Eldar's eyes opened wide in excitement.
Maybe she's Bronas's vessel...But...if that's true...
He turned back to Derrick.
Why is he taking this one? Hm...Oh, well...he's made his choice.
Eldar shrugged and started walking away. Michael watched him walk back the way they came. He turned to get one last look at Derrick, and then ran after him.
"You're just going to leave him? Floating there like that?" Michael asked.
He turned around, extended his arm, and then snapped his fingers. The sound rang out unexpectedly, like they were in an old stone cathedral. It faded, then echoed back twice as loud. Out of the corner of his eye Michael saw Caspian fall to the ground. He was about to say something, when Eldar put his finger to his lips to signal silence.
You'll break the spell if you talk. I've put him to sleep. When we inhabit a body it's like putting on your garments-you don't do it while people are watching. At least some people... He added with a sly smile looking at something on the ground below.
Michael looked down to see a woman walking out from the shadow of the ship in a scanty bikini.
Say, isn't that, Rose? Eldar thought.
Michael looked closer and realized it was Rose.
What is she doing down there?
They walked over to the rail to gaze down at her. Michael then noticed she was carrying something.
What's she carrying?
He could feel it as Eldar tensed up.
A head... The answer came.
Michael tensed up, too, as they jumped over the railing. They hit the ground then ran up behind her. She kept walking as if they weren't there.
"Rose...?" Michael said as he reached out for her shoulder.
He was immediately shocked upon touching her.
"Ahhh!" He screamed as he withdrew his hand with Eldar's help.
There's a barrier around her. Don't touch her.
Gee, really? Thanks.
The three kept walking. Michael didn't like it, and wanted to do something, but what? Then the ground erupted in front of Rose, causing them to stop. Vines sprouted from the ground and wrapped themselves around Rose's wrists and ankles. She didn't struggle or make any noise. She just dropped the head. Michael looked to Eldar for some explanation to see he was looking behind them. Michael turned to see Derrick running up behind them.
Saw you guys come out here, and thought you might need some help.
It sounded like Bronas.
"Derrick...?" Michael asked.
No. Bronas. Derrick isn't here right now. Remember how you were put to sleep to make it easier on you? Same thing here.
"Oh." Michael said.
Eldar jerked back toward Rose as if startled. Michael looked back to see the head was now floating a few feet from them.
Get down and cover your ears!
Eldar jumped on Michael forcing him to the ground while covering his ears. Immediately a horrible shriek emanated from the head. Rose fell limp and Michael felt Eldar's grip weakening. Bronas had covered his ears in time, but had sunk to his knees. The shriek finally ended when the head exploded.
Derrick managed to crawl over and gently roll Eldar off Michael. Michael slowly stood up, unsure whether there was more. The head had been disintegrated from the blast. Oh well. Michael didn't want to see the chunks anyway.
Shriek blast...not a good sign.
Michael turned to see Bronas looking where the head had been floating with a worried look.
That could have only been created by a spirit. Spirits with that kind of power can get pretty nasty.
Michael turned to see Rose still hanging there in her scanty clothing. He rushed over to her and flung his cloak around her. Michael could feel Bronas's eyes on him.
He had been hiding many things under his cloak. Underneath, Michael had been hiding a black skin tight suit. It was covered with blades of all sorts: throwing knives, daggers, short swords, and even a katana on his back. Around his waist he wore a belt that had small capsules with a strange green liquid in them. He had two pistols on either thigh, along with two extra clips for each. A sheathe on either side of his shins held yet another nasty looking dagger.
His clothing was different to say the least. The black two piece suit seemed to have metal sewned into the fabric. The sleeves only went down to his elbows. Around his wrists he wore a heavy looking bracer. On his hands, he wore black gloves that also seemed to have smaller pieces of metal sewned into them. The fingers only went up half way on Michael, and they had slim metal rings around their ends. His pants once again had shards of metal sewn into them. Pads made up most of them, covering his front and back thighs and shins. The pants extended into his boots which had metal around the toe and heel. Attached to the soles were thick spikes for walking on almost any surface.
Once Bronas had taken it all in, he slowly stood up still a little shaky from the scream. He made a gesture toward Michael's wardrobe.
You know how to use all that?
Michael thought for a moment about how much he should tell, but finally decided that these guys could be trusted.
"Most of it...I'm still a little off with the rifle, and the green liquid is still being experimented with." Michael said.
Bronas quickly walked over to Michael, and yanked one of the containers of fluid from his waste.
"Hey--! Be careful I'm still experimenting with it!" Michael said trying to swipe it back.
Instantly the vial floated out of his reach above Bronas's hand. Michael stared at the object as it floated mid-air.
"Yet another ability I am kept in the dark about!" He said throwing his hands in the air and turning away from Bronas in frustration.
Bronas took the opportunity to study the mysterious liquid. He turned the vial, flipping it every which way, but it was still the same thick, green liquid no matter how you looked at it. Then, Bronas's eyes widened in frightened realization.
This is Teslis isn't it?! He asked in a scolding tone.
Michael didn't say anything at first. But then he turned to Bronas with a very serious face.
"Yes. It's Teslis." He said remorselessly. "I've been wandering down there a lot since Rose's death. I didn't really know where I was going, just following my feet. But somehow, someway, I always found myself in that room. Barrels upon barrels of the "poison"."
"One day, my senses returned long enough for me to notice something. I was walking past the barrels on my usual route through the room when I noticed that some of the liquid had bubbled over the top of one of them. It caught my attention: a sea of yellow with a small patch of green. So I walked over to it. I don't know how long I stood there just staring at it, but it moved after a while. Nothing big. Just a small jiggle. Like when you shake a plate of Jell-O. I reach out to touch it, and it lurched onto my hand! I started waving my hand trying to shake it off, but as I shook it, I swear I could feel something digging into my hand. Like tiny little claws. This got my attention. So instead of just shaking it off and getting out of there, I grab a broken glass on the floor nearby, and scrape it off and into the glass. Holding my hand over it and I walked out."
Michael paused to take a breath.
"Conveniently I had met a doctor of sorts in my travels in the boat, so I take it to him. He puts it under a microscope-why he packed it I do not know-and finds something very interesting. He tells me to come take a look, so I do. I gaze through the scope, adjusting the magnification slightly, and also see something interesting. This "liquid" is in fact a swarm of tiny mechanical bugs. The word 'nanobug' came to mind so that is what we called them. So these nanobugs have one purpose and one purpose only: to swarm everything in sight and improve it, make it better than it was before."
Michael paused again.
"You know why Pyronite is lethal to humans? Because when these bugs try to improve them, they attack the main organs: heart, lungs, stomach, and liver, so on and so forth. The improvements are so complex and advanced way beyond human capabilities, that the body can't support it with just blood. So the organs, being unable to function, begin to shut down, while the bugs move on improving the rest of the body. Eventually the body dies and the bugs are somehow released back into the air."
Michael was about to continue when Eldar jumped to his feet.
Shriek blast...that's not good.
Bronas gave Michael one last look then turned to Eldar.
We've already established that, Eldar.
Michael saw the vial float into a back pocket on Bronas's pants. He felt annoyed and no longer wanted to be around them.
"I think I shall return Rose to her room." Michael said.
He walked over to her and pulled her from the vines as they sank back into the ground. Hoisting her into a comfortable position, he walked back to the boat-leaving Eldar and Bronas alone. Michael didn't know if it was a good idea leaving them to talk behind his back, but he didn't want Rose to wake up in her present state in front of them.
He launched himself up onto the boat, and saw Caspian still knocked out on the deck. He ducked into a door, and went down two flights of stairs to Rose's floor. He proceeded down the hall passing two others before he reached the one with Rose's room. He turned and followed it until he reached room 596. He opened the door and stepped inside. The hole in the wall was gone...How had he not saw that before? He walked over to the couch and gently laid Rose down on it, and then he walked back over to the wall to study it. He touched it and brushed his hand across the wall in a wide arc. It was solid. No weak points or anything else that would indicate something had happened to it.
He was about to go sit down, when he felt something drop on the back of his hand. He looked down to see a little drop of red liquid. From it, he looked up. The entire ceiling had turned the same dark shade of red. He backed away as a crack ran down the wall from the ceiling. Once it touched the floor, the wall shattered releasing a wave of the same red liquid. It drenched him and the entire room. Everything was red...Red. Michael realized through that it was blood and immediately was hit with a wave of nausea.
Then he heard it. Quiet at first but grew louder with each echo. It was a laugh. A dark, evil laugh. He looked around trying to locate where it was coming from. It was deep and ominous, and echoed all around the room making it impossible to pinpoint its location. Then Michael nearly fainted when he saw to eyes open in the thick red blood on the ceiling. They looked left, then right, then right at Michael. The pupils were mere pin pricks giving them a wild, insane appearance. Then Michael started to quiver as a giant, toothy grin spread underneath them. It was huge. The face had to belong to something very large. The teeth were razor sharp, seemingly capable of biting through anything. Then the gigantic mouth opened and the laugh rang out through the room. It chilled Michael to the very bone. This wasn't the kind of chill you get when an ice cube is dropped down the back of your shirt either. No...this was fear in its purest form.
"You may have cheated death once! But no matter where you go, I will always find you!" The face bellowed.
Then, without warning, a giant tentacle-like tongue shot from the mouth and wrapped itself tightly around Michael's waste. Try as he might he couldn't free himself. He couldn't summon his sword or use his ice either! What was going on? He watched helplessly as the tongue pulled him into the pitch-black mouth. As the teeth closed down on him, he uttered one word, "Rose..."
Michael jolted awake, completely swamped in sweat. He sat there in one of the armchairs, panting, catching his breath. The dream was still fresh in his mind and very vivid. That laugh...Such evil as he had never felt before. When had he fallen asleep anyway?
He looked around. The room was as he left it, but the lights had been turned off. He looked across the room to see the hole in the wall was gone. Was he still dreaming? His eyes turned to the couch where Rose still laid with his cloak over her. He walked over to her.
As he gazed down at her, he realized she was shivering. He pulled a red afghan off the back of the couch she was laying on and draped it over her. At least-he tried to. Upon the afghan touching Rose, Michael was blasted back with an electrical force. He crashed into the wall and toppled onto a small end table. He quickly recovered and looked over at Rose with curiosity. Tiny bolts of electricity were jumping about her in the form of a field! Michael walked over to her-careful not to get too close. He was about to see what his ice would do, when the electrical field disappeared and Rose was engulfed in flames. Michael immediately tried to put it out but was once again blasted back. He quickly stood up. She was on fire but wasn't burning, like Lance had been when he awoke from his death. He realized that the fire was slowly taking a new form. Then the fire disappeared and was replaced by a bunch of leafy vines. Michael walked over and touched one. It was definitely real. Suddenly the vines crumpled into ash, and she froze over completely. Right before Michael's eyes, Rose was encased in a foot of ice. Michael knew from experience that ice was safe.
He walked over to her, put his hands on the side of her "ice box", and pressed his face up against the ice-like a boy looking through a toy store window. Amazingly enough, she was still sound asleep. Michael pulled away.
"Well, aren't you exciting." He said softly.
Rose suddenly lit up like a light bulb. The light pierced through the ice like cake. It dimmed then faded as the ice fell away from Rose in huge chunks. Michael absorbed the ice so that it wouldn't leak all over her carpet. As he did so, Rose moved. It was small but Michael caught it. Her eyelashes fluttered. Michael watched as one eye slowly opened. At first it wasn't in focus, but slowly the pupil adjusted and she saw Michael. The other eye opened and she turned her head to face him. Instead of a smile, though, she had a look of worry.
"It happened again...didn't it?" she asked softly.
She slowly rose to a sitting position. Michael softly sat down beside her.
"Yep." was his simple reply. "But don't worry. You didn't do anything too bad."
Her look of worry intensified.
"What did I do?" she asked next to tears.
Michael took a moment before answering.
"Well...you had the head when we saw you..." Michael began.
"We? Who were you with?" she asked.
"I was with Eldar. We were on the deck...looking around...and talking." Michael said trying to work around Colin's possession.
"And...you said 'the head'...you mean that man's...?" her voice trailed off.
"That's the one. Anyway, we were talking and Eldar saw you walk out from the boats shadow with the head. Um...you were also in nothing but your bathing suit..." Michael said looking straight ahead, blushing slightly.
Rose seemed to just notice Michael's cloak around her. She pulled it back; her jaw dropped, and quickly wrapped it tightly around her. Rose looked up and noticed Michael's black suit. She took a moment before speaking.
"You've been carrying all that around this whole time?" she asked.
Michael started to nod but stopped.
"Well, not all this time. Actually this is a pretty recent development."
He pulled one of the vials from his waste as he said this.
"Bet you can't guess what this is."
She gently took it into her hand and studied it for a few seconds.
"What is it?" she asked finally, handing it back to him.
"Pyronite." Michael said hesitantly.
Her eyes grew and her jaw dropped. She quickly tossed it back into Michael's lap; nearly causing it to topple to the floor, but Michael quickly reached down and cradled it into his palm.
"It's pretty amazing once you think about it. Only a handful of experiments have opened a multitude of applications in many different fields."
Rose didn't seem all too excited about Michael's discoveries.
"Michael...what effects could this have on us if, say, it happened to spill?" she asked.
Michael pondered this fact. He honestly didn't know what to say. They had already been "improved" by nanobugs. Is it possible they would be upgraded further if hit with another swarm?
"I...don't know." was Michael's simple reply.
Her facial expression changed to one of disappointment.
"Michael...are you honestly wanting to befriend that which has destroyed our lives?" she asked.
Again, Michael couldn't find the words to say. She had a very good point. The Pyronite had indeed taken so much away from the entire body of passengers, but it had given a handful so much more! Is the sacrifice of about 2900 passengers really so bad once you consider the gifts they had received? Michael thought the sacrifice was a little much, but he did cherish his gifts very much.
"You have a point, Rose." Michael said finally.
He stood up and walked to the door.
"I have other matters to attend to at the moment. Shall we make plans for dinner? Say...eight o' clock?" Michael said.
Rose got up and walked over to the door. Holding it open for him she said, "Michael...I think you just need a little time to clear your head. I'll see you later."
And with that Michael was dismissed from her room. He walked out in a little bit of a daze.
What just happened? He silently asked himself.
Are your skills with the ladies not as good as you thought they were? A familiar voice echoed in his mind.
He turned around to find himself face-to-face with Eldar.
"Eldar...where'd you come from?" Michael asked.
Oh, here and there. He replied.
He walked over to Rose's door. He studied it before sweeping his hand lightly across it.
So, what's the deal? She dump you or what?
Michael looked at the ground.
"Well...she was covered in a field of electricity, then she lit on fire, then she was covered in leafy vines, and then...she froze over." Michael said the last bit with a satisfied tone. "She awoke after she thawed. I told her what happened outside." Michael paused abruptly as he thought of a way around his dream and the Pyronite. Then he realized he had left his cloak with Rose and his under suit was exposed. He looked down to see the light green vials almost glowing in their pouches.
"Ok, here's what went down:," he said deciding he might as well tell him, "I explained to her that I had been experimenting with the Pyronite-all these possibilities that have opened up. She didn't like the idea of using the Pyronite, saying it was "siding with the enemy" or something like that." He paused again wondering if this conversation should be taking place right outside her door. He started walking down the hall toward the stairs leading to the top deck, resuming his explanation, "I don't know what's wrong with it. But then...she brings up a rather interesting question: "What would happen if we were hit with another dose of the stuff?" I hadn't really thought about this, and not knowing the answer kind of bothers me."
They had reached the stairs and were proceeding to the top deck. They reached the top deck in silence. Michael walked around the railing guarding the stairs, and proceeded to the opposite side of the deck. He liked it up here. Maybe Rose was right; maybe he did need some fresh air. As he gazed out at the beautiful scenery surrounding them, he could feel himself calming down.
It's quite relaxing up here. Eldar thought after a while.
"Reading my thoughts again, Eldar?" Michael asked.
Well, it's true, isn't it? Who cares where it comes from as long as it's true?
Michael was silent, letting the wind blow all his cares away. This was a nice breeze-not too gusty and just the right level of warmth. They stood there for quite some time just taking it all in.
"Hey, Michael. You remember way back when, when I was going to teach you some of those spells?" Michael turned to find Lance standing behind him.
"Yeah...?" Michael said hesitantly.
"We never got around to it since you went to apologize to Rose. It looks like we have plenty of time now, though."
Michael saw no way around it.
"Fine. Let's go." He said.
They leapt off the deck and touched lightly on the ground. Lance quickly spun around and summoned his spear. It was a lot longer than Michael remembered.
"Summon your sword." Lance said in a surprisingly cold voice.
Michael unsure what was up summoned his sword, wary. As soon as his sword appeared, Lance lunged. Michael quickly dashed to the side. Lance landed and changed direction with little down time in between. Michael had no choice but to use his sword. He raised it and easily blocked Lance's attack, but then Lance performed a leg sweep and floored him. Lance shifted his hands the bottom of his spear and with all his might attempted to run Michael through, but Michael performed a sword sweep and knocked Lance back with the flat.
"Lance, are you trying to kill me?!" Michael shouted.
Lance responded by sending a volley of fireballs at Michael, who parried it by sweeping the air with his hand and focusing a wall of water droplets that doused the barrage of fire. Lance was getting a pretty angry look on his face. He started to tremble as his face filled with pure hatred. Suddenly, he was engulfed in fire. Using his feet as rockets, he blasted toward Michael at an alarming rate. Michael thought he heard Lance mumble something as his spear tip grew to a great size. Michael was now, panicking as the flaming Lance sped ever closer. Suddenly Michael could feel something inside of him. A word. A word on the tip of his tongue. What was it? Where did it come from? Michael didn't care, all he knew was that he had to say it.
"Blizarok!" He cried at the top of his lungs.
The next series of events happened in a blur. Michael felt himself literally open up. No pain, just the feeling of his torso opening up. What emerged was both frightening and wonderful. It had the body of a man, but the head of a horse, with great wings sprouting from his shoulder blades. As it floated there in front of Michael, it spread its wings wide. Then it held up a single hand. Lance ran right into it and was stopped instantly. With a small jolt of what appeared to be electricity, he was blown clear across the field to the wood's edge. The creature blew a frosty wind from its nostrils then disappeared back into Michael's chest. All Michael could do was slump to the ground. He felt as though he had run a great distance and was exhausted.
He snapped out of his stunned trance when he noticed movement from the far side of the field. Lance was actually getting up from his blow! He stood up slowly as if he, too, were dazed. After shaking the daze from his head, he dashed toward Michael. Michael was too exhausted to keep fighting, so he just fell over. Instead of continuing his assault when he reached him, though, Lance sat down on the ground next to him.
"How was it?" He asked in his normal tone.
"Huh...?" Michael couldn't muster the strength to use long sentences.
"How was it? Using your Aura?" Lance said.
"My what?" Michael said a little easier now.
"That's your Aura. Your inner being. That's what you are." Lance explained.
"I thought Eldar was my inner being..." Michael said.
"Although Eldar was inside you he wasn't your Aura. He just inhabited you until he could assume a body of his own." Lance was talking but Michael couldn't comprehend what he was saying. Michael watched as Lance slowly faded into the darkness...
Michael awoke in his room. He sat up and felt a slight weakness in his abdomen. Looking around the room, he saw Eldar asleep in the bed below Lance's. Michael lowered himself slowly to the floor so he wouldn't wake him.
It takes a lot out of you...to use the Aura.
Michael looked to see Eldar had one eye open.
"What is the Aura exactly?" Michael asked.
Eldar sat up.
The Aura is your inner being. The being that gives you your power, to be precise.
Eldar stood up and put his hand around Michael's shoulders.
Come. Let's take a walk.
They exited the room and made their way down the hall.
You gave Lance quite a headache, I hear.
Michael looked straight ahead.
"I guess. It seems I passed out after it happened." Michael replied.
They were silent for awhile.
The Aura is your last weapon of choice. It takes too much out of you to use it.
"But what happens if I don't have enough power to use? What then?" Michael asked.
It doesn't use "power". The Aura is an extension of your spirit. Your spirit is where the Aura comes from. If the Aura is destroyed so are you.
"I just won't use it then." Michael said. "There's no way I'm going to make myself vulnerable."
They decided to go to the top deck. Michael realized that he seemed to come up here a lot. They watched the sun set.
"The sunsets are awesome." Michael said.
The sun was red with gold around it. The clouds had turned pink and purple. The sky was golden yellow. After a while, the deck lights came on. Michael was picturing the sunset in his head when he was unexpectedly struck on the arm. He turned to see that Eldar had some sort of weapon that he had struck him with. The small cut was oozing the familiar clear liquid.
"What was that for?!" Michael said as he pulled the weapon out of his arm and held his hand over the injury.
Bloodsucking insect. You must protect yourself from them. If they were to taste the liquid flowing through your veins, they would become like the snake, or the other animals that escaped during the Explosion.
He assumed a thoughtful look.
Then again, they could also die.
Michael looked toward the nearest deck light. As he expected, there was a swarm of insects hovering dumbly under the light. He waved his hands and they instantly became little spheres of ice. They fell to the deck with a barely audible tink.