The Story of Jace - Redemption

Bloodlines of Atmos book 3

by J. P. Edgar

From the pinnacle to the pit, Jace digs deep to bring himself out from the trenches of self-loathing. With the help of an unexpected friend, he seeks to rebuild his roots and find purpose in his life, and his past holds the answers.

But his absence from the war wouldn’t last long. The Order and the Evolved seek him out. And no matter how hard he tries to leave the conflict behind him, Jace gets thrown into battle from unseen forces. Only then does he discover that his absence and his inactiveness would put countless lives in jeopardy.

But how would he survive without the resources from The Order? Only those who are at the most risk could save his life, and save humanity.




The fights with her boyfriend grew more frequent. Almost every day, in fact. It didn't matter to her, though. Deep down, underneath his bulging muscles and tough exterior, she knew he loved her. After all, even the best relationships had their problems.

Her taxi pulled up in front of her house late in the evening, the sudden push of the brakes prodding her fresh bruise against the door. She held back a wince as she pressed her hand on the keypad, entered a tip for the driver, then exited the vehicle.

The taxi pulled away, and she stood still. Fear stopped her. Fear of what she would come home to.

After a breath, her eyes drifted toward the painted yellow and pink mailbox and the words “Hastings” in big, bold letters. This was her house. Well, her daddy's. And she wasn't going to be afraid of anyone who might be inside.

After those reassuring thoughts, Ms. Hastings walked over the stepping stones that led from the street, through the grass-hilled yard she needed to mow, to her front door. She put her hand on the knob, waited a moment to hear the click of the lock, then opened the door.

She took a few steps in the dark and quietly closed the door behind her. Without making a sound, she snuck over the hardwood floor to the living room. There, buried under dirty and oily hair that covered his face, shivering, sweating, and reeking of alcohol, was her childhood friend.

She sat in an adjacent chair and stared through the pale moonlight at how much he had grown. She shook her head. How could someone so brave and strong be reduced to a homeless drunk? That's when her eyes glanced toward the strange-looking backpack at the side of her couch. She had never seen a bag like that before, nor the unusual fabric he had on under his ripped, bloody, and grimy clothes. It was almost impossible to get him undressed.

Though she wanted answers, she respected his privacy and decided not to go through his backpack. She stood up to check on the glass of water and pills on the coffee table. They remained untouched. Again, she wondered if she should call an ambulance. “Tomorrow,” she mouthed. “If you don't wake up by tomorrow morning, I'm taking you to the hospital.”

After a sigh, she adjusted the blanket on her guest. That's when she noticed that some of the moisture on his face wasn't sweat, but tears. He was crying.

Her heart almost gave out as she let out a quivering breath. “What happened to you?”

Knowing he wasn't going to answer, she stood straight and navigated through the front room in the dark to make her way to the bedroom. After a long and rough day, a deep soak in a hot bath would calm her nerves. It had indeed been a crappy night, and she had a test tomorrow.

* * *

The next morning, Ms. Hastings turned off the alarm on her wrist PC, got out of bed, and went to her bathroom. She washed her face, then wiped away the splashed water from the mirror to look over her features. Her eyes went to the roots of her shoulder-length pink hair as she grabbed a few strands for inspection. It was time for a new color.

“What do you think? Yellow?”

As if hearing an answer, she brushed back her hair with her fingers and exited her bathroom. “Six problems. Six problems.” She paused, thinking about the acronym she and her study-buddies came up with. “PROC PIt.—Prevention, reversal, omission, commission, principle, incorrect transactions.” She didn't take long in her closet as she picked out a long-sleeve yellow shirt, more to hide her bruised arms than any other reason, and bright green pants. All the while, she kept repeating “PROC Pit” and some other acronyms while she got ready.

Afterward, she made her way downstairs, her thoughts going from education to music, when she heard her footsteps making a particular beat. She smiled and made a grandiose landing on the bottom floor—her head down and eyes closed, her fingers trilling the air as if she were playing the notes from her head on a piano, then turned her attention to her unusual guest.

There he sat, face buried in his hands, weeping.

Her mood soured.

Before she took a step forward, she noticed a broken lamp on a pile of vomit on the floor next to the couch, and a small blood trail going toward the kitchen. And out of all of that, the water and pills remained untouched on the coffee table.

She slowly approached, still wondering how he wound up collapsed on her lawn. “I can't believe it's you.” She knelt in front of him.

His puffy red eyes stared at her while he blinked away the tears. Then he squinted, gave a sniff, and his expression changed from sorrow to confusion as he visually scanned her. “Claire?”

She nodded, sat next to him, and put an arm around his shoulder. He fell into her arms, sobbing all the while.

* * *

Jace eventually passed out in her arms. She gently put him back on the couch, covered him in her favorite fuzzy tan blanket, then began to clean up the mess he left behind.

After bandaging his feet up with a medkit in the hallway, she went to the kitchen, following the thin trail of blood, to grab some paper towels. She gasped, seeing all of the cabinets, the fridge, and the freezer wide open. It looked as if thieves had ransacked the entire place. She glanced behind her at Jace. What was he searching for?

Knowing she could ask later, she grabbed the paper towels and began to clean up the vomit. When she got it under control, she picked up the broken glass, noticing a rather large shard covered in red. Was this how Jace hurt his foot?

Jace bolted upright, gasping and looking around in alarm.

Startled, Claire put a hand on the couch, ready to stand and assist her guest. “Are you okay?”

“What?” He turned to stare at her with fright and confusion.

A moment later, she decided to ask him about his injury. She lifted the bloody shard of glass from the floor.

His eyes went to the shard, and a look of recognition washed over his face.

Not getting any answers, Claire tossed the shard in the glass pile, then sat in the seat next to the couch. “Not exactly the reunion I imagined.” She grabbed the water from the coffee table so he could get hydrated.

Jace laid back down, resting his head on the armrest, and stared at the presented drink. “Do you have anything stronger?”

Her eyes popped wide in surprise. “Oh, no. No more alcohol. You're already sick.”

He raised a hand to decline the water.


Jace diverted his gaze.

At first, Claire grew angry. His stubbornness was getting under her skin. Then she noticed the pain in his eyes and the tears that formed, and her anger quickly transformed into genuine concern. She had so many questions but decided patience would be her best bet. She sighed, put the water back on the table, and sat back to sit quietly with her friend.

* * *

After messaging her professor from her wrist PC to explain the situation, Claire was relieved she could reschedule her test. That also meant she could digitally unplug from the world and work on Jace's health. His recovery was her focus.

He slept all day. And as the night fell, Claire wondered if Jace would wake up at some point and destroy her house again. So she blew up an air mattress and slept on the floor for the night.

Her uncomfortable sleep was interrupted by a scream. She sat up and whipped her head to Jace, who clenched the blanket and panted.

“Are you okay?”

He began to get up, but his balance was shaky at best.

Claire stood and got in front of him. “No, no, no.” With barely a nudge from her hand, Jace collapsed back on the couch. “Where do you think you're going?”

“I need a drink.” 

“Here.” She reached for the glass of water.

Like a stubborn jackass, Jace began to stand up again.

“I said no, damn it!” She pushed him hard. He fell flat onto the couch.

“Get out of my way!”

“Make me!” Claire pressed a hand against his chest.

Jace growled in pathetic rage, and he grabbed her arm. Shortly after, he went limp again.

She gave an exhale and stood straight. “Don't make me handcuff you.”

He huffed and rolled over, putting his back against her, and curled up in a ball.

Her heart beat furiously, but she took a step back from Jace to calm down. She scanned the room, thinking of how to stop him from getting up and doing something stupid while she slept or when she was in class. That's when she remembered her freshman year and riding her bike to and from school. She went into the garage and took off the oversized cable and lock from her bike. Then she gathered some chains and other cords she could lock together. Eventually, she created some contraption that was long enough to get to and from the bathroom, and that she could lock. After a brief inspection, she nodded in approval.

* * *

Every night, Jace would wake her up with some scream or yell, like a child waking up from a nightmare, then curling back into a ball and crying himself back to sleep. Though he always angrily declined the water, eventually Claire began to wake up, or came home to, an empty glass. And gradually, the terrible nights were replaced with constant shifting and moaning. Until one night, he slept through the whole night, and she was able to get some much-needed rest in between taking care of him and her classes.

After school, not having time to cook due to her study group later that evening, Claire grabbed some takeout. She took a cab home, went inside, and began to make her way to the front room. She paused, though, as Jace stood near a wall in her music room and stared at a picture. How could he have gotten into that room? That's when her eyes went to the floor and at the unlocked chain. Her attention returned to Jace, and she put the bag of food on the ground and stood beside him. She remembered when her friend took the picture. It was at a birthday picnic in the park with her music class, and her parents flanked her as she held her new cello.

“My parents. Well, adopted parents.” 

Jace didn't answer.

She went back to the entryway and grabbed the bag. “They're assholes, but I love them. They gave me the life I have now, and I'll be forever grateful.” 

After removing the takeout boxes, Claire went to the kitchen for some dishes and utensils. She returned, balancing a couple of lemonade glasses on the plates.

Jace continued to stare at the picture.

“They're divorced now. Maybe eight years ago.” She put everything on the coffee table and continued to prepare the food. “I hated my father. Still do, I guess. But…” She pulled up a chair. “I love him, no matter what.”

Jace didn't move.

Claire decided to change the subject to something lighter and to something that involved him. “Hey, do you remember that food fight we had in the hiding space?”

Jace's head slightly turned. She had his attention.

“I tossed something at Jess, and she threw back a piece of meat.” She smiled at the memory from years past, absent-mindedly dishing out some food. “It took us hours to clean all the food just so we didn't get ants. When we finished, we were a mess.” Her gaze went into the nothingness of memory as that day came into her mind. “Jessy had those potatoes down her shirt, and you had gravy in your hair. And we never told you, but we kept joking about it.” She chuckled and let out a deep exhale. “I bet I was a mess, too.” She set aside one box of food and grabbed another. She gave a brief pause as her eyes locked onto the sauce-covered chicken and decided to provide Jace with the time he needed. “You don't want to tell me what happened? That's fine. Some day, you have to stop living in the past and work on your future. Don't think you're the only one who had a tough life.”

She heard Jace whisper, “You're not the only one.”

“What was that?”

An alarm went off on her wrist PC. She glanced down at it to see the time and the words, “Your ride has arrived.”

She thought she had more time. “Shit!” She stuffed her face, frantically chewed, then washed it down with large gulps of her lemonade. “I have to go. Study group tonight.” She tossed on her favorite pink sweater and opened the door. “I'll be a little late. I have to go to the store. Don't get into trouble.” And she left him behind.

On the way to the taxi, her wrist PC dinged. She climbed in the cab and looked at the message. At that moment, stress and anxiety tightened her chest, and she found it a little difficult to breathe. Her heart pumped harder, and her vision began to tunnel toward the message on her screen, “From Harold: Where have you been?”


"Bloodlines of Atmos: The Story of Jace" - J. P. Edgar


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