Chapter 1:

The First Page Turns

Spectacular World

A roaring inferno raged across Oleander, tearing down everything in its path, be it building or person.

The sound of battle cries, cursing, and screams almost seemed louder than the rumble of collapsing buildings or the roaring of the invading Beast that went out of its way to attack anything that moved.

Children wailed in their parents' arms as they were carried across the last bridge that stood, the only way left out of the city.

Cinder did her best not to groan. The Beast had hit her only a single time, and yet she was sure this was the worst pain she had ever felt in her short life. She quietly fastened the straps to the silver shield that hung on her arm.

"You, okay?" The voice of Poseidon almost caused her to jump.

Cinder nodded her head. "Yeah, I'm fine." As far as she knew, it was just her and Poseidon that were left standing.

"Good. Because here he comes." The water twisted and formed, rising out of the river beneath the bridge they guarded. It developed into a large trident, which Poseidon gripped tight enough to turn her knuckles white.

Cinder felt part of her life leave her when she finally saw the Beast as he ripped past another building. Bigger than any human had a right to be and covered in molten metal, even the nearby stone beginning to melt from the heat he radiated. He approached slowly, not even bothering to look at the two of them, his eyes focused on the group of fleeing civilians behind them.

"We have to win," Poseidon stated, pointing her trident forward.

Cinder nodded and gripped her shield tighter. Smoke rose from her skin, and her costume ignited as she became a blazing inferno, much like the Beast. "Then I guess we'll win."

And with that, their battle began...


Several months earlier...

"Earlier today, Avalon Industries found itself turned into a battle zone when the terrorist organization known as Zoo arrived. At the moment, the damages are still being discovered, but the worst of it was prevented when Victorian arrived on the scene, causing the members of Zoo to flee-"

Hope didn't get to hear whatever the newswoman would have said as the video on her phone was suddenly paused when someone yanked the cord to her headphones out. "Hey! I was watching that." She grumbled.

"Well, excuse me for saving your life." Her friend Armin stood to the side, his arm stopping Hope from walking out in the middle of traffic. "You almost played a losing game of chicken, there. Must be an interesting video."

"Oh wow. Nice save bro."

"Seriously? That's all you have to say after almost dying." Hope's shrug made him sigh and roll his eyes, giving her a half grin. "What were ya watching anyways?"

She pocketed her phone as the light turned red, and they continued on their way to school. "It was an attack." That was all she needed to say.

"Another one." Armin groaned.

"Yeah. The Victorian and the other Enforcers showed up. Managed to force the baddies to run away."

The boy snorted, nodding his head. "Well, I could have told you that." He said with an eye roll. "Victorian didn't even need the others. I bet they just slowed her down. She could have handled it all on her own."

Hope had to agree with her friend, though she used that word loosely. Armin was a kid, her mother used to babysit for extra cash. She wouldn't say they were that close, more like they didn't have anybody else and had taken up to banding together and walking to school, this day being no different.

He was a nice enough boy, if a little bit odd. Armin had that typical nerd look. Curly brown hair and a face full of freckles. His bright eyes came off as childish due to the oversized round glasses he wore, and he was all skin and bones, but still managed to have a bit of a chubby belly somehow. He also had a bad habit of ditching her, missing school, and always being called off to do something.

Though she wasn't in a position to make fun of him, her own body wasn't much better. She was awkwardly tall and almost too skinny, not having any muscle or tone, and her chest was flatter than a board. Her black hair was a tangled mess falling just past her shoulders, and her blue eyes were so childlike from her broken and crooked glasses that nearly dropped off her face.

Her mother was gorgeous, so part of her hoped to develop more in the coming years.

"So, you ever get that new Victorian game?" Armin's questions brought her out of her thoughts.

"Nah. You know money has been tight."

"That's a shame." They finally arrived at school and began to push through the crowd of other kids. "So, my parents are heading out of town sometime this week, and I was thinking of throwing a party. You in?" Armin asked her as they stopped at her locker.

Hope folded her arms and scoffed. "By party, you mean just me and you, right? Cause you know no one else is going to show up."

"Hey, you don't know that. I could turn up the charm and get a couple of cheerleaders or the football team. At the very least, a few of those theatre kids." Armin tried to give her what he might have thought was a seductive grin, but it only caused her to shudder.

"You and charm don't go together." Armin gasped and grabbed at his chest as if faking a wound, making Hope roll her eyes and giggle.

"You wound me so. You in, though?" He asked, folding his arms and giving her one of his weird stares.

"Yeah, I can hang out this week." Hope finally said. "What movie are we going to be watching. I can't think of any new ones releasing off the top of my head."

Armin never got a chance to respond as a loud yell cut through the crowd around them, causing everyone to suddenly freeze. "I said let me go, Kev!"

"Tell me who you cheated on me with!" A growl responded.

Oleander Bay was a typical high school. It had things like a band and a football team, as well as a cheerleading squad, and like all schools, it had its fair share of bullies.

Kevin Buckle was a tall eighteen-year-old attending his final semester of high school. If you were to think of the image of a jock, he would likely come to mind. He was tall and buff and one of the best quarterbacks their school had seen. He was also handsome, with slick blonde hair and green eyes; most girls pined after him.

Currently, he had a girl pressed against a locker. Ashley Numen, head of the cheerleaders, was sometimes called the Queen Bee. Tall, with long blonde hair, she had seemingly set Kevin off.

"I know you're seeing people behind my back. I saw you making out with that kid at Trev's party last week!" Kevin growled. "Tell me which punk it is! I'll kill them!" Not a single soul seemed like they would step up and help Ashley. Everyone pretended not to notice, fearing what he would do to them if this was the way he treated someone he had claimed to 'love.'

"I'm not seeing anyone else, you psycho." Ashley hissed out at him, though she was stuck, unable to push past him, the locker digging into her back. "Besides, what does it matter even if I was? We broke up, jerk-"

"We were still together at that party." Kevin hissed.

Ashley glared back at him, her jaw clenching. "You're just jealous knowing he was better than you." She hissed back.

Kevin looked as if he was about to murder the poor girl, raising his arm. He never got a chance to, though, as suddenly a backpack nailed him in the back of the head.

It wasn't often that a hallway full of teenagers would be silent, but this was one of those rare times. Kevin turned slowly, his eyes settling on the small, at least compared to him, raven haired fifteen-year-old girl that had just forfeited her life. "She asked you to leave her alone, jerk." Hope prayed her gulp wasn't heard.

Kevin, despite being roughly six foot two, was shockingly fast. He had reached her before she could even attempt to get her arms up for a punch. She let out a yelp as he literally picked her up by her jacket and smashed her back into the locker, causing her to hiss out in pain.

"Stay in your lane, Lauren." Kevin growled and caused Hope to wince. His breath was terrible. "This doesn't concern someone like you."

"Dude, what did you eat?"

The football player let out a roar and pulled his arm back. Hope quickly prayed to God, wanting to be reborn as a stunning supermodel in the next life. Thankfully, the big man seemed to answer her prayers, as before Kevin could throw the punch, a loud bell tolled through the building, and the doors to many of the classrooms began to open, teachers no doubt stepping out.

Kevin's eyes locked onto the coach of his team, who wasn't close enough to see what was going on yet.

Kevin was frozen for a second before he gritted his teeth. "Next time I see you, Hope Lauren, you're dead."

Her landing was hard as he dropped her to the floor and turned, stumbling past everyone, followed by his flunkies. No one bothered to help her, not even Armin, which hurt a little. He did, however, get her backpack, handing it off.

"Was that a bad idea?"

"You might want to chill out. At this rate, I'll have to figure out what kind of flowers to bring your funeral?" Armin sighed.

"I had it all under control." She said deffenisvly.

"Oh really."

"Yeah. I kept track of the time. I knew the bell was going to ring. I just needed to stall him for a bit."


"Hey it's the truth!"

Armin just gave her a grin helping her up. "We should get to class."


The school day soon came to an end, just like any other, as the bell rang. She slowly walked down the stone steps and out onto the sidewalk, feeling the cool September air blow through her hair.

"Flyers!" A man on the sidewalk yelled out. He was a dirty man with a heavily stained trench coat and foul odors coming off of him. It seemed to creep all the kids out as he waved at them, and already, the security around the school was trying to drag him off. "Take yer flyers! The end of the world is coming! I'm telling y'all! The government is hiding it. Birds are cameras!" The man waved at the kids as they came out, throwing flyers at them.

"That's like the ninth time I saw that guy. Think he's on to something?" Armin snorted.

"Fully." Hope joked. She waved at the birds just in case they were cameras.

"So, want to hit the comic shop?"

"Sorry, I can't. I'm riding with Mom to go see Dad." She explained.

"Ah." Armin nodded. "Mind if I come? It's been a while since I last visited."

"As long as Mom doesn't care, then sure."

Armin and her were only fifteen, soon to be sixteen, so neither of them owned a car and usually would either take the bus home or walk if they were feeling adventurous. Oleander wasn't too dangerous in the day, after all.

Today, though, her mother was waiting for her in the school parking lot. She found the woman standing next to a very old and worn-down car that had been around since before she had even been born. Her mother smiled when she saw her. Jane Lauren was strict yet kind and still very beautiful. Despite that, though, age and stress had worn on her, leaving her with dozens of greys in her red hair and heavy black bags of exhaustion beneath her blue eyes.

"Hey, Mom!" She waved. "Armin wanted to come. Is that okay?"

"Of course. How have you been, Mr. Moore?" Her mother smiled, shaking his hand. "You've gotten bigger since I last saw you. Have you been working out?"

"I've been fine." Armin shrugged. "School's been hard, though. I ain't a freaking nerd like your daughter. And yeah, I've been hitting them weights!" He tried to pose and flex his 'guns'. He failed.

She piled into the backseat next to Armin. "So, we're going straight to see Dad?"

"I needed to stop by the bank first; you two are welcome to stay in the car. It shouldn't take too long." Her mother said as they pulled out of the parking lot.

Hope frowned for a second. "Is it about the loan?" The way her mom's lips twitched downward at the mention confirmed her answer. "I'll wait in the bank with you, I don't mind."

"Me either," Armin said, trying to sound supportive, but he was already playing games on his phone, only half paying attention to the world around him.

The ride to the bank was mostly a boring one. Armin was too engrossed in some dating sim game, and her mother was too worried to talk to her. She owned a phone, but it wasn't a very good one, and most of her data was used up, so she made do by staring out the window and watching the clouds and the other faint colors that danced through the sky. Sometimes, she wondered what it would be like to fly up there.

Soon enough, though, they arrived at the bank of Oleander. It was imposing and carved from white marble. Like something you'd see in a show or movie, it was one of the oldest buildings left over from the city's early days.

The sight of it reminded her of an anthill. There was a constant stream of people that flowed in and out, constantly, all dressed in suits. Her mother was well dressed like the others, but she couldn't help but feel a little embarrassed at the fact she and Armin were still in scruffy clothes. She was wearing a t-shirt and jacket, the shirt something a child or fan girl would wear, showing all ten members of the Enforcers on it.

She quietly zipped the jacket up as they stepped out of the car. The inside of the bank was large, with lines of people waiting to have their turn at the counter. They found the shortest line and waited silently.

And they waited.

And they waited.


"Man... Am I an adult yet?" Armin asked quietly, causing her to snort and get several nasty looks from the 'fancy' men in suits.

"I'm sorry." Her mother said, wincing a little. "I didn't expect the crowds to be quite this big."

"It's fine, Mom." She said, waving the woman off.

"Yeah." Armin nodded. "A little boredom never hurt anyone. Besides, it's not like we're the only ones. Look at that guy that's pacing. He's totally late to a date." He snickered.

Hope followed her friend's gaze and saw instantly who he was talking about.

They weren't the only ones who seemed to be getting fed up with everything. "Come on!" A man in an expensive-looking suit stomped his foot down. "I don't have all day. Jeez. I'm going to be late for that damn meeting at this rate. Things can't get any worse, at least."

Silence. That was the only way to describe it, as the words left the annoyed man's mouth. An utter lack of noise as everyone seemed to suddenly come to a freezing halt in the bank. No one moved or said a word. A pen dropping would have been enough to jump-scare them all in that moment.

"Why did you say that?" A horrified older woman muttered, her eyes darting to the window. "You know that bad things happen when that's said!"

"Oh, come off it." The man sneered at the woman. "It is the middle of the day in broad daylight. Only a fool would actually attack the bank. Don't tell me you're scared of a few little words."

"You aren't from around here are you." Someone winced.

"No. I came here on some important business from Lillian. Why?"

They were all cut off when the entire bank suddenly shook, knocking several people over as a blast of force seemed to slam into it. Many of them slipped or had to grab hold of something to avoid falling. Her mother nearly tripped, but she managed to catch the older woman. "What's happening?" She tried not to have a tremble in her voice but failed. She could feel her arms shaking, and even Armin looked queasy.

"Not cool, man!" Armin yelled towards the man in the suit. "You don't ever say crap like that in Oleander! You're just begging for trouble from the Bad Timers!" He gripped his hand into a fist. "Don't worry Hope. I'll keep you and your mother safe. I swear. I just hope, pun intended, that my bodybuilding went well." He tried to crack a half grin.

Despite that, though, she could tell his usual joking manner was gone. He took a protective step in front of her and her mother, his eyes darting back and forth across the room. It didn't give her much confidence. He was shorter than her, and in school, she was always the one that had to save him.

The building shook more and she gripped her mother's hand staring around nervously. "What's happening!" The man in the suit yelled nearly falling over.

The woman from earlier stared at him with wide eyes. "It's an attack—another one. You summoned them. Idiots like you always summon them. You've killed us!"

The entire wall of the bank exploded in, making everyone yell as they were thrown back. Suddenly, every piece of metal in the room began to slowly twitch and then rise up off the ground, making more people freak out. All of them looked up as the ones responsible for this incident strolled into the room very casually. There were five of them in total, all dressed in what you might see a villain in a comic book wearing.

Two security guards made for their weapons, but in a flash, one of the figures appeared behind them. The two men were suddenly smashed into the ground, the figure not even seeming to make any moves. Metal flew through the air, forming into chains that began to wrap around all the men and even Armin, who was gasping for air as the chains found their way around his throat and downed him. The women, however, didn't have that happen to them. Instead, metal shards took shape into the form of large knives that positioned themselves over their hearts, floating just inches away, keeping them all in place.

Hope felt her face go pale. It hadn't stabbed her, nor her mother, or anyone for that matter, but it was close enough that if she made one wrong move, it would. The thing had already gotten through her jacket and shirt, and she could feel it brush her flesh. She regretted how much her legs were shaking, fear of falling forward and impaling herself filling her.

"Stay calm." Her mother's voice snapped her out of it, and she felt the woman's hand grip down on hers harder. Her mom smiled faintly, despite everything, as she tried to comfort her daughter. "It'll be okay, Hope."

"I'm fine." She said quietly. She tried to stay calm, but she knew she was shaking. "I'll be fine, Mom. Worry about yourself." That was when 'he' entered.

The ringleader stepped forward, his hand waving as the metal followed it. He was dressed almost like a Knight. The kind you'd see in a storybook, with deep black armor and a helmet that covered his head. "Please, everyone just stay calm. As soon as we have the money, we'll leave, and no one has to get hurt. However," He turned, staring past the bulletproof glass and into the eyes of one of the bank workers who were behind it. "In the event that you don't start bagging up the money for us, we will be forced to kill one person every minute."


"That minute has started." The man in the armor bluntly stated. "Go."

"Hey guys, do what he says. He's serious, and this bulletproof glass won't keep him out if he really wants to get through. Go get the money." One of the workers, possibly the manager, hissed at his crew.

"Oh, and of course, this goes without saying... Remove any traps that may or may not be within the cash." The Knight said in a cool tone.

"Yes, sir. Please be patient."

Loud sirens blared in the distance. "Deal with them, Demonica." The man in the armor spoke in a powerful and blunt tone.

The one who had knocked out the guards appeared to be a woman. She had the figure of one, at least. Dressed in a skintight black outfit that covered every inch of her, from head to toe, the top of which oozed purple flames. In a flash, the woman vanished, reappearing at the doorsteps of the bank just in time to see dozens of cop cars pull up.

One of the cops had time to see her. His eyes filled with horror as he went for his radio. "Oh God, a member of Bad Timers! They're the ones that are here! Quick, someone call for the Enforcer-"

In a flash, all the weapons the cops had were ripped from their hands, and the radios on their belts shattered. They found themselves in the handcuffs they carried, stuck around the door handles of their police cars.

"I'm back, Polaron..." Demonica hissed as she walked back into the bank. These weren't the only two issues either. The man in the armor, apparently called Polaron, and the woman in black lead a small group of three other freaks. One was covered head to toe in radios, even on his face, and the sound of a phone ringing constantly came out. The other one wore a pure white skintight suit that covered him head to toe, not showing a mouth or anything as he silently stood, unmoving.

The last member, though... The last of the three goons could only be described as a monster. His skin was pitch red, and he was taller than any man should have been. "I'm up next." The red beast growled. Razor-sharp claws stabbed from his fingers. "They're taking too long. I'm going to eat one of them. Is that okay with you, Polaron?"

"Do as you wish." The man in the armor shrugged. "Leave the men alive. They have value I could use later."

The red monster grinned as they walked to the trapped hostages, who began to scream and cry. His eyes roamed over everyone. Hope felt as if her heart stopped then and there as the eyes settled on her. Thankfully, it moved on and landed on someone else. A little girl who was in the back with her father. "She looks good."

"No!" The father tried to break out of the chains that were wrapped around him, but he couldn't move. More blades formed around the young girl, keeping her pinned in place as the monster reached for her.

The red-skinned monster stopped when a backpack smacked him in the back of his head. Everyone stared in shock, even some of the villains, as Hope stood there with her arms outstretched. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size."

The beast stared at her, and she nearly fell back from her shaking legs. Her pale face caused the smirk on the creature to go wider, and it licked its lips, making her shiver. "I've changed my mind. I want to eat that one." He stepped away from the little girl and began making his way right towards her.

"No!" Her mother yelled, but the beast ignored her and, with one hand, smacked the woman, throwing her out of his way.

"Mom!" She screamed in horror, watching as her mother crashed helplessly into a wall headfirst and collapsed, no one even attempting to help her. Armin was on the ground trying to stand, or maybe get some air, his fingers turning pale as he fought against the chains, but they kept dragging him back down.

"H- Hope. Run." He managed to gasp out, but it was too late.

She had time to see that monster's giant hand get ready to wrap around her entire head.

The building once again shook; however, this time, it caught the bad guy's off guard this time. "...Damn it." Polaron sighed, dejected. "Looks like we weren't fast enough. 'She's' here."

The roof was blown apart as someone came crashing into the building with a powerful force. Everyone stared in shock, even Hope, her fear slowly fading away and being replaced with something else entirely.

She stood tall; her golden hair tied back. A red and black outfit gave them all a sign of peace, and her red cape flowed behind her, sunlight forming in the palm of her hand as she gave a grin. "When will you villains learn?" The woman quipped, her voice booming off the walls. Her eyes had a fire in them, literally as if they were stars.

"It's Victorian!" Someone yelled. At this point, fear was gone, and the entire building was filled with a feeling of safety. "We're saved." Everyone knew who the Victorian was. The strongest human in the world and leader of the Enforcers, the greatest superhero team.

Hope stared up at the golden woman with wide eyes, watching as the woman helped her downed mother. With a wave of the woman's hand, her mother was gasping and sitting back up, fully healed. Hope's eyes were wide as she watched, and the hero seemed to meet her gaze, and for a moment, the woman smiled. "It's all going to be okay."

The villains stared at the women, none daring to move. That proved to cost them, as seconds later, the hole in the roof expanded, and more people landed in the bank, all in colorful costumes. The bad guys were surrounded by the greatest superhero team in only a few moments.

The hero brought her hand up, a burst of light so strong it blinded everyone in the room and flashed from her palm. When it died down, the woman now held a sword forged from pure energy, bigger than even a car, her hand tilting the blade to all the villains. Her red cape glowed, and for a second, the shadows in the room rose up as if they were arms reaching for their prey.

The greatest superhero in the World. Light and darkness bent to her will. "So, who's first?" Victorian asked, tilting her head and giving them a sly smile. And with that, she got ready to repeat the same dance she had done every day, the dance of heroes and villains.

And for just a second, Hope finally understood the meaning of her name.