The new guy is tall and mysterious. With his dark-framed glasses, black curly hair and relatively pale skin, he almost reminds me of a vampire. He seems to me to be not a very social kinda guy. I watch as Kaitlyn and him talk and when she asks him personal questions, he seems hesitant to reveal the details, if anything at all.
He’s definitely older than us though. I can tell, not just from his stature but also the way he doesn’t care if what he says pisses others off. That just seems like someone who’s comfortable being themselves. I listen as he tells Kat about how he got his powers, in a paraphrased account that is. It sounds pretty tragic. It makes me want to rethink the way I used to think about my own powers. I guess everyone’s story is different and unique… others worse than some. It makes me thankful I still have a family, and that maybe I can share that with Kat.
Earlier, Ambrosse called us back to her office to inform Kaitlyn that she had a position for her as a professor. Basically a glorified teacher of her element, and that they were expecting a new student of sorts to train under her. After the initial announcement, and Kaitlyn’s observed silence, they sort of kicked me out of the office for a private chat. I hate being left out, but I guess Ambrosse and Kaitlyn had some important kinks to work out. Only took about an hour till Steve had brought in the new guy, Heath.
I lean against the wall next to the weapons rack as Kaitlyn instructs him in some control techniques. Turns out, his power is similar to Kats. This might be a nice opportunity for her to connect with someone of her element like she did with Ryan. My heart thumps as I think about then and quickly try to change my line of thought.
Heath pulls off his gloves, which I hadn’t noticed before, considering his entire outfit is dark tones that make him blend in with his own hair. I feel my eyes widen in shock as I see his black fingers like they’re covered in ash or something. Is that a scar or a nasty side effect from his magic? That must get awkward.
She watches him closely as his hand begins to glow, then smolders before her eyes. His blackened fingers turn bright orange and the light grows up his arm. He’s already removed his jacket, and for good reason. I’m sure it would have melted with the heat I feel coming from their general direction.
Kaitlyn holds up her hand in response, transforming her forearm and hand only into flame. They certainly look like elemental siblings with their glowing hands of heat. I almost chuckle. Almost. I watch for about 40 minutes as Kat asks him to do various levels of complicated techniques, asking how it feels when he activates and zeroing in on how much and how little heat to use. Looks like he doesn’t have a lot of control in that aspect, which I guess comes in handy for his work. I think he said he was a welder? I can’t remember.
Without giving away much detail, even to Kat, Heath explains he’s usually tried to avoid using it, outside of work, due to accidents in his youth that caused a lot of inconveniences. From the way he talks about it though, I feel like he’s using that word to soften the actual severity of the events. Just a hunch. Kat seems to be good at drawing him into conversation though and getting him to talk, despite how reluctant he seems at first.
Eventually, she wants to see what he can do with his lava magic, so we relocate to the Danger room, as it’s less likely to burn down when someone uses fire. I sit inside this time, close to the door, after setting up the control panel. I watch with interest as she has him work through basic abilities.
Interestingly enough, he is able to use his skills with fin accuracy, turning just a hand or a finger into a heated lava form. He seems able to turn the ground around him into pits of lava and somewhat move them. He can even create a baseball size ball of lava in his hands, though he can’t seem to control the amount of heat he can use.
After all that is assessed, she asks about his fighting experience. I perk up, worried that she’ll suggest to spar. I know how she loves sparing, but I really think she ought to take it easy. Shes got to hold back, at least until we’ve had the baby… safely. I don’t want anything to happen to either of them.
“I don’t fight if that’s what you mean. I only know how to brawl, thanks to the kids in school picking on me,” he explains when she asks him what he knows.
“That’s fine. Umm…” she looks at me nervously and I know she’s thinking it. “Normally I’d ask you to spar with me, to show me what you know, but… I really shouldn’t,” she trails off.
“Why not,” Heath asks.
“Well… I…” I see she’s having trouble explaining. I know she gets nervous about telling others her business, much like it seems Heath does. I step up.
“Cause she’s pregnant and I won’t let her,” I say, trying not to sound too conceited.
“Oh, wow. That’s… serious then. No problem. I don’t really want to fight anyway.” Heath waves it off. Maybe I can like this guy.
I narrow my eyes and Kat seems to blush from embarrassment. “I could maybe spar with you though. I wouldn’t mind,” I say, flashing Kat a grin.
“No, really it’s fine,” Heath insists.
“No,” Kat blurts firmly. “I mean… I don’t want you to get hurt… either,” I chew the inside of my lip as Heath looks between the both of us.
“I can handle myself in a fight Kat. Besides, this is only a spar.”
“Still… no,” she says quietly, barely audible in the large room. I shrug and I can hear Heath heave a sigh of relief.
“But… maybe… in slow motion?” she suggests questioningly.
I tilt my head to the side with curiosity. “Slow motion?” I confirm.
“Yes. Like, watch him move… slowly. I can easily move out of the way…” she rambles.
“That sounds complicated, how can I move slowly in a fight?” Heath asks, a confused look crossing his face.
“Andrei’s a time mage. He could make everything slower, that way, he can stop us before anything gets too heated,” she suggests. I have to admit, I never thought of that. It’s not a bad idea. I think about it a moment longer, before nodding my head.
“Alright. I can set up a slower bubble of time, but…” I turn to Heath, giving him my most serious look. “If any harm comes to her, or even looks like it might come to her, then I won’t hesitate to step in and stop it,” he returns my glare and then follows it with a faint smile.
“Got it,” I nod, stepping back and feel the time around me. The ticking clicks softly around me and I force it to slow, cloaking the whole room in a bubble of slowed down time. Outside, it will appear as normal, but in here, the time will pass slower, and I will be the only one aware of the difference. Kat and Heath probably won’t notice it’s slower, because time is relevant.
“Alright, You can start,” I say, stepping back towards the wall.
Heath crouches low, spreading his arms. I see his fingers glow and Kat shakes her head. “No magic. Just show me your fighting skills,” she corrects him.
He frowns, trying to make the smoke from his hands lesson. It looks like he’s struggling. When he finally cools it down, he crouches low again and rushes her. To me, each step is like a stop-motion film in the making, I blink and his foot leaves the floor, I blink again and he is airbound, again and his other foot reaches to touch. It’s quite interesting to watch.
When Heath finally crosses the short distance between them, Kat is ready, and I see her muscles already reacting to his charge. She starts to lean left, dodging his lunge, causing him to miss and step wide. Instead of striking, she leaps out of the way, spinning to face him as he slowly turns around.
He makes a fist and I watch closely as he aims for her shoulder. She slides one foot back, her body twisting in a mirror of his strike, so it goes wide. She watches his face intently, expression unreadable. I love how focused she gets in a spar. It reminds me a little of the first time we sparred… a little… vaguely… I wish we could do that again.
I shake my head and return my focus to the match before me. Heath’s getting tangled in his feet as he skirts around her, looking for an opening. To him, it must look like she’s able to read his mind. To me, I can just tell how quickly she can read a battle. She really is an expert.
Heath frowns, eyes narrowed. He obviously feigns right, starting to swing, before his heel shifts and his left-hand reaches out to grab her arm. She’s not fooled. She catches his wrist in her right hand, thrusts her left elbow down on the inside of his, forcing him to flinch forward and bend his arm. Thrown off balance, she swipes her foot forward, hooks her toes around his ankle and swipes it to the side. I watch him fall, his face slowly shifting to shock, then pain as he hits the floor, gripping his arm.
“What the hell! You’re… you’re a demon!” he calls from the floor. I snicker. It was a good effort, but it shows he was right, he doesn’t know much about fighting. His moves look sloppy.
“So I’ve been told,” Kat responds, her tone flat. “You won’t last long if the Master finds you.”
“Master? Look, if you think this was supposed to convince me to stay and fight, you’re sorely mistaken. You only just proved to me I’m no match to stand up to anyone,” he pouts, pulling himself up off the floor.
Kat chews her lip. “I’m not asking you to fight for us. If it were up to me, I would kill him by myself… but it’s only a matter of time before he finds you. If you can’t defend yourself, he’ll either try to recruit you or kill you. Probably the latter.”
“I was doing just fine before your guy came in and asked me to come. It’s not like I have a huge target on my back. I don’t go prancing around shouting, ‘I can make fire’ in pink nylon suits. I just stay quiet and do my work, moving on. What makes you think he’d come and find me?” Heath argues.
I frown at his point. “You’re not as invisible as you think you are. We met a girl who thought the exact same thing. She’s here now because we were able to get her out of his hands, but that could be you, next,” I say.
“To be fair,” Kat adds, “I’m pretty sure he only had her locked up because she wouldn’t stay dead.”
I cock an eyebrow. “Selene? I was talking about Hitomi,” I say. “I guess that makes two, then,” I mutter to myself.
“Don’t forget you and Caroline,” she crosses her arms.
“You can hardly call that a kidnapping. Logan was… well yeah… Anyway,” I try to move one, not wanting to recall his ugly face.
“Regardless,” she looks back to Heath, “there’s a very evil man looking for people like you and us. I’m not saying you have to stay here, but at least let me teach you how to better defend yourself. I would rather you not end up on the other side of the battlefield, or dead.”
Heath looks away, eyes fluttering between the floor and the wall as he thinks it over. He grits his teeth before he speaks. “Fine, I’ll let you teach me. But I don’t see this being a long-term thing, so don’t expect anything out of me.”
“It’s early still, but maybe we could all use some food,” I suggest. “And we can take this time to fill Heath in on what we know so far, and how he can better prepare himself in case someone comes looking for him,” I look to Kat, hoping she’s up for the idea.
Kat smiles, holding her hand out to him. “I’ll teach you to fight, and in return, promise you won’t turn around and try to kill us. Deal?”
He looks at her, his face unreadable. I can’t tell what he’s thinking. He must have practiced this look a thousand times. “I have no reason to kill anyone… if it happens, it’s always an accident,” he whispers.
Kat’s smile falters, though I can tell she’s trying to hold it. “You’d be surprised what people are capable of, given the right circumstances. Do we have a deal?”
Heath nods, taking her hand. “Deal.”
Kat and I leave the training rooms after making sure Heath didn’t actually break anything during the spar. He waved us away saying he was fine until Kat saw him rubbing his elbow when I had my back turned.
I lead them up to the caf and find them a table.
“Is there anything you’d like us to make you? Since it’s your first day here, it’s my treat. Usually, this caf can make you anything you want just by writing on that piece of paper over there,” I point at the pad. The original is at the kitchen, but Kaede’s found a way to put a segment at every table like a self-serve ordering tablet. So there’s one on the table too now.
“No thanks, I’ll just have a coffee,” Heath says, taking a seat across from Kat.
I stare, bewildered. I rub my eye, just to make sure I didn’t miss judge the colour of his hair. Nope. It’s black. I narrow my eyes suspiciously. “You sure you aren’t siblings?” I ask them.
Heath looks between Kat and I, confused. “What? Why?”
Kat laughs bitterly. “That was almost funny, Andrei. How do you like your coffee?” she asks, heading to the kitchen.
“Black, drip. You?” he asks back.
“Generous cream and sugar,” she smirks as she disappears through the doorway.
“Well, that just ruins the flavour,” he looks up at me through his glasses. I see the hint of a smile on his lips as he says it.
“It was hard enough getting her to eat food before. I don’t think she’d see it the same way. You can’t just drink coffee for dinner though. What can I make you?” I ask him.
“Well, where I just came from, I hadn’t even had breakfast, and I don’t usually eat anything heavy till noon. I’ll just have a toast or something. Don’t worry over me,” he says, looking around the room curiously.
I shrug. “Sure. Whatever you want,” I head into the kitchen and see Kat standing offer the coffee machine. “He’s insane like you used to be. Only coffee. You’d think it was blood or something,” I smile, running my fingers across her back as I pass her.
“Wait, it’s not?” she asks, looking shocked before her lip curls at the edge.
“No! It’s not!” I pretend to be serious. It’s hard to hold a straight face when she looks so cute.
She snickers, fiddling with the machine. “What are you gonna make, chef?”
I raise an eyebrow. “Chef? Well, he says he wants toast. How about french toast?” I shrug, rummaging through the kitchen for the utensils needed to make French toast. “It’s not that hard and there’s very little prep.”
“Sounds good. I guess I’ll keep an eye on flight risk,” she hums, watching the dripping black liquid.
“Flight what?” I look at her as I melt the butter in the pan. “He seems… distant, don’t you think?” I ask her.
“Does that surprise you?” she responds without looking up. “I was too before I met you.”
“You were? I hardly remember. That seems ages ago. I guess… when we all have different powers that have affected our lives in different ways we’re bound to feel a little… out of place from the rest of the world,” I muse. No one likes being different, and it’s hard growing up with a secret you feel you can’t tell other about, especially one as dangerous as fire.
“Yeah,” she agrees, almost passively.
“What wrong? Is something on your mind?” I ask her, plating the first two French toasts and adding one to the pan.
“It’s just…” she taps her fingers on the counter, “a little different when people get hurt because of you. It was hard enough being here where I knew what was happening. I can’t imagine being out there…”
“You mean out with the regular humans?” I still find it strange to not think of myself like everyone else… “Were all human, Kat. We’re no different from them except we can do magic. That kind of difference, it shouldn’t matter.“
“The outside world doesn’t understand the difference between out of control magic and arson,” she glances at me from the corner of her eye.
“Then it shud be our job to inform them… don’t to think?” I flip the toast.
“Nope,” she picks up two cups and heads for the door.
She nearly bumps into Heath leaning against the frame. “It doesn’t take that long to make toast. What’s the hold-up?” he asks. He straightens as Kat holds the two cups in front of her, looking like a deer caught in headlight while trying not to spill them. “Oh, sorry. I’ll take that,” he reaches for the plain coffee.
I plate the last toast and dump the dishes in the sink. “Toast is boring. I made french toast,” I say, grabbing the plate and waiting for him and Kat to clear the doorway.
We return to our seats and begin to eat. I try to not make it so obvious this time as I watch the two of them eat. Kat prepares hers as usually, cut into small pieces before she works on eating it. Heath sips his coffee, poking his toast idly with his fork. I take a bite, waiting for him to try it when I notice Kat staring at me, and amused frown on her face. She doesn’t say a word. She doesn’t have too, as she looks between me and my plate. She’s basically scolding me for watching. I chuckle silently and turn away, but not before Heath has noticed the silent exchange and pipes up.
“What? Do I eat weird or something?” he asks.
“No,” Kat flashes a little smile. “I do, I think.”
“No, that’s not it at all!” I groan, looking away. I should just stop that habit… it clearly makes people uncomfortable.
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s me. I mean, I haven’t even taken a bite and it looks like I’ve irrigated the toast. That’s pretty weird,” Heath chuckles, a strange amused smile on his face. I have to admit, that’s pretty funny.
I roll my eyes at the two of them as they eat their french toast funny. When they finally eat what’s on their plates and focus on their coffees, our conversation shifts to more serious matters.
“So, you say there’s a war happening, some battle we have to be ready for. Whose battle is this? And what do they want?” Heath asks, a serious look in his eyes as he tilts his chin down and gazes at us through his glasses. That look gives me the creeps. “You both keep warning me about this guy you call the Master – freaky name, by the way, but before coming here, there’s been no mention of him or this war. So how is it affecting the rest of the world?”
“It’s not, yet,” Kat pulls up her legs on her chair. “His name is Mortecai. He’s waiting for something.”
“Do you know what that something is?” Heath presses.
Kat shrugs. “He’s several hundred years old, how would we know what he’s thinking?”
“That’s not very informative if you ask me. How do you know this war is even coming if you don’t know what he even wants?”
“I know he wants my child,” Kat answers, staring into her cup. “He’s been waiting for centuries, I’m sure another decade or two is nothing to him.”
“And how does that warrant a war? I don’t see the connection.”
She lifts her head to look at him. “He thinks mages are superior, and anyone who isn’t magical should be subjugated. That’s not something he can accomplish without a solid plan.”
“And you’re saying he’s had hundreds of years to plan, he just needs your child? How did he even know you would exist? And where do I fit in all this?”
“I was created on purpose,” she states bluntly. “What he can’t plan for, is who else awakens as a Guardian. There’s no way to really know, it’s mostly chance. He needs more power behind him before he can do whatever he’s planning. You would be useful to him because your element is similar to mine.”
“So, you’re saying he needs manpower,” he looks down, bringing his hand to his chin in thought. “You know, before Steve walked in at the coffee shop I was at, I had a strange request to meet someone. Left me a note with a date and place, but no specifics. I thought it was a job offer,” he pulls out a folded piece of paper from his pocket and sets it on the table.
Kat looks at the note but doesn’t move. She’s quiet for a long moment. “How much money do you want?”
“What?” Heath asks. “No, I mean, I don’t normally get job offers like this. Even when Steve showed up, that was strange for me. I was considering this, but something felt strange about this note. I can’t put my finger on it,” he taps the note with his gloved finger.
“I agree, but that’s not what I asked,” Kat stares at him, watching just like she did in the spar.
He stares back, silent. “When I take a job I get paid almost eighty thousand dollars. I don’t expect you to give me money. That’s why I’m only here for a week,” he leans back in his chair, looking relaxed.
“I can double that. Would that be enough?” she barely blinks.
“For what?” he asks, raising his eyebrows curiously.
Her lips curl. “The Guild could use some repairs. You’re a welder, but I assume you know more than just how to melt metal.”
“Yea, I guess I do. You want to hire me as a repairman? Why? Just to keep me here?”
“No,” she chuckles, rolling her eyes. “Because you have such a winning personality.”
Heath laughs, clutching a hand to his stomach. “You’re kidding me. You barely know me,” he smiles. “No, but in all seriousness. I’ll stay for the work if that’s what you want, but don’t expect me to live here. I don’t do well in one place for too long. Either I melt the thing down or I burn something up I’m not meant to. What makes this place any different?” he waves, gesturing to the caf around us.
Kat’s eyes almost sparkle a smug smirk on her lips. “I’ve been burning this place down for twenty years. Do your worst. We’re used to it.”
He cocks an eyebrow and his lip twitches, almost forming a smile. “I think lava can get hotter than fire. I can melt stone,” he says in a fairly flat tone.
“So can I,” Kat replies with a giggle. “I’m not just an ordinary fire mage… or even Guardian, for that matter,” she pushes herself back to stand up. “I’ll show you the dorms, you’ll need a place to sleep.”
“Fine, but it’s temporary,” he reminds us for the umpteenth time.
I reach for the note, sliding it across the table and taking it in my hand. It looks like a regular old note, the date on it isn’t for another couple days, and the place… the name I don’t recognize. “Do you know where this place is?” I ask him.
He stands up, taking the note from me as we follow Kat out of the caf. “Yea, this place is a block or so from my motel. I often pass it by on the way to work. Why?” he asks, putting the note back in his pocket.
“Not sure,” I grab Kat’s hand as we walk out of the caf, Heath following in line behind us. I’m tempted to just skip up there using the new trick but with Heath, I hold back. I don’t know if I should try more than one person at this time yet.
We pass by the odd person and small group as people wander the building on their own schedules. Makes me wonder where everyone else is at.
“Kaitlyn!” a yell comes from somewhere ahead. We stop at the sound of clicking heels on the marble floor and suddenly a middle-aged looking woman comes into view wearing very outdated clothing. I catch a glimpse of her silver eyes as she tackles Kat, nearly knocking her to the floor. Her hands pat her down as if looking for injury and she straightens her sweater in the process. I just gape.
“R-Rose?” Kat stutters in shock. “Where were you? I thought…”
“Thought I was killed, with the others?” the woman purses her lips, tilting her head sympathetically as she pulls Kat into her bosom. “Oh, dearest, I’m so sorry you had to see all that horribleness. I would give anything to have protected you from it.”
Kat coughs, pushing away from Rose. “Uh… Yea. Can we talk later? I need to, um…” she glances back at Heath, who looks concerned at Rose’s words if not a little curious at her appearance.
“Of course, dear. I need to speak with Ambrosse, about the children. I’ll find you after?” Rose smiles, leaning down to kiss Kat’s forehead. Kat stares at the wall, chewing her lip until Rose is gone.
I squeeze her hand for assurance. “They’ll be looked after, I‘m sure of it,” I hope my words help.
Heath leans forward, head bobbing between us as we begin walking again. “What was that about?” he asks softly.
“First blood,” Kat answers sharply without looking at him. “Don’t worry about it,” I glance over my shoulder as he backs away, a confused look on his face behind his glasses.
We finally reach the dorm wing we’ve all populated. There’re not many rooms left, but since I’ve moved in with Kat, my room’s now available.
“You mean to say in all these rooms, these people are Guardians? There are that many of you?” Heath looks around with surprise.
“Just this hall. It was just me here a few months ago,” Kat explains.
“Seems like a lot,” he eyes the hall, his shoulders a little hunched.
I watch him closely, his whole demeanor sort of shifted there. “You don’t like large crowds much do you,” I say, rather than ask.
He looks at me, dark blue eyes locking with mine. “What makes you think that?” he asks cooly.
“Nothing. Just an observation,” I try to steer clear.
Heath turns around and I point him down the hall to offer my old room. I hardly have time to say anything when he freezes, staring at the large bulky scaly form of a sleeping dragon in front of Kat’s own door. His eyes grow wide and if he wasn’t already so pale, I’d say his skin drained of any remaining colour.
“What… is that?” he asks, not daring to move an inch.
“His name is Blue,” Kat puts her hands on her hips. “What are you doing here?” the dragon’s head lifts and tilts to the side. Kat sighs.
Heath can’t take his eyes off Blue, but I see his jaw clenching as he watches.
“Is that… really a dragon? Can it understand you?” he asks.
“He can understand you too,” she laughs. “The trick is understanding him. You need dragon ancestry for that.”
I bite back a laugh as his head turns to Kat, a look like terror on his face. “You need what now?” he asks in a small voice.
She smirks at him, leaning over to look Blue in his big eye. “I know you’re scared, but you can’t stay here; you’re too big. Rose is downstairs. Go back to the others.”
“So… dragons are a thing… dragons…” he trails off. It’s funny really, seeing this guy a little scared. My thoughts are cut short when he looks up thoughtfully. “Wait, you said he’s scared? Why would a dragon be scared?”
Kat stands upright, placing her hand on the top of Blue’s head. “Because last night, hundreds of them were slaughtered. He survived because he came to find help.”
“What?” I see him trying to work out the math in his head. “You mean… when that lady came by earlier, she was referring to… My God. I- I had no idea,” he shakes his head sadly. “I’m… sorry.”
“There’s no way you could have known,” Kat manages a sad smile. “I told you, this is a war. War has casualties. Sometimes, it gets personal. The dragons are only the beginning.”
Heath opens his mouth but clamps it shut. He seems to think it’s better not to ask, whatever it was he was thinking. He steps back, moving against the wall, making room for Blue to pass.
“Go on,” Kat pats Blue’s head. “If you can figure out how to shrink, you can come back. Okay?” the dragon grunts, slowly climbing to his feet. He sort of lumbers, ungracefully, past us and back down the hall. Kat stares after him, lost in her thoughts.
“So, as I was going to say, that room there is free. You’re welcome to stay there as long as you want to remain here,” I point to the room next to Kat’s. Now that Blue has moved, we can actually see the door.
Heath sort of shakes out of his quiet stance and nods. “Thanks,” he looks at the door and hesitates before grabbing the handle and peering inside. “It’s pretty big. How much is the rent on one of these?” he asks.
“No rent,” Kat mumbles, taking a deep breath. “We don’t really have a currency or economy on the island. Let me know if you need anything.”
“What, that’s it? No schedule? No forms to sign?” Clearly, this guy’s been on too many work sites.
Kat scoffs. “You sound like Caroline when she first arrived. No, you work on your own time. We’ll train in the mornings if that’s alright with you. We can figure out what needs repairing tomorrow.”
“Wait… if this place doesn’t have money, how are you going to pay me?” he asks over his shoulder.
Kat raises an eyebrow. “I said we don’t use currency on the island, not that we don’t have money. I have plenty.”
“Alright, don’t bite my head off. Just doesn’t make sense, having money and not using it and all. I guess I’ll see you around then,” he says, stepping into the room with a short wave.
“See you around!” I call as the door shuts with a soft click.
“So, are we supposed to be anywhere now?” I ask Kat, tugging her close with my hand.
She leans into me. “Yea… in there,” she points to our door.
I bite my lip in anticipation. “How could I forget,” I slide my hand towards the door, pushing it open so we can slip inside.
By Kayla West