Mason had almost reached the door when a sharp voice called out.
“And just where do you think you’re going?”
He turned to see Counselor Janice glaring at him.
“Uh … I didn’t think it would be right for me to be here.”
“And why is that?”
He just stared back at her with an incredulous look. Didn’t she remember the Council’s decision?
Counselor Halrous cleared his throat. “Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten, Janice.”
For a brief instant, her face showed no recognition of what he was referring to, but she quickly recovered.
“Ah yes, the matter of Trainee Mason.”
"You know, Janice, in light of these new developments,” suggested Counselor Halrous, “maybe the Council should reevaluate its decision. As you recall, it was Counselor Proust who convinced the Council to come to that conclusion and based on today’s events, I doubt his motivation was for the good of Myscreth.”
“After the way Mason performed today, I have no doubt he’ll make a fine Council member someday,” added Counselor Anklin.
Counselor Janice gave a thoughtful nod. “I’m inclined to agree. And if I’m not mistaken, that makes three votes in favor of Trainee Mason remaining on Myscreth.” She looked over at Counselor Tranlee and Counselor Gorwold, eyebrows raised. “Any objections?”
“No,” they replied in unison.
She smiled at Mason. “Well, Trainee Mason, it appears the Council has reversed its earlier decision. So why don’t you get back down here where you belong.”
It took all the control he could muster not to jump up and shout with relief as he hurried back into the room.
Before leaving, Counselor Anklin returned with Mason to the library, it was just as they’d left it. Mason’s suitcase and the book on structural mechanics lay on the floor. Picking up his suitcase and the book, Mason knew there was one more thing he needed to do.
“I’m sorry for what I said earlier.”
Counselor Anklin’s eyes twinkled and a wide smile appeared on his face.
“Don’t worry yourself Mr. Grant.” He placed a reassuring hand on Mason’s shoulder. “When someone loses something that’s important to them they lash out at whoever’s there, and for you that was me. I’m glad to know that being here on Myscreth means that much to you. Now get some rest, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Watching him go, Mason realized how right he was; it had taken almost losing Myscreth to make him understand how much it meant to him. The sound of the library door opening caused him to turn around.
“Counselor Janice just told me!” cried Claridee as she rushed towards him. The force of her hug made Mason drop his suitcase. He hardly noticed as he realized that it was more than just Myscreth he would’ve missed.
“I’m so glad you’re staying,” said Claridee when she finally released her hug.
Mason stood there a moment just relishing the sight of her smile.
“Me too,” he finally blurted out. Feeling the book in his hand, Mason held it out to Claridee. “I’d still really like you to have this,” he said. He looked down as he continued. “The thing I would’ve missed the most is our friendship.”
She gently took the book from him. “Thanks, Mason,” answered Claridee in a low voice. “I don’t know if I could’ve continued training without you being here.”
The two of them just stood there awhile. Claridee finally broke the silence. “One thing I still don’t understand is how Counselor Ankin found out about what Counselor Proust was doing?”
Mason gestured towards a table. “Let’s sit down and I’ll explain.” He told Claridee about the events he’d seen while in Resline with Counselor Proust and the discovery of the book from Earth in his quarters.
She shook her head. “I knew Counselor Proust wanted more Council members, but never thought he’d do anything like this.”
Mason didn’t reveal his thoughts on the subject.
The two talked until dinner time. For Mason, it was the best meal he ever had because it was one he’d never expected to be having. Being with Claridee only made it better. As they finished eating, Mason couldn’t stop yawning. The long days of training and the events of the day had left him exhausted. Wishing Claridee a good night, he picked up his suitcase and headed to his room.
Not even bothering to unpack, Mason crawled into bed. However, all he did was toss and turn as thoughts about the sensation of power he’d felt while saving Counselor Anklin and himself filled his mind. Even now, he had to fight the urge to try it again. For the first time, he truly understood the temptation of this ability was and how it could’ve led to Myscreth’s destruction.
Giving up on falling asleep, he finally headed to the library to find something to read. He found Counselor Anklin sitting at one of the tables reading a Myscrethian history book. He gave a small nod.
“You’re back already?”
“Instantaneous travel does have its advantages,” answered Counselor Anklin with a tired smile.
“Glorine and Thurold are both gone. I think it’s safe to assume that they’re among those illegally trained by Proust.”
Mason sat down. “Not that it does us much good.”
Counselor Anklin answered in a voice that was both tired and sad. “Unfortunately true. However, it’s whoever’s capable of manipulating relativistic physics that worries me. In the wrong hands that kind of power can be devastating.”
He turned the book he’d been reading towards Mason and pointed at a picture of Dafrum from before the war.
“Dafrum was a magnificent city with over thirty-six million people living there. It was destroyed even before most of its population knew they were being attacked.” He shook his head sadly. “Only fifteen thousand people survived. I don’t want to see that happen again.”
He gave a knowing smile. ”And why are you up so late?”
“Well … when I used my abilities today, it was like nothing I’ve ever felt. What worries me is how much I want to use them again.”
“You’re right to worry Mason. Using the ability to manipulate scientific laws can be very addictive. You must be careful to not let it master you, but the fact that you’re concerned shows me that you understand the risks.”
“Do you ever get used to it?”
Counselor Anklin laughed.
“No. Even today, whenever I use my abilities, I have to fight to keep myself from letting them sway me. What helps is remembering that I have been entrusted to help my people, and I’ve seen firsthand how much harm has been done to Myscreth by these powers. I hope that someday Myscreth will have reached a point where we no longer need the ability to manipulate scientific laws. Only then will our world truly be safe.”
Mason was glad to know that what he was feeling wasn’t unique to him. He stifled a yawn.
Counselor Anklin smiled. “I think it’s time we both turn in. If you’re going to help stop Proust, there’s a lot more you need to learn.”
After a quick breakfast the next morning, Mason and Counselor Anklin headed to the training room. As they made their way there he noticed Counselor Anklin carefully observing each person they passed.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for anyone that Proust might have trained.”
“By just looking at them?”
Counselor Anklin nodded distractedly.
The two continued on in silence until reaching the training room.
“Anyone who can manipulate scientific laws has an energy field around them,” explained Counselor Anklin as they sat down at the table. “The intensity of this field is directly related to the level of a person’s ability. For a new trainee, it will be diffuse, almost like smoke, while for someone like myself, it appears solid.”
“And you can see this field?” asked Mason.
“Yes, and each area of science has a different energy spectrum. For thermodynamics you’d see a red energy field and for structural mechanics, it’s orange. Dynamics is yellow, electrodynamics is green, and relativistic physics is blue.”
“How do you see the energy field?”
“It’s very similar to what I’ve already taught you. You visualize the person, but do nothing else. If they have the ability, you’ll see an energy field.”
“Should I give it a try?”
Counselor Anklin smiled. “I don’t see why not. Concentrate on me and tell me what you see.”
Mason began to concentrate. At first there was nothing, but suddenly he saw alternating patterns of yellow and blue light swirling around Counselor Anklin. He was so surprised that his concentration broke and the lights vanished.
“I take it you were successful, Mr. Grant.”
“Yes. I saw yellow and blue lights around you.”
“You see those two colors because I can manipulate both dynamics and relativistic physics.”
Counselor Anklin next had Mason practice manipulating the dynamic properties different objects in the training room. Each time he did so, Mason thrilled in the feeling of power it gave him. He tried to fight the desire, but even thinking about his conversation with Counselor Anklin the night before didn’t help. At last he had to stop.
“I need a break.”
“Is something wrong?”
He hesitated before giving a small shrug of his shoulders. “Same thing we discussed last night.”
Counselor Anklin gave a small smile. “I can understand why you’re concerned, but I’ll give you the same advice a dear friend once gave me; by the time we recognize a problem, we’re more than halfway to the solution.”
Mason looked at him quizzically.
“What that means is that the first step to solving any problem is recognizing it. You understand what’s happening, and that’s why you had to stop. As I said yesterday, it’s good to have a healthy fear of these powers because they are so seductive.”
“I know but …” Mason was interrupted by Claridee rushing into the room.
“Counselor Anklin, the transports searching for Proust have returned.”
“Let’s see what they found,” cried Counselor Anklin, leading the way to the Council Chambers. When they got there, Mason nearly ran into Claridee when she came to a sudden stop.
“Leader Fraster!” she cried running to a man waiting outside the chambers. A large muscular man stood up and warmly embraced her. Grey hair covered his head, and his skin was thick and weathered. She motioned Mason to come over.
“Leader Fraster, this is my fellow trainee Mason. Mason, this is the leader of my settlement, Leader Fraster.”
The two men shook hands.
Counselor Anklin leaned out of the door and impatiently called out to Mason and Claridee. “Come along you two.”
Claridee called back as she rushed inside.
“We shouldn’t be long, please wait for us. I want to hear everything about Wastrene.”
“And I want to hear everything about how you’re doing.” he answered with a large smile on his face.
As they entered, the transport pilots had just finished briefing the other Council members. “What’s the news?” called out Counselor Anklin.
“Of the three transports that left, two reached their destinations and there was no evidence that Proust was onboard. However, the third transport has disappeared. Proust could be almost anywhere on Myscreth by now,” replied Counselor Janice, frustration evident in her voice.
Counselor Anklin’s face dropped.
“There’s nothing more we can do right now,” lamented Counselor Janice. “We might as well go over the recent requests for assistance we’ve received.”
Claridee nudged Mason and whispered.
“This doesn’t really concern us. Why don’t we go out and see Leader Fraster?”
He nodded in agreement. While leaving the chamber, Claridee whispered. “Leader Fraster has led Wastrene for as long as I can remember.” Mason could see how pleased Claridee was to see someone from home and was happy for her. Claridee sat by Leader Fraster while Mason took a seat beside her.
“Leader Fraster, what are doing here?”
“I’m here to thank the Council for the equipment they recently sent to Wastrene. We’ve been waiting a long time, and I wanted to let the Council know how much it means to us.” He gave a broad smile as he continued. “Plus, it gave me an excuse to visit you.”
“How’re my parents?” eagerly inquired Claridee.
“They’re doing well and send their love. They also sent along a few things from home for you.”
Claridee beamed. “Tell me everything about home.”
“The settlement’s really been growing,” he began, pride evident in his voice. “Over the last few months alone we’ve added almost thirty families. With all the new people our generators were maxed out and we needed more of them. We’d been asking the Council for new ones for a while now, but none were ever available. It was quite a surprise last week when Counselor Proust walked into Wastrene with three new ones, you should’ve seen how excited everyone was.”
“Didn’t he arrive in a transport?” asked Mason
Leader Fraster scratched his head in thought. “No, he just walked into town with a couple of workers who were pulling a cart with the three generators on it. Once the generators were in place, he left the same way. He didn’t even stay for the feast we were going to give in his honor. That’s part of the reason I came to Bendroff, to let the Council know how grateful we are.”
The two trainees looked at each another.
“Can you tell the Council what you just told us about Counselor Proust?” asked Claridee.
He gave a shrug. “Don’t see why not. After all, that’s why I’m here.”
They brought Leader Fraster into the Council Chambers and found Counselor Anklin sitting in the front row deep in thought. Mason quickly summarized what Leader Fraster had told them about Proust delivering new generators to Wastrene. Counselor Anklin perked up as he listened and nodded.
When they finished, Counselor Anklin stood up.
“I believe that Leader Fraster of Wastrene has some information that would be of interest to us.”
He motioned Leader Fraster forward and had him repeat his story to the Council. The Council members listened in silence. Even before he could finish, Council members started firing questions at him.
“Have you seen these workers before?”
“What did these workers look like?”
“No I haven’t. It was a man and a woman.
“You must remember something else.”
Leader Fraster wrinkled his brow in thought. “Well, the man was a little shorter than myself and looked to be in his twenties. I think his hair was blonde and he seemed to walk with a slight limp. The woman seemed older, maybe forty years old? Her hair might’ve been dark with some grey.”
As the other Counselors continued their questioning, Mason saw Counselor Janice go to a file cabinet and pull out a pile of papers. As she leafed through the pages, there was a look of growing concern on her face.
When the same questions started being repeated, Counselor Anklin raised his hand.
“I think that’s enough questions. Leader Fraster, thank you for bringing this information to our attention.”
Leader Fraster smiled. “Very happy to do it.”
Counselor Anklin smiled. “Thank you for your time.”
Recognizing he’d been dismissed, Leader Fraster turned to leave. As he exited the chamber, Claridee rushed after him and when she returned, had a big smile on her face.
Sitting down beside Mason, she leaned over and whispered to him.
“I invited Leader Fraster to have dinner with us in the trainees’ quarters this evening.”
He enjoyed seeing her smile.
“I think that’s a great idea.”
Their conversation was interrupted by Counselor Janice.
“I checked, there’s no record of any equipment shipments to Wastrene in the last two months.”
Counselor Halrous pounded the table, startling Mason. “Then where’d Proust get those generators he delivered?”
There was silence as the Counselors looked at one another.
Finally Counselor Anklin addressed the Council.
“There’s only one way to find out. I propose that I travel to Wastrene along with Trainees Mason, Claridee and Leader Fraster to see if we can discover anything else about Proust’s visit there. I think we should leave immediately while memories are still fresh.”
As Counselor Anklin spoke Mason could see Claridee’s eyes light up with joy.
“I think that’s a good idea,” agreed Counselor Janice. “What about the rest of the Council?”
Counselor Halrous nodded. “Right now we need information, and what better way of getting it than going right to the source.”
“I’m not so sure,” offered Counselor Tranlee. “Shouldn’t the Council remain in Bendroff so we can act immediately if there’s any new developments?”
Counselor Halrous looked at her in surprise. “Why would you say that? You usually complain that the Council is too timid.”
“This isn’t a normal situation,” replied Counselor Tranlee in a composed voice. “We have no idea what Counselor Proust’s plans are.”
“I think what Counselor Tranlee’s saying makes sense,” interjected Counselor Gorwold.
Counselor Janice looked over at Counselor Gorwold with a slight smile. "Seems we have three in favor and two opposed. Okay Anklin, get ready to leave for Wastrene, but be sure to keep the Council informed of anything you discover."
“Of course,” he replied.
Word was sent to Leader Fraster to pack and report to the trainees’ quarters. Walking back to their quarters, Claridee could barely suppress her excitement.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been home. I can’t wait to show you around and introduce you to my family.”
It gave Mason great pleasure to see Claridee so happy.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
It wasn’t long before the four of them were in the library ready to leave.
“To save time, we’re going to travel to Wastrene by opening a doorway,” explained Counselor Anklin to Leader Fraster. He gave Mason a quick glance before continuing. “Some people can find this method of travel a little disorienting.”
That didn’t seem to bother Leader Fraster in the least.
“Never travelled that way before, but I’m sure it beats taking a transport.”
Mason took a deep breath and steeled himself for the journey.
Soon the familiar hum was heard and a flashing purple light appeared on the wall. As the flashing stopped, Counselor Anklin led the way and one by one they each went through the door.
The familiar sensation of rolling down a hill washed over Mason, but it seemed less terrifying this time. When he arrived, he only felt a slight tinge of dizziness. Looking around, he saw that they’d arrived on a small hill not far from a settlement. It was one of the largest settlement he’d yet visited, there must have been nearly a hundred and fifty buildings. Large areas of farmland surrounded the town and the bright grow lights contrasted with the darkening sky.
Leader Fraster smiled. “Wouldn’t mind travelling that way all the time.” Mason couldn’t help but feel a little jealous.
The air was warmer than anywhere else Mason had been on Myscreth. Wastrene must be very near the equator, he thought.
“Let’s get moving,” called Counselor Anklin as he started walking towards the settlement. The others quickly followed.
Counselor Anklin continued speaking as they walked. “It’s probably too late to do anything today. I recommend we get a good night’s rest and have an early start tomorrow.”
He turned to Leader Fraster. “Please have anyone who interacted with Counselor Proust or the workers he brought with him report to the settlement’s common building tomorrow morning so I can question them.”
Leader Fraster nodded. “They’ll be there.”
When they entered the settlement, only a few people were outside. Seeing Counselor Anklin’s group a man came over.
“Leader Fraster? We didn’t think you’d be back for another couple of days. Is everything alright?”
“Everything’s fine Hourst. Counselor Anklin was kind enough to bring me and Claridee home.”
Seeing her, Hourst nearly knocked Mason over as he rushed to wrap her in a big hug. He then ran through the settlement shouting. “Claridee’s home!”
Cries of “Claridee’s home,” soon echoed throughout the settlement. As news of her return spread, people throughout the settlement came to greet her. Mason had never seen her so happy. However, this display was nothing compared to her reaction when her mother and father arrived.
Embracing her mother and father, she joyfully sobbed as she kissed each of them. Their joy was contagious, even Counselor Anklin seemed a little misty eyed.
The happy reunion continued unabated until Counselor Anklin good naturedly cleared his throat.
Claridee gave her parent a sheepish look. “Mom and Dad, I’m sure you remember Counselor Anklin.” She then gestured towards Mason. “And this is my friend Mason. These are my parents, Holdern and Pollrine.”
Her parents shook Mason’s hand enthusiastically.
Claridee’s father turned to Counselor Anklin. “We’d consider it a great honor if you and Mason would join us for dinner this evening.”
“We’d be most happy to.”
Leader Fraster led the two men to the settlement’s guest quarters while Claridee went home with her parents.
After unpacking and washing up, they walked over to Claridee’s home. The streets were now nearly empty, but the few people they encountered bowed and greeted Counselor Anklin. He smiled and a nodded in return, but Mason could see he was preoccupied with other thoughts.
“Do you think we’ll discover anything here in Wastrene?” asked Mason.
“I’m not sure,” Counselor Anklin replied absent-mindedly. “However, I’m glad that you’ll get to see how a typical Myscrethian family lives.”
As they walked, Mason noticed that all the houses they passed were identical and was glad Counselor Anklin knew where they were going. Pausing before one of the houses, Counselor Anklin pointed. “Here we are.” Even before they could knock, the door flew open and Claridee grandly waved them in.
“Please come in; dinner will be ready shortly.”
They stepped into a large room which stretched the length of the house. Along the back wall were several doors which Mason assumed led to the kitchen and bedrooms. Mounted to the ceiling were several lights that didn’t quite illuminate the entire room. The only decorations were a few handmade wall hangings. The dirt floor and a bucket of water sitting on a corner table, made him think that with the exception of the electric lights, this could be a pioneer home from the 1800’s.
To one side of the room were two tables pushed together with seven chairs around them. At each place there was a bowl, plate, and a small fork. Mason was struck at how austere it was here compared to Bendroff. He was about to ask Counselor Anklin about it when one of the doors swung open and Claridee’s parents came in carrying two platters of food.
Before they could set them down, Mason heard Claridee cry out excitedly and run out the front door. He turned to see her embracing a man and woman in front of the house. She seemed barely able to contain her excitement as she led them inside.
“This is my brother Sherlorn and his wife Presline,” she said introducing them to Mason.
Everyone sat at the two tables and the platters of food were passed around. One platter contained what looked like a thick vegetable stew while the other was filled with a variety of vegetables that vaguely reminded Mason of potatoes. Conversation and laughter flowed steadily at the table as Claridee’s mother asked Counselor Anklin about her training and everyone peppered Mason with questions about Earth. Mason now understood why Claridee missed her family so much.
Shortly after finishing dinner, Counselor Anklin made his apologies and headed back to the guest quarters. Mason was tired, but was having such a good time that he wanted to stay a little longer. He really liked Claridee’s family and could see why she missed them so much.
Soon Sherlorn and Presline also had to leave. As Claridee was saying goodbye to them, Claridee’s mother took Mason aside.
“I just want to thank you for all you’ve done for Claridee. I know how unhappy she was to leave here, but she tells me that you’ve helped her realize that she’s where she’s supposed to be.”
“That’s very kind of her to say, but the truth is that she’s helped me far more than anything I’ve done for her.”
Claridee walked over while they were speaking and gave her mom a hug.
“It’s so good to be home, even if it’s for a short time.” She looked over at Mason. “I’m so glad you got to meet my family.”
“It’s great to finally meet the people I’ve heard so much about.”
He stayed a little while longer, but reluctantly realized that he needed to get some sleep. He stood up and stretched.
“I hate to leave, but it’s getting late and we’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
Claridee stood up and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Why don’t I walk you over to the guest quarters since you’re not that familiar with Wastrene?”
“Thanks Claridee, but I don’t want to take you away from your family. I’m sure I can find my way.”
She gave him a look that he immediately recognized. It was a look that told him that she wasn’t about to change her mind and he’d better change his.
“Thanks Claridee, I’d really appreciate you walking with me to the guest quarters.”
Mason bade farewell to Claridee’s family and he and Claridee took the short walk over to the guest quarters. As they walked, she looked over at him.
“Are you alright?”
The question surprised him.
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“I just know how much you miss your parents and was worried that seeing how happy I was with my family would upset you.”
He stopped walking.
“I do miss my parents very much. However, after almost being forced to leave Myscreth, I now realize that this is where I want to be. Seeing you with your family only brings me happiness.”
He turned to start walking again, but Claridee gave him a quick hug.
“Thanks Mason. I was worried it would bother you.”
The two walked the rest of the way in silence. Standing at the door, he wished her a good night. As she walked away, he continued watching until she was out of sight.
- Parker T. Allan
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.