First Chapters: The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar by Braxton A. Cosby
The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar
By Braxton A. Cosby
Firefly Publishing & Entertainment (September 25, 2011)
YA Science Fiction
Inside the chamber walls of the Capital Building, a young Prince stood approximately ten feet from his sparring partner. Sweat streamed from his forehead as he loosened his grip inside the leathery laced concussion gloves. As the sound of combat rang throughout the morning dawn, the two young men cautiously awaited each other’s next move. William was always taught to be patient in these times, holding only a slight lead over his formidable foe, he could easily finish this session off with one well timed blow.
A small crowd began to gather around the outer corridor to take in the entertainment. The Capital Building served as a place of meeting for high level officials and upper class folks, to participate in a number of activities ranging from business meetings, open forums, and dinner parties. But today, a sparring match between two young males was the main attraction. They had just finished a barrage of attacks on one another, exchanging hit counts, until they both grew tired and retreated to their respective corners. They were evenly matched, from head to toe. Similar upper body muscular builds, along with elegant finely-toned lower extremities, grace the rubberized floor of the sparing grounds. Ambition would be his own downfall now, if he became overzealous and went in for the kill too early. He paced around the room heading left, crossing one leg behind the other as he watched his foe, careful not to tangle them amongst each other. His partner had won the last round, making this one sudden death. No prizes were at stake for winning, nothing more than another opportunity to best your friend and have bragging rights until the next match.
Arrion caught his breath. “I think you’ve got me William. You might as well come in for the last daunting blow.”
“You think I’m falling for that one.” William laughed, maintaining his cautious stance.
“It worked the last time, why not now? You know what they say, ‘Once a fool, always a fool’,” Arrion replied.
William shook his fist vengefully. “Oh, you’re going to regret that statement soon enough.”
Arrion pointed at the score on the display panel overhead. “Surely you are not afraid of me catching you? You have quite a healthy lead over me.”
William continued to pace, giving a few fake shoulder leans forward while lunging with his left leg, trying to entice Arrion to take an ill advised swing at him.
“You know William, whatever you run into out there, will not be so kind to your weak advances.”
“If you are referring to the Star-child, please destroy me now and save me from another one of your speeches,” William said as he pounced forward momentarily, before retreating to his defensive stance.
Arrion dropped his guard, flailing his arms at his side, frustrated by the comment. “You can’t be seriously considering moving forward with the challenge William? It’s not your fight!”
William seized the opportunity to spring forth. He dove in at Arrion taking a couple of swings, hitting only air as Arrion sidestepped out of harm’s way. William used his hands to brace his fall and tuck his body into a full roll. He came to his feet, only to be met by a smarting strike from Arrion in his right shoulder. The concussion gloves deliver marginally dangerous amounts of electromagnetic energy that converts into high frequency sound-waves upon contact. The effects from the blast are more than enough to drop the most seasoned fighter to their knees during a skirmish. This hit, in particular, made a loud muffled sound similar to someone beating a microphone in their hand. It echoed in William’s ears as he recklessly spun to his side before crashing into the wall of the narrow room and landing face down on the floor.
“Man, you must not show any aggression. It’s always the same with you. I know we’ve gone over this before. The Master Striker would be very displeased by you. You have to provide something new.” Arrion scolded William as he lay still on the rubberized floor.
Arrion reached down to touch William and was met by a scissor kick from William that wrapped around Arrion’s waist. William used his arms to thrust backwards like a donkey, flipping Arrion on his back, and then flinging himself on top of his defenseless attacker, kneeling over him with both of his hands holding down Arrion’s wrists.
“Is that new enough for you brother?” William asked with a twisted grin on his face.
Arrion struggled to get up, then conceded to that fact that the round was over. William declared the victor.
“That was indeed excellent brother. You got me with that one. Please remember to use that same trickery on your mission. The Star-child will not be so gullible, that I’m sure of.”
William stood over Arrion, reaching down with one hand to pull his comrade up from the floor. “I’ll remember that. Deception is the ultimate mode of gaining trust. It will come in handy.”
The two warriors walked towards the edge of the room, loosening up the straps of the concussion gloves around their wrists. Arrion slowed behind him. William hated times like this; when someone has more to say and was unwilling to leave well enough alone. He turned to Arrion, who was standing with his arms folded at his chest.
William shrugged his shoulders and impatiently dropped his hands to his side.
“You know what.”
William answered sarcastically. “Really, I don’t know exactly. Why don’t you enlighten me, again?”
Arrion placed his hands on William’s shoulders. “You don’t have to do this. You just got back from that last mission and no one is expecting you to take on another mission so soon—“
“Please. Not now Arrion. Look, I know it’s not my job, but this is something that must be done.”
“Then take me with you.”
“And risk even more shame upon my father? Never have two gone to kill a Star-child. Only one, you know that. This is my burden to bear right now and I will complete my mission this time, even if it kills me.” William turned away, ripping the gloves off before slamming them to the floor.
Arrion grabbed him by the arm and turned him back, looking him in the eyes. “Don’t speak of such a thing. You are my best friend. I don’t like it, but I do understand. You have my support. Good luck tomorrow.”
William smiled at his friend. The two exchanged a brief hug and kiss on both cheeks. Then they departed from the room, well aware that is may be the last time they’d spare ever again.
It was a clear, awe-inspiring Friday afternoon in the city of Madisonburg, Tennessee. The small population of approximately forty-seven hundred people were going about their daily routines, mainly educational and small business merchandising, unaware of the phenomenon that was about to erupt in their small town. The city lay southwest to Maryville, with long dusty roads of cinder and dirt connecting local homes and towns. Large grassy plains enveloped the region where farm-life such as cows, pigs, horses and chickens were the norm. Rain very seldom graced the lands here with temperatures ranging between mildly cold to frustratingly hot. But on this day, even a thunderstorm would have been a welcomed visitor.
The setting for today’s events was the center of the town; affectionately known as “Town Square”. Most kids changed it and called it the “The Square”. Oddly, it was actually modeled in the shape of a rectangle. The long sides encompassed multiple buildings with long, deep dimensions that led to the outside parking vistas extending off the main roads. These buildings included local bars, convenience stores, the government building, toys stores, the library and a tattoo parlor. The City Hall, movie theater, bank, and museum, made up the smaller side that lay north and south. The Clock tower, that was an extension of the museum, was the main attraction of The Square. It gonged and clamored predictably every day at noon and midnight with bellowing sounds that seemed to represent the voice of the city itself.
In the center of it all rested the local park. It was a small rectangular structure, with evenly trimmed grassy Knowles and manicured edges. It was here at which the grass met the sidewalk, greeting every bistro daily with emerald green color. Four sidewalks from each corner met in the middle to form a circle with four adjacent benches for seating. Capping off the canvas of green and positioned directly in the heart of the park, meeting the four sidewalks was a fountain. It ran periodically throughout the day. Twelve pumps shooting water synchronously from the floor approximately ten feet into the air making contact with the ground below. The majority of which landed haphazardly around the space prior to being drained and recycled in the irrigation chambers.
On the outskirts of The Square was a small indoor strip mall. Newly constructed about three years ago, it became the second most important place in Madisonburg. Mainly high school kids made it their local hangout, but occasionally older adults would swarm to its thirty or so stores to catch a sale from time to time. It got the majority of its business during the holiday seasons, where electric wreaths would hang from the walls and ceiling, lighting up at night to bring the Christmas and New Year spirit to the local customers.
It was the last week of the summer before school was to resume from the mid-year hiatus, and the community was putting on a bazaar in The Square. Locals were selling household keepsakes, nick-knacks, school supplies, hand me downs, fruits and vegetables. The towns-folk were a mix of families representing all diversities of the United States. There was a sort of kinsman ship among the people that valued good morale ethics and altruism for their fellow man. These types of events always seemed to bring out the best of everyone involved, truly expressing values of loving thy neighbor.
On this beautiful day, Sheriff Henry Gladston was also out, performing his routine patrol of the community. When out of nowhere he heard the sound of something similar to the cracking of a whip on the surface of glass, shattering it into millions of pieces. Within seconds, the sheriff swore he had lost his hearing momentarily as he gazed across the street at the other city locals, looking for some sign that he was not alone in what he heard.
Everyone responded in the same manner. They each stared at each other for some time looking for some indication that the “mute” button will be pressed again. It could only be perceived as thunder, but unmistakably odd in the middle of the afternoon with a Columbia blue shaded sky. For a brief moment, people thought they had gone deaf. The small gathering of innocent bystanders had become overwhelmed with fear.
Without warning the ground moved up and down, at a rhythmical pace, paralleled by the swaying of trees in the town square. The two danced melodiously, the trees following the lead of the ground, to the music of sullenness, which still echoed following the previous incident.
The silence was interrupted by the sound of rattling coming from the overhead clock tower. Their precious clock had become a symbol of security and peace, always a reliable option for managing schedules and appointments. Constructed well before a time of anyone currently living in Madisonburg, it was a symbol of pride to the now tormented people.
Now, the crescendo of the performance had emerged. The face of the clock tower shed free from the structure and came crumbling down to the unsuspecting street below, in a picturesque image mimicking a cookie being dunked in milk with the splash of concrete rising from the surface. The people watched in shock while the earth separated, forming a zigzag configuration that crept forward with steadfast precision towards the people. As the “zigzag” crept onward, it appeared to bring with it the heightening of volume. Although the people were relieved to know that they could once again hear, it was overshadowed by the fear and their impending doom.
Sheriff Gladston had moved quickly-it was a moment that he had somehow been made for, predestined to participate in. He shuffled forward towards the moving fissure, as if trying to figure out if the formidable crack would run away from him if he made himself more visible.
It’s coming this way, he thought to himself.
As it persisted on, Henry covered his ears to muffle the roaring sound that had increased by at least three-fold. Realizing that he had already lost the game of “chicken”, Gladston decided to play caravan, grabbing two nearby children in both arms and seeking shelter.
Gladston then turned his attention towards a woman that had fallen in the frantic scurry of the crowd. Gauging the distance between the woman and the formidable fissure, he estimated that he could easily make it over to the distressed damsel and back to the sidewalk in time to view the paralyzing episode playing before him. He quickly pounced near her, grabbing her by the arm at first, initially pulling her to stand. The woman screamed when he touched her. It appeared she had injured her ankle. He scooped her up in his sizable arms and high-stepped her to safety.
Gladston began to tire. His body was nowhere near what it used to be. His muscles ached, his head swam, and he felt faint due to the lack of oxygen from his wailing lungs. Carrying over two hundred didn’t help the fact that he was a mere shadow of the athletic legend he once was. His bronze complexion reflected the rays of the sun to a shimmering glow in the foreground of the orange-red brick of the local bank. He possessed forearms that bulged through his long-sleeve uniform, buttons attempting to hold fast together, and contain the muscular beasts underneath.
Come on Henry, pull it together man. This ain’t much harder than when you wore the uniform of the Madisonburg Eagles. You were a four year letterman of football, track and basketball.
Now, his athleticism would lend itself to an opportunity of heroics. Yes, he had run through opposing defenses effortlessly for touchdown after touchdown, but this was different. There were no timeouts, no convenient flags to call back unfortunate plays. No, he had to make every split decision count if people were to be saved. He always prided himself on being successful with any challenge he faced; the exception being the brief three year marriage to his ex-wife that nearly cost him his job.
After many trips back and forth helping the injured and frightened, Sheriff Gladston took comfort in knowing that everyone was safe and had managed to make it to shelter. In as sudden as the thunder had struck, the fissure had ceased its growth and the earth finally came to rest as if tranquilized by the beauty of the Columbia Blue colored sky. The surrounds of the bazaar had radically changed. Tables were overturned, food lay waste along the sidewalks, tree branches had shaken loose from their foster parent trees, and the only sound that remained were the sobering cries of women and children.
The day was no longer clear or awe-inspiring. Gladston had played his role to an Oscar worthy nomination, resembling a hero from the days of old television. There would be no time for accolades and praise, only a moment to assess the events of the day that had encumbered the people of Madisonburg to a level of torment, frustration and doubt. There had to be answers lying somewhere among the unrest. If not here, there was one place that would have captured the event; the local television broadcast.
Gladston made a bee-line to his patrol car, snatching up his radio.
“Hello, this is patrol car MD84, Gladston calling in. Is anybody there? We’ve got ourselves a real situation here…do you read me?”
The sound of static crept back over the radio. Frantically, he grabbed the wheel and inserted the key, collecting himself before flooring the gas pedal. He headed towards the police station as sounds of panic echoed in his ears.
I can’t do anything to bring them comfort right now, Gladston thought as he surveyed the white washed look of desperation on the faces of pedestrians standing by.
On his way to the station, he was briefly distracted by an image out of the corner of his eye that looked similar to that of a shooting star. On any other day, he might have taken the time to investigate, but today he had bigger fish to fry.
Full sound returned to the officer, enough so that he swore he could hear the local broadcast from outside the station as he brought the speeding vehicle to an abrupt halt parallel to the curbside. He leapt from the car, closing the door behind him all in a fluid motion.
Crime was very minimal around these parts. No new recruits were being hired for the squad over the last five years. However, that didn’t stop worthy prospects from sending in their applications creating a waiting list of over thirty qualified men and women. A small holding cell was furnished in the back portion of the station with the ability to house at least fifteen suspects, prior to sending them to the larger detention center in Merryville.
Gladston successfully traversed the steps in no time flat and come perpendicular to the doors, flinging them open with a mere flip of his right hand. Multiple guests of the station observed his actions with a moderate degree of apprehension. They wanted to ask questions, but were unable to muster the courage to interrupt. He bumped one deputy in the hallway as he sped through, barely breaking his own stride, but causing the man to mimic a Tasmanian devil spin, before subsequently falling to one knee and yelling “Howdy Sheriff Gladston”.
Once in his office, he turned on the television in time to see the initial assessment in the wake of the destruction. Expecting to see damaging highlights covering Madisonburg, he was astonished by the images on the screen and even more so by the words that hung in the far left corner, just below the attractive reporter.
“DOZENS OF EARTHQUAKES REPORTED ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST REGION OF THE UNITED STATES”.