“Everyone be sure to eat something,” ordered Counselor Janice. “There’s no telling when there’ll be another chance.”
Each of them dutifully dug into their packs, but no one ate much. For Mason, equal measures of excitement and worry dulled his appetite. As he nibbled at something similar to a potato, he kept looking over at Claridee. They’d only been together a short time and he couldn’t image life without her.
As they finished eating, Counselor Anklin looked at each of them with determination in his eyes and emotion was evident in his voice as he spoke.
“What we’re about to do won’t be easy, but in a civilization’s history there are a number of critical events that determine its fate. I believe that we’re now facing such a time not only for Myscreth, but for Earth as well. Whatever happens, remember that.”
Picking up his pack, Counselor Anklin began emptying it. “We’ll have to travel light so only take your lights and first aid supplies.” Tossing aside the remainder of his food and water, he continued. “We’ll head for Darnia’s quarters first and if we’re successful there, we’ll move against Proust’s other trainees. With them gone, maybe Proust will have the sense to surrender.”
“Do you think he will?” asked Claridee.
Counselor Anklin shook his head and sighed. “No. Unfortunately, the idea of returning Myscreth to its former glory has too strong a hold on him.”
An uncomfortable thought came to Mason. “What happens if we’re seen?”
“If possible, we try to prevent them from raising an alarm. However, if we can’t, everyone is to immediately head back here.” He gave Mason a long look. “I don’t want anyone trying to be a hero.”
At last they were ready, and moved silently towards the settlement. The terrain was rocky, and they had to move slowly so they wouldn’t trip in the dim light. As they neared the settlement the ground became less rugged and the light was brighter, allowing them to increase their pace.
At a small outcropping just outside of the settlement, Counselor Anklin scanned the settlement. After a short time, he reported in a low voice. “The coast is clear. Let’s go.”
They were soon behind Darnia’s quarters.
“Claridee, there should be a window on the side of the building. Look inside and report what you see,” ordered Counselor Janice.
She nodded and silently slipped around the corner. It seemed to Mason that she’d been gone too long and he was about to go after her when she reappeared.
“The window looks in on her bedroom,” reported Claridee. “Her bed is along the wall to the left of the door opposite the window. She’s asleep and based on how little she moved; I’d guess it’s a deep sleep.”
Counselor Anklin patted Claridee’s arm. “Excellent work.”
The four of them slowly worked their way around the building keeping an eye open for any sentries. Seeing none, they crept to the front door. It was unlocked and the four of them quietly slipped inside.
The only light came from the window located by the door, but it was sufficient to show a plainly furnished dining room with two doors. Based on Claridee description, the door on the right led to Darnia’s bedroom.
Counselor Anklin knelt in front of the bedroom door and whispered to the others.
“Janice, get the bandages ready. Before we go in, I’ll modify the gravity of her blankets to hold her down. When I give the word, you and I will sneak in and try to get to her before she awakens.”
Counselor Janice nodded.
“Claridee,” he continued. “When Counselor Janice signals, you come in and modify the bandages.” He then looked at Mason. “Mason, keep watch and wait for my signal to come in.”
The two trainees whispered their acknowledgement of his orders.
Counselor Anklin slowly opened the door a crack to get a clear view of Darnia. He concentrated before gesturing to Counselor Janice. The two of them tiptoed silently into the room, stopping every few feet to listen for any change in her breathing. However, it remained constant. At last, the two Counselors stood over Darnia, and Counselor Anklin gave a nod.
He clasped his hand tightly over Darnia’s mouth while Counselor Janice covered her eyes with the bandages and started wrapping them tightly around her head. At the sudden attack, Darnia struggled to free herself, attempting to scream. However, the modified blankets held her in place.
When she finished, Counselor Janice looked over at Claridee and nodded.
Claridee hurried into the bedroom and concentrated on the bandages. “Done,” she whispered.
“Now Mason,” softly called out Counselor Janice.
He rushed inside, closing the door quietly behind him.
Counselor Anklin started rapidly issuing orders while continuing to hold his hand over Darnia’s mouth.
“Janice! Modify the window to prevent light from passing through.”
The window quickly turned opaque throwing the room into darkness, Counselor Anklin called out. “Let’s get some light in here.”
Mason turned on a small lamp.
Counselor Anklin then turned to Claridee. “Modify the walls and ceiling so we can’t be heard.”
They waited in silence until Claridee finally announced. “Finished.”
He now removed his hand from Darnia’s mouth. As he did so, a high-pitched scream filled the room and continued unabated. Having finally heard enough Counselor Anklin yelled loudly. “Scream all you want, but no one can hear you!”
Darnia seemed to get the message and her screaming stopped, but was quickly replaced with sobbing.
“What have you done to me?” she begged between sobs. “Please don’t hurt me.”
She seemed like a small frightened child and Mason couldn’t help but pity her. “We won’t hurt you,” he promised in a comforting tone.
His words seemed to calm her and her sobbing subsided.
“Who are you?” she asked plaintively.
“I’m Counselor Anklin, and I’m here with Counselor Janice and Trainees Claridee and Mason.”
Her demeanor immediately changed. Gone was the fear and a sneer appeared on her lips.
“I should have known,” she hissed, in a voice that Mason immediately recognized as the one he and Claridee heard in the dark outside of Vandrous. “I have nothing to fear from you. Counselor Proust has told me about your fear of hurting anyone. I’ll bet you even feel sorry for me.”
Counselor Anklin responded with barely restrained resentment. “Having compassion for someone who hates you shows true strength of character. It’s easy to hate, but so much harder to care. Unfortunately, I see Proust has trained you well.”
“That’s Counselor Proust to you!” she spat.
Counselor Janice’s face turned red. “He lost that title when he betrayed his Council oath!”
“He’s kept his oath better than any of you,” she replied furiously. “He’s given up everything to help our people. All you’ve done is brought outsiders to our world to rule over us.”
She paused before continuing in a calm, glib voice. “I’m sure Claridee understands. She’s a true daughter of Myscreth who wants to help her people. Counselor Proust has spoken highly of you Claridee, and is sure your parents would be pleased to see you make the right choice.”
At the mention of her parents Claridee erupted, eyes blazing. “What have you done with my parents?”
“Nothing, but I’m sure their lives would be much harder if people knew their daughter had turned against her people,” she replied in an unconcerned voice.
Mason had never seen Claridee so enraged. “Don’t let her bother you Claridee,” offered Counselor Anklin. “Nothing she’s saying is true, it’s only an effort to provoke us.”
However, Claridee continued to glare at Darnia. “It’s because I care about our people that I will never join with Proust. His actions will only hurt Myscreth. How can you not see that?”
She gave a slight smile. “Counselor Proust said you were persuasive Anklin, but I’m impressed at how well you’ve turned Claridee against her people.”
Counselor Anklin sighed. “Unfortunately, we still have much work ahead of us Darnia. I’m sorry, but it’s time to send you on your way.”
Her confident demeanor faltered. “And just where are you sending me?”
“To a secluded place I have just north of Dafrum,” answered Counselor Anklin. “Tranlee is already there, so she’ll be able to help you get around.”
“We’d wondered what’d happened to her.” She said in a low voice, almost like an afterthought.
“And don’t even bother trying to remove the blindfold,” added Claridee with a hint of glee in her voice. “It won’t come off.”
Counselor Anklin shook his head, looking exasperated. "Claridee, grab a jacket and some clothes from the wardrobe for Darnia.” As she tossed the clothes on the bed, he whispered to Mason. “When I give the word, remove the gravity modification on the blankets.”
Counselor Anklin addressed Darnia, frustration in his voice.
“As much as you see it as a sign of weakness, I’m sorry for what’s about to happen. When you arrive, be sure to scream loudly so Tranlee can hear you. Don’t try moving around on your own, or you might get hurt. Once we’ve defeated Proust, we’ll come and get the two of you.”
Darnia gave a wicked smile. “It will be a long wait then, since I doubt very much you’ll defeat Counselor Proust. However, if you could tell him with your dying breath where we are, I’d appreciate it.”
Counselor Anklin hesitated a moment, but finally stared at the bed and concentrated. It look longer than usual, but the bed was soon engulfed by a flashing purple light and a familiar hum filled the room. At the sound of the humming, Darnia cried out. “You may think you’ve won, but you’ve just ensured your defeat!”
At Counselor Anklin’s signal, Mason adjusted the gravity of the blankets back to their normal state. As he finished, he was alarmed to see Darnia starting to sit up. However, at the same instant, the purple light turned solid and the mattress, along with everything on it, fell as if a trap door had been opened below it. Darnia screamed in panic, but her scream faded away as she disappeared from sight. All that remained was an empty bedframe.
Counselor Anklin sat at the desk and pounded it angrily.
“Because of Proust, she’ll never have a normal life here on Myscreth. Of all he’s done, the greatest evil is how he’s ruined the lives of those he’s trained. The best they can hope for now is a life in exile.”
Mason was surprised by his words. He’d always thought of the people that Proust has trained as the enemy. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
“Where do we go from here Anklin?” asked Counselor Janice
“Nornol, since he’s also alone in his quarters.”
Nornol’s quarters were located at the end of the settlement furthest from the cave. The four of them left Darnia’s bedroom and silently crept to the front door. Mason peered through the window. “I don’t see anyone,” he reported in a low voice.
“Everyone head to the back of the building and we’ll make our way to Nornol’s quarters,” whispered Counselor Anklin.
They slipped out the front door and quietly made their way along the back of the buildings, keeping a lookout for anyone who might be outside. There was less light as they got further from the center of the settlement, slowing their progress. As before, Claridee was sent to look in the window and find out the layout of the building. She quickly returned.
“It’s too dark to see anything inside,” she reported.
Counselor Anklin frowned. “I don’t like going in blind, but we have no choice.”
He led the way to the front door and the four of them slipped inside. The room was dark except for the light coming through the front window. Counselor Anklin pointed toward the door on the right, and the four of them crouched down in front of it.
He handed a light to Claridee and whispered. “We’ll have to risk using a light once we open the door in order to see, but don’t turn it on until I signal.” He turned to Mason. “Be ready to manipulate the gravity of Nornol’s bedding if he awakens. I’m going to open a doorway to send him away from here.”
He slowly opened the door, allowing a small sliver of light to enter the room, but there wasn’t enough to see Nornol. The sound of a man snoring seemed to come from the wall opposite the door. Counselor Anklin nodded and Claridee turned on the light, illuminating the room. With the bed now visible, Counselor Anklin started to concentrate and soon a hum and flashing purple light engulfed the bed.
Nornol sat up and cried out in alarm. Mason was just about to manipulate the blankets when the purple light stopped flashing and everything on the bed, including Nornol, disappeared.
“Check the window,” ordered Counselor Janice.
Claridee peered out the front window while everyone anxiously waited.
“No sign of anyone,” she finally reported, relief evident in her voice.
“I’m getting too old for this,” Counselor Anklin declared, exhaustion evident in his voice as he sat back against the wall.
“Where’d you send him?” asked Counselor Janice.
“I couldn’t send him to Tranlee and Darnia, since he’s capable of manipulating structural mechanics and could remove Darnia’s blindfold. Therefore, I transported him to a small valley near the equator far from any settlements. He’ll be safe there and hopefully won’t be alone for long.” He looked out the window. “Right now, we’d better get moving. Klarth and Thurold are in the next building over.”
Once there, Claridee carefully made her way to the side of the building to observe what was inside.
“Couldn’t see too much,” she reported “but there are two beds in the room; one on the left wall and the other opposite the door. The two of them must be sharing a bedroom.”
“Well, that certainly complicates things,” noted Counselor Janice with a scowl. “How can we remove them without one of them raising an alarm?”
Mason had a sudden idea. “Who says we have to remove them?”
The others gave him puzzled looks as he continued. “All we really need to do is keep them from aiding Proust. If we can trap them inside, wouldn’t that be sufficient?”
“That would mean leaving Nornol without any company, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind too much,” Counselor Anklin replied with a small chuckle. He continued in a more serious tone. “To trap them we’ll have to ensure that the room remains dark so they can’t use their abilities. We’ll need to knock out the building’s electricity and modify the windows so no light can enter.”
“What if they try to get out through the window?” offered Counselor Janice.
“I can take care of that,” replied Claridee with a smile. “And I’m sure it would be helpful if no one could hear them yelling.”
“We’ll also have to do something about the bedroom door,” added Counselor Anklin.
When they were ready to begin, Claridee concentrated on the side and rear walls of the building and modified them to prevent sound from passing through. Next she concentrated on the window and modified it so it would be as strong as steel. She soon declared. “Finished,” sounding exhausted.
Counselor Janice concentrated on the window and Mason watched as it became opaque. “Now to turn off the electricity,” she whispered.
Pointing at the wires entering the building, she explained. “In order to turn off the electricity, I’ll need to make the wire’s resistance infinite.” After concentrating, she announced. “The electricity’s now off.”
“Now for the bedroom door,” directed Counselor Anklin as he led the group to the front of the building.
The light mounted to the front of the building was still on and for a moment Mason wondered if the building’s electricity was truly off. However, noticing a separate set of wires that connected all the exterior lights of the settlement he realized that the outside lights got their electricity from a separate source.
Observing that the street was empty, they hurried to the front door. When they stepped inside however, they were startled to see Thurold coming out of the bedroom carrying a light. For what seemed like an eternity, everyone just stood there, too stunned to act.
Thurold seemed to recover first as a look of concentration appeared on his face. Almost immediately, the lantern burst into a blinding brilliance. Mason instinctively threw up his arm to shield his eyes, but was too late.
“I can’t see!” cried Counselor Janice.
“Don’t let him out!” exclaimed Counselor Anklin.
Thurold began to shout. “Anklin is here!” while trying to push his way outside. He was unsuccessful, but Mason knew his continued shouting would soon draw some unwanted attention.
Groping around in his blindness, Mason tried to grab Thurold. Blindly stepping forward, Mason’s legs became entangled with Thurold’s and they fell to the floor with Mason landing heavily of top of him. Thurold’s screams were replaced by a low groan. The light clattered to the floor and went out.
“Lights are coming on in the other buildings. We have to get out of here!” shouted Claridee.
A voice, which Mason recognized as Klarth’s exclaimed. “You’re not going anywhere!”
There was a sudden cry of surprise followed by the sound of something crashing to the floor.
“You can’t walk if your pants are as stiff as steel.” Claridee replied, an edge to her tone. “Now let’s go!”
She led the others outside. As they left, Klarth’s panicked screams evolved into cries of alarm.
“They’re here! They’re here!”
After closing the door behind them, Claridee paused and the sound of Klarth’s screams disappeared. “That’s better,” she muttered.
She quickly led the the others to the back of the building.
“People are starting to come outside, but they don’t seem to know what’s going on yet,” she reported. “We should be safe here until your vision clears.”
As they waited, Mason whispered to her. “Why are you able to see?”
“Because I was behind the rest of you and was shielded from the light,” she whispered back.
They waited behind the building in silence while Claridee kept watch. “No one’s coming this way so far,” she reported.
At first, Mason could only see rough shapes, but gradually the images sharpened. “I can see now,” he announced, careful to keep his voice low. It wasn’t long before the two Counselors’ vision had cleared as well.
The four of them were startled by the sound of breaking glass coming from the front of the building. Klarth’s bellowing yells of “Anklin’s here!” could now clearly be heard. Answering shouts came from other parts of the settlement.
“He must have found something to throw through the front window,” guessed Counselor Anklin. “We can’t stay here any longer,” he added with urgency.
They made their way to a nearby ridge of rocks.
“Stop here,” ordered Counselor Anklin as he concentrated on the back of the building.
The back wall of a building suddenly burst into a flashing purple light, illuminating the surrounding area. “Hopefully, that will make them think we’ve left,” he explained.
Cries of “over there!” emanated from the settlement as people rushed to the building. However, by the time they reached it the light was gone. One of the men called out. “Get Counselor Proust and Counselor Darnia at once!”
Proust quickly arrived and began angrily questioning everyone who was there. As he was doing so, a woman ran up to him and began speaking in an animated manner. “What do you mean she’s gone?” he shouted before stalking off.
After the initial excitement, many of the people behind the building dispersed and began searching other areas of the settlement.
Mason watched as a group of men carried Thurold and Klarth from their quarters. Thurold was still unconscious and Klarth’s legs remained stuck in mid-stride. As they were being carried out Betrine and Glorine ran over to them. After speaking to Klarth, Mason could see Glorine concentrate and soon he was able to stand.
Shouts could now be heard coming from Nornol’s quarters.
“Looks like they’ve discovered Nornol is missing too.” whispered Counselor Anklin.
Proust stomped over to Klarth and started gesturing wildly as he spoke. They were interrupted as a man ran over from Nornol’s quarters. As the man spoke, Proust started screaming furiously. From their hiding place Mason could make out only two distinct words: “Anklin” and “kill”.
- Parker T. Allan
An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing lets 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.