Stacy finds herself in a world of trouble when she runs into Cronus...R&R Please and Thank you!
Feeling very annoyed, Stacy walks briskly through the park on her way home from school. Having met Neil's friends earlier this afternoon Stacy is none too impressed with them, particularly the way they sort of "ganged up" on her - and is even more aggravated by their suggestions she could be the one responsible for putting a "curse" on Neil and making him sick!
"Why is everyone against me all of a sudden?" She gripes to nobody in particularly. "I just wanted them to leave me alone!"
The amber-haired girl is so wrapped up in her thoughts she doesn't see a tall dark man strolling down the path toward her, nor notices him grinning at her as she passes him by. "Well, well," Cronus chuckles softly to himself. He slows to a stop and listens with great interest in what she is muttering to herself.
"I mean, I did nothing wrong here...I'm the victim, not the jerk who thought only of himself!" Stacy says disgustedly. She stops in the middle of the small bridge over the pond and looks down at her reflection in the water. With a heavy sigh, she continues, "What is wrong with me? So much for starting a new life in a new town... I though by meeting Neil that'd he'd be different!" Stacy's eyebrows lower at the thought of how he dumped her. "But he's just like the others. They all do nothing but use me then throw me away like I'm some piece of trash! Men...they are complete rats!"
"Aren't they all like that though?"
The sound of a deep, dark voice speaking to her from behind startles Stacy. She yelps, spinning around to see who is it that dares to sneak up on her. Standing before her is a tall, broad-shouldered stranger in a dark business suit grinning down at her with great amusement. She steps backward a pace, looking at him a bit warily.
The man holds up his hands as though to assure her he meant her no harm. "I'm sorry for startling you, my dear. I just happened to be walking by," he says in a sincere-sounding voice, "and overheard you talking to yourself!"
Stacy's face crumples. "Great," she sniffles, turning halfway away from him, "You probably think I'm crazy or something!"
"Oh, not at all!" the stranger quickly reassures her, "For you see, I myself tend to do just that, thinking out loud as well!"
"I see," Stacy turns again and sulks down at her reflection in the water, "It's good to know I'm not the only crazy person on this bridge!"
Cronus frowns with irritation at the young teen girl's snide comment, but decides to shake it off as he has other plans on how to handle her. He sidles up to her and murmurs in a kindly tone, "How about if we go for a walk? You can tell me everything that is troubling you." The dark Time God offers.
Again Stacy eyes him warily. He sounds pleasant and sympathetic, but.... "I don't know. The last time a total stranger came to me and offered to listen to my problems," She replies with a pout. "And she just decided to disappear without so much as a goodbye!"
Cronus nods to show he understands. "I assure you I am not that rude. I will be more than happy to listen, and I promise I won't leave you just like that!" He holds out his hand in a gesture of friendship and trust to the young attractive girl. "Shall we go for a stroll, then?"
Stacy stares at the proffered hand and frowns slightly. For some reason she has a bad feeling about this dark man. She knows she is not to trust strangers, and this person is definitely strange. But then again, she needs someone to listen to her, someone to talk with...about right now. Against her better judgment, Stacy begins walking along with Cronus. Unbeknownst to her, however, the evil Cronus is quietly leading her to a secluded spot where there will be no witnesses.
Jay sighs and leans up against the door frame of Neil's bedroom, watching absently as Aphrodite dabs a cool damp cloth on the blond teen's forehead in hopes it would bring down his temperature. Athena and Hera are standing off to the side of the room, observing Neil's condition and consulting gravely with each other concerning him.
Suddenly an unexpected newcomer appears right out of nowhere in the middle of the room, as though descending out of the sky. Without a preamble the visitor walks purposefully across the room to Aphrodite and speaks quietly to her, asking for her permission to sit next to Neil. To Jay's surprise, the visitor turns out to be no other than Echo herself. He blinks, for he had not expected her to make an appearance, and concluded that even though she is no longer enamored with Neil, Echo still has a soft spot for him.
When Aphrodite inclines her head once, giving her consent, the normally talkative nymph takes Neil's clammy hand in hers and sits quietly right next to his bed, not uttering even one word. The other two nymphs who work for Aphrodite are also sitting at the end of the bed, their tears streaming down their faces as they gaze sorrowfully at the semi-unconscious boy lying motionless beneath the blankets. Every so often Neil would let out a soft groan, even an occasional cough, but he is too sick and weak to open his eyes and speak to anyone.
Just then Jay hears footsteps behind him. Looking over his shoulder, Jay sees Herry approaching him from the stairs facing Neil's door. He looks past Herry and finds the rest of teammates - except for Odie - still sitting up and down the stairs, watching him expectantly. For some reason Jay smiles inward to himself; he finds it almost typical that Neil would still attract attention from about anyone even though he is confined to bed; totally oblivious to what is going on around him.
"Hey, Jay. How's Neil doing?" Herry inquires as soon as he reaches the young leader.
Jay tilts his head in the direction of the bed where Neil is lying. "You can see for yourself," he replies.
Curious, the brawny teen peers around the team leader into the room. When he notices Echo hovering over Neil, his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline in surprise. Shaking his head slowly, Herry turns to Jay with a questioning look on his face. "I don't get it. I thought Echo dumped Neil?" He asks.
Jay shrugs and turns to look at Herry. "Just because she dumped him, Herry, it doesn't mean she can't still care about him," He answers him quietly.
"Oh," Flustered, Herry bowed his head in embarrassment. Jay glances at Neil one more time, then claps his hand on Herry's broad shoulder. "Come on, let's leave Neil alone for now." With that, the young leader closes the door and turns around to look at the team mates on the stairs.
"Where's Odie?" Jay asks.
"He went down to his room a while ago, Jay. He said he had to do some serious thinking." Theresa answers promptly.
By looking at their faces, Jay can tell they all feel as bad as he does about Neil. He lets out a remorseful sigh and leans against the wall next to Neil's door. For a few moments nobody says anything as they contemplate gloomily the fact Neil may possibly be dying. The thought they might lose Neil any time is unbearable.
"This sucks!" Atlanta finally blurts out. Archie and Herry both nod in agreement. Indeed, they all feel so helpless...what can they do to save Neil's life?
Suddenly, Theresa lets out a loud gasp, and the teammates turn quickly to her. Theresa's eyes are unfocused, staring into nothing in particular. They recognize immediately the signs indicating she is having a psychic vision of some kind. As they wait, watching her anxiously, Jay leans toward her.
"Theresa...?" He whispers. Theresa blinks and looks directly at him, distress written all over her face.
"Jay, I saw Stacy...and /Cronus/. I think she could be in danger!" The clairvoyant teen announces agitatedly.
"What?" Jay exclaims, startled. "You know where they are, Theresa?" .
The red-haired girl nods. "Yes, they are somewhere in the park about five blocks away. I'll show you where!" She replies confidently.
"Then we haven't a moment to lose!" the team leader declares, straightening up, "Archie, you go get Odie, we'll meet you at Herry's truck."
"Right...!" Archie nods and takes off scurrying down a fleet of stairs towards the basement suite where Odie lives. Jay turns to the rest of his teammates.
"All right, let's go!" Jay commands, and with that he rushes off down the stairs to the entrance door with his friends hurrying after him.
In his basement suite Odie slouches in his chair in front of his computer, sulking. Usually in the past he would be spending time surfing on the internet, or playing one of his computer games - that would take his mind off any stressful situation he was in. Not this time. There is a strong chance that he may be losing one of his best friends, and it is tearing him up inside. It can't end like this! No matter how exasperating Neil can be from time to time, he is still a loyal friend and a valuable part of the team. How can they go on if Neil dies?
Depressed, Odie stares blankly at the black screen on his computer monitor, waiting desperately for an idea - ANY idea, no matter how insignificant - that might pop up in his mind that could save Neil's life. But nothing comes up.
Just then his eye catches something standing at the end of his desk. Moving his papers aside, Odie can see it is a polished, framed object. With a sad sigh he pulls it out and studies the tiny bronzed toy squirt gun embedded in the frame - a Christmas gift Neil had gave to Odie a few months ago. As he gazes at it, a memory from a few months ago comes filtering into his mind....
"Have you ever fired one of these babies?" Neil asks.
"It's a water pistil, Neil; I think I can figure it out." Odie replies.
"Good," the blond grins as he gives his much larger squirt gun a quick pump. "Lock and load!"
With a smirk, Odie shakes his head and chuckles softly. "Lock and load," he murmurs absently with a faint smile. He rubs his fingers slowly over the tiny bronzed squirt gun. "Still can't believe he bronzed a plastic squirt gun and framed it... Guess in his own special way, he does show he cares about us."
But as he continues looking down at his Christmas gift, the young genius feels incredibly guilty for not appreciating Neil's present. It is too late to do anything about it, though. Sighing regretfully, Odie puts the framed object back in its place. But instead of burying it under his papers, he leaves it standing up where it can be more easily visible and sits back to gaze thoughtfully at it for some time....
"Odie!" Archie yells, throwing the door wide open and barging into the room.
Odie nearly jumps out of his skin and spins around to stare in astonishment at his warrior friend. "Archie! What's the matter?"
"Stacy is in trouble! We've got to go rescue her from Cronus!"
"...And so now his friends are attacking me and telling me it's my fault he is so sick!" Stacy is fuming angrily as she walks through the more quiet part of the park with Cronus listening quietly besides her, nodding sympathetically from time to time
The truth is Cronus is actually enjoying the young teen's story. He chuckles inwardly when Stacy sarcastically describes the desperate expressions on the faces of Jay and the others. It sounds like there is nothing the young heroes could do to save their friend's life, and Cronus is practically beside himself with pure glee. However, when he turns to speaks to Stacy, he looks at her with a neutral face.
"It is a shame how some teens these days don't respect other people," He comments smoothly, shaking his head and making tut-tutting sounds, "Especially this Neil person, he most certainly sounds like a real jerk for the way he treated you!"
"I just don't get it. What makes Neil so special anyway?" Stacy cries out in frustration, waving her arms, "Why is it important whether he lives, or if he dies?"
The dark man pauses and gazes steadily at her. "Actually, my dear, I would prefer if that annoying brat dies." Cronus replies quietly in a voice that turns suddenly cold and cruel.
Shocked, Stacy freezes and her eyes widens. "Huh...?" A sudden chill runs down the amber-haired teen's back. An eerie feeling comes over her as she slowly turns to face the dark stranger. His face, once seemingly kind and sympathetic, is now hard and ruthless with no trace of compassion whatsoever, and his eyes glitters maliciously. Suddenly nervous, Stacy swallows a large lump that has formed in her throat. "W-what do you mean..."
Cronus sneers. "I am, of course, referring to Neil and the six kids you just mentioned," he answers, "They've all been thorns in my side for some time now. How I've dreamed of this moment, and it's all thanks to you!"
Stacy gapes at him. "I-I-I don't understand...what do you want with me?" Cronus does not answer; he just smirks at her. Realizing belatedly that she should have paid attention to her initial sense of warning concerning the mysterious and unexpectedly menacing stranger, Stacy starts to back slowly away from him.
"What I want from you..." Cronus flashes her an evil grin; one of his razor-sharp golden scythes materializes into his hand and he starts walking toward her, "is to make sure you will never get the chance to take back your wish!"
It is at this moment that Stacy realizes her life is truly in danger, especially when she gets a good look into his eyes and sees the pure hatred behind his red glare.