A Different Matter Altogether, Part 2
By Camospam, Wendy K. and Gabi.
A Non-Canon Whateley Universe Adventure
The impact was so much worse than Cameron could have ever imagined.
Lynn stopped mid-stride, the plethora of shopping bags held in her arms continued to swing, though she froze to the spot. Timothy bounced off the halted girl who had suddenly stood still in the middle of the crosswalk, offering an apology for running into her - such a Canadian thing to do.
Rachel sensed something was amiss with the Were as a wave of fright came off the girl. The psychic gave Lynn a gentle shake, waiting until her eyes focused back on the here and now before asking: “What’s wrong?”
“Cameron, he’s…” uttered the stunned Precog, as if her mind was someplace else completely different from the time and place her body stood.
“What?” Sought the now wary Psychic, filling in the only detail that added up: “Dead?”
In a burst of tears, Lynn could only whisper: “I don’t know, his thread disappeared, I don’t see him anymore.”
Lynn wasn’t in any condition to fend off the bombardment of questions unleashed from her companions that her distressed comment elicited furthered by Rachel’s conclusion.. Her friends didn’t understand, she didn’t know what to tell them since she couldn’t say what she couldn’t see. The world spun out of control around the baffled girl, due to the onslaught of information - or the lack thereof. Either way, Lynn fainted, caught in Rho’s outstretched arms.
Lynn stirred hearing birdsong, it created a mental image of all those cartoons when someone gets bonked on the head. She wasn’t certain if she wanted to, but opened her eyes anyway’s, finding herself reclined on a park bench in the shade of a large tree. All her friends, including Grace and Marcus Johnson sat in the grass nearby drinking from large cups, entertaining little Mark and in turn being entertained by him, cute kid.
Upon seeing Lynn’s recovery, Rachel handed her a bottle of water and sat down beside her when Lynn slowly sat upright with a slight sway.
“Are you okay? We were so worried,” spoke Rachel, attempting to not overwhelm her friend again.
Gauging how best to respond, Lynn nodded her head in the affirmative, and gladly took a sip of water before asking: “What happened?”
“You passed out,” claimed Rachel.
“Were don’t pass out,” refuted Lynn, it was absurd to suggest such a thing - the embarrassment it brought if news got out.
“Okay. So you momentarily slipped into an unintentional unconscious state due to sensory overload. Is that better?” Comforted Rachel with a huge heaping of sarcasm.
“Much. I’ll never live this down will I,” realized Lynn at her show of weakness.
“We’ve got your back. If anyone asks - we’ll say you had a bad reaction to the maple syrup-coated beaver tail you ate.”
“But I enjoyed that,” moaned Lynn, still tasting the sweetness on her lips and the doughy goodness of the deep-fried treat.
“I know. But it’s the only excuse I could come up with on short notice,” Psychics might know everybody else’s secrets, but that doesn’t mean they can keep them - very well that is. Rachel was at least trying her hand at subterfuge.
“Thanks,” offered Lynn with her head held low, perhaps it was a display of shame to the untrained eye, but her mind was racing as it was searching far and wide.
“So, what happened?” Sought Rachel, she didn’t usually need to pry information from people but Precognition created a barrier that threw Psychics off - too much interference from too many possibilities all at once.
After a second of soul searching, she begrudgingly confessed: “I don’t see Cameron.”
“As in; he’s hiding?”
“No, I don’t see any future that includes him. It’s like he’s been erased, but that can’t be, he was my tomorrow … I’m lost - without Cameron anchoring me, I don’t …” Lynn shuddered and leaned back to rest her head since she felt woozy again.
Rachel slid close and hugged her. “I get it, don’t get worked up just yet, maybe we just need to give it time. We should head back to the hotel and let you rest. We’ve only got a few more items left on our Whateley shopping list.”
The only thing Cameron knew for absolute certainty was, he hurt. In fact, he hurt so much he wished he was dead.
How come he didn’t splat like a ripe melon when he hit the ground was a question that simply had to wait. It took all the concentration he could muster to narrow down the impulses from his blaring nerve endings to even begin to tell how bad his injuries were.
Cameron lay in a heap at the bottom of a valley between sand dunes. He’d landed on the side of a steep slope, his initial impact had made a crater in the sand, after which he’d rolled down the hill, flailing about like a limp rag doll until ending up as the broken mess he’d woken up as.
It felt like his ankles had been pushed up to his knees, his knees into his hips, and his hips up into his shoulder blades, which is very likely just exactly what happened. Coughing up blood, Cameron took shallow breaths and began to scan his pains, from the o utset he knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Few bones came away unscathed, and his internal organs looked to have gone through a meat grinder, it wasn’t a question of where to start, it was more a matter of why try?
Cameron’s sight began to progressively diminish until it was like looking down a long tunnel, he was sleepy - so sleepy. He offered a prayer of apology for his failures, then, after drawing in one last haggard breath he slowly released it, and was ready to let himself go. It was peaceful.
A voice called to him: “Cameron, come on son, there’s work to be done.”
What was it Dad always used to say? ‘No rest for the wicked.’ I suppose I better re-evaluate my life ‘cause I could really go for some rest right now.
“Up and at-em. I know you can hear me.”
“Leave me alone, I’m dead,” rebuked Cameron at being interrupted.
“No you’re not.”
“Dead tired then,” negotiated Cameron.
“I grant you that. I’ve let you rest for as long as possible.”
“I should be dead,” realized Cameron, a little slow on the uptake - not altogether unexpected given the circumstances.
“True. As landings go, you really botched that one.”
“Not helping,” he didn’t need to be reminded, the memory was too fresh.
“I’ve been nothing but helpful, your healthy - aren’t you?”
“Thanks for … “ It was true, he wasn’t in agony anymore. Cameron flexed his fingers and wiggled his toes - all present and accounted for, still, it’s just that he was really sore - all over. He’d been smiling up at his mentor to show his appreciation - but it rather suddenly turned sour: “Wait a minute, are you implying I should be able to fly?” Sometimes the hits just keep coming, the boy’s mind wasn’t ready for that tidbit.
“Fly? No. More like ignore the Earth’s pull in favour of other forces.”
“Like my levitation belt?” Cameron was looking for an excuse, anything other than …
“That toy of yours didn’t save you now, did it? You can do much better.”
“I hate heights, they freak me out,” affirmed Cameron, accompanied by a fervent head shake. "Feet! Firmly on the ground - from now on,” call it petulance, but there needs to be ground rules, and Cameron’s rule was: being on the ground.
“If you must.”
“I’m really sorry, I wasn’t ready for getting tossed out of an airplane. Or for dying - again,” explained Cameron.
“You didn’t die. You were on the verge, but we couldn’t let you go. There’s still too much work to be done.”
“Yes, yes, keep an eye on Whateley Academy, I know,” acquiesced Cameron, feeling chastised for failing in his duty.
“Actually, there’s been a development. Conditions have deteriorated to the degree that honest-hearted people are in danger. A Truth Speaker had been trying to maintain calm, she was directed to have those who’d listen flee.”
“If you already had somebody there, what am I supposed to do?” If ever in doubt - ask questions, the only stupid question is the one left unasked, or so Cameron’s Mom used to say.
“You’re to gather evidence.”
“I see,” garnered Cameron.
“Precisely. Head towards the rising moon, she awaits your arrival.”
Cameron received his marching orders, he opened his eyes to see a blaze of colour stretching across the horizon as the sun began to set. After quickly gathering up his widely strewn belongings along with the defunct parachute, Cameron started walking. Every joint and muscle hurt at first, eliciting grunts and groans from the hurting boy, but after a while, the motion eased his body’s aches, and he maintained a steady pace.
Walking alone in the desert gave Cameron time to reflect on recent events, the often-heard expression is that hindsight is twenty/twenty, Cameron took it to mean that looking back provides clarity. In the heat of the moment, clarity is not a person’s foremost concern, it’s only afterwards that you can reason on what happened. Only then, when panic has faded, can the mind harp upon the shoulda - coulda - woulda, like why didn’t I say … instead of …, missed opportunities that always come to you later on.
As Cameron fell, with the ground rushing up at him, he couldn’t think straight, he froze, his fear hindering his reactions and preventing him from taking action. Now, however, after the fact, he thought of things he might have done to prevent … a rather nasty owwie, one he still hurt from. Cameron was confident he hadn’t resorted to flapping his arms like a plucked chicken, that would have looked darned silly.
How did Grandma put it: ‘If God meant for men to fly he’d have given us wings.’ Oddly, of all the people Cameron had seen who could fly, only a couple actually had wings, and of those wings, most were more decorative in nature than truly capable of sustaining flight. So, how do they do it?
He was perplexed, maybe if he’d made a big kite, like those hang gliders, no, he’d never paid much attention to them, he didn’t know how they worked, too much like flying to be of interest. How about a balloon, or what if he’d made a whole bunch of small balloons and filled them with helium, that might have worked. It’s just how many balloons would it take, and he didn’t have any helium in Warehouse, thinking about it, he didn’t have any place to store gases - that could be useful.
Since there was time aplenty as he trudged along, Cameron checked his battery, he recalled having his energy gathering cranked up in hopes … sure enough, it must have done some good in the end because his stored energy level had increased considerably. He was alive - well, lived, which is a good thing, but credit must go where it’s due, for his part he blew it big time.
The recent conversation with his mentor nagged upon Cameron; meeting a Truth Speaker. Could someone else pull out truth from a person like his glowing eyes did? How many others like him were there? Did they each have an assignment like his? Was there a club, with semi-annual meetings? Nobody ever said anything to him about it so this was going to be a first.
The night air was crisp, Camron had to guess that he’d been laying in the sand for a while, since the moon had already been up when they’d left Camp Nimpkish, how long had he been out of it?
He checked his satellite phone, he’d lost a day. Nothing he could do about that now, just keep walking and allow events to unfurl according to plan. He chuckled at that, Captain Patel’s plan hadn’t even lasted a second - at least not for Cameron, nobody’s boots had even hit the ground - unless you counted Cameron landing feet first.
He couldn’t help but wonder what became of the extraction team, Boot was okay, the others - not so much, but he’d not had much interaction to support that assessment. Boot, did he know he was a mutant? That low a level manifestation, barely even a level one Exemplar, had it even been noticed?
Cameron stopped walking, thinking about Boot made him realize his own boots were full of sand and had begun irritating his feet. He took off his boots and emptied them - knocking out copious amounts of sand, after taking off his socks to clean them, he decided that walking in sand took lots and lots of effort, and was slow going.
Removing his levitation belt from his Cupboard, he strapped it on - raising himself up so that his feet barely touched the ground, it had the effect of letting him skim over the sand at a much faster pace. This he could do - flying? NO, no way! In consideration, it would have been pointless to have tried using the belt to break his fall, since the levitation effect needed to start from something solid to then build upwards.
Cameron picked out a route between the dunes to provide the most protection, and began making a skating movement to increase his speed. It occurred to him that the wind would drift sand to cover over his tracks from before, now however he left nothing to follow. He wondered if anyone from the extraction team had bothered to find him, with a day’s delay they must be long gone, the captives already freed and heading back to Canada.
The desert was surprisingly cold at night, he always thought it would be blistering hot - night or day, he huddled into his light jacket lifting the lapel and putting his hands into the pockets, then cranked up the heat to keep warm.
He watched the moon rise higher in the night sky, it was just a sliver but it was comforting nonetheless. It reminded him of Billie, and Jade, and the rest of the Kimbas for that matter, odd to consider that he missed them - missed Whateley. As much as he’d deny it, he was looking forward to returning there. Was it because he’d be with his friends? Be with Lynn? He was comforted by that thought.
A din ahead alerted Cameron, it sounded like a large number of vehicles’ engines running. Coming around a dune he saw them, layering his sight Outlook gazed upon a long convoy of assorted vehicles parked alongside a road. He watched as more vehicles joined up with them, all having come from the City, still a distance away. It was a muster point for people fleeing from the unrest, following the Truth Speaker’s admonition.
The gathering of people puzzled the boy, amidst all the confusion and turmoil, there was an old person sitting on a blanket away from the hustle and bustle. She sat facing Cameron, sipping on tea, waiting, like she knew he was there. An attendant would come every so often to see to her needs, but otherwise, it was just her and an old worn stick laid out beside her.
It was the energy signature that convinced Cameron to approach.
“Peace be with you!” Called out a voice, carried across the sand with surprising clarity.
“May light guide your path,” responded Cameron.
A weathered arm beckoned him closer, and a hand patted the rug in front of her. Cameron sat down with a huff of relief, a rest was welcome.
“You sound like I feel,” claimed the elderly woman. “At eighty-three I’ve earned my aches and pains. You’re too young yet.”
“Gravity isn’t concerned with a person’s age, we all hit the ground with the same results.”
“A bad day?” She asked, motioning for her helper to come closer.
“Not the worst, not the best,” admitted Cameron.
“I hear you monitor mutants, no small task. I’m too old for such excitement,” her laugh was endearing, grandmotherly. “Tea?” She asked.
“Please,” he hoped it would warm up his insides. “It would appear you have enough excitement for us both,” gesturing to the amassed crowd. “You’re taking them to safety?”
“A UN refugee camp across the border,” she pointed South toward the intended destination. “These people had the good sense to escape the coming storm.”
“I came to free some children being held hostage,” this conversation intrigued Cameron, how much would she have been told about him, he’d received little regarding her. “You wouldn’t happen to know where they are being kept?”
“I doubt you need even ask that question, we both know what motives lie in the hearts of men,” a truer statement had never been said, but the elderly lady said it nonetheless.
“A church,” surmised Cameron, his original inclination bearing up under scrutiny.
“Indeed,” nodded the lady in agreement. “Before I forget, I have something for you,” waving her arm an attendant brought forward a parcel. “It’s a prophet’s cloak, with it - people will see you as a holy man, so no one will question you.”
“I don’t think I can wear it,” wavered Cameron at the implication such a garment represented. Sure, the rough-sewn camel hair looked itchy, but more importantly, it was a symbol - a token of a position Cameron didn’t feel entitled to.
“You aren’t a Truth Speaker, are you?” Gleaned the lady from his hesitance to accept the garment. “What role do you play?”
“A spy, I’m only to observe - and stir the pot as needed,” her question was enlightening, Cameron pondered how many spies there were and where they were, for that matter how many Truth Speakers were out there? Maybe his mentor knew; if he would divulge such information.
“I’ve never met a spy before, although you do look like a young James Bond,” the lady smirked while teasing the boy.
“The first rule of spying is not looking like you're a spy,” proclaimed Cameron.
“Then consider the prophet’s cloak as another disguise. Just like those glasses you wear to hide your eyes behind, this cloak will grant you passage through the City,” she could see right through Cameron’s doubts.
“Okay, thank you,” bowing his head in gratitude.
“There is more,” informed the woman, beckoning him to move a little closer. “My gift allows me to speak a person’s truth.”
“I don’t understand,” said a baffled Cameron.
“You will. I need to hold your hands.” She gently took Cameron’s hands in hers and held them for a moment.
“Alright,” was Cameron’s response, uncertain if he was ready or not for what she might say.
“Hmmm. You needn’t be afraid of loving others,” she spoke softly, like it was a secret.
Cameron sat unmoving, as if in shock, he’d kept that notion buried deep. He stayed stationary for a long time, his thoughts running wild until his eyes couldn’t hold back the floodgates and tears began to track down his cheeks.
“I’m cursed, or damned, or worse. Everyone whom I’ve ever loved - really deeply completely loved, all my family, they're all dead. I can’t let people get close to me, not like that, never again.” The boy’s heart rent in two from saying the words aloud.
“It isn’t true. You didn’t cause anyone’s death,” the Truth Speaker empathized.
“Then, why?” Begged Cameron at the question he'd carried around ever since the accident stole her family.
“Perhaps you feel they needed to be sacrificed? The price to pay for you to be of service to the Creator. If that’s the case, do you place the blame on God for their deaths?” Revealed the woman about the reasonings in Cameron’s heart.
“No.” Cameron’s response lacked true conviction, he was on virgin territory emotionally, he didn’t feel prepared to deal with the loss yet, there was too much pain attached. However, it was wrong to imagine God took her family, it had been an accident - a terrible damned accident that destroyed all she held dear. With nothing left to live for, Cameron had given herself to do God’s will, that’s when Grace showed up and promised her that she’d be okay.
“Good, because God doesn’t work that way, he doesn’t ask such sacrifices of us. Our service shouldn’t be given begrudgingly, nor from compulsion or what we might gain. Foremost, God lets us retain our free will in all things, and we can be blessed to lead long - fulfilling - happy lives. Look at me, I’ve been at this for over sixty years.”
“Did you marry?” It just popped up - coming out of Cameron’s mouth without thinking, some might call it a Freudian slip.
“Yes, twice as a matter of fact. But I feel your concern has more to do with opening your heart up and actually trusting somebody.”
“I don’t feel I can trust anyone, I don’t know how, not when you can’t depend on people.”
“That’s the whole point! You give of yourself despite the other person’s faults and failings. It requires forgiveness, and long-suffering - it’s the cost of caring and sharing, but love - real love is worth any price. Remember, nobody’s perfect, not yet, so you need to make allowances for yourself and others.”
“I don’t know if I can. I’m not ready,” moaned a grieved Cameron.
“With maturity comes a better relationship with yourself. It’ll come, in time, you’re still young,” was said as she patted the back of his one hand in consolation.
“Until then?” Cameron raised his eyes to look directly at the lady, her smile widened at having touched his heart.
“Don’t put too high an expectation upon yourself and those close to you,” she advised, grandmotherly counsel always sounded so sweet.
“That’s all we can do, give our best, let God bless the effort we show.”
“Thank you. It’s very kind of you.”
“It was your truth. I’m glad I could help.”
“What may I do for you?” Cameron felt obliged to give something in return.
“I have a simple life, with few needs or wants.”
“Your staff looks a might worn, perhaps I could provide you with a new one?”
“I can always find another stick to lean on.”
“Then please, let me give you one,” Cameron manufactured a staff from his energy-absorbing material, roughly the same length as her old one, and handed it to her.
“This isn’t wood,” she observed hefting the staff up.
“No, it has special properties, it absorbs energy and retains it like a battery. Black is empty - white is full. I’ve made it so one end draws in, the other pushes out. You can stun or daze accordingly by touching someone with it.”
Looking admiringly at her staff the woman provided more detail: “Inside the city, look for an empty riverbed, follow the well-worn trail in the river bottom until the fifth bridge, the building you seek is built on the riverbank.”
As a parting gesture of goodwill from the Truth Speaker, a thoroughly abused old motorbike was gifted to Cameron. The bike ran, just barely, Cameron could have attempted a restoration, but it might have defeated the whole purpose of not drawing attention to himself. It was a good thing her brother James had a little dirt bike back home so Cameron knew how to drive it - sort of.
It was still dark out in the early morning hours, the few people he came across had been fleeing the City with whatever conveyance they could muster. Upon seeing his cloak they bowed in reverence - taking delight in receiving a gesture to proceed with haste.
The beat-up old motorbike got Cameron to his destination, his cloak flapping in the wind, or so he imagined. It was difficult to keep his vision narrowed down to permit driving, it required going slowly, still, Cameron hit every pothole, bump, and rut along the way, it was like he aimed for them on purpose - which he hadn’t. Stopping under the fifth bridge, he was torn at leaving the bike behind, but decided to tuck it into Warehouse, he might need it again.
The fifth bridge spanned the dry river bed, well it would have, if somebody hadn’t blown the middle section up leaving a massive gap, evidence that the coup wasn’t all that popular. In the distance flashes of light and the sound of gunfire punctuated the night’s stillness. It was eerie to walk into the centre of a centuries-old civilization, and witness it crumbling from within, eroded by conflict. Climbing up the river’s embankment, Cameron exited onto an almost entirely deserted street.
The religious edifice before him was massive, the structure was comprised of multiple buildings supporting tall spires standing overtop open-air gathering spaces, the dominating feature was a huge bowl-like amphitheatre that allowed seating almost the entire way around. The space was built to maximize acoustics, so that all present could see and hear what transpired on the central raised platform.
The place of worship was closed up tight, all nice and secure behind a high fence - with few gates, there was little activity going on inside at this hour, with guards protecting each gate. Cameron counted fifty men within, some walking patrols, others engaged in meetings, most rested in rooms with blankets spread out on the floor.
For his disguise to be convincing, he fashioned a staff for himself to look the part. He didn’t wish to sully the prophetess’ name, but he walked with a stoop to mimic her movements. Cameron wandered around the perimeter of the huge complex to get a good look inside. It had a confusing underground, tunnels going every which way, creating a maze which needed much study to make sense of the warren.
In a deep section - almost dead center, and under heavy guard, he found what he suspected, a cluster of children sealed up in a room. The extraction team hadn’t succeeded, too bad, it left the onus upon Cameron to free them. The prison room held no conveniences like running water, just a couple of chamber pots set down leaving no privacy. All told he counted eighteen present, ranging from kindergarten age to pubescent teens, that would have been good intel to have been provided in the first place.
It soon became apparent that there would be no easy escape route, every possible exit would require passing guards down in that rats’ nest. ‘If you build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door.’ He wasn’t certain who had told him that nugget, maybe Ray, anyway - the lesson he’d taken was that you can succeed at nearly anything, if you put your mind to it, at least that’s what Cameron got from it.
Cameron mentally ran potential scenarios, trying different approaches and routes to take. When an idea held merit, something would prevent that possibility - like a sentry patrol, or guard post, or a dead-end tunnel. Getting himself in wasn’t the problem so much, it was making sure the kids got out safely that made it challenging.
This church was a beast, and the children were in the belly of it; physically and metaphorically.
Outlook took heart from knowing that: if it was easy, they could have sent anyone. Yay me!
Yes, getting the kids out - all the kids, was going to be tough. He couldn’t just go in, ask for the Canadians, then go, leaving the rest behind. No. That wasn’t even remotely an option, if you rescue one - you rescue them all. But once out, then what? He needed to find a means to aid in making the escape a success: some transportation.
Outlook scanned the church’s surroundings, at one time it would have been a prosperous neighbourhood, but now it was in shambles. The buildings nearby were ravaged by fighting, resulting in collapsed walls and burned-out structures, destroyed lives left desolate and barren by a violent bid to seize power.
If he was to find anything, he’d need to head to another part of town. The sun would rise soon, the sky had brightened, it only felt like midday to Cameron, which is likely what it was back home. He’d never experienced jet-`lag before, cause, well, it required flying. Was teleporter-`lag a thing? He’d have to ask.
Cameron’s feet complained about more walking, he debated bringing the busted-up old motorbike out from Warehouse, but decided it might draw more attention than he wanted to deal with. The thing about being in disguise was to not be noticed, so walking it was.
A common thread shared between equatorial communities is that the busiest time of day is the mornings, before the heat becomes intolerable. That wasn’t the case here, not that Cameron had noticed, the streets remained empty, hardly a soul left the safety of their homes. Cameron came upon an area that showed evidence of being a market square, wooden stalls stood empty, void of wares and abandoned by the vendors who’d hawk goods and services.
The buildings here showed little sign of the ongoing conflict, still, windows and doors were tightly closed. Now and again a curious face would look out at the disguised boy, clad in his camel hair prophet’s cloak, only to have the people within hide away in case he noticed them.
In the market’s courtyard stood a large water fountain, a simple basin with a standpipe. However the fountain was bone dry, from the standpipe came a single drip every couple of seconds, below the standpipe was stationed a bucket to catch the drips, it only held an inch worth of water, hardly even a mouthful all-told.
From out of his Reservoirs holdings Cameron brought forth enough water to fill the fountain’s basin, then from beneath the folds of his cloak, Cameron withdrew a tin cup - it had been in his Cupboard, but those watching didn’t know that. Cameron dipped his cup into the now overflowing fountain basin - drinking deeply with satisfaction, wiping his mouth on a sleeve.
It was as if a dam burst, people suddenly clamoured around him, bringing buckets and pots, anything that would hold water. Soon Cameron was squeezed out by the crowd in the mad rush to get at the water. Cameron didn’t blame them for their obsession to obtain life’s necessity, but a little gratitude or some simple courtesy would have been appreciated.
Turning away from the bustle, Cameron chose a new direction and headed off. He approached a street, no different from any of the others at this civic hub, but his way was blocked by a young boy holding a pail in one hand and the rope lead for a donkey in the other. As Cameron tried to walk around the obstruction, the boy would sidestep preventing his departure, this happened thrice before Cameron stopped trying.
Cameron looked at the boy closely, young, maybe nine or ten, big brown eyes that never looked away. Cameron reached out his hand to which the boy didn’t react, Cameron gestured with his hand to pass it to him.
The boy was confused, holding up both the donkey’s rope and the pail. Cameron took the pail and filled it to the brim with water, setting it down for the donkey to drink. Outlook then withdrew his canteen from his belt, handing it to the young boy. The boy’s reach was unsteady at first, but he raised the canteen up and pulled a long drink from it, after which he briefly came up for air, he took another long drink before returning the empty container.
The donkey had drained his pail so Cameron refilled it, giving the animal’s neck a stroke which loosed dust and a few flies. Once satiated the donkey gave a snort and stamped a foot upon the cobblestones. Perhaps a cue between the two, but the boy grabbed Cameron’s hand and began to drag him along, the boy walked backwards at first, tugging to ensure Cameron came along, soon, since Cameron hadn’t objected, the boy walked beside Cameron but never did the boy let go of Cameron’s hand.
As they walked, occasionally the donkey bumped into Cameron, the first time it happened Cameron nearly lost his balance, for such a small critter it was solid as all get out, the boy gave out a restrained, but silent laugh, it was his unrelenting grip that helped keep Cameron upright. The second donkey bump wasn’t as severe, but made Cameron misstep slightly, the third time followed, and this time, Cameron was ready for and pushed back against the rub.
By this time the hand grip had changed from a pulling affair to a friendly gesture with some swing in it. The distance travelled had been many city blocks after which the boy halted, offering by gestures for Cameron to ride on the donkey. Instead, Cameron picked the boy up and set him upon the donkey’s back, the hand holding resumed as they continued along, as did an occasional donkey bump, it had become a game.
The donkey stopped at a gate in a stone wall, at which the boy swung his feet off the animal’s back, opening the gate. The donkey was put into a pen, at which Cameron filled the water trough and placed some vegetables from Storage into his feed bin. The food became the donkey’s sole focus as the boy brought Cameron into the house.
The activity within the house came to a sudden stop when a stranger entered, Cameron bowed deeply with arms outstretched, little of his person could be seen beneath the camel cloak’s folds.
“Prophetess, you honour our humble home,” was offered by a man who stood as a wall in front of his family.
What struck Cameron most was the greeting being said in English, not the common tongue. “You’ve already deduced that I’m not her.”
“In truth, I couldn’t be sure. She was leaving yesterday,” the man admitted, gathering the young boy into a one-handed hold near to his body. Cameron couldn’t fail to notice he only had one hand: his left, he had no right hand.
“I met her on the road, she lent me this cloak,” confessed Cameron, giving the borrowed garment a flourish.
“We meant to evacuate the city with her, but during the unrest, my vehicle was damaged, so we couldn’t leave.” The man was deeply troubled by his admission, his heart was heavy due to the situation that endangered his family.
If precognition wasn’t a hard enough pill to swallow, to put this encounter down as coincidence defied reason, all you can do is roll with the punches ‘cause they’re just gonna keep coming. Cameron had learned that lesson already, how the plans of men might fall apart in mere seconds, but the grand scheme always finds a way.
“How many people could you take, if your vehicle ran?”
“I’m a bus driver, I have … had my own bus. I could carry up to eighty people on busy days, but it only has fifty seats. But it’s pointless, it’s damaged beyond repair. We’ve looked for another way to flee, but with the war - you can’t even get fuel.”
“Say for a moment your bus could run, and we had fuel. Would you be willing to help me take somewhere around twenty people to safety?”
“Twenty! So many, you are alone. Who - where are they?”
“Children, being held captive.”
“Ahy - yihy, the Brotherhood no doubt.”
“You know them?”
“It was they who took my hand, just over two years ago now. I was a teacher before … before the brotherhood changed from a peaceable faith, to embracing fear and hatred. I spoke out against them, it cost me my hand. Now, without my right hand, I am ostracized, I must wear a false hand when I drive or else nobody would ride my bus.”
“It has that much significance?”
“In my society, the right hand is only used for honourable purposes: eating, greeting, and giving your bond. Without it, I am seen as dishonourable and an outcast.”
“I’m sorry, that’s horrible.”
“You can see why I wish to leave, under the Brotherhood, it is no life for my family.”
“My name is Cameron.”
“I am Ahmed, and my son - also Ahmed.”
“Does he speak?”
“No, he used to. But he has become withdrawn ever since the Brotherhood’s campaign of terror began and won’t talk anymore.”
“I’m doubly sorry, he brought me here, he was insistent.”
Little Ahmed made the universal indication of putting food into one’s mouth.
“Do you need food?” Clued in Cameron.
“There’s no food in the city, supplies ran out days ago. We had some staples set aside for the trip, but with so many mouths, we have nothing left.”
“How many are you caring for?” There was a large number of people watching them, peeking around corners, curious but cautious of the stranger.
“My family is large, with my wife’s parents, our aunts, uncles, and cousins. All told, we are thirty-three under this roof, we gathered here to leave with the Prophetess, but …” Ahmed shrugged his shoulders, a gesture that belied the futility of the situation he faced.
“You got trapped,” an easy enough conclusion to deduce. “Perhaps we can assist each other, I am in need of a ride out of the city, you have a vehicle capable of carrying us all - but it requires repairs. Are you willing to help me in exchange?”
“I believed the Prophetess, I extend that belief to you.” Ahmed held out his left hand - Cameron gladly took it and they shook in agreement.
“Thank you. First up, let’s see about some food for your family, then we can take a look at your bus.”
The bus was very colourfully painted, Ahmed explained that it helped passengers determine which one to catch, instead of relying on numbers or scheduled routes. At a glance, the obvious issues were that on one side the rear tires had been burned up, a large scorch mark told of a fire engulfing the busses rear, resulting in the set of rear rubber having been completely consumed with only the burnt rims remaining. Bullet holes riddled that side of the bus, leaving most of those windows broken with shattered glass strewn everywhere.
From appearances, the engine looked to be in working order, good thing, Cameron didn’t have a decent knowledge of mechanical systems to attempt rebuilding it. Perhaps that was a course he should take at Whateley.
He undertook the obvious repairs, like the damaged radiator which had leaked all its fluids, the twisted front bumper and smashed windshield. He had plenty of rubber held in Warehouse from his visits to landfills, it required forming tires to match those on the other side, then mounting them upon the existing rims.
He replenished the charge within the bus’s batteries and ensured the electrical system was intact. After repairing the bullet holes in the gas tank, Cameron filled it with fuel - another resource he’d acquired from the train wreck. Wanting to keep the bus discrete, he didn’t renew the burnt area, instead, he just put a primer coat on to cover it, besides he couldn’t match the colour scheme. Outlook closed up all the bullet holes, but left them looking as though the metal was still damaged.
The bus’s insides were in complete disarray, what seats remained were either burned, dismembered, or torn up beyond recognition, its deplorable condition saddened Ahmed who’d taken pride in his family’s conveyance. After making the bus interior presentable, much like his Mom’s school bus had been, he received approval from Ahmed.
Lynn sat in the hotel room’s chair with her legs tucked up underneath her, although the TV was on she wasn’t watching it, it provided background noise as she searched for some indicator of Cameron. She’d been at it for a day now and was worse for wear.
Rhododendron volunteered to find them some ice cream, and had left Lynn alone in the room, not Rho’s first choice, but she would have done anything to cheer the demoralized girl up. Lynn had sunken into a depression that had sucked the life out of her former vibrant self.
The day’s shopping had been called off in favour of bringing Lynn back to her healthy - hearty self. None of her friends would come right out and call what had happened as fainting, doing so put them at risk of having a snarling snout with exposed fangs … but these friends had already learned she was a pussycat at heart, the gruff exterior hid a tenderness that the Were girl stowed away deep down.
Friendship broke down barriers, even the ones Lynn had built up from necessity. Cameron was a bad influence, or perhaps the best kind … Lynn was in such turmoil she couldn’t have told you which it was. She was worried, and that was something new for her, Precognition excluded fretting over the unknown.
She jumped, almost out of her skin. Nobody should be able to sneak up on the heightened senses of a Werecat, it had happened only once before.
“Please pardon my unannounced entrance.”
Lynn spun round to see a man standing just inside the room’s locked doorway. “How…?” Lynn caught herself before saying the wrong thing, exposing her true nature. “Who are you?”
“We met before, we share a common interest in young Cameron.”
“You’re Cameron’s …” clued in Lynn, she should have known - but if Cameron wasn’t here; Oh No!
“Yes, let’s leave it at that. I have come to make you aware of recent events.”
“Is Cameron alright?” Sought Lynn near to hysteria.
“I haven’t the context to convey ‘all-right’. He sustained life-endangering injuries but has been rejuvenated, does this satisfy the question?”
“I can’t see him,” bemoaned Lynn.
“Yes, about that. Cameron’s mission has become critical, extra measures have been taken for his safety. It included placing a block around him to prevent foreign interference.”
“But, why? I can’t see him at all, it’s like he doesn’t exist,” described Lynn about the empty feeling she was experiencing.
“An unfortunate occurrence, but necessary for his continued protection.”
“Is he in danger?” The girl’s curiosity was piqued.
“Yes, he is. I came to tell you this because the two of you have developed feelings for each other. Your distress speaks to that growing bond, you deserve to know.”
“I don’t understand, what do you need Cameron for?”
“For any matter to be established effectively four things must happen before a resolution is undertaken: a warning is given to avoid escalation, irrefutable proof is collected of wrongdoing, a judgement is rendered by reviewing all evidence, then that judgement is enacted. Cameron’s role is to collect proof, he is an observer - a spy if you prefer, his task is to uncover truth.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t express myself very well,” corrected Lynn. “You’ve answered a concern of mine thou. But, why did Cameron have to go so far away?”
“A valid question. Cameron’s dealings with the Were’s fight against the corrupting effects of the dark Blade makes him the best suited to face the current situation’s potential difficulties.”
“Are the Bastard’s forces making another stand? Is that what Cameron’s up against? All alone?” Lynn was becoming frantic at the very thought of what another attack could mean.
“Do you know the history behind the Blade?”
“No. Only that it would overwhelm an infected Were, make them do terrible things.”
“Ages ago, a collective of queens sought to subjugate the world by wielding unlimited power. Three artifacts were commissioned: the mind Amulet, the body Blade, and the heart Bracelet. With these three tokens, a person could be controlled entirely. The enslaved Artificer died while making them due to the absolute evil these objects represented. Only two were ever finished, the Amulet and the Blade.”
“The Bastard has the Blade, what became of the Amulet?”
“It was used to unleash a war that threatened to consume the entire globe. It resulted in the Cleansing, the removal of all traces of that evil, at that the Amulet was destroyed.”
“How about the Blade?”
“The Bastard stole it from the queens, and used it to build an army for himself prior to the Cleansing, and now again he attempts to wield its corrupting influence.”
“Indeed. It was fortuitous that you and Cameron halted the dark’s most recent advance, but the thirst for power cannot be satiated, he will undoubtedly push forward again.”
“So, if it isn’t the Bastard. Why is Cameron at risk?” Puzzled the Precog at the mystery.
“That needs to be seen, evidence must be collected.”
“That explains his eyes, he’s like a camera, all he has to do is watch,” gleaned Lynn deducing something that had nagged at her. “But, how come you need him in the first place?”
“Because man buries truth under many layers of lies. Men will even resort to murder to prevent getting exposed. But man will act without restraint if nobody’s watching.”
“Okay, so why Cameron?” Curiosity can be deadly if left unchecked, and unfulfilled. It was Lynn’s greatest fault.
“Cameron volunteered, rare for one so young to be so selfless. There is a strong desire to help and much love in that one’s heart, as you have seen.”
“Will he come back?” It was asked in hope, desire, and desperation by Lynn, she was coming undone.
“It is not my place to decide. While it’s true Cameron has an assignment to fulfill at Whateley Academy, with his youth making him ideal to attend and not draw attention, another could be arranged to take his place, but it is not preferred.”
“So he’s important to you,” assessed Lynn of the motivations at play.
“It is his exercise of freewill in helping others that makes him important - to man, even if man doesn’t recognize it.”
“Will you protect him?” Sought Lynn, press any advantage, it’s how battles are won - according to Ella.
“You mistake my role, I am not a guardian, only a teacher and guide. Your questions reveal the depth of fondness you have for Cameron, let the answers provided soothe your mind and build within you faith and trust. Farewell Lynn Franklin, till we meet again.”
Cameron was drowsy - again, the side effect of matter manipulation he’d discovered. The energy transfer left a toll on his body much like running a marathon might, plus he hadn’t shaken his overall fatigue since arriving. So Cameron laid down in a quiet corner of Ahmed’s house and slept.
When he awoke, Cameron noticed the number of people in the house had grown. Nothing spreads faster in dire times than good news - although bad news spreads like gangrene, so maybe not a worthwhile analogy.
Regardless, Cameron had work to do. Finding Ahmed directing the loading of supplies onto the bus, they sat to plan what came next. Bossman Ray was a firm believer in ‘knowing your enemy’, the more you knew the better equipped you were to deal with surprises, plus, it was his job to uncover truth. So recognizance of the church was a priority, if anything, he needed to find a way to rescue the children being held hostage.
Ahmed explained that he couldn’t go, not without a right hand, without it he couldn’t enter the church. As an outcast, he was banished from much of society, so it puzzled Cameron how he could drive a bus and not offend the passengers. Ahmed showed Cameron his prosthetic hand, a plaster fake, a poor copy but it gave Cameron an idea.
Ahmed explained further that it was his uncle who gathered the bus fare, it had been his bus to begin with but the man’s eyesight was failing, so both he and Ahmed worked together. Meeting Akbar: Ahmed’s uncle, set the wheels in motion for Cameron.
Cameron asked Akbar if he could borrow his face, he made a latex copy - mimicking the facial hair, bald head and features, further he added whited-out eyes much like the man’s cataracts had done - but more to hide his own golden glow. Donning some of Akbar’s clothes Cameron looked the part.
Cameron put a cast over the top of Ahmed’s prosthetic right hand and fashioned a sling for him to wear. Satisfied with the subterfuge, they set off with a measure of trepidation. Cameron manifested his motorbike with Ahmed letting the boy drive - a mistake. Ahmed commented that Cameron was easily the worst driver he’d ever seen, how he didn’t crash and kill them both was a miracle.
After many a frayed nerve, they arrived at the religious edifice. What a difference a day makes, the site was awash with people, everyone clamouring to enter, something big was going down. The rush of people seeking entrance allowed Cameron and Ahmed to blend in, but leaving would be a chore, especially with a bunch of children in tow.
At the gate, they were stopped by a guard asking to see their right hands. Being blind wasn’t a crime so little attention was paid to Cameron’s disguise, with only Ahmed’s fingertips exposed Cameron could quickly alter the man’s false fingers to point - or curl, it was enough to convince the guard and they were let in.
Inside it was a massive gathering, Ahmed described the goings on, as he might have done for his blind uncle, but he translated for Cameron. It seems the Brotherhood claimed victory, having won the coup, the faithful had been called to revel in the win, and begin the next step in their grand scheme.
The focal point of the assembly was a huge amphitheatre, a quick scan said two and half thousand were present. Cameron and Ahmed stood near the back to avoid detection. Down on the raised platform were thirteen men who had formed a circle, when a gong rang the men sat in seats facing the crowd. One of the thirteen - the designated speaker stood, calling the gathering to quiet, once settled he motioned for guards to bring out prisoners.
Three men were brought onto the stage, stripped down to their pants, with sacks covering their heads. The raw skin on these men’s upper torsos spoke of torture, they were pushed forward to then be chained to rings set into the floor. The beaten men faced the audience, allowing Cameron to get a good look at them: Boot and Git, he didn’t know the third man.
The speaker commenced: “We present to you the infidels who attacked our lands without provocation, people from afar whose despicable nations deride our beliefs and seek our defeat. For this reason, we have declared war upon those nations: Canada, and the so-called Great Briton. They sought to slap us in the face, deny us our rights - ignore our might. But we bested them, we caught these invaders in the act of espionage.”
Letting his words soak in, the speaker paused, to then firmly announce: “So it shall be Brothers, just as we’ve bested those who’ve stood against us these last weeks, we shall prevail against any who deny the superiority of the Shard’s might.”
Cameron asked Ahmed to clarify that last statement - the shard? What the heck is that?
The speaker moved to stand between two of the chained captives and pointed accusingly at them: “These foolish Canadians sought to desecrate our holy temple, rob us, and dishonour the Brotherhood.”
The speaker relished in the show, and his audience lapped it up: “Death is what they deserve, representatives of a desolate and frozen wasteland - devoid of dignity, worst of all - lovers of forsaken mutants.”
Cameron only knew of the army’s extraction team to free the hostages, had something else transpired, or had everything gone entirely wrong? Git and Boot looked to be scapegoats offered up on an alter to a bigger issue.
The speaker drew in his noose to capture his audience’s full attention: “They threw down the gauntlet, slapped our faces, if Canada wants war - war it is. The Shard prevails - always! None can stand against us! Nothing in heaven or on earth can defeat us - we who've been blessed by God and bear the Shard's gifts.”
Again with the Shard! It perplexed Cameron, it made no sense. What gifts? He layered his sight, checking over the men standing nearby. Physically there was nothing untoward to speak of about them, heightened adrenaline was odd but not all that unusual.
Adjusting his vision to read energy signatures his sight revealed nothing, they were men, nothing more. Granted, they didn’t act like normal people, more like agitated - aggressive - unhinged mad-men, but there was no underlying cause. Of course, Cameron couldn’t look inside a person, not like a Psychic or Empath to see emotions or thoughts.
The speaker quelled the audience’s uproar by holding up his arms, “You ask, how can we defeat a whole nation? I’ll show you how easy it will be! Bring them out!”
From the sidelines another three men were shown onto the platform, these were not in chains, nor had they been beaten, rather they were being paraded before the crowd in a glorious triumphant procession.
“I present you proof positive that our enemies will fall at our very feet, no power will be found in their hands.” Rallied the speaker holding his fisted right arm high to signify the might readily at their disposal: “Three of Canada’s own, soldiers who’ve seen the righteousness of our cause.”
The mass of gathered men, almost as one, gave off a delighted ‘whoop’.
“Step forward Eric Bartlett and state your worth.”
Cameron watched as Chuck / Eric from Edmonton, approached the speaker to be handed a microphone, everyone listening intently for the promised evidence that their cause was well founded.
“My name is Eric, I was born and raised in Canada, but I have sworn to follow the Brotherhood of the Shard, my heart is joined with yours.”
“What makes you worthy of the gift?”
“For three generations my family have been active members of Humanity First - fighting against the scourge that mutants and their supporters bring. I am a chapter leader in my community and have given chase to known mutants, beating them and those who would hide them. I have personally aided in killing a mutant, hanging them. I was the one who informed the Brotherhood of Canada’s betrayal, and told you where to find these two cowards, with the Lieutenant’s blessing.”
“Tell me, Eric of Canada, is Humanity First prevalent in Canada? Will they align themselves to the Brotherhood?”
“Humanity First is a grassroots organization, every town and village has adherents sworn to preserving man’s inherent dominance. All it needs, all we ask for, is a reason to rise up, a cause to get behind. Once people back home hear what you have to offer - see the Shard’s power, and your intolerance of mutants, they will flock to your door.”
“We welcome you Eric. Now, I call forward Wayne Meikle, what makes you think you’re worthy?”
“I am Wayne Meikle, a sergeant in Canada’s Armed Forces. As a child I was a juvenile delinquent - instead of prison, I was sent to military school, where my violent behaviour was put to good use. As a soldier I’m expected to kill, having done so many times - not always in combat, and received honours for doing it. I am a pagan, each Halloween I light a candle to mourn the Nephilim. Recently, I rigged a parachute so it wouldn’t open, thereby killing a mutant.”
“Excellent, you’ll do nicely. Now I call forth Gary Tarnowski, What makes you worthy of the Shard’s blessing?”
“I am a lieutenant in Canada’s elite forces, I know of many others who also detest mutants within the ranks. Throughout my life, I have been a bully, tormenting society’s misfits. I, together with my brother Trevor: an MCO agent, captured and tortured three mutants. We killed two of them and mutilated the third. With Sergeant Meikle’s help, I killed another mutant by pushing him out of an airplane.”
“You all are worthy of bearing the Shard’s blessing. We welcome three new adherents, let the ceremony commence.”
A cloth-covered box on a wheeled stand was brought onto the platform, followed by an ornately dressed priest. When the box’s lid was opened, it astonished Cameron how all light was dimmed around the opening, in his sight, energy was pulled in like a magnet grabbing nearby metal.
The priest dipped a broad-tipped pen inside the box, Cameron wasn’t able to see into the box, whatever it was - plus the box itself, was made from something impossible to look through. When the priest withdrew the pen, its tip was pitch black, acting like a black hole drawing light into itself, to Cameron: it defied analysis. It was revolting and made him nauseous to be close to, yet a barrier prevented the energy drain from affecting Cameron.
Each of the three men rolled up their sleeves, exposing their right biceps. The Priest in a display of pomp drew identical symbols upon each man, they looking like small case t tattoos.
On the exterior, the tattoos looked very much like a normal inking. Inside was a different story, darkness crept along the veins and arteries towards the heart, where it began to wrap around the pump’s muscles. It may only be a figurative expression that a person’s heart is the seat of emotion, whether it be true or not, these men’s hearts had been corrupted. They smiled wickedly, like they’d been granted insight into a great secret.
Scanning the audience around him, Cameron noticed that nearly everyone present had an identical tattoo, it had no significance before so it hadn’t meant anything to him. Delving deeper, Cameron noticed how the ‘ink’ wormed its way into the men’s hearts, embedding itself into the flesh.
No matter how hard Cameron tried to see with his eyes, whichever layering he chose, he couldn’t find what he sought. That corrupting cancer-like infection - that black filth that consumed Were’s upon contact. Cameron was certain he’d find something similar, a cancerous growth imparting some kind of dark hue, there was nothing of the sort, only the initial tattoo inking.
After the darkness had taken hold within the three soldiers on stage, they all stood with arms stretched outward, fists clenched tight, all in attendance followed harmoniously in suit. It was a stance of defiance, a stance of might, a display of unbridled power, a unified brotherhood - hence the imagery imparted by the t tattoo.
The gathered throng erupted into applause and cheered loudly as this new chapter unfolded before them; world conquest was within their grasp, a powerful right hand with which to rule mankind. After the ceremony was concluded, the priest and the box left center stage to then stand back, yielding to let the speaker continue. Cameron reeled at the revelation, dumbfounded at the perversity and utter disregard of how this religious whitewash entirely obscured the sanctity of life.
How dare they paint God as cruel and spiteful! How could they be so stupid!
His mentor’s lesson snuck into the back of his mind: the account of the Amulet and the Blade. An Artificer died in the process of making them, how that using the Amulet led to unleashing the Cleansing. Did these crackpots somehow get their hands on the Amulet? No, it had been destroyed according to his mentor. The blade? No, it always twisted any human body it touched - killing them almost immediately, it was a horrendous death too. So what is this Shard?
If Cameron remembered the story correctly, after the enslaved Artificer died from the strain of making the body Blade and mind Amulet, there was some material left over, it looked like nothing more than a lump of coal, what remained to make the third artifact - the heart Bracelet. Unlimited power over someone comes from controlling the mind, the body, and the heart. This was bad on so many levels, the heart of men was being defiled.
The Speaker called for silence once more, ending Cameron’s memory trip.
“Before your final acceptance into the Brotherhood of the Shard, we require a small demonstration of your loyalty. Bring them out!”
Surrounded by armed guards, a huddled cluster of children entered, hands bound with heads covered by sacks. It was the captured school kids, all eighteen of them. The children were pushed out into the platform’s center and shoved to the ground, so they might cower on their knees before their superiors.
In expectation the crowd went into a hush of anticipation, knowing what entertainment the spectacle offered.
The scared group of children panicked when three of the youngest among them were forcibly grabbed and dragged away from their midst, these were brought forward to then be held in place below looming guards.
Cameron was aghast, he looked about trying to figure out how to stop this travesty. He and Ahmed were thirty rows away from the platform having chosen to stay distant, worse yet was that the closest aisle was quite a distance away. As a quick estimate he put at least a hundred men between him and the stage. More than he’d ever tried to subdue at one time, even so, how to overcome a swarm of thousands? His intervention would undoubtedly incite the entire gathering against him.
Each of the three men on stage was handed wicked-looking curved knives, with Lieutenant Tarnowski ushered forward first, he stood behind one of the hooded children, the smallest of the group. The mask was taken off to reveal a sweet little blonde-haired girl, she had pretty blue eyes but the terror in them tore into Cameron’s very fabric, he sobbed audibly.
In a swift, merciless move, Tarnowski without hesitation cut across her throat, blood splattered out coating the stage and soaked through her dress. She slumped to the ground in a puddle of her own blood.
The amassed men went into a frenzy, the gore of the blood-letting drove them wild with ecstasy.
Then all hell broke loose.
Cameron allowed the energy stored in his battery to surge, every hair on his body stood on end as the static charge built up exponentially in mere milliseconds. Outlook grabbed Ahmed, pulling him into the boy’s arms, ensuring Ahmed’s eyes were covered, he told him: “Don't look, on your life - keep your eyes closed.”
Suddenly, the entire assembly was bathed in a brilliant golden light that seared any eyes that looked upon it, staring at the sun was merciful in comparison. From within the blinding light came a booming voice as unmistakable as thunder:
End Part 2