Tony Fallow has a sticky problem! Find out why it’s not always so great when The World Revolves Around You!

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Canary In a Coal Mine

Storyworld: The Sovereign Era | Series Name:
Reading Order: 4 | Stand Alone? No
Genres: Alternate History, Fiction, Speculative Fiction | Editions: E-Book

In this novelette set in Matthew Wayne Selznick’s storyworld The Sovereign Era, where the appearance of individuals with remarkable abilities changes the course of human destiny, author P. G. Holyfield presents a sequel to his own “Every Breath You Take” (featured in The Sovereign Era: Year One).

Young telekinetic Stacey Miller disappeared under mysterious circumstances shortly after the violent events depicted in “Every Breath You Take.” Days later, Sovereign Conduct Enforcement Teams (SCET) investigators Adoette Smith and Joshua Wolff team with a local police officer to track down the teen Sovereign before unknown antagonists decide her time has run out.

When circumstances bring Adoette’s violent, troubled past to the surface, will she be able to utilize her own Sovereign abilities in time to find Stacey Miller alive?


0) Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights: How It All Got Started (free online serial)
1) Brave Men Run
2) The World Revolves Around You
3) The Sovereign Era: Year One
4) Canary In A Coal Mine
5) Pilgrimage
6) The News From Bewilder Pond

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An Excerpt from
Canary In a Coal Mine

A rather painful way to die, don’t you think, Joshua?

“I would say so, Agent Smith.” The ever-present voice of my partner wasn’t too loud, thankfully. She was a talker, but you’d never know it if you met her.


I remained on one knee, and looked up to the police liaison standing at my side. “Sorry, Officer—” I grasped for his name.

“Press. Bruce Press.”

“Bruce. Yes, I like that. My partner was just saying that this must have been a painful way to die.”

The bearded man looked down at me, then over to my partner, then back at me. He pointed toward her. “But she didn’t say anything.”

I turned back to the taped off area in front of me. “Oh, I guess it’s finally happened. I’ve been working with Adoette Smith for so long, I guess I just know what she’s thinking.”

The local police officer laughed a little, but I could tell his mind wasn’t letting it go. Smart man—and apparently, a man who had requested the “honor” of being the police liaison with the S.C.E.T. But Officer Press did not ask the question most likely on his mind, which I appreciated.

I surveyed what remained of the crime scene. The school’s gymnasium had been closed for five days. Ordinarily, the school would have been re-opened by now. But these were not normal circumstances. Whether it was political maneuvering, or posturing, or out of fear, the locals had decided to give us complete access to the school before opening it back up to CHS students.

Of course, the teenager killed under the retractable bleachers had been taken to the morgue, and the cleaners had done their work, but we could still see the results of Stacey Miller’s… abilities.Maybe the locals thought I could smell the remnants of Sovereign power in the air.

I focused on the police report Office Press had provided. According to Stacey Miller’s statement, she had been attacked by Christian Murphy, a seventeen year-old senior at CHS. Descriptions of her appearance that evening and the next morning corroborated that much of her statement: Polaroid photographs attached to the report showed a torn sweater and bruises on her face, neck and shoulders.

The condition of the retractable wooden bleachers was harder to explain. They were meant to form a solid wall of wood when completely “pushed in.” Currently, however, they were in a transitional state no engineer would have ever designed.

The wood benches, where students and parents sat for basketball games, looked none the worse for wear. Underneath, where metal bracings and crossbeams were meant to roll and collapse in upon themselves like some sort of giant accordion… frankly, it was a mess. Pieces were bent and broken, and I could easily see where more had been cut away by the investigation team when they extracted the teen’s body from the floor.

Stacey claimed she had witnessed Christian Murphy beating a boy named Anthony Lee with a baseball bat. Murphy had chased her, threatened her, torn her sweater, and had hit her in the face. She said she broke away from him and ran underneath the bleachers in an attempt to evade the larger boy.

According to Stacey, as she cleared the bleachers, Christian Murphy dove at her and grabbed her by the ankle. This caused Stacey to lash out and, in so doing, caused the bleachers to retract with great force. Metal bracings, including some that had been pulled from their supports, had impaled Christian.

The reason that I and Agent Smith had been dispatched to the town of Portsmouth, Virginia, to investigate?

Stacey Miller claimed she had caused the bleachers to retract with her mind.


“Agent Wolff?”

I ignored Officer Press for a moment, trying to visualize how it had gone down. I could feel Agent Smith behind me and to my right, just out of my peripheral vision. I knew she was watching me analyze the scene, as this was my usual process.

I saw where Stacey had said she stood, just beyond the left edge of the bleachers, a few feet from where the boy was killed. I imagined the fear she’d attested to in her statements.

Visually, the facts were clear: the damage to the bleachers could not have been caused by someone simply pushing the bleachers toward the wall with all their strength—even with someone trapped underneath the bleachers as the rows of wood and metal slammed together. Hell, the entire football team slamming those bleachers into the Murphy kid shouldn’t have left the bleachers (and the boy) in their respective conditions.

But if it had been Stacey, and had happened as she had described it?

“Joshua.” I said.

Enough time had passed that Officer Press had forgotten he had requested my attention. “Excuse me?”

“Call me Joshua. Or Josh, if you like. I may be an S.C.E.T agent, but I’m not much on formalities.”

More like it’s still so rare to hear respect in the voice of someone like him.

Like him. That’s funny, Adoette. Not that Agent Smith could hear my thoughts. It wasn’t such a bad deal. At times, one way communication had its benefits.

The officer seemed to recover his train of thought. “Joshua, yes… So was it the right call, to have you guys come in?”

I wasn’t sure from Bruce’s wording if he actually thought the Portsmouth Police Department had called and requested S.C.E.T aid, or if he understood the way of things, that we had initiated our investigation as soon as the details surrounding that night’s events were made known to our boss. I moved past that, in any case.

“Well, the condition of the bleachers certainly suggests that the girl may be Sovereign. Unless your investigators discovered discrepancies in her story.”

“No sir. The three witnesses at the scene that night, while they did not see events in the gymnasium, all stated that she displayed the power to move objects with her mind.”


We walked into the locker room a few minutes later. Damage to several lockers along the longest row, presumably inflicted by the baseball bats used to beat Anthony Lee, was the only indication something had happened there. But the uniformity of the indentations again corroborated the statements of Billy Pride and Johnny Carruth: that the lockers had been damaged by Anthony Lee in an attempt to escape his situation.

According to them, he ran across the lockers toward what he had hoped was a less-guarded exit.

I walked forward and touched one of the lockers.

Amazing. After only two or three steps he had generated enough momentum to run along the lockers, his body nearly horizontal above the floor of the room.

I nodded, knowing Adoette would see I had heard and agreed with her.


Even considering the unlikely premise that two people from the same high school had discovered they were (most likely) Sovereign, the summary of events leading up to and including the night of April 16 was easy to follow:

Over the summer of 1985 Anthony Lee, honors student and football star at CHS, had developed the ability to run faster than any normal human being. Now, there was a Sovereign in Montana that had been timed running 100 meters in 7.2 seconds. If Anthony was telling the truth, he could shatter that time.

During the school year, British exchange student Stacey Miller had discovered she was telekinetic, or as the S.C.E.T. would designate her, a “TK.” And actually, she had only suspected as much prior to the deadly events of April 16.

According to Miller, lesser events had occurred over the months preceding the night she had killed Christian Murphy. Most notably, she claimed that in November, while the two had briefly dated, Christian had made, in her words, “advances,” and when she found she could not get him off of her with her hands, she had pushed him away using only her mind. It was unclear at this point if fear or anger had triggered or forced her ability to reach the surface. And frankly, that wasn’t my area of expertise. As Adoette would say, that’s way above our pay grade.

But the motivation for the events of April 16 had little to do with Stacey Miller. Christian Murphy, Billy Pride, and Johnny Carruth had discovered Anthony Lee was a Sovereign. They had followed Anthony Lee to the locker room and beat him. Stacey Miller’s impromptu arrival that night interrupted the boys and had probably saved Anthony Lee’s life.

Adoette continued answering Officer Press’s question, but only for me to hear: But these two Sovereigns are only half the reason we’re here.

Very true, Adoette. I thought, only to myself.

Name Your Price!