The door to the Danger Room clicks shut and I feel my stomach do a summersault. I’m not even the one in there and I’m already nervous. It’s insane really! I mean, I know she’s a good fighter, but… this room has a freakin Guardian level? What does this place expect us to be able to do?!
“I assume she’s done this training often, due to her composure going in there,” Ceph mumbles behind me.
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t even heard of this place before,” I sigh, gripping the window frame in front of me as I watch her take full fire form.
“How does she do that so fast!” Caroline gasps in wonder.
“Fire is a very different element than water. Eli often mentions that it is more a struggle to contain it than let it out. I imagine Kaitlyn has immense control of her ability, as she is also part dragon,” Ceph explains.
“I really need to practice…” Caroline mumbles more to herself. She works hard, I know this. I wish she’d give herself the benefit of the doubt. Kaitlyn’s had years to practice, where’s Caroline’s not even a year into her studies as a water mage and look how much she can already do.
I turn and see Kaede watching with eager anticipation. It’s like he’s watching a live video game, charging up his excitement for the boss level. I turn back to the window to see Eli now in full fire, just as the environment in the room shifts before our eyes.
The smoke begins to gather on the ceiling as ten incredibly tall, misshapen creatures appear, large, very real looking weapons gripped in their meaty fists. Kaede taps the electronic panel below the window, pulling up the stats of the program for all of us to see. A light flashes indicating the environment stats, including temperature and humidity.
“Over forty degrees?! They’re going to fry!” I gasp aloud.
“They’re fire mages, Andrei. They’ll be fine. They can handle hotter temperatures than that. I’d be more worried if the room was ice cold,” Ceph says matter of factly.
“Still…” I fret.
“Look!” Caroline points, leaning into the window, grabbing all of our attention. “They’ve started!”
We all press closer, watching as Kat and Eli dance around the creatures like sparks in a fire. The weapons don’t even seem to touch them as the creatures try and take their swings.
“What kind of things can this program run?” I ask Kaede.
He smiles as he pulls up the options. “Guardian has a few options itself. There’s one man programs verses various types of enemies and environments, all pre programmed to challenge every aspect of the mage’s abilities. There’s also a VS program where you can battle another Guardian and manually select your mage types, but it doesn’t look like it’s ever been run, as there haven’t been Guardians around to battle until we all came.”
“This kind of training is pretty intense. I wonder… I probably wouldn’t be able to fight like this,” Caroline says as her eyes are fixated on Kaitlyn. Within minutes they’ve cut down each and every creature that comes before them until the buzzer goes off. I didn’t even realize this thing was timed.
“Is that it?” I ask as the room clears and shifts back to it’s empty grey colour.
“Yup. You can enter the desired time limit for your level and it will throw everything it’s got at you till the time’s up. You just gotta survive that long,” he smiles. “The perfect video game.”
I knew it. Everything to him is a game. I have to admit though, it sounds pretty epic and challenging. I wonder what the other elemental settings look like.
“That honestly didn’t look hard enough for them. Is there room to increase the difficulty on Guardian, when you can clear it?” Caroline wonders aloud.
“I’m sure I could adjust the programming once I get into the database,” Kaede grins, inspecting the panel in front of him.
Suddenly we hear voices coming through the rooms intercom. “How do you feel?” Kaitlyn asks Eli as he hunches over his knees, catching his breath. Her voice sounds strange coming from her full fire form. I don’t recall having heard it before.
“How is she still maintaining that?!” Caroline asks in disbelief.
I shrug my response. “Practice I guess.”
“That was quite intense, Sis. I think I’ll need more practice to keep up with you,” Eli laughs.
Just then, the door clicks unlocked and slides open. Before I even have time to move, Caroline runs in.
“Oh My God! Kaitlyn! That was incredible! You have to tell me how you keep that form for so long!” It’s weird hearing her voice over the intercom and coming from the open door too as we all shift to enter.
Kat tilts her head, fiery eyes wide. “Keep it? I don’t know what you mean. It’s easier to stay like this until my energy runs out, rather than force it back. I usually stay in here for hours, to be honest. It takes a while.”
Caroline gawks at her as the rest of us file into the Danger room. “Hours?” her eyes grow wider.
Kaede raises a hand. “It’s true, I’ve seen it,” he nods. When did he see that, I wonder.
I smile at Kat, not able to contain my own awe and how much I’m impressed by her abilities. “You’re incredible, you know that right? Just, wow,” I can’t even put how I feel into words.
Kat giggles, and takes a deep breath. “Okay, hold on a sec,” she closes her eyes. The flames pull back slowly from her head and feet, until it absorbs back into her hands. She flexes her fingers, shaking her arms as they return to normal. “There,” she smiles.
I reach for a hug, arms spread wide. Kat slides her arms around my waist, placing a quick kiss on my lips.
Ceph walks past us as we break apart, heading for Eli and clapping him on the shoulder. “This room is amazing, isn’t it? It would be interesting to have something like this back in our time. Training would be a lot more interesting for us, I think,” he muses.
“Definitely,” Eli grins, standing up.
Kat puts a hand on her hip. “You guys don’t have to be so… closeted. It’s okay in our time, no one’s going to be offended.”
I see Ceph visibly blush at Kats remark. I think it’s more than habit now. Eli gets a mischievous look in his eye, right before he plants a big kiss on Ceph’s mouth. I can’t believe what I see as Ceph turns an impossible shade of red.
I cover my mouth with my hand as I hide a laugh I can’t contain. I look at Kat, who looks like a proud mom or something, smug smile on her face. She’s so bad! Caroline gasps as Kaede bursts out laughing, not even trying to contain himself.
Ceph pulls away, a little stagger in his step. “That… was a little obnoxious…” he says in his deep voice. It almost sounds menacing. Eli just beams at him, not a care in the world.
Nik walks up to us, resting his arm on Kat’s head, like she’s an armrest. “Look at that, love all around it seems,” he chuckles. “Now, where were those fighting skills in the back alley, hmm?”
I eye Kat, wondering what happened while she was away, but I’d rather sooner forget that time and move on, so I refrain from asking.
Kat glares up from the corner of her eye, pouting. “I swear, I will burn you.”
Nik smirks. “Big words, from such a little girl.”
“I wouldn’t doubt her for a second,” I warn him with a smile. “Her temper is as sudden as her flames. Only a great fire tamer can handle her mood swings.” I say a little smugly.
“Hey!” Kat gasps, as though I’ve revealed some kind of secret.
Nik laughs, ruffling her hair. “I’m not intimidated. I know she’d probably apologize to a fly before hurting it.”
Kat’s face turns bright red, her jaw hanging open. “That’s… not fair!”
Eli laughs. “You say that, but you didn’t see that time she almost murdered King Arthur.”
“And me!” I add, recalling all the worry from that trip to Camelot. Eli raises a skeptical eyebrow and I shrug in response.
“Okay, I’m done with this conversation,” Kat shakes her head, moving to the door, which is blocked by a mob of students. She hesitates, unsure.
“See, you can’t goad her like that,” I grin, catching her by the arm and pulling her towards me. “Fire tamer and the fire,” I wink at her, planting a kiss on her warm lips. Nik has no idea how to talk to fire.
I open my eyes, seeing her cheeks red with embarrassment, looking sideways. She doesn’t pull away though.
“Ok, Ok!” Caroline calls, holding her hands up. “This is a danger room, not a love hotel, or whatever! We’re done here, let’s get packing,” she herds us out like a collie and sheep, past the gathered crowds of the other students who gathered to watch the danger room display. I see some checking the panel at the latest replay. I watch Kaede eye the panel again, a thoughtful smirk on his face.
We all head up to our wing of the Guild. I wave to the others as I join Kat in her room to begin packing. None of my stuff is here yet, but I figure I’ll help her first.
She takes a seat on the bed as I open her closet, looking for some sort of bag or suitcase to put her things in. “What do you want to pack?” I ask, yanking an old suitcase out from the back of her closet. It doesn’t look like it’s been touched in years.
She sits there a while before she answers with a shrug. “I went over a month with nothing more than the clothes on my back, some money, and cigarettes.”
I frown. “I mean, sure, you can pack light, but that was for a different reason. This time, we can pack together. You know, plan and be comfortable. There’s no need to go with nothing,” I say, putting the open suitcase on her bed and sitting next to her. I drape my arm over her shoulders and pull her into my side.
She looks up at me with big round eyes. “What am I supposed to bring? I never really travel with stuff.”
“Well, first off, clothes. It’s Africa, so it’ll be hot. But the sun can be harsh, even for a fire mage I imagine. So something to protect your skin from the cancer ball in the sky. A toothbrush. I know I want to kiss your minty fresh lips rather than the two week smelling breath of a bush woman,” I make myself laugh at that last line.
She giggles. “I don’t think it matters what I wear, the heat doesn’t affect me. I could wear a sweater, if you think I should be covered. I don’t really know if the cancer thing would be a problem or not.”
“I don’t know. Better safe than sorry though. What kinds of things would you like to have on a trip? Got any music you like to listen to? Any games? A book?”
She ponders for a moment. “Not really, just you,” she smirks. “I could listen to your stories, or something. Aside from that, there’s this phone thingy Kaede gave me.”
I laugh quietly. “You’re cute. I guess I could be you’re walking talking book,” I grin. “Let me just run to my room then and pack some things, maybe a journal or two. I’ll have to log our adventures anyway,” I place a kiss on her forehead and stand up.
“Okay,” she chirps. “I guess I’ll wait here.”
I reluctantly leave as she pulls out her phone. I slip back into my old room, which, to be honest, I’d been avoiding of late. As my door shuts,I have a slight fear that Samantha will be lurking about. I scan the room thoroughly before setting about collecting clothes and personal artifacts I want to have with me on this trip.
I find my backpack and decide to load everything in there. I stuff in the clothes, a few journals and some pens. I find an old camera. Kaede would murder me for having such outdated tech but I toss it in anyway. Might be fun to take some group pictures. I find my keychain blade on the desk and click that onto my belt loop.
I rummage through my closet and find a pair of sandals which I haven’t worn in forever. I ponder over whether shoes or sandals would be more appropriate in Africa. I decide on the sandal, despite my feet being likely to burn. The more I think about it, the harder it seems to pack the right things. Africa is a huge landmass. We could be in any number of environments. I decide it’s best to ask.
I slip back out and across the hall to Caroline’s door. I knock and she answers promptly.
“Yesss,” she asks.
“Did you mention where in Africa? Should I be packing for like, Savanna, tropical rainforest or desert?” I ask her.
“Oh!” she clasps her hands to her mouth in surprise. “I forgot, didn’t I!”
I laugh lightly. “Yeah, maybe.”
“Well, I believe the tracing led to a desert on the West coast of Africa. I’ll have to tell the others,” she says, slipping past me through the door.
“Thanks!” I call, going back to my own packing. Deserts are hot and sandy. Sandals for sure, a hat and a light long-sleeve for the sun. Maybe a few pairs of each. I’m not sure how long we’ll be gone.
When I think I have everything I need, I head back to Kat’s room and find her laying back on her bed, phone in hand. “What are you doing? Logging into facebook?” I ask, putting my bag next to her empty suitcase.
She looks over, blinking out of a daze before sitting up. “No, I was looking at information about Africa. I didn’t realize how big it is!”
I lean over to see her phone. “Mmm, Africa is huge. I mean, it’s an entire continent, right?” I point out.
“Yeah, but I’ve never been there. I’ve only gone to Europe and America,” she frowns, scrolling through pictures.
“Right, I forgot,” I try to think back, have I ever been to Africa? I sift through my time jump memories and realize I don’t think I have. “Well, we’ll be making new memories then, the both of us! I’ve never been either,” I smile. I then tell her what Caroline told me. “We’ll be travelling through a desert, apparently.”
“Oh, that sounds… difficult,” she bites her lip. “How are we going to do that?”
“Well, unless you want sand in your shoes, I’d bring sandals. Also, sunscreen. It’s gonna be hot, but like I said earlier, you don’t wanna burn. People of our skin complexion usually cover up, unless you want to be a lobster,” I chuckle.
She looks at me confused. “But… that doesn’t really apply to me. I guess sand would be annoying, but it doesn’t really matter what I wear.”
“I guess… I mean, you’re still human, you ought to be careful. I wouldn’t want you to get sick,” I smile, leaning in close for a kiss. “Just because you’re a fire mage doesn’t mean you can get sunburnt. Unless you were like… in your fire form the whole time.
She closes the gap briefly, then looks down at the suitcase. This only makes me want to kiss her more. “Um.. so what do I do with that now?” She asks.
I look at the suitcase with an annoyed frown. “If you don’t want to bring clothes, you might be a distraction for the others, but I can help you with that,” I kiss her exposed neck softly.
She giggles and leans away. “I think Mom would be mad if we don’t finish packing first.”
I stop for a moment to think. “Mom? Whose mom?” I’m completely clueless.
“Caroline, silly!” she points out the obvious.
“Oh, of course. How could I forget,” I laugh. “Well, mom said we’d leave in the morning, which means…” I crawl forward, pushing her back gently, “we have all night to pack.” I flash her my signature wink, hoping she gets what I mean.
She blushes bright red. “I-um… guess you have a point.”
I grin mischievously. “Hmm, yes,” I lean over her, pinning her to the bed. I hover over her lips and tease her before actually giving her one. “You don’t want to pack anyway,” I say through my kisses.
She stutters between kisses, as I keep cutting her off. “I…didn’t… you said… I should.”
“Mmm… Did I? Why… would I…. say… something… like that?” I slide my hand up her shirt.
“I don’t… know,” She wriggles under me. “You’re the smart one.”
“Me? No… I’m not… smart. I’m just… fast,” I nip her ear. She gasps, shuddering.
I laugh softly in her ear. “You like that, don’t you?”
“Mmhmmm…” she moans.
I twirl her hair around my finger in thought. “Let’s see what else you like,” I smirk.
I hear a ticking of a clock as my consciousness stirs. I move to stretch as wakefulness takes hold, but I feel something weighted on my chest. I crack my eyes open to see a mass of bright red hair and an arm coming out from under it. If I didn’t know I had a girlfriend, I’d have thought an alien was attacking me in my sleep. I chuckle in my head at the thought. Maybe Kaede has had an influence on me after all.
I reach my hand down and stroke the hair, pulling it away from her face. I feel like my face must be beaming with happiness. This happiness though, is short lived, as my brain decides to kick into third gear. OMG what time is it? We’re going to miss the trip to Africa!
The ticking tells me softly that it’s only 6:07am. I sigh heavily, we still have time.
I take a deep breath and regret it, as this wakes Kat. She lifts her head up, looking at me in a sleepy daze. “I’m sorry, I woke you up. Good early morning,” I smile sleepily. Normally I’m the one to sleep in.
She rubs her eyes with a yawn, propping herself up. “It’s morning already?”
“Well, sort of. You know that time of day before the sun rises? It’s that time.”
She frowns. “Why?”
“Why is there no sun? Or why am I up now?” I ask.
“Um… the second one…”
“I don’t know. I kind of had a mini heart attack thinking we would miss Africa. That and I like to watch you sleep sometimes,” I grin, stroking her hair. “But we should finish packing. Knowing ‘mom’, she’ll already be up and waiting.”
I reluctantly pull the sheets off and sit up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I am excited for a change of scenes. Africa will be interesting. I swing my legs out of the bed and stand up, stretching before I pull out a clean pair of clothes from my bag.
“How about you just throw some spare clothes in my bag. I’ll carry it,” I offer, pulling on a short sleeve polo shirt.
“Are you sure?” she asks, perched on the edge of the bed.
“Yea, it’s no problem. I’ve carried heavier gear before. I don’t mind,” I step up to her mirror and comb my fingers through my hair. Maybe I should take a shower before we leave. I turn around to let Kat know and am struck with her glowing form on the bed, hair cascading over her shoulder like some sort of fire goddess. I bite my lip, trying hard not to let it distract me.
“I uhh… I should go take a shower before we leave. I won’t be long,” I slide along the floor to the door and fumble for the knob, not able to take my eyes of her. “I’ll be right back. I swear!” I slip out, sighing as I peel my eyes away. Oh my God, how is she so… gorgeous? Well, I won’t be long. Maybe I can get my heart to slow down along the way.
By Kayla West