Chapter 1: The Redfeed Base
The marks of the war can be seen outside the walls of Base R. One hundred and seventy-five years. That is how much it passed since the wall has collapsed last time. The ruins are left there, to remind the Guardians that the world depends on their devotion. The role of the Guardians is to guard the Portal’s Wall with the price of their lives. Even if there are no signs that the world beyond the Wall is going to invade the other worlds, the Unit insists on creating Guardians from the last generation of children as well. This time, they will be subjects to some rough process, regarding the fact that, even if all the Guardians were tested very rough, the feelings of some of them blocked their judgment, leading to extreme losses in the past. So, since then, the Guardians were disciplined and educated as the Unit wanted, and they were forced to have no feelings. They had the right to found families, but just in order to assure the continuity of their species for the tradition of guarding the Wall. At least this is what they told the Guardians from Base R, and they have to take their leader’s word, Zoltan Porter.
Every being becomes a Guardian when they turn eighteen. Then, the children are separated from their parents and moved to the superior floors, which means from the tenth floor above, to the twelve floor, and then, in time, to the fifteenth floor, reaching the seventeenth floor with the age. The parents will remain on the Westside and the children on the East side of the Redfeed Base. Between the eighteenth and the twenty floor of the Base had access only Zoltan and a few close people, and the guards who assured the peace around.
The same happens in the rest of the Bases, of which the Guardians inside the R Base know too little about. Only Zoltan can communicate freely with the leaders of the other Bases and the Unit. He has by his side Tamara Stevens, his assistant, who seems calm, but it’s considered the worse and vengeful from the children’s trainers.
Every floor has its own role and halls. On the first five floors are the youngest Guardians to become, which can stay with their parents only until they turn three. Then, the parents are sent to the superior floors, and the children begin the tough practice. From the sixth to the tenth floor are the one between three and sixteen years old. And from the tenth to twelve floors are the future Guardians: the ones between sixteen and eighteen. From the moment they are about to become adults, they are sent to the superior floors, where their fate will be decided.
There are metallic walls and thick windows which separate the rooms of the Base. Everything is gray and somber, the equipment is old, but it looks like new because of Zoltan, who is leading the place for four years. Even if he looks thirty, he is thirty-nine. The lack of feelings and following the Unit’s rules makes them look older. In this world, the ones who do not have feelings are getting older faster, until they reach thirty years old. At that moment, the aging process stops for them, but the years continue counting. The ones who have feelings are punished by the Unit, as Zoltan says because the Guardians need to reach the maturity faster in order to be prepared to fight.
“I’m so curious to see what’s waiting for us on this next generation of Guardians”, says Zoltan to Tamara while he’s pouring himself a drink.
“Last year we had a lot more fighters. There were some Readers as well, and only one Magician, who is still figuring out his powers. He couldn’t do more than ruin a couple of walls from the fifteenth floor by now.”
Every Guardian discovered his powers when he turned eighteen. The Soldiers were the ones who were good at fighting in a professional way, the Readers were the ones who could hear thoughts, and the Magicians were the ones who had powers they didn’t even understand.
There’s a category equally rare as the Magicians, maybe more rare: the Marked ones. Extremely rare, but used in battles. They usually were two in a generation, and they had a symbol appearing on their body, like a burning infinite sculpted in the flesh, which made the two of them the most powerful in their generation. The Marked ones appeared when there was strongly bound in a fight, which wasn’t necessarily bounded in blood, it was born first on one of the Guardians, who shared it then with another one, and these persons were capable of sending energy and power to one another. A great advantage in a battle.
A single category didn’t appear for a couple of decades, maybe one hundred, and that person had died on the field, in a training outside the Bases, and that was the Great Guardian, which received at least two of the powers from above when he turned eighteen.
“This year will be an interesting year”, laughs Zoltan. “The daughter of Earl and Claire Hunt shows some kicking ass skills since the past years, but I couldn’t move her to the superior floors. The rules won’t let us. We have to maintain the order.”
“Lily…” smiles Tamara with half a mouth.
“She’s a girl with potential, indeed. I watched her at the training, and I can say that she and her friend, Brook Zhin, are making a good team.”
Zoltan pushes the glass on the table and gets near Tamara.
“Do you want Marylin’s place?”
Marylin, his wife, who had been killed two years ago in a mission outside the Base, and whose death made Zoltan become a tyrant. No one ever told the Guardians what was outside the Base, and the chips implanted on their back of their necks were reset when they got back from the missions and made them forget what they saw outside. No one ever asked questions around because the punishment was too big. Sometimes, doubting the Unit’s decisions led to death. Zoltan, Tamara, but also their trust circle of trainers, they all knew what was beyond the walls of the Base.
Tamara puts the hand through her short hair and puts it behind her ear.
“You know that I can fit by your side because I was always here. I didn’t let you down for a second.”
While they were making future plans in the room from the nineteenth floor, Lily was heading back from the afternoon’s training. The close fight. She and Brook had broken the limits this time.
“Everyone was looking at you!” says Gloria excited behind them.
Lily turns her blue-green overwhelming eyes to their friend. She unties her long tail from behind, leaving it on her shoulders. A couple of dark blonde hairs, more like a hazel color, slip through her fingers. The metal cracks under her feet while she’s heading to the showers.
“We’re making a hell of a team, what can I say!” says Lily getting undressed by her sweaty blouse.
Brook throws her a towel, another to Gloria, and then she hits the showers. The sensors make the water flow at the perfect temperature, and each cabin lights in a different color. The water is exactly how it’s supposed to be.
“Ahh!” it hears from the fourth shower cabin. “Damn it!”
“Alice? What’s wrong?” asks Brook rising on her toes.
“What they were saying about these showers?” Alice asks rushing out.
Lily steps out as well, putting the yellow towel over her.
“They are perfect! The temperature, the color, the smell…” whispers Gloria caught in a euphoric state.
“Hell they are! My water was too hot! Look!” says Alice showing them revolted her back.
She pushes her chip from the back and in the place where the mirror is it appears an image with Tamara. Finally, she answers, disheveled, trying to arrange her white shirt, which she had obviously put on in a hurry.
“What now?” she asks bothered.
“The shower number seventy-three is broken. You have to send someone to fix it.”
“Yes, Miss Evans. Is there something else you would like to report? For example the lack of activity from today’s training?”
“We will talk at the meeting about this”, Tamara cuts her off and closes the screen.
Brook wipes her red hair, pushes on her chip too, and from the mysterious mirror comes out a shelf which has her name on it. She chooses a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and then she dries her hair, not before she wipes her freckled face. Her brown eyes glow with the red light from the bathroom, making her look like she’s on fire.
“I think that Tamara’s upside-down again”, she laughs and stops the hairdryer.
“You tell me?” says Alice.
“That woman scares me!” adds Gloria.
Gloria’s the typical image of the Guardian: tall, brown-haired, and brown-eyed. A simple girl, but she feels special sometimes. She’s the kind of person that listens to the orders no matter what, even if she’s struggled with questions. It is said that the Guardians know no fears, but she started to know a little about this feeling, especially when Zoltan passes by her.
Alice, on the other hand, is the curious type, who always wants to know more. Brunette, with black eyes, she seems a mean and tough person, but her soul is still pure because she doesn’t know the evils of the Guardian’s world.
Lily didn’t feel anything about Tamara. She dries her hair without taking part in the conversation. She looks at Brook and she smiles. They are friends since they were little kids, from they were three, to be specific. They grew up on the same floor, in the same section. Gloria and Alice were transferred later to their section, when they were fifteen, from the North of the Base. Considering all of these, there has formed a strong bond between the four girls, and they were now inseparable. But no one could ever miss the special bond between Lily and Brook.
The girls were walking on the metallic corridor, to their room, which they have split for the last three years.
“Alice, what’s on your mind?” asks Lily, who is the most preoccupied from the group.
“In a week we’re going to be on the top floors. We will find out our powers and the feelings will be forbidden to us. And we will need to obey the new rules, otherwise, we will end up punished. Or we will end up for good…”
“Aren’t you ready for the big step you were born for?” asks Gloria binding her brown hair on the back.
“I don’t know. I mean I do understand that this is our calling, that no one should be guided by their feelings because this is why these things are forbidden. Because we might fail…”
“Shh! Be careful what you’re saying”, whispers Brook. “You know damn well that they find out everything!”
“They can’t find out what we’re talking about in here”, says Lily calmly. “There may be surveillance cameras hidden on the big corridor, in the other rooms, but there aren’t in our rooms. And, besides this, why shouldn’t we be asking questions? Do you really never ask yourselves why the adults choose to listen to the rules of the Unit?”
“Aaa, because this is our calling? To be soldiers who will protect the worlds if the Wall collapses?” answers Gloria with another question.
“Oh, yes. I’ve always wondered”, replies Brook straight.
Lily is crossed by a shiver, a feeling that she wasn’t supposed to let others see it a week from now on. “To love is to send yourself to death.” The Guardian’s motto. The walls were full of inscriptions and quotes, from the Book of Guardians, the one after which were transcribed the rules they were following.
“The motto is a little exaggerated. If this was true, it means that our parents don’t love us?” asks Brook.
“They are not allowed to feel it, even if we know they feel it. They say that we’re bonded in blood, which gives them the right to visit and to advise us after we enter the real World of the Guardians”, sights Lily.
“But it seems so stupid. In the other worlds I don’t think that the feelings are forbidden”, says Brook revolted.
“In the Human’s World, there aren’t. Even if we’re part humans, we have a special part, the one of a Guardian, a fighter. They marry from love, not rules. They fight for what they love, not to protect their world, and we stay here and do the job for them”, says Alice angrily.
“Not only for them but for the other worlds too. This is the Guardian’s sacrifice”, adds Gloria.
The Guardians were protecting the three worlds that were around them: Human’s World, The Children of Sun’s World, and The Children of Moon’s World. In case of the Wall collapsed, they fought until death to protect the worlds from demons, dragons, spirits and other creatures which were lying behind the Great Wall for more than a hundred and seventy years.
“Let’s talk about something else. It’s obvious that in a week our, lives we will be dictated by them. We will obey their rules because there’s no other way”, says Brook.
“What powers do you think you’ll have? I don’t feel anything yet”, says Alice.
But Lily gets lost in her thoughts, while her friends are expressing their opinion. She wonders why they have forbidden so many things, and how she will be capable of hiding what she will obviously feel at some point. She feels that it is impossible to live in a world without feelings.
Before going to bed, Lily meets up with her mom, at the fountain in the center of the Base from that floor. Claire looks at her daughter with a trace of regret in her eyes.
“Mother, how can you keep feelings away from what you do?”
Claire changes her facial expression. Her blonde hair is tight up, and she’s wearing the mission suit. She had been out on the field, but she couldn’t remember anything because the chip has been rescheduled and her memory was wiped away.
“Lily, you get used to it in time. You have to.”
“But what about love? Like in Human’s World?”
“My dear, I was asking the same questions when I was your age.”
“You and father…”
“I followed the Unit’s advice and I married your father at their request. We both fit together because we had the Soldier’s gifts. In time, I learned to respect him and to care about him, and then you and your brother came into this world.”
“But what do you feel now? Do you even miss him?”
Her big brother had died in an explosion in the Base, just a few days after he was born. Claire wasn’t talking about him at all and she always avoided the subject.
“I don’t feel anything anymore because this is how I was thought. Everything you feel fades in time. It’s our job not to let overwhelmed by the feelings, and it is better this way. Only like this, we can protect the worlds when the Wall collapses.”
“But the Wall hasn’t collapsed for more than one hundred and seventy years! Is this the only reason that we are forbidden so many things? This doesn’t make any sense!”
“Lily!” shouts Claire getting up. “We were not born in the World of Humans and we’re not supposed to mistake us for them! We are Guardians and this is our duty! We protect the worlds with the price of life!”
“But weren’t you curious to know what are you doing outside? Why your memories are erased?”
“It’s not our job to ask questions. They told us this is for our own good, that beyond the Base’s walls are horrible and dangerous things, and for our protection, we don’t remember anything.”
“And you really believe this?”
“Lily, stop questioning the Rules!”
Lily looks disappointed at her mother. She feels she’s different from her, even though she sees on her face that she wants to explain more to her.
“Good night, mother”, says Lily and heads to her room.
When she fits on the opened door, she notices that everyone’s asleep. She gets into bed and puts the blanket on her head.
“Why doesn’t anyone ask anything about what is really going on here? Why do they prefer being treated like robots without knowing more?” The thoughts continue making her nervous. She closes her eyes, but the agitation from her soul doesn’t let her sleep. Was it something wrong with her?
She gets up and steps outside the room, on the cold metallic corridor. The steps take her into the bathroom, where the red light turns on when she steps inside. She hates this place. She wants to change something, but she has nothing left to do now. She sights with a long sound, leaning with one hand on the marble sink. The other hand she puts behind her neck, touching her chip. It feels that something’s extra there, and she feels controlled, and she doesn’t want to become what she is supposed to. Her hand is trembling on the small metallic thing stuck on her neck, and the next second a sound comes out, like this hit in her head. She feels tingling down her spine, and then she’s free.
She looks around. In the bathroom’s corner, she sees a surveillance camera, one that she didn’t see before. She’s crossed by fear, but she tries to remain lucid. She gets out, walking on the long metallic corridor. In the corners, she sees again cameras, which she wasn’t aware of their existence. They turn around at every minute. She passes by the corner and instead of the metallic walls she had seen all her life, she sees now windows. On the horizon are a lot of ruins and pale lights. Another Base.
Lily watches the cameras, and when they turn around, she runs up the stairs, to the next floor. The chip is broken. This is what the chips do to them, they stop them from seeing what’s really there, under their noses. It’s silence in the Base. Everyone’s asleep when she finds out the horrible truth about her existence. Her legs carried her to the last floor, a floor where she was never supposed to be because the Guardians were allowed only to the seventeenth floor. The last three were only for Zoltan and his close ones.
Lily gathers her courage and steps forward. She arrives in front of a red door. Before she opens it, she puts her palm on it and now she can see inside that room. There, Zoltan and Tamara let themselves caught in the feelings or better said in the body pleasures, on his desk. “How come that they can do this and the Guardians can’t? How can I see what’s behind this door?”
But what she sees it’s more like something wild than love. Even with all of these, her breathing becomes faster, and without thinking the next move, she runs up the stairs, to the twentieth floor. She puts her hand on the only door in front of her, but she doesn’t see metal there anymore. The last floor leads on the roof.
Lily steps insecure and afraid out of the Base. Above her is the clear sky. She leans back her head and she catches it between her palms, while she turns on the spot, marveling about what has been hidden from her all her life.
God, how beautiful this is!
Her eyes turn teary and she feels goosebumps. She doesn’t want to close her eyes because she’s afraid this can be a dream. She sees now beyond the Base, beyond the metallic walls. She’s breathing an air with a fresh smell. A large smile appears on her face. She laughs from the bottom of her heart, running around on that roof, like a child who sees the ocean for the first time.
Finally, she sits on the edge, leaving her feet hanging down over the roof. She can see the ruins better now, pieces of metal and stone, walls, and demolished bricks remained there from the last Wall’s collapse. She looks at the lights from the horizon. There has to be Base, she says. But beyond the horizon, far-far away, she sees something else. A purple light. The sky looks darker there. The Wall. It wasn’t what she had imagined at all. She was always thinking of a metallic Wall, in no case at some purple and shiny thing. Maybe it was the Wall or maybe what she was living right now was just a dream.
Now, in this night, Lily discovers the freedom. And its taste is so good, and it looks so good, that her heart breaks when the sun rises. She knows that she has to leave because the others will be up soon and they will notice that she’s gone, but she can’t help being amazed one more time by the thing which of she had only heard stories about. She lets the first rays to shine on her hair, face, her whole being. It’s for the first time when she feels the natural heat on her body.
She makes her own way, avoiding the cameras only she could see, but she gets in front of Zoltan’s office once again and she can’t help to put her hand once again on that door to see what is inside.
“We will gather them tomorrow”, Lily hears Tamara.
“We will rush the process. Tomorrow we will send the ones from the tenth floor further.”
“I think that’s a good idea, after the revolt from Base P. Other Guardian’s children will be brought in. We will integrate them with ours. We will merge all the sectors.”
“This is what we will do. What worries me is that a revolt started there. They had the Guardians under control, with chips, just we have them.”
“And you want to let them go?”
“Hell no! There are only seven Bases besides us and P which have chips and clear rules. We don’t work on kindness here! It will be chaos. There will be problems in the ones where there’s democracy right now. You’ll see. The soldiers are not trained as they should be. If the Wall collapses, they will die first.”
“I hope you’re right, Zoltan.”
“How many of them have died? Two-three hundred? A few, compared to what can happen if we let out guard down!”
“The Unit is under the impression that we’re like the others. What if they will find out?”
“From where Tamara? Everyone’s under control here! No one knows what’s going on, and the ones who will come won’t remember the road leading here. They had chips as well. We have to see what went wrong there.”
“When did it happen? How did the chips deactivate?”
“Last night, about two o’clock.”
Lily remains blocked. The time when her chip had deactivated was the time when the chips from the ones in Base P did that as well. She was wondering if she was the only one from Base R who had experienced that.
“They had killed all whose chips were deactivated. They didn’t want to erase their memories anymore. They reset the chips to the ones who only saw the revolt but didn’t participate.”
“I heard that the Wesley couple died.”
Zoltan remains silent for a moment.
“They were good students, but they were transferred. I hadn’t seen them in a while.”
“Their son is coming here, isn’t he?”
“Yes. Dean will stay with the others to recover until we will be ready to unite the groups. They had them under surveillance as well, and they were somehow caught in the fight. They were killed. Thatțs what I heard from Leonor.”
“By whom? By the rebels?”
“No. By Leonor. I’ve spoken myself to her. They had made the decision to help the hurt ones, so Leonor decided to end them all together. Dean knows that the rebels have killed his parents. It’s a motive to hate them enough. It will be easy to brainwash him and pull him on our side, without implanting too many information in the chip. The young ones will listen to him. He’s a mature guy and he has potential. Exactly what we need to spread trust among the new becoming Guardians. I’m thinking that he can be a good trainer, even if he’s only year two of training.”
Tamara starts walking to the door. Lily winces and starts running down the stairs, avoiding the surveillance cameras. When she arrives in front of her room, the door opens suddenly.
“Hey. You’ve woken up earlier”, says Brook sleepy from the doorstep.
Lily is still staring shocked at her, trying to hide her trembling.
“And you have the same clothes as yesterday… Lily, what’s going on?”
“Nothing. I’m just tired”, she says and passes by Brook.