Sorry for the wait, guys. This one had to go through a major revision about halfway through, so it took a little bit more brainstorming to complete. As always, if you haven’t, read the previous posts first. And above all… Enjoy!
Mirror of the Nine Halls part 8
Neltharia opened up the door and passed through without even bothering to look behind her to see if Kalgan was following.
He sighed and followed her into the long, clean hallway. It reminded him immediately of a college dormitory. There were numbered doors on either side for quite a ways off into the distance.
Fluorescent lighting kept the place bright, but it felt… just a bit too sterile.
There were a few small groups of high school and college age young people loitering in the hall. When the door opened, letting in the light from outside, they all turned to look to see who it was.
“Neltharia! You’re back!” a young man who looked to be about the same age as Kalgan marched over, slinging a dark-gray backpack over his shoulder. He towered slightly over them both at nearly six feet tall, and was a bit too thin. He had blonde hair, green eyes, and was wearing a black leather trench coat. Even the way he walked screamed Goth, but Kalgan was not one to feel the need to judge people on what they chose to wear. “We weren’t expecting you back for a few days at least. I take it your mission was a success?”
Kalgan stood next to Neltharia, feeling slightly uncomfortable. He always felt that way around new people.
Neltharia stuck out her thumb and pointed it over at Kalgan. “Here he is. We were just heading over to the General’s office.”
“Ah. Mind if I join you? I need to speak to my uncle anyway,”
“Do whatever you want, I suppose,” Neltharia replied, sounding bored.
“Cool. The name’s Sameth,” he said, extending his right hand out to Kalgan.
Neltharia stiffened, but it was too late. Kalgan shook Sameth’s hand. “My name’s Kalgan. Nice to meet you Sameth.”
“Huh,” Sameth said after the handshake. “Most people find touching me to be a bit… shocking. I’m surprised you aren’t writhing in pain on the ground.”
“And why should I be?”
Sameth glanced from Neltharia to Kalgan and back again. “Did you… tell him who we are?”
“You’re all people with some kind of superpowers, right?” Kalgan asked, trying to sound as bored as possible.
Sameth smiled. “I suppose you could say that.” His smile widened as they started to head off down the hall. Most of the small groups of young people scurried off to their rooms. They seemed to be afraid of either Sameth or Neltharia, or both for some reason. “My forte is electricity,” he added. “Of course, being a sorcerer, I’m able to manipulate other elements as well, but electricity comes the easiest to me.”
Neltharia rolled her eyes. “Just because he’s one of only four sorcerers in existence, he feels like he’s hot stuff, but on the ladder of powerful sorcerers, he’s nearly at the bottom rung.”
“That hurts!” Sameth said with great sarcasm. “I’ll have you know, I’m getting stronger every day. Not all of us can be prodigies like you, Nel.”
“You better believe it!” Neltharia said, sounding slightly annoyed.
“Anyway,” Sameth said, ignoring Nel for the moment. “What is it you can do, exactly?”
Kalgan shrugged. “I don’t know. Burning stuff, I guess.”
“Burning stuff,” Sameth said as if expecting Kalgan to elaborate.
He remained silent, however. Who was this guy to think they could just be friends right away? Kalgan wasn’t looking to make any friends here.
“I’ve never heard of someone manifesting fire first. Telekinesis maybe, but fire?” Sameth said, ignoring Kalgan and staring off down the hall in thought.
He rolled his eyes. Sameth didn’t know his stuff, obviously.
“Any other abilities?”
Kalgan shrugged again. “I don’t know.” There was no need to tell him about the ice, or the incredible increase in strength. Or the ability to slow down time. He wasn’t looking to impress anyone. He just wanted to keep his head down, talk to this General guy, then… He didn’t know. Go home, maybe? No. His home wasn’t home anymore, not with only him living there.
“Well, that’s not surprising. Multiple abilities is an indication that you are a sorcerer, not your average Power. Even Powers can complete missions and do some good in the world, however. Don’t feel bad if you never manifest any other abilities. Some people are just never meant for greatness,” Sameth said, obviously not realizing how condescending he was sounding.
Kalgan pursed his lips. He hated people like that. He always had.
Neltharia groaned. “Sameth! I’m going to need you to stop digging at him.”
Sameth shrugged, but smiled. “What? I wasn’t doing anything.”
Neltharia glared at him. “Sure. Trying to bait him into getting angry and using his power on you. I’ve seen you do it before, remember?”
Kalgan deliberately ignored them both, and stared straight ahead. They were nearing the end of the long hallway. Heads were sticking out of doorways behind them, and whispers were being exchanged amongst all the young people gathered.
He heard a few of them.
“Who is the new kid?”
“I don’t know. Why isn’t he afraid of Nel and Sam?”
“They’re taking him straight to the General’s office! He must be important.”
There was a golden plaque on the door at the end of the long hall. It read “General Alistair Nemo.”
Neltharia knocked on the door as soon as they reached it. It clicked open a couple seconds later automatically.
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Go ahead. I’m going back to my room.”
“See ya, Nel!” Sameth said with exaggerated enthusiasm.
Neltharia simply waved halfheartedly over her shoulder after turning around and starting to walk back.
“What a woman!” Sameth said with a smile. “Cold as a stone, though. Watch yourself around her, Kalgan. She’ll just as soon throw you under the bus as help you with anything.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“Go on ahead. I’ll speak to him after you’re done.”
Kalgan took a deep breath and entered the General’s office, leaving the talkative Sameth behind to wait.
“Close the door behind you,” a man with short black hair said from behind an ornate and polished hardwood desk.
Kalgan complied, then stepped forward, taking a closer look at the so-called General. His black hair was quite perfect. It almost shone from the amount of hair gel in it. It looked like black glass from a distance, except it was marred by a distinctive white stripe on the left side.
The man’s face was muscular and marred by a scar on the right cheek.
He looked like he meant business. Kalgan felt himself swallowing involuntarily. The man was nearly six-and-a-half feet tall, and was quite muscular. His uniform was as immaculate as his hair. Kalgan assumed that the insignias on the uniform denoted his rank and other accomplishments, but he didn’t know anything about that kind of stuff.
“Welcome to O.M.E.N., Kalgan,” the man said in a surprisingly kind voice. “Please. Take a seat.”
The general motioned with his right hand towards an empty seat in front of the desk.
“Uh…” Kalgan said, taking a seat in front of the desk. “What’s O.M.E.N.?”
“An acronym. Organization Monitoring Extrahuman Nationals.”
“Right. And why have you brought me here?”
“Because you’ve become a danger to yourself and others,” the man said, placing his hands upon his desk. “What happened at the Mexican food restaurant, and later at the cabin proves that without a doubt.”
Kalgan sighed and closed his eyes. Here it comes, he thought to himself.
“What were you doing all the way out there, anyway? All we found was ashes.”
Kalgan really didn’t want to talk about it, but just thinking about it made last night’s events all come to the forefront of his mind.
The General lifted an eyebrow as he took a deep shuddering breath, then let it out, a single tear rolled down Kalgan’s cheek.
Kalgan felt a second tear fall down the other cheek. “My Mother and Sister.”
He was pulled from his memories as the General got up from his chair and marched over to the window, then clasped his hands behind his back. “Tell me what happened.”
“He murdered them!” Kalgan said loudly, making fists and striking the table. “He stabbed them right in front of me! So I killed him and burned the place to the ground!”
The general hung his head. It was a moment before he spoke.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there, Kalgan. But I’m here now. I can’t bring them back, but I can make sure you have a home here. A room has already been set aside for you. Take all the time you need to think things through. When you’re ready to learn to control your power, just let me know, and we will get started on your training.”
There was an obvious hint of dismissal in that tone, and… something else. A hint of unfathomable loss, perhaps?
Kalgan got up and wiped his tears away.
“Your room is at F-106. Feel free to use whatever you find there, should you need it,” the General said in that same tone.
Kalgan scowled at the man, then turned and left. Sameth was leaning up against the wall next to the door when he opened it.
He directed another scowl at him as he passed, then marched out to find F-106 by himself.
Sameth watched as Kalgan marched off, a great cloud of anger seeming to roll off of him in waves. He shook his head and entered his uncle’s office, making sure to close the door behind himself.
“Hey, uncle. I was just wondering if…”
“Ward the room, Sameth,” his uncle cut him off. “Now!”
“Okay, geez!” He replied, then did as he was told. The power came to him easily, now. It was actually quite easy to erect a sphere of power that would ensure that no sound left its confines, once you knew the theory behind it.
Once the room was protected, Uncle Alistair marched over to his desk and picked up a crystal globe and launched it at the nearby wall with all his might. Then he began to hurl the other things on his desk as well. He didn’t stop until there was nothing left to throw. The dents in the drywall would definitely be a chore to fill in.
Then the man screamed his head off at the wall. It was a primal scream of unbelievable pain and rage.
Sameth didn’t know what to do. He had never seen his uncle as anyone but an emotionless stone, an unchanging bastion to look up to and admire, but this…
“By the Gods, Uncle! What the hell happened?”
The General collapsed against a wall and slid down it slowly, tears streaming down his face. He said nothing as he began to sob uncontrollably.
“Was it the new kid? What did he say to you?”
“You leave him alone, Sameth. That’s an order,” Uncle Alistair finally said. “He’s been through more than enough for one day.”
“But…” Sameth moved over and crouched down. “Did he tell you his story, or something?”
“Oh.” That explained it, then. “And did you see something?”
“None of your fucking business!”
The vehemence of that reply took Sameth aback. “Fine. The reason I came in here… I can’t stand Neltharia’s loud music anymore. Can I please move down the hall a ways?”
“Do whatever you want,” his uncle said. “Now leave me.”
Sameth didn’t like leaving his uncle like this, but if it was an order, the best thing he could do was just to leave the man with his thoughts.
Kalgan needed to get away from the stares of the people who watched him in curiosity as he walked down the halls, reading the numbers on the doors as he went.
“Is that a new kid?” some boy a few years younger than Kalgan said. He was wearing a nondescript t-shirt and jeans.
“I’ve never seen him here before, so I guess he is,” another boy around the same age said.
A young, long-haired and bespectacled girl ducked back into her room as Kalgan walked by, carefully shutting the door behind herself as soon as she saw him glance back at her.
His heartbeat was racing. He hated hearing people talk about him behind his back. He just wanted to be left alone!
So close! Just a little further!
“Hey! Kalgan! Wait up!” A familiar voice said a ways down the hall. It was approaching fast.
Kalgan wanted to scream at this person to go away, but instead, just stopped and hung his head in resignation.
Sameth stopped next to him. “I’m glad I caught up with you. I have a proposition.”
Kalgan sighed dramatically. “What is it?” he said a second later, making sure to sound profoundly annoyed.
“I was wondering if you might be open to switching rooms with me. You see… Neltharia sometimes plays her music a bit too loud, and I enjoy my peace and quiet, you know? The walls are thin, and the sound leaks through…”
“Fine,” Kalgan said, wanting to punch a wall. “Which room number?”
“A-4. Thank you so much, Kal! You don’t mind if I call you Kal, do you? Something tells me we’re going to be great friends. Awesome! You mind helping me with a heavy trunk? I keep all my weapons in it, and it’s a bit too heavy to lug all the way back over here.”
Sameth was already making his way back down the hall. Kalgan didn’t want to draw any more attention than he already was, so he clenched his fist in anger and followed.
“Oh god! Not now!” Kalgan said, suddenly terrified of what might happen if the fire and ice got out from his control again. He took a deep breath. The feeling stopped.
Another deep breath. Things were only going to get worse.
“Well, here it is!” Sameth said, sounding as proud as could be over the nondescript wooden chest. It looked like one of those a pirate might hide his treasure in. “It’s heavier than it looks. You sure you want to help me with it?”
Kalgan looked around at the rest of the room. It looked more like the dorm of some college student rather than one belonging to a conscripted teenager on a military base.
“What about all the other furniture?” he asked.
“Don’t worry about it. We’re all given the same stuff, for the most part. I’ll just take all my clothes and sheets and stuff out of here and you can use my old furniture.”
Kalgan stepped over to one side of the chest and bent down to pick it up.
Sameth rubbed his hands and grasped the solid metal handle on his side. Kalgan grasped his.
“Ready? On three… One. Two. Three!”
Kalgan lifted his side up with almost no effort, but Sameth struggled and his face purpled from the strain. He thought it was almost amusing. Was Sameth’s side really that heavy?
“You okay?” Kalgan asked. “Maybe we should get someone else to help.”
“No!” Sameth said vehemently. “I got this.”
Kalgan watched as Sameth struggled with his side again. This time, after a considerable effort, he fell on his backside and lay on the ground, breathing hard.
Curious, Kalgan moved over to Sameth’s side and tried lifting the chest.
It weighed no more than an empty chest made of cardboard would weigh.
“Is this some kind of joke?” Kalgan said, incredibly annoyed that he would have a joke this stupid played on him like this. He picked up his own side of the trunk and set it on his shoulder.
Sameth’s face drained of color as he watched Kalgan walk nonchalantly toward the door.
“What. The. Fuck!” Sameth said with an incredibly flabbergasted look on his face.
“Let’s get this over with,” Kalgan said, annoyed, as he walked out into the hall.