CHAPTER 11 - MAGES (1)
“Seven elements. That’s all there are.”
Alex sat in the stuffy classroom and listened to the teacher, a grizzled and scarred veteran of countless battlefields. On the screen was an image cast by the projector bolted to the ceiling.
Four orbs were connected in a square by golden lines. One each red, blue, yellow, and green. Inside that were two orbs connected by a circle. One sphere and half the circle was white, the other black. And inside that was a single gray orb.
“Fire. Water. Earth. Wind. Light. Dark. Null. Most people get one element. That’s it. Less than a tenth of a percent of people can use two elements. And less than a tenth of a percent of those can use three.”
The man continued the lecture, and the bright-eyed teen drank in every word like they were the commands of the gods themselves.
“However, no opposing elements can be controlled by the same person. Opposing elements are connected on the diagram shown. This means that nobody can have Light and Dark. Fire and Water. The other law is that someone who has Null is unique. Their magic is special and cannot be shared with another element.”
Alex raised his hand, speaking once the teacher nodded at him.
“First Sergeant…” He stood up and spread his legs, hands held behind his back. “We have received our elements. Mine is Null. I request further clarification on what you mean by ‘special,’ First Sergeant.”
The gruff man nodded. He got this question every few cycles when one of the rare individuals with the Null element came through the MAGES program.
“The types of Null magic are as numerous as the stars in the sky, Private Jaeger. I can enhance my physique with my Null magic. Another soldier I knew in Iraq could manipulate and read thought.”
The instructor frowned. He had read Jaeger’s report. The man showed more potential than any other MAGES candidate he had ever seen.
It also included the potential to become the most massive disappointment in the program’s history.
“Private Jaeger, I hope you want this as much as you claim. Your road is going to be far more difficult than any of the other soldiers around you.”
Alex nodded, a wide smile and an air of confidence filling his face.
“I’ve never wanted anything more in my life, First Sergeant.”
Alex blinked at the king’s sudden offer. He glanced down at his Status Plate, raising an eyebrow in confusion. Just what had they seen on this small piece of metal that would cause the king of a country to ask such a thing so boldly?
This seemed to be a world where anyone could learn magic without needing to go through the multiple years of hell that was the MAGES candidacy program. So.. he shouldn’t be that special.
ALICE’s voice cut into his thoughts before the king could continue or Alex could respond.
‘You ARE special, Fenrir. I wouldn’t have chosen to be your companion if you weren’t.’
Six soldiers with toned and scarred bodies stood on the ‘stage.’ A computer screen taller than them was on the wall behind them. In front of them, obscured by the harsh lighting in their eyes, sat a few dozen high-ranking Army officials.
Four men, two women. The casual observer would think that they were related, given the varying shades of white and silver in their hair and the hues of red of their eyes. Such were the side effects of the grueling surgeries and experiments and other unspeakable acts the sextet had passed through over the last three years.
One by one, the graduates of the 66th MAGES candidacy program were called. They stepped forward when their names were called, and they were handed a weapon each. These weapons were far more varied than the individuals. The first man got something that looked like an old-fashioned flamethrower. The woman got a backpack-mounted chain gun.
So on for the other three, each weapon looking as fantastic as the last, if not more so.
“Sergeant Alexander Jaeger.”
He stepped forward, and the lighting was no longer in his eyes. He didn’t shift his gaze to look at the audience, though. He maintained perfect posture as a small medal was pinned to his dress uniform. The seven-colored rope hung, curled under his left arm, signifying his status as one of the MAGES.
“As the honor graduate of this class, you are entitled to the first pick of AI companions. Your weapon shall be the latest ‘Staff’ model.”
The presenter handed him the sleek white rifle, slightly larger than a Barrett .50 Cal sniper rifle. The blue light of mana shone from the semi-sphere on the side, lines running like mechanical veins along the weapon’s length, cased in black trim.
The screen behind him shifted, and thousands of images appeared. Men, women, objects, animals. All had one thing in common. They were the AI the Army had developed to utilize the skills of the MAGES fully.
That was when things got crazy.