Archive for January, 2015

Two days later, and Charity was well into recovery. Drake could stop pretending he didn’t care, pretending he wasn’t white-knuckling it as he watched his friend recover from something that could have killed her.

He still loved her. No matter how many times he told himself to let it go, it just never worked. He knew damn well it was a weakness, but he couldn’t help it. When she broke up with Eric, a spark of hope lit in his heart, that just maybe… It was taking every ounce of willpower not to try to initiate a relationship now that she wasn’t dating Eric anymore. But he refused to be the rebound guy. If it was going to happen, it would happen.

Poor Marcus was entirely befuddled by his new situation. He’d signed the paperwork readily enough, and being a bit of a sullen loner was working for them. He didn’t have any close friends he’d have to keep this new secret from. The boy had apologized once and then deliberately avoided Drake after that, spending most of his time making sure his sister wasn’t going to die on him.

He didn’t really blame the kid. It wasn’t his fault that things had gone south so quickly. Well, it was, but it wasn’t. If Drake had actually managed to unscramble the communications, they could have found out who he was, and they would have been prepared. Because of his unstable powers, though, Marcus found snail mail to be a more reliable method of communication, and then later, paper notes dropped in a tree trunk. And that, even Drake couldn’t track electronically. He might as well have used a courier pigeon. It was very 1980s. Really, who did that anymore?

Well, now he was free to focus on the puzzle in front of him. Drew Herrington’s archeological dig had been more than a historical curiosity. It had been a battleground between an Ereakthc possessing a Dreydria, and an Ereurtc in a mechanical power suit. The implications of that was staggering. The Ereakthc were beings of pure energy from a world known as Arlethae, and were much like that reality’s ‘angels’. The Ereurtc were that dimension’s mortals. The power suit was also of Arlethaen origin and design. The Dreydria, on the other hand, was native to a dimension called Myrathelle. What the hell they were doing on Earth was anyone’s guess.

The suit was what interested Drake at the moment. At rest it didn’t look to be much more than a rectangular metal box, roughly four inches long, two inches wide, and an inch and a half or so in height. It was a little heavy for its size, weighing in at about five pounds. Its composition was unlike anything he’d seen on Earth. The material looked and felt like metal, but it didn’t behave like any metal he’d heard of. It had a magnetic field, like all matter, but it didn’t respond to his powers like a ferrous metal.

When activated, the box dissolved into countless microscopic particles that flowed like a liquid over the user’s body till it formed an almost chitinous armor plating. Drew had worn it in battle against the thing they’d fought. A lot of good it’d done him.

Drake’s observations were interrupted by a pounding on the door. The hell? He flicked at his computer display till it showed the image generated by the front door’s security camera. Eric? What the bloody hell is he doing here? Briefly, he considered testing out the security drones he’d programmed over his lunch break, but decided he’d let the man live for now. He could tell immediately by the way he swayed back and forth that Eric was drunk out of his mind. Against his better judgment, he made his way to the door.

The second he opened it, Eric grabbed Drake by his shirt collar and shoved him against the door. It was unsporting to take too much advantage of a man so incapacitated, so Drake let him.

“What the hell is going on?” Eric slurred his words. If Drake didn’t already know he was drunk, the other man’s breath would have been a strong indicator.

“Global Warming, the war in Asia, the presidential election? You’re going to have to be more specific.”

“Follow the money,” Eric said, letting go of Drake and wandering into the foyer. “That’s what my dad always said.”

“No no, by all means, come in.” Drake shut the door against the night air, since it seemed Eric wouldn’t be voluntarily going anywhere for a while. Besides, if he let him go in this condition, something was bound to happen to the man, and Drake wasn’t going to have that on his conscience. Worse, Charity would kill him.

“I knew something was up. We…we had a thing, you know? It was something special, more than you see in those movies. ‘N then bam, out of nowhere it was over. She loves me, I know she does, so why lie to me? So I checked her accounts.”

Drake thought about making a snarky comment on Eric’s choice to delve into the private finances of the woman he loved, but it would go right over Eric’s head at the moment. Better to keep that to himself if he ever needed to blackmail the billionaire.

“It took some digging. Layer after layer of shell companies are paying her something. And you know what I found?” He waved a finger in Drake’s direction. “You. You pay into those empty companies with meaningless names. There’s something going on. What is it, some kind of giant government conspiracy? What the hell is happening? Tell me!”

Drake looked at him for a moment. This was what broke Eric and Charity up. Charity’s secrets separated them. Eric was closer than he realized, and with a bit of encouragement, he’d unravel Delta’s secrets on his own. Not to mention the suit was technically his property anyway, given that it was discovered by his brother. It was the perfect excuse to bring him into the fold. But that would bring Eric and Charity back together. Drake would never have a chance with her after that.

After a moment’s contemplation, Drake made up his mind.

“No. Not till you’re sober. Take the couch, sleep it off. We’ll talk in the morning.” Eric looked like he was going to protest, so Drake continued. “Don’t make me knock you out.”

That seemed to convince him. He found the couch without being told again and passed out with the air of someone who was used to sleeping off a stupor in odd places.

* * * *

Eric rolled over and was nearly struck blind by the sun coming through the windows. He grabbed franticly for a pillow and nearly fell off the furniture before he realized it wasn’t his couch. The embarrassment of the night before came crashing down on him.

He pulled himself into a seated position, and heard the clunk of a mug of coffee set on the end table beside him. He peered through red, watery eyes at Drake. “Don’t suppose it’s going to do any good to apologize for last night.”

“Oh, hell no. I’m never going to let you live that down.”

“Thought not.” He picked up the mug and took a gulp of the hot, black liquid. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Do you remember anything?”

“I remember figuring out that something was up with Charity and you had something to do with it.” He looked Drake dead in the eyes. “I know something is going on. And I will figure out what it is, one way or another.”

“I know.”

“She knows something about Drew that I don’t.”

“You’re not wrong.” Drake set a silver metallic box on the end table. “This was discovered by your brother. So, technically the answers within are yours as well.” He barked a command in a language Eric didn’t understand, and the box morphed into a holographic projector. “I’ll give you a minute.” He walked away.

Eric was dumbfounded. Could it be that easy? Was he really about to find out, not only Charity’s secret, but what happened to his brother as well? For a second he wasn’t sure he wanted the answers. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, his dad always said. Of course, he was usually talking about business deals, but it still applied. Eric sensed he was on the threshold of a monumental discovery. It felt a little melodramatic to think that his life was never going to be the same, but that’s exactly what was going on here. Is this what Drew felt on the precipice of a new discovery? No wonder he wanted to be an archeologist.

Regardless, he didn’t know how to stop the device from playing. Short of walking away, there was nothing he could do to remain ignorant. He remained glued to his seat.

At first, all he could see was dust and rock. A voice said something in a foreign language unlike he’d ever heard before. Then the scenery was moving. It was a first-person point of view of…something. He saw Drake. So the man had been involved.

“W-wait! Let me help you!” The voice didn’t come from Drake. With a start, Eric realized he knew the voice. Drew? Why was the recording from Drew’s perspective? He didn’t understand.

“Stay out of this, Sir. We’ll handle it.”

“Wait! Please. This is my fault. That…thing. I released it. Please let me help.”

Then Charity appeared in the screen. Eric’s heart skipped a beat. She and Drake were wearing matching black army jackets with a symbol he hadn’t seen before. It looked like a pattern of triangles, each one a different color. “Sam’s deployed backup, but they’re too far out to do any good. Jay and John are deep undercover, out of radio contact. We’re on our own.”

“Look, people are going to die!” Drew said. “Please, just let me help!”

A loud crash sounded, accompanied by a wave of dust and debris, which somehow never touched the three standing beneath the rock outcropping. It cleared in time for the camera to catch a glimpse of what was causing the destruction. It was monstrous. Towering at least twenty feet tall, the creature had a wing span that easily matched his height. Great horns encircled his head. Glowing eyes burned an iridescent white.

Drew gasped involuntarily. “Oh, my God.” The camera rocked like he took a startled step backward.

Drake looked at the camera. “You know how to use that suit?”

“Uh…no. But I think the suit does.”

Another loud crash. Drake looked frustrated. “Okay. I’m not letting you do anything. But I’ve got far better things to do than to spend the time and energy it would take to stop you. Just don’t—“

The rest of what he said was lost in the roar of Drew’s takeoff. The scenery blurred, then resolved itself to a dirt hole surrounded by a grassy field. A gigantic claw swiped through the air toward a group of interns. In a flash, the camera was beneath it, an image of the terrible instrument of destruction so clear, that Eric could see the palm lines and corded muscles. “Run!” Drew screamed. The kids didn’t have to be told twice. The camera picked up the sounds of their feet moving faster that one would have thought possible.

Then the view swiveled around. It spun crazily, and Eric could tell Drew wasn’t doing this on purpose. It stabilized for a second, long enough to see the creature’s face. Its mouth was feral, and it let out a bellow of pain as it was struck with an invisible blow. Drake floated impossibly beside the monstrous head. There was a creaking sound, and Drew let out a matching scream.

The camera shook. It turned to find Charity perched on the thing’s arm. “If you’ve got any electricity protection, now’s the time to turn it on!” she yelled. Blue lightning arched over her body and gathered in her fingertips. She slammed her hands down on the monster’s huge arm.

There was a loud crack of thunder. For a second, Drew was free. The camera turned end over end until Eric couldn’t tell the difference between earth and sky. Then he was caught again. The claw closed in over the view, and then everything went black.

Eric realized he was holding his breath. He let it out with a gasp, breathing heavily.

“For the record, I told him not to do anything that would get him killed.” Eric jumped. Drake was standing behind him.

“Those kids…”

“Safe, thanks to your brother.” He pointed at the device. “That thing can morph into a suit. He wore it into battle against the Dreydria.”

“Oh, is that what that was,” Eric said, as if it made it all clear. It didn’t.

“The site your brother was investigating was once a battleground. The original user of that device was an extradimensional alien called an Ereurtc. They call their world Arlethae. Actually, you’ve met a couple of them. Remember those twins we hung out with in high school?”

“Yeah. Charity’s best friend. Her brother always wore those dark glasses.”

“Yeah, a common trait of the Ereurtc is their gold colored eyes. Meryl could change the color of her eyes because she’s a shapeshifter.”

“Naturally.” Eric shook his head. This was all so bewildering. “Wait, does that mean Charity’s…”

“Oh, she’s very much human. She just happens to have super powers.”

“Oh.”

Drake chuckled. “Put on the suit, Herrington. I’m about to blow your mind.”

* * * *

Charity viciously yanked off the Virtual Reality helmet. Marcus laughed at her in spite of himself. “I’m sorry,” he said, trying not to smile. “I shouldn’t have pressed my advantage there.”

Charity swore under her breath. “No, no. I left myself open. You won fair and square. I just can’t believe I let myself be distracted.” She felt like she was going to cry. She was tired, and her side was beginning to throb. The stab wound was healing nicely, but weaning herself off the pain medications was proving to be difficult. Anger spiked in her head, frustrated that she let herself feel this. On impulse, she flung the helmet into the side of the room. She ran her hand through her hair. Maybe she should grow it out again. Eric always liked it short.

“Charity?”

It was as if thinking about him summoned his voice. She turned on her heel, and he was there. She blinked, positive she was imagining things. Tears clouded her eyes. She blinked them back, and he didn’t disappear. “It’s really you,” she whispered.

He chuckled. “Yeah.”

She was in his embrace before she really knew how she got there. In that place she never thought she’d be again. Now she really did burst into tears.

“You have some ‘splaning to do, young lady,” he teased. His voice was choked, as if he was trying not to cry himself.

“’Explaining.’ So that’s what you kids are calling it these days,” Drake said, unhelpful as always.

Marcus gave an exasperated sigh. “Too much information,” he complained.

Charity decided to roll with it. “So. My place or yours?”

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Sunlight drifted through the slits in the closed blinds over the picture window of Eric Herrington’s three-and-a-half storey house. Normally the window showed a mile-long stretch of beach that ended in the lake that stretched out for miles; but when one was on a bender, one didn’t care about those things so much as keeping the sun out.

The filtered rays danced over dozens of empty whiskey bottles and glasses that gathered with pizza boxes and Chinese food containers. Eric hadn’t left the house in days, and it showed.

The persistent ring of the telephone tugged Eric out of a passed-out drunken sleep. He decided to let it go to voicemail. It wasn’t worth the energy to fully pull himself from unconsciousness. He didn’t even move from his prone position on the couch, face half buried in the satin pillow.

The machine clicked and beeped, indicating the caller should leave a message. “Eric.” Charity. More than a month since they’d broken up, and her voice still made his heart beat faster. “Eric, I heard what happened to your brother. I just…. I wanted to say I’m sorry. For everything.”

Everything? The lies, the secrets, breaking his heart? He could still hear her words. You’re right…you need someone who can be honest with you. You deserve that much. And right now, that’s not me.

He wasn’t angry. He was too tired to be angry. Too tired from trying to figure it all out. She’d been different after her impromptu trip to Europe with her best friend Meryl last summer. A trip, which he later found out, she never actually took. She’d described an adorable cafe in Brussles, but Eric knew a friend of a friend who owned the place. He’d never seen her. That wouldn’t have been a big deal except that an art gallery she’d allegedly gone to had been closed for two years. And a small town she and Meryl had spent the night in was closed to tourism.

Not that she’d been anywhere in Alliance City. It was like she’d disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Since that summer, she’d been distant. The last few weeks of their relationship had been a painful game of telephone tag, and when they did finally manage some quality time, she was forever leaving their dates for a laundry list of poor excuses. When he finally cornered her and asked for a straight answer, that’s when she ended it.

Of course, it never rains, but it pours. He’d barely managed to pick himself off his drunk ass, and he received a call from Italy asking him to identify the body of his brother. The bile still rose in his throat when he thought of it. Drew’s body had been torn in two. An accident at his brother’s archeology site, Eric was told. A stone structure had collapsed on top of him, severing his torso. Looked more like something ripped it. He buried that thought. That was ridiculous. What would have the force to do that? He wasn’t a child to believe in monsters. Besides, he was no coroner.

More than ever, he wanted Charity there. She’d know what to say. Which would probably mean saying nothing. She’d just hold him and for a moment the world and its pain wouldn’t exist while they embraced.

But that was nothing more than a dream. They were over. He’d eventually pick himself up and go back to his white collar world. She’d hide in her books and relative obscurity, a handful of middleclass friends her only connection to the outside world. They’d traveled in different social circles before, and they would again. Her life would continue to be a mystery to him; the only consolation was that his would be just as hidden from her behind a wall of privilege.

His eyes opened. There was no way she could have heard about Drew’s death. His mother had gone to great lengths to keep it out of the media, and she certainly wouldn’t have told Charity. Elmira Herrington had entirely disapproved of Eric’s choice of partner.

How the hell did she know?

* * * *

Charity London fussed with the cuff of her Delta-issued flak jacket as her eyes darted back and forth from one screen to another. Drake Hachirobei watched her restlessness with typical quiet repose. They were in what appeared to be a derelict old van cinderblocked on the side of the road. On the outside, it was falling apart and pieces seemed to be missing as if the vehicle had been ravaged for parts. Inside, it was a technological marvel with several screens hooked up to hidden cameras showing different angles of the shady alleyway.

“I shouldn’t have called him.” For the umpteenth time that night, Charity was second-guessing herself. Drake said nothing. He’d given the obligatory platitudes already, including flat-out telling her that she needed to get over it. She hadn’t punched him in the face, but that was because he was right.

“I know what he’s feeling right now. His world’s upside down, and he doesn’t even know the real reason why. The last thing he wants is to hear from the girl who dumped him. I mean, who the hell falls for this kind of thing anyway?”

The abrupt change of subject mid-rant would have caught anyone else off guard, but Drake and Charity had been working together for so long that it would have taken a lot more than that to shake him.

“Apparently…” Drake flicked at the screen on his tablet. “Veto_Boi738.”

“Did we ever confirm that he is, indeed, a boy?”

“That’s about the only thing. The messages between him and the Solstice catfish were so garbled we don’t even know the kid’s powers.”

“Well, we do know Solstice wants to kill him, and that’s the important thing. I mean, growing up a freak is bad enough, but a bunch of people wanting to kill you because your DNA is a bit scrambled? I think Eric would understand, though. You know, if I told him.” She was on that again.

Drake just gave her a quirked eyebrow look.

“I know, I know. It would be treason and all that yadda yadda. Sam should have approved the relationship. That’s what pisses me off the most, that my love life is somehow my boss’s business.”

Drake could have told her that of course it was Samantha Clive’s business. The Delta Division’s very existence was classified, and in order to maintain that secrecy, Director Clive needed to be very careful about who they read in on protocol. But honestly, he didn’t really believe that, and most of the time he was of the opinion that protocol could go fuck itself.

“Oh, look, a drug deal.” Charity thrust her chin forward to point out two kids not-so-discretely exchanging money and a small package.

“Lucky for them, that’s not our department.”

“Nope, but that is.” She pointed at two men and a woman standing together outside the doorway of a seedy cafe. Their stances revealed them clearly to be combat trained, for someone who knew how to look. “I guess if a kid’s stupid enough to fall for the ‘we have candy, get in the van’ trick, there’s no need to be subtle.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, we’re the ones with the creepy van.”

“You know what I mean.”

A teenage boy in a hooded sweatshirt rounded the corner and took a quick look around, a little lost. Drake wiggled his eyebrows at Charity. “Show time.”

The three combatants, unaware of Charity and Drake’s presence, surrounded the boy and brandished weapons that looked like guns. “Nope,” Drake muttered. The guns crumbled in their hands and they looked up in surprise. Their shock wasn’t nearly as profound as the boy’s. He stood, stunned, too afraid to run or even move.

One of the men and the women took a combat stance flanking Drake. The other man and Charity squared off.

“Charity?”

* * * *

The boy’s voice was familiar. Charity glanced over her shoulder and peered under the hood. Her jaw dropped. “Marcus?” The reality thudded into Charity. Her brother, her kid brother was the one they were supposed to be protecting.

Which meant he’d developed powers.

Why hadn’t she seen it? What the hell was wrong with her? She been so damn preoccupied with her boyfriend drama, she’d missed a very real threat to her brother. She was supposed to be taking care of him.

Her focus shifted, her opponent took his chance. He struck out with a swift jab. Charity glanced back at the last minute to deflect the blow, but her hesitation cost her the chance to react to the assailant’s follow-through. A ceramic blade. Drake’s gonna be pissed that he didn’t see it coming, though that’s a smart move on Solstice’s part. Why her brain chose to focus on that detail in the half-second before it ran threw her, she had no idea. Hot and cold blended together as the knife sank into her stomach.

Her heartbeat became the only sound she was aware of on a conscious level. Marcus was screaming, something wordless. Poor kid. He was probably so confused. Drake had a look on his face that was  as close to panic as he was capable of making. Her knees hit the ground.

The air tingled with electricity, which made no sense because she wasn’t discharging her power, at least not on purpose. And she’d gone well past the point where she was accidentally filling the environment with energy.

Marcus hadn’t. He was losing control. She wanted to tell him to calm down, that it was going to be okay, but she couldn’t say anything. Breathing hurt. The knife must have hit a lung.

“Get down!” Drake yelled, which made no sense because she was already on the ground. She was suddenly aware of the asphalt burrowing into her cheekbones. Put pressure on the wound she reminded herself. Now if only she could move to do so.

Everything went dark, and for a second she thought she’d passed out, but then she realized that the lights had gone out everywhere. Then Marcus was kneeling beside her. As she rolled over, she saw Drake out cold on the ground. “Pocket. Phone,” she managed. “Call Jay.” At least she hoped she said that. If he was going to go with the reasonable thing to do and call 911 they were all going to be in a bit of trouble.

The phone slipped from her pocket, so at least he got that part. “Jay? Who, what? Why?” She wished he’d shut up with his questions and do it already.

“Trust…me.” Her breath caught, and she coughed. She could taste the blood coating her mouth. Now the world really did go black.

* * * *

Marcus’ hands shook. He opened the phone. He was surprised it still worked. Every piece of electronic equipment for miles was knocked out. Why did this phone still work?

That didn’t matter. He paged through the contacts and found Jayson. That must be it. He dialed. The phone rang twice, and a male voice answered on the other end. “Jayson? Charity. She’s… She’s in trouble.”

And then there was someone there in the alley. “Damn good thing you had the sense to call me first,” Jayson said. Marcus gaped at him. “I teleport. You’ve got powers of some kind, so others with them shouldn’t surprise you.” He knelt calmly beside Charity.

A loud groan emanated from Drake. “Anyone get the number of that bus?” Marcus turned his stunned look at him, then at the others who’d attacked him. The three enemies were dead. More than that, they were barely charred remains. Marcus tasted bile in his mouth. I killed them.

He looked back at Drake. “How are you…Why aren’t you…”

“Dead? I affect magnetic fields. You caught me off guard, though. You get one shot at me, kid, and that was it. Don’t think it’ll happen again.”

Marcus didn’t know how to respond to that. No Sir? Bring it on, Sir? He had to have the ‘Sir’ in there, that’s for sure.

“Teleporting to the infirmary,” Jay said. He looked at Marcus. “Marcus, right? This is going to be a bit disorienting.”

He wasn’t kidding. The dark alleyway swirled into a mess of shadows in front of his eyes and resolved itself into blinding light. It took a second for his eyes to adjust, and longer for his stomach. Somehow he found a wastepaper basket before he lost his dinner.

There were nurses and doctors waiting, and Charity was loaded onto a gurney. She grabbed Jay’s hand. “You gotta tell him…if I don’t…”

“Don’t be silly, Charity, it’s not fatal, you’ll be fine.”

“Humor me.”

“You just get better and tell him yourself.” Jay waved his hand and the professionals wheeled her away.

Jay’s brow was furrowed with worry, but it cleared into a forced smile when he looked at Marcus. “So, uh…some welcome, hey, kid?” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Jayson.”

“Yeah, got that.” Marcus shook his hand anyway. Tell who what? What was Charity talking about?

Jayson grabbed some paper towel and handed them to Marcus, who accepted them and wiped the upchucked leftovers from his mouth.

Questions and confusion swirled together in Marcus’ mind. He tried desperately to pull them into something that resembled order, but all that came out was an inarticulate expression of exasperation. “What the f—“

“Careful kid, don’t let your sister hear that kind of language, she’ll kill you herself.”

Marcus shrugged. He wasn’t kidding.

“So, let’s start from the beginning.” He indicated a set of chairs and waited for Marcus to take a seat. It wasn’t until he sat that Marcus realized how much he was shaking. He tried to clench and unclench his fists to release the tension in his body. It didn’t work very well. “How long have you known you could do things no one else could?” Jayson asked.

“A few months, I guess. At first it was things like my cell phone dying one minute, then at full power the next. You know, normal weird stuff.”

“Hm. Yeah. And then?”

“Then I found out I could do it on purpose. Turn my cell on and off just by thinking about it. Other things too. The TV. The microwave. It was cool at first, but then I realized it made me some kind of freak.”

“And so you researched it online.”

Marcus nodded. “I-I thought I’d found others. You know, people with real powers.”

“So you came to the brilliant conclusion that you needed to meet them in a dark alley in a bad neighborhood.” Drake rolled off the gurney he’d been resting on. He stretched out his muscles before the shock stiffened them completely. He gave Marcus a disapproving look.

Marcus blushed. “It wasn’t like that, okay? One of the…one of the girls I was talking to said she was in trouble. She wanted to meet. I thought…” He trailed off. No matter how he put it, it did sound colossally stupid. “They were going to kill me, weren’t they?”

“Yup.”

Dude doesn’t believe in sugarcoating things, does he? Marcus mused.

Jay cast Drake a disapproving look. “Hey, cut the kid some slack, eh?

“Kid tried to fry me. I ain’t cutting nobody nothin’.”

Jay rolled his eyes. “Don’t mind him. He’s grumpy with everyone. It’s when he starts giving you an evil grin that you gotta be worried.”

Drake gave him an evil grin.

“See, like that.”

It did make Marcus a little uncomfortable to see the man looking at him much like a predator would look at his prey. But he had other concerns. “So…who were those guys anyway?”

“Agents of Solstice,” Jay answered. “They’re a purist group that believe in the cleansing of the human race. To them, we’re an abomination.”

“Don’t feel too bad,” Drake said. “This is a common tactic of theirs.”

Jay nodded. “It’s been…disturbingly effective. We’ve been fairly aggressive to try to stop it, but…”

“But people can be stupid on the internet.”

Don’t remind me. Marcus was becoming increasingly aware that his sister was suffering a life-threatening injury, and it was all his fault. “So…you’re just a bunch of people with super powers trying to keep each other safe?”

Jay laughed. “Oh, we’re a lot more organized than that. We’re part of something called the Delta Division. It used to be a military organization before the last leadership made it a bit more of an informal agency. It’s a total secret though. Seriously, we’ve got some paperwork to do.”

Drake groaned again and stood. “Anyway. Welcome to the madhouse. Jayson’ll give you the grand tour. I’m going to go find a bed and sleep off the effects of being used as a lightning rod.” He looked at Jay and his face turned serious. “You’ll…”

Jay nodded. “I’ll let you know if anything changes with her.”

Marcus followed Drake’s retreating back with his gaze. This was a grave situation, but that didn’t for a second disrupt the…poise of these people. They had an air of elite comrades, people who’d worked together for years under circumstances that would break a person. And one of them is my sister. He could scarcely believe it. I feel like I’m dreaming.

“So…my sister’s a super hero.”

Jay chuckled. “Damn straight. One of the best.”

“I kinda feel like half my childhood started to suddenly make sense. The other half is garbled nonsense. Like I mysteriously switched places with some unlucky jackass in a super powered spy movie.”

Jay threw back his head and laughed. “That is possibly the most accurate description of learning about all of this that I have ever heard. That’s awesome.”

Marcus crossed his arms and leaned against the back of the chair, a sullen gaze directed somewhere in the distance. “What can I say, humor is a defense mechanism.” He felt unbelievably tired all of the sudden. The adrenalin was wearing off, and all he wanted to do was curl into a ball, buried under a mountain of mindless television and Internet cat videos. Anything to drown out the day. He shut his eyes, fatigue and a bitter taste of something he couldn’t describe forcing him into an almost disassociated state. I killed three people tonight.

A heavy pressure on his shoulder brought him back to reality–or what passed for reality in this particular moment. “It’s a lot to process,” Jayson said. “Take your time. If you need to talk, I’m here. Your sister will be happy to answer any questions as well, once she’s up and running. We’ve got people here trained to handle your transition. Marcus, look at me.”

And for some reason, Marcus let his hazel eyes meet Jayson’s green ones.

“Marcus…you’re not alone.”

Prologue: Atlantis

Posted: January 15, 2015 in Book 1
Tags: , , ,

Athens, 456 BC

Pericles held his breath. He felt confident in his impassioned speech, the Athenian council standing behind him, adding to his presence. His tranquil words still vibrated off the marble walls of the council chambers. Some men called his oratory arrogant, presumptuous even; but no other manner of address would have impressed his audience.

No, it wasn’t his own words or lack of confidence therein that gave him pause. It was the creatures that stood before him, the Atlantian delegation. He coveted their militaristic might. Upon their word, they would go into battle together; not his first love—Pericles would be happier still to embrace the arts and culture that Greece was beginning to value—but Sparta was getting out of hand.

“No.”

Pericles’ heart sank, and behind him a senator took a step forward. “But you do not understand, we are at war. We are Greeks, and we will fight to the last man, but—”

“You think us so ignorant? Do not besmirch the quality of knowledge by repeating it beyond edification,” the leader of the delegation snapped.

Pericles winced. These people valued knowledge above all else. To imply ignorance, even a lack of understanding, was a grave insult. He tried to smooth things over. “It is your knowledge we seek. Knowledge you provided for us still in a capacity so great it continues to bring an unparalleled prosperity in Athens. Knowledge we wish to spread beyond our borders. It is a grave reality that the conflict between knowledge and ignorance will bring inevitable war. We ask only for your help in that war.”

The creature fixed his purple eyes on Pericles. “We are Elves. We will not take sides in an Earthborn conflict.”

And with that, the discussion was over. With no wasted words on useless pleasantries, the Elves cast their magic and removed themselves from the council meeting.

Pericles was numb as the meeting wrapped up and he walked home to his estate, a contentious cloud of despair hanging over him. What were they to do now? He should not doubt his people. As the young senator had said, they were Greeks, and they would fight to the last man, but what good would that do if there was nothing left to fight for? There had to be another way.

The shadows shifted in his private quarters as he entered. A voice spoke from the darkness. “Never have I seen such tragedy on one face, my dear Pericles.” The shifting shadow resolved into a small creature. It was a Fae, creatures of Darkness magic. Like the Elves, Fae had pointed ears, but unlike the Atlantians’ milky fair completion, the Fae’s skin was slate gray. The Elves were tall and statuesque; the Fae was diminutive, like a child.

“The Elves refused aid,” Pericles said. He wouldn’t normally be so bold as to discuss politics with a strange creature, but he was well aware at this point that the secrets of the mind were not hidden from the Fae.

“Oh dear. Whoever could have predicted this, I wonder?” Pericles made no comment. The Fae had warned him of this possibility. The Elves were aloof and unconcerned about anything beyond their narrow minded view of what they considered knowledge. He’d resisted this assumption at first because, after all, the Elves had gone to great lengths to improve the culture of the Greeks, and to share knowledge. He had thought that they’d be happy to impart more and help them fight.

“Hm. Well. I present this thought to you.” The creature drifted through the air, its shadowy tendrils wrapped around Pericles. She twisted around his body until her eyes were level with his. “If they won’t give you the knowledge…then take it.”

Pericles was taken aback. “They have been nothing but generous up till now. I understand their reservations. They have a vast fount of knowledge that they’ve said we must earn.”

The Fae wave her hands in the air, exasperated. “’In due time,’ etcetera, etcetera. Tell me, what gives them the right to dictate when that time is?”

Pericles shook his head. “They have control of the situation. And if they are dissatisfied with how we force the issue, they are entirely capable of simply leaving this plane of existence.”

The Fae regarded him for a moment. “What if they were not able to leave?” She paused, and the grin on the creatures face made Pericles feel as if she relished his stunned look. “The devices that power the portals between here and our world Myrathelle are of Darkness magic. It would be a simple task for I and my fellows to infiltrate Atlantis and disable them so that great city is forever trapped here on your world. The Elves would be at your mercy. This is your world and your rules. They must then obey.”

Pericles was surprised to find himself considering this. “I cannot see such a powerful race simply bowing in compliance. Their mastery of magic is unparalleled.”

“A battle will be fought, that much is sure. But if we were to fight by your side, the Elves would quickly be brought into submission. Then, with little recourse, their knowledge would be made yours.”

He gave the Fae a suspicious look. “And why indeed would you help us?”

The Fae laughed. It was a child’s laugh, one without comfort or warmth. “You must understand what drives us. We are the Shadow Fae, the purveyors of Fear. Now, don’t give me that look, my dear Pericles. You Greeks are warriors, so proud of your courage, but courage itself cannot exist without fear. It is fear that drives respect, and ultimately the greatest principle of hierarchy. The strong must lead.

“It is that strength we seek. That strength we must follow. It is that strength we see in you. But say the word, and you may command us as an army. The Elves…the Spartans…the world. We will follow you, and we will win. So I ask you, Pericles. Will you take command and triumph?”

* * * *

The night was peaceful. Ali’zar could see the full moon and the stars from his post. It still seemed strange to him that this place had only one moon. With less light to fall on the planet, he wondered, did the Darkness Element have more power here? He meditated on the concept. Magic was not as strong here, that much was certain; though not powerless.

He stood by a towering pillar positioned just within the walls of Atlantis. A translocation spell was written thereon, duplicated and magnified in several like pillars spaced throughout the city. The activation of the spell was intended to be done most efficiently from the chancellor’s quarters; though, with sufficient knowledge of Darkness Magic, the spell could be worked from any of the pillars.

Ali’zar’s current duty was perhaps not the most intellectually stimulating; yet he valued it. His position gave him time to meditate, to allow his mind exploration of knowledge one could only gain through peaceful contemplation of the All. He pitied the Earthborn from time to time. They worshiped multiple deities, viewing them with but few aspects each: male and female, the god of one thing or another. They were quite unmindful of how One could be All.

A shadow flickered in the corner of his eye. Rather than turning his gaze, he allowed his focus to shift to his peripheral vision. Direct sight could sometimes not be trusted.

A Fae was intertwined around a pillar engraved with runes of Darkness magic. That wasn’t unusual of itself. They were an Adept Race, beings created of an Element and given dominion over it. Fae occasionally would take a curious interest in how the Elves used their Element. They were harmless, however. Once told to leave, they would.

Ali’zar turned his head toward the Fae. He could no longer see the creature. That was somewhat disconcerting. Why would the Fae feel the need to hide from his sight?

Something caught his attention. The runes on the pillar were changed. Instantly he recognized the intent. One part of his mind thanked the All that he’d pursued the knowledge of Darkness magic, and the other called an alarm with a short spell uttered in the Air Element. The Fae was trying to destroy the translocation magic.

With that knowledge came confusion. This would trap Atlantis on this plane, forever separating them from Myrathelle. Why would the Fae attack them so?

Knowledge gained was never lost, but pursuit of such questions was but ignorance in the face of more pressing concerns. He could not see the Fae, and he dare not attack with Darkness magic, for they commanded it better than he. The winds whipped at his verbal articulation, turning to sharp, biting blades. Shadows all around him swirled and dissipated.

He knew with an instinct beyond knowledge that this was a battle that would change the course of history. He was in the battle of his life.

A sharp pain hit him behind the eyes. He had not destroyed every Fae around the pillar. It would prove his undoing. He was aware only of the blood that spurted from his ears, nose, and eyes. Then Darkness claimed him forever.

* * * *

The shout from a lone guard woke Chancellor Ar’mell. He was on his feet instantly from his meditative position. Why were the Fae attacking the translocation pillars?

It didn’t matter. He called quickly to his guards and sent a message through the city via the Fire Elemental runestone that he snatched from his bedside table. A surge of electricity rippled around Atlantis and alerted every other Light Mage within its walls that possessed a similar device. Together as one, they chanted a powerful spell that engulfed the city in white light and revealed the army within.

It was not just a few Fae that felt the need to play the trickster. The whole place nearly crawled with them. “Defend the pillars!” he commanded into the Fire runestone. He dare not utter a Darkness spell to coordinate the Elves’ efforts. They were already battling the Fae’s element of surprise.

It was a call he was loathe to make, because it left many secondary targets unguarded. The Fae’s plan of attack was terrifying. Messages came in all over the city of groups of the dark creatures laying siege. Within minutes, three libraries were destroyed, and one nursery decimated. Elves had few children, and those they had were precious. Ar’mell’s heart ached. He’d left his son there just weeks ago.

The Fae’s coordination was astounding. The Chancellor had never seen them like this; never in his knowledge had the Fae the capacity to devise such a strategy. No, on their own, the Fae would never do something like this. The Earthborn must be commanding them.

The Elves fought back against the Fae’s invasion. After time to regroup and gather their wits, slowly the tide of battle turned. The citizens of Atlantis pushed back with a resounding fury unparalleled in any battle their history had ever known.

When the sun rose, it was over. The Fae who still remained scattered in the shadows of the morning. With their defeat, there was left but one enemy for the Elves to deal with. The Earthborn.

When Ar’mell met face to face again with Pericles, it was with a seething, burning hatred that was as far beyond anger as the sun’s light was beyond the moon. The statesman had at least the grace to look ashamed, though the Elf could not tell if the shame was for his actions, or because he got caught. Ar’mell cared not. For the first time in his life, he found knowledge he was indifferent to possess.

He spoke, finally, and with icy calm. “There was once a man who possessed a bird that laid eggs of gold. Discontent with the wealth that was imparted to him in proper course, he killed the bird to gain the gold within. For his impatience, he received nothing. The flesh within the bird was naught but flesh.

“We would have made you the most prosperous nation the world over. Your people across the land would have been united in peace and knowledge. Yet, because you would have that knowledge now, you have gained nothing and lost everything. You have become but mean creatures, unworthy even of the honor we would grant you by ending your pathetic existence. Instead, we curse you with ignorance.

“Our existence will be wiped from your annals. Philosophers and poets may write about Atlantis, but until the time is right, your knowledge of it will never exist beyond mere allegory. And when the reality of our fair city is impressed upon your minds, it will bring with it, the end.

“You will never know the peace brought only by knowledge. Your land will be consumed by war so long as it exists. In time, ignorance will see to the beginning of your world’s destruction, its people saved only by true knowledge. Deception and lies will be your undoing.

“This is your penance, Earthborn. This is your doom.”