Chapter 1: Connections
It was a blood red sunset, and the prairie was wrapped in mist. A soft white veil of moisture rose into the crisp, cold air dispelling the scarlet sunlight of the eventide into a prism. The bladegrass and shrubs covered by the rain of an earlier autumn storm looked bedecked for a party in the depths of the empty plain. Beauty was everywhere in the cold evening, yet it was overshadowed by a feeling of darkness and betrayal.
Khyber stood with her hands in her pockets looking at the sky as the clouds turned their brilliant hues, the wind blowing the grasses as she gazed reflectively upon the land. In her deepest memories, there had never been such a sunset as this, the elders when she was growing up teaching her that such a sunset meant a great change was about to happen.
The memory of the powerful bolt of lightning from the storm earlier that afternoon sent a shiver down her spine; whatever the change might be it was one which gave her fear. She pulled her grey coat closer to her body as the wind found a gap between her and her coat enhancing her awareness of her surroundings, something was not right.
Out of instinct Khyber froze and listened to the prairie; the creatures of the nighttime were starting to come out, the year’s last crickets chirping slowly as the cold twilight set in. At the same time, the noises could mean danger for the creatures; it was relief for Khyber who relaxed her grip on her holstered weapon.
“I wonder what alerted me.” Her eyes roved around the plain.
Turning, she stepped down from the rubble she had been standing on and looked at the darkening sky. Her mind told her it was time to depart the area and she turned her footsteps to the south where bombed-out Rest City stood, a haze of industrial smog hiding its tallest buildings.
The walk to the city’s only highway took a good twenty minutes, but Khyber did not mind it as she was fit and loved the outdoors. Everything about the walk was enjoyable, even the cold autumn weather which she considered invigorating.
When she reached the highway, she walked to her motorcycle parked off the side of the highway in the natural area’s parking lot. It was her sweet ride, which out of habit of naming things, she had named Vrum. When Vrum’s engine was started, she put on her helmet and eased it out of the gravel parking lot, and onto the highway where she gained speed watching for vehicles which might not notice her approach. Passing slow vehicles upon the highway she sped towards what remained of the city, her goal to reach the far edge by the time it became completely dark.
“I wonder how things will be at HQ; it’s been a long time.” She murmured as the cold wind blew past her head, the radio in her helmet going static as it tried to pick up a signal. Truthfully, she was glad it was static as the people at HQ never seemed to rest, her whole life a bunch of contacting others via radio or some other means.
The buildings alongside the highway were getting higher she noted; the cold white lights on the highway always an annoying aspect of her nighttime rides. It’s time to turn soon. She thought noticing she was within the black and grey downtown section of Rest City, her passage to HQ right around the corner.
“Almost there Vrum, almost to HQ where you’re gonna need a few repair jobs.” Khyber chuckled to herself she still needed to break the habit of talking to her vehicles.
Upon reaching her exit, she felt a twinge of fear upon the thought of seeing Kamlin once again in his damaged state. It was one thing to be the daughter of the de-facto leaders of the Dawns, quite another to see her brother hurt so terribly he felt like half the person he used to be. She had seen him last time semi-conscious, the only thing he could tell her through his pain was that he felt like he was half of the person he was before the onslaught.
The streetlights suddenly grew dim as the road turned into a bombed part of the city, the shattered glass in the remains of skyscrapers reflecting her headlights. It was always a sight that awed her; the skyscrapers which had once been tall and proud reduced to frames of shattered glass and rusted steel. The war sure has costs. She thought as the last skyscraper in the section came into view; the structure reduced to a pile of ash and fused glass.
Vrum jolted slightly bringing Khyber back to the present; she was at the end of the road where the abandoned airport the Dawns made their HQ in was. In front of her was a massive gateway which contained multiple entry ports, each of them she knew, guarded from the inside by Dawn agents. Nudging Vrum to the smallest entry port she came up alongside the gatehouse, a small light glowing in the window.
“State your intentions.” The voice through the speaker said.
“I am here to talk to the remnants of the relief team.” Khyber reached her hand up onto a monitor in the wall and pressed down hard with her pointer finger.
The monitor beeped and so did the speaker. “Welcome back, Khyber Levitates you may proceed to enter.”
Khyber parked Vrum in the medical ward’s parking lot, a place where an old aircraft tarmac had been, the remains of the structure still off to the side worn out with time and pollution. All the ruins littered around the airport made Khyber remember her objective of parking and she turned to go into the building her heart pounding as she heard footsteps upon entering.
“Khyber Levitates, it’s good to see you.” The tall form of a black haired lady entered Khyber’s view.
Khyber smiled at the lady her mind fishing for a name. “Rahvana is it?”
Rahvana nodded. “It’s good to see you back so safe after that dangerous escapade you and your team went on. You want to see Kamlin?”
Khyber froze diverting her gaze. “I thought I had to give a report to the Council.”
Rahvana checked a touchscreen she had in her hand the light upon her face revealing something which got Khyber’s attention. She had never remembered Rahvana having an inch-long scar on her left cheek, and her curiosity was aroused.
“You hurt yourself Rahvana? What happened at HQ here while I was gone?”
Rahvana slowly lowered the screen her dark eyes flashing. “I fought two false Dawn agents who came to arrest me for trying to reveal the truth about the onslaught the relief team went through. Someone in the ranks works for either the Madoka Guardians or Outsiders and is trying to cover up what happened to Kamlin and the team. Since this crisis has happened, not many people trust each other anymore and I would advise you to not report to the Council. I know that this sounds absurd, but I am warning you it could cost you your freedom or your life.”
Khyber listened intently to Rahvana as she gave her the warning, connecting the dots from what she had learned on her recon mission to what she had heard from Kamlin before he had slipped into a coma. It was all connecting; the darkness was closing in on the Dawns, two enemies seeking some great secret the Dawns had which she could not decipher.
“I’ll take your word for it Rahvana; things are getting dangerous around here, my recon proves it.” Khyber glanced as the sterile white halls her eyes getting used to the fluorescent lighting once again. The hallways were clear of people and machines, but Khyber had a feeling something else was up, there was strong evidence someone else was listening.
Rahvana broke her reverie. “Take care Khyber, I need to go report to Inspector Gutierrez about my findings.” She walked away with a brisk pace down one of the halls Khyber watching her go out of sight. What are her findings? She wondered.
Feeling uneasy about a listener, Khyber turned towards the hospital ward observing the way the fancy white tiles in the hallway’s floor sparkled, each little stone tile with facets all the colors of the rainbow. Focusing on the tiles calmed Khyber as she reached the glass-paneled doors to the hospital ward the promise of green plants within; her whole frame alert and prepared for what was to come.
Inside of the atrium, green plants greeted her with their exotic fragrances as she walked up to the receptionist’s big desk in the right corner of the room. The lady sitting at it eyed her suspiciously and asked for her identification while jotting something down on a touchscreen. Khyber responded by scanning her pointer finger on a green device which the lady turned to her.
“So you’re Khyber Levitates. I have wanted to meet you!” The lady’s face broke into a grin as she extended her hand in greeting. “I’m Sera Kelspot, director of Medical Facilities here in the Dawns’ HQ.”
“It’s Nice to meet you Sera; just one quick question. Can I see Kamlin?” Khyber felt a pulse of determination through her.
Sera pressed a button on her desk. “Center-desk please have Era come up to the front. There is a visitor for room 203.”
Sera turned back to Khyber who looked intently at Sera. “Is Kamlin out of his coma?”
“Yes, he is, to tell you the details he just woke up yesterday from it.” Sera fiddled with a pen from her holder clicking it with her thumb so rapidly it annoyed Khyber.
Khyber was about to politely ask Sera to stop when a nurse entered the waiting area dressed in a white and red uniform.
“I am Era, just let me know if you need anything.” The nurse said politely as she beckoned Khyber to follow her.
Khyber hesitated to follow but something called to her something which she felt like she needed to address, and so she followed Era through another set of glass doors into a multi-colored hallway which as far as Khyber could see was lined with hospital rooms. Some of about it nerved her way in which it was so sterile and seemed to have an agenda different from her ideas of what the Dawns’ agenda should be.
“We are here Miss. If there is any you want just press the red button on the wall inside of the room.”
Khyber froze before entering. “What is Kamlin’s current state?”
Era tapped on the door handle. “Let me see, Kamlin is able to move about and from being scorched his burns are not as bad as they used to be.”
“Burns where?” Khyber was shocked; there had been no visible burns on him when she had last gone to see him.
“He was thrown into a fire by whoever attacked him.” Era showed it was the end of the conversation, slowly opening the door as she motioned for Khyber to enter.
The room was so different from what Khyber expected she had to keep herself from being overwhelmed. It was covered in green plants and there was a small water feature in one corner the noise probably to calm the patient’s nerves.
“Kamlin, how are you?” She stepped farther into the room brushing the vines hanging from the ceiling off her face. The bed was empty and neatly made, and to her surprise, she saw Kamlin sitting in a chair his hands folded in his lap.
Khyber stepped back to stare at him, noticing how much he had changed. Kamlin’s black hair was longer then she had imagined it being, his eyes hidden beneath the masses of it. Since his injuries had taken a lot out of him, she noticed he was very thin and his skin did not have the usual healthy glow it typically had was gone. He looked broken and disoriented, and if those two words could not describe it, he looked very abandoned.
“Just please go away and don’t talk to me. I want to be alone.” Kamlin’s face turned away from her and from what she could see his mouth was set in a determined line.
“I’m not the nurse Kamlin. It’s me, Khyber.”
Kamlin’s frame eased up a bit but he still did not turn his head. “Hi Khyber, long time no see.”
Khyber put a hand on his shoulder. “I came to see how you’re doing; I also was going to tell you about the recon mission.”
“People always come here to see how I’m doing or ask me about what happened in the onslaught.” Kamlin crossed his arms. “Do you have something besides those two things Khyber?”
Khyber pulled up a chair but then a thought came to her mind. She bent down to investigate the room for hidden microphones or bugs, as her father had taught her.
Kamlin’s inquisitive nature always seemed to be working. “What are you doing?”
Khyber found the power source to a collection of mysterious objects lodged in the plant’s soil and she cut it using a tool which her father had given to her. “I am cutting wires.” She gasped wriggling out of the cramped position she had had to take in order to cut the power source.
Kamlin’s interest held for only a moment.
Frustrated she couldn’t hold Kamlin’s attention long enough; Khyber sighed and pulled her big sister maneuver. “I have something which is different than how you are or what happened. It consists of a plot which could change who we are as Dawns, a secret which one of the forces fighting for control is trying to awaken.”
Kamlin’s head slowly turned as he let out a sharp breath. Khyber thought it could be pain from one of his injuries but the way in which he held himself in the chair had her thinking otherwise.
“I know another part of this plot you are trying to investigate. It concerns files which were stolen from the medical database as well as files on the Jurishaon Mentors.”
“What did the files on the medical database have in them?” Khyber stared intently at Kamlin as he shuddered.
“The files which were erased were all my relief team’s medical records. Mine were also erased and stolen. Khyber what is going on here? Who is doing this?” Kamlin put a hand to his chest as he gasped.
Khyber touched his shoulder. “Are you alright? You don’t look well.”
Kamlin gritted his teeth as he turned his arm to show her his bandaged wrist the fabric wrapped tightly around it. “When they had me on medications they took blood samples without my consent. It seemed they found something which is quite different from normal blood.” Slowly he undid the bandage his arm, showing her the place where the IV had been.
“It’s glowing with a blue light, Kamlin what did they do to you?”
Kamlin bowed his head as he wrapped his wrist back up. “They found out something which I cannot understand. Khyber, do you remember those files on the Jurishaon Mentors which were erased?”
“Yes. They erased the files because they found out you have glowing blood. It means you have Jurishaon roots.”
Kamlin gasped as he touched his arm. “Now that you span that river my mind is making a connection to that class back in grade nine when you were taught the Jurishaon Mentors and Phos believers had red blood with a golden tinge a mark which set them apart from other people. Wasn’t that right?”
Khyber frowned as she remembered the class; she only recollected the parts on glowing blood and how Kamlin had been into all things Jurishaon when he was younger begging to go to class with her. “You’re right Kamlin. There was also the part on Jurishaon and Phos believers were gifted with special gifts, or abilities as my teacher said. These abilities were usually marked with glowing blood which had a bluish tinge coming in two forms…”
“Please Khyber! I don’t have powers, I know I don’t. Otherwise, I would have been able to use them and save my relief team from the destruction they suffered!” Kamlin was clutching the sides of his chair his face ashen white.
“You feel responsible for what happened, don’t you?”
“I should have never listened to Valdin about the Ally. The Ally betrayed Valdin and made me half the person I used to be.”
“Valdin betrayed you? Who is this The Ally?” Khyber felt Kamlin’s pain as he gritted his teeth.
“The Ally, from what I recall was a halfbreed something between a Human and Dark One the mortal enemy of the Jurishaon Mentors. Khyber, he was after me as if he knew I had Jurishaon roots.”
Khyber felt a twinge of fear recalling how Rahvana had acted. Her findings must have been about Kamlin’s roots, ones which the Council would use against him. Fear was replaced by anger as she stared at the wall. How could something her parents founded be used against her brother?