CHAPTER 1 - The Looking Glass (1)
Governments had secrets.
Planets had mysteries.
The Universe was unknowable.
To someone with a more philosophical nature, these thoughts might have permeated the mind in this kind of situation.
Alexander Jaeger was not one of those people.
He had one thought at first as he looked out over the vast plains, entirely unfamiliar, a far cry from the laboratory he was studying in just a moment before.
‘Is that a fucking dragon?’
Yup, that was it. He really couldn’t come up with any other ideas for a few seconds as he tried to understand what exactly was going on. Mountains loomed in the distance, and the bright blue sky was free of clouds, delivering a gentle breeze that ruffled his unkempt snow-white hair.
His bright red eyes glanced down, ensuring that he still had his gear and his weapon. The sleek white metal of the high-caliber rifle, accented by the unmistakable iridescent blue of the mana reactor, gleamed in the sunlight.
As if comforted by the weight of the weapon hanging from the tactical one-point sling attached to his combat vest, Alex couldn’t help but smile.
“Well, ALICE, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…”
Exactly Three Hours Prior
Alex’s calloused hand pressed against the scanner, and the dim green light scrolled across his palm. A second after the light vanished, there was a beeping sound, and the heavy metal door slid open with a faint hydraulic hiss.
He quickly stepped inside, and the door similarly sealed itself. Leaning back against the sturdy metal, he let out a long sigh and rubbed his eyes. He stayed like this for a full minute before pushing away from the wall and looking around.
His lips curled into a faint smile as he drank in the sight before him. While it was called his ‘laboratory,’ it was more or less a small library with a table for experiments. Books lined the shelves on the wall to his right, and computer screens and terminals coated his left. Directly ahead, in the center of the room, stood a table bearing only a few assorted items.
He had set out his combat outfits carefully, and ALICE sat atop them, glowing faintly in the dim room. He flicked the light switch beside the door, and cool white light flooded the room, revealing a small gift box on the table.
An eyebrow raised in curiosity as he approached the box and inspected the tag.
’FROM: COL Ardman
Congrats on the promotion, Major’
Alex shook his head, a small chuckle escaping his lips as he tore the wrapping paper away roughly. Flipping the lid of the box hidden inside open, he found a full set of insignias befitting his new rank and a thumb drive. Another laugh echoed throughout the room as he took the USB and moved to the largest terminal in the room.
“Who the fuck uses these nowadays? Really showing your age, Colonel…”
As the screen flickered to life, he keyed in the password and pushed the stick into a receptacle on the wall. A short series of warnings and cautions flashed across the screens, only appearing long enough for him to ignore all of them and click ‘Accept’ over and over. The general premise of the warnings was that the contents were for MAGES (Medically Altered Genetically Engineered Soldiers) of the rank of Colonel or above only.
“Come one, come on, too much reading. What is this, a EULA?”
After the twelfth time accepting conditions, the terminal finally displayed the contents of the thumb drive. Without a moment’s hesitation, MAJ Jaeger clicked on the first file, and a textbook appeared on the screen. Despite only being fifty pages, the amount of information contained inside was dizzying, and a corner of Alex’s mouth curled into a mischievous and crooked grin.
“There we go. Come to papa. You never fail to deliver, Colonel…”
He finished reading the entire document without moving. He immediately rushed over to the bookshelves, taking several large books and moving them to the table. The tabs were well worn as he flipped each one open to specific pages, scanning the contents. A rare moment of enlightenment overcame the young man, the new information tying pieces together in ways he would never have thought of without it.
“So that’s how it is. I can’t wait to practice this!”
He looked over at his gear, smiling and putting it on, attaching ALICE to her clip sling. Alex pressed a button on the rifle’s side, and an object resembling a metal piece of chalk popped out. He moved over to the unadorned rear wall of the room and raised the chalk.
Faintly luminescent blue lines appeared on the wall’s smooth metal surface as the chalk passed over it, forming a circle. Alex drew another smaller circle slightly off-center inside the first, followed by a third touching the edges of both. Odd letters soon followed, and Alex stepped back to inspect his work.
“Right, so… I never get this right first time go, but everything looks correct.”
“I think. Oh well, screw it!”
He pressed one hand to ALICE and the other to the glyphs, transferring mana from the weapon’s reactor to the wall art. A slightly tinny female voice emitted from the rifle as he did so.
“Going to fuck up another test run, ‘Fenrir’?”
Alex scoffed. “Look who decided to wake up! You still on that ‘I’m going to cause the Apocalypse’ kick?”
The AI inside the rifle responded, mirth tinging the mechanical voice. “No use giving up a thought if it’s true, right?”
The officer rolled his eyes and continued transferring mana into the glyph, ignoring her comment. Soon after, the art began to shine brilliantly, and the circle filled in with white light. Then the light pulled Alex’s hand in with an uncontestable strength. It was at that moment, Alex frowned. His eyes went wide as the circle of light sucked in more and more of his body.
ALICE’s voice had an odd mix of joy and exhaustion, like a person who was always saying ‘I told you so’ but was finally getting tired of it.
“Greeeeaaaaat. Here we go, Fenrir.”