[Greetings Citizens! When we last left our young hero, Allen, he wasn’t doing so well. He’d witnessed the tragic deaths of both of his parents, had been attacked by hideous shadow creatures, had most of his house destroyed, and had been “rescued” by a secret organization that informed him he could never go home again. And, unbeknownst to poor Allen, the wicked witch* who tried to murder him and his sister, and who they thought was dead, was resurrected by a mysterious, chalk-white creature who didn’t seem very pleasant at all. We return you now to today’s exciting episode, already in progress! (*Not to suggest that ALL witches are wicked. Most of the magic users in this story are quite nice people, when they’re people, but that ONE particular witch, Krystal, is a right nasty piece of work. Sorry.) —RFY]
ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER (Chapter 21)
The drive to the city took almost an hour, even with Shea jamming the accelerator to the floor for most of the trip. Eventually, they arrived at a gigantic office building that dominated one corner of a major street right in the heart of downtown, and took up almost half the block. The building was raised above the sidewalk by a dozen stone steps that led to a pair of large wooden doors. Allen thought it looked like the entrance to an ancient castle. Shea passed the front of the building where a sign read “Brashley, Inc.,” and turned down a side street, drove to a loading ramp that dove sharply downward toward a huge, yellow, metal door. She opened the window of the van and slid up to an intercom on a metal post. She flashed her I.D. badge at the machine and a red laser scanned it. A voice crackled, “Go ahead,” from a speaker on the intercom, and the metal door jerked to life and began to lift. The sound reminded Allen of a large roller-coaster he’d ridden on with his Mom on their last summer vacation. A lump formed in his throat, but he looked toward Haro and swallowed his sadness. Haro had lost his brother tonight, but he wasn’t crying about it. Allen wondered if Simmerons could cry.
The garage door was much thicker than Allen thought it would be, and as it opened Shea pulled the van through, passing by a booth from which a pair of guards eyed them suspiciously. Further inside the parking garage, Allen spotted a number of vans similar to the one they were riding in, several expensive looking luxury cars, and a massive assault vehicle with a gun mounted on the top. He noticed a dozen or more guards walking around, all in black uniforms, all apparently human, and most carrying guns. The huge metal garage door clanked closed with a deep thunk.
Shea parked the van in an empty slot in the middle of a row of vans.
“Chris, Cheever wants to see you right away, to get a briefing on the incident. Haro, if you have time, your first-hand account would be invaluable,” Shea said. “I’ll take the kids to get cleaned up and grab a bite to eat.”
“I’m not hungry,” Rose said. Her voice was still full of venom and her face was hard.
“You have to keep your strength up, Rose, even if you’re not hungry,” Chris said as he got out of the van and slammed the door shut.
Rose looked like she was about to argue, but Angie said, “I could eat. I haven’t had anything since coffee this morning.”
Rose scowled at her, but her face softened when she realized how shaken her friend was.
“Eat, don’t eat, that’s up to you guys,” Shea said, smiling. “Either way, you should grab your things while I go check in with Thompson.” She hopped out of the van and headed toward the guard booth.
“I’m not very hungry, either,” Allen said. His stomach felt empty but too upset to accept food.
Chris and Haro headed across the parking garage toward an elevator bay that was flanked by guards. Haro, instead of moving on all fours, shuffled gorilla-like. Allen thought Haro looked uncomfortable, but that he was trying to appear less beastly to the guards. As he watched, one of the guards moved back a few steps at Haro’s approach. Allen laughed to himself; he couldn’t help it. Although he had also been terrified when he first met Haro in Chaz’s office, he found the thought of having him around so comforting now that seeing an adult back away in fear seemed ridiculous.
As Shea spoke with an older, dark haired man near the security booth, Allen, Rose, and Angie waited near the van, holding their belongings. Shea finished talking quickly and walked briskly back toward the van. Her movements, Allen thought, were confident and purposeful. He couldn’t guess the woman’s age, but he thought she was probably younger than his mom. Younger than his mom had been…
“Why don’t I show you to your dorms and let you get settled in, then you can decide if you want to take a shower or eat,” Shea said in a bright, friendly voice.
“Sure,” Allen said. He wasn’t sure why, but he like this woman. He adjusted his backpack and grabbed his weapons bag, then he, Rose, and Angie followed Shea to the elevators.
ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER (Chapter 22)
Allen assumed that the garage would be the lowest level of the building, but saw buttons for at least half a dozen floors below, as well as buttons going up to the 41st floor, on the golden keypad just inside the doors. Shea hit the button for the twelfth floor and the door slid closed. Allen felt his knees and stomach go swirly as the elevator rocketed upward.
“So, what are we going to do, now that we’re here?” Rose said. She looked exhausted.
“You’re going to learn how to protect yourselves, and probably how to use your abilities to protect other people, too. We’ll give you the best chance of being able to survive, now that the Shadows know about you and know that you can see them. And, now that they’ve seen what your brother can do, they’re going to be especially eager to get their hands on him.”
“You mean, claws,” Allen said.
Shea smiled. Allen blushed. The elevator stopped, smoothly but quickly, sending Allen’s stomach into his throat, and the doors opened.
Shea led the trio through a large room with couches, a large unlit fireplace, bookshelves lining the walls, and a few people, mostly young, lounging about and chatting. It reminded Allen of a large hunting lodge or rustic hotel, although he’d never actually been in either of those types of buildings. They walked through this commons area and down a wide corridor, like a hallway at an empty school. They passed perhaps a dozen doors, then Shea found the one she was looking for and opened it.
“Okay, girls, here’s your room,” Shea said. It was slightly larger than Allen’s bedroom, with two beds, a metal cabinet that probably served as a closet, two desks with little lamps on them, and a pair of laptop computers. The walls were a dark grey, the bedspreads and pillows were grey, and the circular light fixture on the ceiling was grey. Allen imagined that most military barracks probably had more personality. There were no windows, no rugs on the floor, and certainly no “comforts of home.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Angie said. “There’s no mirror! How am I supposed to do my makeup?”
Shea laughed, and both the girls glared at her. “We’ll go shopping tomorrow, after you’ve had a chance to settle in. Nobody knew you were coming until a few hours ago. We didn’t really have much time to decorate.”
The girls, somewhat reluctantly, walked into the room. If she hadn’t been so exhausted, Allen was sure that Rose would have refused. Shea left the door open and led Allen down the hall a few more doors.
“Here’s yours,” she said, smiling.
Allen’s room was smaller, only one bed and a desk, but it was painted the same stark grey as the other room. He walked in and looked around, then set his backpack and weapons bag on the bed.
“I’ll be back in a little bit to check on you, see if you’re hungry yet,” Shea said. Allen nodded, and she left. He went to the door and closed it, then he walked back to the bed, collapsed, and started to cry.
ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER (Chapter 23)
Allen woke with a start. At first, he had no idea where he was, but slowly and uncomfortably the horrible memories returned. His parents were gone. His house was partially destroyed and abandoned. He felt seasick, unsettled, as if everything was part of some terrible dream. He pinched his arm to see if it hurt. It did, and he immediately felt silly.
Allen noticed that he was still dressed in the clothes from the night before. His shoes, which were lying beside the bed, were stained red from the blood that had been all over the floor in the kitchen.
There were no windows in the room so he had no idea what time it was. He scanned the grey walls for a clock, but of course found none. On the desk, he saw a bowl of soup, an apple, and an unopened can of soda. Allen decided that he must have been asleep when they brought him food, and they’d decided not to wake him.
Someone, Allen noticed, was laughing in the hallway outside his door. He sat up, grabbed his shoes off the floor and slipped them on. Then he walked over to the door and opened it, quietly. He poked his head into the hall. A few doors down, near where his sister’s room was, Allen saw a pair of girls that he didn’t recognize talking with an old man in a dark sweater, the collar of a white button-down shirt just visible at the neckline. The man had thick, messy, white hair, big eyebrows, and a bushy mustache that covered most of his upper lip.
“Ah, you’re awake! Excuse me, ladies, but I have to speak with our young friend over there,” the man said, smiling widely and waving goodbye to the girls. They headed off down the hall toward the common room. The man turned back to Allen, and his grin was so wide that his eyes were nearly squinked shut.
“You must be Christopher’s brother, yes?” he said, extending a hand. The fingers were covered in rings, and a blue tattoo of a large, open eye looked out from his palm. “My name is Edward Cheever, and I’m very, very pleased to meet you.”
“Allen,” Allen said, shaking the man’s hand. He seemed friendly enough, but a bit strange.
“I had the opportunity to meet your sister and her friend a little while ago, before they headed off for breakfast. Charming, charming. And, if you’re not starving to death, I was hoping we could have a tiny chat before you dive into your waffles and bacon.” Because of his constant smile, the man’s eyes never seemed to open more than a crack, but Allen could tell he was being studied by someone who was probably smarter than anyone he’d ever met, except Chaz, of course. The man had undoubtedly noticed Allen’s bloody shoes, and his gargoyle necklace, but his smile never wavered as he waited patiently for Allen to respond.
“Sure,” Allen said, though his voice was more resigned than inviting. He opened his door all the way and gestured to the chair near the desk. Cheever walked into the room, almost dancing with each step, as if he alone heard some peppy jazz tune that carried him forward as he moved. He sat in Allen’s chair, making an exaggerated show of how difficult it was to sit, then mumbled something to himself about getting old. Allen sat back down on his bed.
“I’m simply dying to ask you a few questions about last night, but—oooooo,” he said, like a ghost, then whistled. “Is that a Kieru box!?” He was looking at Allen’s bag, which was open slightly, the corner of Kitsle’s little red box just visible inside.
“First the Druidic charm,” he said waving a finger at Allen’s necklace, “and now a Kieru box. Oh, my my my…” the man said, shaking his head back and forth slowly. “We definitely have to talk. Does the box have a…” he tilted his head, “resident?”
“Oh, yeah,” Allen said. He still felt detached and lost, but he did find this man amusing. “He’s a lightning bug named Kitsle. He saved me from a witch yesterday,” Allen said, felt a bit silly, then smiled at the box. He’d been saved from a witch by a bug. Two days ago, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“A Lightning Bug!” Cheever said, his eyes opening wide for the first time. “Oh, those are lovely. I haven’t seen one in decades. Perhaps you can introduce me, later?”
Allen shrugged. “Sure,” he said.
“Wonderful! Wonderful!” Cheever clapped his hands, his rings clinking lightly together. He eyed the box one last time then straightened himself in the chair. “Now on to the more serious business. I’ve been asked by our fearless leader to attempt to discover how you were able to call a frighteningly powerful creature, without any training whatsoever. Firebirds have been worshiped as gods, you know. It’s a remarkable feat, my boy, simply remarkable!”
Allen frowned. “I don’t know how I did it,” he said. “My mother had just been…,” Allen said, and paused. He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud, yet. “Anyway, those monsters were going to attack my sister, next. I couldn’t lose her, too. And that’s when it happened.” Allen looked down at his shoes and swallowed, hard.
“You poor thing,” Cheever said, shaking his head. “I know this must be horrible for you, but I believe I have a theory that may go some way toward explaining what happened. Your charm, was it glowing by any chance?”
Allen looked at his necklace, turned it in his fingers. “Yeah, the eyes were. It gets hot and glows when danger is close by.”
“I thought as much,” Cheever said, his eyes squinting closed again as he smiled. “And your sword, may I see it?”
Allen slipped off the bed and took the sword out of his weapons bag. He put the wooden box on the bed and opened it, lifting the sword out with two hands.
“Oh, ho ho! I see! A Shogo Gumi blade! You are shockingly well equipped, Mr. Tombes. Just look at that handle!” Cheever was practically in hysterics as Allen handed him the sword. He accepted it carefully and turned it slowly, looking at the handle, then sliding the sheath off and studying the blade.
“A remarkable piece, breathtaking,” Cheever said, making a clicking sound with his tongue and slowly shaking his head. “When you unsheathed the blade,” Cheever asked, carefully handing the sword back to Allen, “did it glow as well?”
Allen put the sword back into its box, then nodded. “It was definitely glowing when I killed the first Shadow creature.”
“The first!” Cheever said in a high squealing tone, his eyes popping open again for a few seconds. “Oh, my boy, you are certainly ahead of the game. Do you remember the color of the glow?”
“It was blue, or kinda blue-green, I guess.”
“Oh, my my,” Cheever said, cocking his head to one side and staring off for a moment at the intersection between the wall and the ceiling. “Blue-green, blue-green,” he mumbled. “Very curious.”
“But when that whole group of monsters attacked,” Allen remembered, “just before the bird showed up and burned them all, the sword changed color. It turned dark blue, like dark blue fire.”
Cheever made the clicking sound with his tongue again and shook his head. He raised a hand to his mustache and brushed it, absently, with his fingers. “You’re certain? It changed color?”
Allen nodded. He suddenly felt very cold. Something in the man’s tone had changed.
“Well, not to worry, my boy. As I mentioned, I have a working theory for the strange events of last night, and with your help, I believe I now have sufficient evidence to confirm that my theory is true,” Cheever said, clapping his hands together and rubbing them back and forth to a chorus of little clinks from the rings. “Are you at all familiar with the concept of synergy?” Cheever asked.
Allen, still feeling a chill deep in his chest, shook his head.
“Your collection,” Cheever’s hand swept the room, taking in the sword, the necklace, and Kitsle’s box, “did it come from a single source?”
“From… Do you mean, did I get it all at once?” Allen asked. Cheever nodded, a quick, excited nod. “Oh, no. I got the necklace first. Chris sent it to me, through my friend, Chaz. He owns a store back in my town.”
Aaaahhhh!” Cheever said, shaking a finger at Allen. “And the other two pieces? Also from Chaz?”
“Yeah, he gave them to me when Chris and Haro showed up at his shop.”
“Clever, clever, Charles,” Cheever said, shaking his head again. His smiled had returned, larger than ever, making his eyes disappear completely.
“What? What did he do?” Allen asked. Despite the man’s smile, Allen was worried.
“Synergy, my boy! That’s the key element here. Synergy is when different elements interact and, instead of canceling each other out, they manage instead to magnify each other’s properties. Your sword, as you may already know, was designed by a group of 17th century Demon Hunters in Japan, known as the Shogo Group. Shogo Hakume, the founder of the group, was a very famous exorcist and healer. Legendary, really. The blade was designed by his group to focus a warrior’s will and energy, allowing them to strike and kill ghosts and demons. As I said, it’s a remarkable weapon. And,” Cheever said, raising a finger, “the handle is jade, a stone carved from the living earth. Combined with the dragon etching, which is also a symbol of earth, this sword becomes a physical symbol of the Earth Force.”
Allen looked confused, but Cheever just smiled and continued. “Next, your necklace. The charm is Druidic, the gargoyle and the rubies used for its eyes, both symbols of fire. The charm represents the force of Fire.”
“It gets hot and burns my chest when danger is near,” Allen said.
“Exactly, my boy! Exactly!” Cheever said, smiling again. “And the field that the charm creates around you also fills you with fire, in a matter of speaking.”
Allen lifted the charm and glanced at it down his nose. The ruby eyes twinkled.
“And the next touch—that Charles is terribly clever—is your friend in the Kieru box! The box is actually just a doorway, an entry point for the Lightning Bug to come into our world. Sprites, by nature, are creatures of the sky, living in the upper atmosphere and even out into the deepest reaches of space. They embody lightning, power, energy, and for someone like you, being near them for any length of time would be like super-charging a battery!” Cheever’s voice grew high again, and he raised his hands up to simulate the rising levels of energy.
“Now, I’m not sure if you know this yet, but your family is quite famous in our circles. The Brewsters, your mother’s family, have been documented for centuries, which I’m certain Charles knew.”
“Yeah, he tried to give me a book, once, about someone named—Bunny?” Allen said, trying to remember.
Cheever laughed, “That would be ‘Rabbit,’ not Bunny. Rabbit Brewster was very famous, a skilled warrior, who held his village against an invasion of ogres back in the 1760s, and he lived to be almost 160 years old! But the point of all this is that your family line has always had an affinity toward the water. They were often fishermen or sailors. If you’ve seen your brother with his weapon…”
“It’s blue. I saw it a few nights ago when he killed a bunch of Shadows who were trying to get into my room,” Allen said, excitedly.
“Yes, yes, my boy!” Cheever said, clapping his hands together again. “Like I said, you are water people.” Cheever nodded his head, waiting for Allen to make some response. When it became clear that it wasn’t coming, Cheever continued.
“Earth, fire, air, and water,” Cheever said, and he clicked his tongue again. Allen nodded his head, but still looked blank.
“Charles took a risk,” Cheever said, “by combining all four elementary forces in you. It could have backfired. The elements are not usually compatible, and the forces could have canceled each other out, leaving you helpless, or severely weakened at any rate, but he must have seen something in you that led him to believe it would work. Oh, I wish he’d just join us instead of running off on his own all the time,” Cheever said, clicking his tongue again.
While Cheever shook a fist at the ceiling, Allen’s face became very dark. “I still don’t understand what’s going on. What’s happening to me?”
“Synergy, my boy!” Cheever said, lifting his hands up again. “The items Charles gave you work in combination with your natural abilities to magnify your powers. The blended color of your blade is a visible expression of the Water and Earth forces melding together. We can assume that Kitsle’s influence, being so near to his energy, magnified your own raw abilities to the point that, without any training whatsoever, you were able to destroy a Shadow being, which only actually touches our world at a peripheral level. You extended yourself into multiple dimensions, through force of will, thanks to the Lightning Bug’s amplifying effects. And to call a Fire Spirit, you must have been completely integrated with the Fire force as well, or it wouldn’t have heard you and responded to your summons. Or, if it had come, it would have consumed you, the house, and all the others when it appeared. Each elemental force was combined in you and found expression through your actions. Most of the people who can tap into an elemental force only have an affinity for a single element, but you are able to wield and synthesize all four! It’s a remarkable and extremely rare gift!”
Cheever clapped his hands together and rubbed them again, his rings clinking wildly, and smiled through his squinting eyes.
Allen sat for several seconds, glancing from his sword to Kitsle’s box. He touched the charm around his neck, rubbing the runes etched into the back with his thumb.
“But what about the dark blue glow,” Allen asked, “and the flames, that appeared just before the bird did?”
Cheever’s smile fell a bit and he clicked his tongue. “Well,” he said, breathing in and out with a sigh, “having a weapon that changes color is rare, as is the dark blue color tone. I’ve never seen it, and I can’t even recall ever reading of another human with that hue.” He shook his head. Allen wondered how much information Cheever was keeping from him. If humans didn’t have that color of glow, what did?
“It could be deep water. That would go along with your family heritage, and it may be a remnant of some ancient energy form that predates our record keeping, something caused by the mixing of elemental forces. Another possibility, although it’s a stretch, is that it could be from outside our dimension, some form of cosmic energy,” Cheever said. He brushed his mustache and stared vaguely at the ground.
“Or it could be death,” Allen said, in thick, slow words that didn’t want to leave his mouth.
Cheever opened one eye, wide, and scanned Allen’s face with it. “There’s no known Death force, Mr. Tombes. And, although it is mysterious, we have ways of finding out what kinds of energies are swarming through your body. Until we’ve had a chance to run you through your paces, just remember this—whatever that energy was, whatever caused it to change color, you and your sister are alive today because of it.” He smiled again, but Allen thought he could detect a tiny bit of worry in Cheever’s eyes.
As Cheever stood up and asked Allen if he was ready to eat, Allen heard voices from the hallway and then a knock at his door. Cheever danced over to the door, gave Allen a conspiratorial look, and opened it, just a crack.
“Who goes there!?” he said in a mock-pirate voice.
“Oh! Dr. Cheever! I didn’t know you’d be here,” Rose said, startled. “Is Allen awake?”
“Yeah, I’m up, Sis,” Allen said. He saw a paper bag in one of Rose’s hands and a carton of chocolate milk in the other. Angie stood on tip-toe behind her and waved. They were both wearing black jeans and t-shirts, but they had significantly less makeup on than usual.
“Oh, do I smell donuts?” Cheever said, breathing in deeply. He let out a heavy sigh, “Well, you’re probably starving, aren’t you! I’ll leave you to it,” he said, waved his hand at Allen, and slid past the girls with his dancing, exaggerated movements, then started to whistle to himself as he strutted out the door and down the hall.
“He’s a weirdo,” Angie said as she stepped into the room and sat down on the bed next to Allen. Rose handed him the milk and the bag of donuts and then plopped herself down in the chair that Cheever had just left.
“He seems alright to me,” Allen said. “Smart guy, though. Like scary smart,” he said as the smell of the fresh pastries suddenly overcame him. He dove into the warm donuts like they were the first meal he’d had in weeks.
[That’s it for this episode!!! As Allen and Rose settle in at their new “home,” new mysteries pop up! How will Cheever “find out” what strange energies are coursing through Allen’s body? Will Rose and Angie ever get a mirror for their room? And now that Allen has made it to the relative safety of the Brashley Corp. building, what will the Shadow Lord’s next move be? These questions and more will be answered in subsequent, thrilling adventures of ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER! Stay tuned!!!]
—Richard F. Yates
P.S. – Here are the links to the previous sections:
Part One – Chapter 1
Part Two – Chapter 2
Part Three – Chapters 3 and 4
Part Four – Chapters 5, 6, and 7
Part Five – Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11
Part Six – Chapters 12 and 13
Part Seven – Chapters 14, 15, and 16
Part Eight – Chapters 17, 18, 19, and 20