Chapter 2: City FallA Chapter by Haeshin
Normal people needed drawn crests and symbols in order to use magic. 'Magus' were the few that needed no such thing; they were born with the ability to cast magic and needed no chanting or drawing of pictures to do it.
Magus had been more common in the days when gleaming citadels hovered above the clouds, back when they were needed more than anyone. It was that special energy called magic which had kept whole nations afloat. Then all it took was one war to bring the cities crashing down. In a worldwide event known as the Fall, the cities of the Sky Era fell one after another. Upon impact the collective explosions sent fire billowing across the surface of this planet, searing everything that lived until there was only bare rock left.
What had it looked like before then? It had been so long ago, people couldn't remember. They had to rely on pictures and stories drawn from imagination to know, and did they best to decorate the cities with as many plants as possible. If the real thing couldn't be revived, then they might as well settle for an illusion.
Jay had no idea how that information had gotten into his brain. He had spent who-knows-how-long desperately and then furiously fighting for his life against Alden Weiss. That stupid witch's hat which Alden wore featured prominently in his jumbled memories.
Mostly Jay remembered searing daylight and yellow desert rock. Blue-white explosions ripping apart his golden-red spells, various parts of his body slamming into a hard surface, earth breaking, rock shattering, a glowing crystal flying into his face, pain exploding from the inside-out, the internal struggle to get over his disbelief of magic because it was the one thing he could use to protect himself. He had to learn it fast! Right at that instant! No waiting, no resting, no time to form a conscious thought, obey the slightest instinct and move!
After standing next to Alden for more than thirty seconds without violence, Jay's fingers twitched in the overwhelming anticipation of an attack. At any time the pain and blind racing terror could come.
“ So go up there and find me a job,” Alden was saying. Jay slowly looked at him, then up the length of the massive support pillar that seemed to stretch on into the sky. Caked with a layer of yellow-white dust, the pillar gradually turned gray the higher it went. Big as it was, Jay felt a ripple of uncertainty that a number of these things could hold up an entire city. He was so sure that it could come toppling down in a catastrophic scene at any given moment.
“ A job,” he said flatly.
“ That's right. A job,” Alden repeated. “ Go find the local Horus office and ask for Guy Gulliard. He'll probably in Raides, actually, but they'll patch you on through.”
“ ...What are you talking about?” said Jay. “ Horus?” He hadn't expected to hear an Egyptian god's name in this world, or something as mundane as a job.
“ It's a jack-of-all-trades company,” said Alden. “ They take on all kinds of jobs but mostly depend on delivering stuff to make their weekly paychecks. Just go in there, ask for Guy and say you're from me. They're short on Magus workers so they'll take you in with open arms.”
“ No they won't. They'll mob me or arrest me or kill me!”
“ You're being paranoid.”
“ I got mobbed my first night here!”
“ What did you expect? You ran into an anti-Magus rally.”
“ What is that, this world's version of white supremacists?”
“ White what?” said Alden.
“ Never mind....”
“ And don't forget. If you find a Keystone bring it to me.”
“ How the hell am I supposed to find a Keystone!”
“ Your body is made from one. Just sense it.”
Jay felt as though he'd been told to get down on all fours and sniff out the elusive hot dog, sending a spurt of violent rage shot through his body. If only he could let it explode! Who was Alden to boss him around and expect him to commit crimes just because he had been told to? Did the man think that he would obey his every word without question? The nerve! The sheer, utter, arrogant nerve!
But curiosity overrode the fury (and just in time, because Jay had never won a fight against Alden yet). What did cities in this world look like? Did they dress as strangely as Alden did, in fantasy-type robes and hats? What did a world look like if magic had always existed in its history? Alden had said that Magus were the minority, but in what way were they the minority? Smaller population numbers or the oppressed social class? Jay was eager to see these cities built so high above the ground, and he had the ability to go straight up and over the wall no matter how high it was. He had to try that out to prove it!
“ What'll you be doing?” he said suddenly. Alden shrugged and Jay felt a subtle shift of air, a pocket of it moving from one place to another. Because of that he knew Alden was gone before he saw the man's absence beside him.
That's right! Go ahead and disappear like the tooth fairy! Jay leaned his head back and swallowed nervously. From down there it was one straight lift to the top. Jay looked to the elevated highway to his right but couldn't see if there were any cars driving on it. He would have to go nice and careful....
Golden lines drew out a rose compass star and a double circle beneath Jay's feet. The faintest touches of white and blushing red swam through the slender cords that raised him up slowly at first. When Jay lost patience with himself the magic circle shot him up so hard he fell to his knees. He could see the growing distance from the ground through the space between the golden cords, where it was solid but invisible like glass. This was the most awful time to be a little scared of heights.
A thin wind began to blow once Jay reached the right height in the air. He kept one eye on the highway where traffic was rather thin and consisted mostly of large transport trucks, none of which, he hoped, spotted a human-shaped dot rising steadily along the city wall. It was a neat slab of weathered gray that encircled the entire area, and Jay depended on the strong sunlight to mess with people's eyesight if he was spotted. Transparent yellow light couldn't be that visible against that gray, but what about his clothes? Some white, faded blue, a dash of red...how much did they stand out to someone at the highway? He was paranoid about keeping his brilliant red-gold hair covered by a hood; if he happened to pass by anyone who had been at that place where he'd woken up.
Mobbed him. Cursed him. Attacked him. What for?
I didn't do anything!
Jay imagined barbed wires twisted along the top of the wall, but he found nothing besides windswept grime and blunt edges. Partly to test himself despite the hard thumping in his chest, Jay stepped off the magic circle and onto the top of the wall. The muscles in his feet clenched through the soles of his sneakers as he rooted himself down.
He was disappointed and thrilled at the same time. The city was made up of 'districts' that stood at different levels of height, with slender highway-streets flowing between them like the split branches of a river. But there the novelty ended, for the materials that made up the city looked like asphalt, glass, and concrete. The architecture was nothing unusual either, and Jay thought he was seeing the familiar skyscrapers of LA, a few of them glaring with company names mounted on top.
Maybe this wasn't a fantasy world after all. Maybe he was on an alternate version of Earth instead, a slightly different one where people got the maddened idea of building cities high above the ground. Jay bent his knees so that he was squatting on the wall, pulled down more by a sense of boredom than gravity. He felt his mind twitch and tremble as it was tempted towards madness. Only his pride kept him from going loose and start raving with insanity, because things were bad enough already. He was not going to spend the rest of his life remembering how he'd gone crazy!
But it was so hard to stay sane and so hard to make the effort and then keep it. A knot grew on the back of Jay's neck as his head started to bow, and he refused to go beyond a fraction of an inch. Jay was afraid that if he let himself fall too far he'd never be able to get back up again.
So move! Move! Jay pushed against his knees to stand. Looking far, far, far down, he swallowed against a lump of nausea and stepped off the wall. A solid second after he began to plummet the lump shoved itself back up his throat. He didn't understand how a weight could press on him from every side the faster and heavier he fell. Something about physics...?
Please. Does physics even exist in this world?
What was that? Somebody must have spotted him! Jay wrenched at his body and a magic circle abruptly slowed his descent, stopping him inches above a cobblestone spread. His eye caught an obscure shape barreling towards him and Jay shattered the magic circle by slamming his feet to the ground, anchoring himself for a counter-attack. At the last minute someone shouted “WHOA!” and tried to jerk in the opposite direction.
For half a second Jay was confused, and in the next half second he decided that he wasn't going to take any chances. He slammed the full force of a single fist into the person's face.
Wham! A body slapped hard against the side of a wall.
“ Gahh...! What the hell was that for!”
It sounded as though Jay was in the wrong, but that couldn't be right. Someone had been about to attack him!
“ Who the hell're...! You?” Jay's temper suddenly slipped down a sharp slope and took his voice with it. A blond, ordinary-looking teenager was trying to sit up while he had one hand to the injured part of his face, cringing with the pain that was slow to fade away. Jay immediately spotted the gun sheathed on one leg and went back into attack mode, ready to fight back.
“ What the hell is your problem!” Felix cried out. Good lordy, that hurt! He couldn't believe that the bone of his skull was intact. “ I thought you were falling to death, you idiot!”
“ You were the one coming at me!” Jay shouted back.
“ I thought I had to catch you or something! You know, 'cause you were falling?”
“ I could catch myself!”
“ How was I supposed to know you were a Magus!”
Jay thought he heard something snap. The blond boy flinched as the atmosphere suddenly turned heavy and full of foreboding.
“ I...am not...a Magus,” Jay said slowly. His temper was building up to the storm he wanted so badly to unleash. Felix's mouth opened and closed soundlessly until he dredged up the power to speak.
“ But I saw you use magic!”
“ This isn't my body!”
“ Then whose is it"Wha?” 'This is not my body'? Only then did those words really sink in. “ Did...you body-switch with a Magus or something?” Where magic was concerned, anything wa spossible.
“ No! I don't know.” Jay had no way of confirming that his body was made of magic rock without hurting himself. “ But I'm not a Magus!”
“ Okay! Okay!” Felix put out both hands to fend off the rage. In twisting frustration Jay put up a hand to run through his hair and pushed back the edge of a hood before he realized what it was there for. A glint of metallic red and streaks of gold appeared to take in the sunlight.
Felix's eyes popped wide as his jaw dropped open at the same time.
“ You're the Magus from last week!” he shouted.
“ I AM NOT A MAGUS!”
“ I got it! I got it!” Felix cried frantically. Jay blinked his eyes and cringed behind the lids.
“ A week?” he said, sounding confused. “ How do you know?”
“ You were all over the newscasts!”
People had seen that? A feeling of humiliation began to simmer up from somewhere in his blood, or what felt like his blood! Regardless of how they'd reacted, people had seen what had happened to him. They had seen him being pelted with trash and curses. His trauma had been witnessed by GOD knows how many people! No way! How could that happen? People had been filming it? It was not a reality show...!
It was a slow struggle to regain control of himself. Jay only made the effect partly because he knew the blond boy was staring at him, watching him, probably half-scared and by all means feeling threatened by this wrathful magic user who, unless he had a magic crest drawn on his clothes somewhere, was technically a Magus! Could Jay blame him for his attitude now?
“ Sor...ry...” He forced the words out through his teeth. Jay thought he was trying to pull out a molar by himself.
“ For your face!” Jay exploded. Felix jumped as a reaction. “ Sorry for hitting you in the face! So there!” He wrenched the edge of his hood further over his head and swept about on a heel. Jay stalked away from there as fast as he could, steering himself blindly around corners and going headlong into a pedesterian crowd. It was a long time before he could take in the sight of a boulevard lined with short slender trees. It took longer for Jay to stop, stare around, and realize that no one was dressed as weirdly at Alden Weiss.
No one had blue skin, tribal beads, reflective clothes that seemed to exist in every far, imaginable future, no one spoke of unicorns...Jay had no idea what he thought he should be seeing. Men, women, and children were dressed in clothes and fabrics he'd seen before. He noticed that no one wore a suit, but then maybe this wasn't exactly the place where people dressed formally. Families were abound with mothers eyeing a treat that could be drippy and fathers taking their turns pushing strollers. Jay took a step aside to let a pair of kids screech as they dashed by. He adjusted the darkly tinted glasses worn to disguise his crimson eyes.
...Did he look normal? People had yet to give Jay a first glance to begin with, so he had to be blending in well. He looked covertly at his reflection in the store windows that he passed by. What people were seeing was a teenager in sunglasses, pants, sneakers, and a short-sleeved coat with a hood that thoroughly covered his hair. The sunglasses covered his eyes. The look was a tad weird but overall normal for this world, he thought.
Jay wished he knew how to magick the lens so he could see in the dark. Night came on in one steady pull of shadow and darkness, and he had to duck into an alley so he could materialize sleeves onto his clothes. Would be it strange to keep on his sunglasses? He had no choice and peered out warily before he walked among people again.
The quad was bustling and crowded. Countless pairs of feet trod the cobblestone floor as they crossed and went separate ways; those heading into the city took the hooded escalators to the tram station, where they went on a ride further down to the train station on ground level. Falle City was, like most cities in Regaia, raised a long, long way from the desert floor. However a person might rush, it took a long time to get down there.
How anyone could survive something that had burned the world dry, Jay didn't know. Why cities had to be so high up he didn't know either. He had the odd feeling that it went against common sense, but they had obviously come far since this 'Fall' event he'd heard of, because before him spread a city that gave the illusion of skyscrapers floating on the dark. They were decorated with neat rows of white and pale yellow gems, starry flecks of green and blue, sometimes bright neon letters and brightly illuminated billboards perched high for everyone to see. Below them gleamed rivers of ruby lights curved above the ones arranged in a neat grid.
Darkness overcame the metallic sheens of lavender and bluish-gray that colored the city at dusk, slowly dipping them in darker gray and black. Every district was set at a different height, requiring plenty of stairs, ramps, escalators, and highway-streets weaving in and out between them all. Jay couldn't understand it. Wouldn't it so much easier to make their houses on ground level? Geez!
They're like snakes, Jay thought gloomily. Excessively complicated, floating creepy snakes made of concrete, steel, and asphalt, and some miraculous, see-through material that kept the city from crashing to the ground despite the weight of the vehicles driving across them. What had Alden called it? Plas-something. Not 'plastic', really, but 'plas'-something. What possessed the people of this world that they HAD to see how far up they were? Good grief! It made him worry on how well they could hold up.
...Wasn't he supposed to be doing something?
Ah, yes. Keystones. Alden had told him to go find him some Keystones, and Jay had forgotten it as he went over how unlike this world was compared to the fantasy realm he had in his head. He stubbornly shut his mouth and pulled the edges of the hood further around his face. Not a single strand of red or yellow hair could be spotted.
Why should he do what Alden told him to do? Just because he'd never won a single beating from the guy didn't mean Jay was afraid of him. His fears were already occupied by that shouting, angry mob whose faces he hadn't been able to make out.
But should he look for a Keystone? At least it was something to do. Jay found that particular sentence repeating itself over and over in his head. Jay glanced up as a tour group of mid-teen students bustled after a woman holding up a stiff laminated flag in her hand.
There were too many bodies moving at once. Jay was at some kind of crossroads where people coming into the city or leaving it had to pass through, but they lingered. Some took an escalator that led to the tram cars, others to the parking lot stairs, one group didn't appear to move at all from an elevated piece of aqua-colored glass held up in a copper frame. Departure and arrival times for the trains zipped on and off the surface. Jay couldn't see the words from here, and not through the tinted lens. Laughter threatened to bubble out of control because he could at least see they were English. Thanks be to God that the English language was such a major one!
“ Hey, it's you!”
It was a comical, silent moment as Jay stared at the Blond Boy from before. At his side one hand twitched with the held-back urge to attack.
“ What're you doing here?”
“ Who're you!” Jay half-shouted. He caught himself before he drew the attention of everyone within earshot.
“ Me? Who're you! Why're you still in the city? Why'd you come back in the first place!”
“ As if I want to be here!” Jay fumed. “ I don't want be around crazy mob people!”
“ But you are here,” Felix pointed out. “ So what're you doing here!”
“ I don't have to tell you!”
They went back and forth like that for a minute before both of them realized how inane and childish it was. It could also go on forever. They both had better things to do and they were becoming physically tired of what was the verbal version of a slap-fest.
“ So...who're you?” Felix asked.
A whisper tugged at Jay's senses, something familiar at first, then warped and supremely strange. Jay's heart--if his magic rock of a body had a heart--gave a sudden thump in his chest. His head snapped down to bring his eyes to the floor beneath his feet.
Suddenly he dropped and, so it seemed, the rest of the world dropped with him.
“ Whoa!” The crowd in the quad nearly dropped as one with Felix numbering among them, but Jay unconsciously grabbed him by the arm. The whole world was slanting!
People screamed in bewilderment. The ground beneath their feet was strange, it wasn't quite solid. The quad didn't feel planted firmly on broad supports that sat on level earth. Beneath the cobblestones there seemed to be empty air instead, and the world was just waiting to fall.
Jay had a bad, bad feeling, the kind that made him nervous about the dark because he thought that someone might come jumping out at him from behind. Jay was ashamed to have such thoughts at his age, but there it was. The same feeling.
Although this time there was definitely something to be scared of.
The highway-streets snapped apart. People inside shrieked when their vehicles abruptly skid sideways at an angle, hitting the railing so that they bounced into the air and tumbled over the side. There was silence except for the screams of people seat-belted inside, and they plummeted towards a city district below. Many people gasped and shut their eyes before they saw what happened then.
Unseen cables and steel shrieked like wounded whales. A long section of highway-street crumbled at one end, twisting over with unnatural flexibility, flipping dozens of cars off the surface.
“ Oh no,” someone moaned. Movement in the quad was now still and quiet. Travelers and homecomers alike were struck by the same realization: They could be facing a horrific death. These people huddled close together and sank to the cobblestones, afraid that the ground on which they stood would collapse at any second, yet compelled to reach for solid ground.
It was such a long way to the true ground. Some of them realized it even during that moment. Screams ached to leave them, but what was happening? They didn't know. Confusion kept them mute. Nothing had happened to them yet, so...so it was best to save their voices.
A young woman lifted a hand and pointed, saying, “ What's wrong with it?” Heads turned to the departure/arrival board where fuzzy images were being played out on the crystal. They shook this way and that, the recording camera held in the hands of a panicked amateur. Jay risked it by lifting the dark lens of his sunglasses to see better.
It was the robot version of zombies invading the land.
Slim in body and stained orange-brown with rust, smoky black with burns, human-shaped bodies of armor were climbing out of a large fissure in the highway-street. Jay watched in dumb surprise as black-gloved hands punched, broke, and laboriously clawed their way through, leaving behind a dark maw in which pieces of support bars shone through the changing light. They tore away the cables, concrete and stone, that plastic-like material Jay didn't know, to climb to the open air above. Pieces were left to fall behind.
These robots were oddly empty. One was cleaved halfway through the waist, and nothing was showing from the inside. There was no mass of wires or shiny constructions of glittering ultra-futuristic technology, no sleek metallic bone structure, no gears, no pulleys, none of that. There was nothing so complex. Instead the insides of each robot seemed to contain a a geometric web of bars that had a strange inner glow, or were they simply reflecting what little light that came to reach them? A single bar cut through every head and flared with crimson light.
“ Meka soldiers?” Disbelieving, all eyes fixed themselves onto the glass screen. But that couldn't be...Meka soldiers could only be powered by magic, and that meant a Magus was manipulating them, and that meant the city was under attack! The entire city!
No! Things like this had happened before; Magus were for the most part violent criminals that did as they wished. But no one had ever seen so many Meka soldiers being used on such a large scale. They heard that it wasn't possible for a Magus to handle more than one at a time because it took so much energy, and where was the Magus controlling these? One had to be nearby.
Something large swooped upward past the quad, close enough to strike people breathless with a buffet of wind. Whatever it was, it came down with a thoom onto the center of the quad, triggering a burst of screaming as already shaky ground jolted further. People did try to run, but they didn't know which way to run, which way was the safest. They slipped on their feet and fell onto the stones.
“ Oh my lord...”While everyone else was yelling their heads off and scrambling to their feet to run, Felix stood fixed to the spot.
It was so close he could touch it, a machine in the shape of a bird, with wings so smoothly jointed you couldn't see the hinges that allowed them to flex and fold. The bird machine was badly smudged, dented, and streaked with burns, made rough by countless scrapes, but he could imagine the Meka soldier in its original form, beautifully pristine in white and green with touches of polished gold. Its head was smooth and arrow-shaped, studded with the usual, single red eye in the shape of a horizontal bar. The slender neck grew gracefully out of its main body.
Then Felix caught sight of the tubular weaponry attached along the sides of a swan-like torso. The three legs, fixed in a triangular position so that the Meka bird could lean forward on its belly if it liked, were strong and dangerous in its look.
It was moving about to look at him. The head was diving down in a peck, and it wasn't as harmless as it sounded.
Run, you idiot. Move! Or draw his gun. Protect himself. That's what the damn thing was for. It wouldn't be the first time he'd fired it. Do something! A flash of shame ran through him for being so inactive at a time like this.
Yellow light flashed and he felt a sonic boom of impact. Felix flinched and automatically swiped his head to the side, away from impending harm.
A second or two later he realized he was okay. Totally untouched. The Meka bird lurched and wildly flapped its wings to bring itself back down on all three legs. A crest in reddish gold was shining like a beacon.
“ ...Ah?” Ruby specks glittered along bright hollow lines of gold. Someone stood with their back to him. Over his shoulder Jay snapped at Felix.
“ Don't stand there like an idiot,” he said. “ Move!”
“ Wh--Isn't it yours?” said Felix.
“ What?” The wind picked up in the city and became a distraction. More of the Meka birds were swooping onto parts of the city, arching towards the sky before dropping down.
The city was now in full panic. Whatever else was going on, the only thing anyone could hear now was the screams as museum-old pieces came to life in droves. They stumbled around their homes with the invading atmosphere of ants. People at the quad were quickly stifled when four other birds landed heavily on the railing at the rim, terrifying them into silence. Surrounded on all sides, they had nowhere to run, and nothing to do but huddle in place, wondering what was supposed to happen.
Suddenly the Meka soldiers spasmed and whipped their heads around in the same direction. They were focusing on Jay.
Oh, crud. Letting his magic circle fade, Jay became tense with apprehension. He couldn't think of a reason why everyone staring at him could be a good thing.
No, no, no. He'd exposed himself as a magic user! Was that bad or good? Bad, right? Definitely bad. Jay and Felix jumped at the same time, startled by the same, crackling artificial voice.
Eliminate? Him? All? What for? Jay took a step backward, bumping into Felix and barely noticing. He hadn't done anything, or maybe it had been really wrong for him to come into the city. If his nightmares were truth rather than dreams and dark imagination, then humans hated Magus in this world. They hated the Magus to the point where they'd never believe that he wasn't one when he denied it. Jay's chest shrank in small, painful wrinkles the more he thought about that.
It might've been his arrival in the city that caused all this. There could be no other reason why the Meka soldiers were turning their attention on him. Was it his fault?
“ Direct...ive change...shifting...from gen...o...cide...genocide mode...”
People stirred restlessly, afraid that they had heard that right. Genocide? The nearest Meka bird pivoted on the spot to face Jay while the others stared at the crowd.
That Meka soldier was facing him, so Jay had no doubt who it meant by 'abnormality'.
Wait. Abnormality? What abnormality! His worn out temper flared. What did that Meka soldier think it was to call him that?
“ Like hell I am,” Jay hissed. His magic circle flared on the ground beneath his feet, and copies of it opened directly beneath the Meka soldier's own triad of limbs. As the other birds found themselves in the same situation the cries started up again from the human crowd, this time sounding with recognition. They'd seen the newscasts of the redheaded Magus that appeared at the Sky ruin cathedral. They recognized his hair and his mark from certain newscasts about a certain event at a certain place.
Magus! So HE must be the one controlling the Meka soldiers. He must have come to conquer them all, so why attack his own mechanical minions?
Thundering fire erupted from magic circles in perfect columns, never throwing out so much as a spark beyond the circles' border as they roared in a frightening rage. Each lick of flame soared and completely enveloped the Meka soldiers from sight. Crying out, people scrambled to get away from the blazes.
Who is it that interferes?
It feels like me, yet not me.
Who are you?
More suddenly than they had appeared, the flames whisked themselves out of sight. After them the magic circles dissolved, fading, the one underneath Jay being the last of them to go out of sight.
His arm spasmed in place and he looked down at the attached hand. Just when the spell had hit, Jay had thought he could see someone's face beneath a thatch of white hair. This was a really bad time to start hallucinating about people that didn't exist.
The Meka soldier birds were badly charred, reduced to a twitching mess by the flaming maigc. One by one they collapsed and threw off a shower of diamond-bright sparks, crash-landing on the floor of the quad so that it shook, and frightened yelps lodged inside the throat.
The quad was held up by massive pillars. As one of them began to splinter, it crumbled around a steel support lodged inside it. The cobblestone floor and its cement underlayer broke into rubble that fell away to the darkness below.
Terror overcame the need to blame and fear; driven by sheer terror, people dashed to the escalators and the emergency stairs on either side, shoving each other out of the way and trying to plow through. Jay was the only one not moving, so it looked like everyone was running away from him.
Maybe that's what they were really thinking. Run away. Run away from the ctiy that had been targeted by this Magus. Run away, run away, run away! In the face of magic, without armored soldiers and knowledge to protect them, they were worse off than sitting ducks.
But what was the point of running? Suddenly Jay didn't feel like doing anything, which included running away to save his life.
Khck. Felix was taking the gun out of his holster. The muzzle was abnormally thick until he gave a flick of his wrist and a collapsible barrel threw itself out, clicking into place by itself. Thread-like rings and tiny gears were focused beneath a little latch that Jay assumed was the hammer or whatever it was they called the gun part that got the weapon ready to fire a bullet. This was a collapsible gun? A meager wave of energy was coming from the weapon.
Keystone. A very small one. He'd found a Keystone! Jay tried not to laugh.
“ Huh?” Jay raised his eyes from the gun to Felix.
“ Are they yours!”
“ Are what mine!”
“ The soldiers! The Meka soldiers!” cried Felix.
“ ...Soldiers?” said Jay. What were Meka soldiers?
“ Yeah! Those Meka soldiers!”
Was this guy talking about the zombie robots? “ You talking about those things?” Jay said. One hand pointed to a Meka bird as it banked around the quad.
“ Don't you know what Meka soldiers are?! Call them off!” Felix shouted.
Jay's temper whipped itself back into play. “ Like hell I can!” he yelled back. “ They're not mine, you measly little idgit!”
“ How can they not be? You're the only Magus around here!”
“ And how the hell do you know that!” Jay snapped. “ It's not like you know for sure! We don't look anything different!”
Well, he didn't really know, never having seen a Magus himself, but from the confused flicker on Felix's face, Jay might have guessed correctly.
“ Don't just stand there!” Jay shouted again. “ Run!”
A Meka bird came down on all three legs and spread its wings flat over the ground. Orange-red blossoms appeared at the mouth of the tubes. Did things like this happen often in this world? Jay forgot about it as he responded in the one way he had been taught how.
Jay raised a hand in front of him to spread a magic circle wide. The surface rippled briefly, and long jagged spears of golden crystal emerged. The Meka bird's energy cannons erupted in black and orange flame when the spears shot into them just as they were about to be fired. Fiery wind expanded fast across the quad. People were knocked over as they had air blown from their lungs.
Crap! Felix threw up his rifle into both hands and fired a single shot at a Meka bird. A yellow-green bead of light raced straight for its head, but halfway through the bead suddenly split into seven more. Every one of them split off in their own different arc, only to converge at the same point, the Meka bird's head. Most of it snapped apart and stopped the bird's incoming flight. The Meka bird tossed its head as though in agony, stumbling in a frantic descent towards the quad. It was going to crash...!
A flaming blast shoved the Meka bird back, dropping its body just behind the quad's rim. Again Jay repeated, “ Run! Get out of here! It's not like you can fly the way they can!” It was such a long way to solid ground, and still people would have to flee further to get out of range.
Think, think, think! Meka birds thundered down on the city around him, decimating skyscrapers and cheap bungalows alike, while the smaller Meka soldiers attacked the fleeing people and cars. They broke into houses and disappeared. If what Felix said was true, then Jay had to track down the energy source of these undead robots and take it out.
But there were so many of them! He might as well be trying to find the first knot in a tangle of string as big as his fist. Maybe it'd be better if he just destroyed the Meka soldiers, but again there was so many. How much of the city would be destroyed by the machines, and how much by a fight with the large birds that had cannons strapped to their wings? So much had already been done. That left Option Three. Swiftly Jay focused magic in his hand until it swirled waves of light within a small glassy sphere. He tossed it into the air without delay.
The sphere went much higher than anyone would have expected. Speeding high above to the tallest point in the city, the sphere gently flushed but one time. Tongues of yellow light grew from the sphere like the rays of a miniature sun.
Below the Meka soldier activity began to decline. Every machine slowed its movement and revolved to gaze towards the sphere, blinking their red-light eyes. Though they continued with the assault, Meka soldiers were now easy to outrun and evade.
“ What the heck?” said Felix. “ So they are yours!”
“ They are NOT!” A small shockwave accompanied the final word, pushing Felix away in a backward stumble. “ Don't you know anything about magic?” Jay lashed out. “ That's just a magnet cast, you idiot!”
“ ...Forget it. Are you going to get out of here or not?” Jay threw another sphere of magic to the floor, freezing the quad in place. For the first time since the attack had started, people felt solid footing underneath them. It renewed their desperation to run. “ You got five seconds. Go!”
“ I'm not leaving the city to you!”
“ It doesn't matter if I'm the one behind this or not, the city's going down!” Jay flung out an arm to indicate the city. Gone were the jeweled lights and glowing streams of crimson on the highway-streets. Most of the city's illumination came from fiery gold explosions, the one-bar eyes of the Meka soldiers, and swimming waves of moonlight on moving steel bodies. Several billboards continued to flash their advertisements, but half of them couldn't hold a solid picture for more than three seconds. They couldn't go a minute before being shaken from below, knocking first their knees then the chest and head. “ Get out! I can't--!”
The magnet cast couldn't slow down the Meka soldiers, that's what he meant to say. It created an invisible field where no non-living thing could move faster than the pace of a noontime stroll. Jay suddenly felt his body twitch, letting him know that something had happened to the magnet cast. Someone had interfered wth the magic and caused it to self-destruct. Something was plummeting down, something with an aura of magic....
“ WHOA!” Jay's barrier shield didn't do a thing to stop it. The barrier immediately snapped and the magical missile landed with a hollow crash on the quad. It broke out of Jay's hold and quaked like never before. People closest to the rim were tossed into the void like pancakes, and Felix stumbled onto the ground. A lone Meka bird reared up only to lunge forward as if shoved from behind.
It came in his direction, Jay was about to blow its head off when a voice clear of static spoke out.
“ 'I don't know who created you, but don't interfere.'”
Huh? “ Made me?” said Jay. He was confused and scared and that made him mad. “ No one 'made' me, I'm not a toy!”
“ 'It doesn't matter.'”
Red light throbbed once in the eyes of four Meka birds perched around the city. Without pause they deliberately fell from the highest rooftops, descending fast into the dark depths below.
Suddenly flexing their wings, the Meka birds caught themselves in mid-fall and soared into a horizontal line through the dark. They glided past the enormous pillars and dodged the heaviest rubble raining down from the city.
Each Meka bird rotated its body until it could latch onto a support pillar with the three legs on its belly. Slamming into the reinforced stone so that it shook, the first bird wrapped its wings around the pillar. Three feet pressed its claws to anchor it further. The cannons on the underside of their bodies were pointed straight up.
Orange and crimson energy churned as the weapons charged, then abruptly fired. The beams exploded through the tunnel and ripped cleanly through whatever stood in their path. What material those things were made of didn't matter. They shattered and burned the very same way.
A startled shout demanded Jay's attention. The quad falling away at one side to slip Felix off of it! The blond head skipped in and out of view as Felix desperately scrabbled for a solid hold on the cobblestones.
Where was everyone else? This quad had been full of fleeing bodies, and now Felix was just about to disappear over the edge.
Damn! Jay ran for the collapsing side. Dropping to his knees, and very nearly to his stomach, Jay threw out a hand for Felix to grab. “ Come on!”
The other boy stared at him, eyes wide enough for Jay to see his thoughts clearly. Felix didn't want to touch him even if his life was literally hanging by the edge. Why should he receive help from the one who was responsible for this situation anyway? Felix was thinking along those lines.
At that moment Jay realized he could kill someone. It would be murder if he deliberately allowed Felix to fall to his death, and Jay thought that he might actually be glad! Glad to see someone lose hope and die, because none of this was his fault. Jay was as much a victim as anyone else in this city, far more so because they had jumped to the conclusion that he was responsible, that he was the mass murderer controlling the undead robots, with nothing he could see to support that idea! Why should he suffer when he was innocent? If Felix didn't want to be saved by him, fine! Did Felix prefer to die because he saw Jay as a monster? Fine! It was not Jay's life hanging in the balance. He had long ago made up his mind to survive.
But I'm not you! I don't want to be like you!
Just as Felix was about to drop, Jay snatched his hand. Felix stared past him and his eyes seemed to bulge.
“ Uh, hey!” he shouted. “ It's charging UP...!”
Jay looked back when he didn't need to. Hot pressure was growing fast at his back, the result of the hot white energy swirling inside the Meka bird's wing cannons. How had something big gotten so close! The quad abruptly swung towards one side under the weight of the machine, and suddenly there was nothing for Jay to hold on to. He and Felix were airborne! The Meka bird's wing cannons exploded in a flash that seared at their eyes. Jay lashed out with his magic circle as a defensive reflex.
Then there was nothing. Jay feared that he was going to be in yet another nightmare when he woke up. What would it be this time?
The white gleam faded so a pair of eyes could get some rest. Dull walls of bluish gray were left behind, so there wasn't much to look at.
He's like me.
But he isn't me.
Who is he?
What is he?
Who made him like they made me?
© 2013 Haeshin
About*Please provide feedback! Pick a story, any story, and try it out. I dabble in various genres, mostly in action and adventure with comedy thrown in, I do attempt to diversify on occasion with roman.. more..