Author's Note: Heya! Thanks for reading! Be sure to stick around to the end, there's a special surprise!

Chapter 11: Looking Forward

"Yo, Jake!" Trixie called from across the pool. "Watch this one!"

Spud and Jake sat on the other end, sitting with their feet dangling over the side. Jake lifted a hand to shield his eyes, and Trixie pointed to the sky heroically.

"Gentlemen," she said, "prepare yourselves for the front side 360 shove-it heel-flip!"

"No way she lands the laser flip," Jake said to Spud, who shrugged.

"I don't know, man. She looks confident. Aerodynamic, even."

It had been a week since the encounter at the Huntsclan hideout. Jake and Fu Dog had successfully cleared out all of the captured magical creatures, and Jake had made sure to go back and pick up any straggling Huntsclan members. For the younger kids, he told them to run off and never to join up with color coded gangs again. As for the adults in uniform, he tied them together and used a nearby convenience store's phone to call the cops on them. Luckily, Rose's tip about most of them being wanted criminals had been correct, and they had been taken into custody later that very same day.

Trixie dropped into the pool, and rolled forward at a face-melting speed. A huge grin peeled across her face, and she leaned forward, embracing the rush and doing rapid calculations in her mind. Her big moment came, and she went for the trick with enthusiasm, even giving a thrilled "Booyah!" when she reached its peak. Then, on the way down, Jake and Spud were on the edges of their seats as she started to wobble, but with a sudden straightening of her back, she stuck the landing, and slid a small arc across the pool floor before snapping into a skid and stopping. She kicked her board up into her arm, and strutted over to her two best friends. They clapped for her.

"Nice, girl!" Jake said.

"That ripped," Spud concurred, giving Trixie a high five.

Jake busted out his backpack, and the three of them enjoyed a balanced lunch of PB and J, courtesy of Susan Long. She had also packed each of them a bottle of water. Classic mom things. They enjoyed their little lunch, and discussed the current events at school. Valerie and her family had packed up and moved out of town rather abruptly, without saying a word to anyone. The rumor around Millard Filmore was that they were moving to the New Coast because of her father's job, but Jake knew better. He decided that information was not his to share, though. After hearing Fu Dog describe her actions in the Huntsclan lair, Jake figured that even if they weren't friends, Valerie couldn't be all bad, and she deserved her privacy. Maybe she could start a new life, wherever she was moving, and get away from hunting monsters and ghosts.

"Ok, y'all," Trixie said with a big stretch, reaching her arms around her two boys for a sideways hug. "I gotta head out. I gotta study for that math quiz. Apparently Mr. Chapman won't take "traumatized by minotaur attack" as an excuse for turning it in late without a doctor's note."

"Yeah, I should probably go too. I can't be late for Dragon training," Jake agreed.

"I also have important matters to attend to," Spud said, though mostly just because he wanted to feel included.

The trio of friends bid their farewells. Spud and Trixie headed in one direction, their boards under their arms, while Jake half buckled on his helmet and took off skating a different way. As he cruised through the alleys that surrounded the abandoned Splash Zone, he was met with a weird sense of nostalgia. He glanced up at the rooftop where, only a couple of weeks prior, he had been chasing down a renegade goblin. Thinking back on the memory, it had been a lot smaller of a thing than he had thought it was at the time. More proof of Luong Lao Shi's wisdom.

Which reminds me, thought Jake, I better haul butt.

As Jake pumped his legs hard to kick his board into high gear, he was unaware of an observer, perched nearby. Ironically, if Jake had turned just a few degrees to the right, he might have spotted them. As it stood, he was completely unawares as the onlooker took off from their previous vantage point, sprinting silently across rooftops in hot pursuit. A long, blond braid trailed behind her as she ran, and she followed Jake all the way back to Chinatown. She perched on top of a Panda Express, and crouched behind the giant rotating panda sign. She watched Jake kick up his board, and enter his apartment building.

"Where are you?" A voice said, coming through the speaker in her ear tinny and distorted.

Rose winced, bringing one hand up to touch the earpiece and turn it down. The voice was terribly loud. She gave a longing look at the apartment complex doors before rising to her feet. Her heart ached in an empty, numb way. She swallowed her feelings. She really had wanted to go to the dance with Jake. Unfortunately, that interfered with the ways of Huntsclan, and so was impossible. Still, there was nothing that said she couldn't keep tabs on him… in secret.

"Nowhere important," Rose lied, holding down her earpiece so that the recipient on the other end could hear. "I saw a pegasus. Lost track of it."

"You seem to think I have forgotten your recent failure, 87," the voice said. "Instead of wasting your time chasing winged horses, perhaps your efforts would be better put to use tracking down the Dragon you lost."

Rose, who had turned around at this point and jumped to another rooftop, craned her neck to take one last glance at Jake's apartment doors. She clutched her fist, and imagined Jake reaching out to her. Telling her she would ok. Promising to help. Then, she released her fist and exhaled, blowing those thoughts onto the wind. She brought her fingers up to her ear once more.

"Of course, Lord Huntsman," she said, the faintest ghost of a smile on her face. "Without delay."

End of Book 1

Subnote: Thank you all so much for sticking with me until the end! This is the first step on a long journey, and I'm excited to share it with you! Tacked on the end here you will find an Epilogue. Think of it as a post-credit scene, teasing the next big story in the Danger Watch universe. I hope it gets you excited, and be sure to give my profile a follow so you don't miss it when it comes out! Until then, thank you again! And don't worry:

Jake Long will return...


~1 Year Earlier…

New Mexico

Smooth jazz blared lazily through the dust-coated speaker system that the Big Bear boasted. The Bear, as the locals often called it, was no chain restaurant, and easily the largest and most respected diner in town. That morning, like every morning, it was full of the usual customers. The police officer who only ever ordered black coffee and omelettes, the strange woman who was always wearing a smoke-scented denim jacket and muttering to herself, and the college aged gay couple that always split pancakes. Today, however, just as the young couple was starting to dig into their breakfast, the table started to rumble gently. The first of the two young men looked to his partner, and the two exchanged a look before looking back down at the table, which was now vibrating considerably.

"Aliens!" The denim woman shouted, covering her head with her arms and cowering in the booth she sat in. "They've finally come back!"

By now, the other patrons of the diner had noticed the shaking too, and were looking around for answers. The cop, who was still only halfway through his cup of coffee, sighed and rose from his seat with a grunt. Pulling up his belt, and straightening his hat, he made his way towards the door.

"Alright, everybody remain calm. I'm sure its just a tremor," he said. As he reached the door, he turned on the CV radio on his shoulder. "Hey, this is Morton. Anybody know what all the… shaking… was…"

As the policeman took a few steps outside of the Bear, he was met with a pressurized droning, like someone was trying to shove as much sound as they could into every hole in his face to make his brain shake around like jello on the hood of a monster truck. The officer also noted a long, blanketing shadow that seemed to cover the sun. Squinting up with eyes that weren't as sharp as they once were, the cop suddenly gasped, dropping his radio so that it dangled off of his shoulder.

Above him, blocking out the sky, was a huge, red eye.

Next Time: Phase 1, Book 2

XJ-9 and the Glitch Techs