Chapter 1

“And he stepped into the quantum accelerator, and vanished…”

“What… are you watching?” The voice came from the door. Riley quickly turned from her place on the floor and looked up to see Saber. Her real name was Patty… But Riley liked thinking of her by her dreamscape name, not by her secret identity. See, Saber, was a dream chaser, which meant that by day, she went to school like any other girl in Riley’s class, but at night…

Into the night, she wielded a burning red electric laser sword and had amazing moves. She took on the nightmare stomping persona of Saber and kicked dream wraith’s butts. Riley had first met her when she herself was in someone else’s nightmare and so she always thought of this fiery red head of a girl as Saber first, Patty second.

“UGH, what is he wearing?” Said another voice from behind Saber. This new girl to Riley’s life was Cat. She was another dream chaser whom Riley had met through Patty, and like her name implied, she liked to prowl around the dreamscape like an enormous black panther. Her name was Catherine, so she went either way on being called her code name in or out of the dream world. Saber didn’t like it, and Riley wasn’t going to complain as she didn’t have a code name.

She wasn’t technically allowed to enter the dreamscape and shouldn’t even know about the secret government program that existed below the town they all lived.

“How can you watch this?” Came the most familiar of the voices, Suzy. Suzy was Riley’s best friend and like Riley, had known nothing about the program. Both of them hadn’t had any clue as to the massive complex below the sleepy little town they had moved to. Suzy has even been living there for years before Riley had showed up and found the thing. That had, of course, all been by accident. She’d broken her leg and while in the hospital, entered the dreams of Bruce, the Dream Chasers own version of Batman.

“Aw, man! Quantum Leap. My parents loved this show!” Though while they were all awake, he seemed to be more of the bumbling, nerdy Clark Kent. Bruce was right behind Suzy as they all entered into Riley’s large bedroom.

“What, did you all decide to get here at once just to embarrass me?” Riley said as she quickly used her phone to turn off the program she’d been streaming. Her TV quickly found itself returning to the home screen of her Apple TV and of course the icon for the show she’d just been watching popped up there, already highlighted to resume the episode.

“It doesn’t take much.” Suzy said as she popped down onto the bed. Riley shoved at the slightly older girl, but giggled as she did. Oh wow, she giggled. Where did that come? Riley didn’t giggle, but then, she’d never had a bunch of other girls over… okay, so this was actually three girls and a boy, but still. How did this happen?

“I don’t get embarrassed.” Riley said, feeling the heat rising in her cheeks.

“Oh? So should I tell them about the boy you’ve been crushing on?” Suzy said. She was suppressing a smile, and grabbing at the bag of Doritos that Riley had been munching on when they’d arrived.

“You better not.” Riley said, grabbing back the bag and setting it next to her on the bed.

“Oh, I’ve got to hear this.” Bruce said, sitting in the chair at Riley’s desk. Patty was still standing and it was obvious she was slightly uncomfortable being there. She kept looking around, unsure of where to sit until finally Suzy got up and pulled out a bean bag from Riley’s closet.

“I’m all ears.” Patty said and nodded as she plopped down into it.

“I don’t have a crush.” Riley said.

“Okay, then who’d you break your leg for. Come on, I was up there with you, shooting the video. I know who it is.” Suzy said as she sat back on the bed. She nodded to the cast as she reached again for the bag of chips. This time Riley let her sneak a few. “When does the cast come off?”

Riley looked at the cast that was still mostly white as there were only a handful of signatures that decorated the ugly thing. It was still a week before school so no one there had signed it.

Other than the four people in the room, it was only signed by her dad and her aunt. Riley couldn’t believe that her aunt had even been willing to sign it, though she’d also been different since she had caught Riley down in the secret Dream Chaser headquarters…almost nice.

Her aunt had changed. Her father had not. He was still hardly ever home and now that Riley was found to have some secret dream abilities, that she was predestined to be a dream walker, her aunt was over a lot more, actually staying over now when her dad was away.

“Hello! Earth to Riley! Anyone home or are you up on the moon again.” Bruce said.

“I’m good. It doesn’t come off for another couple of weeks so I’ll be stuck starting school with it.”

“Hey, don’t change the subject, I want to know who this crush is.” Cat said as she reached over and grabbed a chip of her own.

“You know there’s bowls in the kitchen if you want some for yourself.”

“Nah, I’m just going to keep reaching over you.”

“You’re going to end up breaking my other leg, then I’ll make you push me around in a wheelchair all day.”

“As if.”

“Don’t sweat it.” Suzy said, reaching for another chip. Riley was quick and pulled the bag out of her reach. “Riley’s been threatening me with that since she broke the first one.”

“Yeah, then I’d just get one of those motorized wheelchairs and be running over you all.”

“That’d be cool” Bruce said.

“Okay, you guys going to just jaw it up all night or are we going to do what we came here to do?” Patty said. While the others had been playfully jabbing at one another, Patty had sat there in the bean bag chair quietly. Eventually she’d grabbed one of Riley’s stuffed Toy Story dolls, some female cowboy, and was “pew pewing” the group around her with the little hand.

“What does she mean? What did you think was going to happen tonight?” Suzy asked. Her face has gone pale as she looked around her.

“We need a sacrifice to the dream gods.” Bruce said with close to a straight face, but he couldn’t hold it, and the laughter spilled out of him.

“Don’t be a jerk.” Riley said, smacking him with a pillow.

“Well, I thought we were all here to watch movies and talk gossip about everyone else at school.” Cat said innocently. She looked around the group with a bemused look on her face.

“Yeah, like that’s fun.” Patty was quick to quip.

“What? I like movies. Isn’t that what your supposed to do at slumber parties.” Cat huffed as she sat back on the bed.

“Wait, this is a slumber party?” Suzy asked, teasing. “How did you get permission to have Bruce here.”

“Like my dad is ever home to notice if a boy sleeps over.”

“So are we spending the night? Because my parents will freak- no, check that. They’d probably just think I was at-, well you know.” Cat said.

Cat was by far the prettiest of them all there and over the summer, there had been certain changes that Riley knew would have the boys drooling over her once school started. Riley could tell it was making Bruce uncomfortable as Cat had her arms back and her chest was popping out. Riley wasn’t sure if Cat even realized she was doing it, but Bruce noticed and he kept diverting his gaze away, the occasional glance making him blush.

Riley noticed, and glared at him in return. What was she? Was she not pretty enough? She’d only saved his life twice, going into his nightmares… And Cat was the one he was fuming over? Boys! Ugh!

Riley found herself looking away, her own cheeks growing hot. She’d missed that Sa- Patty had been talking to her until Suzy smacked her on the arm.

“Hey!” Riley said, looking irked at her best friend.

“Earth to Riley. You with us?”

“Yea- What?” She said as she looked around at the rest of them who were now all focused on her.

“Catherine asked why we were here, and I said that YOU were going to tell us. Right? You had something you wanted to try tonight? Or did we all just lie to our parents and…other people-“ Patty said as she gave a frustrated look at Suzy, “that we were coming here tonight for a slumber party.”

“You mean we’re not?” Suzy asked. She was faking her confusion terribly. She wasn’t supposed to know everything about the underground facility or that they could all go into the dreamscape.

What? It wasn’t like Riley would keep that all a secret from her best friend. She had to tell her. And now tonight, it was going to be her chance to go in with them. At least, it would be if Riley’s plan worked.

Before Patty could answer her, not that she was quick to say anything else. She was already feeling extremely uncomfortable and continued to shift endlessly in her seat before Suzy overreacted and gave it away that she knew something.

“Okay. So, you are all here tonight…” Riley looked at them all, a huge grin growing and she was enjoying the build up so much she could hardly contain herself. She forgot what it was like to actually have a group of friends. She missed doing stuff like this. “We are all here tonight to take Suzy into the dreamscape.”

Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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