All around the Stevenson house, the storm raged on. As they climbed into bed, Sharon muttered to Hank, "Boy, am I glad we have enough trees around that we don't need anything like a lightning rod. That thunder sounds really close!"
"Yep, we're safe in this house," Hank agreed. "It might sound scary, but we don't have anything to worry about."
High up in the attic, seven figures sprawled among the dust and discarded storage of the family’s surplus belongings. One of the clay figures, slightly bigger than the others, faintly glittered in the darkness. A bolt of lightning split the sky directly over the house, and tiny pieces of grit embedded in the figurine flashed in time with the bolt. A thin spark slithered down the antenna till it neared the glittering figure.
It might have been a trick of the shadows, but if there had been anyone watching, they might have sworn that the figure on the table, ever so slightly, moved.
Chad stared around at the figures. They were all exactly as he made them, and their voices sounded exactly as he had imagined they would—but they were moving around and talking!
"Unbind him," said Zandor, and Chad felt the gag slip from around his mouth and the bonds loosen from his wrists. Once he had the use of his hands, Chad pushed off the ground and against the sides of the tunnel surrounding him. It collapsed easily at his touch, and Chad sat up while the heroes gathered around his lap. He glanced around.
Somehow, the six figures made of modeling clay had dragged his nine-year-old self all the way upstairs and into the attic. He studied the figurines in the light produced by Illuminus. They all looked up at him; at six inches high they were about a head taller than his knees.
He flinched when Zandor placed a wide hand on his knee.
“Do not be afraid, Master,” said the clay figure.
“It’s… I’m not…” Chad spluttered, unable to check the rising queasiness enveloping his stomach. “Don’t call me that,” he whimpered softly.
“What would you have us call you, then, sir?” asked Marquiam, spreading his arms and lifting straight off the ground.
Chad gasped for breath as the impact of what he was witnessing washed over him. “I’m just Chad,” he sniveled weakly. “Call me Chad.”
“Chad.” It sounded like some kind of regal title when Zandor said it. The figurine bowed low toward him. “It is an honor to receive life from you.”
“But I didn’t do it!” cried Chad, as a clap of thunder echoed overhead.
“Didn’t what?” Zandor asked as Chariostes, Voxx, and Marquiam joined him in front of Chad.
A rustling behind him called the young boy’s attention away for a moment. A blue-and-orange figurine bustled about, folding up the tarp Chad recognized as the “walls” to the “tunnel” he had been in, and placing everything back into the storage bins he had raided. Tecchon! Chad couldn’t believe he had built something that could actually build other things. He turned his attention back to Zandor.
“I didn’t bring you guys to life,” he answered the figure’s question.
Zandor glanced to his comrades and looked back at Chad. “Did you not make us, s—Chad?” He glanced down at the lump of yellow clay that formed the front of his chest-plate. “Do we not bear the same markings upon our bodies from your very hand?”
Chad huffed. “Yeah, but that doesn’t—I mean, you guys are all just—I mean, all I did was…” The more he watched them, the more Chad began to wonder if perhaps his imagination had done the impossible; certainly the clay itself did not have such a capacity. He crouched down to bring his face level with those of the heroes. “Can you really do it?”
Zandor examined his own hands and arms with the fascination of a new sensation. “Do what, Chad?”
Chad blushed deep red all the way to the tips of his ears as he explained, “All the stuff I said you could do.” He was going to add when I first made you and I was playing with you, but he thought better of it. “You know,” he said instead, “… before.”
Having an armored helmet for a head, Chad could not distinguish any change of features in Zandor’s face, but the voice was gentle as he said, “Ah, our abilities; yes, Chad. You have chosen well for us. I, Zandor, have the ability to sense truth, in what is written and what is spoken. My compatriots,” he waved a hand toward the others, “Chariostes can control the various elements of the earth—“ the brown-and-green figurine stamped his foot, and a small green vine sprang out of the ground. Seizing it in his hand, Chad watched in fascination as the vine froze into a long, thin icicle within minutes, then the whole thing burst into flame and vanished in a puff of ash.
“Voxx possesses telepathy and the ability to mimic voices.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Voxx—and Chad realized with astonishment that the figurine was using his own voice!
“I can also communicate with my mind,” Chad heard the strange voice echoing through his thoughts—but the source was undoubtedly the figure before him.
“And then there is Tecchon, our main constructural engineer,” Zandor continued, as the blue-and-orange figurine began rapidly to pull together small bits of this and that from around the attic till he had a small-scale replica of Chad’s own house right there in the middle of the floor.
“Marquiam is our flight expert,” Zandor gestured to the red-and-purple blur executing complicated patterns among the rafters supporting uneven ceiling of the attic. “And Illuminus… Well…” Zandor chuckled as Illumius sought to emphasize his powers by glowing so brightly Chad had to close his eyes, at which the figure dimmed his light to a more tolerable level.
Chad chuckled to himself as he looked around at them all.
“This is so cool,” he murmured.