Discovering Power e-book cover


Realms of Power and Fury Book 1: Discovering Power 


They say you should always read the fine print. This was especially true for Eric but his need for cash in hand outweighed his common sense.


Realm of Power and Fury 01 snippet – 

1 – 

The coffee was terrible but when Eric Johnson was offered a second cup, he accepted eagerly. It was the first hot anything he’d had to eat or drink since his power had been shut off a week earlier. 

“You want this one sweet and white too or did that last cup put some hairs on your chest?” the man seated across the desk from him asked with a sharp bark of laughter. 

“Sugar and cream would be great, Mr. Marston. Thank you,” he replied and pushed the tiny Styrofoam cup eagerly across the table. The older man made no attempt to hide his disdain at touching the used cup. 

“I’ll get you a fresh one, son. The world’s a different place than it was a few years ago.” Mr. Marston stood and walked toward a coffee maker that looked as if it had not been cleaned in months.

Although maybe “walked” wasn’t quite the right word. He didn’t so much walk as he marched casually. Everything about the man screamed ex-military, from his tightly cropped hair to his starched suit, sterile mustache, and the way he didn’t so much ask questions as demand answers.

A month before, Eric might have joked with Sarah that he looked like a cliché from a video game, but thinking about either her or video games hurt too much right now.

Mr. Marston put the cup on the desk and nodded at him. 

Eric looked up to thank him but caught the look of condescension on his face and the words died on his tongue. Not that he blamed the man. They were practically opposites and he couldn’t come out of any comparison without falling horribly short.

Marston’s shoulders were broad but his were knobby. The man’s starched suit was almost too tight across his broad chest and biceps, while his faded T-shirt was baggy, except around his gut. His host spoke with purpose but Eric felt like he had none.

Even the way they sat was different. Martson looked like he had a steel rod down the center of his spine, while he alternated between hunching his shoulders forward or slouching back in the uncomfortable folding metal chair. 

“So you saw our advertisement and wanted to help America in the pursuit of maintaining our technological advantage? Admirable, Aaron. That’s admirable.”

“It’s Eric. Did I not fill out the paperwork correctly? My handwriting isn’t the best. Sorry.”

“Not a problem, son. Handwriting isn’t needed for what we’re doing today.”

“What are we doing?” he asked. “I’ll get paid today, right? The sign on the bus said cash.”

“That’s right, son—five hundred dollars cash in hand before you step through that door.” Marston nodded to the dirty glass door at the front of the strip mall. Eric had felt something like hope when he’d first walked through it but the dingy interior of this office space had begun to leech that from him.

Not knowing the details of the “clinical study” that had been advertised on the bus did not help his confidence in the situation. 

“And what do I have to do?”

“Before I can tell you that, I need to confirm your eligibility for this offer. Not every Tom, Dick, or Susan who walks through that door has the qualities Quantum Fortune Research needs. Once we determine that you are the best of the best, we’ll sign some paperwork. All standard boilerplate stuff, of course—NDA, consent forms, release forms, next of kin. That kind of thing.”

“Next of kin?”

The older man waved the question away with a flick of his wrist that looked like it could have broken Eric’s collarbone if it had been too close. He pulled a tablet from inside his desk. It seemed almost flimsy in his hands as if he could snap it in half if he so wished. 

“Number one!” Marston snapped eagerly like a grade-school teacher reading out questions for a pop spelling quiz. “What is your current employment status?”

“Un.” Eric sighed. 

“You’re gonna have to speak up, son. And where I’m from, we say ‘sir’ when we’re finished speaking.”

As if that wasn’t obvious. He didn’t say that, of course. Not with five hundred bucks on the line. “I was on an esports team, but I wasn’t…uh, as competitive as Hans.”

“Esports, huh? That’s like online gambling?”

“More like competitive video games.”

The man shook his head and his lip wrinkled in disgust like Eric’s dad’s used to when he got tired before he’d finished mowing the lawn. “Is there much money in that?”

“I was getting by okay but right now, I’m unemployed, sir.” His skin crawled at calling the man sir but his stomach took precedence over his pride. 

“Very good,” the interviewer replied as if being unemployed was the best of all possible answers. “How many hours a week would you say you pass time with your friends?”

“I’m sorry, how is that relevant?”

Martson checked his watch. “We need to keep moving if we’re gonna get that cash in your hand today, son.”


“I don’t understand the details, son. I only ask the questions. I think it’s something to do with network effects and synapses—I don’t know, I’m not an egghead. Answer the question.”

“I haven’t seen any friends in a month, sir. Not since I left the team.”

“You got a girlfriend?” 

“No. But Hans does.” 

The man nodded and made a note on his tablet. Eric wondered if he was checking the box for “loser.” 

“What about family?”

“I haven’t seen my family in years.” It was still a sore point so he didn’t add anything more.

Martson made a few more notes on his tablet while Eric waited for more questions but none came. 

“All right, son. It looks like you’re eligible. Now the fun part—paperwork.” It was ostensibly a joke, he knew that, but the man had delivered it with such hamhanded gracelessness that all he could do was stare at the mound of paper that was shoved in front of him. 

“I thought there would be medical questions.”

His query was waved away with another flick of his wrist. “The eggheads want participants in a variety of levels of physical fitness—all the way down. They’ll give you a once-over once we take you back there.”

“Sure,” he said, not wanting to dwell on how obvious it was that he was on the bottom end of the fitness scale. 

“First up is a standard Non-Disclosure Agreement. You can’t tell anyone about what you do here today, nor can you post about it online, write about it, take photos, or anything else. If you do, you’ll face fees, jail time, and whatever our lawyers can get to stick.”

Martson seemed determined to talk so fast that Eric couldn’t read and listen at the same time. 

Still, he’d signed NDAs before. They were all fairly standard—don’t talk about this or you will get in trouble. He signed it. No sooner had he finished the ‘n’ in his last name than the other man snatched the paper away. Eric hadn’t seen him move around the table but he now towered over him and pointed out where he would need to sign, date, and initial. 

“Next up is a consent form. It simply declares that you’re in full control of your faculties and you willingly go through this process.”

“And what is the process?”

“You have to sign one of these to go to Six Flags, son. And you got to sign one today if you want to get paid. It’s only saying you agree to do this.”

He could smell the bad coffee on Marston’s breath. It encouraged him to sign and date the form. 

“Great. The next one is a standard liability release. You can initial on each line where I highlighted.”

“Risk of injury?” 

“This is medical research, son. You’d be surprised at how the general populace reacts to something as benign as the prick of a needle. Goddamn legion of lawyers. Of course, they wouldn’t have those kinds of complaints if they saw what yellow fever looked like in the unvaccinated. Did you ever see a man vomit himself to death? I have. It’s not pretty.”

Eric initialed, mainly to get him to stop before he began to elaborate on the details of what vomiting oneself to death looked like. 

“Loss of wages due to missing work. I guess that’s not an issue,” he mumbled as he initialed that line. 

“You don’t need to read every damn line, son, only initial.”

He completed the next couple without comment. It wasn’t like he could afford a lawyer to sue, nor was he concerned about “loss of privacy for the duration of the experiment.” He would be out of there soon, anyway. The next line gave him pause, however. 

“Release indemnity from quantum disentanglement?” he read aloud. “Is that supposed to be a joke?”

“If it is, I’m not laughing. The company’s name is Quantum Fortune. We’re merely trying to cover our bases. You’d be shocked at what these liberal whackjobs will sue a small business over.”

“Can I skip this one?”

“Not if you want to participate, son. But that’s fine. You came here on the bus, right? I think one passed a couple of minutes ago but you’re welcome to leave now. The bus stop has a covering so you should stay mostly dry from the rain. But don’t come back for a few weeks, all right? We’re booked up with people who want this opportunity.”

“Are you sure?” Eric asked and looked around the empty office. Marston’s desk seemed to be the only piece of furniture in use besides the counter with the coffeemaker on it.

“We’re beating ’em off with a stick, son. Not everyone is as qualified as you are but if you want to throw away your chance at the bonus, that’s on you.”

“There’s a bonus?”

“Did I forget to mention that? Oh, wow…it’s been a day, you know what I mean?” He slapped the young man on the back so hard it almost knocked the wind out of him. 

“There’s an additional three-hundred-dollar bonus if you agree to start the experiment the same day you come in. You would not believe the number of punks who come in here looking for a free ride. Some of ’em come back, of course. An opportunity like this doesn’t present itself every day, you understand. Would you be interested in the additional three hundred?”

“I mean…uh, yeah, of course. Er…yes, sir.” 

“Then initial on the last few lines and we’ll get you to your checkup.”

Eric nodded. He recalled going tubing down the San Marcos River as a kid and his dad arguing with the staff at the tube rental company about the liability form. It had been so embarrassing for his young self to watch him yell at the proprietor of the shop over the details of a document that everyone else signed without even hesitating.

His dad had eventually signed it, of course—his mom had made it very clear that they would not drive back to Dallas without even floating the river—and unsurprisingly, nothing had happened. All the fuss over the form had amounted to time wasted and people offended for no good reason. 

He initialed the rest of the lines on the form. 

“Great job, son! I don’t say this every day but I see great potential in you. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s head to the back and do that medical checkup you were asking about.”

Mr. Marston opened a door that led directly into a medical office that was more impressive only because the stainless steel table the doctor directed him to sit on looked like it had just been wiped down. 

“Name?” the doctor asked. 

“Don’t you have that on your chart?”

“It’s only a formality, sir.”

“Eric Johnson.”

“Say ahhhh.”

He complied and the man responded with a cursory glance down his throat. 

“Are we feeling in good health today?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to check your reflexes, all right?”

“Yeah, they’re fairly good, especially eye-hand because—”

Eric stopped talking when the doctor rapped on his knee with a tiny rubber hammer. “Looks fine. Any allergies?”

“Only mango skin. It’s weird. Regular mango doesn’t do anything but if I eat any of the skin, I have to go the bathroom like immedia—”

“That’s fine. This is only a tiny prick, all right?”

“That’s what she said,” he quipped as the doctor stepped behind him. He winced as a needle jabbed into his skin at the base of his head where his neck met his skull. “Ouch!”

“Any irritation should fade,” the man said in a not particularly reassuring monotone.

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Why did you put it on the back of my neck? I thought vaccines were supposed to go in a big muscle like your arm or neck.”

“Are you sure your arms count as big, son?” Marston laughed at his own joke. 

“It’s only a routine shot,” the other man said. 

“So it is a vaccine?” 

The doctor glanced at Marston, who cleared his throat. “We’re not supposed to know what it is or if it’s merely a placebo. Studies like these always need a control. You understand.”

“I’m not sure I understand—”

“All your questions will be answered. Now, if you’ll follow me, the doctor has a full plate.”

“He does? Because it looked like I was your last appointment of the day.”

“We respect our participants’ anonymity. It wouldn’t do for you to be swapping notes with the other participants.”

His hand was on Eric’s shoulder and he didn’t think he could resist even if he wanted to. He was led down a flight of stairs and a narrow hallway that ended at a heavy metal door. 

“That NDA is about to kick in.”

“Does that mean I can describe this hallway on the Internet if I want to?” he joked.

“No, son. No, it doesn’t,” Martson replied clinically.

The man punched a series of numbers into a keypad and when the light at the top of the device flashed green, he held a badge out to be scanned. Almost instantly, the door unlocked with a heavy click and they stepped into a large room. 

Two of the walls were lined with banks of seriously out-of-date computers, although the clickety-clack of the mechanicals’ keyboards was a sound most modern gamers had come to appreciate.

The third wall held a series of maps or maybe elevation diagrams on it. No, he decided as he scanned them. They were maps. Eric had played enough games to recognize that but they weren’t of Texas or the United States. Maybe some part of Canada? It looked like a series of islands speckled with snow.

He gave the fourth wall only a glance since it had a few crates stacked against it, plus brooms, a mop, and a couple of trash cans. The very center of the room, however, drew and held his attention. A metal ring about eight feet across stood elevated on a platform with a ramp leading to it.

In that moment, it felt like stepping onto the set of a cheesy sci-fi show or maybe into the mission control room in a less than spectacular video game where one could pick up missions, maybe improve their gear, or customize their character. 

“All systems go, sir,” a woman in a lab coat and glasses said to Marsten. 

“Acknowledged. Go ahead and fire ’er up.”

“Yes, sir.” She clicked some commands into her keyboard, leaned back, and turned her attention to the contraption. The central-most part of the metal circle began to spin. It was slow at first but it increased speed rapidly. Soon, the inner ring started to glow orange from the friction. 

“What is this supposed to be?” Eric asked and suppressed a chuckle. He felt like a fool for having only now reached what appeared to be the only reasonable conclusion. When he looked around the room again, he wasn’t at all surprised that he couldn’t see any of the hidden cameras. There were so many places they could hide them. “All right, you guys got me.”

“Son?” Marston asked in evident bemusement. 

“I mean…there are cameras here, right?” He didn’t want to belabor the obvious but some explanation seemed necessary. 

“Of course there are cameras. We’ll need to go over the data we get from this medical scan. Step forward, son. Up the ramp. You step through that ring, I give you eight hundred dollars cash when you step out the other side.”

“Right.” He shrugged and walked up the ramp. When he’d reached about halfway, the spinning part flashed white before orange spread across the center. Sparks from the edge were tossed into the centrally spinning vortex. “Wow. These are amazing effects. I assumed you’d add this kind of stuff in post.”

“Shut up and keep moving, all right?” Marston responded, his tone grating. 

Eric took another couple of steps until he stood directly in front of the disk. He could feel heat emanating from it and caught the smell of ozone. It seemed very elaborate for a special effect. 

“Who do you work for again?” he asked. “Quantum…uh, Researchers? Do you guys mind if I Google you real quick?”

“Sir, we’re losing stability.”

“DARPA was clear, sir,” another tech said. “We need that data.”

“Wait—DARPA?” he asked. “Isn’t that, like, department of defense?” 

“You’re damn straight, son. Your contribution today will help not only mankind but your country as well.”

At this point, he had significant doubts as he stared into the swirling orange disk. He took a step back. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure I want to do this. I thought this would be like a test for medications or something. I didn’t mean to waste your time.”

“No sweat, son. You didn’t waste no one’s time,” Marsten replied. “Off you get!” Without warning, he kicked Eric firmly on his butt. 

He tumbled forward and stretched his hands out to catch himself as he fell into the disk. 

The older man’s shout seemed to echo as he fell into nothing through a tunnel with flashing orange walls and nothing but blackness ahead of him.



Eric never stood a chance of getting out of this situation. What did he get pushed into? Is he going to come out the other side with superpowers or was he thrown into an entirely different realm? Find out when Realms of Power and Fury: Discovering Power is released on February 22. Head over to Amazon and pre-order it today.


Realms of Power and Fury e-book cover