The dusky red sky framed the pastoral farm structures in smoky silhouette. Flickers, crackles and flashes puncuated the twilight as they retreated to the horizon. The billowing smoke from the deep crater rose high into the air like an amorphous black hand, clutching desperately for the storm that birthed it. The only remaining branch of a shattered tree on the edge of the crater also reached to the heavens, still asking why.
By the time onlookers and emergency services arrived on the scene, the fires had all burned themselves out. The volunteer firemen wore respirators, while the stunned civilians from nearby farms covered their faces with shirts and rags for a respite from the unbearable stench. Yellow tape hung loosely in a perimeter around the crater, flapping in an evening breeze that carried the odor through the crowd. The motors of several diesel generators that powered the spotlights thrummed in the night. Fighting for attention amongst the lights were the flash of workers’ cameras as they processed the scene, snapping photograph after photograph and collecting soil samples for analysis.
An engine roared and drowned out the nervous chatter and gossip of the growing crowd as a tractor pulled the remains of another blackened horse carcass from the crater. Each new body brought up was laid beside the others in growing rows of five. Some of the people in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes at the sight of the charred horse flesh. Others simply shook their heads in disbelief, cursing some invisible force for allowing such bad luck to fall upon good people like the Dobyns.
With every new body dragged from the pit, Maura Dobyns sobbed even more into her husband Frank’s chest. Their farm, one of over twenty thousand in the state, sat on one hundred and fifty acres and had been in Frank’s family for generations. Maura was especially fond of the horses as she handled all facets of their training and care. But no longer; not one horse survived the terrible bolts from the sky.
Headlights flashed on the crowd outside of the perimeter as a plain black sedan pulled up to the scene. Agents Lee and Wade exited the vehicle and made a beeline for the Winnebago parked inside of the perimeter that served as a mobile command center for the FBI. In the lead, with seniority over his new partner, was Reggie Wade. In his early thirties, he had been on the job for ten years and had come to know the ropes. He came from a family of law enforcement officers, but was the first company man. Tall and lean, he was everything you would imagine in an Agent. His brown hair was closely cropped, his suit showed not a hint of a wrinkle, his jaw was perpetually clenched and his eyes focused.
For her part, Agent Mary Lee was at least five years Wade’s junior and new to the job. This was her first field assignment, and she had been partnered up with Wade because the brass thought that she could learn under his tutelage. Indeed, Lee was content to let her partner take the lead and to observe and learn as much as she could.
The Agents walked at a brisk pace to the Winnebago, through the restless crowd and the apocalyptic scene around them. A young Officer of the local police raised the fluttering tape to let them through. As Agent Wade walked up the two steps of the Winnebago and grabbed the handle of its door, shouting erupted from behind them. He and Agent Lee turned in unison to find a crazed preacher rushing toward them, waving a Bible through the air as the young Officer ran to catch him. The preacher looked frantic, fear expanding his eyes to wide orbs that seemed to beg for indulgence. His graying hair rested in disarray on his head as though he had been pulling at it in frustration.
“Matthew 24:27!” The preacher shouted as he held out the worn Bible toward Lee and Wade. “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be!” The officer caught up to him and wrapped an arm around his waist. “Judgement is upon us!” the preacher yelled as he struggled to break free of the officer. “Judgement is upon us!”
Turning, Agent Wade held the door for Agent Lee and climbed into the Winnebago behind her. “Well, that was interesting,” Lee remarked, shaking her head at the preacher’s outburst.
“Welcome to the field, Lee,” Wade replied quietly, clicking the door shut behind them.
Agent Davidson, the Special Agent in Charge of the operation, turned toward them from a panel of monitors affixed to the interior wall of the Winnebago. A tall man in his early fifties, he tore a sheet of paper from a printer and held it out to Wade. “Take a look at this,” he said.
Agent Wade took the page and began to read it, his brows furrowed.
“What is it?” Agent Lee asked, looking over his shoulder, eager for some real work to do.
“A shot in the dark,” Davidson replied in a tone evincing his frustration. He tugged at the waist of his pants before crossing his arms over his chest. “Witnesses all said the same thing – the loudest crash of thunder they’d ever heard and then a bright flash of light. Sounds like some kind of electrical storm, but from a clear blue sky? Doesn’t make any sense, but it’s all we got for now….no signs of any sort of explosive devices, nothing that could’ve made a hole that big…Same as the other locations.”
Wade handed the page to Lee and exchanged a concerned glance with Davidson.
“Anthony West, Ph.D, Carnegie Mellon University…” Lee read as she skimmed the bio on the page before her. “Nobel Prize in Physics…discovered a new layer of the atmosphere…”
“That’s right,” the SAC confirmed as he watched her, trying to determine what his gut felt about her. “We’re gonna go with the weather anomoly theory for now, and that guy in Pittsburgh is supposed to be the preeminent authority on all things atmospheric, so I need you two to go and see him. Maybe he can shed some light on what could’ve caused this kind of destruction.”
“Okay, but what about…” Lee started.
“Roger that,” Agent Wade quickly interrupted, walking back to her side before turning his attention back to Davidson.
“You’re wheels up in an hour.”
“Yes sir,” Agent Lee snapped, shooting a glare at Wade.
“We’re on it,” Agent Wade replied as he opened the Winnebago door. Light from the outside floodlights filtered in as he and Lee descended the steps.
“So what the hell was that? Why did you interrupt my question?” Lee asked as she rounded their car and approached the passenger door. She looked at Wade over the roof of the car, but he ignored her stare and got in.
Inside, Wade started the engine. Sensing her eyes on him as she waited for an answer, he sat back in his seat and sighed. “Listen,” he said tiredly without looking at her. “You’re new. That means I take the lead and you follow.”
“But I just going to ask…”
“Doesn’t matter. You watch, learn, and listen,” Wade interrupted. “That’s your job. Mine is to show you the ropes and teach you a thing or two. Things are different in the field.” He paused before looking at her. “So lesson one: they don’t want questions. They issue orders and we carry them out. Simple as that. They don’t want to know what we’re doing or how we do it. All they care about is results. So we say ‘Yes, sir,’ and walk out. Understand?”
Lee nodded. She felt a bit foolish, but knew that he was right. In an academy setting, they were given detailed instructions on tasks and procedures. As students, they were guided. The field was different and she wasn’t quite ready for it yet. The manual didn’t say that once you get into the field you figure it out for yourself and just get the job done. But she knew that now, and felt confident that Wade could teach her how to be a topnotch agent.
Jack’s Motel sat just on the outskirts of Redondo Beach, California, tucked away inconspicuously in one of the seedier parts of town where tourists had no interest in staying. A small, two-story motel, it had only twenty rooms and hadn’t been upgraded in decades, so the nightly rates were the cheapest in town. Not that it really mattered; most of the clientele of Jack’s only needed a room for an hour or two anyway.
Kaya Nova sat seductively on the edge of the bed in room twelve. The neon light advertising the motel and its vacancies pierced the thin curtains of the second-story room, casting a blue and red glow about it. She leaned back on her hands and smiled as she twirled her right foot. She wore a small black dress that fit perfectly, hugging her curves in just the right way to accentuate her toned body. It was so short that it barely covered any part of her legs when she sat. Half white and half Native American, her smooth olive complexion glowed in the half light. As she looked up at the man standing before her, one side of her mouth curled the tiniest bit in a sly, seductive grin.
The man looked down at her with hungry eyes and a shameless grin. He wore lightweight pleated slacks that were cooler in the California heat. Tucked into them was a loud blue dress shirt striped with gold vertical stripes of varying widths. The top three buttons of the shirt were left undone, letting the neck flap open to reveal a thick gold chain that matched the bracelet hanging loosely on his right wrist, the ring on his right pinky and the knockoff watch with fake diamonds studded on its face. Everything about his appearance screamed insecurity and desperation.
Kaya’s bright eyes told him that she knew what he wanted and that she wanted it too. Come and get it, they said. I’m waiting. Emboldened by her look, he nodded and licked his lips hungrily as he stepped closer, his grin growing wider. Kaya sat up and uncrossed her legs. She pushed her chest out, giving him a bird’s eye view down the front of her low-cut dress. A groan escaped the man at the sight, causing Kaya to giggle. She looked up at him, now with a more innocent expression that feigned uncertainty and a coyness she had not exhibited before.
“Oh yeah,” the man said, running his thick fingers down the side of her face. “You know what I’m gonna do? First I’m gonna…”
Kaya reached up and put a finger to his lips with one hand as she pulled him onto the bed with the other. “Shhhhh,” she said softly. “Whisper it to me, baby.”
He leaned in close to her and started whispering all the deviant things he wanted to do to her as he began to glide his hand up the inside of her thigh. As he talked, Kaya smiled and reached up to undo the long leather tie that held up her hair. Once freed, her hair fell down her shoulders in a cascade of black silk. The man brushed the hair behind her shoulder as he moved in closer. He leaned in to kiss her neck as his hand approached the hem of her short dress. Feeling his hot breath on her neck, Kaya pushed him back on the bed and straddled his waist.
“Ooh, aren’t you a naughty little boy?” she asked, switching to the more dominant role.
“Who said anything about little?” he replied, thrusting his hips up beneath her.
Kaya let out a loud laugh, her head tossed back, before leaning down over him. Her lips brushed his ear as she traced up his arm with the fingers of one hand. “Tell me more,” she whispered into his ear, grabbing a patch of his greasy black hair and tugging it playfully.
The man groaned again and kept talking, spilling all the dirty things that he wanted to do to her. Kaya smiled and egged him on as she surreptitiously tied his wrist to the bedpost with her hair tie. Once he was secured, she sat up and let out a sigh. She patted him on the chest before dismounting him and hopping to the floor.
“Well,” she said cheerfully, “looks like it’s time for me to shove off, sailor.”
“Whoa! Wait a minute. Where you goin? I thought we were gonna…”
His voice cut off as Kaya pulled a wire out from the lining of her dress and held up one end. “Say hello to Marlena,” she said, twirling the microphone between her fingers.
“What the hell?” As a wave of recognition washed over him, rage filled his face. “I’m gonna…” He tried to lunge for her, but snapped back onto the bed, his wrist securely tied to the bedpost. “You bitch!” he shouted as Kaya grabbed her purse from the bedside table and turned toward the door. She pulled the microphone and wire from her dress and stuffed it into her purse. She waved behind her as she neared the door. Just before she could grab the door knob, she felt an arm reach around her waist and the cool blade of a knife against her throat.
“I bet you weren’t expecting me to have this, huh?” he asked as he pressed the knife against her throat and squeezed her tight against his body. “You’re gonna bleed. You hear me, half-breed?”
In a flash, Kaya grabbed his wrist, twisted it painfully, and popped the knife out of his hand. Gracefully, she spun around and kicked him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. As he sat crumpled up on the floor gasping for breath, Kaya grabbed him by his slimy hair and pulled his face in close.
“That was a very mean thing to say,” she hissed, her mouth turned up in a snarl. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you how to talk to a lady?” With that she slammed his face into the side of the dresser, knocking him unconscious.
As the man lay in a heap on the ground, Kaya sat on the edge of the bed for several minutes trying to gather herself. Beginning to feel dizzy, she took deep breaths to calm her nerves. She noticed her heart beating rapidly and her hands shaking in her lap. As she lifted them, she saw blood dripping from a cut on her left hand. Pulling back the blanket on the bed, she tore off a strip of the white bed sheet and wrapped it tightly around her wounded hand. With a sigh, she retrieved her purse from the floor by the door and fished out a small white plastic container that looked like an old pencil case. Sitting on the bed again, she opened the container and retrieved a hypodermic needle, pulling its plastic cap off with her teeth to begin her ritual.
Moments later, sirens neared as she pulled the needle from her skin. She gradually opened her eyes and let out a slow exhale before dropping the used needle into her kit and stuffing it back into her purse. With a finger from her bandaged hand, she wiped away the drop of blood from the small puncuture. Red and blue lights flashed through the window as she hurried toward the door, giving the man on the floor one last dismissive glance on her way past. She left the room and headed for the back of the motel, turning the corner just as a pair of uniformed officers reached the top of the stairs.
Sitting in the backseat of a yellow cab, she rested her head back and closed her eyes. She held a tight grip on the strip of cloth wrapped around her wounded hand, trying not to drip blood in the vehicle although it smelled like blood wouldn’t be the first thing to stain its seats. Her body felt uncharacteristically heavy, as if she were sinking into the seat. She rolled her head to the side and opened her eyes to look out the window, but all she saw was a haze of lights and blurred motions. She groaned, squeezing her eyes shut and praying for the throbbing in her head to stop. She was unbearably thirsty and couldn’t wait to get back home, drink enough water to sink a ship, and crawl into bed, hopefully forgetting that this night ever happened.
The next morning Kaya woke up refreshed and ready to move past the events of the previous night. After a good night’s sleep, she simply chalked it up to the hazards of the job and scratched another notch in the win column. Inspecting the cut on her hand, she was satisfied to find that it wouldn’t need stitches. It might leave a scar, but it wasn’t her first and probably wouldn’t be the last.
Her day started like every other, with coffee and fruit on the balcony overlooking the beach. The warmth of the morning sun greeted her each day, its light sparkling off the water like a sea of diamonds. She smiled as a cool morning breeze brushed her hair across her face, tickling it as if to say, good morning sleepy head! It carried with it the soothing scent of the ocean, bringing it right to her in offering.
Tossing a blueberry into her mouth, she watched the Coles walking the pier below, hand-in-hand, as usual. They were an older couple, and she wondered if they talked during those morning walks or if they had already said everything they had to say over the years, and now communicated only in glances and touches.
The farmer’s market in the park on the other side of the apartment’s parking lot was abuzz in the mornings as fresh fruits and vegetables were stacked and sold at a quick pace. Kaya would be there soon to buy her own food for the day on her way to work. She looked forward to seeing all the familiar faces - Marcel with his hearty laugh and mile-wide smile, Grace and her delicious strawberries, and the Kelly’s with their grandchildren. Kaya smiled as she sipped her coffee, knowing that no matter how bad things could sometimes get she was blessed nonetheless.
Her office was only a few blocks away, on Redondo Pier. It was a small, nondescript storefront situated between an attorney’s office and a laundromat. Nova Investigations was written in basic block text on the window above the phone number. It was nothing glamorous, but it was right on the beach and mere feet away from legal counsel, which came in handy when it came to some of her methods. Plus, that comforting fresh laundry smell carried easily and wafted through the building. When the going got tough, Kaya could sit back, close her eyes, and take in a deep whiff of that scent to transport herself to simpler times when she’d sit on the washing machine kicking her feet happily as her mother grabbed laundry out of the dyer and folded it.
She knew better than to ask Natalie if she could get the blood out of her dress from the previous night. They’d had that conversation many times since they’d shared a wall, and Kaya had figured out how much blood was too much. She knew that it worried Natalie when she showed up with soiled clothes anyway, so she just stopped asking and started factoring in the cost of replacement outfits into her bill.
Working next door to an attorney like Lee was also great because she could always count on him for some good free legal advice as long as she showed up with some of those fresh blueberries he loved from the market. He was a sucker for the blueberries. Kaya liked to have fun with him, asking off-the-wall legal questions to keep him guessing if she was serious or not. It got to the point where he would just answer her questions and not even try to figure out if she was messing around with him or not. This way he didn’t have to stress about whether or not he was aiding a complete lunatic.
Hers was a small, modest office with minimal furniture, no decoration, and a small window. Not very comfortable and inviting, to be sure, but she spent not one second more than necessary in it. A stack of manila folders left by her assistant, Bree, sat on her desk. Kaya really couldn’t have asked for a better assistant. It was the perfect dynamic for the both of them, since Kaya couldn’t stand sitting in an office all day, answering the phone and greeting potential clients, whereas Bree found some odd pleasure in that type of work. So Bree prepared the files, and Kaya reviewed them.
As she dropped into her chair, Kaya grabbed the top folder off the stack and read Bree’s summary on the first page: It involved a missing dog that the “owners” had recently found roaming the streets. Shortly after they took the dog in, it ran away from their home. Could Kaya find the dog … Kaya shook her head as she tossed the folder to the side and grabbed the next one on the stack. This one was another cheating spouse case, and she tossed it to the side immediately, needing a break from that. She continued to sift through the stack, reading files about other missing pets, stolen jewelry, some background checks, surveillance, fraud investigations, and even a guy who wanted to find out who stole his drugs. She almost had Bree call him just so she could meet and make fun of him. As Kaya began reading a file about a client requesting an investigation into a fraudulent disability claim, Bree came bouncing into her office and plopped in the padded chair on the other side of her desk.
“Good morning, boss,” she said brightly, holding a steaming cup of coffee between her hands.
Kaya dropped the file on her desk and gestured toward it as she leaned back in her chair. “Is it?”
Bree laughed brightly and shook her head, knowing how much Kaya hated most of the requests she got. She crossed one leg over the other and leaned forward conspiratorially. “So, I hear things got a little exciting at Jack’s last night.”
Kaya rolled her eyes. “Just the usual creepo case crap.”
Bree nodded and took a careful sip of her coffee. “Well, on to the next big thing, right?”
“Oh yeah, huge things going on here,” Kaya replied sarcastically. “Lots of big mysteries to solve in Redondo.”
“Did you get to the laptop guy?” Bree asked with a smirk as she pointed to the pile of folders. “He was willing to pay three times what it cost to get it back. And he was pretty cute,” Bree replied with a mischievous smile. “So I’d imagine he’s got some stuff on that thing that even I’d pay to see.” She winked at Kaya and giggled.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ve imagined quite a lot about it.”
“I’m just saying… I think that might be the one to tackle next.”
“Yeah, and it sounds like you’d like to do the tackling.”
Bree made an expression of mock offense and they shared a laugh. After a couple of moments of laughter, Kaya grew serious and motioned to the folders on her desk.
“Drugs, pets, jewelry, cheaters, fraud…” She frowned. “Is this all we ever get around here?”
Bree’s laughter died off and she sipped her coffee. “One of those days, huh?”
Kaya thought for a moment before springing out of her seat, startling Bree. “Not anymore; we’re taking the day off. Grab your gear,” she said as she walked out of her office.
“But we just got here!” Bree shouted after her more in playful disbelief than actual protest.
Not fifteen minutes later, Kaya and Bree carried their surfboards down the boardwalk, on the way to their favorite spot. They had ditched their “work clothes,” which were still about as casual as you could get, in favor of swimsuits and wetsuits.
“I’m bored, Bree,” Kaya said sadly as they walked side by side down the boardwalk. She let out a long sigh before glancing over at her assistant. “You know?”
Bree shook her head. “Bored is good,” she replied. “Bored is safe.”
Kaya held up her bandaged hand.
“Relatively safe,” Bree corrected with a shrug.
She felt bad for Kaya, knowing where she came from and the life she left behind. It made sense that she would feel somewhat unsatisfied in light of her previous experiences, but Bree tried to remind her that it wasn’t all that bad. She pointed out the good things like the reason Kaya came to California in the first place, and the unbearable fate she had just barely escaped.
“There’s gotta be something bigger going on out there,” Kaya said, throwing her arm up to wherever “out there” was. “Isn't anybody stealing trade secrets or dumping illegally, or .... missing a person… something other than the same old same old?”
"Hey, try to forget about last night, okay? I know it sucks, but the word gets out, you know? You've just become the go-to girl for that stuff."
Kaya’s phone buzzed in her wetsuit pocket, vibrating against her leg. She unzipped her pocket and pulled out the phone. “Yeah, well I’m tired of playing the bait. Takes an hour just to do hair and makeup, gotta get the nails done…”
“Only an hour?” Bree interjected with a clever smirk.
Kaya shoved her playfully in the arm before reading the text message that just came through on her phone. An excited smile broke across her face. “The twins are coming into town,” she said brightly, more announcing it to the world than Bree. She pocketed the phone again, a new cheerful pep to her step. The news served as a needed respite from her melancholy boredom.
“Again? We don’t see those guys for years and now it’s like they’re here every other month.”
Mellow reggae music flowed from the speakers of an open-air bar up ahead. As they approached, a man behind the counter set a beer in front of a muscular young surfer in board shorts and a tank top. He stared at the young man expectantly until the young man sighed and dug into his pocket, shaking his head incredulously.
“You know I’m good for it, man,” he griped, slapping a crumpled up wad of singles on the bar.
“I don’t know nothing except cash on the barrelhead,” the man behind the counter said as he unfolded and counted the money. “Thank you very much.”
Red, the owner of the bar, was a retired police officer from Boston who had decided after six decades that he was fed up with the cold and the snow of the Northeast. After retirement, he packed up everything he cared to keep, left the rest, and headed out west to open his own little bar by the beach in the sunshine of the left coast.
“Hey, Red!” Kaya called out to him with a wave as she neared the bar.
“Uh oh, look who it is!” He shot his hands up in mock surrender. “I don’t want no trouble in here, Jackie Chan.” A few of the customers at the bar chuckled and raised their glasses to Kaya.
“Yep,” Kaya murmured to Bree. “Word gets out.”
A clock hanging on a post beside the bar caught her eye. It was an older clock featuring a large thermometer, which on that day registered at just under ninety degrees. Kaya glanced at the two watches on her right wrist. One was an old Swatch watch from the 1980’s with a sky-blue plastic band and a faded pink frame. The dial was cracked, the hands underneath motionless. The watch beside it was a newer, far bulkier, and much more sophisticated timepiece. Aside from simple timekeeping capabilities, this one featured a compass, an altimeter, a barometer, thermometer, timer, stopwatch, and multiple alarms. A first-rate tactical watch, it could light up, and was waterproof up to 100 meters. It’s plain black color with all the knobs and features was a stark contrast to the almost kid-like Swatch watch beside it.
“Hang on,” Kaya said, comparing her watch to the clock on the post. She leaned her board against the bar and walked over to the clock with a disappointed expression on her face.
Bree and Red shook their heads and shared a knowing smile. As Kaya adjusted the readings on the old clock, Bree took a stool at the bar and glanced at a television hanging on the wall behind it. A reporter stood in the desert, surrounded by a team of people in uniforms and lab coats bustling about and completely ignoring his presence. The volume of the television was off because of the music, but Bree read the subtitles on the screen:
…Despite several eyewitnesses reporting an enormous lightning strike, experts here believe that this massive crater behind me, roughly the size of six football fields, is more likely to have been caused by a meteor…
The Nova Laboratory sat nestled away inconspicuously in remote swath of desert on the Hopi Reservation just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. The reservation was 2,500 square miles, so it was relatively easy to find a secluded location that would allow for undisturbed and undiscovered work. Inside the lab, Johnny and Hunter Nova busied themselves with powering down computers, switching off machines, and flicking off the desk lamps that peppered the room. Stacks of files and loose-leaf papers riddled the rows of desks that filled the room along with empty Styrofoam cups from coffee long ago consumed. Lying in piles on the cold concrete floor beside wastebaskets were the balled up mistakes and ideas that hadn’t panned out.
“Everything is in place, right?” Johnny asked as he worked his way from one table to the next shutting down the whirring machines. On his way, he gathered a few strands of charred cables from the floor.
“I told you we’re good,” Hunter replied from across the room, a hint of annoyance in his voice. “The meet is scheduled for tomorrow and I texted Kaya to let her know we’re coming to visit. I’ve got it all under control.”
Johnny walked over to a wastebasket nearby and tossed the cables into it with a loud thud that echoed through the cavernous room. “The wave ratio’s frying all these lines because you keep turning it up,” he said in a critical tone. “And we can’t even bring it back to our own receiver yet.”
“Would you relax?” Hunter snapped, looking up with a finality in his eyes that Johnny knew better than to question. “We’re getting close.” Satisfied that his brother got the message, he turned his attention back to their closing procedures. He picked up a TV remote control and pointed it toward the flat screen television hanging on the wall.
“Whoa, hold up a sec,” Johnny said, hurrying toward the television. The screen displayed an aerial view of the crater in the desert. White letters punctuated the red banner of a headline that scrolled across the bottom of the screen referencing a possible meteor strike. “Oh man! That was us…” He turned to Hunter, a worried look on his face.
Hunter pressed a button on the remote and the television screen went dark. “It’s fine,” he said, not a hint of matching concern in his voice. “There’s no way they can trace it back to us, so we're good.”
“But…” Johnny started, pointing at the television.
“Your butt is what I’m gonna put you on if you don’t let it go,” Hunter warned. He raised his eyebrows, silently asking for the opportunity.
Johnny let out a snort and turned away, shaking his head. “Yeah right,” he mumbled under his breath.
“What was that?” Hunter asked, ready for the challenge.
“I said you’re right!” Johnny shouted across the room as he got back to work shutting down the lab.
They worked their way through the lab, turning off everything that drew power. After turning off the last of the machines and lamps, they headed for the door. On the way, Hunter hit a lever on a console that cut the lights. Rows of overhead fluorescent lights snapped off, surrounding them in darkness and silencing the hum that had filled the room moments before. As the twins exited the lab, its heavy steel door slammed shut behind them and locked automatically. On the front of the door was the Eye of Horus, the symbol for the Egyptian god of the sky. Within seconds of closing, the glowing Eye disassembled like a puzzle, its pieces now spread out randomly across the door. With a loud bang, Hunter swung the rusted tin door over the heavy steel door, and locked a combination lock around a thick chain holding it in place.
As they approached their chopped-out green pickup truck, Johnny double checked that their surfboards were lashed securely in its bed. Hunter jumped up into the passenger seat and dropped his backpack on the floor beside his feet.
“Guess I’m driving then,” Johnny said to himself quietly.
“Looks like it,” his brother hollered from the cab of the truck. Johnny mimicked him sarcastically, thinking he couldn’t see. “Side mirror, jackass,” Hunter called back to him.
Confident that the surfboards weren’t going to fly away, Johnny made his way around the truck and climbed into the driver seat. The engine fired up in an instant, roaring to life in a powerful show that you wouldn’t expect looking at the older truck. The twins had definitely modified that engine. Johnny hit the gas and their lab grew smaller and smaller, lost in a haze of dirt and dust behind them. With the truck windows down, Johnny’s shoulder length hair whipped about, smacking his face wildly in a game of blind-the-driver. Once they get on Route 87, one of the few main roads entering and exiting the reservation, Johnny steered the truck with his knees and pulled his hair back in a tight ponytail. It was times like that where he hated his hair. It could often be more of a nuisance than anything else, especially in the desert heat, but his hair was really the only thing that distinguished him from his twin brother. Hunter, ever the practical one, had opted for a more convenient crew cut years before.
Tuning onto 40 West, Johnny pushed the accelerator down further to the floor and rolled the power on to a cruising speed of 70 mph. “We really do have to figure something out,” he said anxiously to his brother. “Stuff like that and yesterday can’t keep happening. Somebody’s gonna get killed.”
“Relax,” Hunter told him as he reached into the backpack, and pulled out a stack of money. “Help is on the way.”
“Yeah, okay. Just relax. Few deep breaths maybe?” Hunter ignored him, and started counting the wad of cash. “Listen,” Johnny said, growing serious, “if we don’t get the phasing right, nothing else really matters. We’ll just keep shooting all over the place and then what?”