Arc. 1 Chapter. 7

As prevalent as the magic had become in the world in recent years, the outside world didn’t convey it as such. Or at least, that was the case compared to here. It was like stepping into a novel or a movie. That moment when the rambunctious heroes of the story get welcomed to the real world, the behind the scenes, behind the curtain. To think that it was a short three years ago I had entered into college with a vow to do things right, the best way I knew how. I had a feeling that I would be breaking that vow, for nothing could prepare me, prepare us, for what we were experiencing.

The three of us just sort of floated through the room as Lille and her pet guided us. Our constantly swiveling heads warranted looks as we passed through the crowd. The air was thick, the heat from everybody rolling off and creating a cloud of sweat and excitement. People continued to dance around, with plastic cups in their hands; the alcohol inside swooshing around as droplets careened over the edges and onto the floor. We were going somewhere in particular, and it was getting louder and louder.

“And this is the highlight of our club,” Lille said as she came to a pause. At he far side of the hall, opposite that of the entrance, was a large glass window. People were pressed up against the glass, cheering frantically and spewing profanity like it was no ones business. Lille ushered us to draw closer, and after finally pushing through the tight crowd, our eyes were soon met with the very thing that had everybody in a frenzy.

“Dude. That guy is huge!” Lyn said in awe.

“And that other guy is so small in comparison. And they are going to fight?” Aleema questioned. A man to our right began to chuckle loudly. He looked completely out of place, wearing khaki pants, and button up shirt and thick, brown rimmed glasses. His hair was the same shade as his glasses, cut in a bowl-style. His voice was slightly cooler than his appearance.

“You three must be hatch-lings, huh?” he began. “That big guy doesn’t stand a chance against Skylar. That “little guy” hasn’t lost a match in three months. I can’t wait to see him take on the league champion,”

We returned our attention to the arena beyond the glass. It was a large platform, probably about the size of a basketball court. The ceiling reached up several stories, probably to accommodate for those that you could use flight magic. There was a large, holographic screen that floated in the air in the middle of the stage. I also noticed that multiple holographic screens has appeared in multiple areas throughout the hall, and everyone was crowded around them in anxiety. I could barely make it out, but it appeared like there were two elevated seats on the opposite side of us, but I could make out who was sitting on them. A voice suddenly overcame the entire hall.

“The match between Skylar 100 and the challenger, Robbie Hilton is about to commence. The rules are as follows…Shit you know how we roll here. Just don’t kill each other. And if you do, you’ll be suspended for a month. Last time I had to used my attorneys for this it cost me a fortune. Remember, if you hear the gong, that means the match is considered over. Are we ready to go, my children?!”

The entire hall erupted into applause. It was like going to a professional sporting event. I had never seen so many magicians in one place, let alone acting like this. Then again, they were people too. Glancing over to the twins, I noticed the large mischievous smiles had returned. I had lost them, and honestly, I wouldn’t doubt that I was about the lose myself. There was this energy in the air that made me just want to scream.

“Without further ado…Rubian, make some fucking noise!” The crowd somehow increased in volume as the large and muscular Robbie Hilton began to charge towards Skylar, who remained still.

“You little punk!” Robbie shouted, spit flying from his rabid mouth. He then materialized a club twice his size with large black spikes in it. “You need to sit your ass down!”

“That’s a big ass club!” Lyn exclaimed, her hands pressed against the cerulean, clear glass.

“And he’s wielding it like it’s a feather!” Aleema responded.

“You two should be commentators,” the nerd-looking guy said. “How about I treat you two to drinks later?”

“No,” the three of us said in unison. The twins quickly glanced at me, as I felt some heat building up in my cheeks. I swiftly looked back to the action, although I could see the happiness in their eyes.

Skylar 100 still stood there, just smirking, as the club was mere yards from crushing into him.

“You simpleton,” he taunted. In an instant, he vanished, as the club came crashing down on a the void where Skylar once was. Robbie regained his posture and began swinging around violently.

“Where are you, you damn pest?”

“Really? Pest? Haha, big guys like you always try to pick on small guys like me. But if you can’t even see me, how can you fight me? Funny thing is, I can see you all too well!” The crowd continued to cheer on, as a chant for Skylar began. That alone made the brute, Robbie uncomfortable, as he sent out a war cry and began flailing around.

“Damn, must you be so impatient? I don’t even get to play with you. Fine then, you asked for it,” Skylar’s voice echoed. Out of nowhere, a plethora of smaller Skylars began to run towards the flailing Robbie, who began smashing them one by one. However it was futile, if one fell, three more appeared in its place. Soon, a bunch of small Skylars were crawling all over Robbie, who was swatting at them like flies. The crowd’s intensity grew as Robbie’s defeat was becoming quite certain.

“Should I finish this, guys?” Skylar’s echoing voice came one once again.

“One…Hundred…Slash!” The crowd roared. The tiny Skylars pounced off Robbie and formed a circle around him. With blinding speed, they all jumped up, as a storm of red light appearing as cut marks bombarded poor Robbie. Screaming out in pain, he was soon brought to his knees, as the Skylars molded back into the original body. He held a tiny blade in his hand, and with one final swoop from above, crashed down past Robbie, who’s dilapidated body fell hard against the floor.

“Skylar is the victor!” the voice from before roared, as the entire hall began to vibrate with cheer.

“That was…amazing!” the words barely escaped from Lyn’s lips.

“He didn’t kill him did he?” Aleema naively asked.

“No,” I stated. They glanced over to discover my gloved hand against the glass. They hadn’t an idea that I was analyzing the match from the on start. “Robbie stood no chance, though,” The glow of the glove began to fade back to his dim pulse.

“You were able to see into his magical code from way over here? Beyond the glass?” Lyn asked. I nodded.

“His code was nearly completely illuminated, I’d say about 90%, which means he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet, or at least I assume. He has the ability, as you saw, to split his body into 100 smaller versions. He can also regenerate these clones as soon as they are destroyed, however, there is one out of the lot that contains is real “spirit” so to speak. If that one is hit, then all of them disappear and he reverts back to normal. There’s no way to distinguish it from the others though. He also appears to be rather proficient with that butterfly knife,” I explained. Somehow above the roar of the crowd, we could hear clapping from behind. Swiveling around, we saw two people, a man and a woman. He stood a foot taller then her, half a foot taller than I. He was wearing what appeared to be a solid white military uniform, with gold trim, gold buttons, and three purple stars in a row where the chest pocket would be. His pants matched the whiteness of his shirt, as did his shoes. He himself was peach in color, with dark brown eyes and silvery gray hair. He looked very young, however. She was wearing a modest, office-style navy suit. Her hair was purple and tied back into a bun. She also wore navy rimmed glasses, that guarded a pair of icy blue eyes.

“Who are you, exactly?” I questioned.

“Oh, forgive my manners. My name is General Thomas Whitehouse, and this is my personal assistant, Hera Pultzier. It is a pleasure to make your, acquaintance,” the two of them bowed politely.

“The people here are weird, Alex. Who are these clowns?” Lyn asked grabbing my left shoulder.

“I agree with my sister, this is strange,” Aleema held onto the other. I sighed and shrugged the two of them off.

“Forgive my friends, General Thomas and Hera. They don’t know when to stay quiet sometimes,” I said. The twins stuck their tongues out as me. The man however replied with a generous chuckle. Hera’s face remained stern.

“Oh no, it is quite alright. We are quite a weird bunch, as they have said. But, hopefully, you’ll come to value us as companions of yours,” he responded, waving his hand back and forth.

“What do you mean as our companions?” Lyn chimed up.

“Yes, I am sure you all have many questions for my assistant and I, and they will be answered in due time. That is of course, if you allow me to explain why it is that I sought you out?”

The twins glanced at me for an answer, of which I responded with a nod. The night was not boring , that was for sure. “Very well then, we’ll listen to whatever it is you have to say,”

“Splendid!” He clapped his hands. “Hera, please secure us a large booth if you will, while I fetch us some drinks,”

“Understood,” she simply stated and disappeared into the crowd. We followed General Thomas over to one of the several bars in the hall. There was a rather large crowd at this one in particular, and I could see why. The guy behind the counter had six, ethereal hands protruding from his back making separate drinks, in addition to his two real hands. As we walked up to the counter, the crowd parted like the red sea, allowing the General to slip to the front.

“Tommy! My boy! How are ya doin’?” the bartender responded with a voice canon to 1920’s New York City.

“I’m just swell, my friend. I see you’re showing off as usual,” General Thomas responded with a smile.

“Haha, anything for the ladies, ya know what I’m sayin’? Your boy lookin’ good up there and stuff. Crazy to think he’s just been flyin’ through opponents!”

“Skylar is doing a fine job. Be sure to treat him to whatever he wants, on me of course,”

“You got it, my friend. Ahh, I see you snagged up three hatch-lings. You’re always on the ball so early, Save some for the rest of em, will ya?” the eight armed bartender said, winking at the twins. They took a step back behind me.

“You know I can’t do that. But I have different things in mind with this group actually, but I’m sure they’ll be interesting in the fray as well,” General Thomas said. I saw this as my opportunity to speak up, for I had been quiet for too long and just observing. It wasn’t like me to be this quiet.

“My name is Alex Cristoph. A pleasure,” I held out my hand. On his free ethereal hands reached down to encompass my entire hand. I could feel it!

“They call me Hands here, which is a dumb nickname I know. Call me Earl though. And yes, they look transparent, but I can turn the solid factor on and off with my choosin’ Neat huh?”

“I’d say,” I simply responded.

“So, what can I get for ya? The normal, Tommy?” Earl asked. The general looked down at me, but I simply shrugged. I didn’t think I would be drinking this much tonight.

“Yes, four regulars please,” The General said gingerly. Earl nodded his head and began making the drinks in a dazzling display. He soon placed four tall glasses for a bluish green concoction on a tray and slid them over to us. The General pulled out a $100 bill and placed in directly in Earl’s hand.

“Thank you my friend, this’ll buy me something nice this week!”

“No problem, and thank you. I’ll swing by later to take care of the tab,” the General said as he floated away.

That was only a tip! Who is this guy I wondered. We made our way over to a large booth, away from most of the commotion. Hera had remained standing, almost like she was a guard dog. She ushered a hand out for the General to sit on the side she was pointing to. We filed in on the other side, as the General began handing out the drinks to everyone except Hera.

“So I’m guessing you’re his DD as well?” Lyn questioned Hera, who didn’t respond.

“Hera and alcohol…simply do not mix very well,” the General’s voice was a little shaky, as if hinting to some hidden reason. I took a cautious look at my drink. Of course, the twins had already taken a huge gulp.

“This…this is amazing!” Aleema screeched in glee. Lyn nodded, as they continued to sip the mixed drink.

“Great right? Came up with myself when I was your age,” The General responded. “Go ahead, my boy. Try it.” I simply nodded and took a small sip, which turned into multiple swallows. It was exquisite. You could barely taste the alcohol. It was like there was a tropical beach party occurring in my mouth. I put the drink down quickly, for I didn’t want to get too distracted.

“It is good,” I stated flatly. “However, I am still very curious why you wished to talk with us,”

“Ahh yes,” he said. “I can see you are about business, which I find that to be admirable. Alex, was it? And your friends are?”

“Aleema and Lyn at your service sir!” they replied in unison with giggly voices. “Would it be too much to ask for more?” I flashed them a look of disapproval, however, the General raised a hand.

“Not a problem. Hera, if you will?” The purple haired lady nodded and left to retrieve more drinks. “I’m glad you girls like them!” Aleema and Lyn nodded wildly, their smiles drunk with pleasure, quite literally. Light weights.

“Why are we here?” my voice grew more stern and agitated.

“You could learn to loosen up, like your friends here,” The General said.

“Yea, Alex!” Lyn began. “Listen to the smart man!”

“We try to break him, but he’s pretty stubborn. We still love him though,” Aleema finished her sister’s thought. Lyn’s face flushed red as she clamped her hands on Aleema’s mouth and the two began to whisper to each other, frantically. I merely shook my head and General Thomas laughed.

“Truth is, I was mainly interested in you Alex, although your friends are certainly I nice bonus. You see, you and I are a lot alike. We can see the potential in people before they can see it themselves. It gives us a sort of edge. It is was has made me very successfully in doing what I do,” the man in white declared.

“And what would that be exactly?” I asked. The General, who had yet to touch his drink, grabbed it and downed the entire thing. Wiping the remnant droplets from his lips, his posture remained perfect, completely unaffected.

“I’m what you would call…a sponsor,”

Arc. 1 Chapter. 5

The incessant buzzing in my pockets wasn’t enough to pull me away from my thoughts. Whenever I had the urge, I went up to my spot. A lot of things I had experienced there, a lot of light-bulbs were fixed there, a lot of sweet nothings as well. In my first year, I had discovered a secret passageway that led to the roof of the student center. It went right up to the highest of the three steeples. The window was just large enough for me to crawl through and sit on the black roof. The way it was positioned, no one could see you from the ground, so it provided a sort of comfort for me. I was always an explorer.

I gazed out on the campus, still people scurried around amok in anxiety. Sure I talked to these people, but there were many times, where I didn’t want to. Not so much out of fear, but simply a desire to just keep to myself. It was a strange relationship. Putting myself in the limelight, whilst at the same time not caring for it as much as one would expect. I was willing to do it though if it meant accomplishing my goal.

Clenching my fists, I looked down at the gloves. They were still glowing, the sun bounced off the leathery parts. Thoughts rushed through my head, neither one allowing the prior one to settle in. Gryphon. Helix. Gun Girl. Succubus. Fire. Pain. Language. What was the language I saw? It mirrored something one would encounter in the pyramids or other ancient structures. Before the gloves, the writing was always so blurry and far away. I was allowed only a peak. That would explain the unexpected affects of me altering someone’s code before. There had been times when I intensified their powers, but I would eventually disarm them. This time, however, was different. The writing was clear.

“So this is where you ran off to. I should have figured as much,” a familiar voice said from behind me. I didn’t even turn to see her.

A part of me sighed, “How long have you known of this place?”

“I’ve followed you up here a few times,” Lyn admitted. She was never really discrete. I turned around and ushered her to take a seat next to me.

“So tell me, how many people have you told about this place?” I asked her. She gave a faint smile, as her eyes trailed off in the distance. There was a sort of softness to her bluntness. Though their eyes were similar, Lyn’s appeared more sleepy, sort of falling into her cheeks. She never smiled to wide, but she didn’t need to. She appeared soft, but was very outright with her thoughts. She was certainly a paradox.

“Besides my sister, no one else from what I know. Although, I highly doubt you’re the only one who has found this place,”

I laughed, “I know I’m not. I just like to think I am. Provides solace for me,”

“Alex?” she questioned. Her expression barely changed. “What do you think is going to happen? The Dean seems to be really worried about something,”

“I honestly can’t say,” I began. “All we can do is prepare. We live in a world of uncertainty, so who’s to say what can happen. It’s not like the 20th century. Life was simple back then,”

“Ain’t that the truth,” she replied. Her eyes became lost in the horizon again. We sat there in silence for a while longer, before she spoke. “I think Aleema is still mad at me,”

“Why do you say that? Ya’ll are best friends. No way she is still mad about what happened,” I said, trying to comfort her. She brought her knees into her chest and hugged them.

“Sure you say that, but you have to look at it from our perspective. We are more connected than you know. Everything I feel and see, she does too. It’s not just a twin thing, it’s our powers too,” Lyn explained. I didn’t respond immediately. I liked both of them, but I didn’t know how to deal with them sometimes. It was for this reason that I refuted to having any intimate relationships, at least until I accomplished my goal. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make, or so I fooled myself into believing. I knew that was quickly changing.

“I can talk to her, if you want me to. Hopefully she’ll understand, if you still think she is mad,”

“She is mad,” she said. “I can feel it, literally. The air about her is more heated than usual. Been that way for the past six months,” Lyn heaved a sigh. I didn’t respond initially, just continued to stare out at the landscape of the college. My eyes were out there, but my mind was in the past. If I could go back, if I could, perhaps I would change it. That was a lie though, because there was a part of me that regretted nothing, but if it meant causing a rift between two sisters, then I would have taken the hit. It was delicate situation to say the least. It was at that moment I remembered I was still wearing the gloves.

“Hey, Lyn. Do you think you can help me with something?” I asked. Her sleepy eyes arose a bit from their perpetual slumber.

“Sure, I’ll help you with whatever! That is, if you help me and Aleema with something tonight,” she responded.

I scoffed a bit, “What do you want?” my voice grew less formal.

“No no no. I’ll tell you after I help you, that way you can’t say no!” This girl was deceptive and mischievous, but I would bite her lure anyways.

“Very well then. I just need you to look at these gloves,” I held them up in front of her face.

“Umm, ok. What exactly do you need? My opinion?”

“Sure, let’s go with that. Gun Girl,” I gave the codeword. The rush from before came instantly, running from my feet up through my body and extremities, up to my head. I found myself flying through the rainbow colored vortex, and soon I was dumped into the pit of dark space. There it was before me, the neon green helix. Instead of walking up to it, I felt a strange sensation that sort of brisked against my skin like a gently breeze. Did I just teleport?

The helix was as large and impressive as it was before, but there was something different. There were multiple strands that weren’t illuminated. Instead, they were dark grey, almost black, while the rest was the neon green. The mystery language appeared again, and I was somehow able to know what it meant, but it too was incomplete. Words weren’t necessary, my thoughts rang loud like a reverberating gong in the infinite black room. What does this mean? What in the world is this language? What the hell Gryphon! My ears perked up to the repeated cries of Lyn from the outside. She was calling my name, for me to come back. I wonder how time is treated in this realm, was the last thought I had before I was sucked back up the colorful vortex and back into the real world. Lyn was literally inches from my face and her loud cries nearly shook my ears off.

“Alex! What’s wrong? Alex!”

“Damn it, Lyn!” I shouted back. “I’m Ok, I can hear you just fine.” There were tears welling up in her eyes, as she clutched onto my arm.

“What the hell happened? You just, z-zoned out like you were in another w-world or something,” she said, tripping over her words.

I shrugged, “That would be accurate actually.” She gave me a perplexed look, so I continued to explain. I told her about my summer at Gryphon Industries and all the amazing people I had met. I told her about all the new inventions they were working on and how I was the first person to try these gloves. I told her how they thought I was the perfect candidate considering my abilities, and that if the test run went well, I could keep the gloves and name them. All throughout the explanation, she just stared at me, like a young child would stare at their favorite program on TV. She was astonished, which wasn’t surprising. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“That’s…amazing. So, what’s the “place” you go to?” she asked.

“Well,” I began. “It’s a little hard to explain. It feels like my mind is flying through a colorful vortex, like a wormhole or something. And then it’s nothing but blackness, which I assume is the lowest space in the human anatomy, because in the space I can see DNA,”

She stared out at the horizon for a moment. A flock of birds flew overhead in a V-shape formation, as the sun nearly reached its peak in the azure canvas. The university was still abuzz, but neither of us could hear it. We were trapped in our own world, atop the student center. It was peaceful indeed, and little did I know that all that had experienced day regarding these gloves, would alter my future forever. But I wasn’t worried about that, only the present moment, which was marked by a silence laced with loud thoughts. Her thoughts. I could hear the many questions racing in her head. I wondered if she could hear mine.

“So, you saw my DNA. What did you see exactly? How does that help you see people’s magical code?”

“Well, in addition to seeing the DNA strand, I see a group of letters and symbols, but I don’t understand what they mean exactly. They are foreign, almost ancient-looking hieroglyphics. The weird thing is, the meaning is downloaded into my brain, so I don’t have to read it necessarily, but I would like to learn how to read it. I think it would give me a better grasp on what is going on exactly,” I began. “As far as what I saw in you, it differed from someone I used it on earlier. Her helix was complete lit up, but yours was “off” in some areas. I’m not completely sure what it means, but if I had to guess, it means there are parts of your magic you haven’t used yet or haven’t learned. I’m willing to bet Aleema is the same way,”

“That’s so crazy,” she said. “You know, I’ve had my powers since birth, and it took me a while to learn how to control it. I used to make everything around me cold at random,”

“Yea, I know. You’ve told me the stories,” I responded.

“I know, and I feel now like I have a grasp on my magic, but there’s more? What separated that girl from me? Wait a minute…who was the other girl?” she became a bit flustered.

“Some random chick, I forgot her name. I just wanted to test them out as soon as possible, so I chose the first person I saw. She was ummm, well, what I saw was-

“What was it? Is it bad? Is she like some psycho monster demon thing?” she exaggerated. It wasn’t far off.

“You could say that,” I remained on the surface. “Anyways, now you know, so what do you need now?”

“Aha! So this where you two have been hiding!” another familiar voice came from behind. We both swiveled around to see Aleema. She had changed her clothes into some tight gray jeans and a black t shirt with blue snowboard goggles in the front. She also had a little bid of makeup on. “So, is he helping us or what?” she asked Lyn, ignoring me.

“Oh yea, he agreed to help us, sis,” Lyn responded.

“Awesome!” the almond-haired twin exclaimed. “This is gonna rock!”

“Yea, I can’t wait,” Lyn smiled back. I was utterly clueless.

“Um, I am here you know. What do you need me for?”

“We’ll tell you later, ok? Let’s go get some food in town. I’m starving!” Aleema clutched onto her stomach.

“I second that motion,” Lyn said climbing through the tiny window. “Are you coming?” they both asked in unison.

I sighed, “I guess I have no choice. Just let me go to my dorm to grab some things.” I glanced out at the campus from above once more, before descending back into the chaos. At least we were leaving campus, but I still hadn’t the faintest idea where we would be going.

Blueport was what you would expect of any college town. There were a ton of restaurants, many apartment complexes, and one large mall everyone went to. It was a decent sized town on the coast of North Carolina. The town was separated into five parts: the docks, Bluewalk, Midtown, the historic district, and college town. Blueport was mostly a fishing spot, and had become famous over the years for the abundance and variety of fish in the area, especially during the month of July, which saw an unusual increase in the numbers of fish. The area surrounding the docks was, unfortunately, the poorest area of Blueport, but it still wasn’t bad compared to some of the ghettos of a larger city. Bluewalk, which was maybe a couple of miles from the docks, was an affluent neighborhood of rich people, from business owners to entertainers, as well as a few Upgraded. The headquarters for on the local legions, The Beckoning, was located there, and they weren’t very inconspicuous. It looked like a large lighthouse, except far more elegant. Midtown was where a majority of the residents lived. This was also where the majority of the restaurants, entertainment places such as the mall, bowling alley, arcade, zoom carts, and movies were located. The historic district just north of Midtown was a small area, but still full of life. Many authentic and unique eateries were here, as well as the fish market, theater, art galleries, and antique stores. This was also where the courts were and the police station. And of course there was Mozley and the close surrounding area, which included maybe six apartment complexes and a large park. Blueport was still a rather lively city, kept alive mostly by the college, considering the slight decline in fishing production. Nonetheless, people still flocked from all over to taste the exquisite seafood produced here, and we were heading to one of those places.

The Rusty Anvil was located near the Docks, and as it name suggested it, the outside looked rusty. It appeared like a shack, with wooden walls and a creaky door. Two giant anvils sat on either side of entrance. If you were able to get past the exterior, you would be greatly thankful to what you would discover inside. While it still maintained the wooden walls and floorboards, the interior was immaculate, with nifty trinkets and old photos all over the place. There was a large fish tank directly head, that housed a multitude of colorful fish, including one of my favorites, the Scorpion Fish. Not to eat, I just thought it was a beautiful creature. The host desk stood just in front of the fish tank in the lobby area. On either side of her were openings to the upstairs dining area. The upstairs was a large room, which could sit up to two hundred people easily. The kitchen was also on this floor to the left. There was a large square opening in the middle of the dining room that looked down on the lower level. The stairs, however, were immediately on to the right upon entering the room, leading to the lower level. The area down here was where mostly regulars would attend. It was also where they held special events and meetings. It was also where the most fun was, considering there was a large bar, equipped with the most extensive array of booze you’d ever seen. Though I wasn’t into alcohol that much, I never passed on any while I was there.

By the time we had arrived there it was nighttime. Naturally, the twins wanted to do a host of other things before going to eat. This only prolonged my anxiety for whatever they had in store. We sat at a small round table on the far side of the lower level. Light emitted from the lantern centerpiece danced on our glasses. I took a gulp of the Firecracker, a local favorite of two shots on cinnamon whiskey in the locally brewed, Gorgon’s Hard Cider. The liquid burned the back of my throat and slid down into my stomach, leaving behind a tingling sweet sensation. It was a local favorite, because you could barely taste the alcohol. Our food would soon arrive, as three large colorful palettes of food were placed in front of us. I had the Spicy Atlantic Salmon, which was perched on a bed of mixed vegetables and glazed with a spicy, basil sauce, with a side of homemade, garlic mashed potatoes. The aroma of the food overcame us, as we dug in. We were quiet, for the first few minutes. Lyn finally spoke.

“This place is just too good. How they don’t get more business is beyond me,”

“They get plenty of business, what are you talking about?” her sister replied.

“Yea, but I bet they could open up multiple locations. It would be a hit!” she exclaimed, tearing into some gator tail.

“I don’t think they want to expand,” I responded. It was an unusually slow night for a Friday. Only a couple of mid-age men sat at the bar talking to the bartender. One other group of five or so people sat in a large circular booth. Even the upstairs wasn’t packed like it normally was. It might of had something to deal with the opening of the new seafood eatery, Blueport Station, that had opened up a mile or so from the Rusty Anvil. That place was sponsored and owned by Max Rosenberg, a hotshot business owner that owned a line of superhero apparel. His partner was Flashbang, one of the members of The Beckoning. They probably had something to do with the lack of customers this evening.

“We have enough time, right sis?” Aleema asked Lyn.

“Yea, they’ve already started, but they’ll be going for a while, so we’re ok,”

“Ok,” I became frustrated. “What in the world do you two want from me, tonight?” I talked to chews of food. “You’ve led me on this wild goose chase, and still I haven’t the faintest idea of what we’re doing,”

The twins looked at each other and smiled a mischievous smile. This can’t be good.

“We overheard some students talking about this event going on tonight, near the north end of the docks. Some sort of competition thingy. We thought it wold be cool to check it out!” Aleema’s face lit up.

“Yea, we just wanted you to tag along with us really, in case something sketchy happens,” Lyn continued.

“So, I’m your bodyguard? Where are we going that is sketchy?” I asked.

“We don’t really know, we’re just going to follow the crowd. We overheard that you needed a password to get in and well…we were hoping you could use your talents of persuasion to get it for us,” Lyn said.

“What sort of nefarious scheme are you two planning? You don’t even know what you’re getting into, and now you involve me?”

“Oh come on,” Aleema pleaded. “Have some sense of adventure and fun. This will be cool. Plus, we’re already out here, so you might as well,”

“Pleeeease?” Lyn begged, placing her hand on top of mine. I sighed, and pulled it back. I took another gulp of my drink before responding.

“Fine, I’ll do it,” The two of them nearly jumped out of their seats in excitement. I merely shook my head and continued eating. I still did not know  what was going to happen, and I didn’t really like that. Still, it would be interesting to see where the night would go. We were unaware, however, that we would discover something rather incredible, something that would forever alter our perception on the world. Hopefully, we would be ready.

Arc. 1 Chapter. 4

An anthill is disturbed by some snot-nosed brat. That was what Mozley looked like from an aerial view. People were everywhere. It was the Friday before the first week of classes. However, the opening weekend was always very festive at the college. The first day, today, was marked by an orientation for all the new students. People also moved into their dorms, had breakfast and lunch with their parents, of which was hosted by the school, and toured the campus if they hadn’t already. Clubs attempted to lure in unaware, wandering souls. The first day was always very fun, and it just got better as the weekend continued.

The following Saturday was marked by multiple sport competitions, including opening games for the Blitzball and Lazershot teams. The energy surrounding a Blitzball game at Mozley was something of an infectious disease. It took over not only the entire school, but the entire town of Blueport for that matter. People flocked from all over, the town and the surrounding populaces to see the team played. The stadium was not even that large, but it was always packed on game day. It wasn’t uncommon to see people with lawn chairs and blankets stretched out on the green hills behind the bleachers. This year was especially anticipated due to their opening match with the third ranked team from last season. The Lazershot match was equally as anticipated. The Lady Cores had been a strong unit for the past five years, having placed in the top four each of those five seasons. Last year they fell short in the final, however, the opening game this season was their chance at redemption against last season’s champs. You would assume that with magic running the world, sports would lose a bit of its luster. The opposite proved to be true.

If that wasn’t enough, Mozley always had some form of entertainment on Saturday night of orientation weekend. This year, a concert including three bands, one of which was Persephone’s Wish, a very popular electro-rock band that had just completed a sold-out tour in the European Sector.

The final day of opening weekend was perhaps the most anticipated, for it was the beginning of the Fresh Start Battle Royale. It actually began during the summer prior, where incoming first year students applied to participate in a proctored and monitored melee tournament. The 128 students that are accepted begin the tournament on the Sunday prior to school. By day’s end, the field of competitors would be brought to a meager sixteen. Despite its ten years in activity, the tournament saw little to no injuries. Naturally, out of hand fights would be ended immediately, but they rarely happened. The tournament was a great way for students to see where their skills were as a magic user, as well seeing where they fell in the wide spectrum. There were so many forms of magic and powers that could possibly be imagined; every year something new was seen by the spectators. It was such a grand event, that even many of the local and national Upgraded Legions came to examine potential recruits and apprentices. It was too bad that I was too late in making the cut for the tournament my freshman year. And while I’ve had my powers for much of my life, I highly doubt I would have made it that far in the tourney.

If the school was an anthill than the student center was the main chamber. It was the central hub where everything could and would take place. My destination: room 3215 on the third floor. Rushing past the flurry of anxious people, I sought refuge in the elevator. Their bustling noise was soon drowned out by the slow and deep hum of the cable pulling up the metal box. Most people I knew disdained elevators, or were incredibly impatient to enjoy them. As for me, they functioned as lapses of peace in an otherwise boisterous world. The silver doors opened to a less crowded third floor. It was made of four long hallways divided by two smaller ones. It wasn’t long before I arrived at the meeting room on the far left hallway. My name reached my ears through the door. I had no doubt who it was.

Swinging open the door to the windowless room, I discover twenty or so sets of eyes looking back at me. It  mattered not how much I entered into or spoke to crowds. The feeling was always a little unsettling. That changed quickly, as two of the members by the names of Aleema and Lyn ran up to hug me. They were the new members of the Student Services Brigade last year, doubling as the runner ups for the Battle Royale. Their power: Aleema could heat up her surroundings and Lyn could cool hers. In addition, their powers grew more powerful the closer in proximity they were to each other. Needless to say, they were really close.

“Hey Alex!” they exclaimed in unison. Lyn’s voice was slightly deeper than her sister’s. “How was your summer?” They stood a foot shorter than I, hugging me from both sides. With a skinny athletic build, both of them had sandy skin and lime green eyes. To distinguish themselves, Aleema kept her hair its natural, chestnut brown color, while Lyn’s was dyed jet black. Another distinguishing feature was Aleema had a small mole on her right eye and Lyn had one under her left eye.  I wouldn’t be lying if I said it still made me a bit uncomfortable when they were this affectionate, after knowing me for only a year. I wasn’t aware of anything spectacular I had done for them. Still, they were nice girls, so I saw no reason to say anything about it.

“It was eventful,” I put on a cordial voice. “How was yours?”

“We went snowboarding!” Aleema exclaimed.

“No, went went surfing!” Lyn followed up. Glaring at each other, they sighed and shook their heads. “We did both!” their voices nearly identical.

“Sounds nice,” I said. “Tell me all about it later okay?”

“Yes, please,” one of the guys in the front row said. “We can finally start this meeting now that the VP is here,” It wasn’t a requirement to dress nice to these meetings, or any of the events the SSB held really. This guy really took advantage of it. Faded, baggy jeans at least a size too large was accompanied by a dull black shirt. The color of his gray hoodie nearly matched that of his jeans. The bronze on his skin was so even and flat it would make even professional super-models envious. His hair was messy and black, partially hidden under a gray beanie that made the top of his head appear deflated. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.

“Ah, Gian. I see you’re still keeping tabs on me,” I said walking deeper into the room. Aleema and Lyn returned to their seats.

“Gotta know what my possible competition will be doing ya know,” his expression was smug. His full name was Gian Paolo Schumann. His magical ability: he could store the locations of up to five people in his head at any given moment. The only downside to his powers was that the direction grew more simple the farther away the target was. However, regardless of distance, he could find anyone, anywhere after having only met them once. I haven’t gone off his radar since the start of last year.

“Okay okay you two,” the young lady standing in the middle of the room. The Mozley Institute of Magical Arts prided itself on innovation in learning, which was why most of the classrooms and meeting rooms weren’t organized in the traditional classroom setting. Most of them were stadium style, with a spot in the middle of the room that was occupied by a large, four-way magic board, which was essentially a dry erase board, but used magic instead. This particular room was on the smaller side, with only their levels of seats circumventing the middle. Four, small flights of stairs separated the three continuous, black desks. The walls were even different, featuring a collage of blue and black, hollowed out circles on a white background. This was only one example of how the mundane was shunned at this school.

“I trust you had a wonderful break, Alex?” she continued, ushering me to take my spot next to her.

“It was nice, yes. Very interesting. I hope yours was the same?” I replied. She smiled and gave me an approving nod. As you could guess, she was the president of the Student Services Brigade, Violet Clarissa Worchester. Her background was as fancy was her name, for she came from a very wealthy family in Europe. She was also quite attractive, her skin was light and fair. A vibrant, river of flames was her hair, that shimmered in the sun. Brown stones were her irises, that could cast a spell in their own right. Many men, young and old easily succumbed to her fiery appearance, most of which got burned if they got too close. She was nonetheless super sweet, her naivety of the world was a gift. Many members of the club urged to the two of us to date, however, I wasn’t interested, and I was pretty sure she shared the same sentiment. Oh yea, and her power was pretty neat to. In her bloodline was a long tradition of faerie summoning. She essentially could see, talk, and use them for combat. She even had one that often tagged along with her just about everywhere. She, however, was banned from attending club meetings due to…unfortunate circumstances.

“Ok now, can we get this thing started or what? I have some things I need to attend to,” Gian complained.

“Alright, alright,” Violet agreed. “We will now commence the first meeting of the year. We won’t be long, but there are a few things we need to address. As most of you know, our club is co-hosting the Fresh Start Battle Royale. We’re supposed to help with advertising, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem. There have also been rumors going around that some students are planning to cheat in this year’s competition,”

“How is that even possible?” one student, a short male with blond hair questioned in the second row. The girl next to him, her shoulders were at his head, also replied.

“The competition is one of the most secured, and highly monitored competitions in the sector. No way can someone cheat,”

“You two bring up valid points, but we still can’t let this go without further investigation and since the Discipline Committee now resides with us, this issue falls in our lap,” Violet announced. The Student Services Brigade was originally created to assist students in whatever they might need, so long as it was legal. It rivaled the Student Council in terms of popularity. However, last year, the council got caught in a huge scandal involving the Discipline Committee that was a subgroup of the club. As a result, all of the students on the Discipline Committee were suspended, and some members on the council. The Dean of Clubs and Organizations agreed to delegate the Discipline Committee to the Student Services Brigade. You could guess who the leader of this subgroup was.

“So, let me guess. You want me to keep my ears open and track the whereabouts of students?” Gian inquired.

The flame-headed President nodded. “Yes, that would be helpful. I need everybody to report any suspicious activity regarding the competition and back to the Discipline Committee. I know there are certain people you like to keep tabs on, Gian, but you may have to drop them for the time being,”

He folded his arms and chuckled, “Can’t be helped I suppose,”

“Ok, so the next order of business,” I took over for Violet. “We need to find someone to manage the website since Yuko graduated. She agreed to help us until we found someone, but she’ll be becoming very busy quite soon,”

“Didn’t she get a spot with the Jasper’s Star?” another one of the young men asked out loud. This caused a ripple of comments and murmurs.

“Yes, actually she did,” I raised my voice to cease the brief commotion. She should become a full member within a year, but knowing our Yuko, she’ll blaze through it faster.”

“Yuko was always pretty incredible, wasn’t she?” the student who stood against the wall voice quivered a bit. He was what women would call “tall, dark, and handsome.” His eyes, however, contradicted his skin, and were a bright gray. Yea, he was pretty much a knockout, quite literally. He was a boxer. His power? Anything Ramon Demps punched turned into metal, and the type of metal depended upon certain conditions. As a result he had to wear special gloves when he boxed.

“Well of course you would say that, Big Ramon!” Lyn said in a mocking tone.

“Have you talked to her since the incident?” Aleema asked. Ramon didn’t respond, merely dug his hands into his pockets and stared at the back wall.

“Alex, you better control your women!” Ramon jokingly threatened, almost.

“They’re not my women, I can’t control them,” I stated flatly.

“You can control me if you want to!” Lyn’s voice was far too eager.

“Shut up, Lyn,” Aleema punched her in the arm lightly. Her expression didn’t match her words.

“Anyways, can I continue,” I said. The room grew silent. “We lost several members to graduation, so we need to fill these vacancies as soon as possible. Now, I know we normally due elections the first week of October, but we’re going to move it up to the first week of September,” There was a reaction of perplexed looks and comments. I put a halt to it swiftly. “The reason why we are doing it early, is because the Dean wants us to be prepared earlier,”

“For what though?” Gian questioned.

“We don’t know,” Violet stepped in. “He contacted Alex and I a few weeks back and asked if it was possible we did it earlier. He didn’t give an explicit reason why, but he seemed worried about something. But, there’s no need to worry, we’ll be prepared for anything that may happen,”

“The Dean was always sort of, weird,” Ramon said.

“He’d probably be in a mental institute had he been born in the 20th century,” Aleema responded.

“He’s a kind man with a good heart,” I began. “Plus, he’s one of the most gifted staff members at the school and had a successful career as an Upgraded. You shouldn’t talk down on him,”

“I wasn’t talking down on him, I was just making a joke. Lighten up, Alex,” Aleema stuck her tongue out at me. I laughed and turned to Violet. She smiled back at me as she gave the final announcement.

“The last thing we need to address is our overall service to our classmates. Though it has been great the past few years, there is always room for improvement. So this year I thought it would be a good idea to do a sort of meet a greet type thing,”

“We already do stuff like that don’t we?” Gian questioned.

“We do, but not very often. Violet was thinking we could do it every week or every other week,” I explained.

“Right,” she continued. “We don’t just tutor students in their studies. We don’t just assist with events. It is our job here at the Student Service Brigade to help students have a great time here at Mozley. So you all know how we do the study sessions after school and stuff. Well, this would be a far more casual, almost leisurely get together, where we all just talk about whatever. It would occur off campus, at some restaurant, bar, lounge, or anywhere really, because we’re not just students. We’re people and the people here need assistance or just to have someone to talk to, in all area of their lives. It is up to us to make sure these students realize that they are here for more reasons that to just obtain a degree, but to also build relationships and a community that will support and love them,”

There was a small round of applause as she concluded her statement. She smiled brightly in response to their claps, as she walked forward a bit, ushering everyone to come forward. We all formed in a circle, about twenty of us or so, and put our fist in the center. This was another reason I loved this school. To be apart of this loving community, this loving club. We weren’t just a bunch of guys and girls that hung out with each occasionally and helped students. We cared about each other, and we made each other’s stay here all the more worthwhile. Honestly, if it weren’t for them, I might have left after my freshman year.

“Here’s to another awesome year at Mozley, everybody!” I shouted.

“Awoooo-ahhhhh!” the room echoed with our orchestrated voices. I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone didn’t come banging on the door. Our club chant distinguished us from many of the other clubs on campus. It wasn’t uncommon to hear others chant it after hearing us. Funny how contagious a positive attitude was in this world, or at least on this campus. I would soon discover than the outside world ran on a different set of rules.

Arc. 1 Chapter. 3

I didn’t mind the fame I received on campus. I wasn’t anything super special, just a nice person who could speak well. It seemed people forgot I was a student after all, because coming to my room at the end of the day was so humbling. Or depressing. I suppose I should consider myself fortunate to only be sharing the bathroom with one other person, and that guy was absent from his room for weeks at a time, so it was essentially my own. The room was just big enough to fit a twin sized bed, a small desk, a TV stand, and a recliner. The bed was lifted and pushed against the far left wall. I understand that colleges had a budget, but even the shorter students had their feet dangling off the edges of these puny beds. I couldn’t complain about my desk, it was fairly new, with a sandy colored finish. It was pushed up against the window, the view of which was the large, outstretched branch of a tree. It was convenient. I wasn’t much of a gamer or a TV person, but that didn’t stop me from having a more than big enough 55 inch flat screen. You would think in the year 2025, flat screen TVs would be a thing of the past, but they really just made them better. I used it primarily as a separate computer screen. And last, but not least, was the recliner, a burgundy, oldish seat that I had inherited from an family neighbor, Mr. Rowan. He passed away when I was young, however, he had given my father the chair prior to his death. I then inherited it after my father moved upon me starting university. Outside of that, my belongings were a few posters, small appliances, my computer, and other random stuff.

My room was cleaner than normal when I stepped in. I forgot I had recently cleaned it because I was unable to find something I needed at the time. It was funny. Most people were in-cognizant that I was a little on the messy side. My room wasn’t atrocious like some rooms I had seen. I didn’t think it was possible for people to be so sloppy. My room was not excused from having an empty pizza box sitting next to the microwave, multiple half emptied glasses, and a few candy wrappers on the desk next to the bed. I was cleaner before college.

There it was. Sitting neatly on the center of the bed, a small brown box. Grabbing the box, I sat on the bed and began tearing into the sides. Yes, it was that serious. Inside was a small, smoky gray business card. It simply had a giant, red G on the front, with the words “Gryphon Industries” below it it. I turned it over and there was a black dot. As if I knew was I was doing, I pressed a finger to the dot, from which a thin beam of white-blue light shot up towards the ceiling. It fanned out into a hologram. There was a tiny man floating in air above the card. A smile grew across my face.

“Why hello there Mr. Alex. It is a great pleasure to speak with you again,” he said.

“No sir, the pleasure is all mine. You guys finished faster than I thought you would,” I replied. The hologram laughed before continuing. This wasn’t some prerecorded message I was receiving. We were talking in real time, one of the most innovative and convenient inventions to come out of Gryphon Industries.

“In that package you will find the beta of the project we were working on prior to your leaving. We were not sure what to call them just yet. We figured in the event of a successful test-run, we’d give you the honors of naming it,”

I didn’t respond immediately. Instead, I dug past the foam peanuts to discover a discover a pair of jet black gloves. There were golden lines that ran up the fingers, that encompassed blue circles in the area of the knuckles. The palm side was mostly blank, but with a solid, hollowed out blue circle in the middle. I picked them both up and glance back down at the holographic man.

“They look incredible,” were the only words to escape my mouth.

“Indeed, and those are simply the prototypes. Why don’t you try them on?” the man urged. I nodded, as I slipped on the gloves. They hugged my hands tightly, but they were still very comfortable, well insulated, and didn’t cut off any circulation.

“In order to activate the gloves, you have to program a codeword. This word can only be used by you, for the gloves will only respond to your voice, so you don’t have to worry about anybody stealing them. It would be a futile effort,” the man explained.

“I see,” I began. I expanded and clenched my fists a few times. “How exactly do I set a password?”

He laughed again, this time for a longer period of time. Eventually he answered my confused look, “This is the fun part. So you see the ring on your right palm? Press the inside of that palm with your left thumb to activate the coding sequence,”

His instructions sounded weird, but I followed them anyways. Upon pressing the inside of my right palm, the blue rings and golden lines on the gloves began to glow brightly. It took me by surprise, so I nearly knocked the man’s hologram to the floor. Suddenly, a warm sensation began to rush over my hands. With every passing second, the insides of the gloves grew hotter and hotter. Eventually, it grew to the intensity of sticking my hand into a fire.

“Ahh, damn it. What the hell!” I began to yelp in pain as I waved my arms. A sudden jolt of pain pulsated from my fingertips and down through the veins of my hands. The pain shot up my arms and finally to my head. The end result was a radiating headache, it felt like my brain was getting bombarded by waves of falling bricks. “Ahh, fuck man. What the hell is going on!” I shouted at the man. I didn’t bother to lower my voice due the writhing pain. I’m sure someone probably heard me, but I didn’t give a shit. My back was arched over, as I clutched my head. It felt as if my eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.

“The gloves are bonding to you, to your magical code to be specific. It hurts, I know, but it will only last a few more moments,” he assured.

“Like hell you understand,” I said through my teeth. “I’m the guinea pig!” Sure enough, the heat began to leave my hands. The overflowing pain that ran from my fingers to my head, began to fade away. The river of fire in my veins had finally been quenched, and the drumming in my head ceased. The resulting relief was possibly the greatest feeling I had ever felt. My body relaxed and sunk into the bed, melting the sheets. Even the stiff mattress felt like a cloud after that ordeal. The gloves were now emitting a dim glow. I picked up the card.

“What the hell just happened?”

“Didn’t you hear me the first time?” he asked. “The gloves are now bonded to you. It had to read your magical code so it could duplicate it. Now you are the sole user of these gloves. Anyone else that tries to will, well, probably get hurt,”

“What do you mean by that?” I questioned.

“Take of the gloves and look at your hands,” he ordered. Taking them off, my eyes widened. On the tips of my fingers were black dots with a rim of deep red. The palms were the same.

“You turned me into a mime?” I asked sarcastically. I was only halfway so.

“No. How do you think the gloves were able to read you? The pain you felt were the gloves magical energy shooting up to your brain. It felt hot because the magical energy of the gloves was essentially being soldered to your magical code. It’s a rather, eh, unfortunate side effect. Too bad your not a pyro,”

“No kidding,” I replied. I examined the gloves closer and noticed words lit up on the inside of the large, palm circles. “Gun Girl?” Upon reading it, the words faded away and the gloves grew brighter.

“Gun Girl huh?” the man began. “That’s your codeword I guess. Interesting choice though,”

“I didn’t choose it,” I refuted.

“Oh, but yes you did. You see, we programmed the gloves to kind of pick a password for you. When the magical energy shot up to your brain, it scanned it for whatever thoughts were fresh in your mind. These words were the most prevalent, so it picked them for you. So in a sense, you did pick them, subconsciously,”

I was completely blown away. I knew that Gryphon Industries was amazing, but never did I think they were capable of this sort of technology. How fortunate was I to receive the opportunity to have worked with these guys and help them test run new products? It was just too much for me to handle.

“I wonder though, why Gun Girl became your password. It is a rather…interesting set of words,” the man paused between words. I shrugged, despite knowing exactly why it had became that.

“Well, aside from the searing pain, I really appreciate the opportunity to test these out for you,” I said.

“We would not have even thought about making it if it weren’t for you, son. Your collaboration is much appreciated,”

“I know you gave me a brief answer to what you planned to program into these gloves, but can you give me a more detailed description of its capabilities?”

“Sorry,” the man responded abruptly. “That is for you to find out on your own. I have to attend a meeting. I trust that I will receive a report from you in the near future?” Before I could even respond he assumed my answer and the transmission ended. The hologram faded back into the card, and in its place engraved on the back was the name Dr. Steve Wzelchy. I sighed and laid back on the bed. My head nearly hit the wall as I stared up at the ceiling. I brought the gloves into view, marveling at them. They were still faintly glowing.

In my 21 years on the planet, I made it a goal of my mine to connect with as many people as possible. Networking, getting to know people, I felt it was essential if I was going to parry my way to my ultimate goal. Last year, a speaker came to the school to give a guest lecture. After his speech, I approached him. He must have been impressed, because he gave me his card and told me to meet with him later that evening. Him and some colleagues had a business meeting in town and we going to have dinner. Turns out, the speaker worked for Gryphon Industries, a privately owned, magical technologies business. They mainly ran operations out of Rotterdam, Netherlands, but they also had locations in all of the other continents, including Antarctica. They were responsible for a great majority of the new technology that utilized magic. It was rumored for a long time that they held contracts with some of the military groups in the world, which caused some concerns. However, the president and CEO of the company flat out admitted that this was true, however, it didn’t mean they were conspiring against the people. It made sense to provide this technology to the armies of the world. The revelation actually led to less conflict.

The speaker who had come to Mozley was impressed by my “skills”, claiming they could really spark a revolution of great new projects for the company. Thus, I was invited for a summer-long internship at the sister site located in Helena, Montana. It was, needless to say, a remarkable experience.

I wasn’t feeling as remarkable right now, however. Sure, I got to test drive a new invention, but I hadn’t the faintest idea how. It was as if they had pushed me out of the nest and expected me to fly immediately. If I failed though, it wasn’t like a cat was going to eat me.

It was at that moment I realized that I could hear my clock ticking. I glanced up, the clocking read: 12:30.

“Oh, crap!” I exclaimed quickly gathering my things. I slipped a red bag onto my back, shoved my phone into my pocket, and turned off all the lights. Upon opening the door I paused to look at my hands. The gloves were still and glowing slowly. I still didn’t know how to deactivate them, but I also didn’t want to remove them. There were so many secrets to unlock in this potentially industry changing item. I wore gloves often, for I found it helped me control my reading ability, so it wouldn’t have been out of place for me to have a new pair. It would be more difficult to explain the blue glow. Shrugging, I dug my hands into the pockets of my jacket and stepped halfway out the door. I paused again, peering into the hallway. No one there. I looked to both sides before receding back into the room and locking the door.

Upon opening the window, the aroma of the trees and plants outside rushed in. I often used this route from my room. I wasn’t sure exactly why. It was more fun I suppose, but it was also unpredictable, and I liked that. The branch was strong enough to hold me. Swinging myself down from branch to branch, my feet eventually hit the ground. I dusted off any residue from climbing down. Suddenly I heard a voice.

“Did you seriously just climb down that tree from your room?”

I swiveled my head to discover a young lady, a little shorter than I with blond hair tied back and hazel eyes. She looked like a runner, her body was slim and toned. She wore a short sleeve, purple shirt that had the abbreviations of some sorority on it, as well as black yoga pants. She was a walking stereotype. I was surprised she didn’t have her “sisters” with her.

“Yea, what about it? And who are you?” I asked.

“Well if you must know,” she started in nasally voice, “I’m a new member of this sorority” she pointed to her shirt. “My name is Courtney and soon everyone will know it, because let’s face it, I’m beautiful,”

Nice to see you have hubris I thought to myself. These chicks always strike me as average. She was popular at her former school, and now, she was desperately and already, trying to find a way to make her self popular again. It was sort of sad really. I then remembered my gloves.

“Hey, you’re into fashion right? How do think these gloves compliment my eyes?” I said with an inflection of bullshit in my voice. She didn’t catch it, however, and she examined my outstretched palm. She opened her mouth, but I all I could see were her lips move.

Trying to explain how it was like to read people was like trying to explain algebra to a five year old. If you were lucky enough to keep their attention for a few minutes, you would still struggle to articulate in words they could understand what you are talking about. Colors were more vibrant. Things lost their definitions. It was like a blast of colors, numbers, letters, shapes, and symbols just running at me like cinematic 3D. However, this was new.

I was flying through space. It was is if I was able to bypass all of the firewalls and see her in the raw. What felt like an eternity of flashing images and loud vibrations soon accumulated into a point of blackness. I saw myself standing in the void. In front of me was a slowly rotating double helix that stretched up and down as far as the eye could see. Gliding over to the rotating neon, green helix, I reach out to touch it. Suddenly, it rapidly condensed into a ball of neon green in my hand. I knew not where I was, but I was still wearing the gloves. The ball began to sink into the glove, soon it disappeared entirely. Gasping, I could feel a rush of energy up my arm and into my head, however, it wasn’t hot like before. This time it was icy cold . A group of letters I had never seen before suddenly emitted from the gloves, similar to the hologram and the business card from earlier. Despite, not being familiar with the language, I knew exactly what it said. As soon as they had appeared, the words vanished and the darkness was sucked up like a vacuum. I found myself back outside, the girl giving me a weird look.

“Umm, did you hear anything I said?”

“Wait what?” my voice was a little disoriented.

“All you men are the fucking same. You didn’t hear a word I said did you? All you want are my goodies!”

I really don’t. “I’m sorry, I just got dizzy for a moment there. Thanks for your opinion, I gotta go!” I said scurrying off.

“Wait a minute? I’m not done with you!” I heard her voice as I turned the corner of the building in heading towards the student center. I was at a lost of words. What had I just witnessed? Normally when reading someone, I could just see the answer I seek in my head floating with the other shapes and colors. But never had I gone so deep and had such vivid images. It was if I had traveled to another world. My mind felt shattered and the only thing I could think of was what I saw in there.

Courtney was a succubus.

Arc. 1 Chapter. 1

It seems Man has always been obsessed with what is not there. Spirits, gods, magic, sorcery, summoning, channeling, witchcraft, and so much more. It has been shrouded in confusion, mystery, admiration, abomination, and celebration. Magic, having the ability to do incredible things, acts that people of the past believe only the Gods could achieve. My my, what an exciting time we live in right now!

The large black screen in front of the auditorium changed. Now, standing in front of the institution was a young, smiling man.

“Hello newcomers! My name is Alex Cristoph, and this is my home and my pride. Welcome to Mozley Institute of Magical Arts!” The man in the video stood to the side as the camera paned around into an aerial view of the school. Electronic music played in the background, as images of students, faculty, sports, and more flashed onto the screen. The young man came back into view, walking around the campus. “Congratulations, my young friends, you have the opportunity to study at one of the finest magical institutions this sector has to offer. Here you will gain the skills and knowledge to pursue whatever it is that you desire. We feature a top notch staff that will help guide you on your way to enhancing and fortifying your magical skills! We are a great community, featuring over one hundred clubs for you to join and meet new friends, and not to mention some of the best food you will have ever taste in your life. Yes, I know food is important to you guys!”

The host of new students in the auditorium, as well as the attending professors laughed.

“Come out on Saturdays for Blitzball and support our championship winning team, the Mozley Manticores! Or support our Lazershot Team, the Lady Cores! Really, any of our wonderfully run sports teams will provide you with winning entertainment!” The scene changed again, with him speaking with professors and other students, his voice providing the overlay. “Many of the students that go on and graduate from Mozley land jobs with some of the top companies and even leagues in the sector. As a matter of fact, prior to this guy attending here, the college had a different name,” he said pointing to a statue in the middle of a large atrium. “I’m sure all of you know who Mobias Mozley is. One of the premier Upgraded our sector has ever seen has walked the halls you will soon walk. He’s chanted the slogans you will soon chant. He has left his mark on this great school. And now it is your turn. Once again, welcome to Mozley Institute of Magical Arts! May you summon greatness into your lives!”

The video was followed by an eruption of applause by the new students. Today was Orientation day, where all the new students got a feel for their new home. It was always a very festive and busy event that spanned three days. The large auditorium was filled with anxious and excited young magic users, ready to put their skills to the test. Mozley was consistently considered one of the top universities to attend in the sixth sector, or the North American Sector. An older, though elegantly statured woman walked across the stage to the center. The energy about her felt of great importance, which she was. This lady was head of the Spirit Familiar Department. Her voice was surprisingly young and sweet.

“My my my, look at all my tadpoles here. You sure seem like an excited bunch!” The students responded with an echoing roar. “Well, I won’t be long, because I know who you really want. Let me just say congratulations on getting in and welcome to our university. I hope that you all do well in your courses and push through. It may become difficult, but always persevere. That is what it means to be a Manticore. I know I will see you all graduate from here! And without further ado, The Vice President of the S.S. Brigade, Mr. Alexander Cristoph.

As if she had announced the leader of the sector himself, all of the students erupted into cheer. Almost all of them were on their feet now. Females were screaming like they would for a rock star. Males were chanting. Even some of the professors were ecstatic. Not too long after , Alexander walked across the stage, waving at the students. He assumed his position at front center, grabbing the microphone. By all means, Alexander Cristoph was a good looking, young man. He stood a slightly above average height, with a semi-muscular build. It was obvious that this guy, though not of body-building status, frequented the gym. His hair was dark, mahogany and short, his bangs cutting to the right, and longer in the back. His eyes were a dark green, his skin slightly pale. He wasn’t overly dressed, however, taking the liberty of wearing a black sports jacket over a solid green shirt, and some dark jeans. He also wore a large black a green bandana around his neck. His signature accessory, he was rarely seen without it.

“Wow, you know that never gets old. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, and you guys are the loudest by far. Give yourself a round of applause!” he said into microphone. The crowd cheered as he took it off the pole and began to walk around. The second he brought his lips closer to the microphone, silence filled the room. He was powerful.

“Let me just first start off by saying welcome to Mozley. I’m not going to be very long up here, for much of what I would have said was already stated in the opening video. However, what I am going to do is ask you all a question. Why is it exactly that you are here?” The room was an awkward collection of murmurs and sneezes. No one spoke out loud, so Alex continued his speech. “Hmm, not one of you knows huh? Well, I’ll tell you why I am here and we’ll see if it somewhat aligns with your reason. I am here, because I want to be. Simple yes? Well, allow me to elaborate. I am here, because I want to achieve greatness. Granted, you could do this wherever you go doing whatever you want right?” Once again the room was overcome with low voices.

Alex laughed, “You know, I’m not a very good salesman, because I just talked up this school and then said you could do whatever you want wherever you want. What sort of promotion is that?” A few people laughed. “Ok, I’ll go a step further. I am here because I want to achieve greatness and have access to great resources. You, anyone of you could do whatever it is that you want. I’m sure you’ve heard this from a lot of people from your parents to your elementary school teachers, etc. But you know who won’t tell you is the world. And you want to know why, because the world doesn’t give a shit about telling you. It could care less about what you want!”

This omission sparked a bit of an uproar, not completely angry, but more so one of confusion. Who the hell was this stranger, regardless of his status, to tell a bunch of freshman that the world didn’t care about what they wanted? One minute he’s uplifting them and the next he was unraveling the charm. Some students became angered. One even stood up.

“Hey man, I thought you were supposed to be telling us good things about the school, not insulting us!” a taller man in the middle section shouted out. A few of his presumed buddies backed him up with a unison “yea”.

“I didn’t insult you man, you didn’t even allow me to finish. I just said the world doesn’t give a shit about you,”

“And how is that not an insult? What, do you think you’re some sort of hotshot on campus telling us we won’t amount to nothing?”

“I never said that. What is your name?” Alex said. The burly man shot him a look. “You’re name?” he repeated.

“Why the hell would I give you my name?” the aggravated student asked.

“His name is Conroy,” a lady a few rows up from him chimed up.

“Thank you very much miss,” Alex winked at her. She flushed pink as several of the female students next to her began to giggle. “Everybody, Conroy has volunteered to be my assistant for this demonstration,” he said loudly into the mic.

“I didn’t volunteer for anything!” he said angrily. He was out of his seat and halfway to the stage at this point. Alex was able to receive a full body view of this guy. He stood an easy half foot taller than him. His blue polo showed visible creases due to his bulging muscles. His hair was short and black, his hands looked like they could pop a basketball. Unlike Alex, this guy looked like a bodybuilder, one that had the expression of an angry, charging rhino. Alex smiled.

“Throw some magic at me, Conroy,” he demanded.

“What?” the towering male student asked. He was on the stage now and stood maybe twenty feet from Alex. His hands were clenched. Many of the students had looks of concerned, some were pestering the surrounding teachers to take action. None of them budged. They shared the same smiling expression that Alex had, almost like they were expecting this to happen.

“Come on man. I can sense you use some magic of some sort. Everyone here does. Let’s see what you got,”

“Do you think I’m stupid? Are you trying to get me in trouble already?” Conroy replied, still visibly pestered. Alex shrugged and raised his hands to behind his neck. Bringing his bandana up, he tied it around to shield his mouth. He then reached into the left inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a black glove, slipping in onto his right hand. He held his hand out and took a few step forwards, bending both of his knees with one foot forward and the other one back, as if to brace for in impact.

“Seriously, come at me. Or are you afraid? Show me I’m wrong when I say the world doesn’t give a shit about you,” he taunted, his voice slightly muffled. He continue taunting as the crowd started chanting Conroy’s name to act. Alex could sense the culmination of the chants and his taunts boiling over. “Attack me!”

In that instant, Conroy began to charge with his fist clenched. Several rings of light appeared around his wrists as he began to punch forward. Streams of light flew from his knuckles like sails as he brought his fist into the palm of Alex’s gloved hand. The resulting shock reverberated throughout the hall as, Alex’s body flew back several feet in the air, his body flipping over, landing with his knees on the ground. Seemingly unscathed, he rose to his feet and simply nodded his head. “Interesting,”

Conroy resumed his charge, however, this time Alex stood straight up, his arms at his side. Many of the students were urging him to dodge or to at least brace for the second hit. Nearly half the room jumped as Conroy’s second attack was mere feet from his face. With lightning fast reflexes, Alex halted this flying fist with two fingers. The didn’t bend backwards at all. The room gasped as Conroy sent a barrage of desperate punches, however, Alex easily dispelled all of them. He was now pushing Conroy back, as the burly student continued his helpless assault. After resting for a few seconds, Conroy attempted one more right swing, however, his fist stopped far short of Alex’s fast and plummeted to the floor of the stage, carrying the rest of his body with it. It was as if a one hundred pound weight was suddenly tied to his hand. Many of the students laughed and all of the teachers clapped. The rest of the auditorium followed suit. A flustered Conroy rose to his feet, his hand still pinned to the floor.

“Stop clapping! This isn’t funny!”

“Actually, it kind of is. Wasn’t expecting your hand to fall quite like that, it looked like something out of a cartoon!” Alex started off. Conroy began to swinging at him with his free hand, however, Alex rendered it useless as well. Now he looked like a gorilla. He sat on the floor, completely defeated, and almost looked on the verge of tears. “Everybody, please give my assistant a thunderous round of applause for his act today. I must say, he is one of the strongest I’ve faced doing these orientations!” Everybody stood their feet in applause. A bewildered Conroy just stared out into the crowd. He had no reason to why they were clapping for him. Was it some sort of sick joke that he wasn’t it on?

“Conroy, my friend,” Alex began as the crowd quieted. “I’m really sorry that I had to embarrass you like that. Granted, I’ve done this thing twice before and I think your reaction was the angriest. I remember the first year I did it, I had everyone fooled,”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Conroy demanded.

“Evidently, you don’t really know who I am, which is fine. It’s not like I’m an official Upgraded or anything. The type of magic I possess is one that allows me to read magical code upon contact. After I’ve read the code I can upgrade or downgrade said code to my choosing. So when you attacked the first time, I absorbed the code of your magic. That’s why the rest of your punches were useless,” Alex explained. Conroy still looked confused. Alex continued. “I represented the world in that act, Conroy. When I said the world doesn’t care about you, I’m not saying it hates you. What I’m saying is that the world is indifferent. It doesn’t really care who and what you are. It’s going to throw everything at you, holding back no punches,”

“I still don’t follow,” Conroy said. By now, Alex had released the magical bind on his hands, and he had risen to his feet. His arms were crossed however, his face flustered red. Alex turned his attention back to the crowd.

“Many of you may find my treatment of Conroy here to be harsh, but this is just what I want to let you all know. The great thing about an indifferent world is that we all have access to same opportunities. We all have access to same success, because it is abundant like drops of water in the ocean. We all can do whatever it is we want to do…if we really want to. This is why it is imperative of each of you, to truly utilize the institution. It is one thing to get in, but if you don’t really do anything and apply yourself, what would be the point? Please, use the great resource that you have. And don’t worry about what others may think of you, because even though we are all competitors and classmates simultaneously, no pair of any of us has the same exact dream. There’s plenty of room in this world for all of them. Believe me,”

Another round of applause concluded the bulk of Alex’s speech. The vice president of the SSB simply smiled, as Conroy walked up to him. Alex noticed him with his head down, and who could blame him. He was absolutely embarrassed by someone who was considerably smaller than him. “Conroy, my friend. Do you practice any martial arts?”

“No, I don’t. I wrestled in high school though,”

“I see. Well, we have a judo club here that I believe you will be perfect for. You don’t have to take my offer if you don’t want to, but I’m willing to put in a good word for you, and I’ll pay your start up fees in exchange for your participation today. How does that sound?”

Taken back, Conroy spoke into the microphone, “That sounds pretty cool actually,”

“Did ya’ll here that? He said is sounds pretty cool. It’s very cool my friend, as are all of the clubs here. So please, my classmates, go out and learn, thrive, live, and love your time here at Mozley. May you all summon greatness into your lives! Thank you very much,” Without so much as a second thought, Alex trotted of the stage as he made is exit, leaving behind the young and robust students behind. The hall itself was rather large, which in fact doubled as the stage for the theater department. It was complete with tall green curtains, and two upper lofts. Upon stepping into the back, Alex was stopped by one of the members of the SSB

“You always get so animated with these events,”

“Oh hey, Mohamed. Well, I have to you know. Gotta sell the school to these kids,” Alex replied.

“True. You are coming to the meeting later today right? I know you are a busy man but-

“I’ll be there don’t worry. Just gonna run to my dorm to pick up something really fast. I got a new toy today!” his face full of the sort of excitement you see from a kid receiving their first bike.

“You and your toys. Well, guess I’ll see you later. Good job out there,”

Alex, who was already running off in a hurry looked back and shouted, “Gotta love orientation!” and disappeared from sight.