Without further hesitation.
Chapter One: The Ripple
What, exactly, Jeremiah Crichton – the third richest man in America – was doing on the corner of 9th and Fairbanks in the sleepy, none-too-interesting Californian suburb called Samville was not readily obvious. There were no major deals, no new corporations to check out (and purchase and gut) and Samville was not exactly famous for anything save for its overabundance of orange trees – trees that grew in small plots between the buildings in the main street and cluttered up half the back yards of the suburb.
From Kendra Watts’ perspective, Jeremiah Crichton wasn’t the third richest man in America. He wasn’t famous. He wasn’t even all that noteworthy. For a girl who was more interested in the upcoming prom – three days till she could unleash her frilly pink and white striped dress on an unsuspecting and unprepared school – the only thing that was noteworthy about Mr. Crichton was that he was flipping a coin.
Kendra was waiting at the traffic light at 9th, waiting to cross to get to the next part of her walk to school, her fingers drumming on the cool metal pole that held the crosswalk button. The button, stuffed with more modern electronics than her cellphone, continued to chant the monotone warning that most crosswalk buttons did in California these days: “Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know. I am waiting.”
She took a moment to sip from her cup of early morning hot chocolate – which she had microwaved and dumped into her bright pink and purple unicorn thermos – the unicorn horn made a straw, and the head had a small ring hanging from the front, that she could hook her thumb into. But as she sipped the still-way-too-hot liquid, she noticed something.
The suited weirdo behind her, the one who was flipping the coin, was flipping said coin…in time with the crosswalk button. Wait. Flip. Wait. Flip. Wait. Flip.
She frowned slightly. He was…definitely giving her a major creeper vibe: Black suit, sunglasses, a black tie that showed up starkly against his white undershirt. He even had black gloves. He breathed in slow, steady, perfectly even breaths – visible in the crisp morning of late December. Kendra looked back at the crosswalk button and her thumb slipped down towards it.
She pressed down and the button bleeped, then said: “Wait.”
Creepers –as Kendra had called them ever since she was old enough to realize that certain behavior wasn’t entirely pleasant for her to experience from others – were a fact of life for a girl in high school. Most of the time, they were nothing more than boys being boys – and thus, being completely unable to talk to girls without sounding as if they were about to burst into flames. But sometimes…
She glanced back over her shoulder.
The coin-flipper started to walk towards her.
The voice broke through her sudden spike of fear and Kendra walked. She hurried across the street with more speed than she would have – since she was at least five minutes away from school and had about ten to get there. But she wanted to leave this coin-flipper behind. And so, she walked faster and harder.
And behind her, she heard very expensive shoes clicking on the ground.
She got to the far side of the street, turned around, saw that the coin flipper was within an arm’s reach of her-
Opened her mouth to speak-
And then he spoke.
“There can be only one.”
Kendra’s eyes widened and she saw the man draw a sword from…nowhere. One instant, he had nothing. The next, he had a scabbard at his hip and a blade in his hand. It was a long, elegant blade, with a complex, curving handle that protected his knuckles. The handle glittered and flashed in the crisp sunlight of the morning.
Kendra threw her hot chocolate in his face. The thermos’s horn jabbed into the man’s eye, and the top burst off with the impact. He staggered backwards, and into the cars that had started to pass now that the light had changed.
One instant, Kendra saw that he was standing right in front of a large, bright red Prius. The next instant, the Prius was one lane over – the rightmost turning lane was blocked off by orange cones, and shocked looking workmen who were resurfacing and repainting the road.
Workmen that hadn’t been there five seconds ago.
Kendra could have asked questions. But she had just lost her favorite thermos, and a psychopath with a sword was trying to kill her. She decided to shelve the questions, turn around, and run as fast as she could. Her shoes clattered on the sidewalk and she heard the man – snarling in anger – chasing after her.
There can be only one, what!? She thought to herself as she looked for some manner of escape, some possibility of help. There were no pedestrians in sight of her – it was too early, too cold, and too many people drove to school, the lazy-
She heard a swish behind her and threw herself forward…
Onto a mattress. A mattress that was set on the side of the walkway, with a small placard hung around it that said: FREE MATTRESS! The mattress hadn’t been there, but right now, Kendra was too busy being damn grateful as she rolled onto her back just as the tip of the man’s sword plunged in after her. She scrambled backwards, shouting: “HELP! SOMEONE HELP!”
The man lashed out with a very fancy shoe, slamming it onto her chest, right between her breasts. He pressed down, forcing her onto her back. His sword aimed at her throat, then pressed against the soft flesh of her neck.
His gloved hand wiped at his face and he scowled, then…
Another blade flashed. It caught his sword, right in the middle, and there was a sudden flare of sparks and a flash of blue-white light as the blades were caught together, forced up and away from Kendra’s throat, which was nicked by the quick contact.
“Run!” The figure who had interposed herself between Kendra and the man was tall, bald, and very very black. She had an angular, almost starved looking face, and wore a very thick white coat, with two large scabbards across her back – one sword was sheathed, the other – a curved Japanese style sword – was in her hand. “I’ll explain later!”
Kendra didn’t need to be told twice.
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