The Winds of Power - The Sleeper Prophecy

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Imprinting

~ Chapter 6 ~

‘Imprinting’


The next day began with warnings from Bajool about leaving quarters after curfew, and on the workings of the toilet. In addition to Cosmo’s mishap last night, one of the chosen ones on level three had lost a hand. Apparently, the toilet did not magically remove its contents when you stood up. It atomised everything in the bowl. Both boys thought they would treat the toilet with more respect after learning this.

Doctor Peasley was surprisingly measured in her lecture of the boys over their escapade, and neither had any desire to repeat it. Although Bajool had healed Cosmo’s leg, he rubbed it constantly. To the boys’ embarrassment, it turned out the creatures that prowled the corridors at night cleaned the walls and floors by feeding off the day’s dust. They were harmless. Whatever unpronounceable name Bajool had referred to them as, Cosmo’s name of Dustbugs stuck in Aiden’s mind. The creature under the waste was the alien equivalent of a goat - it ate anything!

After a reminder from Amber, Aiden relayed Sarah-Jane’s vision of his missing arm to Kydra. The lack of concern staggered him. “Stay on level two,” was the sage advice he received. At least Bajool used his magic hands to fix his ribs.

The rest of the week followed the same pattern on level two, only Sarah-Jane now waited until after training before applying her makeup, and Amber wore her hair in a ponytail, had elastic joining the arms of her glasses, and brought a box of tissues and her puffer to each session. It appeared that in addition to cats and dogs, she was also allergic to the Buwah. Aiden’s sense of some inevitable doom continued to increase. To Aiden’s dismay Sarah-Jane kept looking at him like he was an injured animal that was about to be put down.

To make matters worse the training was relentless. Each morning they found it harder to get out of bed, feeling sore, tired and resentful at having to face another day without a glimpse of their supposed powers. Aiden doubted if he would ever learn to heal. Ogmore stood like a statue each day, observing but never speaking. His massive warrior frame had them giving him a wide berth. Matong would sweep in from time to time, ignore Ogmore and obtain an update from Kydra. Before leaving, Matong would throw them a disparaging look with his fiery eyes lingering longest on Aiden.

Doctor Peasley closely monitored their health and assured them they were getting healthier every day; the soreness was natural as they worked muscles. She even gave them a lecture on the impurities the food on Earth contained, and how much healthier they were after a short time on a balanced, nutrient rich diet, free from toxins and sugar. Amber’s face reddened when Doctor Peasley commented that her face had cleared up nicely.

The boys were amazed to learn from the girls that there was a ‘lights dim’ command. The girls were horrified the boys had not yet washed any of their clothes. They had a good laugh at Aiden when he explained he only had one training outfit left. He had tried standing in the shower fully clothed, only to find his clothes disintegrate. After the girls described the washing compartment in the bathroom wall, where you waited a few seconds and then removed your clean clothes, the boys promised to wash their clothes that night.

“How do you know these things?” asked Cosmo.

“We asked!” said Sarah-Jane shortly.

Cosmo had the girls going for a while when he asked if they had used the ‘massage head’, or the ‘remove pimples’ command in the bathroom.

They teased one another about their accents, and discussed the unusual things that had happened in their lives with their powers. Amber and Sarah-Jane had the most notable experiences.

“I always knew there was something different about me,” said Amber. “It was nothing regular, but sometimes I would see or know things before they happened.”

Sarah-Jane nodded. “And you can’t tell anyone because they’d think you’re crazy.”

“Yeah, one time I told rescuers where to find lost tourists in the caves. I’d had to lie and say I’d overheard where they were going. How else could I explain how I knew?”

“I helped stop a robbery once,” said Sarah-Jane. “I saw this guy at the mall, and had a vision of him robbing the bank. I told the mall security guards I’d seen him with a gun. He was on the news that night. They caught him in the act! Mostly though I was always finding things Dad had lost. He was very forgetful. He used to call me his treasure hunter.”

“Gee, all I did was predict the weather,” said Cosmo. “Mum and Dad would always come to me to ask if it was going to rain. I was always right. You can’t trust the weather reports.”

Doctor Peasley was speechless when they turned up to training with alterations to their training outfits. Amber had used her sewing machine and craft box over the last few nights to personalise everyone’s outfits. She had sewn a dazzling array of brightly coloured sequins on her training outfits that formed a number of linked, multi-layered swirling balls. Aiden was sure if you looked at them for too long the room would start to spin. Sarah-Jane’s outfits were pink with unicorn motifs on the collars and cuffs. Unicorns were one of her things. Cosmo insisted upon a dragon emblazoned on the back of his, with claws on the cuffs. Aiden went for a red British lion over his heart. Doctor Hudson, while initially praising Amber’s skills, made some token remonstrations in support of Doctor Peasley.

At the end of another day of Kydra working them relentlessly, they rested as they waited for Bajool’s vocal session to begin.

“Brilliant, now we move onto the tenth pattern,” Aiden grumbled.

“I don’t think I can take much more of this,” Cosmo whined, lying flat on the mat.

“It has to stop soon,” wheezed Amber, propping herself up onto her elbows.

“Wake me when it does,” said Cosmo.

“When do you think we get to try the path again?” asked Aiden.

“Not for a while,” Bajool answered, gliding majestically over to the group. “And there are no more vocal patterns to learn.”

“Great,” said Cosmo sitting up.

Bajool’s long, lanky body towered over them as they sat on the floor. Aiden thought he was in desperate need of a few good meals. His grey skinny legs didn’t look strong enough to support him. A horrifying thought occurred to him: would they look like Bajool after months of eating nothing but chews?

“You have now learned the sounds that comprise the common languages within the Alliance. We have been doing this to ready your brains to take in these languages.”

Cosmo groaned. “Please tell me we don’t have to learn languages.” Doctor Peasley gave him a withering look.

“You have completed all the preparation you need,” continued Bajool. “Now you are ready for imprinting.”

Cosmo was up most of the night with Aiden’s PDC, and was no easier to wake in the morning than usual. Aiden’s nose clamp left Cosmo gasping for air. With an extra spring in their step they jostled each other along the corridor.

“Can you believe we hook ourselves up to a machine and then we can speak new languages?” said Cosmo, bumping Aiden with his shoulder.

“Forget the languages. We start learning powers afterwards. Anyhow, Bajool said we could understand different languages, not speak them,” said Aiden attempting to bump Cosmo back, but missing and hitting the wall instead. Aiden rubbed his shoulder. Each day now he could feel he was moving closer to what waited for him out in space, or the darkness as Sarah-Jane had called it. All he wanted was to learn to heal. Once he could do that he would ask them to send him home in a pod. They had been promised they could return to Earth at anytime should they feel this was not their journey. It was a race between a darkness closing in and learning powers. Unfortunately, Bajool had told him healing was one of the last powers he would learn. It was going to be a close race.

Cosmo chuckled. “It still sounds awesome. Do you think they could throw in maths and history as well?”

A vicious snarl stopped them in their tracks at the base of the level two access area. They rushed up the ramp, turned the corner and froze. Two of the most hideous creatures they had ever seen stood on level three. The gargoyles glared down at the boys. They had big heads, short, squat, muscular bodies and dimpled skin in shades of dark purple and mottled green. Aiden and Cosmo gave the traditional welcoming nod, which the gargoyles did not return. Instead, the gargoyles stared back, uttered a threatening growl, and left.

“I can see why they don’t want us wandering on other levels,” said Aiden.

“Yeah. Do you think they’re the other chosen ones?”

“Could be,” said Aiden. “Let’s get breakfast. I can smell those pancakes from here.”

After another uninteresting breakfast, they arrived at the empty training room a few minutes early.

“Let’s do the path,” Cosmo challenged.

“But Old Parsley could be here any minute,” Aiden cautioned.

“Come on. I’ll go first, chicken!” Without giving Aiden time to object further, Cosmo ran up the ramp and started along the path. Aiden glanced down the corridor, and seeing the coast was clear, leapt up the ramp. The path and walls were moving as unpredictably as ever.

“Hurry up, you’re blocking my way,” chided Aiden, a few steps behind a stalled Cosmo.

“It’s moving all over the place,” Cosmo objected, as the path dropped under his feet and he toppled onto the mats below.

Determined to stay on the path this time, Aiden stepped warily forward, wobbling from side to side. He bent and twisted his body to avoid the protrusions of the wall, and managed to get a short distance along the path before the part of wall he was hanging onto disappeared and the path under his feet tipped, sending him tumbling onto the mats.

“I don’t think we’ll ever make it around,” said Cosmo, staring up at the now motionless path.

“We will,” said Aiden, as Gibber, the doctors and the girls entered the room.

They followed Gibber and Ogmore to level one, everyone giving Gibber’s tail a wide berth. A large set of doors opened as they approached.

“Here we are,” said Gibber, ushering them in as Matong appeared behind them with a hiss.

In front of them were six beds with curtains in between. Strange equipment was crammed at the other end of the room.

“Are you being imprinted?” Sarah-Jane asked Doctor Peasley.

“Yes, dear,” she said, cleaning her glasses on her blouse for the third time in as many minutes.

Next to one of the beds, Aiden saw what could have been Kydra’s twin.

Cosmo, with the subtly of a rhinoceros, brushed past Aiden and manoeuvred himself next to Sarah-Jane, while the doctors spoke to the Swee. Doctor Hudson’s towering frame and ample girth made the Swee look like a child’s toy. The doctors returned, and Doctor Peasley cleaned her glasses once more.

Doctor Hudson did the introductions. The Swee, named Koodra, pulled a remote control device from beneath his long hair. With a whirr, the beds adjusted into chair positions.

“Put on the gowns, place the imprinting rings on your heads, and sit down,” he commanded as Ogmore handed out silver rings.

“Do these curtains close?” asked Doctor Peasley, as she ushered Cosmo away from Sarah-Jane.

Gibber bounded forward to draw the curtains, his tail thrashing from side to side. As he turned his tail slammed into Koodra, sending him unceremoniously tumbling across the room. Koodra, dazed, righted himself, and with a touch of red now in his brown wrinkled face, walked forward as if nothing had happened.

“Worthless creature,” hissed Matong.

Gibber backed from the room shaking and muttering apologies to Koodra and keeping his distance from Matong. They watched him retreat. Aiden’s loathing of Matong intensified.

Koodra regained his composure, and Ogmore closed the curtains. In silence, they changed into the garments and placed the imprinting rings upon their heads.

Aiden examined the ring. It was thin, flat and silver, with small flexible spokes attached on the inside that kept it an even distance from the head. Resting above the ears, it was surprisingly light and comfortable.

Ogmore opened the curtains. Cosmo nudged Aiden and they both smiled. Aiden knew what Cosmo was thinking. Doctor Hudson with a silver ring on his head, his big red nose and white gown that was two sizes too small, looked like a mental patient. Aiden was pleased to see the doctors had the beds down the end, while he had Cosmo on one side, and Amber then Sarah-Jane on the other.

“Imprinting,” Koodra began, “will temporarily throw your brains into a state of confusion. The brain normally receives information slowly. During imprinting it is overwhelmed, and you will not be able to think clearly, see, or even talk. You will spend most of the time in a form of sleep.”

“What if we need to go to the... um... bathroom?” asked Sarah-Jane.

“Your bodily functions will be suspended. We will monitor you and will deal with such things should they arise. You will be nourished by intravenous drips for the duration of the imprinting.”

Ogmore brought over six drip stands. Aiden thought that even the food bars seemed more appealing. The others were shifting uncomfortably in their chairs.

Without warning, the imprinting rings went ‘ping’, and the sound continued to resonate. Aiden’s head started to swim. Cosmo’s and Amber’s rings resembled rainbows. He squinted: there was that cat, Shadow, crouched under Cosmo’s bed staring right at him.

Aiden woke. A fog swirled in his brain, and it took him a while to notice Amber and Sarah-Jane were not there. Turning to his left, he saw Cosmo was also gone. Unable to move more than his head, he scanned the room until he located Koodra sleeping at the far end of the room. After several attempts, he managed to make a grunting sound. Koodra woke, hopped down, and shuffled over.

“Finally! I thought you would never finish.”

“... inish?” Aiden muttered.

“You have been here for two weeks.”

Two weeks? thought Aiden, as drowsiness overcame him.

He woke again a short time later to the sound of someone calling him. He forced open one eye, saw Amber’s smiling face and felt a cool hand stroking his cheek.

“Aiden,” she whispered. “Can you talk?”

“No,” he whispered back, then realising he had spoken. “Well... a little.”

“Get off your backside,” jeered Cosmo. “I haven’t been able to watch any movies with you and your PDC taking a nice nap down here.”

Aiden slipped back to sleep. It took another couple of hours before he woke up sufficiently to keep his eyes open and feel and move his arms and legs. Only Gibber and Doctor Hudson were now in the room. Feeling weak and tired, Aiden was grateful for their help back to his quarters.

“You should be fine by tomorrow morning,” reassured Doctor Hudson.

“Did it work?” he asked, still not steady on his feet and aware of a strange tingling sensation running through his body.

“They think it worked fine,” said Doctor Hudson.

Feeling he had not eaten or slept in a week, Aiden was relieved to see a jug of vitalise and a pile of food bars in the viewing room. They put him to bed, and Gibber kindly poured him a drink. He made short work of the vitalise, and managed half a bar before succumbing to sleep once again.

“Aiden, are you coming to dinner?” asked Cosmo.

“In a minute, Aunt Del,” mumbled Aiden, stirring from his sleep. He yawned, and gradually the image of Cosmo took shape.

“Be thankful I don’t hold your nose to wake you up,” he said with a laugh.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Aiden, propping himself up. “What time... I mean,...” Then he noticed Cosmo’s mop of curly blond hair was gone replaced with a spiky crew cut.

“You were down there for two weeks,” said Cosmo. “We were starting to get worried.”

“Hey, what happened to your hair?” asked Aiden, running his fingers through his own hair, relieved it was still there.

“Oh... yeah, Amber gave me a trim.”

“A trim...” said Aiden, staring at Cosmo’s closely cropped hair that now showed every contour on his head. Aiden couldn’t decide if it suited him or not. “How long did you take?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Eight days; the girls and Huddo were out after seven, and Old Parsley was out in six.”

“Why did mine take so long?”

“Just thick, I guess,” said Cosmo casually.

“Yeah, must be,” grumbled Aiden. “What’ve you been doing?”

“Well, Sarah-Jane and I are together now.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Yeah, but it’s just a matter of time. In training Kydra is pushing us harder than ever, but we’ve started learning telepathy.”

“WHAT?” said Aiden sitting up. “I’ve been missing the real training! Couldn’t they have waited?”

“Calm down, you’ll pick it up in no time. Are you coming to dinner?”

“Yeah,” said Aiden, flinging the covers to one side.

Amber and Sarah-Jane came running up to him as he entered the recreation room. He was sure they must think him a moron or even worse, feel sorry for him. He muttered “Hi,” as they almost collided with him.

“It took me two days before I could walk straight,” said Sarah-Jane. “You’re recovering fast.”

“Guess I have to be good at something,” he mumbled. “Tell me about the telepathy.” He squinted at the girls and then at Cosmo. He was sure there was something different about their eyes.

“Well,” began Amber, leaning forward, “we’ve managed to send each other a telepathic message. It turns out all that breathing and mind searching Kydra had us doing was worthwhile.”

“Do you want a lesson now?” Sarah-Jane offered.

“No, thanks. I don’t think I’m ready yet.”

He hardly spoke for the rest of the night. The way he saw it, fate had handed him a pretty raw deal – no parents, some unknown threat out there waiting for him, last at imprinting, and now behind in learning the powers.

Gibber and Doctor Hudson joined them in the recreation room, and after a few of Doctor Hudson’s entertaining stories of what it was like when he was a lad, Doctor Hudson went over to the computer.

“Can you work that?” asked Aiden.

“Oh,” said Cosmo, remembering he had forgotten to tell Aiden. “We all can now we’ve been imprinted. It’s a reference library.”

“I’ll show you,” said Doctor Hudson. “All you do is say what you want to see, and it appears. Watch. Layout of Deep Space Discovery.”

On the oval screen appeared a three dimensional blueprint image of the ship, showing five levels and two service levels.

“Level four,” Doctor Hudson commanded.

Now the screen displayed an aerial view of level four.

Doctor Hudson pointed to the screen. “Tomorrow, we are having a tour of the bridge on level four.”

With curfew just minutes away, they left for their quarters. The lights in the corridors were already starting to dim and the ceiling was darkening. Cosmo suggested a ten-thirty rendezvous in the recreation room. Amber opened her mouth to speak, but Sarah-Jane replied first, with a resounding and resolute, “No. It’s against the rules. Curfew is nine-thirty! I thought you would have learnt your lesson after the last time.”

Amber closed her mouth.

“Maybe another night,” muttered Cosmo, rubbing his leg.

“I don’t think so,” said Sarah-Jane, turning sharply and leading Amber off down the corridor. Amber turned and waved apologetically to the boys.

Aiden put his face right up against the mirror. His eyes were different. Like the others’, the colour was changing, yet his vision was fine.

“It’s good to have you back,” said Cosmo as they lay in their beds.

“Thanks,” said Aiden. “Lights out.”

He lay wondering why his imprinting had taken so long and why his head was now so doughy. Wasn’t he as good as the others? He promised himself to give the training everything he had tomorrow.

Aiden tossed and turned throughout the night. He dreamt of strange alien planets and even stranger creatures. It was a relief when morning came. He drank five cups of vitalise to ensure he was fully refreshed for the day.

The morning training began with vigorous exercises, which now included stretching, callisthenics and tumbling. Sarah-Jane was obviously a skilled gymnast and outshone everyone. As they started the tumbling exercises, Aiden’s head started to swim. He thought he had worked through the worst of his light-headedness when a series of tumbles saw the room spin. He lost control and crashed into Kydra. He muttered an apology before passing out.

He woke to a whiff of smelling salts, waved under his nose by Doctor Peasley. It took a few seconds to work out where he was.

“It’s all right,” said Doctor Peasley, “you fainted.”

“Too much vitalise will do that to you,” said Doctor Hudson.

Aiden spun around searching the room. “Kydra?” he blurted out.

“I am not injured,” said Kydra, from behind him. “It is time to resume training.”

“He needs to rest!” insisted Doctor Peasley.

“The effects of the vitalise have worn off. He is ready,” said Kydra stonily.

“I’m feeling fine, Doctor Peasley, honestly!” Aiden said, standing up, even more embarrassed now seeing that Matong, Bajool, Ogmore and Gibber were also in the room. He completed the rest of the exercises feeling self-conscious. Everyone watched his every move. Lunch could not come soon enough, and he headed straight to the recreation room. He noticed the tingling was still present and asked Cosmo if he had any such feeling.

“No, why? Do you?”

“A little; it’s probably the vitalise,” said Aiden, now worried something was wrong with him.

“I’ll get drinks,” offered Aiden, spotting Bajool at the drinks table admiring his cup of tea.

Aiden described the strange tingling he had had since the imprinting. “That is not the imprinting,” said Bajool, putting down his tea and studying him. “Your energy levels are changing as we get closer to the Source. We have travelled a long way in the last few weeks and you are now being exposed to higher concentrations of charged particles.”

“Why doesn’t Cosmo have it?”

“You must be drawing more power than he is,” said Bajool, his cloudy grey eyes widening.

“Oh,” said Aiden, thinking that sounded like a good thing.

“It appears you have an aptitude for absorbing energy. A very useful ability,” said Bajool.

“Thanks,” said Aiden, cheered by the news. Perhaps things were starting to improve. With drinks in hand, he rejoined the others while Bajool spoke with the doctors.

“Boys,” Sarah-Jane purred. “Would you care for a chocolate?”

“Is that a trick question?” asked Aiden.

Sarah-Jane grinned and leaned forward as if about to reveal a great secret. “Amber and I have chocolates.”

“What?” Cosmo spluttered, half-chewed flakes of food bar falling out of his mouth. “You have chocolate, and waited five weeks to tell us!”

“You could have brought your own,” Sarah-Jane said defensively. “Anyway, we’re offering to share now, aren’t we?”

“Awfully generous of you, I’m sure,” Cosmo growled.

“You don’t have to have any!” said Amber coldly.

“Fine! Go without,” Sarah-Jane snapped back. “You can behave like little children sometimes.”

“Let’s go, Sare,” said Amber standing up, and in a huff the girls, and the chocolates, left.

“Can you believe how selfish they are?” Cosmo hissed.

Ogmore strode in front, leading the group to the bridge. His long tree trunk legs had everyone else scurrying along trying to keep up. The sound of his shoeless clubfeet thudding against the floor drowned out all other sound. The boys and girls went to great lengths not to talk to each other, exchanging steely glances only. As they approached the bridge, Ogmore warned them to stay close. Standing by the bridge doors were two intimidating Buwah guards who thumped their huge fists to their chests.

“The bridge,” Ogmore announced in his deep growling voice.

The bridge was a circular room with two levels. A wide outer level was filled with control panels. In the middle, one step down, were individual stations with Buwah at the controls. Matong paced along in front of the viewer. Small twinkling dots of lights filled the viewer, transforming from distant specks of light to a blur as the ship sped through space. Aiden surveyed the bridge. It was strangely familiar. For the life of him, he couldn’t see how.

As Matong turned, Aiden held his breath. Inside Matong’s hood, where his lizard-like face normally glared, was pitch-blackness with two floating red eyes.

“Commander,” said Ogmore, fist to his chest and bowing to a Buwah even larger than he. The commander thumped his chest in return, but did not bow.

“Commander,” continued Ogmore. “These are the humans.”

They bowed to the commander who grunted back. The commander inspected them for an uncomfortably long period.

“I am Kayeed, commander of Deep Space Discovery. I have been tasked by the Galactic Alliance Council to deliver you safely to Goolma on Sanctuary.”

“Kayeed. Enough!” Matong snapped, sweeping over to the group, his red eyes gleaming threateningly in the darkness of his hood.

Kayeed growled. Aiden froze.

“On-board my ship, Matong, you will address me as Commander,” snarled Kayeed, his sharp teeth bared.

“You may command this ship, but you do not command me, Buwah!” Matong hissed with equal ferocity, his forked tongue flicking defiantly.

The bridge tour group stood very still. Aiden thought Matong must have a death wish. He was sure any of the Buwah would make short work of a grizzly bear or a lion, let alone a puny reptilian.

Just as Aiden expected to see Kayeed rip Matong limb from limb, the old Yendi he had knocked over weeks ago appeared.

“Welcome to the bridge,” said the old Yendi, seemingly oblivious to the standoff between Kayeed and Matong.

“Eulo,” exclaimed Kayeed, bowing, as did Ogmore, Gibber, the rest of the bridge, and lastly, and Aiden thought reluctantly, Matong.

Eulo, supported by his walking stick gracefully bowed back.

“Do not let me interrupt anything, Kayeed. I came to welcome our visitors to the bridge. I trust your training is going well?” he said to Aiden.

“Slowly...” said Aiden.

“Good! Good! Slowly is the best way – you cannot hurry such things. There is much to learn. I look forward to seeing all of you develop your powers.”

Eulo gave Gibber an affectionate tap on the shoulder as he left the bridge. Matong followed Eulo, giving Kayeed a glare as he left. Kayeed continued the tour of the bridge as if nothing had happened. They followed quietly. Tension was thick in the air.

“We will soon be approaching our first stop,” said Kayeed, staring out the viewer. “The uninhabited planet, Dreng.”

“Will we get to explore Dreng?” asked Doctor Hudson.

“Yes,” Kayeed grunted.

With the tour of the bridge over, Ogmore led them into the corridor where the tension eased and they could breathe freely again. Aiden did not think Kayeed had warmed to them.

“The games room is this way,” rasped Ogmore, striding along. It was all they could do to keep up. He stopped abruptly and opened a large door. “The games room!”

They filed into a darkened room half the size of the recreation room, with no viewer and nothing in it except two circles chiselled in the charcoal floor at either end of the room. The circles were an arm’s span in width. The walls, ceiling and floor were the same charcoal colour.

Aiden couldn’t imagine what games you could possibly play in here.

“How about a game of hide and seek,” Cosmo whispered in his ear.

“Okay, you hide first,” said Aiden.

“The games room,” Ogmore rasped, “is a special room in which magwans can safely duel and test their powers. Standing in the power circle a magwan unleashes attacks on the other magwan, both mentally and physically. The power circles protect them from serious harm. The game ends when a magwan powers down or falls to the ground. The Magwan Council used power rings such as these to determine council membership.”

Aiden gazed intently at the rings. He knew it was impossible, but he had been in a room like this before. He stepped into the ring. It hummed and filled with a yellowish haze, engulfing him in a column of light that rose to the ceiling - as he knew it would. Cosmo fell backwards in fright.

“AIDEN!” Doctor Peasley screeched.

“He is in no danger,” Ogmore assured. “The colours of the power rings indicate the power levels of the magwan. Yellow is a reasonable power level. White is very powerful.”

They took turns in the power ring and to Aiden’s relief they all had shades of yellow. Sarah-Jane’s was gold – a higher level.

Back in the recreation room they grilled Gibber.

“What’s the story with Kayeed and Matong? I thought they were going to kill each other,” asked Aiden.

Aiden saw Gibber’s face frown for the first time. “The Swee and the Buwah were at war with the Mulgoa three hundred years ago,” Gibber explained. “The Buwah have long memories. The Mulgoa would have wiped out the Swee and the Buwah if Eulo had not stepped in.”

“You mean Eulo is over three hundred years old?” Amber gasped.

“Yes, he is one of the seven members of the Galactic Alliance Council and the chair of the Magwan Council. Next to Raglan, he is said to be the most powerful magwan ever,” he squeaked with pride.

Cosmo snickered. “He doesn’t look like he could blow out the candles on a birthday cake.”

Gibber’s face lost all expression and his head dipped.

Aiden glared at Cosmo. “Eulo is old, but powerful. But how could Matong’s lot, the Mulgoa, get the better of the Buwah?”

Gibber looked very serious. “The Swee and the Buwah share the same planet. The Buwah are a fierce warrior race that does not possess powers. The Swee have powers, but they are not warriors. So they joined forces to fight the Mulgoa. The Mulgoa are war hardened, and believe they alone have the right to rule all others. While they do not have the strength of the Buwah, they have poisonous fangs, and some have powers... It was a terrible war.”

“What were they fighting over?” asked Sarah-Jane.

“The third staff of Alma.”

“A staff?” said Amber.

“It contains unimaginable power,” whistled Gibber. “It was created by Raglan, the greatest ever magwan, as a portable self-renewing source of energy. In the wrong hands it could be used to enslave whole planets.”

“I can see why they couldn’t let Matong near it,” said Aiden.

“And what does Matong have against you?” asked Cosmo.

“Nothing, other than I am neither a Mulgoa nor a magwan. I am unworthy.”

“He’s a fool,” said Sarah-Jane.

Gibber beamed with delight.

“What’s at Goolma on Sanctuary?” asked Amber.

“Goolma,” squeaked Gibber with amusement, “is not a place. She is the greatest prophet of our time. It is not widely known, but you will be meeting her on the planet Sanctuary. This mission is cloaked in secrecy. It is a great honour to meet Goolma.”

Gibber turned to leave, hesitated and turned back. His tail thumped into a couch, shooting it backwards across the floor. “Tomorrow you will be joined at training by the chosen ones from level three.”

“Not the gargoyles!” said Cosmo with a groan.

Gibber left before they could ask any more questions, and Doctor Peasley blew-in shortly afterwards to inform them they had schoolwork to do. Still not on speaking terms, the boys and girls departed.

The boys lay in their beds and talked about the day’s events. Cosmo put down the girls’ shocking behaviour with the chocolates to one of those female hormonal things.

* * *

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