The Fourth Piece (Order’s Last Play #1)
by E. Ardell
Publication Date: July 18, 2016
Admitting what you are will end everything you know. Embracing who you are will start a war…
Life is great when you’re good-looking and popular…so long as no one knows you’re a vulatto. Being half-alien gets you labeled “loser” quicker than being a full vader. So it’s a good thing Devon, Lyle, and Lawrence can easily pass for human—until the night of the party. Nothing kills a good time faster than three brothers sharing a psychic vision of a fourth brother who’s off-world and going to die unless they do something. But when your brother’s emergency happens off-planet, calling 9-1-1 really isn’t an option.
In their attempt to save a brother they barely remember, Devon, Lyle and Lawrence expose themselves to mortal danger and inherit a destiny that killed the last four guys cursed with it. In 2022, there are humans and aliens, heroes and monsters, choices and prophecies—and four brothers with the power to choose what’s left when the gods decide they’re through playing games.
Book 1 in the Order’s Last Play series
THE BOARDWALK RIDES SUCK. THERE should be laws against roller coasters that can’t hit seventy-five miles per hour. Jumping off the roof’s a lot more fun.
“You look so bored,” Janelle purrs. She’s trying to glue herself to me. Every step I take, she’s right there.
She’s pressed herself against me in every line we’ve stood in, rode next to me on the rides, and even tried to get me to eat half her ice cream cone from Marble Slab.
She’s real cute and all, but Jeremy likes her.
I throw a glance over at Jeremy. It’s afternoon and the sun’s pretty high in the sky. Everyone’s sweating, but Jeremy’s a walking icicle. The Boardwalk has its own signature scent of salty ocean, waffle cones and cake, but over it all is the stink of Jeremy being pissed.
I give Janelle a grimace and walk closer to Reagan and Monique who are steady texting, each other, I bet.
Legs for days, Ballerina Reagan, shoots me a wary look and Killer Lips Monique keeps her eyes on her phone.
Damn. I don’t like Janelle because Jeremy likes her, and Reagan and Monique probably aren’t gonna talk to me because Janelle very possibly told them: Hands off, he’s mine!
I pick up the pace, outstripping the girls and Jeremy.
The Boardwalk is crowded. Cobblestone-paved walkways between the shops and restaurants are covered with families pushing strollers and chasing after brats.
Sprinklers erupt from the ground in the center of the two-story, outdoor shopping plaza and kids in bathing suits scream and splash in the recycled water. I head for the Midway Games plaza, passing by booths and games like tossing ping-pong balls in milk bottles.
“Lawrie! Can you win me something?” Janelle jogs up and tries to link her arm through mine. I keep my arms close to my sides, but this girl tugs with all her mini-might ‘til she gets her little arm through the crack she makes.
Okay. Enough is enough. “Janelle, look….”
“…cheated, ya alien freak! I’m not giving you shit!”
I halt in my tracks and turn. A crowd gathers around a strength testing game. I squint to see a stringy little guy with spiky green hair and jaundice, holding a large mallet over a wide peg connected to a tall strength-ometer.
The bell at the top of the meter rings and flashes: Hum-Dinger! Stringy Guy’s strong, but the guy in the muscle-tee running the booth looks pissed.
“I played by the rules,” Stringy Guy yells. His voice is surprisingly deep. “Hit the peg, win a prize.” He lets the mallet clatter onto the mat. “Give me the prize.”
“The rules aren’t written for aliens!” Muscle Tee shouts. “Get lost!”
“I’m not an alien! I was born in Atlanta!”
“Yeah, but where were your parents born, huh?”
Muscle Tee throws right back. “This game is for humans.
You can’t cheat with your alien powers.”
“I don’t have alien powers. I just look like this, okay? Now, come on. Give me the prize, so I can give it to my girlfriend and go home!”
“Yeah, that sounds good! Go home!” somebody from the crowd shouts.
I push through the crowd, ignoring people cussing at me for stepping on their feet. I need to be in front, right where it’s happening. My heart’s pounding, adrenaline’s pumping. I ‘gotta do something’ right now or I’ll bust. Maybe it’s because Stringy’s so little and skinny, or maybe it’s because Muscle Tee’s discriminating.
I couldn’t do anything for that YouTube kid, probably can’t do anything for my bro, but Stringy’s right here, right now.
“Lawrie!” A tight grip clamps around my elbow and I’m yanked backward until I crash into Jeremy and rebound. “What are you doing?” Jeremy grunts.
“Don’t know,” I mutter, snatching my arm back.
I have to jump up and down to see. The crowd pushes forward and the people in front of me get taller.
I barely make out Stringy and Muscle Tee now that so many people are between us.
“I said get lost!” Muscle Tee yells. I don’t hear a reply from Stringy, but I see the top of his head. It looks like he’s moving away.
“Give him the prize, jackass! He won it!” A man’s voice yells from somewhere in the crowd.
“Vulattie-lover!” Someone else yells.
So many people talk and yell at once, it makes my head swim—or maybe that’s just my sinuses. My head is full of helium; I feel myself floating forward. I shove people, guys, girls, I don’t care. I want to get to the front.
Jeremy’s following real close behind me, shouting.
“Lawrie! Are you crazy? Lawrie!”
Smack!—the first sound of a fist slamming into flesh. Grunts, screams and insults fly as the crowd turns into an angry mosh pit. People with kids grab their rugrats and run. Bodies crash into me, making me stumble.
I’m wading in an ocean of arms, legs and sharp elbows, not getting anywhere. Shizz. I could really use an alien power right now. If Lyle were here, he could do something.
Hell, Dev could probably kick everyone’s ass.
Screw this. A roar builds inside me, starting from my gut and rumbling in my chest. “Aarrrgh!” I lower my head, stick out an arm, and charge forward, football style. I knock a few more people out of my way, before I slam into somebody a lot bigger than me and stagger a few steps backward. The bigger guy grabs me and throws me into the person behind me. That person shoves me forward and I swing at the guy who threw me in the first place.
“Get outta here, kid!” A tall man, probably college- aged, wearing a Houston Texans jersey snarls at A big dude rams into college-aged man from behind and gets a fist in the mouth.
Someone grabs me under the arms and starts dragging and I use both elbows to catch them in the chest.
“Dammit, Lawrie! Let’s go!” Jeremy again. He’s like a bloodhound.
“You go!” I push him off and fight my way through the crowd. People are on the ground getting trampled, and I see Stringy. He’s down and getting stomped on by Muscle Tee and two other guys. There’s a girl standing on the counter of the strength booth, screaming and crying as she watches.
“Aaaaaargh!” I throw myself on Muscle Tee.
He’s a lot bigger than me, but I manage to knock him off balance and we both go down, me on top, punching his head. Rage sets me on fire. I see YouTube Guy and my brother down and out with no one to help them and I can’t stand it. I hate it.
“You little freak!” Muscle Tee shoves me off with one hand and I fall on my back and roll out of the way of his stomping sneakers, jumping to my feet.
A guy throws a swing at me and I dodge, but end up catching a hit from someone else. Pain erupts from the right side of my jaw, but it doesn’t stop me. ‘Gotta do something’ pulsates at maximum speed, and the balloon in my chest from last night comes back, but this one is filled with baking soda and vinegar. It shudders as it stretches. My head’s pounding, my heart’s jack-hammering.
It’s hard to breathe.
I fall on my knees. I know the ground’s hard, but it feels soft, inviting, like plopping down on Old Faithful.
I shake like a diabetic on a sugar crash. The sensation of a billion fire ants on Red Bull races under my skin. I wanna rip it off.
“Whassamatter, kid? Thought you could kick my ass?” A foot digs into the middle of my spine. I catch myself on my hands, and heat from the ground shoots through my palms like an atomic pulse, filling me to bursting point. White noise rises to a fever pitch and blocks all other sound as the shakes turn into slow, stomach- churning spasms. One-one thousand, shudder, two-one thousand, shake, three-one thousand…. The balloon explodes, and the vinegar, baking soda, Red Bull ants, and white lightning that tastes and feels like ‘gotta do something’ on crack gush into the ground.
The cobblestone beneath my hands splits fault-line style, the ragged fissure spreading as the ground quakes.
I hear Muscle Tee shout, “Whoaa! Earthquake?!”
Over the sounds of people fighting and crying, there are shouts of surprise and “What the hell?”
Police bullhorns fill the air. I don’t know what they’re saying. I don’t know what anyone’s saying anymore. I only see mouths moving. Muscle Tee and the guys with him run away. People scatter as rent-a-cops in black T-shirts flood the area.
I need to get out of here, but my body deflates. The earth calms as I lie down. The ground’s cool and better than any bed I’ve ever slept on. The Boardwalk is nothing but a wade pool of shapes and colors drifting around A rectangle splashes toward me. Is it talking? I don’t know.
Where’s Stringy Guy?
Did I help him?
The pool turns black.
And I feel nothing.
About the author
Ardell spent her childhood in Houston, Texas, obsessed with anything science fiction, fantastic, paranormal or just plain weird. She loves to write stories that feature young people with extraordinary talents thrown into strange and dangerous situations. She took her obsession to the next level, earning a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern Maine where she specialized in young adult genre fiction. She’s a big kid at heart and loves her job as a teen librarian at Monterey Public Library in Monterey, California, where she voluntarily shuts herself in rooms with hungry hordes of teenagers and runs crazy after-school programs for them. When she’s not working, she’s reading, writing, running writers critique groups, trying to keep up with a blog, and even writing fan fiction as her guilty pleasure.
- Three autographed book plates with a personalized message (the book plates have a unique design)
- Two autographed posters
- Two $10 Amazon gift cards