Hello Everyone!! After about a year and a half of keeping you all in suspense, here is chapter one of THE CHANGE AGENT, Book Two of The Hypothesis of Giants series. The final product will be published by early 2015! More details to follow! Enjoy and don’t forget to post your feedback!
Chapter One: The Heart of Orion
Fifteen Years Earlier
Dark storm clouds swallowed the sky, casting their shadows over the town of Candlewick. A government building stood like a beacon of hope, its brick clad in white marble. A slogan engraved over the gold plated double doorway read THE IDEAL HAS SPOKEN; its curved script swerving and curving its way into the heart of the stone. A lone man stood bound in the center of a courtyard adjacent to the government building. His once strong and muscular frame had been reduced to skin and bones due to lack of nourishment and months of torture in Candlewick prison. His eyes revealed his power as he gazed intently into the thicket of cameras awaiting his execution. He stood barefoot on the crumbling dirt that he would soon be a part of, “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.” He strained his neck upwards toward the sky for a glimpse of the sun he had not witnessed in the depths of the dungeon. How he longed to see it one more time…
The gilded doors swung open followed by bass drums pounding, Thump… Thump… Thump... Common Good officials marched single-file into the courtyard clothed in the Common Good Army uniforms; the fabric stained a vibrant indigo and orange. Inspector Herald stepped forward. Tall and majestic he stood out over the crowd, scanning the rejoicing faces with coal black eyes, his smile beaming as he waved to the camera. His chest was adorned with medals, each symbolizing a victory won over the religious protestors, who had been fighting for two years to restore their first amendment right, Freedom of Religion. The execution of David Xiomy would be the Inspector’s greatest achievement. The crowd cheered as he approached the podium.
The Inspector’s words flew from his mouth like venom, infecting the minds of all who listened.
“Today is a momentous day in our new history. Today we reset our calendars at year one and start a new beginning for our country. The leader of the religious protest, David Xiomy, better known as IMAM, has been found guilty of traitorous acts against the United States of the Common Good. He tried to beguile us with peaceful protests but with the Last Straw Protest, he was found guilty of taking innocent lives both by his hand and the hands of his followers. You all remember the pain and the wars that existed before the foundation of this new country. You all remember the sacrifices needed for the betterment of the Common Good. It is for you, the people, that I stand here as the spokesman of the IDEAL. For the IDEAL is our leader who contains the best of all of us and who we each strive to be. This man, David Xiomy, betrayed you all and the IDEAL. With his blood we will restore peace in our country once again!”
Cheers erupted from the crowd and camera flashes brightened the gloomy day with their fluorescent light. The Inspector embraced the cheers, closing his eyes and holding his hands outstretched toward them. He stepped down from the podium, smirking to himself, as he walked towards the prisoner awaiting judgment.
“If only your God could save you now.” Inspector Herald chided, clasping his hands in a mock prayer.
David’s gaze was steadfast on the Inspector. “You know the role you played in the Last Straw Protest. You know that all I am guilty of is being a threat to you and your path to power. I united people from all religions to fight for their right for the freedom to believe in whatever they chose to believe. That freedom is the foundation of this country and those rights were taken away out of fear!”
“You killed people in cold blood because you were desperate,” the Inspector’s face was before him, his eyes radiated anger. “Your people are the ones who caused the towers of freedom to fall. Your people caused the subways to be blown to bits along with all the people within them. I was the one who acted. You were the one still living in a dream world that people of religion could live in harmony! Harmony came only after removing the religions that separated the people. I have created that peace and will keep it by any means necessary.”
David’s face stared into the crazed eyes before him, not recognizing the man he had once known.
The Inspector regained his composure and backed up, signaling a guard who approached with a blindfold. David shook his head, preferring to look death in the eye. The crowd held its breath as the Inspector removed the silver plated revolver from his pocket. He held it up for all the country to see as he loaded a solitary bullet into the barrel. Only one was needed.
“David Xiomy, IMAM, you have been tried and sentenced to death. The IDEAL has spoken.”
The drum roll began and a crow cawed in the distance. The Inspector raised his weapon, aiming for the man’s head. He was about to squeeze the trigger when the gray clouds shifted. A pointed ray of sunlight streamed down and blinded the Inspector, forcing him to lower the gun in order to shield his eyes from the glow.
David Xiomy smiled as he beheld this sign and spoke loudly to be heard over the clamorous crowd.
“Fifteen years from today the prophecy will be fulfilled. Then one greater than I, will bring about a balance to the universe and restore freedom; a true giant among men who will restore hope and unite the people in a fearful world.”
Through the sea of blank eyes, he could distinguish two hazel eyes that he recognized. They were unflinching, resolute and full of hope. There were no tears as her eyes met his. Fawn’s long black hair was caught in the wind, gently and freely flowing over her face, a sight beautiful to behold.
The shot rang out to thunderous applause.
Aurora Alvarez awoke with a start, her back aching as a tree root was jabbing into her spine. She sat up, massaging her neck as her eyes adjusted to the sun streaming down through the palm tree branches dancing above her. She had to remind herself that she wasn’t in her home town of Candlewick or in her bed on Wishbone Avenue. Instead she was hidden away in the Amazon rainforest in what had once been known as South America. She recalled her father telling her that before she was born, the IDEAL decided that it would be beneficial to acquire South America to catch members of the rebellion fleeing south beyond the border to escape religious persecution. Little did the Common Good know that their number one fugitive today was hidden here beneath the towering trees and overgrown foliage. It was as if the trees themselves were Aurora’s protectors from Inspector Herald’s clutches.
The sun was at its zenith and Aurora realized she had slept longer than expected. Her thoughts were interrupted at the sound of Otus snoring loudly. He tossed and turned on the deep rooted ground and his green moss pillow. The snoring Otus, who was a thirty-foot giant, was the reason they were hiding in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, since Inspector Herald and the Common Good Army wanted to capture Otus, and his companions, at any cost.
Aurora felt parched as her t-shirt clung to her curvy frame like glue. The humidity was intense and due to their close proximity to the equator, the temperature was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. She wanted desperately to take a shower to rinse off the sweat and dirt that was congealing on her skin. She had never felt so dirty in her life and she thought that her mother would have a coronary if she saw Aurora like this.
“You are not representing the Alvarez beauty,” said her mother’s voice in the back of her head, her thoughts mixed in her nickname “Fatty Alvarez” from back home in Candlewick. Even after all the running and the adventures of the past two weeks, she still felt humongous. She tightened her belt around her stomach that bulged despite the countless times she stretched and smoothed her shirt.
Aurora Alvarez’s high school biology teacher, Mrs. Xiomy, was sun bathing on a log over a stream; her purple glasses resting over her big amethyst eyes while her blond hair cascaded down her shoulders. Though having the appearance of a normal High School teacher, Mrs. Xiomy was a fuse that could ignite at any given moment.
Aurora yawned and wondered where the others were. She stood up, stretched her arms over her head and caught sight of Boreas sitting beside the stream. His jet black hair had grown to shoulder length over the past two weeks and was hanging stringy and uncombed. She watched as he washed his face in the stream, soaking his navy t-shirt in the process and cursing as a mosquito buzzed in his ear. He slapped at it, missed and looked up to catch Aurora staring at him.
“Well, it’s about time you woke up!” He cried out. “Did you figure it out?”
The peace and serenity vanished in that very instant.
“Figure what out?” She called back in between a yawn.
“The Professor. Where the hell is he?”
Aurora yearned to go back to bed as she recalled the reason they were lost in this rainforest. They were in search of Professor Gassendi, the man who supposedly had the book regarding the ancient prophecy and the answers that Aurora and Boreas were searching for. Aurora didn’t know how she got mixed up with this crusade. According to some ancient prophecy, she and Boreas were pre-destined to help Otus fulfill his mission of reaching the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Somehow Boreas, Otus and herself had to miraculously stop the Geometric Storm–a cataclysmic natural disaster –from happening. How the hell they were going to do this was anyone’s guess. They didn’t even know when this storm was supposed to hit and the exact location in the Arctic Circle that they were supposed to be stationed at in order to stop it. They desperately hoped the Professor would be able to answer these questions, if they were ever able to find him.
Aurora removed the crumpled piece of paper from her jeans pocket and walked down the curved path that led to the stream.
“I told you he is supposed to be beneath Orion’s belt according to the star chart,” Aurora rustled the piece of paper in Boreas’s face, showing the dots that when connected drew the constellation of the mythological Greek god Orion depicted with arrow in its hand.
“Well then, where is the Professor?” he exclaimed, splashing water at her and nearly getting the map wet in the process.
Aurora screamed in aggravation at the fifteen-year-old boy who was driving her crazy.
“Look Boreas, all your mother said was…”
“You mean that stranger who bore me and gave me some stupid shell to try to make up for missing 10 years of my life? Yes, what about her?”
Boreas sat cross-legged, haphazardly digging in the dirt with the small white conch shell with a hint of orange in its interior. That was the consolation gift from his mother, Fawn Stockington. For the past ten years he had believed his mother to be dead. Instead, she had built an underwater castle outside the reach of the Common Good government, naming it ‘Plymouth Tartarus’. She had recruited followers from around the world who were not willing to give up their religious beliefs despite what the IDEAL put into law. It was illegal in The United States of the Common Good to follow any religion, punishable by either life in prison or death. Plymouth Tartarus had provided that religious freedom, but not anymore. It now was lying in pieces beneath the Atlantic Ocean. It had been bombed mercilessly by the Common Good Army led by Inspector Herald who had been in pursuit of Otus. Many had been killed as they tried to escape, and the survivors, including Aurora, Boreas and Otus, had found a way to the safe haven located hidden in the wilderness in the Hudson Valley. That was where Fawn created a new colony under the title of Plymouth Incarnate.
Aurora watched Boreas continue to dig with the conch shell and softened her tone saying, “Sorry. I meant, Fawn, the High Magistrate at the new Plymouth Incarnate. She said to connect the dots and we’ll find the Professor.”
“But the dots show Orion’s Belt. There is no belt here.”
“Well I thought this is where it’s supposed to be”, she said with growing frustration. “I’m not a star expert.”
She threw her hands up in frustration, plopping herself down near Mrs. Xiomy who was soaking her feet in the water.
“This was a wild goose chase from the start,” Mrs. Xiomy said, looking frazzled. “Fawn never intended for us to find Professor Gassendi anyway. Most likely he’s been killed or is sitting in a prison somewhere.”
Boreas cupped his hands into the stream, pouring the water over his head, combing his fingers through his thick hair and trying to spike the top of it like he was using hair gel. He stood up to his full height of 5 foot 9” showing his tennis player physique; tall, lean body with muscular arms and shoulders. Boreas possessed more of his mother’s features with intense exotic eyes, a high forehead and though rarely seen, a big infectious smile that was still boyish in nature unlike his older and unworldly countenance. A long curved scar was visible right below the crease in his neck, as a reminder of where he had been cut by the Great Secretary in Plymouth Tartarus. He was lucky to be alive.
He suddenly charged towards Aurora, his nostrils flaring. “Give me that map!”
Aurora jumped to her feet and held the paper closer to her chest. “No, you can’t read this anyway.”
“Well, apparently neither can you!”
He grabbed the map but Aurora held on until it was a game of tug of war and the paper ripped in two. Aurora fell on her backside and Boreas flew back into the stream. Aurora looked down at the ripped map and jumped to her feet, outraged.
“Look what you did! Of all the people I had to get stuck with! I’m here with the biggest imbecile!”
“I’M the imbecile?!?” He cried out incredulously, standing knee deep in water, his clothes dripping wet. He stripped off his wet clothes until he was only standing in his boxers. “I hope you’re happy now. You’ve probably been dying to see me take my pants off.”
“Please, that is the LAST thing on my mind!”
He smoothed the clothes out on the grass to dry and held one half of the map in his hand. “You should have given me the paper like I asked you to.”
“Fine! Here!” She threw the other half at him and shouted, “You figure it out!”
Aurora stormed off, kicking a stone that went sailing down a steep slope. She wandered further into the rainforest, zigzagging her way through overgrown palm branches and entangling vines. It was so hot and she was so pissed off that she yearned to tear her thick, golden-brown hair out of her head. Of all the boys in Candlewick she had to get stuck with Boreas Stockington.
She would have preferred Jonathan, who was Boreas’s older brother by two years. Jonathan had been her crush since the third grade. He was good looking, strong and his smile could melt a room. Of course he was dating the gorgeous yet malicious Hattie Pearlton, Aurora’s arch nemesis, whose mission it was to make Aurora’s high school life a living hell. Aurora sat on a boulder lost in her daydream. If Jonathan had heard the conch shell sound things would have been completely different. Instead she was stuck with his irritating brother.
“What are you two fighting about now?”
She whirled around to see Babs O’Hara, the seventeen-year-old Irish rebel who was, to Aurora’s dismay, their appointed guide. The flap of Babs’s dress was filled with hundreds of picked berries that matched her red lips. Aurora had secretly hoped she had been eaten by a crocodile while alone in the rainforest, but no such luck.
“Oh nothing, freaking Boreas just thinks that I got us lost. I swear Orion’s Belt should be above us in the sky, unless I got the seasons mixed up or something.”
Babs flipped her auburn hair that was tied back in a long ponytail.
“Don’t ask me,” she replied, chewing on a small berry. “I was stuck underwater in Plymouth Tartarus for the past ten years. I had forgotten what stars even looked like.”
She handed over some berries that Aurora attempted to daintily eat, but ended up scarfing them down. The sweet juice was so appetizing and the taste lingered in her mouth, her stomach yearning for more. She licked her lips and wondered if she now had red lips like Babs did. Things like makeup were non-existent in the rainforest, so she would take all the help she could get.
“What did you expect?” Babs continued. “That the professor lived in a cottage and we could just go and knock on his door?”
Aurora stared at her mid-bite. That was exactly what she had thought.
Babs laughed and Aurora wished that Babs would choke on a berry.
“You don’t know the Professor, he’s as paranoid as men come. When I worked with him on the glass elevator in Plymouth Tartarus, it wasn’t even easy to get a conversation out of him.”
“How did you then?”
She shrugged, eating another berry. “I guess I just have a way with men… speaking of, what do you think about Boreas?”
“I wouldn’t call Boreas a man.” Aurora scoffed, then looked desperately for an escape route. The last thing she wanted to do was talk about Boreas with Babs.
Babs took another bite of berry and after swallowing asked, “You don’t like him, right?”
A huge, spine-splitting laugh escaped from Aurora’s mouth and a multi-colored Toucan flew off its perch in fright.
Aurora regained her composure and said, “Absolutely not, we’re just friends.”
If they were even that.
“I mean, I didn’t even talk to him until like the Independence Day of the Last Straw barbeque.”
How friendly could you be in a few weeks? Except saving his life twice and him saving her life once… but who was counting?
“But he’s totally not stable now anyway. I mean, he just found out his mom is alive after 10 years. How insane is that!”
Babs sucked on a berry and the juice poured down her chin as she shrugged, “he’s a good kisser.”
Aurora gave up. Boreas nearly got himself thrown into jail in Plymouth Tartarus over that kiss with Babs. A wave of jealousy swept over Aurora who never even had a first kiss. Spin the bottle in third grade with freckle-faced Marty Hutchinson did not count, since it was only on the cheek and anyway, she had to chase him around the yard 10 times until she caught him. Were all first kisses like that? Babs didn’t have to chase Boreas around Plymouth Tartarus ten times until he kissed her. She probably didn’t have to do anything but lean in, the way they did in the movies, all graceful and cunning.
Graceful, cunning and untrustworthy.
Aurora wondered what kind of a person was Babs O’Hara? She had kissed Boreas in Plymouth Tartarus even knowing that the law forbade an engaged woman from kissing another man. And yet she had kissed him. She claimed she was only trying to get out of her engagement with a man she didn’t love, but Babs knew the law would punish Boreas and she let it happen anyway. Babs was someone who was going to get what she wanted at any cost, and now she was their guide to find the professor.
The thought made Aurora cringe, but she was the only one who felt that way. Boreas was enamored by her and Otus and Mrs. Xiomy were blinded with sympathy toward her. Aurora had to stay on her guard while reminding herself that this girl was Eileen’s sister. Sweet, friendly Eileen who saw the good in everyone, but Eileen wasn’t here in the jungle. Eileen had perished when the Common Good Army traced them to the ocean floor off the coast of Candlewick and bombed them. Aurora and about 300 others had narrowly managed to escape the destruction of Plymouth Tartarus, but too many others had died in that attack. Eileen as well as Babs’s fiancé had died because of this mission and Aurora and Boreas were now entangled in a web of guilt.
“You didn’t answer the question,” Babs inquired again, gazing at Aurora as if wondering what she was thinking.
Aurora took a deep breath. She pictured Boreas and felt Goosebumps prickle her arms. But she couldn’t be feeling this way. She liked Jonathan. It had always been Jonathan.
She opened her mouth to say just that when something howled in the distance and both Aurora and Babs froze, utterly defenseless in that rainforest. Aurora thought she heard something rustle within the lush greenery around them and had a bad feeling, like someone or something was watching them.
“I think we should bring these berries to the others before we eat them all,” Aurora said hurriedly, Babs immediately agreed, retracing their steps toward camp. Aurora wondered if Boreas was still putting the pieces of the map together, and she hoped he had his pants back on before Babs saw him.
Aurora found Boreas exactly as she expected, still puzzled over the drawing of Orion and unfortunately still sitting there in his boxers, his naked legs causing Babs to giggle a little as they approached.
“Aren’t your pants dry yet?” Aurora cried out, and went to feel the pants herself but they were still slightly damp.
Boreas turned mauve as Babs stared at him, grabbed his shirt and threw it over his chest.
Regaining his cool composure he said, “I am outnumbered at this chick fest. I need Otus to wake up since he is like 300 guys in one.”
Aurora took the pieces of the map out of his hand and held them up again saying, “So where’s the Professor, Mr. Know-it-all? I thought that you would have solved this by the time we returned.”
“It’s not my fault you ripped Orion’s heart in two.”
She was about to blast him with how it was his fault the page got ripped, when her lips froze mid-thought as she stared at the ripped page. Where the heart had been was in fact torn in two. A heart torn in two.
“The Professor is too smart to have given away his whereabouts with a connect-the-dots drawing,” Aurora thought out loud. “I bet this is not just a map. I think it’s also a riddle.”
“What?” Boreas exclaimed, putting his pants on. “Fawn said where the dots meet that is where we will find the Professor. We connected the dots.”
Aurora continued staring at the page completely mystified that she didn’t figure it out sooner.
“It’s a riddle. Hear me out. Yes, Fawn said to connect the dots and when we did they formed the shape of the constellation Orion, meeting in the center. Therefore, we thought the heart of Orion was the coordinates. But look there’s something that I didn’t connect over on the far left side of the page. I didn’t connect it to the initial drawing because it had nothing to do with the shape of Orion.”
She held up the pieces together and there, sure enough, was a small dot that looked more like a speck than one of the other dots on the page. She now connected it to the rest of the drawing.
“What if it’s not the heart that we are looking for but this constellation next to it? I remember my dad telling me a story from Greek mythology, about something looking to take Orion’s heart or its life. What the hell is that called again?”
“The Scorpion,” Mrs. Xiomy stood up, nearly falling off the log. “That’s right! The Greek myth says that the Scorpion chases Orion across the heavens because it’s the scorpion’s sting that can poison Orion and defeat him.”
“Wait, are you saying that the Professor is now located at the coordinates of the Scorpion?” Boreas cried out, confused.
“That speck on that page must be part of the Scorpion,” Aurora cried out, excited. “I am sure of it.”
Aurora gave Boreas a huge hug and nearly kissed him, “Boreas, you’re a genius!”
He scratched his head, still completely puzzled. “Wait…did you just compliment me?”
“But it still doesn’t help us,” Babs interrupted. “Both constellations, Orion and the Scorpion, are not here.”
Aurora exclaimed. “I gotta wake Otus. Maybe he will know where we can find the Scorpion.”
Aurora jumped onto Otus’s stomach; the rumbling from his snoring felt like an earthquake. “Otus, wake up!” She yelled.
A loud snore erupted and then he was startled out of his slumber. Otus’s big green eyes popped open and he let out a huge yawn that made Aurora stumble, only by clinging onto his blue overalls did she prevent herself from tumbling down. He grabbed her and sat up. He stretched his massive arms into the air and nearly knocked over a nest of bright red and yellow Toucans with his spare hand. Startled, they nearly collided with each other in mid-flight. Aurora laughed at this spectacle, Otus was not a threatening giant; he was a peaceful and almost child-like one. According to Mrs. Xiomy, his features resembled an oversized Cabbage Patch Kid, with his curly hazelnut hair, round nose and chubby pink cheeks. He had ears that he could wiggle when he was thinking and he was a speed reader. Aurora had seen him read a 300 page book in less than a minute.
“What’s all the commotion?” he finally asked, resting Aurora on the top of his head.
She leaned down next to his ear, saying, “Otus, we figured out that Fawn’s message is actually a riddle.”
“All thanks to me,” Boreas replied haughtily.
Just when Otus put Aurora down on the ground, something whirled in the air and burst open, inches from Otus’s feet. Gas oozed out of the canister and Aurora screamed to the others to hold their breath, recognizing the substance being emitted as tear gas. More canisters exploded near the group. Otus attempted to kick some back toward the direction of where they were coming from, but more exploded left and right. Aurora’s eyes were stinging and it felt like she couldn’t breathe, choking and gagging on the gas. She tried to scream to the others to head toward her voice, toward Otus to get them out of this place, but her voice was paralyzed and only coughing fits ensued. Through the cloudy fog she spotted shadows, no…people, dressed in camouflage, wearing gas masks approaching them from all directions out of the woods like swarms of mosquitos. She spotted Boreas, also in coughing fits, swinging at one of the shadows, making contact. The shadow lurched backwards slightly and then punched Boreas in the stomach. Aurora felt utterly defenseless as Boreas was held down on the ground, and Babs was grabbed by another man with big muscular arms. Aurora was about to run to them, to do something, to help then, when something hard and metal and menacing was dug against her temple. A woman’s voice whispered in her ear, “Resist and we will kill you.”
The Common Good had found them.
The adventure will continue in 2015! Be sure to register for more updates about The Change Agent as well as other news regarding The Hypothesis of Giants series. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter too for all the latest and greatest about Otus, Boreas and Aurora!