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Early the next morning Mason was awakened by loud knocking on his door. Sitting up, he called out. “Come in.”

He was surprised to see Counselor Janice open the door. She addressed him in a brusque manner.

“Mason, the Council wishes to see you.”

It took him a moment to understand what she’d said.

“When?”

“Now.”

He looked down at his pajamas.

“Can I change?”

“Yes, but be quick about it.”

She left before he could respond.

He quickly threw on some clothes and splashed cold water on his face, worrying the entire time what he’d done wrong. His concern only increased when he entered the Council Chambers and saw all five Council members sitting up on stage waiting for him. As he drew closer, he could see a range of different expressions on their faces. From the stoic face of Counselor Proust to the bemused smile of Counselor Halrous, Mason wasn’t sure what to expect. Counselor Janice called out.

“Please approach the podium Trainee Mason.”

He waited at the podium for what seemed a long time before Counselor Janice glanced over at the other Counselors and continued speaking.

“Trainee Mason, Counselor Anklin has informed us of your progress. While we applaud your achievement, there are some on the Council …” Mason saw her give a slight look at Counselor Proust, “who have expressed concerns that you might not be able to control your developing abilities.”

“I think it only prudent that the Council be apprehensive,” interrupted Counselor Proust. “As the misuse of these abilities could have devastating consequences for Myscreth.”

“I have to agree with Counselor Proust,” added Counselor Tranlee. “I’m sure Trainee Mason would never consciously harm anyone, but he may not be able to prevent it.”

Counselor Halrous lightly tapped the table and gave Mason a smile before looking at the other Counselors. “I think you’re giving Trainee Mason too little credit. I’m confident he’ll be able to handle himself as his abilities develop. I’m sure Anklin agrees with me.”

“I’m sure he does,” muttered Counselor Proust.

Counselor Anklin shot a glance at Counselor Proust. “Sarcastic comments won’t get us anywhere.”

“Gentlemen,” called out Counselor Janice in a clearly exasperated tone. “This isn’t productive. We need to focus on what needs to be done.”

“It’s clear what needs to be done,” sneered Counselor Proust, “but I doubt certain members of the Council would allow it.” As he finished speaking, he glared pointedly at Counselor Anklin.

Mason wasn’t sure what action Counselor Proust was referring to, but from the look of anger on Counselor Anklin’s face, he was sure it couldn’t be good.

“If the concern is that Mason has outstripped his training, the solution is obvious,” stated Counselor Halrous. “We simply must accelerate his training.”

“All in favor of Counselor Halrous’ proposal,” called out Counselor Janice before anyone else could interrupt. Counselor Anklin and Counselor Halrous raised their hands and she followed suit. “Motion carries,” she announced.

Mason thought he briefly saw fury in Counselor Proust’s eyes, but his emotionless expression returned.

“Although I disagree with the Councils decision, I will do whatever I can to see that it is carried out,” commented Counselor Proust smoothly. “The only thing I want to ensure is that the Council keep track of Trainee Mason’s progress and revisit this issue if there are any additional concerns.”

“That’s most certainly my intention Counselor Proust,” answered Counselor Janice indignantly.

“Very good,” replied Counselor Proust. His smile sent a chill down Mason’s spine.

“Trainee Mason,” announced Counselor Janice, “You’ve heard the Council’s decision. You’ll immediately begin intensive training with Counselor Anklin. You’re to inform the Council immediately of any changes you experience and under no circumstances are you to attempt to try using your abilities on your own. Do you understand?”

He nodded. “Yes, Counselor Janice.”

“Good, go to the training room and Counselor Anklin will join you shortly.”

The silence was stifling as Mason left the room.

Counselor Janice wasn’t kidding when she said intensive training. He was now spending most of each day working with Counselor Anklin. He soon began the third step of his training: modifying the dynamics law he’d visualized in his mind.

“Any uncertainty or error in the modifications you make can lead to disastrous consequences,” warned Counselor Anklin. “You have to learn to anticipate the result of any potential modification you make. I’ll show you what I mean.”

Counselor Anklin placed a block of wood on the ground and gave a mischievous smile.

He concentrated and the block crumbled into dust.

“What’d you do?” exclaimed Mason.

Counselor Anklin gave a slight wave of his hand. “Not much really, I only modified its gravity. Unfortunately, instead of the desired factor of 0.2, I used 20,000. A most unfortunate error.” He concluded with a smile.

The training was grueling, but Counselor Anklin’s encouragement helped Mason persevere. However, the long days took their toll and one day Mason dozed off during one of the training sessions. Counselor Anklin woke him up and gently chided him.

“Not going to learn much if you’re asleep.”

“Sorry,” mumbled Mason.

Counselor Anklin eyed him thoughtfully. “Maybe we should stop for today.” He stood up from the table. “As you know, Gorwold’s swearing in ceremony for the Council is tomorrow so we won’t be training. Get yourself some rest because there’s a still a lot of material we have to cover.”

Mason gave a weak smile.

“Thanks.”

The next day started with a solemn ceremony in the Council Chambers where Gorwold took the oath required of all Council members. Gorwold’s parents had travelled to Bendroff for the celebration and the Council Chamber was filled with spectators. Mason and Claridee sat in the front row where they had a clear view of the five Counselors seated on the stage.

Counselor Anklin stood up in a dignified manner. “Trainee Gorwold, please come forward.”

Gorwold walked stiffly to the podium and faced the Council. Counselor Anklin looked at him approvingly and began to speak.

“Trainee Gorwold, you are here today because you have fulfilled the requirements necessary to become a member of the Council. The task of rebuilding our world is a difficult one and requires the full commitment of each Council member. Now raise your right hand and repeat after me.”

Gorwold raised his right hand and solemnly repeated the words.

“I vow that I will use the powers entrusted to me only for the benefit of the people of Myscreth. I will never use these powers to intentionally injure anyone or for personal gain. Finally, I swear to never instruct anyone who has not been approved by the Council in the use of these powers.”

Finishing the oath Counselor Anklin smiled broadly.

“I welcome you to the Council, Counselor Gorwold. Please come and join your fellow Council members.”

The audience erupted with applause, rising to their feet as Gorwold made his way onto the stage and took his place with the other Counselors

As Mason applauded, he saw Gorwold’s parents beaming with pride. He wondered if his parents would be allowed to come to Myscreth when he joined the Council. He chuckled to himself thinking how they’d react when he told them where they were going.

After the ceremony, a large feast was held to celebrate. When Mason finally found the new Counselor in the crowded room, he vigorously shook his hand.

“Congratulations, Gorwold … I mean Counselor Gorwold,” he said trying to stifle a yawn. “That’s going to take some getting used to. I’m so happy for you.”

Counselor Gorwold smiled broadly.

“Thanks Mason, I can hardly believe it. Hopefully we’ll get to go on some assignments together.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

Seeing the long line behind him, Mason quickly said his goodbyes and headed to his room to get some sleep.

After his one day reprieve for Gorwold’s elevation to Counselor, Mason’s rigorous training went on as before. Between studying and training, sleep became a luxury.

Entering the training room one morning he was surprised to see it was empty. With a yawn he said to himself. “Something must have come up,” and sat at the table to wait. As he waited, he absent-mindedly tossed a small block from hand to hand. Soon his head fell forward as he dozed off.

The sound of a door opening jarred Mason awake, and through sleepy eyes he saw Counselor Anklin enter the training room. To his surprise, he wasn’t alone, as the other Council members followed. Sitting up, he dropped the block he was holding and it clattered on the table.

“Training too much for you, Trainee Mason?” scoffed Counselor Proust.

Mason blinked and unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn before answering.

“No, just not getting enough sleep.”

“Trainee Mason is usually very alert during his training,” commented Counselor Anklin with a pointed look at Mason. “As you can see Mason, the Council has chosen today to observe how your training is progressing.”

“I look forward to it.”

“So do we,” retorted Counselor Proust.

Counselor Anklin and Mason sat at one end of the table, while the other Counselors took seats on the opposite side. Counselor Anklin picked up the small block and placed it in front of Mason.

“Let’s start by visualizing this block,” he ordered.

Mason stared at the block and quickly announced. “Got it.”

“Now add the gravitational acceleration equation.”

This took Mason slightly longer than the first task, but he soon declared. “Okay.”

“Good,” offered Counselor Anklin. “Now modify the equation so it will accelerate upward at 0.1 g’s.”

In his mind, he applied a factor of -0.1 to the gravitational acceleration, but as he did so a weird feeling overcame him. As he watched, the block and equation in his mind slowly moved towards one another. This had never happened before. He tried to stop them, but couldn’t.

Emitting a surprised cry, he immediately erased both images from his mind.

“What happened?” demanded Counselor Janice.

Mason looked around in confusion.

“The equation and the block started moving towards each other. I tried to stop them, but couldn’t. That’s why I stopped visualizing them.”

“This is just what I was afraid of,” remarked Counselor Proust.

“Now, now,” replied Counselor Halrous, “let’s not jump to conclusions.”

“It’s not jumping to conclusions if it’s true,” countered Counselor Tranlee.

Counselor Proust continued in a triumphant tone. “Anklin had his chance, but it looks like he’s run out of time.”

Mason looked on, not understanding what all the fuss was about.

Counselor Anklin responded with barely suppressed anger. “How can you say that? Mason did just what he should’ve done.”

“This time,” sneered Counselor Proust,” but what about next time, or the time after that?”

“Enough,” thundered Counselor Janice. “In light of this new evidence, I think the Council must revisit its previous decision regarding Trainee Mason.”

“What new evidence?” stammered Mason.

She ignored his question. “Trainee Mason, you will return to the trainees’ quarters and wait for Counselor Anklin there.”

Mason was now so confused that he just nodded before leaving the room.

Reaching the trainees’ quarters, he sat in the library and waited. He still didn’t understand why the block and equation had started moving towards one another, and why he couldn’t stop them. Maybe Counselor Anklin could explain it to him when he returned.

After a while, he could no longer sit still and went over to the bookcase. He nearly dropped the book he was looking at when the door opened and Counselor Anklin came in. Walking over to a table, he gestured for Mason to sit down.

He sat there a moment just staring at Mason. When he finally spoke, his words came slowly.

“Mason, I want you to know that the progress you’ve made has been amazing. I’ve never seen a Council candidate advance so rapidly. I think this is a wonderful testament to your hard work and natural abilities, and I want you to know that I’m very proud of you.”

He looked even more uncomfortable as he continued.

“As you know, some on the Council are afraid that your abilities may be developing too quickly.”

“Yes, I know, we had that meeting,” answered Mason roughly as he began to understand what Counselor Anklin was trying to tell him.

Counselor Anklin folded his hands together and looked down, letting out a long sigh before continuing.

“Mason, there’s no easy way to say this. The Council thinks it would be best if you returned to Earth.”

Mason pounded the table and stood up.

“I tried to convince them to let you stay. I’m sorry.”

Mason clenched his fists and began pacing trying to control his anger, but failing. His words came out in guttural bursts accentuated by rasping breaths.

"After all I’ve gone through, all I’ve given up, this is how it ends? Fine. It wasn’t my idea to come here in the first place, you asked me. If I’m no longer welcome, then send me back.”

The emotions coursing through him had him on the verge of tears. However, he fought them, not wanting to waste his emotions on people who didn't want him anymore.

He walked away without even looking at Counselor Anklin, saying the only thing he could.

"I'll go pack."

After throwing his few belongings into his suitcase, he sat on the edge of the bed and looked up at the ceiling. Remembering all he’d learned, and the many wonders he’d seen, his anger began to subside. At least he’d get to see his parents again. That made him feel a little better, although he couldn’t help but feel that somehow he’d failed.

He looked around the room, committing it to memory. Even if no one would ever believe him, he still wanted to remember.

Knowing he could put it off no longer, he grabbed his suitcase and headed back to the library.

He was surprised to see that Claridee had joined Counselor Anklin. She stood there holding the book Mason had given her. The sadness in her face reminded him of the first time he’d seen her. His anger with Counselor Anklin was gone, none of this was his fault. The three of them just stood there in silence.

Claridee finally held out the book and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Take it. It will only remind me of how much I miss you.”

As much as Mason wanted her to keep it, he knew she was right. He gently took it from her. Before he could say goodbye, she ran down the hallway followed by the sound of stifled sobs.

Mason put down his suitcase and handed the book to Counselor Anklin.

“I can’t keep this. Please give it to Counselor Halrous. I’m sure he’d like to have another book from Earth.”

“Another?” asked Counselor Anklin sounding confused.

“Sorry, I assumed that if you’d given an Earth book to Counselor Proust, you probably gave Counselor Halrous one as well. Anyway, I’m ready to go.”

Counselor Anklin’s eyes opened wide.

“What did you just say?”

“I said I’m ready to go.”

“No, what did you say about Counselor Proust having a book from Earth?”

“The dynamics book from Earth that you gave him.”

“I’ve never given Proust a book from Earth.”

Mason was puzzled.

“I saw it in his quarters. It was the same kind of dynamics book I used in college. If you didn’t give it to him, how else could he have …”

Mason suddenly remembered the trip to Resline with Counselor Proust. The humming and purple light hadn’t been a dream. The words tumbled out quickly.

“When I went to Resline with Counselor Proust, I thought I heard voices coming from his room, but he was alone. Then when I was falling asleep, there was humming and a flashing purple light, but figured it was just a dream.”

Counselor Anklin’s face turned pale at Mason’s words. He grabbed him by the arm.

“Come with me right now.”

He dragged Mason into the corridor where they found Claridee huddled against a wall. Counselor Anklin pulled her to her feet.

“Claridee. Get every Council member you can find and have them meet me at Counselor Proust’s quarters immediately!”

Claridee gave a confused nod, but ran off as directed.

Counselor Anklin headed at a rapid pace to Counselor Proust’s quarters with a baffled Mason following close behind. Counselor Anklin pounded on the door and called out.

“Proust! It’s Anklin, I need to speak with you.”

Initially, there was silence, but then footsteps could be heard and the sound of the door being unlocked followed. Counselor Proust opened the door and scowled at Counselor Anklin.

“What do you want Anklin?”

As he saw Mason he smiled icily and in a voice dripping with sarcasm addressed him.

“Oh have you come to say goodbye former Trainee Mason?”

Mason tried to ignore him as Counselor Anklin, visibly trying to restrain his anger, asked if they could come in.

Counselor Proust moved out of the way and waved for them to enter. Once inside Counselor Anklin turned to Mason.

“Now show me this book you spoke of.”

Mason grabbed the book from the bookcase and handed it to Counselor Anklin. Counselor Proust protested angrily.

“What’s the meaning of this?”

Opening the book and looking at the inside cover, Counselor Anklin read. “Published in Chicago.” He glared at Counselor Proust furiously. “How’d you get this book?”

His expression didn’t change.

“I see my little indulgence has betrayed me, but no matter.” His voice was calm, but there was a steely malice to it.

Suddenly Mason felt his shirt pulling him backwards to the floor. Unable to resist, he fell and the weight of the shirt pushing down on his chest made it difficult to breath. He heard Counselor Anklin cry out ‘Proust!” as he too fell to the ground. Mason tried lifting his arms, but quickly realized that Counselor Proust had modified the gravity of his and Counselor Anklin’s clothing, causing it to act as if it weighed hundreds of pounds.

“Counselor Anklin,” croaked out Mason, but there was no response.

Counselor Proust started grabbing papers from his desk and shoving them into a backpack. “If you’d only left well enough alone Anklin, your precious Mason would be safely back on Earth and you’d have continued on as before with your deluded sense of serving the people of Myscreth."

Striding toward the door, he stopped at the doorway and looked scornfully at the two men gasping for breath on the floor.

"I’m sorry it had to end this way Anklin, but I knew you wouldn’t understand. You’ve let fear of the past make you timid, and that will only prolong the suffering of our people. The path I’ve chosen is the only way to return Myscreth to its former greatness.” Proust’s footsteps quickly faded as he made his escape.

Mason tried to call out to Counselor Anklin again, but could now barely manage a whisper. Breathing was difficult as it took almost all his strength to inhale. For the first time in his life, he thought he might actually die.

As he lay on the floor gasping for breath, his thoughts turned to his parents. If he did die, they’d never know what happened to him.

As that thought crossed his mind, rage welled up inside him. At first it was directed at Proust, but then it became focused on himself. He couldn’t just give up; even if he wasn’t ready, he had to at least try to save Professor Anklin and himself.

As he began to concentrate, images of their clothing appeared in his mind. Gasping for breath he began visualizing the gravitational acceleration equation. As happened earlier in the training room, the two images began to move closer together. This time, he made no effort to stop them.

As they merged, his entire body tingled as if a powerful electric charge was passing through him. The sensation thrilled him, but the magnitude of the power was terrifying. Just as suddenly as it had started, the power drained away and the weight on his chest was gone.

Lying there, he felt a profound sense of loss and longed to experience that feeling of power again. He was relived as Counselor Anklin began coughing and wheezing.

They lay on the floor, too weak to stand as their breathing slowly returned to normal. In a rasping voice Counselor Anklin whispered.

“Well done, Mason, well done.”

They were still lying there when Counselor Tranlee burst into the room followed by Claridee. The two women helped them to sit up. Catching his breath, Counselor Anklin spoke to Counselor Tranlee in a hoarse whisper.

“Don’t worry about us Tranlee, Proust has betrayed the Council! Find him before he can leave the city, but be careful: he’s already used his abilities to attack us.”

A look of alarm came over Counselor Tranlee’s face.

“We’ll find him,” she replied grimly, rushing from the room.

“What’s going on?” exclaimed Claridee, as she looked from one to the other.

Counselor Anklin struggled to speak and seemed to be burdened not only by his recent ordeal, but something more. In a voice filled with anguish he replied.

“Proust has committed the gravest offense possible. He’s been secretly teaching those not sanctioned by the Council to manipulate scientific laws.”

Counselor Anklin got to his feet.

“We must find out how many people he’s trained and where they are. Hopefully we’re not too late to stop whatever Proust has in mind.”

He started going throught the desk while issuing orders.

“Claridee! Go through every book on the bookcase and look for any notes or information. Mason! Search Proust’s bedroom and bring me any papers you find.”

Claridee and Mason quickly set to work. All they found were some torn up notes from a trash container. As the three of them pieced the scraps together, Counselor Anklin’s expression became increasingly troubled.

“Proust’s treachery is even worse than I imagined,” he declared with barely restrained rage. “He’s already trained four non-Council members and is in the process of training two more. We must inform the Council at once.”

After Counselor Anklin made a copy of Proust notes, the three of them ran to the Council chambers where they found Counselor Janice hunched over a map of Bendroff.

“Have you found him?” asked Counselor Anklin.

“No,” she replied. “The other Council members are leading search parties and we’ve grounded all transports.”

As she was speaking, a man ran into the room.

“Counselor Janice, three transports left before we were able stop them.”

The man cringed as she glared at him, but her anger quickly dissipated.

“Prepare three transports to follow them. Keep us informed of anything they find.”

The man nodded and hurried from the room as the other three Council members returned.

“We looked everywhere,” reported Counselor Halrous, “but there’s no sign of him.”

“He must have boarded one the transports before we grounded them,” concluded Counselor Janice.

“We’ll never find him now,” lamented Counselor Gorwold.

“We have no choice but to find him. Read for yourself.”

Counselor Anklin laid out the copy of the papers they’d found in Proust’s quarters. As the other Counselors quickly read through them, Counselor Janice went over to a nearby cabinet.

“Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell us much,” observed Counselor Anklin. “Only that the four people that Proust has fully trained have scientific specialties in relativistic physics, structural mechanics, and electrodynamics. There is no information on the names or location of these people or on the specialties of the two people currently being trained.”

“I can’t believe Proust would betray Myscreth in this way,” exclaimed Counselor Halrous.

Counselor Tranlee shook her head. “It makes no sense.”

“I think it’s clear why Proust did this,” replied Counselor Anklin. “He believes that by adding more Council members, whether or not they’re ready, he will return Myscreth to its former glory. He’s clearly delusional, and that makes him even more dangerous.”

Counselor Janice put a sheet of paper on the table. "Here’s the list of people who’ve been identified as potential Council candidates, but aren’t yet ready." Mason looked at the list and was surprised at how few names were on it. Counselor Anklin hadn’t been kidding when he told Mason how rare the mutation was.

“The only people who have a specialty matching Proust’s list are Glorine from Grenturn and Thurold from Hindline. Proust has obviously found other people that the Council wasn’t aware of.”

“When we’re done here I’ll travel to those settlements to see if either of them have left,” declared Counselor Anklin. “If they have, I think we can safely assume they’re working with Proust.”

“Good,” nodded Counselor Janice. “We need to inform all of Myscreth of what’s happened and ask for their help in finding Proust.”

Counselor Janice turned to Claridee.

“Go to the hanger and have them prepare to send out transports as soon as the announcement’s ready.”

Claridee gave a curt nod and raced from the room.

As the Council members continued their discussion, Mason suddenly remembered the Council’s earlier ruling. The episode with Proust had completely driven it from his mind. Would he still have to return to Earth? He looked over at Counselor Anklin, but he was too distracted to notice.

As Mason stood there, he suddenly felt as if he were eavesdropping on something that no longer concerned him. Not wanting to make a scene, he decided to wait for an opportunity to slip away unnoticed. Seeing his chance, he quietly headed for the exit.

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A note from parkertallan

Thanks for reading. Hope you're enjoying Myscreth.


About the author

parkertallan

Bio: An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing let's me share all the ideas floating around my mind. I hope my writing jump starts your imagination as so many books have done for me.

If you enjoy physics, check out https://physicswithcats.com/ for some fun stories which explain various physics topics.

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