*This is an excerpt from the current draft of the book. It is subject to change in final editing.
His mask’s expression looked angry, his eyes slightly upturned at the edges and glowing with a bright blue light. They were trying new masks out tonight, Atlas’ face completely hidden, and a microphone mounted inside.
A large screen spanned the whole length of the stage behind them, the stage lights dimmed.
He wore a tight jumpsuit under a black metallic costume. The metal shined under the lights and it was supposed to resemble alien armor. It was light, but the large shoulder pieces that jutted out were heavy. He also wore armored gloves that hid his fingers.
Licking his lips, he played a few cords. Everything was going perfect tonight, and Atlas felt like nothing could go wrong. He spoke into the headset, “Apollo’s mission? Shoot for the stars. The sky’s never the limit.”
“We’re gonna rock so hard we’ll shake the stars from the sky,” Malachi added, his tone upbeat.
Slowly, the lights dimmed, and the house went dark. The members stood in position, Atlas bowing his head. The new masks had night vision because a lot of their act was done in darkness, and it helped him navigate better. Plus, it was fucking cool.
The curtains opened, and the audience was silent. Malachi played the opening, a blue, hazy light shining down and illuminating his costume.
Atlas started singing the words to “Diana”, the rest of the lights coming on with his entrance. It was a new song, and the first time he had performed it live.
When he felt a drop in temperature, Atlas looked up. It felt like the air conditioner was cranked to icebox, the smoke that covered his feet numbing them.
The screen behind him was a projection of open space, the atmosphere eerie and matching the dark theme of the song. The images started glitching, a series of loud booms coming from the speakers.
When the music stopped, and everything went quiet, Atlas froze. Everyone in the crowd had passed out in their seats, none of them moving. It was still dark in the room, but he could see well.
“What the fuck is going on?” Malachi said through his headset.
“I think it’s our cue to get the fuck out of here,” Drew added. “Some crazy terrorist-um shit is fucking going on. Fuck. This is bad guys.”
The lights in the house popped on and lit the audience. Atlas swallowed hard and took a few cautious steps backward.
He wondered if poison was being pumped into the air and because they were wearing masks, they didn’t seem to be affected like the others here, but he knew that probably wouldn’t last long and they should run.
The doors slammed open at the back of the room. A horde of gun-toting intruders stormed in, all of them wearing black outfits and full-face masks so they didn’t breathe the poisoned air.
“We have to help,” Atlas said firmly. He darted off stage, both Drew and Malachi shouting at him to come back.
He dodged a few bullets before reaching one of the men and whacking him in the head with his guitar. Amazingly, it didn’t break the instrument, but it did knock the guy out.
A few bullets flew his way, but he ducked and dodged them. As he laid on the floor, he ripped the gun from the unconscious man near him. He heard Malachi’s voice in his headset. “Killing the lights. Use the distraction and get your ass out of there. I mean it, Atlas. Move. You’re not a superhero. You’re a rockstar.”
“I’m whatever I fucking want to be,” Atlas whispered back. “And tonight, I’m a superhero.” The lights went out again and Atlas slowly stood. The intruders were temporarily stunned and didn’t seem to be able to see in the dark. He knew he had the advantage right now and he couldn’t waste this chance.
Raising his gun, he fired off a few shots and picked off what gunmen he could see. There was a silencer on his gun, only a light sound emitted with each shot.
With heavy breath, he lowered his gun and scanned the silent room. Nothing moved. It was surreal, like he could be dreaming. It couldn’t be this easy, could it?
The click of a woman’s heels resounded in the empty music hall, Atlas crawling on his hands and knees and heading toward the front of the audience to hide. He ducked behind the first row of seats and peeked down the aisle.
He took note of a woman standing there. She was tall and skinny with a masculine frame, Atlas wondering if she was a man in disguise. Her head was held high, her hair long and straight.
Around her neck was a glowing charm that lit her face. She wasn’t wearing a mask like the gunners had been. Though she shared common features with a human, her facial structure was elongated and alien-like, her eyes like black holes. Her fingers were longer than a human’s, her ears like an elf and her skin having a darker hue that was accentuated by dark makeup.
She kicked at one of the men slain on the floor, then scanned the room. Like a dog, she sniffed the air, her upper lip curling. She appeared to have fangs, but it was hard to see for certain. Her tongue peeked out of her lips as she licked them hungrily.
Putting her hand on her chest, she began to sing, the words in another language. Atlas felt a pinch in his chest, like someone was squeezing his heart. He opened his mouth as a silent scream escaped.
Falling onto his back, Atlas’ body went rigid. He dropped his gun, and his costume clanged on the hard tile, giving away his location. He was stunned and couldn’t move. The woman’s voice grew closer, louder.
She appeared before him and studied his concealed face. The screen over his eyes was now blank, its surface like mirrored glass. “Ahh….a starboy. How curious.”
“Get away from me, you bitch,” Atlas spat out through gritted teeth.
“So, you’re the one who killed my soldiers? Why aren’t you asleep like the rest of them? Is it this….” She snickered as she dug one of her long nails into the glass of his helmet, a high-pitched noise emitted. “Mask protecting you? Or is it a dark star? Will I find one under this shining set of black armor? Let me cut you open and let’s see. The suspense is killing me,” she said, her words hissing like a snake. She slowly unsheathed a knife, the blade inlaid with glowing foreign symbols. “Well, if I was alive, it would,” she said with a grin.
She bent down and placed her hand on his chest, his heart still feeling like a lead weight rested on it. He couldn’t take a breath, Atlas’ mouth open wide as a gurgle escaped his throat.
“What? Can’t move?” She spoke through gritted teeth as she placed the tip of the knife on his armor.
“Let me go,” Atlas snapped, his fight still there though he was paralyzed.
“I will after I rip open your chest and take your star, you meddling little starboy.”