Mark of Stars
The Chronicles of Talahm Book 1
by Colleen Mitchell
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Luke burst into the control room, his heart pounding louder than the combustion turbine’s whine. Cold sweat coated his neck and forehead despite the sweltering temperatures radiating from the engine room behind him.
Daniel, another operator, glanced up from Dullah Energy Center’s control screens. “All right, Jackman?” Daniel’s Scottish brogue jolted Luke from his tunnel vision.
Luke shook his head. “Give me a minute.” The door clicked shut behind him, reducing the noise, and he pulled out his earplugs. The tense coil in his gut didn’t ease, even when he rummaged through his backpack at the cubby along the back wall to pull out his book of prophecies.
Nick’s newly dyed bright orange hair had been the first trigger for his memory. He’d laughed, uneasy, with the other men until he saw Daniel’s fall protection gear laid out beneath the catwalk in the engine room. Then he couldn’t get to the control room fast enough.
Frantically flipping to the last page written in the leatherbound notebook, Luke swore.
“Luke?” Daniel stood up, taking a step toward him, but Luke backed away, shaking his head.
“Dan, please. Give me a minute. I’ll . . . I’ll be right back.” He snapped the book shut, barely looking at Daniel before rushing through the hallway and into the men’s bathroom.
Locking the door behind him, Luke turned the cold water on full blast. He ran his hands through his wavy black hair, streaks of white marking both temples. His sister Emma said he looked more distinguished this way, but in the mirror, Luke saw his father looking back at him with the same mismatched green and gold eyes. He broke his own gaze to splash water on his stubbled jaw.
After drying his face, he found the right page in the journal again. It was Luke’s six hundred and fifth Vision since the day he began recording them several months after his eighteenth birthday. Over the past six years, he realized he’d never been able to change or stop any of his Visions from happening. Sometimes his interference caused them.
He’d Seen death before, far removed from himself, but this time, he’d be right in the thick of it. Today.
Dullah was on the fourth day of a weeklong planned outage. The site bustled with outside contractors working on simultaneous projects to fix broken equipment, repair building damage, and install new monitoring systems while the power plant stayed “turned off” except for testing. Luke hated outages, mostly because of the number of people. Dullah normally operated with fewer than fifteen staff, but for the rest of the outage nearly a hundred would crowd the grounds every day.
Of all the days for this one to come true, why today?
At least it was still early. He had some time to pull himself together and come up with a plan. As he traced the symbols of his self-devised code, Luke considered something. If he couldn’t stop it from happening, he wondered if he could offer comfort before the last breath. Those final moments of terror didn’t have to be so terrifying.
Once he felt in control enough to face his coworkers, Luke left the bathroom, only to bump into Daniel.
“Luke, are you sure you’re all right?”
Luke swallowed the spike of emotion in his throat. “Yeah. Just had one of those sudden bad feelings, you know?”
Daniel barked a short laugh, reaching up with one hand to scratch at his neck. “Oh yeah. Working here? Happens to me all the time.”
For the first time, Luke saw a tattoo on Daniel’s wrist. “I feel stupid for just now noticing your tat.”
Daniel held out his arm for Luke to examine the ink. “Check it out! INRI, with the crown of thorns wrapped around it. The missus bought it as a baptism present a few years ago.”
Luke didn’t know what to say. Briefly, he considered telling Daniel to go home, but for all Luke knew, that would just make things worse. He forced a smile and clapped Daniel on the shoulder before heading to his locker. Slipping his hard hat back on, he returned to the engine room, the sound so loud that vibrations shook his bones.
Daniel’s words rang in his mind. He remembered his first day on the job, walking into the plant with his new boss. An enormous combustion turbine swallowed most of the space. The moving parts, high-pressure pipes, and sheer amount of generated power promised injury. Now, Luke looked again through those naïve eyes, noting the levels of grated walkways, metal to duck under, and staircases, and realized just how dangerous his workplace was.
Colleen Mitchell has been writing since age twelve. Mark of Stars is her first published novel, based on two different stories she wrote in junior high and high school.
She’s a certified life coach, the host of the diabetes podcast This is Type 1, and holds a degree in mechanical engineering.
Colleen lives in Missoula, MT with her husband Tim and their cat Luna.
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