would imagine, the first week was quite eventful. A trove of
little anecdotes kept every day interesting for all five
students in room 202. They learned the fundamentals of magic, of
course, but beyond the occasional light ball there was little
the new recruits could use. They did learn teleportation as
promised, but their inexperience and several of Molly's seals
prevented the spell from actually being useful. So on the magic
end, it was too early for results. This meant the fun had to
happen outside the classroom.
exception of Donovan, they all made friends outside the unit.
Renee, ever-active, was persuaded to start her own club. As it
was, clubs were pretty sparse at Central and those that did
exist were indisposed to high schoolers joining (several, in
fact, were there solely as a catalyst for dating). So, after
being turned down for this reason, Renee rounded up a few of the
other high school units and started a group for them. While it
was a success, most of the kids used it primarily as a catalyst
did succeed in giving Troy a truly hellish schedule, one which
prevented him from sharing classes with not just Renee, but
Kathryn as well. Troy suffered through the morning physical
training, the introductory Thrusting class right after it, and
the boring protocol lecture scheduled right after lunch when he
was in dire need of an afternoon nap. His schedule wrung his
brain until it was drained of all but the most primitive of
classroom survival instincts. Much to Molly's dismay, these
instincts kept Troy alive.
else but those instincts could have caused Troy to engage in
selective socialization in the lecture hall? Before each class,
he pinpointed one or two key classmates, deemed them potential
allies, and befriended them in any way possible. It wasn't that
difficult: the story of him learning his trigger to ward off a
demon attack made for one heck of a conversation piece. It had
danger, heroics, and while it was far too early to tell who was
destined for greatness, certainly Troy's experience suggested
good things. Enough for him to secure a few individuals to share
notes with, serve as lab partners, and make fun of the TA under
Friday, Troy felt like he had beaten the system. In class,
Kathryn and Kurt had been swapped with new friends from across
the midwest. With their help, Troy was able to not only survive
his schedule, but enjoy the courses on it. By the end of the
first week he had realized that he was comprehending the
introductory magic courses with ease, which led him to believe
that he might just have a shot at being good at this, Molly be
plenty of things happened to everybody in the first week. We
absolutely could delve into Renee's club, introduce Troy's new
friends properly, or go into Kathryn or Donovan's adventures.
But we won't. They are all completely irrelevant to the story
and expounding on the details would be a waste of time.
Monday afternoon, however, the cogs began to turn. With Molly at
one of her classes and Troy, Renee and Kathryn doing things
befitting people with social lives, Donovan had the place to
himself. Whoever was responsible for this lapse in judgment
wasn't around to interrupt his attempt at a fire spell.
Thankfully, before he could burn the place down, he heard a
knock on the door.
Answering it, Donovan found himself standing toe-to-toe with a
young man who looked more faculty member than student. Donovan
couldn't tell if the man's thin eyebrows were raised or at their
resting position. The stranger was smiling either way and
Donovan didn't like it.
Alistair Marlowe, Dean of Student Affairs. Are you the guardian
for this unit?”
“Perhaps,” Donovan grumbled, adding “Why?” in his most
Apparently, that was the stationary position of the eyebrows,
because Marlowe raised them even higher. “Well, Mr. Pearson, I
have something for you to sign. It's a rare chance for you to
strengthen your entire unit!”
extended his right arm and rotated his wrist- four times
clockwise, three times counter-clockwise. A form, in triplicate,
appeared in his hand and he handed it to Donovan.
looked at it, but the lack of a magnifying glass prevented him
from actually reading it. “You will give me power if I sign this
entire unit, yes.”
his eyes up at Marlowe, Donovan sneered. “I don't want the
entire unit to have power. I want it to be mine.”
averted his eyes. At least until he came up with a retort:
“Well, you're the guardian, so you command it.”
grinned. “Excellent... I shall sign immediately.”
“Wonderful!” Marlowe replied, handing Donovan a pen. Donovan
attempted to prick his finger with it.
not seem to be sharp enough.”
all right. Ink's fine,” Marlowe said, smiling. “Right on the
dotted line... Mr. Pearson.” He made sure to emphasize the name.
Donovan signed the document, Marlowe turned away, aghast at the
boy's stupidity. The look on his face vanished as he collected
the form, now bearing Donovan's sloppy, oversized signature
reading 'Molly Pearson.'
smiled once more, tore off the pink copy of the form to give to
Donovan, and bowed his head. “Thank you. I guarantee you'll
notice the difference immediately.”
walked away without another word and Donovan slammed the door
shut. Donovan stepped into the middle of the commons, hands on
his hips. He stood there in that position for some time, waiting
for the advertised difference. Nothing happened, and Donovan
no power,” he boomed angrily.
knock came from the door. Donovan was far too occupied to
answer, so he ordered Blaine to take care of it.
facing away from the door, Donovan took a moment to pause
dramatically, then asked, “Where is my power?” He turned around
to face and intimidate whoever stood in the doorway, which
happened to be nobody. There, was, however, a slight whimper
below him. Donovan looked down and saw that while he may have
misfired, he had still struck fear into someone. The problem
lied with who this someone was. Donovan's eyes widened as he saw
a young girl, seemingly only ten or eleven, and positively
terrified of him. Her eyes were huge and trembling at the sight
of Donovan staring back at her. After breathing heavily for a
few seconds, she gulped and bowed- a full bow that likely
required stretching to execute and showed Donovan the braids in
the back of her otherwise short blond hair.
the carpet, the girl squeaked, “Thanks for letting me join you,
Donovan chose to ignore
her. He ordered the girl into a chair and forbade her from
moving or talking. She nervously obeyed as Donovan and Blaine
sat at the table and read a textbook. Twenty minutes later, Troy
returned and saw the girl, but observed that Donovan was in full
control of the situation and went into his room without comment.
When Renee arrived, however, she wanted a full explanation. Even
without Molly, Renee knew her sister well enough to determine
the best way to proceed- a heated interrogation.
The girl sat on one side
of the table, still trembling. Renee, Troy, Donovan and Blaine
sat on the other. All four glared at her.
“State your name,” Renee
The youngster cleared
her throat and answered, “Yuki Shizuka.”
“How old are you?” Troy
“Why are you here?”
Donovan's sinister tone worked quite well for the situation.
“To learn magic.”
Renee shook her head.
“That doesn't answer the question. Why would an eleven-year-old
Japanese girl come to Indiana to learn magic with college
Troy turned to Renee,
puzzled. “How do you know she's Japanese?”
“The name's a dead
giveaway. Plus she's got those humongous anime eyes.”
“That doesn't mean
anything. For all we know she's from Chicago.”
Yuki squirmed. “No,
she's right. I'm from Kyoto,” she said with her perfectly
neutral Midwestern accent, “But the academy there has a very
strict age limit. They don't advance students ahead of their
class like they do here.”
“That's not what I've
heard,” Renee said, wisely not revealing that she 'had heard it'
“It's true. I've known
about magic my whole life and my grandfather says I'm ready to
start taking classes. But there's no way someone my age could be
a student in Japan.”
As an afterthought, Yuki
added, “They'd let me teach there, though.”
“Why would they let you
in here?” Troy asked, “You'd have to be some kind of crazy
“My grandpa says I am.
Besides, you're all underage too.”
“We're in a different
situation. There's no way anyone would mistake Donovan for a
Donovan narrowed his
eyes at Troy, who made the mistake of looking into them. “And
how would you know I'm not a prodigy?”
Troy shook him off and
looked away. “Because you signed that stupid form!”
“He promised me power!”
Donovan shouted, defensive. He angrily turned to Yuki. “What is
your power, child?”
“Oh, I'm a Crafter!”
Yuki answered. “I already know a few tricks. Watch!”
She reached for her
satchel and pulled out a rack of corked test tubes and a packet
of brown powder. Though handicapped by her shaking hands, she
uncorked one tube and poured some of the powder into the tube,
panicking a little when she spilled some on the floor. After the
contents of a second tube ended up in the first, Yuki paused to
remember what the next step was.
“I think next I....” she
mumbled, swirling the tube around to mix whatever was inside.
She leaned in and examined the solution carefully before
nodding. She positioned the opening of the tube in front of her
mouth, pursed her lips, and blew into it.
Yuki leaned away and
pulled the tube back in time to prevent too much of the
resulting smoke from flying into her face. The smoke billowed
overhead and spread out across the table. Renee and Troy started
coughing. Donovan merely frowned.
Instead of waiting for
Donovan's order, Blaine summoned a wind gust to clear the smoke
restored, Yuki held the test tube out to her new companions.
Inside were two flower stems each culminating with uninviting
Yuki tried to force a
smile. “They're supposed to be flowers. I couldn't get them to
Minutes later, Renee,
Troy, Donovan and Blaine were still at the table. The
interrogation had ended and they were all studying, all the
while trying to ignore Yuki pounding the door from outside.
“LET ME IN! LET ME IN,
DAMN IT! YOU SIGNED THE CONTRACT!”
“Don't worry,” Troy
shouted back. “Molly will take care of that.”
“MR. MARLOWE!!” Molly
shouted. She had a knack for hunting down the people she wished
to kill. She caught him outside his office.
He smiled brightly at
her. “Molly! My favorite student! How are you?”
She shoved the pink copy
of the contract in his face. “You know full well that Donovan
forged my signature, and therefore you know full well that this
contract cannot be enforced!”
Marlowe remained calm.
“Not to worry,” he replied, magically summoning his copy of the
contract and handing it to her. “It's all taken care of.”
Indeed, the original
version of the form now bore her own genuine signature.
Molly seethed. “How did
you get my signature on there?”
Marlowe chuckled and
gave his favorite reply: “Magic.” Quickly dodging his eyes from
the incoming glare, he added, “And if you take a look at your
Her eyes darted to the
pink copy, now altered to match the original.
“I don't want another
recruit,” she said, “I can't stand the four I've got now.”
“Unfortunately, we need
to put her somewhere. Her grandfather's on the High Council.”
Molly froze. This was a
major caveat. The High Council was the ruling body of the MST-
the nine wisest and strongest magi in the world, as appointed by
the next step down in the hierarchy. Essentially- nine old,
white men with long, white beards. Molly wasn't going to get
very far standing against this onslaught of omnipresent
“Why us?” she asked,
hoping to at least find a hole in Marlowe's logic so she could
deflect Yuki into a different group.
“Teaming her up with
high schoolers will be easier than putting her in a standard
unit.” Broadening his smile, Marlowe added, “Not only for
interpersonal reasons; your group is physically smaller,
therefore you can fit more in your dorm!”
“Then pick a different
high school group.”
Marlowe set a hand on
her shoulder and softened his smile. Doing his best
impersonation of an inspirational faculty member, he said,
“Molly, you know that your group is different from them. When
this came down on me, there's a reason I selected you personally
for this. You know how much you're capable of. But you won't get
anywhere unless you're pushed a little harder than everyone
Removing his hand, he
added, “You know the old saying- no one becomes legendary
without first undertaking a legendary task.”
He smiled at her, nodded
at her, and calmly turned around and walked away from her. A few
steps in, Molly frowned and yelled, “I never heard that before!”
Marlowe held up a hand
and yelled back, “I made it up just now!”
Renee, Troy, Donovan and
Blaine were still ignoring Yuki when Molly burst in. Without
looking up, Donovan said, “Blaine, stand up.”
Blaine did so, asking,
The massive energy blast
Molly had directed at Donovan instead sent Blaine flying into
the far wall.
“I take it Yuki's
staying?” Renee said unhappily.
While the three students
turned to Molly, Yuki rushed over to Blaine and whipped out her
chemistry set. “I can help him!”
Although she didn't hit
the intended target, injuring somebody seemed to calm Molly's
temper. She sat at the table and shook her head. “I don't
understand it. If he was so adamant at getting you started this
early, why didn't he admit you into a preparatory academy?
There's a few in Europe that would take somebody your age.”
“Do you know how long
the waiting list is for those?” Yuki said while assembling the
ingredients necessary to heal Blaine. “They've been really
popular lately. Plus they're all tied to private schools so
Grandpa doesn't have as much pull with them.”
Molly rolled her eyes.
“So why Central? Why not something closer to home?”
“This is the only public
academy that's ever admitted someone my age.”
“Which proved to be a
mistake.” Molly shook her head and glanced at the other three at
the table. “So not only am I stuck with you four, I have to
baby-sit an eleven-year-old exchange student. I can't think of
anything more aggravating.”
She sat back in her
chair, folded her arms, and quickly thought of something more
aggravating. Molly sharply turned towards Troy and Renee. “Why
are you two sitting together?”
An explosion prevented
Molly from getting an answer. More smoke billowed from Yuki and
Blaine's vicinity. More irritated than startled, Molly provided
the spell to clear the smoke away. Yuki looked up at the glares
from the rest of the room and giggled.
“Sorry... but hey, it
Sure enough, Blaine sat
up, with no sign of injury from Molly's attack anywhere. His
face still stung something fierce from his collision with the
wall, but Yuki's elementary healing potion only cured damage
from magic attacks.
“Uh... thanks,” Blaine
said, checking to make sure everything on his face was still in
the same position.
Yuki smiled. “See, I can
“Hmm...” Molly pondered
the notion that Yuki was probably right: they did not have a
Crafter and this unit was in need of somebody with healing
capabilities. With a Crafter, Molly wouldn't need to hold back
on attacking her students if they stepped out of line.
“Yuki, find some way to
keep yourself occupied while we talk behind your back,” Molly
“Blaine. Enter my
chamber and injure yourself again,” Donovan ordered.
Blaine looked up at
Donovan and let out a faint whimper, but did as instructed.
“Uh... my potions only
work on something caused by a spell,” Yuki said.
Donovan grinned. “Very
He summoned a light ball
and hurled it at the back of Blaine's head. It connected, Blaine
stumbled forward into the dark recesses of Donovan's room and
crashed into something. Once the ensuing commotion subsided, the
onlookers could only hear Blaine moaning in pain from somewhere
on the floor.
“Have at thee, child,”
Donovan said to Yuki, gesturing towards his room. Yuki nodded,
entered, and closed the door behind her.
“If she is staying, we
need to decide where to put her,” Molly declared.
“Donovan signed the
form, I say she gets his room,” Troy offered.
Renee objected. “Troy!
We can't stick her with Donovan!”
“He can sleep in the
Donovan sneered at Troy.
“Troy... rallying the forces against me once again. I say the
child gets your room.”
Molly looked at both
Troy and Donovan, then nodded. “Yes, either suggestion is
Before the debate could
continue, they heard Kathryn's failed attempt to open the front
door. She had been using her staff to turn the handle for the
first few days, a troublesome habit that she had yet to fully
break even after the security handle had been fixed. She
grumbled it off and opened it properly with her hand.
“Just my luck to end up
in the only school in Indiana without a basketball court,”
Kathryn ranted as she walked in and threw her staff into her
room, “They got nothing for sports here. Someone got a game of
rugby going today but just as I was gonna join in, they start
flying and casting spells and stuff.”
Scoffing, she added,
“Freakin' cheaters. Anything going on here?”
Donovan's door flew open and Yuki spilled out along with the
smoke. She took a moment to catch her breath, then moaned, “I
couldn't do it, Donovan. Your room is dark and evil. We should
probably take him to the clinic.”
Kathryn smiled and
walked up to Yuki. “Good luck with that; they're busy with the
rugby players. So who are you?”
Finally meeting somebody
being polite, Yuki's face lit up and she bowed at Kathryn. “My
name's Yuki! I'm going to be staying with all of you.”
“Cool! I'm sure you'll
do better than most of us.”
Yuki beamed at the
comment. Looking up at the first person in room 202 not
completely repulsed by her presence, Yuki already admired
Kathryn. Kathryn, always eager to play big sister to the likes
of oppressed losers (ref: Troy Monroe), was already accepting
This immediate rapport
was not lost on the rest of the unit.
“Maybe she can stay with
Kathryn,” Troy suggested.
“Yeah, Kathryn,” Renee
“Kick Troy out,” Donovan
Molly smirked. “Well,
Kathryn, seems clear to me.” She glanced at Renee and Troy, who
both smiled back, then turned to Kathryn. “It's two-to-two
between Yuki rooming with you or kicking Troy out.” She didn't
bother noting Troy's reaction; she had seen his look of
crippling fear several times. She also knew it wouldn't matter
here: “Your call.”
“Sure, she can stay with
me,” Kathryn replied, “Come on, Yuki, you can help me clean up
“Thank you!” Yuki
shouted. They went into the room together and started the
bonding experience of attempting to clear enough floor space to
spot a futon.
Molly sat back, relieved
that the rooming arrangement was settled, but still decidedly
uncertain about taking a new girl on. The extra work would be
significant, but that was hardly concerning. What bothered Molly
was that she now had five students, and among them the only one
who seemed to be anything resembling normal was Renee. Molly
knew her sister well enough to recognize that Renee being
considered closest to normal was frightening indeed. Still, she
let the thought pass and focused on the one thing that still
remained out of place-
“Seriously, why are you
two sitting together?” Molly asked Troy and Renee.
adapted to Yuki about as well as anybody would expect them to-
not at all. Except for Kathryn, everyone ignored the newcomer
whenever they could, and either left the dorm or practiced their
smoke-removal spells when they couldn't. Yuki was too happy to
be at the academy to care, and she was able to forge that
friendship with Kathryn. The others just dismissed Yuki as an
annoying burden, tolerating her because they tolerated Donovan
and certainly she was more harmless than him.
made up for the slightly-less enjoyable dorm life by trying to
get more out of his classes. He had already declared victory
against his schedule, so he spent the next week playing model
student and earnestly enjoying the education he was receiving.
If only his dedication could have been quantified with some sort
of graded test. Alas, it turned out that all skills were
demonstrated on the field instead of in the classroom, as
classrooms had furniture and valuable equipment that were more
prone to structural damage.
Therefore, at various points in the first two weeks, each
student would get a chance to do something outside to show their
proficiency in each of the three magic classes. This always
caused a great deal of anxiety since the essence of magic meant
a student was certain to humiliate themselves in at least one of
the classes (and more commonly two... and the occasional flop
earned the trifecta). Troy had gotten that out of the way with
his Crafting exam earlier in the week. Although there was no
explosion tied to his potion, it inflamed the test subject's
injury rather than healed it.
was at his Thrusting test, which he was much more excited about.
This was his area of expertise and the set-up just outside the
FUP was quite fun with three plastic targets resting in
strategic locations- a badger digging in the ground, a wolverine
resting on a tree stump, and a hawkeye suspended in mid-air.
This, naturally, was the MST's attempt to be a little more
localized. In fact, they used to use the mascots of Indiana
colleges instead of their Big Ten rivals until some students got
a bit uppity about attacking effigies of a hoosier, a
boilermaker and Touchdown Jesus suspended in mid-air.
you're next. Pick a target and do what you can with it,” said
Professor Weatherstone. She was the listed professor for Troy's
Thrusting class. This was the first time he had met her.
matter, he already had a plan. The instructions were to pick a
target and attack it in a matter best suited to his trigger. For
Troy, that was straight ahead. As the first spell that had
popped out, water was his specialty, so he held his index finger
out, wound his arm back, and shot it forward to cast his spell.
force and his aim had improved substantially. Instead of a
squirt gun, he had upgraded to garden hose. Troy's attack was on
target and connected with the wolverine's head. Not that it did
anything- it was still just water. The wolverine, soggy but
otherwise unaffected, looked back at Troy unhappily.
nice...” Weatherstone said.
arm fell to his side. “But it didn't do anything.”
water, dear, it won't make anything explode.” She smiled. “But
it was accurate, focused, and had some force and volume to it.
Pretty good for a first try.”
first try,” he muttered, looking away.
want something extra to work on, I can give you the litmus test.
It's a way to gauge and improve the effectiveness of water
spells. We usually don't break it out until the second term, but
there's no harm in giving you a chance to practice it now.”
nodded. Who would decline a chance to get better at this?
Weatherstone turned away and shouted to one of her assistants,
“Jerome, Troy needs the litmus test!”
assistant returned with a small beaker wrapped in clear plastic.
Troy couldn't quite make out what was inside, but it looked like
something fancy and magical and he couldn't wait to get back to
his dorm to try it.
'litmus test' has come to describe any conclusive method of
determination. Troy had assumed that this was the case, and
whatever Weatherstone handed him was a special method of
magically establishing the power of a water spell. But
Weatherstone meant it quite literally, giving Troy a set of
litmus paper and a guide to the significance of pH in
was getting a test sample, and for that Troy finally found some
use in Yuki. He gave the girl a beaker and told her to stand on
one end of the room. She trembled a little as he fired up a
water spell on the other end and aimed it at the beaker.
then, Kathryn burst through the front door and gave a rowdy
greeting to Troy and Yuki. Troy lost his concentration and sent
the blast of water straight into Yuki's face.
screamed, Kathryn stood there with her mouth open. “The hell are
credit,” Troy said, a little miffed at his misfire. He took two
strips of litmus paper and used them to catch droplets of water
as they fell from Yuki's hair. Yuki remained paralyzed as Troy
collected his samples. Only afterwards did she shimmy it off and
run into the bathroom.
know, you really should apologize to her,” Kathryn admonished.
however, was too busy watching his paper. She leaned in over his
shoulder. “So... you pregnant?”
sighed. “Guess not,” he said, setting the unaffected strips down
and picking up the guide. After looking over one page, he nodded
in understand. What he saw was that the lack of any reading on
the papers meant that his water spell was in fact pure water.
The secret to being more productive with such magic was
modifying the pH of the water to make it more of an irritant.
Achieving that, of course, was far more complicated than the
small booklet could get into.
Troy?” Kathryn said.
really neat,” he said, picking up the papers and the guide. “I'm
going to see if there's anything in the library about this.”
Kathryn replied, disgusted. To her taste, Troy seemed far too
enthusiastic about a routine experiment from high school
chemistry. In fact, Troy seemed far too enthusiastic about all
of this. Kathryn still failed to see what was so darn
interesting about this magic business. They had schedules, they
had classes, they had homework. She did, however, understand why
the MST needed its students to take an interest in the lessons
themselves: nobody knew how exactly they would be applied.
Kathryn wasn't sure if she was more afraid of discovering what
it would be used for or realizing that it was all mere
recreation to all but the honor students.
entered just as Troy was leaving. He smiled at her and, with no
sign of intimidation or infatuation, said, “If anyone but Molly
or Donovan needs me, I'll be at the library.”
chuckled and watched him approach the stairs. He stopped for a
moment, composed himself, and decided to try out his teleporting
skill. Troy vanished and Renee entered the unit, falling into a
for him having a thing for you,” Kathryn said, prompting Renee
to turn around.
the cushion and leaning against the back, she looked back at
Kathryn, confused and a little defensive. “What do you mean?”
shrugged. “It's just strange. I mean, at school he's tortured by
not getting to talk to you. Now here you two are living
together, Molly can't stop him, and he doesn't even notice. I
can't figure that out.”
rested her chin on the top of the chair. “Well... he's really
gotten into magic. We may be pretty weak right now, but can't
you imagine getting stronger and doing all sorts of wild stuff?
Maybe Troy's enthusiasm is helping him get past me.”
Scoffing, Kathryn said, “If that's the case, then he really
needs a girlfriend.”
sat up and frowned at Kathryn. She didn't know what Kathryn was
trying to insinuate, but it couldn't have been anything good.
“You're a girl,” she said, directing a frank, unwavering stare
into Kathryn's eyes.
looked down, feigned shock and grabbed her breasts. “Well, what
do you know? Never noticed these before!!”
The library had the
interesting distinction of being both one of the oldest and most
modern facilities on campus. The decades-old walls were covered
by weeds both outside and in (administrators called it ivy, but
no one was fooled). Nobody lobbied to remove them, fearing the
weeds were now supporting the building. Inside, however, was a
bright, clean temple of literature with an excellent online
catalog- one that magically sought and retrieved the book for
the user. Best of all, library patrons were forbidden to use
magic inside, so Troy could study in peace.
Thanks to the online
catalog, Troy found a book addressing pH levels. He discovered
that deliberately changing the pH of a water spell was just as
difficult as it sounded- which was disappointing, as Troy had
never considered the chemistry behind what he wanted to do. Troy
found a few productive pointers, however. One he wrote down in
his notebook and swore to try immediately- “Drink more Coke.” As
the most corrosive potable known to man, enough cola consumption
had been known to make a water spell significantly more acidic.
Troy also liked any excuse to drink soda over healthy beverages.
He took a few other
suggestions, but most were unfeasible like “handle radioactive
waste.” Troy knew that there was always a chance of radioactive
waste spouting randomly in L. B. Gould, Ohio, but the odds of
him being in the right place at the right time weren't good.
As he dropped the book
off to be refiled by the thankless librarians (the magic catalog
did not work in reverse), a wing of the library labeled “Memory
Repository” caught Troy's eye. He wandered inside and discovered
row after row of shelves stretching the length of the building.
They did not hold books, but rather hundreds of small glassy
orbs. Troy realized that he couldn't get a closer look, as a
banister blocked access to the stacks.
Along this banister was
a set of terminals, each with a chin rest in front of a small
monitor, with a keypad underneath. Peering into the screen, Troy
saw an interface with all the charm and beauty of DOS that read
“MST Central U.S. Memory Repository. Input Name/Date
Range/Keyword.” Rather than try to guess an appropriate keyword
or the proper date format, Troy entered an obvious name query-
Four names were found.
The listing for “MONROE, FRANK” had nine entries. Troy selected
one at random and the machine declared that it was loading the
orb and that Troy was to place his chin on the chin rest and
close his eyes. Just before Troy did, he saw one orb levitating
toward the machine. Eyes closed, Troy felt a cold, metal bar
press against his forehead and heard the orb load itself into
the terminal. Suddenly, the orb's contents were played directly
into Troy's mind- one of Frank Monroe's memories.
At the end of a cul de
sac in some unknown housing development in some unknown suburb
of some unknown city in what was probably Ohio, two figures were
clearly visible in the moonlit night sky. One was a young girl,
only eight or nine, looking up at the second- a tall young man
with one knee on the ground and extending a hand towards the
girl. Even the naivety of youth could only go so far, as she
looked hesitant about trusting the man. He persisted with a
smile and a nod.
“Trent, set a
displacement. You take care of her; I'll take care of him,”
Frank whispered. Troy knew it was his father speaking, but it
was lower and louder- undoubtedly the way Frank himself heard
Frank turned to Trent,
who nodded back. Despite having never met him before, Troy found
the resemblance unmistakable: Trent was Kurt's father.
Troy felt an eerie
sensation, like a sudden change in the wind. Apparently, so did
the young man, who turned towards Frank in surprise. But Frank
was ready- flames emerged from two fingers on his left hand and
spiraled at the man. The flame connected and the guy
backpedaled. He began rubbing his right hand back and forth from
the side of his leg to his torso. This magically extinguished
the fire on his shirt.
Frank held up his
fingers and drew out a small sword. “Frank Monroe, MST. We have
identified you as a demon of the Urayoni faction. So how you
want to do this?”
The demon rubbed his
side again. This time, a clone of himself materialized next to
him and charged after Frank. As it did, the demon created a
“Have it your way,”
Frank said, shooting a second fire spell at the clone. It
connected, but only knocked the clone back a bit. The clone
didn't seem too concerned about his shirt being on fire. That
certainly bothered Frank, though, so much that he didn't catch
the original demon charging after him, now brandishing a sword.
“Jeez!” Frank said,
parrying. As he fought, the clone approached, ignoring its fiery
He stole a glance at
Trent, who had one arm around the girl and a second in the air,
summoning a stone shield to defend the attacks of the second
clone. The two enemies Frank was dealing with weren't letting
up, so he backed away- or up, rather. Troy felt the sensation of
Frank shunning gravity with a flight spell, elevating above both
foes. Not wanting to be outdone, the original demon followed
suit. Frank smiled and slowed his ascent.
By the time the demon
reached the same height as Frank, Frank was ready with a wind
gust that knocked the airborne assailant backwards and falling
to the ground. This canceled Frank's flight spell, but Frank
knew well enough to cast something weaker to control the fall...
right at the first clone. It had no defense for Frank falling in
with his sword extended. The blade pierced the clone, which was
all it took to make the clone go away.
Frank took a moment to
catch his breath- a mistake, he soon realized, as he saw the
shadow of the original charging at him, an attack spell at the
ready. Frank was out of position and could only face the demon,
hold up his sword, and hope to block the attack somehow. His
muscles tightened as he braced himself.
Before the demon could
reach Frank, however, a strong blast connected with the demon's
side, sending him sprawling away. Frank raced after him,
shouting “Thanks, Trent!” The demon had no time to get up; Frank
stabbed him in the chest with the sword. As the genuine article,
his death was more climactic than his clone's. Steam erupted
from his wound and he uttered something close to a death rattle
before his body fell limp to the ground.
Now Frank could catch
his breath for real; whether or not Trent had destroyed the
second clone, it would vanish now that the original was
destroyed. He sheathed his sword into its compact hilt and
“That was close,” he
said, only mildly concerned, “Nice shot, Troy.”
Troy? Did he say Troy?
“Troy!” No, Troy was
hearing Kathryn and felt her slap him on the shoulder. As Frank
turned to Trent and the girl, the image faded to black and Troy
opened his eyes. The sudden burst of light and his
re-acquaintance with reality created a sharp twinge of pain in
“Whoa...” Troy said,
rubbing his forehead to shake it off.
“What are you doing
here?” Kathryn asked.
“Getting a headache...
“You wanna grab some
Troy groaned. “Kathryn,
I was just immersed in one of my Dad's memories. You yanked me
out of that for dinner?”
Kathryn shrugged. “Yeah.
Thankfully, the headache
was fading and the irritation subsided. Troy smiled and said,
“Sure. Let's go.”
As they walked away,
Troy turned back to the machine. The orb unloaded and floated
back to its proper place in the stacks.
“So what was he like?”
“Looked pretty cool.”
That was all Troy could
make of the memory- with little fanfare or flourish, Frank and
Trent had done their job. At least now Troy could visualize his
father being in the MST, and he now knew which direction Frank's
footsteps were going. All things for Troy to think about down
the road, but for now, all he wanted was to go to dinner with
Kathryn and order a large Coke.