt clamped his hand tightly. Craig's broad hand fell upon his shoulder.
"So, Maloy... did ya get it?"
Keith's response was a smirk, as he unzipped his bag. He then slowly pulled out a thick strip of black cloth, with two notches at either end.
"One month of intensive training and refresher pointers, and a Nidan to show for it. Not bad, eh?"
"Nidan?" Jocelyn asked.
"Second degree black belt in Shokotan Karate," Craig explained, squeezing Keith's shoulders, "Congrats!"
"Well, I'm not certified in America, but I'm at the skill level," Keith explained, as the group began its trek to the baggage claim.
"I don't understand why you go all the way to Tokyo for your degree tests," Matthew commented, "I'm sure you can find a more local dojo."
"Oyama was my sensei all my life," Keith explained, "He's a family friend, and my mother wouldn't trust my training with anyone else. So when he returned to Japan five years ago, I started spending more time in Japan, training and testing."
Tamara smiled. "Good thing you picked up some Japanese along the way, or you'd be a fish out of water."
"With my charm? I'd make myself right at home anywhere."
The others moaned mockingly, Tamara leaning closer to him.
"So, what's keeping Ray?" Keith inquired, "Getting a few months head start on finals?"
"She's at an interview," Jocelyn explained, "She'll meet us at Cafe Gallery."
A brilliant, pulsing flash of light illuminated the relatively sterile chamber with flaming red color. The light emanated from a clear glass sphere, sitting atop a computer console connected to a large screen. Together, these systems formed the majority of the helm in the alien vessel.
A slender woman raced from the spacious back chamber to the helm, her flowing ivory hair and gown trailing behind her. Taking a seat, she activated the screen, and turned off the alarm.
Her peach-hued eyes narrowed when the image of a large black vessel flashed onto the screen.
"Phaedra has punctured my sensor shield," she realized, turning in her chair to another console. She flipped another switch, and gazed at a smaller screen.
"Where are you going, Demoness?" she muttered, chewing her lip.
Rachel stared out into the streaming darkness of the subway line, a wide grin steadfast on her lips.
The interview had gone off without a hitch. The two partners at the Givens and Clark law firm had welcomed her as their new legal assistant, to work ten hours a week during the school year, and full time during the summer. It was a perfect opportunity for her to get hands-on experience in the legal field, by doing research and helping her bosses prepare to represent victims of corporate negligence and the like. It would be an excellent stepping stone into law school, which would hopefully begin in September, provided she gained acceptance to one of her top choices. If she manages to get into Dreiser University's prestigious law school, then she could even keep working with Givens and Clark throughout her study, and perhaps they could help her find a position in the city.
Rachel was lost in her excited musings, until a strange flash caught her eye. She blinked in surprise, and stared curiously out the window, trying to follow the odd movement she had seen.
It almost looked like a person walking between the tunnel wall and the subway car.
She continued to stare out the window, now with heightened attention. She remained vigilant until the subway car slowed at the Dreiser University Station.
She shrugged, collecting her purse and walking to the sliding door. As she waited for the train to stop, a similar form appeared in a darkened corner.
Her mouth opened slightly in surprise, and she quickly descended the train onto the concrete platform. While the other passengers steadily exited the underground station, she slowly approached the tunnel.
She gripped her purse tighter, and leaned against the wall into the darkness of the tracks. There was a walkway of about two feet of width along the outer wall of the tunnel, most likely for workers to pass through the tunnels without fear of getting hit by an oncoming train, or being electrocuted on the conductive tracks.
A chill crept up her spine at the realization that the station had quieted greatly. At this time of the evening, there weren't many people waiting for connections, so the passengers exited efficiently.
She was virtually alone. Still, while it was slightly frightening, her curiosity drove her cautiously to the narrow ledge.
Her heel collided with the concrete, creating a loud echo in the tunnel. Suddenly, twin red orbs flashed from the darkness ahead.
Rachel gasped, instinctively stepping back in surprise.
"Those weren't subway headlights," she muttered, her eyes narrowing.
Faster than she could react, a form leapt out of the tunnel before her, and a powerful hand muffled her mouth before a breath could even enter. In the blink of an eye, Rachel had vanished.
("What is this, Kirik?") an armored soldier demanded, pulling off his open-faced black helmet. Narrow ruby eyes moved from his newly-arrived comrade to the petrified human female struggling against his otherworldly strength.
("It saw me in the tunnel, Sir,") he explained, ("I was ordered not to leave any sign of our arrival, and a witness is unacceptable.")
The captain frowned deeply, sharp fangs slipping between ashen teeth. ("Perhaps Phaedra would be pleased if we provide a sampling of Human blood. Then destroy the body. I must regroup with Garni and Fed'er on the surface. Follow us when you have finished.")
Kirik bowed his head as the higher officer left. He then removed his hand from his victim's face, and turned her around.
Rachel stared at the inhuman creature with wide, panicked eyes. She watched as he reached beneath his helmet, and pulled a small wire towards his mouth.
"See what your curiosity has brought you?" he growled, the incomprehensible cacophony of their speech replaced with flawless English, "But your death will provide the Empress with a worthy gift of lifeblood."
Ever since she saw the ruby lights flash in the darkness, Rachel was convinced she was in mortal danger. However, not until the creature spoke to her in English was she able to understand her situation.
The mindless panic that had set in was instantly replaced with the determination of a survivor. Her wide eyes narrowed as the creature approached, a blade in his hand.
To his surprise, his movement toward his seemingly helpless victim was prohibited by a swift frontal kick, slamming into his jaw and crushing his tongue between sharp teeth.
Kirik growled in pain, stumbling back in surprise and irritation.
"A knife?" Rachel muttered with some bravado, "I was expecting some sort of laser gun."
Ruby eyes narrowed, and a smirk spread around the trickle of black blood that streaked his charcoal skin. "Lasers pollute the bloodstream with ashen remains of skin and tissue. We wouldn't want that."
He then sheathed his dagger in his sleek armor, and wiped the blood with the back of his hand. "Still, a nice, painful strangling works just as well. And it will give me a chance to see just how pathetic you humans are."
With that, inhuman speed and agility brought him just inches from Rachel, and he punched through her worthy defensive blocks with a powerful strike to her cheek. Rachel collapsed, coughing up the blood that trickled down her throat and painfully clutching her broken jaw. Anger flashed in her dark eyes at the being who towered over her, his hands folded over his chest.
"Now you can die painlessly, or you can make this difficult."
Rather than answer with words, Rachel rolled away, making a little room between them. She then thrust her leg into the air, smashing into the back of Kirik's knees. With a grunt, the alien toppled to the hard ground, but quickly rolled back to his feet. His hand flew to his knife.
"Pest," he spat, launching himself at the panting, semi-conscious human. However, before he reached his target, he collided with an invisible force, creating sparks of white energy that rained upon the ground.
Befuddled, Kirik rose to his feet, and stared at Rachel.
"Magic?" he whispered in disbelief.
Rachel's eyes widened when another form appeared, this time behind her unsuspecting opponent. This figure was a sharp contrast to the dark creature, dressed in a full-body white catsuit. Ivory hair was pulled back neatly in slender braids and free-falling waves.
Clenched tightly in her hand was a long staff, complete with multi-colored jewels along the rod.
Despite the blinding pain, Rachel couldn't help but smirk faintly.
("I do not stab my opponents in the back,") the newcomer announced, causing Kirik to spin around in surprise, ("I shall give you a fighting chance.")
"I do not need your pity, traitor," the creature growled, reaching behind his back. He rolled out of the way of a fierce swing from the woman's steel rod, and pulled out a long rifle. He crouched beside a wall, opening random fire.
The woman responded by deflecting laser beams with her rod, the gemstone nearest the point of contact flashing with energy. Then, she spun the pole around, causing it to flash with building white power.
("I apologize,") the white warrior stated, slowly approaching the desperate man, ("but you shall not have the opportunity to report to the Demon Queen again.")
The spinning baton continued to magically deflect any blasts Kirik fired. Finally, he tossed the rifle at the oncoming sorceress, which she deftly deflected.
Quaking in fear, he slid up the wall he leaned upon. Once the woman was within a foot of the terrified being, she stopped spinning her staff, and stared him squarely in the eye.
("This planet is under my protection,") she announced, gripping her staff with both hands. With one solid motion, she drove the blunt weapon into the creature's stomach. He released a choked gasp, watching as the silver weapon continued glowing white. She then pushed it through his body, allowing the weapon to cut through to his right shoulder. She then lifted her foot to Kirik's chest, and pulled the weapon from him.
The Denebian collapsed in a pile on the concrete floor.
Rachel watched the scene unfold with an odd mix of fascination and horror. The white warrior then approached her, the blackened silver staff vanishing at her will.
("Are you hurt?")
Rachel frowned at the gibberish that passed through the stranger's lips. After realizing her error, she smiled, and raised her finger. Rachel watched as the woman returned to the corpse, and removed his helmet. After once again approaching the frozen human, she moved a wire microphone to her lips.
"Are you hurt?" she repeated, this time in clear English.
Rachel jumped slightly. She tried opening her mouth to respond, but before a sound could escape her, the sharp pain in her jaw silenced her. She winced mutely, her hands cradling her tender cheek anew.
"I see," she said, kneeling a few feet away from Rachel, "I can help."
She noted the trepidation in the young human's eyes, and smiled as tenderly as possible.
"My name is Spectra," she revealed, "I am on your side. You must trust that I have your best interests in mind."
Rachel's frown softened, and her dark eyes fell to Spectra's offered hand.
After a few moment's hesitation, she reached out and accepted the gesture of friendship.
Jocelyn frowned, tapping her fingernails against the pay phone as the message played. She sighed deeply before leaving her recording.
"Hey Ray, it's Joce. It's eight o'clock already, and we're at Cafe Gallery waiting for you. Give us a call as soon as you get this message, okay? Keith's got his cell-phone on."
She pensively slid the receiver into its slot, and let her hand hang from the phone for a few moments longer. With a worried huff, she left the restaurant lobby and returned to the table, tightly clutching her purse.
"No good?" Matt asked, glancing at her as she took her seat beside him.
"No," she exhaled, leaning her elbow on the table, "She said she'd be here by seven. She's an hour late! Rachel is never late!"
"Don't worry about it," Craig insisted, leaning back in his seat, "Knowing Rachel, she got hired, and Givens and Clark are just so excited to have such a capable assistant, they're showing her the entire office."
Tamara shrugged, her grip unconsciously tightening around her boyfriend's fingers. "I don't know... I feel guilty about letting her take the subway alone at night. Maybe something... happened?"
Keith smirked. "To Rachel? She'd kick any mugger's tail clear to Wisconsin. After three years of kick boxing training at the gym, she's one of the toughest people I know."
Jocelyn conceded, picking up the menu. "Still, I've left three messages on her beeper. Where could she be that she can't call us back?"
Rachel moaned quietly as her heavy eyelids parted. She stared in confusion at the aqua blue light pulsing above her head. She blinked, making an effort to turn her neck and get a better look at her surroundings. However, two padded surfaces prohibited much head motion.
She continued looking at the light, a growing sense of dread building as she recalled the events that immediately proceeded her unconsciousness. She remembered the demonic being that abducted her, the terrible wounds she sustained, and the white woman who came to her rescue.
Could it all have really happened? Or was she merely dreaming?
*No... everything happened,* a gentle voice said. Rachel shuddered at the realization that the voice pulsed within her mind.
*I apologize for my presumption,* the voice continued, *I took the liberty of touching your mind. Considering the injury to your jaw, verbal speech will be impossible for a while longer. This is the most efficient means of communication.*
*How are you inside my mind?* Rachel thought, with a measure of alarm, *You can read my thoughts?!*
*In a sense. My species are telepathic, but only for communication purposes. Higher life forms can think in words as well as images. We can only speak to each other telepathically, through words directed at the recipient. I cannot read anything in your mind other than the thoughts intended to be communicated. While you didn't have me in mind when you asked the question, you were searching for an answer. I provided one.*
*And who are you?*
*We've met... but I should perhaps elaborate.*
She heard a click, and suddenly the cushioned bed she lied upon began to elevate her back. Her head was still restrained, yet in this new sitting position, she was able to get a clearer view of her surroundings.
The room was sterile-looking, with all surfaces made of ivory, marble, and metals. It was longer than wide, and at the very end of the space was a large screen, with white clouds and blue skies behind them. Standing near the screen was the woman in white that saved her life.
Spectra smiled at her, lifting her gaze from the helmet she was tinkering with from the soldier she had killed. She pulled a headset from its place within the helmet, and slipped the earphones onto her head. She moved the wire microphone to her mouth, and then approached Rachel.
"Telepathic communication transcends verbal speech. There is only one mental language, as the neural energy is similar across verbal species. However, the only way I can understand your language is with these earphones. You can understand me because your language has been programmed into this microphone, automatically translating my speech into a form you can understand."
Rachel gazed at the gadget in fascination. When Spectra drew closer, Rachel found herself transfixed by her peach-colored eyes.
*What species are you?* she inquired.
Spectra smiled gently as she lifted a surgical tool from the tray affixed to the bed. "I am Denebian. My home planet is approximately 1800 light years from the Earth."
Rachel watched as Spectra attached a wire brace to her injured cheek. She activated the device, causing a narrow beam of white energy to stream onto Rachel's skin. While she felt a building warmth, no pain resulted from the treatment.
*What are you doing here?*
Spectra was pensive for a moment, forming an explanation for the human girl. "Currently, and for the past several thousand of your Earth years, Deneb has been ruled by a tyrannical dynasty. Once, we all were peaceful explorers of our galaxy. A race of scholars... not warriors. However, we discovered something that would pollute our entire culture: black magic."
She fell silent, her brow furrowing with disappointment as she continued to tend to Rachel's wound.
"Fortunately, not all of us were so corrupted. A small remnant of us escaped, and dedicated ourselves to the mission of stopping our brothers from conquering the universe. However, the Denebian Empire recently acquired the deadliest resource in existence. Information.
"The empress Phaedra conquered the planet Fesp, the most powerful civilization known. She obtained precious scrolls, which contain all the information the Fespins ever collected from visited planets... including Earth. With her knowledge of Earth, as the only inhabited planet in the Outskirts of the galaxy, she intends to create a foothold for her empire here. Such a gain would surely lead to the destruction of the Remnant's forces."
Rachel listened silently to the astonishing tale, and watched through the corner of her eye as Spectra spoke. She saw the torment and worry in the seemingly-young expression.
Spectra finally removed the wire device. "Try to move your jaw."
Rachel slowly opened her mouth. To her infinite surprise, only a weak, dull pain struck her. She rubbed her jaw in wonder, rotating her jaw slowly.
"It's amazing," she whispered, "It's completely healed."
Spectra nodded. "During the centuries of conflict, both sides have developed impressive medical techniques. There are so few of us... it is necessary to provide rapid treatment."
"So, how many of your Remnant is here on Earth?"
Spectra raised her hand, and helped Rachel off the elevated bed. Once she was on her feet, the bed descended back to its horizontal position.
Rachel blinked in astonishment. "How is one person supposed to stop an invasion?"
Spectra stepped away from her guest, and sat at the helm of her ship. She gazed at the clouds that slowly passed the vessel, and pressed a few keys on the helm.
"One person makes all the difference," she revealed wisely, "Still, I shall not do battle alone. I was sent to assemble a team of humans, and train them to defend the Outskirts from Phaedra's invasion fleet. I shall give them the power needed to save Earth."
She then fixed Rachel with a meaningful stare. "Time is of the essence. I would have liked to conduct lengthy scans of the planet, in order to determine who would make the best warriors. I do not have such a luxury. As you have witnessed, Phaedra has arrived. The soldiers you saw were only scouts, sent to collect information. Phaedra may launch a devastating attack at any time, and I alone cannot combat her."
Silence reigned for a long moment. Rachel's lips pressed into a tight line, and she folded her arms over her chest.
"What... kind of people are you looking for?" she inquired, "Experienced soldiers?"
"Youths," Spectra revealed, "Humans with the ability to learn from example as well as error. Humans with the selflessness to yield their lives for the good of their planet, and all civilizations that exist. Humans with the courage to face impossible odds, strengthened by their determination and will."
"What about fighting skills?"
"That is not as crucial, but certainly any previous training would be an asset. However, armed with the White Stone, they must learn to fight with their imagination. Magic is the key weapon of the Spectrum Force."
"Spectrum Force..." Rachel repeated with interest. Slowly, she approached Spectra. "I can volunteer myself. I'm not the best fighter in the world or anything... but this is my planet. I want to help."
Spectra favored Rachel with a warm smile. "You showed your determination and will when fighting the soldier earlier. You refuse to surrender, even given impossible circumstances. In all honesty, I feel we were destined to meet."
Spectra then turned away from her guest, and held out her open palm. In a flash of vibrant white light, a multi-faceted spherical gemstone appeared. It was the size of a thumbnail, and glittered with internal magic.
"This is the White Stone," Spectra instructed, "and it is the primary power source for the team of Earthlings I will forge."
She gently placed the crystal in Rachel's open hands. Rachel cradled the gem, her eyes wide with wonder.
"Do you know of others who would be willing to accept this responsibility, and carry it out?"
Rachel responded without hesitation. "I have five friends. Five dear friends... and I know I can trust them with anything. Even this."
Spectra nodded. "So be it. Close your hands."
Rachel enclosed the gem within her hands. Another flash of light erupted, startling the young woman. Finally, she opened her hands, and marveled at the six smaller stones that floated freely in the air. They each were clear, until suddenly they were internally filled with vibrant colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
"Amazing," Rachel whispered.
Spectra then reached out, and took Rachel's right hand. She noted the silver band and amethyst birthstone.
"What is your name?" she inquired.
"Then Rachel Castaneda... you are the Purple Enforcer. Leader of the Spectrum Force, and charged with the responsibility of building a team of humans trustworthy of the power you shall yield. You will face countless enemies, armed with the support of your teammates, the strength of your friendship, and your determination to survive. I shall not mislead you; this will be a difficult journey. I cannot guarantee that you will not lose everything you hold dear. Knowing this... do you accept?"
Rachel nodded instantly. "I do."
The purple Spectrum Stone then descended from beside its peers, and hovered over Rachel's ring. In a brilliant flash, it merged with the amethyst, replacing it.
Spectra then released Rachel's hand, and held out her own. The five remaining stones fell from the air above into her palm.
"Give these to your friends," she instructed, passing her other hand over the gems. In a brilliant flash, the stones were connected to five silver bands, identical to Rachel's ring.
"Six is the number of unity... and as the rainbow itself you six will combine to form the Spectrum Force. Assemble your team, and then you will learn the next step."
Rachel nodded, opening her left hand to collect the other five rings. She then gazed at her own, awed by the inner glow it harnessed.
"What do these rings do?" she asked, "What kind of weapons will we have to fight with?"
Spectra smiled at the new Purple Enforcer's enthusiasm. "You shall see. Once the hearts of your team are united, then the instruction can begin."
The young waitress sighed audibly, clutching her empty serving tray to her chest. She took a deep breath to steel herself, and strode quickly to the table by the window.
"So," she said, leaning over the dead silent assembly, "can I get you anything yet?"
The five local college students seemed too focused on their own thoughts to pay her any heed.
The waitress' plastic smile remained steady as she cleared the table of empty water glasses. "I'll get these filled for you. Take your time."
With an impatient roll of the eye, she went back into the kitchen.
Tamara leaned her heavy head against her palm, glancing at her watch. "What do we do? It's almost nine."
"Something's wrong," Keith finally conceded, his tone heavy with concern.
Then, Craig stood up from the table. "We should get going," he suggested.
"But what if she shows up?" Jocelyn asked feebly.
"Three hours late?" Matthew pointed out, tapping his fingers against the tabletop, "If she went anywhere, it would be back home."
"Besides," Keith said quietly, "if something did happen to her, someone would call your apartment."
A grim silence once again fell upon the friends as their worst fear was finally verbalized.
"How am I going to do this?" she whispered, staring at the purple gemstone on her finger.
Once it was merely an amethyst, a piece of relatively common mineral symbolizing the month of her birth.
But now, it was so much more.
True, Rachel didn't quite know what it was. The stone was so small... how could it contain the kind of power Spectra had alluded to?
Doubts crept into her mind. What was she really given? Could it have been a hoax, or some sort of trap?
Or... could it all be true?
She had definitively ruled out hallucinations- her sore jaw gave testament to the reality of the subway encounter. And she did have five rings identical to hers, save for the colors of the gemstones.
But the alternative was so difficult to believe, even after what she had seen.
Earth was under attack. At this point, the attack was covert. The alien forces were underground, collecting information to aid their attack. And a benevolent alien came to intercept them, and form a team of humans to save the Earth.
Save the Earth...?
"They're never going to buy this."
That's why she hesitated. She'd been sitting there, amongst the trees decorating the outside of the Café Gallery, for twenty minutes. And every time she mustered the courage to face her friends with the truth, a voice in her head kept stalling.
"You know how silly this all sounds. An alien invasion? They'll put you on the first flight to Looney Island."
Still, no matter how ludicrous it sounded, or how hard it was for her to believe herself, she knew in her heart it was true.
Spectra hadn't lied.
She really was given the power to save the Earth.
And she needed a team to join her in that mission.
"Keith, I think you should call the police," came a voice, just barely within earshot, "Just to be sure."
"And say what, Tam?" came the response, "Ray's only been missing for a couple hours. It needs to be twenty-four hours before the police can file a missing persons report."
"But what if there's been an accident?" another voice countered.
Rachel rose to her feet, and glanced through the branches. Around the corner, Jocelyn, Craig, Matthew, Tamara, and Keith walked in a tight group, obviously frustrated.
It hadn't even occurred to her how worried her friends would be at her no-show.
"They'll believe me," she assured herself, "They know me."
With heightened resolve, Rachel slipped through the trees, and hurried to meet them.
"Guys! Wait up!" she called, waving.
All five stared at her with a mixture of confusion and relief.
"Where the hell have you been?!" Keith demanded, his brow wrinkled in confusion as he watched Jocelyn and Tamara greet their roommate with a hug, "No interview takes that long."
Rachel's smile then fell to a more serious expression. "I'll tell you. But not until we get home." She then paused, as if considering her next words. "And you've got to promise me that you'll hear me out, no matter how... weird my story gets."
She then gazed at her friends expectantly. She was met by five flabbergasted stares.
"Uh... okay," Craig offered, a frown of confusion wrinkling his brow.
"...and then she transported me into the trees beside the Café Gallery, to make sure I wasn't seen. That's where I was until you guys left the restaurant."
As she finished the story, Rachel slowly leaned back into the yielding cushion of the armchair. She wrung her fingers tightly, her dark eyes passing from one friend to another. The reactions were all the same.
She consciously regulated her breath in an effort to remain calm, and waited for some response.
She waited through a solid minute of silence.
"Guys?" said quietly, planting her elbows on the arms of the chair. "Don't you have anything to say?"
The first to respond was Matt, who cracked a small smile. "I get it... it's Senior Prank Day! Wow... that was a real whopper, Ray."
"It isn't Senior Prank Day," Keith muttered, his gaze never wavering from Rachel, "I would've known about it. Rachel isn't the only senior here."
Tamara then nodded her head. "You're rushing for a sorority," she realized with a knowing smile, "When I tried out for Phi Sigma, they made us drink this weird punch made with ketchup. It was sooo gross-"
"Rachel wouldn't rush for some stupid sorority," Keith interrupted, his eyes still planted on his oldest college friend, "Would you?"
It was true... of all of them, Keith knew her the best. They were friends the longest, since the first week of their mutual freshman year.
If anyone would believe her, it was him.
"It's no game, or joke, or stunt," Rachel assured them.
Craig then rose from his seat at the kitchen stool, and began pacing, chewing his lip pensively.
Jocelyn watched him acutely from her seat on the rug. "What're you thinking?"
"Paranoid Schizophrenia," was his thoughtful response.
Jocelyn blanched, rising to her feet. "I need some air," she breathed, hurrying to the window in the kitchen. She thrust it open, and began taking long breaths.
Matthew's incredulous gaze turned from Jocelyn to Craig. "What are you trying to do? Scare everyone?"
"What does it sound like to you?" Craig challenged, "Maybe she just watches too much Sci-Fi Channel?"
Matt's eyes narrowed. "Rachel's definitely not schizophrenic! Just because you took a semester of abnormal psychology, doesn't make you Sigmund Freud!"
Craig crossed his arms. "Well, maybe not schizophrenic, but definitely paranoid. Suffering from paranoid delusions."
"You think I'm delusional?" Rachel whispered, her eyebrow arching.
Craig's determination faded, and he weakly sat back down on the stool. "It just... can't be true, Ray. It's impossible."
"What part?" she challenged meekly.
Craig rolled his eyes. "Fine," he conceded, meeting her challenge, "If there were aliens running around the subway station, why didn't anyone else see them?"
"They weren't looking. I saw something flash while I was in the train, and then again after I got off. I decided to check it out, but everyone else left."
"And why would you investigate that?" Craig interrogated, "Aren't their security guards for that?"
Rachel nodded. "Yes... I really don't have a good excuse for that. I guess it was just curiosity." She then met Craig's gaze. "But that's definitely not proof that I'm crazy."
Craig sighed. "Fine. But if you fought an alien so much stronger than you, how come you're not at all hurt?"
"I told you, Spectra healed me."
"Yeah right... the magical sorceress waved her wand, and you were cured!"
Rachel glowered at Craig's mocking tone. The tall young man immediately saw his failing.
"Sorry," he whispered.
"Alien medical technology could be better than ours," Keith proposed, after another long silence. Rachel turned around, staring at her friend in shock.
So did all the others.
"You... believe all this?" Tamara whispered incredulously.
"I can't think of a solid reason not to," Keith answered, throwing Rachel a small smile.
Rachel squeezed her eyes shut to hold back the moisture.
"I mean, sure it's possible that she's wrong, but what if she's right?" Keith pointed out, turning around to glance at everyone present, "What if Rachel is the one chosen to save Earth? Think about the consequences if we do nothing!"
Keith then looked back at Rachel. "I'm in."
Rachel grinned, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "Thanks, Keith."
She reached into her blazer pocket, and cradled five rings in her palm. After gazing at them for a moment, she smiled as she selected the ruby red one.
"I think this one suits you the best," she decided, handing it to Keith. Keith looked at the ring with interest before sliding it onto his finger.
"Perfect fit," he marveled.
Rachel then looked at Tamara, who nervously toyed with a curl of ebony hair.
"Well..." she considered, her large brown eyes passing along the rings in Rachel's grasp, "...when have I been one to decline jewelry?"
She winked to Rachel as she selected the yellow ring. Rachel released a restrained laugh.
Matthew then cleared his throat. "What the heck," he decided, claiming the green ring, "I've always wanted to be a super hero."
Rachel smiled her appreciation to Matthew, and then turned to Jocelyn, who still hovered at the window. She kept her gaze at Rachel, and then looked at the others.
"This all so... hard to believe," she confessed, slowly walking towards them, "but if you guys are in... so am I."
She chose the orange ring.
All eyes fell upon Craig, who remained separated from the rest of the group at the kitchen counter.
He turned away from their gaze, and stared at his hands, which he folded at the top of the counter.
"Craig?" Tamara said quietly.
He didn't answer.
"There's room for one more, Buddy," Keith offered.
"There's no one else I'd rather have serve by my side as the Blue Enforcer," Rachel stated, her voice sure.
Craig looked up, and stared at her for a moment.
She smiled gently.
"Blue Enforcer, eh?" he repeated, standing up. He stood beside Rachel's chair, and watched as she lifted her hand in offering.
He grinned as he accepted the ring. "Kinda catchy."
Craig then slid the ring onto his finger, blinking as the ring managed to fit perfectly on his rather large finger.
The group then fell into an expectant silence.
"What now?" Jocelyn asked curiously.
Rachel shrugged. "I... I don't know, actually."
Once again, all eyes fell upon her.
"Well... Spectra said that we'd be instructed when our hearts are united."
Matthew's eyebrow rose. "And that means what, exactly?"
Rachel bit her lip. "I don't really know," she confessed quietly.
General Yrty stood before the large, ornate opal doors that stood forebodingly in his path. His arms folded tightly over his chest, and his steady jaw gave no sign of the terror he felt within.
His decades of combat training taught him never to display fear before his subordinates.
"What do we say, Sir?" a younger officer asked meekly.
Yrty didn't even look at him. "I am the superior officer," he reminded him coldly, "So I will make the report."
He then turned around, and looked at the two remaining soldiers from his scouting party. "Garni, Fed'er... give me your scanners. Then, report back to duty. I shall deal with the Empress."
The two subordinates bowed their heads in submission, and handed the seasoned officer their wrist-unit devices. Yrty clutched the small computers in his hand, his knuckles growing white as he turned back to the obsidian doors.
This was probably the last time he would stand before them... alive.
Taking a deep breath to steel himself, he stepped forward, the doors hissing as they yielded to his presence.
"Welcome back, General," a soft, slightly menacing voice cooed from the darkened chamber. Yrty peered into the darkness, until he saw a faint glow of red energy. His gait slowed by hesitation, he moved toward it.
Standing at the far wall, searching through a bookcase of ageless volumes, was Empress Phaedra. Her flowing hair was styled in a tight array of twists, and her sleek gown was covered by a heavy velvet cape that hung from her shoulders.
She turned, her fiery ruby eyes falling upon him like twin suns rising.
She had never looked more frightening.
Yrty's knees weakened, forcing him to try and cover up his fear by kneeling before his Empress.
But Denebians could smell fear.
"That was a short mission," Phaedra noted, turning back to the books. She still watched the general through the corner of her eye.
"My team collected data on the Humans in the designated territory," he reported with a façade of calm, "The area in which we were sent is a city called Langstrum Alps, one major city in the country designated the United States. We were able to infiltrate a library within the community, with an archaic form of computer system. We downloaded information from a digital encyclopedia, to give a compendium of knowledge of the Humans. This information, in conjunction with the Ohana'Kree Scrolls, should prove sufficient for you to devise the perfect strategy."
The report given, Yrty laid three wrist computers onto the floor as an offering to his empress. "Everything we have collected is stored in these computers."
Phaedra was silent for a moment, as she pulled a raggedy volume from the shelf with her claw-like fingernail. "And what is it you haven't told me yet?" she inquired casually, flipping through the tattered pages.
She duly noted the droplet of sweat that slid down the side of her general's forehead.
"Kirik is dead," he whispered finally.
Phaedra didn't show the slightest reaction to the surprising news. Instead, she continued to move through the book. "How?"
Yrty swallowed. "We are not certain, but when he failed to respond to communique, I returned to the last place I had seen him. He was dead... his torso nearly torn apart by a weapon of some sort."
Phaedra sighed with slight impatience. "...and?"
"There were traces of... white magic in the chamber," Yrty breathed.
Phaedra then froze, her eyebrow arching at that small detail. She whirled around, fixing her high-ranking officer with a blood-curdling glare.
"Spectra," she spat, throwing the book she was casually flipping through to the floor. She grabbed the skirts of her ornate gown, and marched furiously to her throne, her heels clapping against the cold marble viciously.
Yrty nearly trembled at the fuming anger of his sovereign. The Denebian monarchy was universally known for their short tempers... and he wouldn't grant his present circumstances to his worst enemy.
No one should have to bear the brunt of Phaedra's fury by delivering bad news.
"There is... no evidence the traitor we are dealing with is Spectra," Yrty pointed out in a desperate attempt to be the voice of reason.
"It is Spectra," Phaedra growled quietly, resting her chin atop her hands as she leaned into her throne, "It is always Spectra. My nemesis... following me through the cosmos, standing in my way!"
She cradled her face within one hand, and tapped her other hand against the armrest. "How did she beat me to Earth? How is it possible...?"
Her eyes widened. "What if she has prepared for my arrival?!"
Her almost paranoid glare then returned to Yrty, who trembled at her attention. "How could she have slipped onto Earth without our knowing it?!"
"I... I do not know..." Yrty gasped, lying his face on the floor humbly.
Phaedra's eyes glowed as her rage built. "You are useless," she spat indignantly, "Now that Spectra has killed one of my soldiers, she has his scanner too! She knows exactly what we were searching for."
Yrty trembled as Phaedra rose to her feet, glaring down at him like storm clouds in the heavens.
"Incompetence will not be permitted," she decreed icily, raising her hand.
"Mercy!" he begged, his forehead to the ground, "It isn't my fault!"
"A worthy general should have been able to keep better track of his officers," Phaedra growled, wisps of black lightning building at her hands. The energy stretched out, and caught the general in their web of power. "Now, she has eliminated one of my warriors, as well as collected whatever information he had on him, while we have nothing on her!"
Her blood eyes narrowed. "Sentence is death."
Yrty howled as the energy built around his body, singing both skin and armor in a torturously slow manner. After a solid five minutes of excruciating pain, Yrty's howls ceased as his body disintegrated.
Phaedra exhaled sharply, her passionate fury appeased by the violent act.
"No, little Spectra... you won't stop me now," she whispered with an eerie calm, "Earth is mine. And I know just how to draw you out."
"Once the hearts of your team are united, then the instruction can begin." What the hell is that supposed to mean?
Rachel groaned quietly, burying her face in her pillow. She felt so foolish she couldn't get a wink of sleep.
It was so hard to get her friends to finally put an ounce of trust in her wild story of alien encounters. Finally, after putting faith in her, and expecting some magnificent show of power from their new rings... nothing happened.
She had wanted to just melt into the chair she was sitting on.
I should've asked her what she meant, Rachel lamented in silence, turning again to stare at the ceiling, I don't understand. We're united! We're ready! But now... I'm sure everyone's convinced that I'm insane. I give them rings with extraordinary power, and they don't work!
Rachel groaned again, sitting up in her bed. Her weary, bloodshot eyes turned to the window, whose curtains remained parted to allow the steady lights of the city to dimly illuminate her darkened room.
She slid out from under her sheets, and walked to the window. Leaning against the windowsill, she stared out into the city, which still buzzed with some activity despite the late hour.
"So where's this big threat?" she wondered aloud, combing back her dark waves with her fingers.
Suddenly, she became aware of a faint purple light emanating from somewhere in her room. She froze, her hands falling to her sides.
The light followed.
She blinked in astonishment, her gaze slowly inching towards her right hand.
The ring glowed steadily, the light increasing in brightness.
Her lips trembled. What did this mean?
Just then, a faint tremor jostled Rachel's balance. Her eyes widened as she crept back to her bed to sit down.
"Just another California quake," she decided. Her gaze then fell again to her finger.
Or was it?
The small tremor was followed by a larger one, shaking the room vigorously. Rachel yelped as a vase fell from her dresser, shattering on the floor.
She jumped when a shriek reached her ear.
"Tammy?" she whispered, hurrying out of her room. In the common room, she met Jocelyn, whose eyes were wide with panic.
"What's going on?!" Jocelyn demanded, pointing to the ring on her finger.
Rachel didn't answer. Instead, she burst into Tamara's room, closely followed by Jocelyn. The pair gazed at Tamara, who hugged her legs to her body in terror. Her eyes were transfixed by the glowing ring that lay on her night table.
"It's okay, Tammy," Rachel assured, sitting on the bed beside her, "The ring won't hurt you."
Tamara gazed at Rachel incredulously. "I know that! But, this means everything you said was... true."
Tamara bit her lip. "Something serious is happening. Right now."
All three girls jumped in surprise as the doorbell rang continuously. Obviously, the person behind the door was rather impatient.
Jocelyn hurried to answer, and watched as Craig, Keith, and Matthew streamed into the apartment, all wearing their sleepwear.
And all wearing steadily glowing rings.
"Well, now we're united," Keith said, folding his arms, "and it looks like we're being called. What now?"
Rachel stood up, and Tamara followed her. "Let's show Spectra we're united," she decided, thrusting out her hand palm down.
Keith nodded with understanding, lying his hand atop hers. Matthew, Jocelyn, Craig, and Tamara joined in, forming a pile of hands, each with rings generating different colored light.
The rainbow of energy soon melded into a steady aura of white energy, which began pulsing at the rate of a heartbeat.
In a blinding flash of pure energy, the assembly vanished.
Spectra's keen peach eyes stared at the wire-frame map that the largest viewscreen displayed. She leaned her head upon her hand, and busily tapped buttons.
A flashing red icon continued moving through the grid steadily.
"It's on the move," she realized grimly.
She whirled around when a wave of white energy flooded the room. Her calm gaze beheld six forms materializing out of the transport beam, all gazing in bewilderment at their sudden appearance in a foreign environment.
She smiled slightly, picking up the translating headphones and microphone she had used to speak to Rachel earlier.
From the look of things, she would need to be as clear as possible. Time was pressing.
"Whoa," Craig gasped, his eyes darting around like a bee, "What happened?"
Matthew quickly glanced at his feet and arms. "All here," he sighed with some relief.
"Welcome to my base, Spectrum Force," Spectra stated, rising from her seat. All six pairs of human eyes gazed at her in surprise.
"What happened, Spectra?" Rachel inquired, stepping forward.
Craig blinked. "You're Spectra?" he marveled, gazing at her with new interest. Other than the silvery-whiteness of her hair, and the pinkish hue of her eyes, she looked like a typical human being. "You're an alien?"
Spectra smirked with some amusement. "What were you expecting? A bald, large-headed green life-form?"
Jocelyn cracked a surprised grin. "A joke?"
Spectra's smile widened. "Humor is not only a Human characteristic. In many ways, Humans and Denebians are similar." Then, her smile fell. "Unfortunately, another characteristic we have in common is a tendency to engage in warfare."
She stepped closer to the tightly assembled group, and then turned her attention to Rachel. "Have you told them everything?"
She nodded dutifully. "Everything you told me." She then began pointing out her friends, uttering their names for Spectra's benefit. "This is Keith Maloy, Tamara Fox, Matthew O'Conner, Jocelyn Armand, and Craig Gillis. They've agreed to join me as the Spectrum Force."
"And now that your hearts are united, you were able to come here," Spectra revealed.
Matthew frowned slightly. "I still don't understand that," he confessed.
"You were doubtful of Rachel's story," Spectra clarified, "Doubts will always serve as a barrier for you to overcome, if you seek to reach your full potential. It will hinder your growth in the use of magic."
Jocelyn blinked. "Magic? None of us know the first thing about it!"
"The Spectrum Stones will guide you," Spectra assured them, "They bend reality to the will of the user. They are fragments of the White Stone, which likewise creates reality anew. You can warp and shape light, which will be your primary weapon against Phaedra and her invasion fleet."
Spectra then sighed quietly, returning to her seat. "I only wish we had a chance to further train in the uses of your new powers, but as I am sure you have noticed, Phaedra has begun the second phase of her invasion."
"You mean the earthquake," Keith noted, moving closer to the screen. The others followed.
"This is a map of the subterranean tunnels in which I met Rachel," Spectra explained, enlarging the view, "I found it on the wrist scanner our friend Kirik was carrying."
"Kirik?" Tamara whispered to Rachel.
"The alien that almost killed me," she muttered in response.
"Phaedra teleported a Phlegnin into the tunnels," Spectra continued, pressing another button. The map gave way to a photograph of a large worm, easily the size of two cargo trucks, with razor-sharp quills protruding from along its entire cylindrical body.
Tamara cringed at the sight. "Eww!" she screeched in disgust.
Craig frowned deeply. "That's a Phleg... Phleg...?"
"Phlegnin. It is a predatory animal that digs through the ground. Its quills propel him in the dirt, enabling him to move at speeds nearing forty miles per hour. It is a very dangerous monster, and its presence beneath your city threatens every single inhabitant."
"Why would Phaedra send a monster into the subway?" Matt wondered aloud, "I mean, I thought she was trying to collect information."
"Maybe she got enough?" Keith hypothesized.
Spectra shook her head. "I doubt Phaedra is fully pleased with what she has collected so far. She only has whatever information could be collected within a time period of a few hours. Certainly that doesn't drain this planet's resources."
"Could she be trying to scare humanity?" Jocelyn proposed, "Wiping out a major city will surely send the planet into panic."
"Also illogical," Spectra decided, her brow furrowed thoughtfully, "If she wanted to destroy Langstrum Alps, she could have done so much more dramatically. So far, the Phlegnin has remained underground, where no one could see him. The entire city is surely passing off the tremors for the earthquakes common to this area of the world. It seems Phaedra is determined to be inconspicuous... for now, at least."
"That makes sense," Rachel decided, "Why give away your trump card by revealing your existence?"
"It's also important to note that the monster is within the very tunnels that I encountered her scouts," Spectra pointed out grimly, "I feel this monster is meant for me. My technology has alerted me to its presence, and surely Phaedra is now aware that a member of the Remnant is on Earth."
Spectra then rose to her feet, folding her arms. "I must stop it, before it destroys the subway systems, and pulls the entire city underground."
Rachel watched incredulously as Spectra walked passed the teens. "What about us?"
Spectra shook her head, pulling a jeweled staff from its case against the far wall. "I haven't been able to provide you with the slightest bit of training. How can you face that monster with power you do not know how to control?"
"How can you face that monster by yourself?" Jocelyn countered, "We may not be experts, but we'll catch on."
"Right," Matthew added, "You said the Spectrum Stones would guide us after all."
Spectra gazed at the six determined humans, standing in a row. She couldn't help but smile.
"So be it," she acquiesced. "The first step to utilizing your powers is to Synchronize with the Spectrum. Each of you have a separate colored shard, and by uniting your body with that wavelength of energy, you will join with the energy that shard contains, encasing you in the protective armor your shards create."
"Spectrum Sync?" Jocelyn asked, staring at the swirling orange energy within the clear crystal shell, "How?"
Spectra grinned. "Just ask."
The teens traded confused glances, before Rachel nodded her head, her dark eyes focused on the crystal before her.
"Spectrum Sync!" she commanded firmly. In response to the verbal request, the purple ring released the rich fog-like aura it contained. The mist began to glow with steady energy, swirling around Rachel's body to form a tight energy cocoon. The entire assembly backed away at the brilliant display of energy, and watched in mute amazement as the smoke crystallized. Then, in a flash of energy, it shattered, releasing the Purple Enforcer.
Rachel's sleepwear was replaced by molded body armor. It reflected light like metal, but it moved with her every gesture as if it were elastic. The rich shades of purple gave testament to her power signature, and her face was covered with a mask, along with a blue opaque visor. Only her hair was visible, hanging free from the top of her mask.
It took a moment for Rachel to recover from the power influx she had experienced. She jerked slightly, craning her neck to better look at her armor.
"This is... a lot of purple!" she breathed, awed at the pale purple gloves and boots, which contrasted with the darker purple arms that stretched to her sides, and even darker purple torso and legs. The belt glittered silver, the only part other than the visor to not be colored purple.
"As the Purple Enforcer, you will be able to concentrate beams of intense energy from your body, create a shield of more diffuse energy to protect yourself, fly, and generate a variety of manifestations of energy, all guided by your imagination. Also, you can in fact turn your body into a beam of light, granting you light-speed travel. The visor is equipped with a variety of settings, including night-vision, which is the default, since your opponents will always attack under a shroud of darkness, as well as ultraviolet, infrared, and X-ray scanning. Your belt possesses two buttons; when any single button is pressed it activates the emergency transport, carrying you back here instantaneously. Use this if you are ever injured, or for some other matter need immediate escape. Pressing both buttons simultaneously will break the transformation."
Rachel blinked, her eyes obscured by her sapphire lens. "This is so... unreal."
"It sounds like we can do anything!" Matthew marveled.
Spectra smiled. "You do have an impressive repertoire of attack and defensive options, but until you are trained in their use, you must be extremely cautious. But trust in yourselves. Confidence is your greatest weapon."
"And all of us have the same powers?" Tamara inquired.
"Yes. The only difference is the color of your uniforms and attacks. Of course, since you are different people, your imaginations will wield your new powers differently."
Keith's azure gaze remained steady on Rachel, watching in amazement as she tried to accustom herself to her new powers. He grinned, turning to his own ruby crystal.
"I think its time for the Spectrum Force to join their leader," he announced, holding his ring above his head. Craig, Jocelyn, Tamara, and Matthew mimicked his motions.
"Spectrum Sync!" they declared in unison. The blinding array of rich color flooded the ship, flashing in a rainbow of pure energy. At once, the five were encased in similar crystalline cocoons that shattered almost instantly. Where five typical college students stood, five armored warriors took their place.
All the costumes looked the same, save for the color schemes of each outfit. In addition, Craig's mask protectively covered his entire head, including his short-shaven hair.
All five marveled at their metamorphosis just as Rachel had.
"Time is pressing," Spectra announced, grasping their attention. She then held her staff above her head, which began radiating discs of energy that stretched to encompass all present.
Within the encasing discs of energy, the Spectrum Force gradually faded from existence.
"Oh God..." Tamara whispered, her gloved hands flying to her masked mouth. Instinctively, she hovered backwards, her faint yellow aura increasing in intensity.
She continued to gaze at the empty subway tunnel, glistening with thick mucus that trailed the tracks and walls.
The Orange Enforcer scowled beneath her helmet. "Well, this is gonna be a messy operation."
The Blue Enforcer shrugged. "At least this thing isn't leaving too much damage," he pointed out.
Spectra hovered ahead of the assembled youths, her staff emitting a brilliant light to illuminate the entire subway.
"The Phlegnin couldn't have gotten far," she affirmed, floating down the tunnel, "I brought us all to its location at the time of transport. It went this way."
She then streaked forward, leaving a trail of white energy in her wake.
Rachel clenched her fists, her own energy aura intensifying. "Let's not lag behind, gang," she stated, flying after their new ally. The Force followed closely behind.
It didn't take long before the party could hear the monster's heavy movements.
Soon, the creature's sharp, wide tail came into view.
"This tunnel is tight," Spectra realized grimly, "The Phlegnin almost takes up the entire area."
"That means he won't have room to maneuver," Keith pointed out.
"But we won't, either," Spectra added, pausing her flight. "I shall transport myself in front of him, while you open your attacks from behind. Keep following him until he stops."
The Force watched as she flashed out of existence. Almost instantaneously, Spectra manifested a few yards in front of the gargantuan beast.
Her peach eyes faded into a pearly whiteness as she stared down the gaping maw of the nightmarish creature, lined with razor teeth nearly as large as a human adult.
Crackling white energy built around her body, flashing from her milky eyes and electrifying her hair, causing it to swirl in silver ripples about her body. Both hands tightly clenched her silver staff, causing the colored jewels to each radiate a faint glow.
"Your journey ends here!" she declared, her voice echoing through the empty tunnel. The staff emitted the stored energy, hurling a powerful stream of sinuous energy directly into the creature's open mouth. The monster roared angrily, closing its mouth to the searing energy and thrashing its body throughout the limited space around him.
The roar sent a powerful tremor through the subway tunnel, causing chunks of rock to fall from the ceiling.
Spectra ended her energy barrage just in time to deflect a falling rock with her staff. Her attention immediately turned to the rocks that fell like hail from above, flying about to avoid being struck.
Her attention was so diverted from the monster, she neglected to notice it slowly open its mouth again. Faint orange energy built within its body, smoke oozing from its mouth.
With a mighty growl, it fired a stream of pure flames at his opponent. Spectra shrieked as the wave struck her squarely in the stomach, throwing her upwards through the ground to the surface above.
The shriek of surprise mixed with pain startled the Spectrum Force, who lingered behind the monster about two truck-lengths distant from its anterior.
"Spectra!" Rachel called in alarm, flying closer to the monster. However, a sharp swing of its gargantuan tail just missed the Purple Enforcer, the gust of wind generated by the motion knocking her back.
"Careful, Ray," Craig noted, catching her arm to steady her, "It looks like this thing can see us, somehow."
"Subterranean animals don't usually depend on sight, since there's no light underground," Jocelyn explained, "So even from the back it can sense us."
The monster then released another earth-shattering roar that caused more debris to collapse from above. Again, the Spectrum Force was forced to take the defensive.
"We're not getting anywhere," Keith noted with a measure of impatience. He brought his fists together, concentrating his red-hued energy into a powerful beam that leapt from his hands. However, the light seemed to have no effect on the monster. "This thing's hide is like armor!"
Craig frowned beneath his mask. "Maybe if we all hit one spot, we'll do some damage?"
Tamara shrugged, her energy aura brightening with effort. "It's worth a try."
Lingering behind the group, the disturbed Green Enforcer hovered, hugging his arms to his body in an effort to repress the growing anxiety that built in his body.
He never much liked tight spaces, but in times of severe stress, his claustrophobia was very much an issue.
"We're powerless down here," Matt noted to his friends, who were focusing their concussive wave blasts on the tail of the monster. "It seems invulnerable from this angle, and we're in its domain!"
"What are you suggesting?" Jocelyn inquired, her breath escaping her at the extreme effort, "We can't fight this thing on the surface! There're people up there!"
"Wait!" Rachel uttered, backing away from the beast, "Maybe not. Where are we, anyway?"
Matt glanced back in the direction they came. "I think we passed the exit to the Civic Center."
A grin crossed Rachel's face. "Perfect! Remember the old Towne Building? It was torn down in October to build a new strip mall! That's acres of land, pretty much empty."
"Right," Craig noted, "I don't think construction on the mall has begun yet. It should be relatively safe to fight there without destroying much."
Just then, the large beast waved its tail one last time, forcing the team backwards. Then, its razor-like quills dug into the ground beneath it, and pushed the Phlegnin forward through the tunnels.
"He's... running away!" Tamara shrieked, turning back to the others, "We can't let it get away!"
"But... Spectra was over there," Jocelyn whispered, her eyes widening with worry, "What happened to her?"
The question was answered as the monster continued to retreat, revealing a hole reaching to the surface. Moonlight poured into the darkened tunnel through the opening.
Rachel immediately launched herself forward, slipping through the hole into the city above. She looked around quickly, her eyes narrowing as she examined her surroundings.
After a few moments, she slipped back underground to the awaiting Spectrum Force.
"We're on Park and 15th Street," she noted, "so the construction site is six blocks west, on 9th and Arch."
"We passed it!" Matt realized with dismay, "That means we have to back this monster up over a mile!"
"Then that's what we'll do," Rachel decided, "Okay, the five of you have to turn that monster around."
"How?" Tamara inquired skeptically, "There isn't enough room in this tunnel for that thing to make a u-turn."
Jocelyn tapped her chin pensively. "I'm pretty sure this creature can burrow backwards just as easily. We've already established it's very perceptive in the back. Maybe if we just attack it from the front, we'll force it to retreat the other way?"
"And how do we get in front of it?" Keith posed.
"There's hardly room for us to squeeze past it, and Spectra didn't explain how exactly we can teleport," Craig analyzed, "but... didn't she say something about converting ourselves into light?"
"But... how?" Jocelyn asked.
Rachel frowned, glancing at her finger where her ring would be. "Spectra also said the Spectrum Stones would guide us. Maybe we can just imagine ourselves as beams of light?"
"I'm gonna try it," Keith decided, pulling ahead, "Besides, the longer we wait, the further that Phle... thing will get!"
"And I'm going to look for Spectra," Rachel announced, streaking through the hole in the tunnel.
The Phlegnin was on the move, cutting through the subway tunnels almost gracefully. As its quills dug into the ground, the force of its motion shook the entire city above. With only destruction on its primitive mind, the nightmarish beast pressed forward, occasionally releasing an earth-shaking roar.
Since the beast didn't have eyes, it didn't perceive the five beams of light that zipped between its impenetrable skin and the tunnel wall. It dimly registered the warmth, but not enough to react.
However, it did perceive the voices of the ones who attacked earlier. While it didn't actually hear their speech, it could feel the vibrations created by the sound waves.
"Wow... that was amazing!" Craig awed, performing a backwards flip while suspended in the air, "We actually moved as fast as light! We overtook Earthworm Jim in a heartbeat!"
"But he's coming right for us!" Jocelyn reminded him, "How do we stop it?"
"Open fire!" Keith decided, hovering a few paces in front of the team. He released burning light energy in the highest intensity he could muster. The beams plowed into the creature's face, and was immediately supported by equally powerful beams of orange, blue, yellow, and green.
"Being a superhero is easy!" Matt marveled as the monster slowed in its tracks.
Then, the creature opened its maw, releasing a heaving shriek that forced the entire assembly of heroes to cover their ears in pain.
"Ah!" Tamara shouted, "It's even louder from this end!"
"Look out!" Matt cried, throwing his hands toward the ceiling. Unwittingly, he created a flat field of tangible energy, which served as a shield to gather the falling debris and protect the heroes below.
"How'd you do that?" Jocelyn asked, bewildered, "You made light into a physical substance."
"I don't know," Matt confessed, "I just... wanted to block the debris."
Jocelyn smiled beneath her mask. "Then let's try that! We'll push it backwards! Everybody, fire tangible energy waves!"
She then flew forward, outstretching her arms and legs in an X shape. Her entire body emitted a glowing orange aura, fainter than the searing beams of energy she had wielded earlier. The energy formed a disk, blocking the entire tunnel like a door.
She then pushed her arms forward, sending the unyielding wall back towards the monster.
The monster howled again, its voice muffled by the wall between them. It then rammed its head against it, causing Jocelyn to release a grunt of exertion as she slowly descended to the tunnel floor. She trembled with effort, her orange aura fading.
"It's... too strong," she whispered shakily.
"Then we'll lend a hand," Tamara stated, her outstretched arms focusing her own energy. Faint yellow energy flooded forth, blending with the orange field to create a wall of swirling yellow and orange color.
"Amazing!" Matthew gasped, extending his own hands. He marveled at the green energy, which swirled together with the orange and yellow in a frenetic dance.
Keith watched quietly as the monster continued to fight against the shield. However, he did perceive the glisten of the mucus trail left from the monster's trek through the tunnel. It glinted in the multicolored light emitted from the force shield.
"It's working!" he declared excitedly, "Look! The jelly the monster left is helping us! It's lubricated the tunnel, gliding the thing back."
He then turned to his best friend. "On the count of three, we both cut loose. The double-whammy will be harder for the worm to struggle against."
The Blue Enforcer nodded, his clenched fist smoking with focused blue energy. "I'm ready."
Keith then turned back to the monster, standing beside Jocelyn on the ground. Craig took position on Jocelyn's other side.
"One... two... three!"
The two young men added their energy to the shield, causing the monster to shriek in frustration as it slid back the way it came.
"Spectra?" Rachel called, her fear mounting. She knew so little about the powers of their alien comrade... what if she didn't survive such a hit?
The hole cut through meters of earth, rock, and iron. That meant the blast that struck the Denebian was mighty indeed.
Rachel sighed quietly, focusing her attention to herself. She then weakened her glowing energy aura, allowing her to fall to the ground gently.
The last thing she wanted was to attract too much attention, and the glowing purple aura she emitted would certainly do just that.
"Spectra!" she called again, peering through the darkness. Her visor did grant her the ability to see clearly in even the darkest night, but even with this enhanced vision Spectra was not in sight.
"I must be doing this wrong," Rachel decided, looking back at the hole. "This hole is dug at an angle, meaning Spectra would've been thrown east. But I don't see any sign of destruction!"
Rachel frowned anew, running in the direction of Spectra's assumed flight. "She should've crashed into this building... or even through it! But there's not even a scratch."
Rachel then recalled her first encounter with the alien sorceress.
"My species are telepathic, but only for communication purposes."
The Purple Enforcer pressed her fingertips to her forehead. *Spectra? Can you hear me?*
After a few moments of silence, a familiar presence entered her mind. *Yes, Rachel, I hear you.*
Rachel instantly sighed in relief. *Where are you?*
Her answer was delivered by a bright light behind her. Rachel whirled around in surprise, and stared as Spectra materialized beside her. Spectra favored her with a small smile, but Rachel gasped at her appearance. All her exposed skin was scratched and bruised, blotching the pale color with rich purples and reds. Also, blood seeped from cuts on her arms and face, and reddened her pure white uniform.
"Are you okay?" Rachel gasped.
"I will be," she assured her, shaking her head with embarrassment. "I underestimated the Phlegnin. Apparently, Phaedra has made some... alterations to the species. This creature has the ability to spew fire of an incredible intensity. It knocked me clear through the tunnel!"
"How did you... survive it?" Rachel asked quietly.
"It did hit me directly, but I was able to buffer by trip through the tunnel wall magically," Spectra revealed. She then winced slightly. "Still, I am far from unscathed."
She then clutched her forehead. Rachel hurried to her side, and steadied the weakened warrior. Her breath caught in her throat when she noticed the incisions on her back.
Clearly, Spectra's back had taken the brunt of the damage.
"Also, my translator has been damaged beyond repair," Spectra revealed.
Rachel gasped in surprise. "But... I can understand you!"
Spectra nodded. "The Spectrum Stones give all of you the ability to communicate clearly to all known species. Your masks are equipped with the data chips that are used in the translators, offering you instant translation of any language, both what you hear and what you say. I can understand your speech as clearly as my native tongue."
Rachel's eyes widened. "Amazing."
"Also, the stones grant you limited telepathic abilities. You all can communicate with each other as you and I have. When synched, you can project your thoughts to one another as naturally as verbal speech. When not synched, you can still channel your thoughts through the stones, enabling communication to any or all of the Enforcers."
"There's... so much to this," Rachel marveled quietly.
"Yes," Spectra conceded, "That is why training is of the utmost importance, to familiarize all of you with all of your abilities."
"So, where'd you go?" Rachel inquired, "You just vanished!"
Spectra smiled, turning her attention to her silver belt. "I have the emergency teleport as well," she revealed, "I pressed it once I was able to move my hands, which was after the fireball that hit me evaporated. Fortunately, I didn't collide with anything once I reached the surface. I was unconscious until your telepathic call roused me."
Spectra winced again as her grip tightened on her silver staff. "How goes the fight?" she asked, "Where are the others?"
"In the tunnels," Rachel responded, "We're trying to get the monster above ground, so there's more room to maneuver. There's an empty construction site nearby, and they're steering the monster there."
Spectra nodded, a small smile on her lips. "An excellent strategy. Show me the location, and I will open the way."
The Purple Enforcer streaked through the night sky, flying high to hopefully avoid too much attention. She cradled Spectra in a bubble of purple energy, allowing the sorceress to reserve her powers for the task at hand.
"There it is," Rachel called, lowering both to the ground. In mere seconds from their takeoff, the two heroines stood at the hole which would eventually become Langstrum Alps' newest shopping center. Spectra swept her scrutinous peach gaze across the area, nodding thoughtfully.
"Yes... plenty of room for a battle, and distant from any residences. We are in the business district, meaning there shouldn't be any people to either witness the battle, or be harmed by it."
Her peach irises vanished again, leaving milky eyes glowing with power. Spectra then turned her gaze to the ground, faint white energy gleaming from her eyes. "Where is the tunnel?"
Rachel tapped her visor, activating the X-ray vision mode. She too stared at the ground, flying above it to scan beneath the construction site. She finally paused near the street. "Here!"
"The Spectrum Force is moving slowly, as they are fighting the full strength of the Phlegnin," Spectra noted, casting her gaze at the tunnel towards the east, "I don't see them yet, so they are still a bit distant. I have time, then."
"Time for what?" Rachel inquired.
In answer, Spectra held her silver staff with both hands, grasping it tightly. She rose from the ground, and landed just where the tunnel stretched beneath.
"This!" she declared, holding the staff forward. It began glowing profusely, causing sweat to drip from Spectra's forehead. She clenched her teeth with the effort, her hair crackling with the energy she mustered.
Rachel watched mutely as a beam of blinding white energy leapt from the tip of the staff, crashing into the ground. It drilled through meters of earth and rock, but made little sound.
Spectra trembled with the effort, her body floating into the air. She flew in a circle, cutting through the ground the entire way. At the lengthy crack she created, a strong white glow flashed.
Spectra then fell to her knees, panting heavily. Rachel hurried to her side, kneeling on the ground next to her. She managed to pull her incredulous gaze from the glowing circle to the exhausted sorceress.
"Now what?" she inquired.
"Now... I lift it," Spectra answered hoarsely, struggling to her feet. Rachel watched helplessly as Spectra turned her milky white gaze to the glowing circle she dug into the ground.
She lifted her arms while tightly grasping her staff. In response, the entire staff flashed with ivory energy, invoking a similar glow from the white circle she inscribed in the ground.
Rachel's jaw dropped as the enormous chunk of ground lifted into the air. Spectra fell to her knees, but held her arms high. The chunk of earth hovered away from its resting place, creating a gaping hole directly into the subway tunnel.
Through the hole, Rachel could hear the rumbling of the Phlegnin.
"They're almost here!" she announced, turning to Spectra. She gazed at her in concern. "Can you hold that by yourself?"
"Not for long," Spectra rasped between gritted teeth, "Make sure the creature leaps through the hole. Then I can replace this rock."
Rachel nodded, her purple energy aura building as she flew into the large hole. She saw the bright color of her team's energy signatures nearby, and the moonlight illuminated the tunnel enough to make out the Phlegnin.
*Guys!* she called urgently, *Stop pushing! We're at the site!*
*Rachel? Is that you?*
*Where are you?*
*How're you in my head?!*
*Is Spectra alright?*
Rachel smiled, excited by the fact that she could distinguish the mind-voices of Keith, Jocelyn, Craig, and Tamara easily.
*Yes it's me,* she transmitted to the entire Force, *and I'm right behind the monster. I need to send him up through the hole Spectra created, to land him right at the construction site. All of us can communicate telepathically, just like we're doing now. And Spectra's okay, but she's very weak. She can't hold this hole open much longer.*
*Rachel!* Jocelyn called, *We can make our light energy tangible! If you create a shield of energy, you should be able to stop the worm from getting past you. It'll have no choice but to go through the hole.*
*Got it,* Rachel responded, falling to the ground. She stepped back into the tunnel, erecting a shield of energy blocking off the rest of the passageway from the Phlegnin.
The monster roared in frustration, once again pounding against the shield that had pushed it so far. Once it recognized the escape opportunity above, it incredibly leapt into the hole, pushing up from its tail. Its quills dug into the ground surrounding the hole, and supported it enough to slither onto the surface.
"Yes!" Craig cheered, high-fiving Keith and Jocelyn.
"It's a bit early for celebration," Matthew noted grimly, his energy aura building as he rose from the ground, "That thing isn't dead yet."
Purple energy exploded around Rachel's body, and she leapt into the air. "Then let's finish this," she decided, streaking through the hole. The Orange, Yellow, Green, Red and Blue Enforcers were close behind, and together the six hovered in a row above the construction site.
"Spectra!" Rachel called, "Lower it!"
Spectra heaved a deep sigh of relief as she slowly reset the heavy piece of concrete and earth. Once she had set it firmly in its original place, she held her palm out towards it. The white energy that still filled the crack evaporated, reuniting the piece with the larger whole.
There wasn't even a crack to show that tons of earth and concrete had moved.
"We've got to keep it from getting away!" Rachel declared, her fists firing rays of energy. The energy formed a flat plate, covering the ground beneath the Phlegnin. "No running away this time!"
The beast roared furiously, thrusting its head toward Rachel. It opened its jagged maw, releasing a powerful stream of flames.
The Blue Enforcer was quick to react, streaking in front of the fire and catching Rachel, pushing her to safety. "Sheesh, Ray," he quipped, "How many times am I going to have to save your butt today?"
Rachel smirked. "Trust me... that's the last one."
They both recovered their bearings, and joined the others, who were all firing energy blasts at the beast from varying angles.
"We need to keep it still," she decided, "And we've got to find a way to puncture its hull!"
"I shall help," said a voice, startling both teens. Rachel gaped at Spectra, who hovered behind them with a faint white aura.
"Spectra, you're hurt!" Rachel argued, "You need to rest-"
"I won't be able to rest until I know this threat has been destroyed," she explained in a deadpan. She then gripped her staff tighter, her milky eyes flashing with power. *Hear me, Spectrum Force!* she declared, *The only way to hurt this Phlegnin is to fire powerful energy into its body and disintegrate it from the inside. I shall hold it in place with its mouth open. The six of you must combine your powers into one powerful energy burst.*
"How do we do that?" Craig inquired.
"Join your full power together," she advised, streaking into the air. Craig watched as she flew to the Phlegnin, hovering above it.
"Gather together, Spectrum Force!" she ordered, her energy wave increasing. The six regrouped at a short distance, and watched as the white aura bathed the Phlegnin in its pure radiance, slowly freezing the beast in place.
"How do we do this?" Jocelyn asked, as the six heroes lowered themselves to the ground.
"We'll do it like a rainbow," Keith decided, clenching his fist. "After all, we're the Spectrum Force. I know that's not a coincidence."
His burning energy continued building around his body. He then reached out one hand, extending his palm to the heavens. Slowly, the hazy energy pulled into his palm, creating a pulsing sphere of energy roughly the size of a basketball.
"That's... all I've got," he strained through clenched teeth.
"I'll try," Jocelyn said, straining her muscles. She too focused her entire energy into one sphere, which hovered in her hand.
"Bring them together," Rachel advised, watching intently.
The Orange and Red Enforcers slowly brought their hands together, fusing the two spheres. The result was a larger sphere, glowing an orange-reddish hue.
"That's it!" Jocelyn gasped, "We'll bring them all together!"
In sequence, Tamara, Matthew, and Craig created spheres of energy, melding them into the whole. Finally, Rachel stepped forward, depositing her energy into the pool.
Once the sphere absorbed Rachel's pulsing energy, it flashed brilliantly. The result was a large sphere of pure white radiance.
As if it were conscious, the sphere leapt from the team, streaking toward the monster and into its mouth. Once the energy disappeared into its throat, Spectra released her hold on it, streaking out of the way.
Blinding white energy sliced through the creature's hide from the inside. The light continued to brighten, cutting through more tissue and disintegrating the skin it touched.
Soon, the creature vanished in a brilliant wave of energy bright enough to light up the entire city of Langstrum Alps.
The leather-clad hero rose to his feet on the rooftop, collecting his bearings after the bone-crunching fall from the sky. He thrust his head upward, his eyebrow arching as the helicopter passed just above him, clearly out of control as it careened sideways toward the nearby skyscraper.
^Trinity^ he whispered, looking around sharply. He grabbed hold of a long chord that had tied him to the helicopter. He ground his teeth as the weight of the machine pushed him toward the edge of the building.
Meanwhile, the pilot of the helicopter swallowed hard as she saw the glass-paned building that stood before the damaged vessel.
Wasting no time, the black-haired woman leapt from her seat and hurried to the chord, firing a pistol to disconnect it from its anchor on the floor of the helicopter. She clung to the chord with all her might, slipping through the helicopter's open hatch and swinging back towards the building her companion fell upon.
The helicopter smashed into the skyscraper, sending a wave of impact energy that wove through the wall of the building, instantly shattering it in a fiery explosion.
"Yesss!" Craig shrieked, pumping his fist, "Save the day, Neo!"
Matthew chuckled, brushing off the popcorn kernels that fell from Craig's large bowl onto his shoulder. "Why is it you get so involved in movies?"
Craig smirked, glancing down at his roommate, who sat on the floor before the couch. "The Matrix just happens to be the best sci-fi film since Star Wars. And I mean A New Hope... not the other three. That last one was awful!"
Keith perked up at that, pulling his hand from around Tamara's shoulder to grab a handful of popcorn from their bowl. "Awful?" he repeated, holding up the fistful of popcorn like a grenade, "Are you crazy? The special effects in Phantom Menace put this to shame! And I just can't respect a movie starring Keanu Reeves."
Tamara giggled, slipping off the couch towards the far side of the floor, where Jocelyn and Matthew had taken refuge. "I can see where this is going," she whispered.
Craig shook his head, lifting his own bowl of popcorn. "And you can respect an over-budgeted movie starring a ten year old kid who can't act to save his life?"
Then, both young men hurled their popcorn in a blinding hail of salted snack. Jocelyn, Tamara, and Matt all fell into laughter at the childish antics of their friends.
"I'm glad we never do Movie Night in our apartment," Jocelyn breathed.
Matt rolled his eyes. "Yeah... but guess who's probably gonna wind up cleaning all this up!"
Rachel slipped in through the unlocked door just in time to witness the start of the popcorn war. She smiled demurely, shaking her head in disbelief. She slipped off her black blazer and hung it on the coat rack before entering the kitchen.
"Hey Ray," Tamara greeted when she noticed her arrival. The declaration calmed down both the laughter and the popcorn storm, diverting all their attention to the newly-arrived friend.
"How was the first day in the office?" Keith inquired.
Rachel shrugged, helping herself to a can of Pepsi. "Surprisingly, it went without a hitch."
"What do you mean 'surprisingly'?" Jocelyn asked.
"Thankfully the Denebians didn't attack," Rachel clarified, "But I must admit, I spent just about every free moment I got thinking about it. I kept on pondering what kind of excuse to give if I had to leave abruptly."
Keith nodded, biting his lip. "Good call," he conceded, "I hadn't even thought of that."
"There're a lot of things we'll need to think about now," Rachel stated, taking a seat beside the couch, "We'll need to be on twenty-four hour alert. We'll never know when Phaedra will strike. True, she'll more likely attack at night, but that doesn't mean she can't alter her routine if it suits her. And what are we going to do about the world at large? Can we keep an alien invasion secret? Should we?"
The entire group fell silent. Craig sighed, grabbing the remote and stopping the video. "We really do need to come to a consensus on some issues," he decided.
"Hey!" Jocelyn declared, crawling to the television and pumping the volume, "The fight's on the news!"
^...still is shut down. Public services is wary to begin cleanup and restoration of the subway tunnel along Park Avenue until analysis of the inexplicable mucus-like substance can be completed. Damages within the subway, including cleanup and repair of the ceiling are estimated at some two million dollars.^
The reporter, a young blonde woman, stood within the construction site where the Force battled the Phlegnin.
^The question that still remains is what caused the blinding flash of light that awoke the entire city last night at 4:32 am. Authorities hypothesize that the light was caused by an explosion, which would explain how this construction site, located at 9th and Arch Streets was disturbed last night. The explosion is attributed to the string of tremors we experienced, but there is no evidence of what could have exploded. More as it develops.^
Matt stared at the television, his eyes narrowing. "Two million dollars of damage to the subway? Wow..."
"And could you imagine what kind of damage we would've caused if we killed the Phlegnin underground?" Craig realized, "The explosion would've torn the subway to bits!"
"That's why we need training," Rachel stated, "We need to learn how to use our powers to both stop the invasion while limiting the damage done to Earth."
Keith stroked his chin. "We're gonna need to balance school, training, and fighting off the Empire... all without telling anyone about being the Spectrum Force."
"Yeah..." Jocelyn whispered thoughtfully, "For now, at least. How would the world handle having real-live super-heroes?"
Craig frowned. "Whatever they do, it'll only get in our way. We stay secret, and try to keep the Empire back without help from Earth forces. We'll ask Spectra about what we should about keeping it secret. She'll know if the army can even help."
Rachel frowned deeply. "Something tells me Earth's forces won't be any help. If so, why would Spectra have formed us?"
Silence fell upon the young assembly of new heroes.
"We'll be all right," Tamara decided, a small smile easing the darkness that fell upon the group, "All we have to do is train. Spectra said that doubts will be our biggest opponent. If we have faith in ourselves, we'll be able to learn the extent of our powers. Then we can prove to Spectra, and to ourselves, that we really are the Spectrum Force."
Tamara's reassuring speech was met by smiles all around.
"Whatever happens," Rachel stated with a warm smile, "we're in it together."