“Are you ready to walk again?”
My rescuer set me down, and I took a few halting steps before I regained my legs. They hurt, but I could manage. The man had carried me out of the backstreets, and down a couple of blocks.
“There you go. You’ll be alright now.”
I still wondered if that had actually just happened. Would someone I didn’t even know save my life and kick the butt of my worst enemy? For all I knew, I was in a near-death hallucination or something.
“Hey, can you talk? Are you OK?”
The man seemed concerned that I hadn’t responded. I decided to speak, but not for his benefit.
“Why? Why did you save me?”
I had no idea how to reply to such logic. This whole event was just going over my head, so I decided to rethink it all. A moment or two passed, then I looked down, and spoke.
“You’re welcome, Milo.”
It made me uneasy how he called me by name. This was just strange, because I knew I didn’t know this guy.
“Um, how do you know my name? I have no idea who you are!”
“No, I don’t think you know me. I’m Isaac Sagar. I promise that I’ll tell you everything I know, when it’s time. For now, I just want you to know that you’re a very important boy.”
Important? I scoffed. I’ve been nothing but a piece of gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe for my entire life. If there was one thing I wasn’t, it was important.
Sagar held out his hand.
“Well, buddy? Will you come with me? You don’t have to, but I have so much to show you.”
Hm...I had no place to go, nothing to do, and anywhere that would get me off the streets (and away from Rice) was fine with me. I nodded in agreement. I didn’t know who he was or where he would take me, but what was the worst that could happen?
“I’ll go with you.”
The man smiled.
“Sorry. Thanks for trusting me. I promise you, you won’t be sorry.”
We walked just outside of the city limits. After a few minutes, he went up to some bushes, and moved away a number of branches. It was then that I spotted a sleek black vehicle behind the foliage.
“Whoa! Nice car!”
“You don’t know the half of it!”
He opened the passenger side door for me, and I climbed in. Sagar entered the driver’s side, turned the key in the ignition, and the car roared to life. I didn’t know the first thing about automobiles, but it sounded pretty powerful.
While we were still stationary, something suddenly plopped onto my lap. It was a footlong sub from Subway. I looked up at Sagar.
“You looked hungry, so I grabbed this for you. I actually bought this for you when I saw you in the alley next to Subway. When I came out, you weren’t there anymore. I was looking around for you when you tried to pickpocket me.”
Oops. I looked down at the food, feeling undeserving.
“Hey, no problem! I’m just glad we got to meet.”
I started to take the sub out of the plastic bag, when Sagar stopped me.
“I would recommend waiting for just a minute, before you eat that.”
With this warning, he hit the gas, and the powerful car leapt forward. It quickly accelerated for a few seconds, when Sagar pushed a button on the dashboard. Abruptly, the tires were no longer on the ground. The man pulled back on the steering wheel, and we climbed higher into the night sky.
This wasn’t a car, it’s a hovercraft!
I clutched the sandwich as the vehicle gained speed and altitude, until we leveled off high above the ground.
I had never flown before, heck, I’d never even been out of Flint before!
Sagar smiled at my amusement. “Yeah, pretty awesome, huh? You can eat your sub now. It should be pretty smooth from here.”
Without hesitation, I pulled the sandwich out of the clear bag, ripped away the paper, and scarfed it violently. Mm…meatball marinara. Total happiness.
“Whoa! Nice job buddy!” Sagar congratulated with wide eyes. “And not a crumb on the seats. Impressive!”
“That was the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” I said with full cheeks. “I think that’s the most I’ve ever eaten in one day. I wish they had a 2-foot long.”
“If I would have known how hungry you were,” the man said with a small chuckle. “I would have bought two subs!”
Although I was really excited, the day was taking its toll on me. The smooth gliding of the hovercar, my full stomach, my exhausted body…Before I knew it, the night sky and stars had disappeared, and I slumped over against the window.
“Hey, Milo! Wake up buddy!” I was suddenly being shaken out of a dazed blackness by a strong but gentle hand.
“Huh? Wha… what is it?”
“We’re here. Welcome to your new home, Tsalderek.”
Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I climbed out of the vehicle. Brilliant white lights assaulted my still waking eyes. Struggling to adjust to the brightness, I took a few stumbling steps. After becoming more accustomed to the lights, I was further able to make out our surroundings. Several cars which exactly matched the one Sagar had driven were parked in a row off to the side. A number of men and women walked around the area, which I assumed was some kind of garage. They were all clad in black uniforms, with a black vest consisting of a series of straps. These held tools as well as weapons. A few of the people glanced in our direction. I waved nervously, but they all just ignored me and carried on their business.
“Don’t mind them, Milo.” Sagar consoled. “There’s a bit of an obstacle to getting to know people here. They’ll get used to you.”
Before turning to follow Sagar, my eye caught a large painted symbol on the wall. It was a large circle, and within was a black figure. It almost looked like the silhouette of a bird in flight, but simplified, and made up of lines and hooks. I figured it must have been the logo of Tsalderek.
I hurried to catch up to Sagar as he led across the garage, while telling me about the organization.
“Tsalderek was founded over three thousand years ago. Our founders gathered like-minded people together to fight against injustice from the shadows. These pious men and women were keepers of the commandments, and they believed that they were called to defend the innocent and make the world a better place by their works. Everyone here is descended from those original freedom fighters. Originally we are from the Middle Eastern area, but moved to the Americas around two hundred years ago.”
Sagar stopped in front of a door leading out of the garage while he finished elaborating.
“Now, we base our operations from here, an abandoned Voortman cookie factory complex in Canada, just north of Lake Superior. We’ve converted it to be able to house several thousand people, as well as serve as headquarters for our missions.”
My mind was spinning. Secret agents and undercover headquarters and flying cars and missions? Was any of this real? And why am I here?
Sagar opened the door, and continued.
“Since Tsalderek does God’s work, he blessed us with increased speed, strength, and intelligence. We create advanced technology, which we use to fight for freedom and peace.”
As we walked from the garage into an adjoining wide hallway, I tripped over…something and fell headlong into a woman who was heading toward the garage.
“Oh, hey! Careful!” She cautioned as she swiftly side-stepped.
For a brief instant, I was able to catch a glimpse of her. She looked to be about 20, standing about 5 and a half feet, with dark brown hair and a forest green dyed strip along her bangs. The next thing that I saw was the ground. Just before I crashed face-first into the hard floor, my fall abruptly stopped.
“Nice catch, Trinity.”
My body stiffened into a board, with the woman’s hand gripping the back of my shirt. The tiled floor was only inches away from my nose. I froze for a moment, until she tossed me back up to my feet.
“Sorry.” I apologized, bashfully looking at the ground.
“No problem. Guys ‘accidentally’ fall on me all the time.”
“It’s true. I’ve seen that move a few times.”
The voice that had complemented Trinity spoke again. It came from a young Asian man standing next to her. He was taller than the woman, with black hair and a muscular body.
“Milo, I want you to meet Takeji Sirada. He was my best student, before he surpassed me and graduated last year. Now, he’s my good friend.”
Takeji nodded, smiling.
“Thank you, sir, but I’m still nowhere nearly as good as you.”
“Don’t short yourself. I think of you as an equal, and I couldn’t be happier for you and Trinity.”
The young couple glanced at each other, amused, then back at Sagar.
“Thank you, sir. It’s been six months, pretty much bump free!”
“Yep. I’ve only had to whoop his rear, like, two or three times!”
Um…what was this? Suddenly I felt quite out of place…
“Wonderful. I love to see my former students happy.”
“Thank you sir!” Trinity said. “We’ll be like a frickin’ ray of sunshine for you!”
Takeji and Trinity continued into the garage, and I looked to Sagar for an explanation.
“Oh, Trinity is Takiji’s new wife. She was one class beneath him, and after they both completed the program, got married six months ago. They seem to be perfect for each other.”
I didn’t really know anything about that, so I just kept my mouth shut.
“Come on, there’s more I need to show you!”