How can a bad day get worse? Well, read and find out...!
Not knowing where to go, Neil wanders aimlessly around the neighborhood for hours. He eventually ends up in the park. A young skateboarder scoots down the path towards Neil, skidding through muddy puddle and splashing the blond teen as he passes him by. Neil lifts his dripping arm and looks dispiritedly down his side at his now-splattered clothes.
"Perfect," The blond groans sarcastically. He shakes off the excess moisture from his arm, and then slumps down gloomily on a nearby bench. "What else can go wrong today...?"
As if on cue the PMR goes off. Neil rolls his eyes skyward and mentally kicks himself for ever asking such an obvious question and reaches for the blue, high-tech walkie-talkie that everyone on the team has.
"Yeah, what is it?" He asks in a cranky voice into the PMR.
"Neil, where are you now?" Jay's voice can be heard speaking at the receiving end.
"I'm in the park...why?"
"Hermes told us that Cronus and his goons have been spotted from a satellite image at an abandoned factory a couple of miles out of town. We are needed to go investigate immediately."
Neil's shoulders sags. "Oh great..." He replies in a sarcastic tone.
"Meet us at the west end of the park. We will pick you up there!" Jay orders
"Fine...see you there..." The blond says irritably. He turns the conversation off and slips the PMR back into his pocket.
Neil pulls himself up from the bench and shuffles his feet all the way to the west end. He makes it just in time to see the familiar orange, decked-out, pick-up truck pulling up on the shoulder of the road.
"Neil! Come on man, hurry it up!" Odie hollers from the back seat.
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" The now-former model grumbles.
"Geez, what is your problem?" Atlanta glares back at him from the front seat as he scrambles into the back seat of the truck beside Odie, Theresa, and Archie.
"Do you mind, I'm having a bad day here!" Neil shoots back.
"Well the whole world is going to have a bad day if we don't stop what ever Cronus is planning at this factory!" Jay calls out from the front seat. "Odie, any idea what Cronus would want with an abandoned factory?"
Odie peers down at his laptop computer. "He could want it for pretty much anything," The young dark teen says, checking it off with his fingers, "He could use it to store power, to hide unknown materials, or he could want to start up the old machines to build something. The possibilities are endless."
Jay nods grimly. "And all the more reason on why we need to get there fast!"
Herry's truck comes to a stop just a few yards outside of the closed gates, and the young heroes spill out of the vehicle. There they observe the site more closely. The factory looks as if no one has been near there for at least twenty years. All seems a little too quiet for the seven teen heroes' liking. One by one, the teenagers each start climbing up the wire fence.
"Good thing the fence isn't electrified," Odie remarks to everyone, "Or else our butts would be cooked, that's for sure!"
As soon as everyone is safely over the fence, Jay turns to them.
"Keep your eyes peeled everyone," Jay instructs them before they begin walking up towards the old building, "Cronus could be up to anything here. We need to be prepared for whatever he may throw at us!"
As the group move toward the factory Neil, by habit, pulls out his mirror and opens it up. He examines his sad face and ponders if he will ever get his life back...or will this be the beginning of a downfall to his too-short modeling career? This whole thing just feels like a terrible nightmare. Once Neil was happy being a model, but now he feels achingly empty. The remaining question is how will his life end up without his career?
"Neil, put that thing away!" Archie snaps, passing the blond teen on his way toward the factory door. "We are trying to find Cronus, not to check if your hair is out of place!"
With a heavy sigh, Neil does as he is told, folding his mirror slowly. Just then something in the mirror's reflection suddenly catches Neil's attention. He glances up quickly and notices that everyone but Jay is moving ahead of him. Again, looking back at the reflection in the mirror, Neil can see Jay walking behind him - and to his horror Neil notices something forming out of nowhere behind the young, determined leader. Neil instantly recognizes this image; a glowing orange, oval-shaped portal doorway of a sort opening up to reveal a dark starry void. Surprisingly, Jay does not even notice it behind him, as he is too focused on what is ahead of him.
A dark hand emerges through the portal, holding a familiar, razor-sharp golden weapon. As this deadly scythe is being lifted slowly into the air, it doesn't take a psychic to know where it will fall upon.
"Jay..." Neil gasps in scarcely audible whisper.
The young leader sighs in irritation and looks at his blond teammate.
"Yeah, what is it, Neil...?"
All at once Neil drops his mirror, twirls around and rushes toward the startled Jay. "Duck!" He screams at his leader.
Cronus lunges out from his portal and quickly swings his scythe down. But it misses Jay by inches as Neil throws himself at him, knocking him down. Neil flinches and jerks back a bit as the sharp end of the blade snags into the fabric, ripping it open across his mid-section and leaving a big torn hole in his favorite shirt. Neil groans inwardly; now he knows it is definitely time to get a new shirt!
"Blast...! I missed!" The God of Time blurts out in a curse, angry that he had missed killing Jay on spot.
"Cronus!" Jay shouts as he jumps to his feet, pulling out his trusty xiphos. In a flash, the rest of the team rushes up and surrounds Cronus with their own weapons ready in hand. The God of Time sighs in defeat.
"It would appear my opportunity here has passed. Time for me to go..." he grumbles, curling his lips up scornfully. Before the teenagers could move, he hastily lifts his hand up to summon his portal and quickly jumps through it to make good his escape.
"Man, I hate it when he does that!" Atlanta complains furiously. She starts kicking the sand beneath her feet in frustration.
"Tell me about it..." Archie groans in agreement.
"Whatever the case, guys, we got lucky this time..." Jay acknowledges quietly, thinking about how narrowly he had escaped being sliced in half. I should thank Neil for saving my life, he muses.
Meanwhile, Neil suddenly doesn't feel so good. What's the matter with me? Puzzled, he turns away from the team. Something is not right and he's not sure why. He had pushed Jay out of the way of Cronus' scythe, and the deadly weapon hardly touched him. Neil doesn't even feel any pain at all. Looks like my luck had not ran out on me after all! But now, he begins to feel a stinging sensation in his mid-section. Absently he brings his hands up to his stomach. It isn't till Neil feels a warm dampness that he has a frightening thought what might be causing the now-inceasing pain. Slowly, fearfully, he glances down. Crimson liquid is steeping through his fingers. Neil begins to hyperventilate. Oh, gods, no...!
Theresa lifts her face. She could sense the blond teen's distress, but she doesn't understand why. Curiously, she glances over her shoulder and is surprised to see him trembling and holding his stomach tightly. The gentle warrior, concerned, approaches him. "Neil...?" She raises her voice softly, trying to act calm so as not to startle him.
Everyone's attention is now directed toward Neil. He is standing with his back toward them, so they can not see what is ailing him. Nevertheless, Jay smiles gratefully as he walks up toward the blond teammate.
"Hey Neil, thanks for the save! I mean, it was a good thing Cronus missed, huh?" He declares, patting the descendent of Narcissus warmly on the shoulder.
"Uh, Jay..." Neil whispers, slowly turning his pale face towards the brunette leader. "I wouldn't exactly say he missed..."
Carefully, Neil turns around and removes his hands from his stomach. Atlanta is the first to notice a long, gaping wound with insides exposed for all to see.
"Oh my God...! He's bleeding!" She cries out in shock. Indeed, the blood is steaming down out of the wound, soaking Neil's pants and what is left of his ragged shirt.
For a moment everyone stare with their jaws hanging open, too startled to do anything. But the next instant they rush toward Neil and catch him in their arms just as he collapses. Neil had turned deadly pale, and it is obvious that he is losing so much blood that he can not able to stand on his own two feet anymore.
"No!" Jay gasps, horrified. Panicked, he turns to the strongest member of the team. "Herry, quick! Go get the truck!"
"I'm on it!" Herry replies with a nod and runs off toward the gate.
Neil lets out a groan of agony as his friends try to get him to lie down as comfortably as possible.
"It's going to be ok, Neil...Say something..." Atlanta says, not knowing what else to say or do in this situation.
"...Ouch..." He replies in more of a reaction to the pain rather then a response to Atlanta.
"I'd say that pretty much sums it up." Archie glances down at Neil, his eyebrows knitted with worry.
The sound of the truck screeching and slamming through the gate caused all the other teens to look quickly up. Herry pulls the steering wheel around, causing the truck to skid in such a way that the back end of it is facing his friends. Odie runs over and pulls the back door down. Jay and Archie hurriedly but carefully gather Neil in their arms and carry him into the back of the truck. While they are going around making sure Neil is comfortable, Odie jumps in and search around frantically for the first aid kit he keeps in the back just for emergencies like this.
Herry pokes his head out of the window and looks back at the others who are settling Neil in the back end of the truck. "Where should we go? The hospital?" He calls out to them.
Jay looks around at Herry and shakes his head. "No, the school," He says firmly, "The hospital is too vulnerable in case Cronus comes back to attack. Especially if he finds out that Neil is hurt!" With that said, Jay jumps in the back, along with Odie, to be with Neil.
Just as Theresa is about to climb into the back seat she notices Neil's mirror lying open on the broken concrete that would have been a part of sidewalk towards the factory. She stops long enough to bend down and scoop it up. Theresa, however, doesn't notice a few shards of reflective glass falling off as she picks up the golden-framed mirror and closes it. Then, after looking around to make sure there is no more danger lingering around the factory, she slips into the back seat of the truck, with Atlanta taking her seat besides her.
Archie hops in the front seat beside Herry. He looks at the brawny teen and nods grimly. "Let's go!" He declares. With a squeal of wheels spinning in the dirt, the truck takes off at top speed, heading for their school.
Meanwhile, Jay brings Neil's head carefully onto his lap so it can be served as a pillow for the injured boy. Neil whimpers in pain as his body flinches again. At this point it doesn't matter which position he is in, the agony of this injury seems to hurt even more. Jay sighs sorrowfully at his obvious pain. "Oh, man," The young leader murmurs. He shakes his head regretfully, feeling truly helpless to do anything for his friend. Neil's eyes slowly open and look up at Jay and Odie.
"I-I'm sorry..." He manages to gasp, wearing a guilty expression on his face as he clutches at his stomach in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding himself. Jay and Odie looks at him in surprise.
"Why are you sorry about?" The bespectacled genius asks, having found the emergency first aid kit and has just taken out large rolls of bandages and a bottle of antibiotics.
"I got hurt..." The blond boy lets out a whimper. Jay shakes his head and grabs hold of Neil's bloody hands, drawing them away from his stomach in order for Odie to tend to Neil's wound.
"It's okay, Neil. It's okay," Jay tries to assure his stricken friend. "It's going to be all right. It's not your fault. We're taking you to the school, and you'll be okay in no time. Don't worry!"
Neil groans and closes his eyes. Jay and Odie exchanges quick, worried looks. Hang on, Neil! The young leader thought anxiously, please just hold on. We can't lose you, not now...