663 million people on this planet don’t have access to clean water.
That means 1 out of 11 people in our world is drinking water that comes from a river, lake or muddy hole in the ground every day. Dirty, contaminated water that has leeches and debris in it. Water that causes disease, keeps kids out of school and takes hours to bring back home.
So, in honor of our 10 year wedding anniversary, Jake and I would like to start a Charity : Water campaign to help.
100% of the money donated will be used to build clean water projects for people in need, and when they’re complete, Charity: Water will send us all photos and GPS coordinates so we can see the exact community we helped.
You can give a little or you can give a lot, but every bit makes a huge difference.
I’m asking anyone who reads this blog to give $10.00 and in September, Charity:Water will match your donation. Big win. We’ve already donated to kick things off! You can view and donate here : https://my.charitywater.org/melissa-kircher/10-year-anniversay
And now onto new things!
Rogue: Unedited Chapter One
– Jack –
It was the coldest day of winter, but only I seemed to notice. White puffs drifted from the noses of morning commuters as they streamed into the station where I stood, watching from the shadows. I tucked my chin deeper inside the folds of my scarf and breathed in the icy air, forcing it into my lungs. Forcing myself to remember what fresh air felt like, to sear the sensation into my brain before I darted back down into the darkness.
The Sanctum hadn’t installed a heating system or closed windows inside the station. Why bother when everyone could regulate their own body temperature?
Everyone except me.
The throng pressed like cattle toward the sleek, sliver engines. All of them distracted, gaping at tiny, humming squares strapped to their wrists or staring like zombies at the bright vids lining the walls. Vids which blared endless loops of Sanctum-funded propaganda that made my stomach roll.
Sometimes I wondered why I came up here at all. Nothing ever changed.
The nine-twenty train rested quietly, its metallic doors waiting to gobble up the masses and carry them into Peoria, the heart of our glorious North Urasian Territory. I eyed the gigantic machine, careful to avoid the watchful stare of Officials in long, navy uniforms who guarded each car. The cold dug its icy fingers through the fabric of my coat as a familiar ache formed under my ribcage.
“Monsters,” I muttered and turned away, kneading the ache with my knuckles.
An image of my parent’s faces flashed through my mind as I headed toward the station exits. They’re gone, I reminded myself. Barnabas made sure of that.
I pictured our old apartment as I weaved through the crowd, the tall windows and gleaming tiles. It had been one hell of place to call home; an apartment for the elite, for Sanctum employees on special assignments.
Special. Yeah. Look where that had gotten my folks.
And now it belonged to another three-person family. Another perfect, superhuman mother and father with their single government-sanctioned child.
“Right,” I murmured into Dad’s old scarf. “That’s enough fresh air and painful memories for today. Time to scuttle underground now like a good little outcast.”
“What?” A woman on my right asked, giving me an odd look. Her skin flashed from green to gold to silver and back to green again.
Delightful, I thought. A Shifter and a Memorist. I wondered how strong her abilities were. Or if Tug’s scrambler had gone on the fritz again. He was forever trying to find replacement wires for the tiny chips. They ran hot and fried often. Which is what you got when you jimmy-rigged stolen parts together to create complicated tech.
I did my best to clear my mind, erecting an imaginary concrete wall around my thoughts.
“You got a problem?” I asked, trying to sound annoyed, which wasn’t too difficult.
“I heard you. You were thinking things.” As her violet eyes held mine they shifted from purple to blue. “Treasonous things.”
“Hey,” I said, backing up a step and adding more bricks to my mind wall. Without the scrambler working I had to keep calm, keep my thoughts on this exact moment. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. The only things I got swirling around in my head are how I’m gonna pass my third period science test and the absolute insanity of Meira Westfield’s lips. If you’d like to keep invading my personal space I’ll make sure to focus on the more lurid details of her anatomy, but I’m guessing underage fantasies aren’t to you taste. No? Thought so. So why don’t you bug off. Thought reading is strictly prohibited in public spaces or don’t you read the signs.” I gestured to one of the many regulation postings that dotted the station.
I was right and she knew it. But still, if she decided to turn me in…
The woman darted a glance at the Official standing nearby and I moved another step backward. Didn’t see the kid racing in the other direction, his face buried in a gaming screen. We smacked like two trains colliding.
“What the hell?” he snapped, before I even had a nanosecond to move out of his way. He muttered a curse far too salty for someone his age as the gaming screen swooped down to his knees. His black hair instantly whooshed to bright, screaming red and his eyes narrowed to slits. The screen froze in mid-air just before it hit the white tiled floor.
I had to get out of here, fast. Before one of the Offs noticed all this commotion and came to check things out.
“Sorry, man. Didn’t see you.” No use trying to explain that he’d actually bumped into me. Kids had a hard time regulating their abilities. Control came with age—and practice. I was lucky he hadn’t shot a fireball at me. Or worse. The chip on my ear should have protected me from whatever abilities he had, but it wasn’t working. So who knows what might have happened.
“Hope your game’s all right,” I lied and shot a glance at the Memorist/Shifter who still stared at me like I had two heads.
“Whatever.” The kid’s attention was already re-ensnared by the screen. He used his mind to lift the gamer up into position again and melted back into the crowd.
“Well, this has been lovely,” I said with a wide, false grin on my face. I gave a little wave to the rainbow-eyed woman and walked away as fast as I could.
I passed the kid on my way to the exits and kept my face turned to the wall, hoping he wouldn’t recognize me. He didn’t. I’d almost forgotten what was like to be that self-centered. To be that young.
I bit off a salty curse of my own and stalked toward the exits. One week. That’s how long it’d taken those bastards in navy coats to erase my life. To obliterate my childhood and any hope I had of a future. To execute my family.
I glared at the Officials from underneath hooded eyelids. Executed. The word thudded through my brain as hot, raging anger flowed through me. It felt good to get angry. Like I was living again instead of scuttling around like a cockroach, forgotten, in the gray underbelly of the world.
But no, without the scrambler I had to be careful of my thoughts. My emotions. I took a deep, settling breath and checked my wrist screen as I got into one of the lines out. Sure enough, there was a ping from one of my fellow cockroaches. “Jack, get your sorry ass back down here. Now.” That was it.
I sighed. Ruth must have written the ping. Only she would be that abrupt. Sanders and Tug were nicer when they gave me a hard time about my visits to the real world.
No one else but me risked coming up here.
“Freaking girls,” I mumbled as I reached the turnstile and held out my wrist to the Scanner who manned it. I hoped he wouldn’t run any bios on me or ask about my coat. My ID tag was fake and my bios would definitely come back abnormal. But he wasn’t paying attention to at me at all, which was helpful, but had to be breaking all kinds of security rules. His head angled the opposite direction, his dark glasses trained like a hawk on this tall, raven-haired knockout strutting into the train station.
“Ah…Ahem.” I cleared my throat. I was ready to get out of here.
“Hold out your ID tag,” he replied in a droning voice, still ogling the woman.
“Yeah, I am.” But still he didn’t turn around to read it.
I peered around him to get a better view of the woman, but honestly wasn’t that impressed. I mean, sure, she was gorgeous, but in a flashy way—and much too old for a seventeen-year-old like me. What caught my eye though, was the steaming cup of coffee that floated in the air to and from her red lips like magic. Despite how normal this seemed to everyone else, I felt my body and brain begin to hum. Why now, why with this particular cup of coffee I had no idea. But the sensation of what it had been like to have abilities zinged right through me like a jolt of electricity.
It happened sometimes. Like having a phantom limb.
The woman stopped and held out her forearm, allowing the Scanner at one of the many entrance turnstiles to lower his dark sunglasses and run his eyes over the glowing patch of skin that marked her ID tag.
“Morning,” she said, her tone bored.
“Aye, it is that,” the Scanner replied.
I snorted with disgust as the man’s eyes skimmed over her chest and down her curvy body. What a dirt bag. Sure enough, a sly grin spread across his face as he used his enhanced eyesight to appreciate what was underneath her gleaming red top and pants.
I felt bile rise in my throat and tried to stop the zinging feeling.
A world full of superheroes and they were all still scum. What I’d give to have my abilities back just for a second and teach this guy a lesson. Could have done it, too. I was a very powerful Memorist—once upon a time.
Good genes and all that.
“Get on with it,” the woman sighed as her ID cleared.
“Yeah, Yeah. You’re clear, go on,” the Scanner grunted, his eyes glued on the knockout’s rear end as he waved her through the turnstile. She sashayed into the crowd and, finally, the Scanner at my turnstile swiveled back around.
“ID cleared,” he grunted, with a wave of a metal cylinder over my wrist. He lowered his glasses and gave me a quick once over. “No concealed weapons. What’s that thing on your ear?”
“VR chip. For games. Plugs right into my opticals,” I lied, hoping he wasn’t a gamer.
“Eh, waste of time, games,” he replied, waving me through. “Skin vids, now that’s a good time. Easy too, no need to pretend my tired old peepers is lookin’s anywhere but where’s they lookin’.”
Disgusting, revolting, dirt bag. I allowed the thought as I pushed through the rotating metal bars, not caring if he had any Memorist or Empath abilities threaded into his DNA code. Let him hear me. This would be my last visit for a while I decided, pressing open the station door. The vileness of people, it wasn’t worth the fresh air.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been thinking so much. So lost in my loathing.
“Watch out!” A voice cried and then the door came swinging back at me on its double hinges, slamming straight into my nose and forehead.
“Ow!” I bellowed and grabbed my nose, warm blood gushing onto my fingers as my vision went dark. I stumbled and fell, reality dissolving into a blinding, shattering world of pain.
The Rising Sun: Unedited
Viv’s breaths came in ragged gasps as she wedged her body even tighter into the tree. Her body folded in on itself, her slight frame pressing into a deep V that had formed between two large branches. The rough bark scraped the skin on her face, but she didn’t care. The pain was a welcome distraction from the terror clutching at her chest.
Her heart pounded so fast she thought it might explode right out of her rib cage. She tried slowing it down but it was no use; her body was out of control. The miracle was that she got all the way up here in the first place. Tremors wracked her aching limbs so badly she could hardly move. But the panic hadn’t given her a choice. It had forced her to climb, forced her to get as high as possible. She’d needed to breathe.
“Viv, you up there?” A voice whispered at her through the dark, cool night. The tone was soft, probing—an echoing concern that floated up through the swaying branches.
It was Rain, of course. He always seemed to sense when she couldn’t sleep. When she needed him. She wanted to answer, but her panting lungs wouldn’t stop long enough to get words out. So she trembled and waited for him to come.
Rain sighed patiently below and then the tree shuddered, the weight of another human body added to its boughs. Viv heard a series of grunts and mutterings as he climbed up to her, but she didn’t move.
After another moment or two, a thick mop of black hair popped into view, glistening almost blue in the moonlight. The moon, Viv thought. That curious, white orb hanging in the sky. She still wasn’t used it.
The long neck and limbs of a gangly, teenaged boy emerged from the branches below her, his tall frame struggling to find a firm grip.
“Good grief,” Rain huffed, finally pulling his body into a sitting position on one of the thicker branches near her. His brilliant blue eyes sparked with irritation and worry. “Couldn’t you find someplace less, I don’t know, precarious, to freak out?” He glanced around. “We must be twenty feet off the ground.”
Viv couldn’t talk. Her teeth chattered from the cold and from the attack that continued to grip her body.
Rain looked at her. “I’m going to come closer, okay?”
Somehow, she managed to shake her head, and he scooted next to her, angling his lanky form up against her petite frame. Large and small, and neither one of them very strong.
Viv knew she shouldn’t let him wrap his arms around her. Knew she should cut off whatever it was happening between the two of them before it was too late… But instead, she nestled into the cavity between his bicep and chest and allowed the heat from his body sooth her quaking limbs.
“Breathe with me,” he instructed her. “One long one in…there you go. Now one long breath out.” He felt the tension in her body ease slightly as her inhalations and exhalations got under control. Thank goodness. These panic attacks of hers were really starting to worry him. But he tried not to let it show.
Underneath Viv’s ear Rain’s heart beat steadily and she took comfort in the rhythm, the steady thumping that somehow pushed the pieces of her shattered psyche back into place.
“You dreamed about him again, didn’t you?” Rain asked after a couple minutes of silence. Viv allowed herself to nod, ever so slightly. Rain brushed his lips against the top of her hair. “He can’t hurt you now, not with all of us here to protect you. You know Thea won’t let that thing get within five yards of this place without calling the entire plain down onto his head.”
Viv squeezed her eyes shut and tried to push away the image that swam through her mind. The perfect, handsome face that haunted both her waking and sleeping hours.
“That’s just it,” Viv whispered, hating how weak and childish her voice sounded. “I’m supposed to be the one protecting her; I’m supposed to be protecting all of you.” Unconsciously, the fingers on her right hand curled into a fist, as though she could punch the Ancient One right in his beautiful face and actually hope to wound him. “Here I am, hiding in a tree, when I should be training harder, learning to use my light so that when he comes out of whatever hole he crawled into, I’ll be ready for him.”
“Aw, Viv, you gotta cut yourself some slack. Isn’t Enoch always going on and on about how you’re still human, even if you are supposedly the savior of the world? If Enoch thinks you should lighten up, then you really need to let this go. We haven’t heard about or seen a single shadow for months. The Ancient One could be all the way across the globe by now. Come on, think about something else, think about the wedding tomorrow. That has to cheer you up.”
Rain tightened his arm around her and Viv let herself relax into his embrace, even as a sharp pang shot through her heart at the mention of tomorrow’s festivities.
How could she have forgotten?
A Whole New World: Unedited
Deep calls to deep. The ocean sang that morning, drawing all kinds of curious creatures out of the shadows and canyons of sand. Forests of kelp waved back and forth under the water, sprouting from places unknown. Sea urchins and white, flowering algae like bright stars moved gently with the tides, the sun slanting through the waves far overhead; bright, so bright.
The sea was peaceful for a moment, as though the whole of the liquid underbelly of the earth were holding its collective breath, waiting for something to happen.
And then the explosion hit.
In an instant the tides shifted, streaming away from the sudden blast of pressure and energy. Fish darted into coral hideaways like brilliant, multi-colored confetti. Mountains of bubbles burst through the pressure layers, flattening and ballooning as the ocean shifted around them, accommodating the catastrophe as best it could on such short notice.
Then came the fire. Fire in water, a mystery to be sure, but the vessel imploding in on itself above held tons and tons of petrol, enough for two months at sea, and had only used a couple days worth on its tour abruptly ended. The flames billowed under the waves in great orange balls. The ocean quickly swallowed them, in giant, shuddering gulps. But she could not hold back the debris, the quivering hull of the ship as it tore apart, its metal and wood loins spilling into the water, piercing the waves and sinking down into the darkness.
A violent tremor moved through the waters, the aftershocks of the explosion warning all those who belonged to keep away; to run.
But there was one creature who ignored the tremors, in fact, he felt himself lean into them, letting the wrongness of the pressure and energy flow over his body. He whipped his long tail, once, and glided forward, ignoring the shattered chunks of man-made objects streaming past him into oblivion. He was looking for something.
There weren’t many bodies; he knew not many could survive the sinking of a ship that large. The ones that had, kept to the surface of the water. Floating half-charred remains of the race that fascinated him, that ensnared his every waking moment. Usually, he would be searching for survivors, trying to help them despite his parent’s warnings never to interfere with the land dwellers. But this time he was only focused on one.
She was here, among the wreckage. He could feel her.
Deep calls to deep and that morning she had called to him, propelling him leagues from home to this place. Now, he just had to find her, before the ocean sucked the heat and life from her body.
He had to take her home.
And then he had to make her his wife.