Fram Gage wakes up in Biality Orphanage after a three year coma. His best friend Lanker has become an angry, bitter person and wants nothing to do with him. Fram hopes to mend their relationship. Before he can, three adversaries with Super Strength, Teleportation, and Super Speed abilities stand in his way. Fram can match them hit for hit and blow for blow with his Infinite ability. But there is something familiar about his foes. When Fram realizes what it is, they become the key to gaining back his best friend.
Available at the following locations:
Print edition available at Amazon and CreateSpace.
Fram Gage and The Three Adversaries
Chapter 1 Excerpt
© 2012 Desmond Shepherd
“Sean! Get me out of here, or he’ll die!”
The voice rammed into Sean’s ears with a dull thud. A black void caressed him, telling him to sleep. He attempted to move his arms and legs, but he was paralyzed. In the distance, children loudly played. Their joyful screams relaxing him. But that voice, yelling at him with an intensity he had trouble pinpointing, began to annoy him. The man was angry. No, panicked.
The ground vibrated, relaxing Sean even more. Everything told him to remain still but that man’s voice. It continued yelling, begging him to release him out from somewhere. Without a way to see the man, Sean couldn’t help. He would assist the man, if he knew how.
“Sean. He’ll die. Fram will die!”
He knew Fram. A quiet, 12-year-old boy with a good heart. Why would he die? How could he die? The boy meant a lot to him. In many ways, Fram was like a son. He wanted to protect, help, and teach him.
He never wanted to see any of the children in his orphanage hurt. If this man, whose voice Sean began to recognize, wanted to help Fram, he should do it. He didn’t need Sean’s permission.
“Let me out of this cage, Sean!”
Metal rattled like loose change falling on the ground. The voices of the playing children grew louder as if they approached. They might not be happy. In fact, the girl cried so severely, her words were unintelligible.
“Dr. Traisal! Dr. Traisal,” a boy’s voice yelled. “Fram is under that rock. We have to get him out!”
More rattling happened, this time louder. That boy’s voice, he recognized it, too. As he fought to recall, a gentle throbbing started at the back of his head. It slowly reached around toward the front, transforming into the pounding of a hammer on wood. The pain was great and excruciating. It pulled Sean away from the peaceful relaxing state he wanted badly.
“Lank, you can’t do it. We’ve got nothing,” the boy said. He paused a second. “Please, Dr. Traisal. Wake up. You got to get out of there and help Dr. Samor, too, or Fram will die.”
Lank. Dr. Samor. It all came back to him.
They held a competition in The Ability Chamber. Discovered Fram had Infinite ability. But Dr. Samor, Sean’s assistant at Biality Orphanage, took control of the competition for selfish means. He trapped Sean in a cage while the children competed. But Sean didn’t let that stop him.
He managed to create software that formed a cage, too. He trapped Dr. Samor in it, disabling his control of the competition. Sean then attempted to pull the children—Fram, Bagger, Tia, and Lanker—to safety. In his last thought before a rumbling quake caused him to fall back and slam his head against a metal pole of his cage, knocking him unconscious, the portal opened.
Sean opened his eyes with a rush of adrenaline shooting through his veins. The scene left him confused. Dr. Samor shook the metal chain link fence, his white lab coat blew in the wind, and he yelled, “I can help him. I can help him.” Bagger and Tia were next to Sean’s cage. Bagger pleaded with his eyes and words, “Please, Dr. Traisal. He’ll die. You can’t let him die.”
In the distance, a large red boulder at least 30 feet wide laid on the ground, and Lanker, his small, weak body, squatted next to it, his arms under the mass of rock. He tried to lift the boulder. But why?
“What happened?” Sean asked, rubbing the back of his head.
“The rock!” Bagger screamed and pointed behind him. His normally proud, spiked, purple Mohawk hung to the side of his face and dirt covered his body. “It fell on Fram.”
“Fram?” Sean asked.
He got to his feet and grabbed at the chain link fence of the cage that had him trapped. He pressed his face up to it to view the large boulder, his skin pushing through the holes in the fence. Lanker continued to try lifting the boulder without success.
No. How could I let this happen? No one was supposed to get hurt.
Sean stepped back a couple feet, shocked at his hubris. He wondered how he fooled himself into thinking he could control it all. Now Fram might meet the same fate as his son, Steven.
Shock and sadness paralyzed him. His ears tuned out the sound and everything began to move in slow motion as Sean became overwhelmed with the situation. Bagger screamed something at Sean again, a frantic, wide-eyed look on his face. He gestured wildly with his hands.
Behind him, Tia held her face, crying uncontrollably. How could he help?
Rolland had trapped him in the fence cage. Even if he could get out, the time needed to overwrite the code for the weight of the boulder would take longer than the time he had.
In all likelihood, Fram was already dead, crushed under the weight of the boulder, his bones pulverized to dust.
“Sean, listen to me,” Rolland yelled.
Sean snapped his attention to Rolland. Despite the chaos, he looked perfect. His clothes were free of the debris and dust in the area. Not a black hair on his head out of place.
He was trapped in a cage. Sean made it to prevent Rolland from accessing any part of TAC, putting the children out of further danger. Or so Sean thought. Anger built up inside of him like a rolling avalanche. If he could reach out, grab Rolland, and wrap his hands around his neck, strangling the life from him, he would.
But that would be impossible, and if he could, the one chance of saving Fram, if he was still alive, would be lost.
“Sean, if you let me out, you know what I can do. I’m trapped here, without access to the competition software.”
“You did this! You killed him!” Sean clenched his teeth, baring them, as his face turned a shade of red. “I won’t let you out.”
The rumbles in the ground began to settle and the wind died down. A calmness came over the scene in The Ability Chamber, but for everyone involved, it resembled more and more people clinging to a hope that faded away with every second.
“Sean, you have to.” Rolland’s voice became calm. His eyes pleaded with Sean, and in that instance, more emotion came from him than he ever witnessed. “I swear to you, when this is done, I will allow you to do whatever you want to me. Get rid of me or completely change me, I don’t care. Just let me out.”
Sean turned toward the boulder. Lanker, his small body tired from the exertion, had fallen back on his butt, giving up on lifting the large rock that fell on Fram. He rubbed at his eyes as tears rolled down his cheeks. Sean had a similar emotion. He knew his one hope was in someone he detested, who created the entire mess they experienced, and who used to be a trusted companion.
Rolland’s eyes and their sympathetic appeal worried Sean. Rolland was incapable of such compassion, but obviously good at mimicking it. He was Fram’s only hope, and if Rolland was willing to help him, he had to let him. He had one choice. He had to release Rolland.
He stared hard at Rolland, the anger still in him, festering like a disease spreading quickly in his bloodstream. “Fine. I’ll do it. But you swear to me you’ll do no other harm to these children.”
“Sean,” Rolland said. His voice was calm and almost condescending. “Fram is all I care about right now.”
“You don’t care about anything,” Sean said.
Sean reached down to the dusty ground and picked up his clipboard. It had been the one thing that saved the entire situation. It gave him the ability to open the portal and bring the children to the end of the competition. The hard brown backer used to support the paper that sat on top for writing was much more than that. Sean flipped the papers off the back, a small cloud of dust puffing into the air. He tapped the upper corner of the clipboard and the brown surface transitioned into a computer screen.
“Hurry, please,” Tia said through her sobs.
Sean looked up to her; her gray jeans were nearly maroon from the dust that had settled on them. Even her bright red hair had dulled from the debris. A wave of guilt came over him that wouldn’t recede, but rather lingered there like a beached whale. These poor children. What have I done to them?
“It’ll be okay,” Bagger said as he stepped toward Tia and put his arm around her. “Dr. Traisal and Samor can save him. We can’t get hurt. We can’t get hurt.”
“That’s a lie!” Lanker suddenly said. He approached them with a look of anger. His faced turned red, causing the freckles on his face to disappear. Tears had dried on his face, washing away dust, and leaving trails of clean skin on his cheeks. “Fram said we couldn’t get hurt. But look at everything we went through. He lied to us! He did this.”
“How can you say that?” Tia yelled. “He saved us.”
“Only because....” Lanker began.
Sean’s time for dwelling on Lanker’s anger and disgust had to come later. He ignored the children’s argument, turning his attention to the monitor on his clipboard. He went into the software for Rolland’s cage, preparing to tap the button that would remove it. Rolland stared at him, waiting. But for what? His chance to save Fram? Or his chance to take over control of TAC? There was one choice, and Sean had to take it.
He tapped the button on the screen and immediately the cage around Rolland that stopped him from accessing any part of TAC’s software, lifted into the air at great speed, disappearing into a white, cumulus cloud.
“Thank you,” Rolland said, nodding his head. If any deceit was behind his words, Sean didn’t hear them.
Rolland ran the 30 feet to the boulder in a graceful stride, like a gazelle chased by a lion. He stopped a moment when he reached it. The cage around Sean also lifted up into the air, freeing him from the trap. Maybe Rolland was being sincere. He’s helping Fram and he released the cage.
Sean ran toward the boulder to find a sign of life from Fram. A wave of horror washed over him. If Fram was under the boulder, he couldn’t tell. But everyone around him—Rolland, Bagger, Tia, and Lanker—reminded him that Fram was under there, most likely dead.
“Bagger, Tia, Lanker, get over here!” Rolland called over to the children.
Tia and Bagger ran over without hesitation. Sean turned to see Lanker staying where he was, his arms folded across his chest, his head turned in disgust.
“I need you to help me lift this,” Rolland said. “My strength is … well, it’s hard to explain. But you two can do it.”
“What?” Bagger said with a confused look. “We can’t do a thing. We don’t have an ability.”
“Yes, you do. I’ve turned it on. You both have Super Strength. You should be able to lift the boulder.”
“But … how?” Tia asked. “We haven’t had them the entire time.”
“I’ll explain later. Now are you going to help or not?”
Bagger and Tia exchanged a look, and without a word, stepped up to the boulder, scooping their hands under it.
Sean knew this wasn’t right. The children never had the dosage of Bilt. Without the drug, a child’s brain reacted in an unpredictable manner upon exiting TAC. The impact could be dizziness, vomiting, or, as was the case with Sean Traisal’s son, death.
“Stop!” Sean said. Bagger and Tia took their hands away from the boulder. “Rolland, they can’t do this. Without the drug, the results could be—”
“Disastrous, Sean,” Rolland interrupted. He stepped up to Sean, towering over him, as if he had grown a few inches in stature. “They might get ill from this one moment of exertion, but Fram could die. Do you want that?”
Sean cowered as Rolland loomed over him. Fear and dread washed over his body, making him feel filthy for releasing Rolland. While he seemed to want to help Fram, his demeanor and tone said more. This man, no this thing, he created had turned into his worse idea.
“Fine,” Sean gave in to Rolland. He stepped toward him, adjusted his white lab coat, and moved toward the large boulder. “Fine. But I’m helping.” It was pointless since Sean would lack an ability, but he wanted to do whatever he could to help Fram. This would not be like Steven’s death.
Bagger and Tia moved toward the boulder, along with Sean and Rolland. The four of them squatted to reach their hands under the large maroon rock. Sean’s face came within inches of the boulder as a soft breeze blew some of the red dust off it and onto his face. Its chalky odor reminded him of times he taught the children normal things like math, science, and English. Those lessons, as he wrote equations and sentences on a chalkboard, were beneficial. Why he ever thought giving them abilities in a special room would be the same, he couldn’t answer.
“Lift,” Rolland called.
Sean lifted with all his might, the boulder moving inches from the ground. He strained as his muscles ached, begging for him to stop. The weight was more than he could bear. His arms gave out, dropping the boulder. He barely pulled his hands away within a second of the boulder crashing back to the ground. He imagined the weight would have crushed his bones into the fine dust that coated the rock, and he would have deserved it.
The other three pulled away safely, too. Tia again began to cry.
“Lanker, get over here!” Rolland called. “We can’t do it without you.”
Lanker hesitated in the distance. Whatever anger and frustration he had toward Fram, Sean couldn’t understand. But it must be something great and intense. Lanker didn’t respond, instead looking to the dirt and kicking at it with his left foot. He stared at the foot, bent down, and touched it. His head snapped up to the four of them, but he still said nothing.
“Wait a minute,” Sean said. “Why are we doing this? Just make the boulder lighter.” His words came out quickly in the moment, the children giving him confused looks.
Rolland turned his attention to Sean, staring at him for a moment.
“You can do that, Roll. It makes the most sense.”
Rolland turned his gaze back to Lanker and said, “Lanker, we need you! Fram needs you!”
Lanker stood from his position, bit the side of his lip, and ran toward the boulder. The boy appeared to have aged several years during the predicament he experienced. His lack of glasses gave him a more mature, proud, and confident look.
“Thank you, son,” Rolland said. He placed his hand on Lanker’s shoulder and smiled. Lanker turned his head away in embarrassment, but returned the smile to Rolland with beaming pride. “Now, reach under this boulder with us and help us save Fram.”
Lanker stepped up to the boulder, as did the other four. In their squatting positions as they prepared to lift the rock, they resembled sumo wrestlers preparing to fight—their conquest the giant rock in front of them.
“Lift!” Rolland called again.
This time, the boulder lifted with the weight of a feather. The change was astonishing. But he suspected the change had nothing to do with Lanker’s assistance. He had little time to ponder that thought as the boulder moved upward. The four of them now stood, Lanker with his arms outstretched, Tia and Bagger nearly the same, and Sean and Rolland with their arms slightly bent.
“Now,” said Rolland. The entire thing was within his control. Sean hated that. “We will bend down some and push up with everything we have. Ready.”
Sean bent down as instructed, the weight of the rock above him little more than a heavy box he lifted above his head. He hoped Rolland knew what he was doing.
As they began to push upward in a quick motion, they grunted. Even Rolland made a noise, despite the fact that he shouldn’t have had to. The large rock tumbled back in a quick motion, quietly tipping. Before completely falling, it hit the mountain behind it, causing a cracking of the rock and a thunderous boom.
Sean turned his eyes to the ground. Fram Gage lay on the dirt, impressed into it completely due to the weight of the boulder that had been on him. His left leg, bloody and torn, no doubt from the Fleck that chased them, bent in the opposite direction it should.
“Oh no, Fram!” Tia yelled. Bagger grabbed her around the shoulders, and she laid her head on his chest.
A tightness around Sean’s heart prevented him from breathing properly. All that came to mind was his son, lifeless, not breathing, the death that followed shortly after, and his guilt for having been responsible for it. The moment here was the same. Sean had killed again.
He ran up to Fram’s body, scooping him up from the dirt. He barely recognized him with the dust and blood covering his body. He cradled him like a baby, tears beginning to flow from his eyes. He feared there was no hope, and Fram had died.
As the tears blurred his vision like rain on a windshield, Fram’s bottom lip moved. He tried to say something. He was alive! Sean bent his head toward him, but the words were too quiet to understand. A soft breath blew across Sean’s cheek, lifting his spirits.
“He’s breathing. Hurry,” Sean said to Rolland. “We have to get him to First Aid.”
Sean ran at a speed he never managed before. He moved through the blowing dirt of TAC, passed his clipboard that laid on the ground, and toward a single tree that stood proud. Bagger and Tia followed close behind. Sean reached the tree, tapped a button on the side of it, and a door slid to the left, exposing the hallway of Biality Orphanage. Before running down the hallway to get to the First Aid Room, he turned to make sure Rolland was behind him to help.
Instead, Rolland held his hands on Lanker’s shoulder as he walked him to the exit of TAC. Lanker wiped at his eyes as Rolland bent down and said something to him. How could Rolland be so caring, compassionate, and sympathetic when he was at fault for everything the children endured over the previous eight hours?
“Rolland. I need your help,” Sean yelled.
Rolland looked to Sean, nodded, and turned back to Lanker. Lanker nodded his head, and Rolland turned away, running toward Sean. Lanker followed, but he walked. They exited TAC, Sean hopeful that this time a death would not occur.
Fram Gage and The Three Adversaries is available at the following locations:
Print edition available at Amazon and CreateSpace.