Halfway heroes, p.1
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       Halfway Heroes, p.1

           Dustin Martin
Halfway Heroes

  Halfway Heroes

  The Halfway Heroes Trilogy

  Book I

  By Dustin Martin

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Edited by: Natalie Mortensen

  Book Cover Illustration by: Christopher Ryan Bryer and Nadica Boskovska

  ISBN: 978-0-9914611-0-3

  Copyright 2014 by Dustin Martin. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  For God, my family, my friends, and all those who have supported me throughout the years to help me reach this point. Thanks to all of you and to Natalie Christopher, and Nadica. My gratitude knows no bounds.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1—A Little Reminder

  Chapter 2—Lab Tour

  Chapter 3—Accidental Push

  Chapter 4—Rooke

  Chapter 5—Collision

  Chapter 6—Testing the Limits

  Chapter 7—Here to Help

  Chapter 8—Broken Arm and Broken Heart

  Chapter 9—Unseen Changes

  Chapter 10—Possible Cure

  Chapter 11—An Enticing Offer

  Chapter 12—The Cave

  Chapter 13—Settling In

  Chapter 14—Friendly Fight

  Chapter 15—Others Like You

  Chapter 16—New Life

  Chapter 17—Tragic News

  Chapter 18—Freaks Like Me

  Chapter 19—Outburst

  Chapter 20—Shoot Me

  Chapter 21—A Way Out

  Chapter 22—Self-Defense

  Chapter 23—Homecoming

  Chapter 24—Birthday Gifts

  Chapter 25—Gathering a Team

  Chapter 26—Hostages

  Chapter 27—Unexpected Setback

  Chapter 28—Precious Cargo

  Chapter 29—Setting the Stage

  Chapter 30—Holdup

  Chapter 31—Hitching a Ride

  Chapter 32—Worry Not

  Chapter 33—The Takeover

  Chapter 34—Better Odds

  Chapter 35—Bank Brawl

  Chapter 36—Aftermath

  Chapter 37—Placing the Blame

  Chapter 38—Therapy Session

  Chapter 39—A Dish Best Not Served

  Chapter 40—Surveillance

  Chapter 41—Opening Up

  Chapter 42—In Training

  Chapter 43—A Death in the Family

  Chapter 44—Decisions, Decisions

  Chapter 45—Silence Is Golden

  Chapter 46—On the Clock

  Chapter 47—City Lockdown

  Chapter 48—Reliance

  Chapter 49—Between a Wall and a Hard Place

  Chapter 50—Leonard’s House

  Chapter 51—Hospital Standoff

  Chapter 52—Good Place to Die

  Chapter 53—The Fall

  Chapter 54—Emptiness

  Chapter 55—Consequences

  Chapter 56—Little Choice

  About Dustin Martin

  Connect With Dustin Martin

  Chapter 1—A Little Reminder

  Lydia was flying.

  It was preposterous to find herself soaring beside the billowy, rolling clouds. She didn’t question how the snowy masses could be here at her fingertips. Some part of Lydia knew it was unreal, like a hallucinatory fever dream. But the how and why were discarded in favor of the experience of gaily flying along in the open expanse. She forgot herself amid the sea of white, while cool air nipped at her cheeks.

  The wind whipped through Lydia’s short hair, blowing her silky chestnut bangs into her eyes and obscuring her view. That was perfectly fine with her, since the view below of the city through the thin, transparent clouds was much more interesting. She held her arms out in front, clenching her fists and reveling in the freedom and ecstasy of the sky. She was alone in the sky, a green dot in her clinging emerald suit. Clean, open air rushed past her willowy body, and the ivory sea of clouds matched the color of her fluttering cape. It was the best kind of relaxation she could imagine.

  The rushing air batting her ears was broken by screams and gunfire in the sprawling business district of the city far below her. Lydia abandoned the sky and zoomed down. She flew between skyscrapers displaying company names. She zipped past businesses and corporations. The noises became lost in the cacophony of car horns, and the yells of bystanders drowned out the guns. She tuned out those sounds and focused solely on the gunfire ahead.

  She increased her speed, soon locating the area of the commotion. It was a decent-sized bank, with impressive stone columns flanking its entrance. But what caught Lydia’s eye was the group out front. Several masked men armed with guns struggled to load bulging duffel bags into a black van. One member guarded the side of the vehicle. He fired at the doors of the bank, daring anyone to stop them. His partners hurriedly climbed in.

  Lydia swooped down near the gunman still outside the van. She snatched the gun out of his hand, easily snapped it in two, and dusted the metal off her hands. The man, terrified, inched away from her and fell to the pavement as she hovered toward him. He put his hands in front of him and begged for mercy. “No, no! Please!”

  By this time, his partners had spotted the floating girl. Though armed and larger than she was, they were just as scared as the man on the ground.

  “Oh no! It’s Lydia!” one shouted. He thumped his fist on the driver’s back. “Drive! Drive!”

  The van’s tires squealed as shrilly as the scream of the gunman left behind. He started to crawl away, but Lydia yanked him back by the collar of his jacket. Several police cars rushed by in pursuit of the escaping van, their sirens wailing. She wanted to follow and help out, but first she had to deal with the struggling man in her clutches.

  She spied a nearby lamppost. She picked up the crook with one arm, holding him under her armpit like a vise, and flew over to the lamppost. She kicked it near the base, snapping it off. The wires inside crackled as the electricity inside escaped into the air. She threw the man onto the ground and quickly wrapped the post around him. The metal groaned as it bent around his torso.

  “That ought to hold you until the cops come.” She grinned. Lydia ignored his curses and insults and took to the sky.

  She found the fleeing vehicle soon enough. The thieves were already engaged in a shoot-out with the pursuing police cars. Lydia stayed high above, gliding slowly down toward the van. She hoped she could land unobserved on top of the vehicle.

  A gunman’s well-placed bullet into the tire of the police car sent the two cops inside tumbling over one another. The vehicle skidded sideways, toward a handful of pedestrians, frozen in fear. Lydia zoomed down and planted her feet between the police car and several bystanders. She caught the backside of the car, halting its movement. The impact nearly knocked her over. Her fingers dug into the metal, crunching it like fleshy teeth. As she pushed against it, the car seemed to push right back. Girl and vehicle both screeched across the pavement.

  When the ca
r came to a complete stop, Lydia breathed a sigh of relief. The civilians exploded into cheers and applause, shouting her name at the top of their lungs while she checked on the two officers inside the vehicle. They assured her they were fine and thanked her. She accepted the gratitude of those she’d saved with a broad smile. “No need to fear. I’ll always be here,” she promised, throwing back her cape. Then she zipped into the sky.

  She was flying low over the chase scene once again. More police cars had arrived and were gaining on the thieves. One of the robbers had thrown open the rear doors of the van to fire on the crowd. Lydia rushed in. She upper-cutted the thief in the chest, knocking him into the roof of the van. He wheezed as the air rushed out of him and fell unconsciously to the floor, leaving a large dent in the roof.

  “Get rid of her!” the driver shouted. His remaining burglar trained his pistol on Lydia and fired, but she moved aside just in time. The bullet only grazed her suit. Lydia reached for the gun and struggled with the robber for it. She pulled him out of his seat and, locked together, they rolled across the floor, one on top of the other.

  Still struggling, they fell out of the van and hit the pavement hard. The thief loosened his grip on the pistol and it flew from his hand. He struggled to push himself back up, but Lydia kicked his shaky arm, and he dropped back down to the warm asphalt. Police cars surrounded him in a matter of moments.

  Lydia was already gone, on the tail of the last criminal.

  The driver screamed when Lydia landed on the front of the van. He fumbled with a pistol of his own. Lydia punched through the windshield and snatched the gun. She tossed it aside and tore apart the rest of the windshield. Little shards of glass rained down on her, and the driver swerved the van from side to side in a vain attempt to throw her off. Then he began smashing into parked cars. But it was his calling her name that stopped Lydia from destroying the van.

  “Lydia!” Definitely not the driver’s voice. It was too hushed, too feminine, and seemed dipped in a vat of sarcasm. Yet it was coming from his mouth. He looked up at her, his mask covering his mouth. The voice emanating from him stayed the same. “Lydia!”

  The van screeched to a halt and Lydia was flung out. She crashed into a hard, wooden wall. Gravity pried her off and she dropped to the sidewalk. The ground was surprisingly cool for such a warm day.

  She yanked her head up, prepared to take on the last criminal, but realized that she was no longer in the middle of the city. The busy streets had become a full classroom; pedestrians and onlookers were now inattentive students; an oblivious teacher stood at a whiteboard; and the criminal she’d been chasing was now a girl matching her own height. Long purple velvety hair hid the girl’s face instead of a mask. Yet her voice was the same as that of the driver’s.

  “Lydia!” she hissed. The girl whipped her head to the front to check that the teacher wasn’t looking at them. Dariela, fifteen, like Lydia, leaned in to her friend. “About time you woke up. You were snoring so loud I thought Retter would hear you.”

  Lydia looked down at her desk and rubbed her hands across the cool smooth wood. Only a moment ago, it had been the coarse gray surface of the sidewalk.

  A dream. It had just been a dream.

  “I didn’t get much sleep last night, Dar,” Lydia said, blinking rapidly. Blurriness from her sleep lingered awhile longer. “Had to study for a history test.” She felt herself begin to nod off once more.

  “Lydia? Dariela?” Retter asked, turning from the whiteboard to them. “Do you have a question?”

  “Er, no, Ms. Retter,” Lydia said, sitting up and smiling as sweetly as she could. She tried to feign that she’d been awake the entire time. When Retter returned to her lesson and the students returned to ignoring her, Lydia slumped back down again.

  Dariela already had her nose back in her textbook, but Lydia knew she wasn’t reading what Retter was teaching. That is, unless biology textbooks had decided to hold her friend’s attention. Lydia leaned closer to Dariela and spied bright colors and flashy action scenes. Lydia didn’t recognize the characters on the pages but knew it was a comic book.

  “I was flying, too,” she nodded at one panel, where a hero was taking off into the sky. His arms were outstretched and his square jaw tightly set. A determined expression meant that he’d vanquish the current evil. “In my dream, I mean.”

  “Oh, good thing you clarified that. You almost had me,” Dariela joked, flipping to the next page. “I was about to ask you to fly me home. Maybe grab something to eat on the way there.” Anyone who didn’t know her would be turned off by her snarky reply. Lydia only rolled her eyes and pushed her friend’s shoulder good-naturedly.

  The school bell rang. It had the same effect on the students that a starting pistol has at a race. Everyone had already surreptitiously slid their books into their backpacks and zipped them up in time with Retter’s final end-of-day speech. But before the students could shove their way out the door and head home, the teacher called for their attention for one more moment.

  “Remember! The project due date will creep up on you sooner than you think. I hope you’ve started working on it by now. Also, I haven’t received some of your parental consent forms for our trip tomorrow,” she said, holding up a piece of paper. She adjusted her glasses and read down the list. “Cecilia, Dariela, Francis, Lydia, Mark, and Vivian. You six still need to turn your forms in to me by tomorrow.”

  “Yeah, yeah. We got it, you old bag,” Mark muttered, roughly pushing past everyone else to slide his short, stout frame to the door.

  “Let’s hope he’s not riding the bus,” Dariela said, filing out with the rest of the crowd.

  “Yeah,” Lydia agreed. “Have you started the project?”

  “Nope,” Dariela said. “My partner keeps dashing off before I get a chance to talk to him. What about you?”

  “I went over to Bruce’s house yesterday,” Lydia said. “We planned it out. Kind of. We made plans to figure out what we’re doing.”

  “Redundancy at its finest,” Dariela said, laughing.

  Unfortunately for the pair, when they reached the front of the school where the buses waited bumper to bumper like one long, large pencil, Mark clambered aboard ahead of them. The only open seat was right in front of his. The driver already had his familiar radio station tuned to two news anchors, chatting with each other about national and world news.

  The girls dropped their backpacks onto the floor and took their seat. Mark immediately began kicking the seat, clicking his tongue as the bus waited to leave.

  “Man, the trip is going to be boring!” he complained, crossing his arms. Lydia tried to ignore him, but when he kept digging his foot into the back of their seat, she almost told him off.

  Dariela beat Lydia to the punch, quite literally. She leaned over the seat and pounded Mark’s legs. He instinctively curled away from her. “Hey!”

  “ ‘Hey!’ ” Dariela mimicked. “That’s irritating. You don’t have to go tomorrow, you know. Stay at school. It’s not like the substitute will make you do anything.”

  “And leave Rich and Bruce by themselves? Those guys couldn’t find their way out of the school without me,” he laughed. He propped his feet back up onto the seat, forgetting all about the earlier hit from Dariela. He was swiftly reminded with another punch before she sat back down when the driver told her to.

  “So, are you going?” Lydia asked her.

  “I might,” Dariela said, shrugging. She pulled out a notebook from her backpack and flipped it open. She shimmied a pencil out of the binder and thumbed through the pages, each covered in finely detailed, elaborate drawings that could’ve fit into the comic book she’d been reading earlier. She stopped at an incomplete sketch of a figure clutching a long rope and perched on a stone gargoyle.

  To Lydia, the figures looking down on a dim city appeared to be its watchful guardians.

  “I’m going to try and get out of going to school altogether tomorrow,” Dariela continued. “A pharmaceutical company
doesn’t really pique my interest.” She took the pencil and began shading in sections here and there. “If I can’t, then I guess I’ll have to go. Make sure you get your form signed.” Dariela turned to her friend. “If I do end up going, I don’t want to be stuck alone with him.” She thumbed the seat behind her.

  “I’ll get it signed,” Lydia said, staring out the window at the idle buses, waiting as stragglers arrived. Only one bus was exclusive to their school, as revealed by the stenciled CARVER HIGH SCHOOL on its side.

  “Please do. Don’t forget, alright?”

  “You sound like my mom,” Lydia laughed. “I’ll text it to myself. Or you text it to me.”

  “No, you’ll forget to check your phone. I know you will.”

  Lydia opened her own backpack and took out a black marker. “Here, I’ll write it on my hand, then.” She wrote “Don’t forget” in the center of her palm. “Happy?”

  “Very. Now I can nag you from afar. There’s also one difference between your mom and me.” Dariela wagged a finger. “My sanity is at stake.” She leaned back, but then she spun around and hit Mark’s legs, which were digging into the seat again. “What did I tell you?” she yelled at him.

  “Alright! Alright! You—” He swallowed his insult when he saw the glare she cast at him.

  The driver turned up the radio, drowning out any further outbursts. “The protests are expected to continue,” one of the news anchors reported. “Quotes one individual, ‘We won’t rest until he’s out of office.’ Over in Yemen, reports of a similar case of the SN91 disease that struck Spain only one month ago—”

  Lydia chuckled, pulling Dariela back down as the buses started to leave the school. “Just ignore him. He’ll leave us alone if we leave him alone.”

  Lydia watched the landscape of tall buildings and traffic-filled streets pass by, like those in her dream. Her emerald eyes stared back at her in the reflection in the window, like a transparent spirit of the earth watching over its charge. They eventually left the skyscrapers and clogged roads behind in favor of suburban neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs near the city limits. The bus rushed past trees already starting to lose their fall leaves. A long range of the dust-colored Rockies speckled with the yellow of the turning birches sat in the distance, one of many tall ridges west of the city of Golden Springs, Colorado.

  One by one, the bus emptied, until only a handful of passengers were left. Dariela disembarked soon after, smacking Mark one last time. She waved to Lydia as the bus drove away.

  “Don’t forget!” she yelled at Lydia’s open window.

  Lydia merely held up her open palm as the bus took off, soon delivering her to her own stop. She bid farewell to the driver and walked down the short road to her home, the baby-blue house halfway down Trenton Drive. She tripped lightly across the circled stepping-stones that her father had placed to keep everyone off the manicured grass.

  “Hey, hon,” her mother said, from the kitchen table. “How was your day?” She had a folder brimming with papers open before her. She took off her glasses, looking relieved to take a break.

  “Good. How was yours?” Lydia asked. She walked over and glanced at the numerous documents. Most were written in extremely fine print, with so much legal jargon that she couldn’t focus for more than a line or two. Others had numbers upon numbers, listed next to descriptions, such as monthly payment and driver coverage.

  “Good,” her mother replied. But Lydia could tell she was exhausted. Her mother’s smile was a smidge too wide and her entire posture sagged. “Susan has been working with this client. He caused a pretty bad pileup in town. Everyone’s fine, but the whole thing is a nightmare. So I’m helping with the paperwork.”

  “Try not to stress out, Mom,” Lydia said, kissing the top of her head. “I’m going to go take a shower.”

  “Alright,” her mother said, returning to the file. “We’re having stew tonight.”

  “Okay,” Lydia said, walking down the hall. She dropped her backpack in her room, feeling very tired despite her earlier nap in class. She gathered up a fresh set of clothes and headed to the bathroom. As she reached for a towel in one of the cupboards, she spied the black words on her hand.

  Lydia decided that she’d wait until after her shower to have her parents sign the form. Maybe take a nap before doing that, too, she thought. She undressed and stepped into the shower, letting the warm water embrace her. She poured a dab of shampoo into her hair, lathering it up. Then she stood under the shower head. Lydia closed her eyes, reveling in the pleasure of the warm water as her mind drifted back to her earlier dream.

  The streaming water had now become warm summer rain. It seemed like she was on the tallest building in the world, receiving nature’s bath. Lydia lulled in it, enjoying every drop. If she hadn’t been standing, she thought that she could fall asleep right then and there. It was so peaceful, so serene. Not a sound could be heard for miles. It was simply her and the rain.

  But then she sensed a change. The falling drops picked up in intensity, hitting her faster. The large, fat globs had turned into sharp spears that pierced her skin. Each one sliced at her nerves with freezing fury, every new drop colder than the last. In the sky above, ominous clouds of all shapes and sizes swirled together to create a dark blanket for the city. Thunder clapped from far off, as if the black veil was laughing as it shot its cold bullets at her.

  Lydia’s eyes snapped open and she realized that the shower water had grown extremely cold. Her mother was pounding at the door. “Lydia!” Thump, thump! “Lydia! You’ve been in there for half an hour! Did you waste all the hot water again?”

  Lydia twisted the knob as far toward the hot end as it would go. Cold water continued to pour out. She picked up the soap bar, scrubbing her hands, feet, and body frantically. When she was satisfied that every inch of her had been vigorously cleaned, she stepped out, wrapping a towel around herself. She snatched up her clothes and opened the door.

  “All done!” Lydia said, sliding past her mother’s glare and heading for her room. Lydia breathed easier once she shut herself in her bedroom. She dressed quickly, flopped onto the bed, and closed her eyes, wanting to catch a few winks before dinner.

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