Somewhere on the verdant slopes of Central Europe, one man was approaching another.
Standing still was Tony, completely out of place in the greenery of spring, with his black suit and fancy shoes that were now somewhat dirty. He had split up with his partner to continue stalking their quarry, who for some reason decided to go hiking, in the now mostly abandoned valleys of Switzerland, alone.
Their orders were to secure and bring him in should he either be in danger, show signs of having awakened, or otherwise exhibit unusual behavior.
Being fairly new on the job, and upon seeing a 13 year old boy traveling alone to go hiking in this day and age, they naturally called into HQ for orders. Apparently their target had frequently gone on trips like this with his grandfather, before he left for his latest adventure in The Tower. Although the kid might still be a bit young to venture out alone, they were told not to act and continue observing.
Tony's partner, Bobby, had just got here after going out to fetch appropriate gear to prepare for their pursuit in the wild.
"I really don't understand why you keep insisting on wearing that suit, even more so out here." Bobby said slightly out of breath.
"We're on a secret mission to protect a VIP Bobby, of course we have to dress the part. How come you're out of breath anyways? trekking up here shouldn't really tire us out, the kid seems to be doing better than you, and he hasn't even awakened yet."
"Maybe if someone actually gave out proper directions I wouldn't have had to run around all over the place to catch up? You should have superhuman memory Tony, yet I'm sure a 4 year old with crayons drawing up the directions would be more helpful in getting me here."
Although Bobby had expected as much having worked with Tony for while now, he had zero faith in the idiot's competence in fetching the right supplies for camping out in the wild. How the suited up idiot ever survived in The Tower was beyond him.
"I mean the weather's nice and the spring air fresh, so its not like you lost out right?" Tony replied, clearly more concerned about the mud on his shoes.
Reminding himself Tony was a lost cause, Bobby decided to let it go. "Where is the kid anyways? You were supposed to keep a constant watch on him until I caught up."
"He setup camp just ahead, left most of his gear there to take a dip in the lake. Unless you think he is gonna enter The Tower, half naked, wet and cold and without any of his gear, then give him some privacy yeah?
Bobby couldn't help but sigh, Tony had a point, but if they lost him because of it would that be good enough of a reason?
They were strictly told to keep constant watch on him outside of his family's compound. "Whatever, go keep an eye on his camp and I'll find a good spot to setup ours where he won't find it."
The subject of their discussion, Nathan, was just finishing his bath. He was very much aware of their presence, ever since they started stalking him half a year ago after his grandfather, Walter again left for The Tower.
The Tower was a mysterious existence that appeared some 60 years ago, around 2020. In the beginning its presence and effects were more subtle and remote, as such global powers managed to keep its existence mostly under wraps while trying to learn more.
The effects of The Tower were threefold, and over the years had only escalated, growing beyond the stage where it could be hidden.
Firstly, individuals of unknown criteria and their offspring would awaken magical abilities.
Secondly, upon awakening you could enter The Tower anywhere on earth, completing objectives and climb the 'floors' to massively boost your physical and mental prowess. They would also receive feedback on their progress, and details of their abilities.
Lastly, The Tower would over time transform sections of the earth, sea and sky of our world into areas with more magical properties.
Monsters would spawn in these areas, innately hostile to humans and worryingly resilient towards modern ballistics. Various larger explosive operations had been done with some success, however the transformed areas would always swiftly regrow and respawn the monsters, seemingly out of thin air.
Naturally when a populated area, in a connected part of the world transformed, it could no longer be supressed. To this day the global powers, new and old were still struggling with the aftermath of acclimating to our changing world.
Although Nathan had extensive education of the changes on earth, he was still puzzled by his current actions as ordered by his grandfather. Before he left, Walter only explained he had certain disagreements with some people, and if Nathan awakened with a particularly powerful ability, he would be targeted. To avoid unnecessary trouble however, these people would not act if he awakened with an average ability, simply putting their focus on confirming first, hence the two idiots following him.
Tony and Bobby were probably not aware of the real reason they were on this mission. Their competence were measured to be barely able to bring Nathan in, but not so great as to stop anyone else looking for trouble.
It was mandatory for any fresh awakened in the new cities of Europe to report the extent of their abilities. Their mission to 'protect and secure' was not strange to them considering the special existence that was Walter Dragonsbane, making Nathan a VIP.
Walking back to camp Nathan was ruminating on how to use his ability best to escape in according to his grandpa's criteria. He had tested it a couple of times in secret but still struggled to come to terms with the nature of it, which he evaluated to be in the 'very powerful' category.
With a single thought he brought up the Information The Tower had compiled for him.
Name: Nathan Vale
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Dark Blonde
Tower Floor: 0
Magic Power 10
Escaping would be easy, even with his low stats Nathan was confident he could subdue his pursuers with temporal freeze, but doing so would set off too many red flags. The more uncertain his disappearance the better.
Whether he was attacked by people, animals or a stray monster, kidnapped or had entered The Tower, or if they simply had lost him by accident. Giving away few as clues as possible was his goal, and would slow down their response.
Having returned to camp, he prepared to set his plan in motion. Picking up his backpack he would go on a trip, leaving his tent and some supplies, giving off the vibe he simply went on a smaller excursion.
Setting off he eventually began to scale a large hill, he was very familiar with the surrounding area, and his destination was a cliffside where he would perform a little stunt.
After having walked for a while he decided to take a little break. Turning around, he sat down looking back at the slope while taking a sip of water.
Trying his best to not look suspicious, he began scouting to see who followed him. His plan had indeed worked so far, only one pursuer was on his tail, or at least he could only find one, but considering one of them were not too subtle in their choice of clothing, he was confident the camouflaged person following him was the only one.
It was time.
After a few more minutes of walking he reached his target destination, looking down the cliffside, waiting until he was certain his pursuer had a clear view.
Then he jumped.
"Fuck!" Bobby exclaimed. With Tony to stalk out the camp, he took it upon himself to follow Nathan, having greater confidence in his own ability, and choice of clothing to remain hidden.
Suicide however was not something he expected from the kid.
Running up to the cliffside with panicked thoughts he looked down, hoping reality was not what it seemed. Much to his relief he saw a ledge. The boy however, although not splattered on the ground, was nowhere to be seen.
Jumping down he looked around to find no one but a cave entrance, before entering he picked up his phone to contact Tony.
"What's up, bored already?" Tony said while in his camping chair, enjoying the afternoon sun.
"It's not the time to joke! Listen Tony, I lost the kid. He seemed to enter a cave system and I'm about to follow. There's a chance he returns to camp before I find him, call me back if he does and stay sharp, preferably with both of your braincells active okay?"
"Hey where'd that come from?" Tony replied, with an incredulous look on his face, before realizing the gravity of the situation. "Wait! should I call it in to HQ?"
"It was a slip up on my side, I'll go take a quick look first to see if I can find him. He didn't really do anything to warrant we escalate just yet." Bobby said, peeking into the man sized cave entrance.
"If he entered The Tower he won't come out for a while, should be enough time for me to scout out the cave. It won't be too late for us to call for backup and secure the entrance, as well as any potential exits by then. Hopefully I find him, or he returns to camp before it comes to that."
"Alright i trust you Bobby, call me if you need anything." Tony replied, having calmed down.
Nathan however was nowhere near the cave, having long since scaled the cliffside back up, fleeing into the forest.
Although he couldn't hold Bobby for long with temporal freeze, it was long enough for him to climb back up before running out mana. He was confident his escape was would give him a good head-start. If his grandpa was to be believed, his designated direction was one they wouldn't expect.
Walters base of operations had been in the Central City of Europe for the past couple of decades, which was where Nathan left from earlier this morning. However most of his known associates were located in Egypt, back from when he fought through what became known as the 'industrial purge' of Africa.
When those with ill intent towards him start putting in serious effort to locate him, they would probably focus their eyes on the nearby coastal towns of the Mediterranean, to look for stowaways. As such his grandpa told him to go to the Free Cities of Russia, a term he claimed to be ironic.
Despite the long trek ahead of him, Nathan ran north at a pace that would quickly tire him out. His primary goal right now was to put as much distance with himself and his stalkers, as quickly as possible. Only when he was far enough away could he steady his pacing, he was a bit expectant, as he would then have the opportunity to enter The Tower safely.
Those who had awakened with their abilities could technically enter The Tower with a single thought anywhere on earth. However upon returning you would appear in the spot you left from, making it an obvious spot for an ambush, should anyone know.
Repeatedly entering and exiting over a short period of time will afflict you with what has since been called Tower Sickness. If you were to re-enter twice in quick succession you would only feel mild fatigue, however continue to do so and your afflictions will increase, eventually leading to death.
Running himself to exhaustion it was now dark.
Although he left his tent behind, he had prepared for this, bringing a hammock and a tarp. He could technically rest in The Tower as the starting zone of the first floor was somewhat safe. It was just that it was also the most crowded place on the first floor, and he was unsure if his pursuers had already stalked it out.
He currently lacked the energy to evade them.
Finishing a paltry dinner, Nathan went to sleep.