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The Crimson Phoenix

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Lying inside an MRI machine, was nervous and slightly scared inside the round and magnificent tube. Just beside the room stood two men in lab coats. There were men dressed in military uniforms and holding submachine guns. “Are you ready?” one of the doctors asked through the mic. “Do it.” the boy replied with a resolute tone. The doctor nodded and pushed a button and the MRI machine began to give a low humming sound. Suddenly, the boy felt a sharp pain in his head, which made him scream in agony. He struggled to break free, but he was restricted. After a few seconds, the noise died down. Suddenly, an alarm began to blare and all the monitors displayed warning and error messages. The men were all shocked, and the uniformed men all cocked their guns and pointed them at the MRI machine. The normal MRI machine began to glow and melt. One could tell that something was burning it. Suddenly, it exploded, sending the parts flying everywhere. Some even broke through the glass pane and hit some of the uniformed men. There was smoke everywhere and the men all stood up and looked in the direction of the MRI room. As the smoke cleared, a pair of red, cold, and burning eyes opened up and stared at them, sending shivers down their spines. ________$ Following an accidental encounter, Leo began to manifest superpowers, but with great power, comes power-hungry men and great responsibilities. Leo promises to use his powers for good and be the hero he wants to be. But, things did not to turn the way he wanted them to be Will Leo overcome the principalities he faces with himself and be the hero he wishes to be, or will he succumb to the ugliness and rage inside him?

Moving to Sky Hills.

Staring out the window and watching as the trees were passing by, Leo couldn’t help but think of the things he was leaving behind. His friends, his love, his home. “I’ll be back… I promise I’ll be back.” Leo said to himself.

Since Leo had lost both parents and he wasn’t finished with high school yet, he had to go with his aunt, Molly, to Sky hills. There, he would have a new life. Before leaving, he swore to Tracy that he would return to Sunshine city.

The journey was a bit of a long one. It was actually just a five-hour drive, but to Leo, it felt like a whole day. He would occasionally pick up his phone and play games, but he wasn’t in a good mood to play much so he just decided to read a book which was based on gene improvement instead. He kept on reading and he was still intrigued by the book as he kept reading. This shortened the trip for him. Molly glanced at him and she smiled. ‘what a smart boy.’ She thought.

Sky Hills was located on the Northern part of the country. It had some nice views and the place is very peaceful. There were a few amusement parks in the place and the people were very friendly. The place was beautiful compared to Sunshine City… Actually, they’re not too far off. This wasn’t Leo’s first time at Sky Hills but he was very young the last time he came here and he couldn’t remember much from the last time. Besides, the place had already changed a lot since then and he could barely even recognize the place. This was why he kept looking through the window of the car and he was filled with awe, seeing how much it had changed.

They arrived at Molly’s house. Leo picked up all the bags from the trunk and he walked directly to the front of the house. He was already having the feeling of unfamiliarity. The last time he came here, he spent only two days. Now things are different as he’ll be living here and it’ll take some time for his body to adapt to the surroundings. Molly walked to Leo’s side and she smiled.

“Are you surprised?” she asked.

“Yeah. I’m actually surprised at how fast things can change.” He replied slowly. He was slowly recovering the memories of the last time he came here and compared to then, the house happened to be more beautiful. It was a duplex and the house was painted deep green.

“I think you were around five years old the last time you came here,” Molly recalled. She then chuckled remembering how cute and silly Leo was back then. Leo shot a confused look at his aunt.

“Why are you laughing?” Leo asked with a slight frown. His aunt shook her head and denied it without hesitating. Leo didn’t bother himself too much and he glanced at the opened garage by the side of the house. It had lots of stuff inside like mechanical tools, parts, and painting materials.

“Looks like the profession of mechanics runs in the family.” Leo acknowledged as the things in the garage caught his eye.

“My father was a mechanic and my mum was a teacher. Your dad and I took after our father and he also claims that his dad–your great-grandfather was a mechanic too.” She explained. Leo was a bit surprised by her words. He was actually thinking of being a mechanic too but only on a bigger level and some other things included. He wasn’t expecting it to be a family profession. Seeing the look on Leo’s face, his aunt smiled.

“It runs in the family?–yes.” She exposed, she then decided to ask, “You’re also thinking about being a mechanic aren’t you?”

Leo just laughed. His aunt already understood what he meant so she laughed too. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I discover that my great-grandpa belonged to a cult called the ‘League of Mechanics’. “ Leo joked as he observed his surroundings.

His aunt chuckled, “No Way. We don’t have that kind of cult around here…” she claimed, “Even if we did, I doubt if our old man would join. He prefers to fly solo.” She added. Leo just shrugged, he never really cared anyway. They for the front door of the house and his Aunt knocked. He looked down at the foot mat which had the inscription ‘welcome home’ on it. It wasn’t something worth staring at but Leo had an habit of staring at things that aren’t worth paying attention to and he always finds it hard to take his eyes off them.

A man in his mid-thirties opened the door for them. He wore a long sleeve shirt and black jeans. He had blonde hair and he was handsome and he also looked younger than his actual age. If women saw him on the streets, they would probably fret and they’ll definitely pass out if he approaches them. This man was Leo’s Uncle, Williams, his aunt’s husband. He opened the door for Leo and his aunt.

“Hey honey! Welcome back.” He said as he hugged and kissed Leo’s aunt.

“Hey.” Leo’s aunt replied as they kissed. This reminded Leo of his parents, how they would look for an excuse to dismiss him so that they could make out. The memories made him feel a little bit of sadness.

“How was the trip?” Leo’s uncle inquired. ‘Boring as ever.’ Leo thought to himself but he didn’t dare say that out loud.

“It was safe.” His aunt claimed. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was driving, she would’ve said that it was boring too. Leo’s uncle turned to face Leo and he gave him a happy and exciting look.

“Look who’s here, if it isn’t the game king, Leonardo himself. Good to see you kid.” He said as he gave Leo a warm hug. Leo frowned slightly when he heard the word ‘kid’. He naturally wouldn’t have allowed it, but he wanted his uncle to get it out of his system. Leo only allows his dad to call him that.

“Good to see you too uncle.” Leo greeted as he gave him a warm hug

“Sorry about your parents. Your dad was a good man.” His Uncle said as he held Leo’s shoulders. After a second of silence, Leo’s uncle smiled and sized Leo up, “Wow, you’ve grown taller and you’ve got some muscles too. Wait… have you been working out?” he asked curiously. Leo wasn’t so muscular but he did have a little physique and he actually does work out.

“Kind of,” Leo admitted.

“D*mn man… last time I saw you, you were just like a peanut.” He said jokingly, using his hands to indicate how small Leo’s height was. Both Leo and his uncle chatted and laughed for a while. Leo was assisted in packing the bags into the house.

The interior was even more beautiful. It had mid-class furniture and the planning was very nice. The rug is made of animal skin, most likely an antelope’s. Leo doesn’t have eyes for these things. The fragrance was (takes a long sniff) natural. The place was actually more beautiful than his house but to Leo... there’s no place like home. His room was located upstairs… well, his new room. It looked just like a his old room back at his house at Sunshine City and it had everything Leo currently needed. His room could’ve been located downstairs but Molly knows how much he loves to stay close to the sky.

It’s been a long day and Leo felt tired… despite not doing anything other than sitting down in one place. That could be tiring too though. He made use of the room and customized it to his own liking… all he just did was put his stuff where they were supposed to be. Leo wasn’t in the mood to customize anything. Most of the things he needed were already in place, all he just needed to do was unpack. He was on his way downstairs when a nice aroma flew past his nose.

“Sniffs.” It smelled delicious. It was at that point Leo remembered he was hungry. He didn’t have breakfast before going to Sky Hills so don’t see him as a foodie… even though he is (whispers) don’t tell anyone.

Leo saw his Uncle bringing out some cookies from the oven. ‘so that’s where the smell’s coming from’ he thought. Leo’s uncle smiled when he saw him come down the stairs.

“I can see you’re done unpacking. Come try out my special cookies…” He said as he pointed to the cookie-filled tray on the kitchen desk. Leo licked his lips as the appearance and aroma of the cookies made his stomach grumble with greed. Seeing this, his uncle continued, “They taste really good. It has my mother’s ‘ancient recipe’. Passed down from generation to generation–I’m actually the sixth generation to inherit the recipe.” He explained. Leo smiled and he rushed to pick a cookie.

“Careful Leo. It’s hot.” His uncle warned. Leo blew the cookie a bit and took a bite from the soft, crunchy cookie and chewed slowly. His cheek flushed red and moaned with excitement as the cookie played with his taste buds. It was like eating a delicious food after days of not eating at all. It had this crunchy feeling and Leo could taste the vanilla flavor and some walnuts. They looked brown and tasted good.

Leo made sure to enjoy the one in his hands before realizing that it was finished and he wanted more. He looked at the tray and saw that there were eleven more cookies so he took another one. It was so delicious, that he wasn’t aware that he had already eaten six of the cookies.

“Wow! They are so delicious. Where did you learn how to cook like this?” Leo asked after gnawing down the seventh cookie. His uncle was still molding some other ones when he smiled.

“Like I said earlier—Ancient recipe.” He said as he went to the oven to bring out another tray of cookies. Leo was trying his best to resist the urge to rush over and take two more but he thought of his aunt and Kate, his little cousin. They would want to eat the cookies too. Leo’s uncle must have seen through him.

“Don’t worry, eat your fill, there’s plenty more to go round.” Leo was happy. ‘ in that case.’ He thought as he prepared to grab the cookies. Molly walked out of her room with Kate in her arms.

“Hey, babe. Are those for eating?” she asked as she grabbed one of the biscuits on the tray.

“No, they’re for sale.” Leo’s Uncle replied sarcastically. Leo almost burst into laughter but his aunt looked at him with squinted eyes.

“What are you laughing at?” She asked. Seeing her face, Leo shuddered.

“Nothing.” He quickly claimed innocence. Kate tried to get off her mom’s arms to get some cookies.

“Cookies!” she exclaimed as she picked one up and ate it. She felt how delicious it was and her face flush red with excitement. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the delicious and crunchy cookie.

“Daddy’s cookies are the best.” She said with her babyish, cute and lovable voice. She’s actually just four years old.

“That’s my baby girl. Give daddy a high five.” Leo’s uncle said as he raised his hand towards Kate. Kate used her right hand to meet her dad’s whereas, she did not turn her face away from the cookies on her left. A glint of jealousy flashed through Molly's eyes.

“What about my cookies Kate?” She asked anxiously. ‘Things are about to turn ugly.’ Leo thought to himself as he braced himself for the greatest embarrassment to come. Knowing Kate, she will only approve of what pleases her at the moment and will shun everything else from the past. Leo’s aunt was going to be in for some words she wouldn’t like from Kate.

“Nah, your cookies are tasteless.” Leo’s uncle whistled loudly, indicating trouble. Leo felt an extreme urge to laugh. If he had water in his mouth, he would spit it out immediately. He knew Kate would say something bad but he wasn’t expecting Kate to say something that bad. ‘ Even little kids have their bad side too!?’ Leo thought. His uncle tried to avoid the conversation, while Leo was resisting the urge to laugh out loud.

“Um… I gotta go to the huh… bathroom.” Leo stuttered, still trying not to laugh. He quickly ran to the nearest bathroom and laughed so loud he felt his ribs almost crack. After about thirty seconds of laughing his *ss out, he came out of the toilet, relieved.

His aunt's face twitched and veins were sticking out of her head. She had her mouth opened agape from shock, which turned to anger, and she pinched little Kate’s cheek and pulled it up and down repeatedly, and yelled at her.

“What is this, you say my cookies are tasteless, you ungrateful brat. I’ll never bake any cookie for you anymore…” She snarled at her daughter. The innocent little Kate kept on holding her cheek.

“Ow, mummy that hurts, ow please…” Little and adorable Kate begged. Leo pitied her but he didn’t want to have his ears pulled by his aunt.

“Why don’t you try it too mummy?” Little Kate took a cookie and handed it to her mum, who was still pulling her fluffy cheek which had turned red, “Learn from daddy.” She said as she nudged the cookies to her mum. Leo’s uncle chuckled.

Leo’s aunt paused for a while before she took the cookie slowly as she ate it. She looked Leo in the eye but he looked away to avoid two awkward, astonished, with a touch of anger filled eyes. When she ate the cookie, her mood changed from furious, to normal then to the ‘not bad’ kind of face. That was a typical example of a ‘Mood swing’. Well as a woman, she still needed to protect her self-esteem.

“Well, it’s not bad actually…” She commended. Leo’s Uncle began smiling until his wife took the smile off his face, “But it’s not as good as my cookies.” Leo sighed. He couldn't believe that his aunt was a shameless type.

Leo’s uncle didn’t want to lose to his wife, “Oh come on. Our little girl said it herself. ‘ learn from me’…” He defended. They continued to argue over who’s cookies are the best. It was a friendly argument but Leo didn’t like bad vibes. Leo just carried Kate away so as to avoid her getting caught up in their ‘friendly’ argument which could turn nasty any moment. ‘I just hope everyday won’t be like this’ He sighed.

Leo was playing with Kate in the parlor when he got a video call from Tracy. ‘Oh sh*t, I totally forgot about those guys’ hd thought as he panicked. If Tracy knew that he forgot about her, she would ground him by not talking to him for a week. Leo can only last two days without receiving word from her. He would be on his knees anything after two days. He put his happy face on and answered the call but what he saw gave him a bit of a shock.

“Hey Tracy, how’s it gooooin’… why’s everyone with you?” Tracy was using a drone which was connected to a phone, to make the call so that everyone with her could be seen. Those with her were all of Leo’s friends and classmates at Sunshine city, including the members of their football team, the Golden T-Rexes.

Tracy was with everyone on the team and their girlfriends–those who had one, which made Leo a bit shocked.

“You forgot to call me when you reached Sky-hills fur brain.” She complained. Leo just scratched his head and grinned awkwardly searching for an excuse to give.

“Heh heh, um… I’m sorry?” he said, since he couldn’t find a suitable excuse. The rest of the team just greeted him.

“Hey Leo, you didn’t even bid the team farewell. That ain’t nice.” A short guy named Gideon said as he was trying to fit into the crowd. Even with the use of the drone, they were just too many to be recorded up close.

“Yeah. The next time we meet, I’ll pull your ears. Just remind me to do so when we meet.” Emmanuel threatened from the side, after squeezing through the whole team to get to talk. Leo just kept laughing as he received many comments from his former teammates.

“Sorry guys. We were in a hurry.” Leo gave an excuse so as to save himself from criticism.

He suddenly saw Mason, his best friend, come out from the crowd, “So how’s Sky-hills?” he asked.

“Well ya know… kinda more beautiful than I imagined. It has a good scenery and nice things to see.” Leo explained. Tracy looked at gave him an unamused look.

“Is it the scenery or the girls?” She asked. Everyone burst into laughter. Leo was speechless. ‘How can you be so heartless, I would never cheat on you.’ Leo complained in his mind.

“Both–what’s it with you and the girls here anyway? Are you worried I’m going to run away with someone else?” Leo teased with a smirk.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Tracy replied and she looked away and smiled. The smile was devilish and gave off a murdering intent, “As long as you don’t wish to lose that ‘equipment’ of yours.” She threatened.

“Whoooa.” The other boys said in unison. Hearing her words, Leo broke out in cold sweat. He even subconsciously checked if his ‘equipment’ was still intact. It felt like she had a spiritual hand that could cut it off at any time. He might be tough sometimes but in front of Tracy, he usually feels like a puppy waiting to be devoured by a Tiger. If there is one thing about Tracy, it is that she’ll stop at nothing to achieve her goal.

On the outskirts of Sky hills, the terrain was rough and filled with highlands. Five trucks passed through the narrow road and moved uphill. The first and last trucks were filled with military personnel while the three in the middle were scientists and miners. After driving for hours, they finally arrived at a rocky area. Huge boulders which have been reduced through weathering for many years were all around. A cave with a small entrance could also be seen. It was very conspicuous and it looked spooky.

The trucks stopped and everyone got out from it. The soldiers carried their obsidian-colored M16 submachine guns and set up a perimeter around the entrance of the cave. The scientists also set up their equipment in front of the cave. A burly man walked to the person who was heading the expedition. He wore a military camouflage, black boots and a military cap on his head. He had three stripes that looked like arrows on top of each other and connected together with a small space in the middle which had a star on it. This was on the left arm of his uniform and signified that he was a master sergeant. On his uniform, the name ‘Reyes’ was displayed on it. His hair was blonde and neatly cut and looked like he was in his late thirties.

He walked towards the head of the scientists. “Dr. Cartel…” he said as he approached a man wearing a white lab coat. He was supervising the scientists and the miners in the area. “What are we looking for?” The sergeant asked the scientist.

“We are not too sure yet, but we discovered that there were minute signs of radioactivity in these parts.” Dr. Cartel disclosed, “We also noticed a strange phenomenon occurring in this area.” Sergeant Rayes looked at the cave’s dark entrance and was a bit surprised to hear that there was something strange around this place. Dr. Cartel brought out Geiger’s counter and turned it on. On the screen, the needle moved, showing that a certain amount of radiation was in the area. The closer he moved to the cave, the higher it was.

After a few minutes of work, a few miners and soldiers were sent inside to explore the inside of the cave. A few hours later, one of the miners emerged with a little tube. This tube contained a silvery, liquid substance, almost looking like mercury but not as shiny. Dr. Cartel brought out the Geiger counter and used it to detect the amount of radiation in the substance. The counter started to beep and the arrow on the counter pointed to a very high value. This alarmed Dr. Cartel and he called the other people inside the cave to quickly leave the cave so that they wouldn’t be killed by radiation.

After the cave was evacuated, Dr. Cartel took the substance back to his lab back at THRL, The Hermit Research Laboratories. On his way, he took a glance at the substance.

“This might be just what I need to perfect the gene enhancer.” He speculated.

An idea and a disaster.

It was already nine o’clock on a Friday morning and Leo still wasn’t up from bed, because he had slept very late the previous night. Molly wondered why he wasn’t up yet and decided to check on him.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

She knocked on his door but got no response from him.

“Leo, wake up, breakfast is ready.” She knocked on the door again, leaning in this time to listen in, but still no response. Not waiting any longer, she pushed the door open and was a bit startled by the scene in front of her. Lying on the bed, was a sleeping Leo with books scattered around him on the bed. His laptop was still on and at the side, doing a slideshow of pictures since it hadn’t been used for a while. Leo was snoring heavily with saliva drooling from the side of his mouth.

She walked closer to the bed. She picked up a book and studied it, “General understanding of quantum physics.” She said as flipped through the pages and then turned to the bed, and scanned the other books


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