Star Legends – Chapter 1

A great blast of wind headed his way, but that was not the only worry the young man faced.  The cause was the most prominent danger, the fist of his mortal enemy.  Before he had time to react, Ace was thrown back by the blow, skidding slightly on the wet pavement.  Raising a hand to his mouth, he wiped away the blood that had accumulated there, though that was the least of his concerns.  His eyes stared coldly at the offender, the leader of another gang in the city, the Ravens.  Calling himself Crow, the man was huge, and his fighting skills just as great.  Ace had no way of defeating him, and he knew it, though he would never give up the battle.  The men had attacked his group, so he naturally had to defend the honor of everyone and not seem like a coward.  “You think that’ll stop me?” Ace questioned, grinning with his cocky statement.

“You’re dead, kid,” Crow told him, his expression telling anyone who noticed that he was quite angry.  “No one should even think they got a chance of beatin’ me!  I own this city.  You and your little group of punks are goin’ down.”  Gritting his teeth, Crow began to reach into his pocket, deciding to finish the fight while he could.  He grinned as a tiny piece of silver gleamed, and his hand thrust ahead of him quickly with the object.

Miraculously, Jack had avoided any direct attacks, something that did not happen every day.  Usually she had been hit several times by this point of a fight, but she was not about to complain.  Apparently the Ravens did not believe she could fight, but she had so far proved them wrong.  Still, she purposely did not pay attention to the fact that the man she battled was already injured, claiming in her head that it was his own fault.

The others, however, were not doing as well.  X and Spade had been battling two men together, and while Spade was still able to fight, his partner was nearly unconscious.  Off a little on his own, King had been faced with one challenger, both simply trading blows.  Each was quite bloodied, but neither man showed signs of stopping.  Queen had even been thrown to the ground and was scraped up a bit, but that was mainly due to the rain and her own clumsiness.

Joker, however, was not even close to winning.  The two who decided to work together against him were in perfect health and had only received a few punches from Joker, who had been quickly subdued.  One of the attackers held him down, the other kicking and taunting their victim.  He was bleeding badly, and he probably had a few cracked ribs from the strong blows.  Before long, he would be unconscious, both due to lack of oxygen and because of the searing pain shooting through each nerve in his broken body.

Noting Crow had drawn his switchblade, Ace was certain the man was completely serious.  A little frightened, he tried to remain calm and collected, looking for any openings he would have to disarm the gang leader.  If that was not possible, he knew he might not survive the attack, and he was certain that would be the outcome.  Closing his eyes tightly, he prepared for the blow.

After a few moments, Ace realized he had not been struck, and a glance at Crow told him he had been lucky.  The vicious man was staring with a shocked expression at a young girl and her companion, almost frozen with terror for the time.  The two new arrivals did not move from their positions on the sidewalk, so Ace guessed Crow was afraid of being caught.

“You’re a lucky son of a bitch.  Tell anyone what you saw the other day, and ain’t nobody even gonna be able to recognize your body,” Crow scowled, taking off from the scene.  His followers did their job as well, trailing soon after the boss.  Left behind were the seven members of Ace’s own gang, the falling rain washing away the fresh blood on each of them.  Finally, the mysterious couple that had shown up moved, the girl looking slightly worried.  The silver-haired companion of hers seemed to not care in the least, but he followed her anyways.


* * *


“Well, I really don’t know what happened, to tell you the truth,” Ace calmly began to explain to his team’s saviors after they had reached a safe house, or at least what he counted as one.  “At least, I didn’t at first, because we weren’t even the least bit prepared for the fight.  We were just passing by because Queen here needed a–”  He winced as the blond girl bandaged up his right arm, despite the fact that she was doing her best to not cause him any more pain.  “Hey, girl, why don’t you help Joker?  He needs doctoring more than I do.”  The leader looked at his comrade, knowing Joker probably had quite a few broken bones by just the way he had been laid.  He was a bit scared for his friend, Ace almost sure that the injuries would kill the poor boy.

“Yes, of course,” she answered, turning her head to assess the victim.  Her medical training was not even necessary to show her that he did need immediate attention, so she promptly moved to the couch two of the gang’s members had laid him on to rest.  She did not even carry the box of bandages with her, but she ignored that fact.  The dressings were not necessary.

“She has a name, you know,” the boy with silver hair muttered, not liking anyone calling his companion ‘girl.’  Sitting casually on the couch with his eyes closed, he was looking awfully annoyed.  He did not like babysitting anyone except for Star, and seven extra people to watch and take care of only irritated him more than usual.  He made no move to help doctor the others either, not caring if they lived or died.

Ace’s eyes narrowed for a moment as he stared at the rude young man, yet he remembered how he had been saved, so he quickly decided to not start any fights.  “Sorry, really.  I just don’t know it, that’s all.  I wasn’t trying to be rude, especially to you guys.  What is it?” he asked, trying to sound as sincere as possible.  “And what’s your name, too?”

“Her name is Star,” the boy answered, “and I’m Orion.”  He knew he was being very short, but associating with gang members was not his idea of conversation.  In fact, it was just asking for the police to show up at any moment and arrest both him and Star for helping some criminals.  Besides, there would be no trouble finding them–all the police or that other gang had to do was follow the conspicuous blood trail since he doubted the rain could wash it all away easily.

Star briefly glanced at Orion, but she refrained easily from being cross.  He probably would not have seen her eyes anyways with his being closed, and even if he did, he would more than likely have ignored her.  Biting her lower lip, she knew the boy Ace had called Joker was seriously wounded.  With a bit of hesitation, the girl let her hands hover over his chest, a pale golden light surrounding Joker.

“Whoah, what are you doing?!” Jack called, the girl with the boy’s name rushing over to see what was happening to the one she apparently liked.  She saw similar startled reactions on her teammates’ faces as she crossed the room, sitting down next to Star and staring at the blonde in shock.  Star did not answer, nor did she even acknowledge the raven-haired girl’s presence.

“She’s being overly generous is what she’s doing,” Orion stated, still not opening his eyes.  He seemed even more displeased with the situation, this time because Star was using magic.  She was being much too nice to this team of delinquents, and if only he had power over her, he would long have sent them away, back into the streets where they belonged.  Somehow, though, if anyone noticed, he took orders from the younger female without even outwardly questioning her.

Before much time had passed, Star removed her hands from Joker, the light fading.  A few more seconds went by, and miraculously, Joker sat up from his position, causing many stares from the gang.  He too looked rather dazed, giving repeated glances at where his injuries were before; they had vanished.  “Wha–what happened?  I thought I was gonna die…?”

“Joker!” Jack called happily, hugging the boy tightly.  “You’re all right!”  She smiled, forgetting her worries of the light being some possible killer.  The girl knew she would have to apologize to Star for her suspicions, but for now, she just was glad her partner was okay.  She did not understand how or why he had been saved, but the important thing was that he was safe.  That was all that mattered to her.

With a forced smile, Joker placed his hand lightly on Jack’s head to comfort her, though he was still rather surprised and did not even question why she was hugging him. “Yeah, I’m fine, but I don’t really know–”  He stopped, his eyes falling on the blond girl that was sitting patiently beside him.  “Wait, it was you, wasn’t it?  I don’t know how or why, but thanks.”

Star nodded, her focus turning back to Ace, who required a little more medical attention.  He appeared to be fighting the injuries and trying to pass them off as nothing as to let his teammates be treated first, but his fight with the leader of the gang had nearly given the man a concussion from a blow to the head.  “Please, sir, continue your story from before.  I shall try to be more careful.”

“Oh, no, you were doing fine.  I’m grateful, really.” Ace told her with a smile, adding, “Oh, and it’s Ace.  You don’t have to call me ‘sir.’”  Remembering where he was in the explanation, he decided to continue once again.  “Yeah, anyways, like I was saying, we had to get Queen here a new outfit for her job interview on Monday, so we were just walking to the closest clothing store.  I don’t guess I even thought that we were going to have to pass the Ravens’ territory until that bas–” he stopped, remembering to keep his manners, “I mean, until Crow decided to step out of his alley when we walked past.”


            “Well, well, well, what are punks like you doin’ here?” Crow questioned, eyeing the group of seven curiously with a dangerous glare in his dark eyes.  “Ah, if it ain’t the Little Loser’s Club,” he taunted, grinning for a moment more before he became deathly serious.  “It’s little pricks like you that give us hardcore gangs a bad name.  I heard from my man Blackie that that new piece of trash you guys recruited was tryin’ t’mess with him.  Any truth t’that?”


“I knew that whatever I said wasn’t going to make a difference.  He was still going to start a fight, and we couldn’t win it.  From what I gathered, Blackie, one of Crow’s flunkies, had been attacked by Spade, or at least I think that’s what Crow said.  I guess he was sore because our guy had beaten him, and no matter what, he wanted to prove to us that we had to lose.”


“Yeah, so what?” Ace had answered bravely, his hand casually moving to hover over his right; the gun he always carried was perhaps his last resort, depending on the type of battle the Ravens would start.  “You really think he’d just stand there and take a beating from someone as low as you or any of your flunkies?  I know I wouldn’t, and I’d never expect anyone else to do it either.”


“Well, it kinda turned out that I was being a bit cocky, and maybe what I said wasn’t the best choice.  Still, I had said it, and I meant it.  Nobody should have to take anything from that group of monsters.  I don’t really think any of us were prepared for the next thing, though.  He was so vicious and bloodthirsty–even more than usual.  I would guess he lost a bet or something, but that’s really not the point.”


            Crow grinned once again, his eyes full of hate and an ominous presence of death, the smirk obviously not one of any sort of happiness.  “You just asked for your death, and since I’m in a givin’ mood, I think I’m gonna grant your sorry request.”  His smirk was wide, the devilish appearance enough to make anyone shudder at the mere thought of it.  Without warning, he charged Ace, shouting, “I’ll see you in Hell!”


“Yeah, and then there was a big fight.  I don’t really have to explain that, though, since it’s pretty much self-explanatory.  You can see the results, and it’s obvious they thrashed us.  He was even about to knife me if you two didn’t show up, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the only one killed.  Thanks for helping us–you saved us all.”  Ace concluded his story with a sigh, glancing at Star and wondering her opinion on the matter.  She had already finished his bandaging and was sitting between him and the agitated Orion, and Ace could only guess that she seemed interested.

“I see,” she responded, not one for many words.  “I am glad to know Orion and I prevented needless death.”  Star looked thoughtful for a moment before she stood, nodding to Ace in respect and walking over to see if the other five she had not treated were helped properly.  The girl moved towards the one called King, who seemed to have been scraped up a bit, but he refused her help.

“He was after us because of me,” Spade suddenly declared, having been quite silent about the issue before then.  However, he knew the information he could provide would probably change Ace’s view of the battle, and while Spade was not known for talking much, he still had to say what he knew.  “I saw something.”  Ace had heard a little of the story, but Spade now wanted to tell him the rest.  It was the least he could do, after all.

“I didn’t know what he meant by that.  He said not to tell anyone what I saw, but I didn’t see anything.”  Ace looked at Spade questioningly, figuring the sight he had seen must have been quite awful for Crow to protect it.  After all, the leader of the Ravens loved to brag of his accomplishments, no matter how cruel and inhumane they were.  If it would make someone fear him, Crow would surely commit any crime.

“That was for me.  He was trying to harm a little girl.  I was not going to watch, so I took action.”  Spade finished quickly, using as few words as possible.  He did not like to talk much, but he wanted to rebel against the Ravens, in a way, by telling the story.  The newest recruit was much deeper than the others would ever hear about, but he would never let them know.  “This was my fight, not yours.  No one should have been hurt but me.”

“Hey, look, I hate to interrupt, but,” a woman said, stepping into view, “what are you all doing in my house?”  She was slightly tan with beautiful long hair, and despite trying to keep a businesslike appearance, the woman seemed quite indignant as her eyes turned to Orion, then to the girl.  “Star?” she questioned, figuring it was her idea that brought the strangers there.


* * *


Almost jumping from her position, Star stood abruptly to face the woman.  If any person in the service of the army could have beaten her stance, it was very difficult to find him.  She stood perfectly still and straight, almost as if she were afraid to move, her voice clear and soft.  “They were attacked, and I had to help them,” she explained quickly, her eyes almost pleading with the person in charge of the household.

Orion opened his eyes when Star spoke, standing beside her as well.  “No, ma’am, it was my fault.  I brought them here,” he stated, causing many glances to turn his way.  The boy was not as rude as he put himself off to be, though he did not care if anyone thought otherwise.  Star, however, would not be in trouble if he could help it, so he would protect her no matter what.

The woman looked at Orion crossly, scoffing at his words with a frown.  “You’re a horrible liar, Orion,” she answered, her eyes glancing the entire gang over with a cold stare.  Her eyes soon brightened, though, and the woman smiled.  “I’m Celeste, and this is my house.  Star and Orion are here because of their grandparents’ wishes,” Celeste told the group, glancing at the two other residents, “though they can be removed if they abuse their privileges.”

“I apologize, ma’am,” Orion said with a bow, matching glances with Star as he pulled back up from the position.  He was certain Star was not happy that Orion took the blame, but he was sure she knew better than to think he would not have tried.  The boy waited for some sort of punishment, startled after a moment when none came.  He looked to Celeste questioningly, though defiance never left his eyes.

“Orion, you’re too tense.  Lighten up,” Celeste told him, walking abruptly towards Jack.  Rather rudely, the woman grabbed the younger girl’s chin, turning her head in the light until her whim was satisfied.  “Yes, you are her.  I never figured it would be this easy to find you.  Starlight,” she said, looking at Queen right after, “and Starbright.  And then Mizar and Perseus must be two of you men.”  Celeste was quite satisfied by her discovery, though she had clearly startled everyone else.

“Whoa, lady!” Jack disagreed, her hand holding her neck as if she had just been in pain.  “I’m Jack, not Starlight.  Those other people I’ve never even heard of either, so I think you’re confused.  I know it’s gotta be a shock to have gang members in your house, so should I help you to a chair or something?” the girl asked, her tone quite earnest for her words.

“I beg your pardon!” was her retort, Celeste’s glare sharp on Jack.  “If it were not so, I wouldn’t dare say the likes of you and your little ‘buddies’ were of royalty.  Neither you nor Starbright were raised properly, and your guards probably send you out to battle more than they would protect you, as their jobs require.  Don’t say for a moment that I’m confused.”

Jack, or Starlight, as she was now being told her name was, tensed and ducked behind Joker.  The man had barely gained his energy back from the earlier incident, but Jack had complete faith in his abilities.  Besides, all she had to do was be out of sight of that deranged woman in order to give a good snappy comeback to her.  “We’re orphans!  There’s no way on Earth we could be any sort of royalty.  Besides, if we were, wouldn’t we be in England instead of Chicago?  Think about it.”

Orion, now back to his usual gruff attitude, shook his head.  “Don’t you dare speak to her that way.  Of course there’s no way on Earth that you could be princesses; you hail from Polaris.  Got it?”  He opened his eyes, those cold blue orbs watching Starlight’s trembling hand behind the bewildered Joker.  Everyone else had expressions matching that of the gang member, all except Star.  She was not fazed by the events, for she had grown up knowing the truth, or as much as he and Celeste had let her know.

“Stop lying to us!  We’re not as stupid as you think we are!  Just because we’re in a gang doesn’t make us trash that believes in that nonsense!”  Jack looked as though she was about to cry, and she might have done so had she not learned to be tougher than that.  The fact that these two were telling her of a family that she had always longed for, no matter royalty or homeless bums, upset her.  It was all lies, and it hurt.  In fact, she could not stand to stay in there any longer, and before anyone knew, the girl rushed out the doorway.


* * *


Somehow, the sky was much darker than she remembered.  The bleak gray clouds hung ominously in the thick, humid air.  Whenever a breeze decided to test its strength, Jack was almost knocked to the concrete by the force.  The girl shivered in spite of the overbearing heat of the summer, her eyes darting quickly to watch each side of the street.  Never had she ventured out alone in Chicago, for Ace had always sent someone with her.  The unspoken fright she felt made it clear to her that there was definitely a good reason for his actions, and she almost wished she had not left so suddenly.

No, that was not true.  She was glad to have left that awful house.  That insane woman had really tried to hurt her, and any more of those lies might have somehow brought the poor girl into some strange delusion that perhaps what was being said was indeed the truth.  Even that rude boy with the silver hair seemed to be trying to force the cruel joke.  The blond girl with the sad eyes, though, was a person Jack regretted leaving.  Apparently the two she lived with had broken her with a similar method.  That girl was even familiar to her; perhaps she had been an orphan as well and messing with the homeless children was some sort of game to Celeste.  A chill ran down Jack’s spine as she thought of her friends and her gullible sister.  Hopefully they would not be caught in the trap.

Something quite hard slammed down on her shoulder, and Jack was brought back from her thoughts.  She turned abruptly, seeing a black-gloved hand resting there, the fingers tightly gripping the jacket she wore.  “Huh?” she asked, moving her head slowly to see the owner of the hand.  Before that was even achieved, another hand, which she supposed belonged to the same person, quickly covered her mouth in order to stifle any sound.  Her eyes grew wide as a familiar whistle, one resembling a birdcall, sounded from her captor’s lips.  He had to be one of them.  As she was forced forward, Jack felt a few stray tears escape from her eyes.


* * *


After searching for quite a few hours, Ace consented to the fact that Jack was much faster than he thought.  However, that did not put his fears to rest, nor did the fact comfort anyone else.  The six remaining members of the Royal Flush gang were searching in pairs for their teammate, and even that obnoxious Orion and the magical Star were looking.  Chicago was too dangerous for Jack to be out alone, and the fast approaching darkness of night would completely conceal her.  They had to find her fast, or he would have to assume the worst, something he dreaded.

“Ace!” King shouted, running up with his partner and two others from the gang.  As soon as he reached the leader, the young man caught his breath, thrusting out a crumpled piece of paper that had been refolded neatly in half.  “We tried the apartment, and this was taped to the door.”  King looked up solemnly at Ace, noting the man probably already knew what to expect.

With a discontented expression, Joker stared at the note.  “They…” he began, trying to choke out the words from his dry throat.  He brought his eyes slowly up to meet Ace’s gaze, deciding to confirm the suspicions before he could even read the words on that menacing message.  “Ace, they got her.  They got Jack, and who knows what they’re going to do to her!” Joker spoke, his voice wavering with every syllable.  It was his fault, he wanted to believe, and he would gladly take her place in an instant.  He should have followed her right when she left, and Jack would have been safe.

Ace’s grip tightened over the paper, wrinkling the thin sheet even more than it had been before he had taken it from his friends.  After a moment, he smoothed the letter out and unfolded it, his hands shakily bringing the item in front of his face.  The words were scribbled hastily and very hard to read, the writing obviously on an education level below that of the fifth grade.  Still, they screamed in Ace’s head as he read them:


2 the litl loosrs-

WE got yur gurl.  2 git her bac, go 4 rodes down frum hueys store.  B here bi dark or WE du whut WE want wit hur.  Gots it?



Towards the end, the common seal that proved the letter was legit was included.  A bloodstain was smeared on the bottom left corner, one known to be of the victim they had captured.  Queen fell to her knees behind Ace, and as he noted her reaction, he shredded the paper angrily and tossed it to the damp concrete.  “Damn them!” he yelled in rage, his foot crushing the strands that did not flatten to the ground immediately.  “And damn that bastard Crow!  How dare he even think of something so cruel!  No human would ever do something like that!”

Spade clenched his fists, shaking his head.  “He’s not human, though.  No way he could be.”  He remembered the young girl he had helped rescue earlier on that week, and this seemed like some sort of punishment.  That random act of heroism seemed to have started all of the trouble.  “If only I hadn’t rescued that girl, then maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

“No, don’t say that!” Queen replied, looking up from the ground at last.  “Don’t you regret that for a moment.  You did what was right, and that’s what you should have done.  This isn’t your fault.  It’s that damn Crow and his gang’s fault.”  She grew silent for a moment, thinking to herself.  Softly, she said, “And he’s going to pay for it.  He won’t get away with this.”

“Yeah, we’ll get him,” X agreed, looking thoughtfully down the street.  “I’m sure Jack’s givin’ him hell already, though.   She’s tougher than we give her credit for.”  He tried to smile in spite of the overall mood of the gang, just to give everyone hope.  In his mind, though, he wanted to kill Crow, and he doubted the police would even send him to jail for it.  He planned on receiving a medal for his trouble rather than any punishment.  Killing that monster would help everyone in the city.

“What’s everyone moping around for?” Orion’s voice sounded, causing everyone to glance in his direction.  His search brought no results on Starlight’s whereabouts, and he was tired of looking.  Star explained to him that they could not give up so easily, but he knew it was hopeless.  From the unhappy expressions of the faces that greeted the two, Orion guessed the runaway was either dead or injured, and she had to be in someone else’s hands.  After all, he did not see her anywhere, so that had to be the case.

“Get ready, Orion,” Ace spoke, determination washing over his being.  “That gang from earlier got her, and we don’t know what those bastards have done to her.  We’re gonna go beat the shit out of them now, so just stay back.  This is our fight this time, and we don’t need anyone to rescue us.”  Without another word, Ace began his trek to the designated area, the gang following suit with Orion and Star trailing behind them.


* * *


“Heh, no wonder he keeps you around,” Crow teased, his grin one of pure evil.  “Yer mighty fine, for a kid, that is.  Whaddaya think about joining our posse instead?  Drop them losers, and you could be m’girl for a while.”  The man watched Jack with great interest, his hand forcefully gripping her chin to make sure he could see her every second.  She was only fourteen, he knew, and while he was twelve years her senior, he could still have a little fun.  Besides, it was nice to offer, though he figured after he killed her friends, he would still do whatever he wanted with her.  Oh, and what he wanted.  That sinister grin never left the lecherous man’s face.

Jack gasped, her eyes wide with fear.  The others had always shielded her from things like this, mainly because she was the youngest.  Realizing that the gang had always protected her, she also decided that she had to be strong; they would still protect her.  Ace, Queen, Joker–all of them–would be there shortly to save her, so she would be fine.  With her newfound courage, the girl’s features hardened, she so angry that she spit at the awful man before her.  “Bite me!” she exclaimed, struggling in his grasp.

Outraged, Crow let his other hand forcefully slam her shoulder into the brick wall behind her, his grip tightening on her chin.  His coal eyes on fire, the man was prepared to have his way and kill her there, but he restrained himself from that harsh of a punishment; she was still necessary.  “Bitch!” he shouted, his hand moving from her face and outward, fist curving into a ball.  With anger, he forced that same hand back, punching her in the cheek harshly.  “I was tryin’ to be nice to ya, but I can see you’re too stupid for that!  You had yer chance, and after yer little punk friends are dead, I’m comin’ after you.  I always get what I want.”

Falling to her knees, Jack felt the sharp pain of the blow pulse on her face.  Still, she tried to ignore it, but she wanted to cry.  No, she could not cry, no matter how much it hurt.  She had to be strong and believe in her friends, because they had never let her down before now.  Her eyes wandered to the street, watching the only entrance to the dark alleyway that Crow had made his home.

Suddenly, the girl tried to stand and run, despite her binding.  However, her retaliation was short lived, one of Crow’s henchmen grabbing her from behind and stopping her escape.  She looked shocked, but she did not struggle in his grasp.  Her thoughts were still on the move, even if she was not.  Had what she seen really been true, or was her mind already starting to trick her?

“Crow!” a familiar voice screamed, Jack’s face brightening as she heard the voice.  “Get your ass out here and give us Jack back, now!”  Ace’s strong, unwavering voice was clear and commanding, just as she had remembered it.  She wanted to call out to him and the others, but she did not do that.  She did not want to distract him, after all, because Crow would definitely use that time to attack.

“Well, well, finally decide to show up, did ya?  ’Bout time.”  The fearsome leader made his way towards Ace, his hand moving quickly to rid his face of the saliva Jack had used as a weapon earlier.  Crow had regained his cool composure, the malicious grin once again crowning his deadly features.  “I figured ya would get scared of dyin’ and not even come, but here you are.  This bird o’ death is gonna make it quick, though–quick and painful.”  His head fell back abruptly, of his own accordance, and the rest of the Ravens moved into position behind their leader.  In their hands were pistols, something that went against every rule of the accepted gang etiquette.

His eyes wide, Ace glanced over all of the members, especially noting the guns they held.  “What the hell?” he questioned, angrily glaring at Crow.  He knew the man was ruthless, but that sort of weaponry was something he never expected would be turned on them.  Sure, they all had guns and even knew how to use them, but the items were mainly for looks and the occasional warning.  This, however, was no warning, and all Ace could do was watch as each man’s grubby fingers curled their tightest around the sensitive triggers.

A horrified scream pierced the air, the voice easily identifiable as Queen’s.  Ace’s eyes were closed, and all he heard besides that cry was the firing of the shots, a bit of metal clanging, and then silence.  He cringed at the thought of Queen’s shriek, desperately hoping she had not been hit, but he did not hear any of the bullets penetrate anything.  Slowly he opened his eyes, wondering why their perfect aim had missed him and the others.  Half expecting to already be dead, Ace saw Orion standing in front of everyone, his sword drawn.  The boy was uninjured, and at his feet, eight bullets laid in the now dented concrete.

Crow quickly ordered another round of shots to be fired, though his voice was no longer calm.  He was in shock over the fluke that had somehow stopped all of the first set of bullets, and even more so when Orion’s lightning-fast movements blocked the second.  “What are you?” he questioned, pulling his own gun out of his trench coat.  With fright slowly taking over the man’s mind, Crow fired until his gun was empty.  Still, when the redness that clouded his vision passed, the boy remained, his platinum hair greatly defining his iron stance.  Crow stood, mortified, wondering how a sword could have blocked bullets.

“Let her go,” Orion commanded, his silver weapon in front of him to support his demand.  His cold blue eyes never left the gang leader, and he did not move from his position.  The guard felt no reason to do anything just then, but Crow had not made any notion that he would obey.  After several seconds, Orion’s countenance dropped, surprise appearing on his face.  Crow was laughing.

The man laughed hard, but whether the humor was either for a plan or for insanity, no one but Crow knew.  Even his gang members were startled, at least until he spoke.  “Turn your gun on the girl,” he instructed to one of his members, nodding his head to the one holding Jack.  “No one messes with us without consequences.”  With that, he looked back to the silver knight, who did not seem to be enjoying the new plan.

Jack herself was not too keen on the idea, but by then, she wanted out of the miserable alley.  “Let me go!” she screamed at once, fire suddenly appearing on the one holding her.  As commanded, he let her go, trying miserably to douse the flames.  Shocked, Jack looked at him for a moment, but she quickly regained her senses and ran towards her group.  She was glad to know the one with the gun had not fired, and a short glance in his direction showed her that he was too overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of fire to care if she escaped.

Crow’s eyes again showed his surprise, and before anything else could happen, he took off from the area.  He was not ready for battles that ended so strangely, and he did not even care if his gang members were left behind.  He knew they would follow, and if they did not, he could always find others to take their place.  His skin was the most important.

Jack, on the other hand, walked towards the strangeness.  By then, she already understood everything, the fire clear to her at last.  Those strange sudden combustions of nearby objects in the past were no coincidence; she had caused them.  With a smile on her face, she felt stronger than she ever had before, her confidence clear on her face.  “See that, Orion?  I can take care of myself, thank you.”

He looked at her for a moment, understanding also that she really was a princess of Polaris.  Silent for a time, he finally spoke.  “Don’t ever do anything stupid like that again.”  After he had finished his chiding, the boy turned around, leaving Jack–Starlight–with her mouth gaped open.  As he passed, he took Star’s wrist softly and pulled her along after him, he deciding to go home.  For some strange reason, though, everyone else followed him as well.  Maybe, he guessed, they finally did not think he was making everything up and that ‘outrageous’ story really was the truth.


* * *


“So, what you’re saying is that I’m some magical princess from a star?” Jack questioned, sitting on the couch with her legs and arms crossed.  She was still very doubtful, but with the display of fire at her will, she somehow had become more willing to discuss the matter.  Waiting on a response, her eyes did not leave Celeste’s face, wondering if everything she heard was true or not.

“Yes, you are Starlight, second in line to the throne on Polaris,” Celeste assured, glancing in Queen’s direction.  “And you are the third in line, Starbright.”  Nodding, the woman then momentarily focused her gaze on Star, but she quickly looked back to Jack.  “I bet you’re skeptical about the star thing, though, right?  Let me tell you now that Polaris is protected from outsiders, so that’s why it shows up as just a ball of gas with Earth’s technology.  Pretty much all of the stars are like that.”  Celeste nodded her head again, trying to think of anything else she might have to explain to the girls.

“Why do we need to go back, then?” was Queen’s inquiry, figuring they would all have to know the answer eventually.  There had to be some reason they were on Earth, and in her mind, she was actually willing to believe the story.  It seemed to fit with everything, though perhaps she was only being gullible.  She had been known for being tricked easily, after all, but she was also certain Ace would protect her from any harm that could possibly arise from the situation.

“Your mother, the queen and current ruler of Polaris, has gone missing.  Her Majesty Cassiopeia, your grandmother, had the idea of calling you three girls back to the castle in hopes that you could find her.  You being Queen Stella’s daughters and blessed with the special powers begotten to the royal family, she was insistent that you and your guards could locate your mother.”  Celeste looked thoughtfully to the ceiling for a moment, trying to recall any other details that could help in the mission briefing she happened to be giving.  In truth, she had hoped they would be told once they arrived on Polaris, but she could not withhold the information if the story was to be believable.

X decided to try his luck, so he raised his hand in the air for his question.  “Yeah, that’s fine and all, but I just want to know how come nobody remembers any of this?  I mean, it doesn’t sound like something very easy to forget.”  Satisfied with the inquiry, he let his hand fall slowly, retracting his arms to cross them in doubt, just as Jack had done.  Everything was too unreal.

“Look, she’s not lying, okay?” Orion objected, his cold eyes busily jumping from person to person.  “It has something to do with magic, but I’m sure Her Majesty knows more about it.  She’s got the details of the situation.”  His words were very defensive, but by then, everyone had automatically assumed that Orion always acted that way.  He turned his head away from everyone, acting indignant towards them all.

Silent for almost the entire discussion, Ace finally decided on what he wanted to say.  “Prove it, then,” he stated, causing everyone to look at him with curiosity.  “Take us to Polaris and show us the world.  I think that would do better than any explanation.”  He smirked, stepping forward casually.  “Can you do it?” Ace taunted, an ultimatum that he knew would decide the truth of everything.

Hours seemed to pass, though the silence only lasted a few seconds, really.  Finally, Celeste answered his command.  “Fine.  The princesses and their guards may enter, but I am afraid the other three of you will have to remain behind on this world.”  She cocked her head to the side, letting her arms drop to her sides as she walked a little towards the middle of the room.  However, she did nothing, waiting on a reaction to her last comment.

“What?  Why?” Jack asked, worriedly gazing in Joker’s direction.  “And how do we know who mine and Queen’s guards are?  You can’t tell just by looking!”  She hoped desperately that Joker happened to be one of the guards going back, but she said nothing.  The fact that Celeste had said three members would have to be left behind proved the guards were part of the Royal Flush gang, but how did she even know that?

“There is a special energy signal given off by people not born on this world.  I can read it, and I am sure Star can as well.  You will also come to understand it in time.”  Smiling, she nodded to Star, deciding to give her a chance to show her power, possibly as further proof.  “Star, please point out the guards, since they don’t know themselves.  We’ll give them a little demonstration.”

She blinked, not expecting to be called on so suddenly.  With a nod, Star agreed, closing her eyes for a moment.  When she had chosen the proper people, she opened them, her eyes fixed on Ace.  “You are Mizar, guard of Starbright,” she stated simply, her tone very eloquent.  Then her gaze moved across a few other members, finally resting on King.  He looked shocked, and even more so when she explained who he really was.  “Perseus, protector of Starlight.”  With that, she fell silent once again, her seemingly usual state.

“No, I’m not a guard,” King denied, trying to laugh off the situation.  “I can’t even protect myself half the time, so I think you’re wrong there.”  He looked at Ace, waiting on the man to give a similar response, but somehow, Ace did not look like he was going to complain.  Of course, though, King figured that was due to the fact that he would stay with Queen.  But what of everyone else?  Surely Spade or even Joker would have been more suitable as a guard than he, right?

“If Star says it, then it’s true,” Orion retorted, relaxing as though he were already prepared to leave.  “Now that that’s settled, let’s go.  We’ve wasted enough time on this, and we need to begin our search as soon as possible.”  He looked at Star, his gaze causing her to immediately move to follow him.  Ace and Queen–Mizar and Starbright, that is–also followed the silent order, as did the man now called Perseus.  However, Jack did not move.

“I don’t want to go!  It’s all lies anyways, so there’s no point.”  She looked down to the ground, pulling her legs up to her chest.  No, she did not want to go without Joker.  In fact, leaving any of them behind, abandoning them, would be horrible.  She could not do it so easily, especially not for some pretend home.  Maybe she really did believe it, but because of that, she tried to convince herself otherwise.

Queen had always been able to reach her sister, so she decided to try now.  She would not leave her sister behind, because the only way she truly could be convinced to go was if Jack and the love of her life, Ace, were with her.  She was already convinced to go, so now Jack had to be persuaded to follow as well.  The big sister, she moved towards Jack, taking the girl’s arm.  The only thing she had to do was say, “Come on,” softly, and Jack obeyed without another complaint.

Nodding, Celeste saw that it was finally time to let the group leave.  She waved her hand in the air, producing a small, flat circle in front of her.  It stretched slowly into an ovular portal, the black void ready for entry.  “Here is your path to home.  I wish you all luck,” she told them, trying to smile for their parting.  Her hand stayed in the air, hovering a few feet in front of the portal.  If she were to lower it, the portal would disappear.

Turning back, Ace nodded to his remaining gang members.  “I’ll miss you guys, but this looks like something I gotta do.”  He looked into the faces of the three left, noting that they all really did understand, though they looked slightly upset.  “You know we gotta protect these girls, and I’m gonna do my best!  You three stay out of trouble, okay?”  He smiled kindly, wishing them the best of luck before turning his back to them, his front to the gateway to Polaris.

Star entered once everyone else seemed ready, followed quickly by Orion.  Those two did not hesitate, but King sure did.  He stared at the blackness for a moment, but eventually he entered.  Ace stepped into it without regrets, knowing he was doing the right thing.  And lastly, the sisters, Queen and Jack, entered, Jack taking her last glance at Joker sadly.  Once everyone was through, the portal was closed off from Earth.  The ties were severed.


* * *


Stepping out onto a stone path, everyone looked around in surprise.  The landscape was definitely different, and Orion seemed to be the only one who knew anything about the place, but it was obvious he too was virtually new as well.  However, he did know enough to point ahead of himself to the large white castle before them, and the six moved towards the palace.  Their new, or rather, old lives, were finally being taken up again.

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