The Fourth Piece (Order's Last Play #1)
by E. Ardell
Publication Date: July 18, 2016
Admitting what you are will end everything you know. Embracing who you are will start a war...
Life is great when you’re good-looking and popular…so long as no one knows you’re a vulatto. Being half-alien gets you labeled “loser” quicker than being a full vader. So it’s a good thing Devon, Lyle, and Lawrence can easily pass for human—until the night of the party. Nothing kills a good time faster than three brothers sharing a psychic vision of a fourth brother who’s off-world and going to die unless they do something. But when your brother’s emergency happens off-planet, calling 9-1-1 really isn’t an option.
In their attempt to save a brother they barely remember, Devon, Lyle and Lawrence expose themselves to mortal danger and inherit a destiny that killed the last four guys cursed with it. In 2022, there are humans and aliens, heroes and monsters, choices and prophecies—and four brothers with the power to choose what’s left when the gods decide they’re through playing games.
Book I in the Order's Last Play series
OTHER PEOPLE’S DREAMS SMELL LIKE oranges.
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s some kind of psychic fail-safe.
When I smell citrus, I know I’m not in my own
head. Uncle Jonas said dream-walking is the telepathic
equivalent to sleepwalking. It doesn’t happen too often,
but when I go to sleep, sometimes my mind wanders and
I wake up in different heads as far as Canada. I don’t stay
there long; the figments are lost as soon as I roll over or
scratch my nose.
I stand in a white-washed tunnel. I press my face
against a blank wall, forehead rubbing against the warm,
smooth surface. A scorching wind blows in through the
wall, drying out my skin and making it feel stretched
across my face. The wall becomes transparent, and I’m
looking through a picture window into someone else’s
The sky is green, double red suns glare down at a
bloody battlefield. Men are firing guns with bullets that
explode, showering metallic glitter that melts the skin
off the poor saps beneath the clouds. Bombs shriek
through the sky, arcing back to strike the purple soil, creating
mushroom clouds of debris and body parts. Thick
blood spatters into the air. Men and women writhe on
the ground, screaming and clutching wounds that leak
blood, guts, urine, and bile.
My stomach shudders and I swallow spit that tastes
like tangerines. I touch the window with my palms and
gasp as the clear shield between the war zone and me
shatters into tiny fragments of rock candy. I stagger forward
onto the uneven terrain. My bare feet crunch across
the hot, rocky dirt, grit working its way between my toes.
The atmosphere is hazy with dust and smoke. The sharp
scent of boiling orange juice wafts under my nose on a
I recognize this battlefield. It’s from the guy’s message.
A woman collapses, her head inches from my foot.
Her neck is twisted at an unnatural angle and her eyes
stare blankly at me.
I was here a few hours ago. A man roars as acid
glitter eats the skin off his face.
A hand closes on my shoulder from behind and I
yelp, whirling around and falling on my ass. I pass right
through the lady with the broken neck. She’s a ghost, a
shade. She vanishes, as do all the other bloody, convulsing
soldiers on the ground. The bombs stop exploding
and the acid glitter dissolves as I stare up at the person
I’d last seen face-down in a pool of glowing water.
Drowning Guy’s a pretty boy type with dirty blond
hair in an armpit-length braid over the shoulder of a tan
shirt with pockets at the biceps. His pants are tan too and
loaded with pockets at the knees, ankles, and hips. Hints
of silver, from the compartments of a thick utility belt,
gleam in the sunlight. Drowning Guy, DG, grins at me,
and extends a slim-fingered hand.
“Well, you’re a new development,” he says.
When I don’t take his hand, he grabs my arm and
yanks me to my feet with surprising strength. DG looks
about fourteen years old. He’s a head shorter than me,
and skinny, but he’s got the stance of a fighter: feet
shoulder width apart, arms loose at his sides but looking
ready to grab or block a hit. His posture reminds me of
Devon. Devon’s always ready to fight somebody with
fists or insults. The word missiles are usually aimed at
me, the distorted reflection he can’t stand.
“Can you talk?” DG asks. His voice has a chime-like
quality to it, and his phrases are accented with a
I frown. “Say something else,” I demand. For some
reason, I don’t think he’s speaking English.
“I don’t usually have dreams about men in their underwear,”
DG says, and his grin widens as I glance down
at my Houston Rockets boxers.
He laughs, the cackle setting my teeth on edge. He
sounds like the friggin’ Joker on helium. “Maybe I’m
developing new preferences,” he says.
I narrow my eyes. When I concentrate on his
speech, I hear another language over a bad English dub.
But when I let go and focus on him instead of the sentence,
I understand him just fine.
“So, who’s coming to save me?” DG asks.
Huh? Save him? “Oh, I....”
His smile fades and his eyes narrow. “You are an
under-dressed emissary come to tell me extraction is underway, right?” He bounces on the balls of his feet. “Or I’m already extracted and I’m in a coma. You’re a psy-ops agent sent into my head to wake me up?”
Damn. This guy thinks I’m a professional here to
help him. His eyes go glassy for a second and I see fear
in them. Hell, I feel the fear in him, and that flips my
SNAFU switch. This guy’s in trouble somewhere and
he’s stuck with me.
“Uh, I’m not—I’m not any of those things, but
you—you sent me a message. Earlier, when I was awake,
I saw you drowning—felt you drowning.” My lungs constrict
and I crack my knuckles to give my hands something
I’ve been in plenty dreams, I’ve even talked to the
sleepers, but never like this. No one’s ever needed me to
do anything, and no one’s ever been dying. I guess it’d
be decent of me to contact someone for him or something,
“I don’t even know where you are,” I say. In a place
with two suns, local nine-one-one probably isn’t an option.
“Can you tell me who I can call for you and how?”
This guy’s a Visitor, no, an alien on another planet. An
alien with a familiar face who can broadcast directly into
my head like only Devon and Lawrie can.
The prickling sense of déjà vu ripples through me,
and a tip-of-the-tongue sensation brings DG’s name so
close to the surface of my mind I almost say it. I know it.
“You’re not Remasian,” DG says, deadpan. “And
you’re not speaking Common Tongue at all.” He takes a
step toward to me, invading my personal space.
I want to jump back so I can breathe. I hate when
people crowd me. It’s harder to block out surface
thoughts. I keep twelve inches of space between me and
anyone who’s not family or a girl I’m messing around
DG won’t let me back away from him. He stalks
forward with each step I take back. His eyes glint and his
jaw is set like my mom’s when she’s determined to win.
“I bet you don’t even know who I am, do you?” he asks.
“You.” He reaches out and snags my shoulders, holding
me in place.
This guy’s strong as Thor! I go rigid as DG leans
forward and runs his friggin’ nose over my chest, neck
and shoulders like he’s part canine.
“You smell like something I used to know.” His
nose twitches like a rabbit’s as he studies me. When his
grip eases up, I break out of it, shoving him away from
“What the hell, man!” Okay dream, you need to end
before this guy sniffs my crotch too. Screw helping him.
“Where are you from?” DG’s still looking me up
“What does it matter? Look, dreams don’t last
forever. If you want me to try to do something, before
you—I don’t know—die....”
In a blur of motion, DG whips a small silver dagger
with a jeweled hilt from one of his bicep pockets and
begins cleaning his short nails with it. His expression is
dangerous. “I asked you a question,” he says.
I hold both of my hands up, fingers splayed. My
heart beats fast. I need to take control. This is DG’s
dream, but I can alter it if I need to. I’ve changed my
clothes and made black horses appear in dreams before. I
visualize steel. I want a wall between DG and me. I close
my eyes, seeing steel beams stacking themselves. I push
the beams outward, sending them from my mind into
the dream space, and wait for the tugging nausea that
comes with the mental strain of tampering with someone’s
head. But I feel fine.
I open my eyes and balk. There’s no wall. Why is
there no wall? Tiny tremors race through my body as I
continue standing on an empty battlefield with no protection
between DG and me. He hasn’t moved any closer,
but he’s changed his stance. He’s got his arms folded
over his chest. The dagger’s gone and irritation pulses
from every fiber of his being, trickling into me and making
me sweat. I lick a salty droplet off my upper lip.
“Don’t strain yourself, Dream-walker,” DG says.
“In my head, I’m the boss.” His voice is hard as the steel
I’d failed to create. He sighs. “Look, I don’t have my
coordinates, but my emergency code is—”
Blood dribbles down his chin. He gurgles, spitting
up more blood. He rubs his mouth with his right hand,
and it comes away bright red. I feel panic explode inside
him like a punch to my own stomach.
“Oh gods.” His voice sounds syrupy and congested.
He doubles over, and a thin string of blood yo-yo’s from
his lips. Violent choking noises become the soundtrack
over an otherwise silent battlefield. DG staggers to his
knees, clutching his left shoulder, and I gape as blood
seeps through the spaces between his fingers.
Horror grabs me and won’t let go. My minor tremors
turn to full-blown shakes. Pain echoes from DG’s
body into mine. Something sharp tears a hole through
my left shoulder, severing tendons and splintering bone.
I expect to feel hot blood running down my arm and torso, but I only feel beads of sweat rolling down my face and back.
The voice seems to come from everywhere and nowhere.
The wind blows so hard I barely stay on my feet. I
spin around, and see tall gray trees with V-shaped leaves
surrounding the battle area. They weren’t here before.
The war zone isn’t a plowed field on a plain; it’s a clearing.
The trees sway in the wind, bending so that they’re
bowing backward and marking a path through tall blades
of purple grass. A deep feeling of need squeezes my guts
together in a vice grip better than DG’s. I gasp as my legs
start moving on their own. I’m walking toward the path.
No! No! I try to plant my feet, but they won’t stop.
I’m not in control; psychics always have to be in control.
If they’re not—if I’m not, I lose my mind.
“D-don’t leave. H-help...” a broken voice calls.
Something snaps like a tether line stretched too
far inside me. I stumble a few steps before I can stop
walking and stand, feet together, fists clenched. My heart
practically vibrates it’s going so fast, and my lungs burn
from too much air. I’ve been breathing in but not out.
Fear prickles under my skin. I feel scrubbed raw.
“D-don’t go. Please. I don’t want to die,” the broken
voice calls again. Hitching breaths and hoarse sobs
make me turn around. DG is curled on his right side, in
fetal position. Blood saturates the dirt around him, red
and purple mix together making black.
I take slow steps to reach him, kneeling down and
grimacing at the warm, sticky feeling of blood on my
bare knees. Resting a hand on his back, I peer into his
face. His eyes are squeezed shut, feathery lashes fluttering
like he’s in REM sleep. He could be waking up from
his dream, meaning I’ll be waking up soon as well. I
should be relieved, but I’m not.
“Hey.” I shake him and his eyes open, but they’re
dazed, pupils dilated. “What were you telling me about
an emergency code? I need to know now. I think you’re
His mouth opens.
Need floods me again. I have to move, to follow the
path. I hold onto DG to keep myself in place. “Tell me
what you want!” I yell at him.
“Need to go. Help me up.” His voice is stronger.
My hands hover over a huge blood stain on his uniform.
There’s no new blood. In the blink of an eye, his
uniform’s clean again and he looks like he did when he
first appeared to me.
He sits up, right hand going to his left shoulder and
squeezing it. “It stopped.” His eyes are fully alert. They
lock onto mine. “I have to go that way.” He nods toward
the bending trees. “And so do you, I think.”
E. Ardell spent her childhood in Houston, Texas, obsessed with anything science fiction, fantastic, paranormal or just plain weird. She loves to write stories that feature young people with extraordinary talents thrown into strange and dangerous situations. She took her obsession to the next level, earning a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern Maine where she specialized in young adult genre fiction. She’s a big kid at heart and loves her job as a teen librarian at Monterey Public Library in Monterey, California, where she voluntarily shuts herself in rooms with hungry hordes of teenagers and runs crazy after-school programs for them. When she’s not working, she’s reading, writing, running writers critique groups, trying to keep up with a blog, and even writing fan fiction as her guilty pleasure.