Authors: Christopher Pike
THE STAR GROUP
There is no going back.
Six of them, three guys and three girls, are on a journey.
An adventure beyond imagination.
They are transformed into powerful beings, able to change the world.
But something goes wrong.
One of them is evil – and stronger than the rest.
And it will destroy the Star Group.
I HAVE A LOADED GUN ON MY DESK BESIDE my computer. A stainless-steel .357 magnum Ruger revolver, four copper hollow points in five steel chambers – my friend's gun. I'm thinking of using it, before the sun comes up. Thinking of putting it in my mouth and pulling the trigger – as soon as I get my story down. But I'm not depressed or suicidal or anything like that. I don't want to die. I have never wanted to see the sun rise so much in my life, but I'm afraid that if I don't move on, to another plane, many people on Earth will die. I sound like a cult fanatic, I know. But I'm not. My mind has never been so clear. That's the reason for writing my story, to try to make people understand. But I doubt whether anyone will ever read it, that I'll even be given a chance to finish it. My sticky blood will splatter the computer screen, my shattered head will fall on the keyboard. I try not to think about it, but it is all I can focus on. What I am trying to stop has almost unlimited power. As I eye the gun, there is a tiny part of me that fears that the power has already been used on me.
You see, the gun has blood on it.
My name is Daniel Stevens and I am eighteen years old. One week ago I graduated from La Mirada High in Orange County, California. I think it was the last day of school that it started, but of course I know that can't be. It started before I was born, before any of us came to this planet.
I remember waking the morning of that last day of school with a smile on my face, something I never do. Maybe I'd been dreaming about Gale Schrater, the girl I had loved since the beginning of time. I had made up my mind the previous night to ask Gale for her phone number, before it was too late, before I never saw her again. There was something about it being the end of school that empowered me. If she said no I would never have to see her again. Still, if she said no, I knew I would die.
I had to get up early. A couple of buddies of mine, Sal Barry and James Yearn, planned to start the big day surfing. Jimmy was supposed to pick me up at five, and my clock said it was ten after five right then. I got out of bed fast, anxious to get into the salt water. Jimmy pulled up as I walked out of my garage with my wet suit in one hand and my surfboard in the other. Jimmy drove a Ford station wagon that looked like it had backed into the sixties, but it could get us to the beach, twenty miles away, so I didn't care. My own car, a Toyota Corolla, was sitting in the garage and waiting for me to put in more time at the grocery store so I could afford to get it fixed. I didn't know what was wrong with it, except that it didn't run.
“I hear it's breaking big,” Jimmy said as I strapped my stuff on his roof rack. My board was a six-foot Chuck Dent, the old wax so thick that it looked like something that had caught an infection. But there was no way I was going to scrape the stuff off; to me it was like a fragrant history of past good times. Coconut wax smelled great no matter how old it go. After I finished strapping on my board, I got in beside Jimmy. He was sipping from a thermos of coffee, couldn't function without the stuff.
“Then I should shoot the pier today,” I said.
Jimmy was not enthusiastic about my trying even though he and Sal had shot the pier—rode a wave through the pier pilings—a thousand times. I was the only coward, but they were cool about it. I hadn't been surfing nearly as long, only a year, whereas Sal and Jimmy had owned hoards since they were ten.
Jimmy was a burly guy, already going a little soft around the gut. But he was handsome as hell and more popular than any jock at school. He had dark good looks, a steel jaw, and what money he didn't lavish on his car he spent on clothes. But his main attraction was the way he moved. He had a special confidence, like a kid who had already left school, struck it rich, and only returned to make up a few classes. The teachers at La Mirada deferred to Jimmy, and he was so smooth, he never pushed it. What I mean was he was strong without being a jerk. We had been friends for four years, but he had only managed to talk me into surfing the previous year. Jimmy was probably my best friend, although Sal was a close second. Jimmy had already been accepted at UCLA, and I knew he was going places.
Me, I was a stick by comparison. I could eat two hamburgers at lunch for two months in a row and the animal fat would all turn to calcium, to bone. Not an ounce of fat on me. But I wasn't bad looking. My mother said all the women she played bingo with had crushes on me. I also had dark hair, which I had taken to wearing long and curly. It made me look like an artist, a writer, which I hoped to be at some future date. I loved writing stories in which I saved the world and Gale fell in love with me. I often fantasized about publishing a book with Gale in it, and being able to give her a signed copy.
“Today might not be the day to become a hero,” Jimmy said as he put the car in gear and we rolled toward Beach Boulevard. There was hardly a tinge of light in the east, but we both knew Sal would already be at the beach and in the water. Sal had taken to living in his van the last month, ever since his stepfather had tried to hit him over the head with a crowbar. Sal was as black as ink but had a stepdad as red-necked as a firecracker – go figure. His mother liked to walk on the wild side. Sal’s uneasy home life had him already thinking of joining the Marines, which Jimmy and I were trying to talk him out of. Sal had been our school's star quarterback and destined for a full scholarship at some plush university until he hurt his knee and missed the second half of the season. But it seemed the Marines thought his knee was strong enough to take a shot.
“Are you worried I'll kill myself?” I asked about Jimmy's not wanting me to shoot the pier.
“Nah. I just don't want you to wreck my old board.” I had bought the board from Jimmy. He added, “I hear it's ten foot.”
I was impressed, and a little scared. I had never ridden such big waves. I hoped someone somewhere was exaggerating, as often was the case when it came to waves. Yet I felt that it was likely I would risk my life. I knew Jimmy was more worried about me than his board.
“Had any tests yesterday?”I asked.
Jimmy yawned. “Calculus final. But even if I flunked it I should still get an A in the class.”
“I had a test in history. If I got an A on it, I still only get a B in the class. I don't even know if I'll show up today. Don't want to know how I did.”
Jimmy nodded. “No one's going to be in classes much today. Me, I'm going to try to take a nap after school, before the ceremony. You know we'll probably be up all night.”
The all-night graduation party was at Disneyland. Our senior class along with probably two dozen others would be there. The word was that Disneyland would be kept open until three in the morning. I was hoping to talk to Gale there, maybe share a ride with her. It wasn't as though we never talked, we actually shared history class. It was just that I was clearly in the nice-guy-friend class. Most girls at school saw me that way, I was sad to admit.
I asked my next question carefully.
“Is Shena going?”
Jimmy stared straight ahead out the window. “I don't know.”
“You haven't talked to her?”
“It's hard to talk to Shena these Jays,” Jimmy said.
Until six months ago Shena Adams had been Jimmy's girlfriend, a blonde cutie. They were inseparable, always together. But it was too bad they were together last Christmas Eve. That was the night the battery in Jimmy's car blew up in Shena's face and sprayed her with acid. The wounds had healed, but the scars would never disappear, even with extensive plastic surgery, which was still planned. Her nickname at school was
—adolescents can be so kind. The accident, according to Shena, had been Jimmy's fault. He was such a cool guy, he refused to talk about it. I took his silence as virtue. I liked to give my friends the benefit of the doubt.
“How's she feeling?” I asked.
“I think, physically, she has no more pain,” Jimmy said. “But emotionally she's still way down. Little things get her. Today we'll all be photographed, and she can't stop thinking about how she'll look.”
“She can always stand in the back with nerds like me.”
“I doubt she'll even go to the ceremony.”
“That would be a shame,” I said.
Jimmy wanted to change the subject. “Are you going to ask Gale out today?”
“Yeah. If the pier pilings don't restructure my skull.”
“I know Gale's going to Disneyland. I was talking to Sal, I think she's going with Teri.”
Teri, Teresa Jettison, was Sal's girlfriend, one of the smartest girls in the school.
I gulped. “I didn't think they were close.”
Jimmy smiled. “Maybe Gale just wants to go with Teri so she can get to you.”
“Things like that don't happen in the real world.” I added, “I really am going to ask her out.”
“How’s your pyromaniac story going?” Jimmy asked.
“Great. My hero just burned down half of Malibu. He's about to steal a gasoline truck; he's in seventh heaven.”
Jimmy shook his head. “I don't see how you can sit still and write so many words. Doesn't your brain get tired?”
“It gets tired when I don't write.” I added, “I've also started on an alien story.”
“I didn't know you liked sci fi.”
“It doesn't feel like sci fi to me. It's more like supernatural.”
“What's it about?” Jimmy asked.
“I don't know.”
Jimmy snorted. “How can you write a story if you don't know what it's about?”
I shifted uneasily. The story had been plaguing me, it was true, yet I didn't really know what the central idea was. I just had several images bouncing around in my brain; a wide meadow surrounded by purple trees; a blue sun and a red sun burning in the sky together; a group of people, who were not really people, talking about the fate of our world. Yet none of these images was the reason it felt like a supernatural story to me. It was the
of the story—it didn't have a scientific explanation behind it. What the group was talking about was not science. It was spiritual.
“Sometimes I just make up things as I go along,” I said.
“Do you ever get stuck? And all your work is wasted?”
“Sometimes.” I added, “But on this story I'm not going to get stuck.”
“What's if called?” Jimmy asked.
“’The Star Group’.”
“It's a short story?”
“I have to see how it develops. I haven't got all the characters yet.”
Of course. I didn't know then that I was plotting my epitaph. That Mentor was already on to me, inside me, directing me toward the inevitable. How many dreams are real? How many nightmares chase out shadows? I felt cold as I answered Jimmy's questions, and I hadn't even gotten into the ocean yet. The endless black ocean all around us, beyond the world. For most people, nightmares are born in the dark. But ours was born deep inside my skull.
THE SUN WAS CLOSE TO RISING WHEN WE parked at the beach. I really loved to be out on the water when the sun touched the horizon, east or west. At those moments my breath would be suspended for several seconds, and I would feel myself become expanded, connected to the cosmos, as if a clock deep inside me had just turned with the Earth. Marked off another round of life and recorded it for all time. Then I would think of Gale, and how short life really was. For an eighteen-year-old I was incredibly fatalistic. For example, I honestly could not say I loved Gale because I didn't really know her. Yet I felt that was the only way I could love her, as an icon to mystery, something I could ultimately never touch. I wanted her but I was afraid to have her. Or maybe I was just afraid. Yeah, I enjoyed sunrises more than sunsets. Stars came in the dark and even before the madness they had me spooked.
We found Sal fetching his board by the pier. A monster wash of white water had already snapped his leash on the board. I didn't have to look out at the huge breakers to know what an awesome day it was. Sal's face said it all. His leash was broken, but he was in ecstasy. His white teeth glistened in his black face. The salt water on his lips was tasting good to him. He was not handsome like Jimmy, but magnetic still. Sal looked as if he were from another time, a powerful tribal leader, who earned a board instead of a spear. He surfed like a warrior, man against nature, not against man. He regularly shot the pier and defied the sea to crush him against the concrete pillars.
I think we shared that, a not too deeply buried death wish, and that brought us close. I mean, I was a nobody at school and Sal was a football hero, although a wounded one. There was no reason he should hang out with me, except one – he liked me, I considered our bond an alchemy of unknown forces. I wasn't from the same world as he was – my parents were sweet folks who never fought – and yet we fit perfectly together. Often, out on the water, Sal seemed to read my mind. He always knew when I was thinking of Gale. But unlike Jimmy, he wasn't sure if I should ask her out. He wasn't convinced it was better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. If he joined the Marines, he knew, he wouldn't see Teri again. She cared a great deal for him, but she was not going to wait for him and throw away her scholarship to Berkeley. Except for a B in one class, PE, Teri would have been our class valedictorian. Like Jimmy, Teri was going places, and Sal was wise enough to know he might be left behind. Perhaps he wanted to get out while the going was good.