Hero Born: Project Solaris

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Dedication copy

Chapter 1- Abducted

Chapter 2- Bus 54

Chapter 3- Initech

Chapter 4- Hospital

Chapter 5- Flight

Chapter 6- Explanations

Chapter 7- The Ferry

Interlude- The Grey Men

Chapter 8- Oakland

Chapter 9- Hateya

Chapter 10- Crater

Chapter 11- Mom's House

Chapter 12- Attack

Chapter 13- Captured

Interlude 2

Chapter 14- Escape Plan

Chapter 15- Gun Battle

Chapter 16- Going Rogue

Chapter 17- Investigating

Chapter 18- No Such Thing As Werewolves

Chapter 19- Decisions

Chapter 20- Atonement

Chapter 21- Object 3

Chapter 22- Ka

Chapter 23- Revelations

Chapter 24- Reconciliations

Chapter 25- Alliances

Chapter 26- Mother Ship

Chapter 27- Docking Bay

Chapter 28- Escape

Chapter 29- Round Up

Chapter 30- Running Battle

Chapter 31- Meet the Grey Men

Chapter 32- Venting

Chapter 33- Project Solaris

Note to the Reader

HERO BORN

Chris Fox

Copyright © 2015 Chris Fox

All rights reserved.

ISBN:

ISBN-13:

For Alida, Tammi, and Lisa. This book wouldn't exist without your tireless efforts.

For Alida, Tammi, and Lisa. This book wouldn't exist without your tireless efforts.

Chapter 1- Abducted

Before I became a super I was just your average kid. The war with the grey men hadn't started, and my biggest concern was not getting a D on my report card. It was one of those unforgettable summer nights, the kind you endure the entire school year waiting for. Magical and perfect, because I was falling in love for the first time.

Jillian was two months younger than I was, and had the softest smile I'd ever seen. Long, dark
hair framed her sun-darkened face, quite unlike the bangs all the other girls in class had adopted. Her body was lean and toned, more athletic than mine. I had a hard time meeting her gaze, those eyes somehow more worldly than a girl her age should have had. There was something elegant about her that made me feel awkward with my tousled hair and ratty T-shirt.

She lived on the Miwok reservation a little bit south of Tuolumne, the place locals called The Dump. She liked to say she came from the wrong side of the tracks, though in a town like ours there wasn't really a right side. We'd grown up together, going to the same school since kindergarten. Not much of a stretch since there was only one school--Summerville elementary--serving a handful of kids K through 8.

That evening we were celebrating our 'graduation', the fake one that would usher us into the terrifying unknown of high school. Six of us had made the arduous hike to Hell's Hole. We'd come in Owen's truck, a godsend in a mountain town. Without Owen we'd each have been stranded at our own houses, prisoners at the whim of parental rides. Fortunately, Owen had a thing for Liv so he was willing to hang out with a bunch of 8
th
graders despite being a sophomore.

"What do you think it will be like?" Jillian asked, leaning into my shoulder as she gazed at the river from our perch on a flat granite boulder. It was the first time I'd smelled a girl's hair, clean and light like soap. I liked it enough that I wanted to bury my face in it, but I was far too cowardly to indulge that impulse.

"Like Summerville. Same name, only bigger, and we'll be the youngest kids there," I offered, wishing I had something wittier to say. I liked her laugh, but there wasn't often cause for it. There certainly wouldn't be that evening, and not for a long time to come.

We sat in silence as we watched the others play on the tire swing on the opposite shore, far enough away that we were almost alone. Mosquitos danced over the little ripples every time someone cannonballed into the water, but the buzzing insects hadn't found our perch on the boulders overlooking the rapids we used as a waterslide. The rocks were still warm from the afternoon sun, pleasant to the touch as night gathered.

The sun sank over the hills behind us, and the trees cast long shadows over Hell's Hole. It was our place, a place not even the high schoolers knew about. It took one hell of a hike to reach it, hence the name. If Owen were willing to drive, we'd see it a lot that summer.

Jillian's hand found mine, and I glanced down to see her looking up at me. Her eyes were pools of brown that I could just fall into. So large that I
almost
avoided looking down her shirt. She leaned closer, close enough that I could feel her breath. It smelled like chocolate.

I wanted to kiss her, but I was terrified. It wasn't just that Jillian could kick my ass with the Kajukenbo stuff she was learning. I liked her, and I didn't want to screw this up. I leaned closer, mouth slightly open like I'd heard it was supposed to be. Her eyes closed, and she leaned in. The world fell away: the splashing of the others in the water below, the few birds that hadn't given up for the night. All that mattered was Jillian, and my first kiss.

A spotlight came on above us, freezing me the instant before our lips touched.
 

For a moment I assumed it must be the police, but quickly realized that was impossible. Tuolumne PD might have a helicopter, but if they did we'd have heard it long before we saw it.
 

A deep thrumming began, sort of like a jet engine when you're forced to sit right next to the wing on a really long flight. The light pulsed in time with the thrum, filling the sky above us. Yet somehow the kids on the far shore didn't seem to see. They splashed and played like nothing had changed, oblivious to our plight. I tried to scream; nothing emerged.

Jillian and I were pressed flat against the boulder, rock digging into my back as I struggled in vain to sit up. Above me the light intensified, not quite pure white, and bright enough to make me squint. Oh god. What the hell was happening?
 

A low wail came from Jillian. I couldn't even manage that much, my traitorous body refusing my order to run or scream or even cry. The pressure reversed and we rose skyward, drifting slowly towards the light. I wet myself, both horrified and comforted that some part of my body still worked. The wet warmth was the only thing I could hold on to as our ascent continued.

Jillian was nearly close enough to touch, but our hands had drifted apart and I couldn't reach her. Couldn't even look at her.
Oh god, oh god, oh god
.
 

As we approached the light my eyes adjusted, and I saw the sleek black underbelly of some sort of craft. It was triangular, with an unbroken surface of black rock that seemed to drink in the light rather than emit it. We drifted closer and closer, until I knew we were going to collide with it. There was another moment of intense pressure, then the stone rippled around us and we passed through as if it were syrup.
 

The walls were smooth stone, the same as the outside of the ship. They sloped inwards as they rose, like the inside of a pyramid. Strange sounds echoed all around us, a terrible whispered chittering, and a low thrumming that rattled my teeth. The ship appeared to be one giant chamber, dotted with an entire forest of obelisks like miniature versions of the Washington Monument. Each was the same jet-black as the walls, though more than one glowed with a faint inner light. I drifted through them, losing sight of Jillian as she drifted in another direction.

My breathing came in fast little gasps, like a rabbit cornered by a coyote. My heart pounded in my chest, and I tried again and again to scream. I finally managed a smothered wail as my body drifted between the obelisks. I caught flashes of movement from the corners of my eyes, horribly pale bodies moving with jerky, inhuman steps. They stayed to the edges of my vision, terrifyingly close, and somehow worse because I couldn't get a good look at them.
 

I stopped in the center of a ring of obelisks, gasping out short, panicked breaths as something moved in the darkness. It was a quick flash of grey, of too-long arms and flat, black eyes. I thrashed wildly in my own mind, wanting to run and hide, to do anything to escape the inescapable.

My body rotated slowly until I was facing the dark marble floor. A pair of thin grey legs stood right next to me. There was a flare of pain in the back of my neck that made my eyes water.
 

Real pain began. Pulses of green wispy light came up from the floor, searing my flesh as they washed over me. They penetrated every part of my body, and I imagined my flesh cooking off the bone. It was the most excruciating agony I'd ever experienced, and I blacked out as it continued.

I snapped back to consciousness as the creature next to me gave a burst of strange chittering, which was answered by a second figure. Then a third. More pairs of thin grey legs appeared, until I was surrounded. The creatures sounded excited.

My body rotated again, and I finally managed a choked scream. A horrifying face with too-large, unreadable black eyes loomed into view, its bulbous head mere inches away. A four-fingered hand passed a device over me. It was a smooth golden boomerang, a little larger than the baton we used in track. The gold pulsed to white as it passed over me, growing brighter as it approached my face.
 

I blacked out again. When I came to I was back on the boulder. Alone. Cold. I didn't know it then, but twelve hours had passed.
 

Jillian was returned eight days later, but by that time I'd managed to repress the memory of the abduction. I couldn't face it, couldn't deal with the horror, or the idea that the grey men might come again.

The second I turned eighteen I fled Tuolumne, leaving her behind to deal with the fallout. It wasn't until I was twenty-one that I finally had to face the truth, on the day that my powers first manifested.

Chapter 2- Bus 54

Seven Years Later

My phone buzzed in my pocket as the 54 bus rumbled across Market Street, but I ignored it. I tapped the yellow strip on the wall, watching for
Stop Requested
to flare on the screen near the front of the bus. The engine's rumble slowed, and the bus rolled to a halt next to the curb.

I swiped my Clipper card against the payment machine, trotting down the steps and onto the wet concrete. Foot traffic was already thick, despite the early hour. People got started early in San Francisco's financial district, and they stayed late. That was the life at a startup, after all. Well, it was the life of hoodie-wearing interns like myself, at the very least.

Nearly every person I passed had their smartphone out, the soft glow illuminating disinterested faces. They wore a smattering of T-shirts and hoodies like uniforms, each emblazoned with logos. Everything from Fitbit to Facebook was represented, an army of intellectual slackers earning more than our parents had ever thought we could.

I threaded through the crowd, stopping at the corner of Mission and 1
st
. Something between mist and rain was falling, not enough to warrant an umbrella. I ignored it as we waited for the walk signal to appear.
 

It switched from red to white, and the girl ahead of me stepped into the road. She was wheeling a little suitcase behind her with one hand, while chatting away on her phone with the other.
 

She didn't see the black BMW rocketing through the intersection, flagrantly running the red light. I didn't think, I just acted. I lunged into the road, and tugging her backwards. It wasn't going to be enough. The car was moving too quickly, the driver staring down at a cell phone.

I winced, staring hard at the car. Pressure filled my skull and time elongated. The whirls of mist slowed, and the people around me barely moved at all. Something unidentifiable passed between me and the BMW, a burst of invisible energy.

Time sped up again, and the squeal of rubber overrode everything. The car drifted perilously close, but its brakes had locked and it slid to a halt inches away. The motion caught a puddle in the road, sending a sheet of muddy water all over my jeans and hoodie.

I caught the brunt of it, but the girl I'd saved was drenched as well. She blinked once, eyes large as she stared at me. Foot traffic flowed around us as people crossed the street. They ignored us, walking around the BMW as if it weren't there.

The girl blinked again, turned from me without a word, and rejoined the throng of foot traffic. I was left standing there, not sure exactly what had happened. I didn't start moving again until the traffic signal started flashing. Then I trotted to the other side of the road, numb and confused.

I shook my head to clear it, then looked down at myself. My clothing was ruined, on today of all days. Damn it.

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