Because I am not faithful to Cold Hands…


A WIP map which I've made for my story

A WIP map which I’ve made for my story

I’ll admit it. I’m not a faithful writer. XP I’m four chapters from finishing Cold Hands and I’m already plotting another featured novel to replace it. =P Don’t worry, I’m not so bad as to not finish it before starting this new story, however I’ve been so excited about this new story that it’s honestly choking my ability to write for Cold Hands, so I’m hoping doing this post will help. 

Anyway, this post is for the “Beautiful Books” post at paperfuryEssentially I answer a bunch of questions about a WIP (in this case a planned WIP). And no, while this post is mostly for NaNo writers, I will not be doing NaNo this year just because six APs, two dual-enrollment courses, and two self-study courses is too heavy to work through and write for NaNo. Sorry guys =/ That’s it though, so enjoy!

PAPERFURYLet the questions begin!

  • How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I’ve had this idea for a while now actually. Probably since completion of chapter 18 of Cold Hands. Funnily enough, I actually came up with the idea after inspiration from my AP Psych class and a few YouTube videos. It then developed from there, especially upon watching a playthrough of The Witcher. Now I have thirteen fantasy novels all ready to read as “research” for my story. =P

  • Why are you excited to write this novel?

I’m super excited to write this novel because I’ve never actually finished a fantasy novel, and this is one with an idea that I’m soooooooo pumped about, and that I feel actually merits finishing. I’ve even gone to the point of creating a wiki for it. Probably overkill, but having an encyclopedia-type thing does help with this kind of story with a world that I’m creating from scratch.

I like this picture. =P

I like this picture. =P

  • What is your novel about, and what is the title?

My novel follows the story of a mentally troubled Taker, a human mutated specially for assassination. The title is… Drumroll please… Mental – Cheridith Chronicles #1. Yes, I do plan on making it a series, as with all (not actually all XD) my other stories.

  • Sum up your characters in one word each.

Blast… I don’t know all the characters that will be in the story. XP I’ll do the ones I do know though:

1. Ryke – Lost
2. Jayline – Impetuous

And believe it or not that is seriously all the characters I have thought of. =P

  • Which character(s) do you think will be your favorite to write? Tell us about them!

Honestly, this might be ridiculous, but I’ll enjoy writing Ryke, my main character. This is because (I won’t let you guys in on too much) something is wrong with his head, and so he can be irrational, he gets to look at things differently, and he’ll probably have the most hilarious interactions. =P

I’m also kinda excited about the characters who surround him though, because they’ll all act as mirrors at various angles, reflecting his personality in different ways, and it will be cool to see how each of them reacts.

Always that one, key piece

Always that one, key piece

  • What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?

In this story (at least at the current stage of my planning), Ryke just wishes to sort his life out. After suffering a severe bout of amnesia, he awakes in an unknown land with unknown skills and unknown people. It doesn’t take him long to figure out his lust for killing, and he wrestles with it through the rest of the story.

  • Where is your novel set?

My novel is set in the world of Cheridith, and you can see a terrain map of it up there. I’m working on the political map right now. =P I’ll post it when I’m done, ’cause teasers. 😄 By the way, each of those little hexagons in the map has a diameter of fifty kilometers, to give you an idea of the scale. =P And yeah, most if not all of the map will be used in the story.

Silhouette stuff. How generic can I get? XP

Silhouette stuff. How generic can I get? XP

  • What is the most important relationship your character has?

His most important relationship is actually with Jayline, which is why she’s the only other character apart from Ryke that I have plans for. XP Through her he discovers a lot about himself, which helps him to come to terms with who and what he is.

  • How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

You know that word I used to describe Ryke? Lost? That changes by the end of the novel. =P

  • What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

Genre-wise, fantasy. However, the main theme behind the book is self-discovery and self-understanding. The book will also contain themes about standing up to the world when it cracks down on you for acting different. It also will cover things like love and relationships (of course. XP).

I want my readers to have thoroughly enjoyed the story. I want it to so entice them that they cannot put it down. And at the end of it I want them to want more. I want them to feel satisfied and hungry at the same time. But most of all, I want them to feel secure in themselves, because at its root this story tries to demonstrate that principle.

Memories...

Memories…

  • BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.

Considering I did not actually finish, my ethos isn’t exactly the best is it? But, based on my failure, here’s my tips:

1. Make sure you have enough time.
2. Plan, plan, plan. Make sure it is all planned out so you’re never at a loss.
3. Know you’ll enjoy it. You need to know that you’re not going to get tired of your story, and that you can write for long stints at a go.

That’s it for this post guys. You can look forward to more teasers, but I really do need to finish Cold Hands first don’t I? XP Hope you enjoyed.

Tours yruly

What in pink carnations, Michael?


Yah, flowers.

Yah, flowers.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What ever happened to me and NaNoWriMo? Well, I’m gonna come clean and say I gave up. If I went into detail for all the reasons why, you’d be here for three years. Suffice to say, school was too much, my personal life experienced a lot of change, other priorities came up, and I just cannot force myself to write if I don’t feel like it. I started writing because I enjoyed it, because I want to share my stories with others. If I had nothing else to do all November, but write, yeah, maybe NaNoWriMo would’ve been possible for me, but no. I’m not going to make writing become a chore for myself.

Alright, now that I’ve got my excuses over with, what’s happening to Unseen: Right Behind You and all my other stories? The answer is simple, I’m still gonna be writing ’em, but slowly, at my own pace. I burnt my creative writing energy out, and so I need time to recover. In addition to that, school also starts tomorrow, and so I’ll need time to shrug back onto my back and get it all adjusted properly.

Also, yeah, I did say “What in pink carnations”. Deal with it.

Tours yruly 

Unseen – Right Behind You – Chapter 4, The 9th Dimension


Atomic Bomb

So, I am behind. That is reality. However, I like where this story is going. Now if I could just get the time to sit down and write a couple thousand words or so… Ah well. This chapter we get introduced to the Unseen, and we learn a little more about Samuel’s past. Enjoy.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Samuel was staying up late. For the first time ever since he had left his teen years, he was ignoring his schedule and not going to bed. The results of his experiment were just too conclusive for him to simply ignore. Suddenly things became clearer. A group of people actually existed in a parallel universe. How long had they been present? Samuel checked through ancient manuscripts. There had been sightings dating as far back as the late medieval age, but they became a lot more frequent after the dropping of the atomic bombs.

What had Rose meant by binding? Samuel sat back in his wheelchair and thought for a moment. Whatever divided the two dimensions had to be weakening for the sightings to increase in such magnitude, and there had to be some correlation between the dropping of the atomic bombs and the weakening of the field. Samuel found himself faced with a puzzle, and that was exactly what he needed.

His mind worked by conquering challenges. It was not the kind of mind that challenges itself for the sake of doing so. No, to Samuel’s utilitarian beliefs, that was counter-intuitive, but his mind was one that appreciated a challenge. It caused him to switch into a mode of careful analysis and breakdown, theory and speculation. By far this presented itself as the most intriguing problem he had ever faced.

He faced the computer again. They say the pen is greater than the sword, he mused, keys clicking as long, slender fingers swept rapidly over them. Well, the mind is greater than both.

———————

Memories. They are curious little things. In this case, they took Samuel back in time, back into high school. Young Samuel did not have a very orthodox scholastic training. The education he first got was survivalist in the extreme, as he had to work hard to battle against the odds of his captured environment. He had adapted, of course, and thus escaped with merely being hamstrung; a lot worse could have happened.

The school Samuel had attended comprised itself of two main factions. Either you were in one of them, or you got persecuted from both sides, so really there were three factions. What Samuel had learned when kidnapped had made him ruthless, cunning, and utilitarian.

Thus upon arriving at the school, his first job had been to join one of the factions. Of course, being himself, that was not what it appeared to be. What everyone saw was their leader, on a strange and inexplicable whim, allow someone who seemed to be a weakling to join their group. He was jeered and laughed at initially, but when the students who did so were mysteriously expelled, the jeering stopped.

Everyone built up almost a religious fear of him. Anyone who even crossed him so much as a little ended up in the principal’s office and came out either so shaken they would say nothing, or were kicked out from the school entirely. Samuel seemed to have his finger in every pie. Any rumor, or spreading talk that went around the school somehow always ended up in his ears. He became his factions biggest asset and their biggest fear.

Yet, no matter how much anyone tried, they found themselves unable to pinpoint anything on Samuel. He was extremely elusive, and when new students saw him, the warnings they had received seemed blown way out of proportion. Of course, they were soon set in their right place.

Through all of this, the ten year old, for he was indeed only ten, remained dangerously implacable. No one, of course, was aware of his agenda, or that he had one at all. His different attacks, as they were known, seemed random, and more fueled by spite than anything else. If anyone had tried to delve deeper into what lay behind his tinted glasses, for he wore them even back then, they found themselves repulsed instantly.

Samuel did have an ulterior motive though, he always did. Never do something without purpose. That was one of the numerous mantras that bounced around in his head. So he had set about systematically finding and eliminating any possible troublemakers, until all that remained was the leader of the opposing faction, a blustery student known as Harry Nord.

Samuel’s influence extended to more than his own faction. He had caused consternation in its opposing counterpart as well. His reign of terror extended even to members within that exclusive group, and none dared withstand him. This naturally made those on Samuel’s side extremely pleased, but the instant any of them exercised their new superiority, the ten-year old’s punishment came swiftly and quickly.

The pride of Samuel absolutely disgusted Harry, but though the technical leader of his faction, he of all people knew best who really sat behind the wheel. Somehow Samuel had got the even the overbearing Harry under his thumb. But Harry was scared. Yes, Harry feared the remorseless mind that resided within the only invalid in their school. He had crossed Samuel, and now he an irrational anxiety gripped him.

It was obvious that Samuel was double-crossing both the factions, playing one against another for his own benefit. It was a two-player game with a third participant, and that extra was breaking all the rules. Harry realized this. Out of desperation, he had attempted to seek assistance from his sworn enemy, Grant Hardy, leader of the opposing faction. But, Grant, the blind fool that he was, had rejected Harry’s supplications, and instead reported them to Samuel.

Harry paused his musing for a moment. Samuel had so successfully undermined the authority of Grant that he had forced the master to report to the servant. He shook his head, odium towards this fiend that had entered their school overcoming all else. The thought of Samuel brought back to the present his problem. Upon hearing of Harry’s insubordination, the disabled boy had demanded an interview. A shudder ran through Harry as he thought about it.

Those expressionless glasses… Impenetrable… Unreadable…

“Harry.”

That one word was all the distracted Harry needed to hear. He knew at that moment his fate was sealed. He looked up from where he sat, slumped against the wall. Samuel, looking as impeccably neat as ever, was smiling at him, and for some inexplicable reason, the smile made it ten times worse.

“You have a choice, Harry.”

Harry just looked at Samuel wordlessly.

“Either you pack your bags and go home quietly, or you run the gauntlet of your followers, and then get expelled by Mr. Pearson tomorrow.”

“My followers?” Harry asked pathetically. Samuel noted absently that that his victim had dark circles around his eyes; Harry had not been sleeping well.

“Yes,” Samuel said patiently. “Your followers. They know of your treachery.”

Harry pushed himself up. “And what’s to stop me from beating you up right now huh? I could hammer you to a pulp and no one would know about it.”

Samuel laughed, a genial, genuine laugh, but his voice froze Harry’s heart. “My followers.”

A group of thirty determined individuals gathered behind the boy. There was silence, then Samuel repeated his original offer.

“My parents,” Harry murmured distractedly. “They had hopes.”

“Well, crush them,” Samuel said, waving his hand dismissively. “Hope is after all no more than wishes, and wishes, when unsupported by action, are nothing more than empty thoughts.”

Slowly, disbelievingly, Harry stood up. “I’ll be gone tomorrow. Not a word from me.”

———————

Yes, Samuel thought to himself gleefully. The mind trumps all. He stared back at his computer screen. What was it that Rose had been borrowing? Scientific books pertaining to alternate dimensions. Perhaps her guess was not very far off. Samuel rolled himself forward and fired up another series of research prompts, all related to multiple-dimensional theory. The results were more than satisfactory.

They lived in a four dimensional world of course, three-dimensional space and one dimensional time. Samuel did some quick calculations on scrap paper. Based on the Theory of Dimensionality, a theory that had been proposed exactly one year ago, the next stable dimension would be nine, followed by thirty-six, then three hundred and twenty-four. That is, according to the Theory of Dimensionality. Samuel had some doubts as to whether it was completely correct, but he saw no benefit to himself in presenting his thoughts, so he kept them to himself.

Now, Samuel thought. What should my next move be? He rolled the idea around in his head for an hour or so, considering multiple factors, such as his importance to the Unseen that Rose had mentioned, their potential capabilities, his own potential capabilities, time, location, downfalls, and consequences. The Unseen, Samuel thought to himself, a fitting name, but he was going to see them, and try as they might, no one could stop him.

———————

Rose felt nervous, even more so than when Bradley had had her try saltimbocca alla Romana, and that had been pretty bad. What if things went wrong? Jessie’s warning bothered her more than anything else. The servant obviously knew things that he wasn’t telling her, and that disturbed the girl’s ordinary presence of mind. She could not stand being left in the dark, yet here she was, prepping herself to infiltrate Dalus Mansion and assist the Unseen in a memory wipe of its owner.

And it was all her fault. This thought upset Rose greatly. If she had not been so quick to jump to conclusions, if she had been more careful with the way she examined things. Samuel had laid bait right on the table, and she had jumped at it without second thought. Well, that’s not happening tonight, she thought grimly. Nothing could go wrong tonight. Mind-wipes were risky enough in and of themselves, but when it involved one of the Seeing, the operation became very delicate.

Rose looked over at Hercules and Ethena. They moved efficiently and quietly, occasionally exchanging words about one detail or another. Neither appeared tense or nervous. Why can’t I be like that for once? she asked herself. Seriously, Rose, have some self-confidence for once.

“Nervous?” Ethena asked, perfect, white teeth flashing in the moonlight.

Rose smiled noncommittally. “Yeah. It’s just– what if something goes wrong?”

The Unseen operative laid a hand on Rose’s shoulder, but her words of encouragement did not leave her mouth as Hercules stepped in.

“He’s in position.”

Ethena took the bulky pair of glasses from Hercules and brought them to her eyes. Shaped like binoculars, they served the purpose of magnification, heatwave-detection, long distance x-rays, and sonar. Very handy to have. Samuel was in his study, facing the blackboard, working on some new idea. She handed the glasses back to Hercules.

“Right where we want him. Couldn’t be better,” she smiled again.

Hercules was slow to be convinced. “When he is mind-wiped and has forgotten the whole incident, then it couldn’t be better. As the situation stands, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Keep it clean alright Ethena? The Fault is right there. We won’t find a better chance.”

“You got it big guy.”

Rose watched quietly as Ethena hopped into her car and drove off. Now it was her turn.

“Alright Rose.” Hercules’ voice was a soothing, gravelly rumble. “Time to play your part. You ready?”

She tried to mimic Ethena’s dashing smile but failed miserably. Hercules’ massive hand came down on her shoulder encouragingly. She stepped forward a pace at the impact. It felt like a bullet train at top speed hitting her full in the back.

“You’ll do fine. Who knows? They might even promote you to serve a higher position in the office.”

Rose nodded, but her mind was elsewhere. The lone light emanating from Dalus Mansion seemed both beckoning and repelling. From the distance their stakeout stood at, she could not see the commanding figure that was Samuel, but just thinking about facing his marble countenance sent shivers down her spine. He had a way of staring at a person, unmoving, almost as if he was a statue, they made one feel like his eyes shone a cold laser that dissected intentions, motives, and thoughts.

Hercules was bent over a transmitter, shielding it from the strong wind that had picked up. His hulking frame was silhouetted by the moon’s pale rays as he cupped the speaker to his ear. The raging tempest made a noise so loud that it isolated Rose from any other sound. It carried her distracted thoughts away, and left her feeling quieter, and more collected. She looked towards her partner in subterfuge.

He gave her a ready sign, then indicated she should go. She started moving towards the house but he caught her arm. Rose turned to him. He mouthed something at her, but she couldn’t understand, and shook her head. Hercules missed her confusion though, he had already released her arm and was striding off. She shrugged, it probably wasn’t important anyway.

A few minutes later, she was accepted into the mansion by Jessie.

“Samuel is expecting you,” he said quietly, and stepped aside for her to enter.

Rose hesitated. This was not part of the plan. They had assumed she would have to explain herself, and not giving the carefully prepared excuse threw her off kilter. The butler remained completely silent as he shuffled along. Rose gazed unreservedly around her as she followed her quiet guide through the twisting halls of Dalus Mansion.

They passed a multitude of doors, all stern and shut firmly. Dim lighting created a moody effect, and the long shadows cast seemed to stalk them like noiseless wraiths. The atmosphere squeezed in from all around, and Rose felt a sinking feeling as they rounded a corner. Almost like a premonition of evil, it made her lose confidence in their plan. So many factors depended on the variable in the equation.

Jessie paused before a grand set of double doors and pushed them open. Rose entered, and he closed them behind her. As she stepped forward, she heard the barely-audible clicking of a well oiled lock. Samuel was to her right, stretching slightly as he finished chalking out a complicated equation on the large blackboard before him. To his right, on the wall opposite the window through which Rose’s companions had surveyed the billionaire, a large blueprint of the house was mounted.

Samuel ended his equation with a long flourish on the final number. A two, Rose noted absently, her favorite number. Obviously satisfied, her host slowly spun his wheelchair around to face her. He eyed Rose for a moment, then started speaking.

“We both know what you are here for, so let’s just get on with it. Where are they?”

It has to be said that Rose put up a valiant resistance. She went brazen, but Samuel dismantled that defense in a few words. Then she started accusing him, but he deflected the accusations easily, turning many of them around, thus leaving her feeling even more helpless. She finally resorted to an obstinate silence.

Samuel studied Rose for a minute. Then he rolled backwards slightly. She made a slight motion, but when he rolled forwards again, she resumed her original position. Slowly Samuel nodded, and a smile crept across his face. He began clapping.

“Very well played, very well played indeed.”

Then the clock struck twelve and everything happened. From behind Samuel, Ethena phased into existence and placed a sort of gun against the invalid’s head. The doors swung open violently, colliding against the walls with a resounding bang, and Hercules entered, a large rifle in his arms. Rose moved over to the windows and bolted them shut, as a safety precaution.

“You know who we are then?” Hercules’ clipped yet throaty tones seemed to light up something in Samuel.

“Yes, you are the Unseen, a group living in an alternate dimension, the ninth to be exact. During World War II however, the dropping of the atomic bombs weakened your Quasipresent Molecular Bonding Field because of the intense release of energy, and since then, it has been deteriorating, causing an increasing number of anomalies and phasing Unseen, who as they are flickering in and out of existence in this dimension at an abnormally fast rate, can only be seen by people with a mutated eye genome, and those people are known as the Seeing.

“If the QMB Field does fail, then the two dimensions will connect with drastic consequences. Since in the ninth dimension time works quite differently, the result will be a catastrophic merging of different time-spaces. Most of the human population will be decimated. Chaos and anarchy will reign. In a sense, it will be the apocalypse.

“You have come here to memory wipe me of everything I know because I am not on your side. You fear the knowledge that I have gained in relation to you and your culture since it gives me power, and thus you wish to take me out of the equation. In fact, you plan to wipe my memory by taking me into your ninth dimension, putting me in a time-sphere, then accelerating time in a negative direction no?”

Both Hercules and Ethena were well-trained soldiers, but Rose could not resist a slight twitching in her face as she struggled to battle the reality of what Samuel was saying. How did he know all of this? It had taken her months to come anywhere close to a viable solution to the visions she had been having, and even then it had required an actual encounter with the Unseen before everything made sense.

Hercules stepped forward. “Very good, Mr. Dalus. Since you have outlined so clearly for us what is going to happen, why don’t you just fall in with fate and come quietly?”

If anyone could see behind Samuel’s glasses, they would have seen his eyes flash dangerously and a glint of steel come into them, but as he still wore the glasses, all anyone saw was Samuel lean forward slightly. He gazed at Hercules who returned the favor stolidly, then Samuel spoke.

“What if I told you…that I can fix it?”

Tours yruly

The Unseen – Right Behind You – Chapter 3, Chrysalis


Yeah, doesn't make ANY sense.

Yeah, doesn’t make ANY sense.

Soooooooooooooo, chapter 3, I’m sorry, but it is four words from four thousand words, which is one thousand more than I had planned. But, I couldn’t end the chapter any earlier, ’cause of my obsession with cliffhangers. And so, I wrote it to have 3996 words, which I am just repeating myself now, so I will shut up and let you just read it. Enjoy. 🙂

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

A week later, after Rose had arranged all her affairs, she found herself standing in front of the intimidating ninety story building that housed the heart of Dalus Corp. The past seven days had been a blur of interviews, discussions, and faces. It all seemed unreal. Bradley had briefed her as to his expectations, and she felt nervous. Taking a deep breath, Rose forced herself to stop looking up and walked toward the entryway.

The receptionist looked up and smiled as she entered. “Welcome to Dalus Corp, miss, how may I help you?”

“I am here because I was offered a job,” Rose informed the lady.

The receptionist did a good job of hiding her surprise as she checked the databanks. “Your name please?”

“Rose Fox.”

“May I see some identification? Thank you, this will do just nicely. Ah, yes, here you are. Go straight ahead, take a left down the hall and you’ll come to an elevator lobby. Take it to the forty-eighth floor. An executive will be waiting there who will direct you to where you will be working.”

Rose returned her card to her pocket and followed the receptionist’s instructions. As she waited for the elevator to arrive, she took a good look around her. Everything was bright and unsullied. Stainless steel elevator doors so reflective they acted like mirrors guarded the elevator car, and the buttons were so clean it felt like a sin to press them. The floor was spotless, and the air smelled slightly like air-freshener.

Heels clicked on the smooth tiles, and Rose turned to see who it was. A tall blonde rounded the corner. She came to a halt beside Rose and they both stood waiting for the elevator to arrive. It dinged a few seconds later, and the doors slid open. Rose stepped in but her companion remained in the lobby.

“Aren’t you going to come in?” Rose asked, stepping aside.

“Oh no, I think I will wait for the next one.” The lady smiled. “Don’t worry, you go right on ahead.”

Rose shrugged and hit the button for the forty-eight floor. As the doors closed, Rose saw the blonde twist a lock of hair around her finger nervously, then the elevator started up. Rose tapped a foot impatiently as she watched the numbers count up.

It was more apprehension than impatience really. How well would she do on her new job? Although Bradley had sent her there not to work but to investigate, a strong sense told her to do a good job nevertheless. As the numbers on the digital display approached forty-eight, she did less foot-tapping and more worrying. Has she made the right choice? Would it have been better if she just left all the detective work to her father?

The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. Well, that choice was behind her. She’d have to face the consequences now.

———————

Samuel watched silently as Rose stepped into the lobby and looked around for her guide. The executive Samuel had specially picked out walked towards her and introduced himself. He turned and headed towards the records room. Samuel smiled. Put someone where they most want to be, and they let down their guard, or else they become incredibly suspicious. Samuel didn’t care if Rose became either. He had his own plans.

The CEO put the display down as sharp, clicking footsteps echoed down the long hallway outside his room. Few people had the security key required to take the elevator to the eighty-seventh floor. If one of them was up here, it probably meant that they had something important to say.

He turned and gave a small smile as the familiar figure of his Director of Operations stood at the doors waiting to be let in. Slowly, Samuel rolled towards the entryway. The instant he came within range of its sensor, the doors unlocked and slid apart, allowing the tall blonde outside to come inside.

Samuel smiled at her as she walked past him. She gave him a distracted smile back, then sat on the only chair in the room. Samuel maneuvered himself till he was opposite her. He adeptly began setting up an exquisite glass chessboard. She just sat in the chair playing with her fingers nervously. A few seconds of silence passed, then Samuel extended two closed fists to her.

“Left or right?”

“Left,” she murmured.

He opened his left hand. Inside it lay a white pawn. He set both pieces down on the chessboard, turned it so the black pieces were on his side, then nodded. She started by moving her king’s pawn. He countered by developing his queen-side knight. A few more moves later, Samuel decided it was time enough to broach his thought.

“What are you doing here today? Our next game wasn’t until the twelfth.”

She ignored his question. “Who is that new person?”

“None of your concern,” Samuel told her, developing his bishop. “Personal affairs. I’ll manage her division from the top personally.”

“She’s getting a division?”

Samuel captured her knight. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“N– no.”

“Why did you come here today, Ellie?”

Ellie did not answer immediately. Instead, she pushed forward in the game, capturing and organizing until she had squeezed Samuel’s pieces against the back edge of the board.

“I need all the information for Project Xenocode.”

Samuel moved his queen from its beginning position. “You do do you?”

“Yes,” she said, checking him.

He moved his pawn. A simple move, but devastating, as it revealed two discovered attacks, both indirectly menacing her king, reinforced another piece, and threatened her queen. She picked up her king to move it out of danger.

“Has MI6 been asking for more than you can supply?” Samuel said.

The glass piece in her hand slipped through her fingers and fell to the floor, shattering into thousands of tiny shards. Her hands began to shake, and she bit her lip nervously. Withdrawing from the chess board, she began playing with her fingers again.

“I told them– I told them you knew– I told them– It’s not my fault!”

“Yes,” Samuel said, pushing himself away from the table. It would have been checkmate in three moves anyway. “Making a person think they’re in control is the easiest way to control them. I have known for the longest time Ellie. What I would suggest is that you take this money here, and go into hiding. Disappear for a year. Have someone kill you, start a new life. MI6 will think you have been collaborating with me. They will not let you stay alive for what you know.”

Ellie stared dubiously at the money Samuel had pushed towards her. “Why are you helping me?”

“You play well,” Samuel said, returning his wallet to his pocket. “And trust me, it makes my job a lot easier if you are out of the picture.”

Wordlessly she took the money and stood up.

“You have your gun I assume?” Samuel asked as she turned to leave.

“I’ve always had it with me.” She smiled faintly. “They told me you were dangerous. I see now it is a very different dangerous than what I thought it would be. How did you know?”

“That you carry a gun? You may be a good agent, but you get nervous. Every time you get nervous, your right hand slips down to your hip but finds it empty. You’re looking for your source of security, your gun. Then you remember that it’s not there, but somewhere else on your person, and relax. But not really of course, you keep your hands readily available. Playing with your fingers in front of you is merely an act to keep your hands near your weapon.”

“You knew I was debating on shooting you then?”

Samuel turned and looked out the window at the skyscraper across the road. “I know a lot of things.”

What he didn’t know, was that upon exiting the building, Ellie was seized by masked men and carried away to a deserted tropical island where she would be disposed of. He had been too late, not that it would have mattered much to him. He needed her out of the picture, it didn’t matter much to him in what way she left it.

———————

Rose looked up from sorting the files before her. It was a simple enough task. Organize the files according to the classifications that had been specified. When she saw a file that she thought interesting though, as per Bradley’s instructions, she slipped one of the specially designed trackers into it. Ironic, she thought. That the biggest computer research and development company should still use hardcopy files.

For some reason, Rose had a feeling that she was being watched. She glanced around. There was no one on this floor. The helpful executive who had assigned her this task had long since left to complete another job. She shrugged, then remembered security cameras. Once again Rose looked around uneasily.

She saw no visible signs of security cameras or microphones, but that did not mean they were not present. Suddenly she felt guilty, and rushed through the next few files so that she could stack as many things on top of the bugged files as she could. Paranoia seized her, and she wondered if somehow Samuel had figured out how to simulate invisibility.

Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Not even the Unseen have discovered a way to simulate actual invisibility. There are always flaws with the technology. With this reassuring thought, Rose continued working through stack after stack of files.

He was so quiet that she did not hear him, and when his clearly enunciated words emanated from behind her, they sounded as if shouted through a megaphone. She started and spun around.

Samuel sat in his wheelchair, a few feet behind Rose, fingers steepled, staring at her intently from behind his tinted glasses.

“E– excuse me?” Rose asked.

“I asked if the work is alright for you.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” Rose hastened to agree.

A terrible liar, Samuel mused. No doubt Fox senior asked his precious child to try and infiltrate our system.

“Well then, I’ll leave you to it. All the best. I hope your career will be pleasurable and full of quick advancement. We can’t have you sorting files forever can we?”

She smiled plastically. “No, of course not.”

———————

The week flew by for Rose. She had progressed slowly from sorting hardcover files to including digital files in her repertoire. A small part of her wondered why they did not use some sort of algorithm for the digital files, but she made no mention of it. Every time Rose looked up from her work, she seemed to feel his stare boring into her back, and when she turned around, he would always be there, staring at her around steepled fingers.

It got to the point where she started wondering if he had anything better to do than stalk his employees as they completed the jobs they had been assigned. Doubts flew around in her head every time she planted the devices Bradley had given to her. Did he know? If so, why didn’t he do anything? At the end of the week; however, when none of the devices transmitted, Rose knew that they had been removed.

She felt frustration well up inside of her, but had nowhere to vent. Instead, she focused on sorting the files with breakneck efficiency. A distorted reflection on the glass door revealed that Samuel was watching her again. She sighed and dropped the file in her hand onto the table. It was time she faced her employer about this.

Samuel watched impassively as Rose stalked out of the room towards him. He could almost see the frustration flowing out her pores. He smiled inwardly. The time had come. Finally he would get some answers.

“What do you think you are doing watching me everyday?” Rose demanded.

Samuel laced his fingers together and pushed the palms outwards, cracking his knuckles.

“You are a new employee, I have to make sure that you are doing your job correctly.”

Rose crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “Surely that does not involve constant supervision by the CEO of the company? Don’t you have better things to do?”

Some little corner of Rose demanded attention, telling her that this was no way to treat a superior, but she ignored it. This constant superintendence had to end, and it had to end soon.

“I am the CEO, so I can do what I feel needs to be done. Really, I should be the one asking the questions here. Why have you been trying to bug our system? Are you trying to watch me?”

“How dare you?” Rose was indignant. All the more so because he spoke the truth. “You don’t know that I have done anything of the sort. How can you bring such accusations against me?”

Samuel’s face darkened. Her flat-out denial annoyed him all the more because she made it blatantly obvious that she had indeed done it. He was not surprised, it was what he had expected, which is why he had made sure no files of importance were handed down to her, and that everything she came into contact with was routinely swept for surveillance and tracking devices.

Rose decided that her best option would be to distract him by returning to her original point. “Why have you been watching me all this time?”

“At least you don’t give up easily,” Samuel muttered to himself. Then he said loudly, “Follow me.”

“The last time I did that, I was pulled out of school into a working environment where I have been under constant scrutiny. Hardly a good thing if you ask me.”

Samuel ignored her and turned, rolling his wheelchair slowly towards the lobby.

Rose held an internal debate with herself. A large part of her wanted to follow him and figure out what exactly he was doing by stalking her movements within his company, but another part deemed it wiser to continue with her father’s original plan of trying to subvert the system that was Dalus Corp. Her curiosity won out, as it always had, and she hurried to catch up with Samuel.

She arrived just in time to join him inside the elevator. He hit the button for the garage level, then sat quietly, waiting for their transport to descend. Rose stood, and for the first time in her seven days since meeting him, really took the time to observe Samuel.

His hair was combed into a casual side part, and he wore a chalk gray pinstriped suit. A silver rolex embellished his wrist, and on his feet he wore black derby shoes which had never touched dirt. His face seemed set in stone, and as direct contact with his eyes was blocked by the round tinted glasses that concealed them, it made it extremely difficult to tell his emotions. His hands gripped the handles on his wheelchair lightly, and he sat straight, but his body was relaxed.

“Why can’t you walk?” Rose finally asked bluntly.

Samuel’s mouth twitched, but he made no reply.

Rose was abashed for a moment, but after another ten floors, put forth another question.

“Do you always wear those glasses? They aren’t prescription glasses right?”

Samuel grew slightly exasperated at her questions. “Do you always interrogate people like this?”

This silenced Rose, and the remainder of their trip was carried out in silence.

When they arrived at the ground floor, Samuel led the way to his expensive car. In the past, when Samuel first made the car, he had designed it specially so that built in heat-sensors would detect if more than one person was approaching it. In this manner, if one of the people was him and there was another, the car would automatically suspect he was being held hostage, and not go into its automatic sequence of preparing itself.

Not only that, but he had also built in a system to the car so that if it detected the chip approaching, but there was no heat source around it, the car would assume he was dead. In this case, it would proceed as normal, but upon reaching a main road, take control of itself, drive to a remote location, and detonate, as a final act of spite from its deceased master.

Rose, of course, did not know any of this. All she saw was a wheelchair-ridden individual leading her to a perfectly normal, albeit expensive, car. Don’t do it, don’t do it, she told herself silently, repeating the mantra over and over in her head. He did it; Samuel went around to the left side of the car.

“Um, who’s driving?” Rose asked.

Samuel turned incredulously. For a moment he just sat and stared at her, then finally he found words to voice his indignation.

“Are– are you doubting my driving abilities?”

Before Rose could reply he cut her off, sputtering. “I am as much a driver as you are, even with my disability, and I am positive that I can drive better than you.”

He grabbed the handle of the door and flung it open. There was a resounding bang that echoed through the parking garage. Slowly Samuel looked down from Rose to the door. It had slammed into a supporting pillar and sustained a large dent in its slick surface. Both of them were silent as the boarding ramp extended.

Samuel did not look up at Rose, but he could tell she was trying desperately not to break out into laughter at his mistake. The ramp touched the floor, and Samuel wheeled himself into the car, calling after Rose to follow. She got in on the side opposite his, and then, starting his car, Samuel drove off.

They pulled to a stop outside Dalus Mansion. Rose was absolutely puzzled. What in the world could he be doing, taking her to his home? Nevertheless, she followed Samuel as he vacated the car. Without a word, Samuel approached the front door. He waited quietly for her to also mount the staircase, then unlocked the front door and pushed it open.

The experiment that Samuel was undertaking rested on a few facts. First, the girl had to be there. He had little doubt about that though. For weeks now she had been there every time he got home; she would be there. No, his main concern was that his hypothesis was wrong, that Rose really had been seeing things, and that he suffered from another case entirely. It was the existence of this possibility that worried Samuel.

However, he needn’t have worried. Rose took one look into the mansion and her mouth fell open. How– how? It is impossible. There is no way coincidence like this can happen, she thought, using denial as a shield from reality. It was impossible though, wasn’t it? She had thought their problem was on a global scale, having it localized made it feel much more– prominent.

The girl extended a hand to Rose, flickering the whole time. She’s suffering, Rose realized. Instant anger flared up inside of her and replaced any other rational thought. The whirled on her heel and faced Samuel. He was not expecting this kind of reaction.

“What do you think you are doing?” she demanded.

“What?” Samuel asked, a puzzled frown creasing his brow.

Rose was infuriated. “How can you bind one of them? A phasing one at that?”

“Who is them?

“Seriously?” Rose asked, her mouth agape. “You can’t fool me. How are you doing it? Electricity? Magnetism? Heat?”

Samuel turned cold. “I do not understand what you are talking about.”

“Are you daft? The Unseen of course!”

“What Unseen?”

Rose suddenly felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. He doesn’t actually know. He doesn’t know. Oh, what have I done? “Nothing, it’s nothing. Sorry, just a little lapse. I have these mental fits sometimes. Visited a shrink for it.”

Samuel’s mind was working so volubly that it showed on his face. Rose’s comment fell on deaf ears. He remained completely impassive.

“Jessie,” Samuel called.

The butler came from around the house. “Yes, sir?”

“Drive the young lady to her house.”

Rose cut off Jessie’s reply. “You can’t just send me home after showing me something like this.”

Samuel glared at Rose, a spark in his eye, and quietly repeated his order to Jessie. Something about his whole facial expression, his tone, his body language, quieted Rose, and she followed the butler meekly as he led her to the car. When she turned to look back, Samuel was gone.

Inside the house, Samuel opened his personal computer and fired it up, linking it wirelessly to the powerful mainframe in Dalus Corp. This was exactly the kind of big break he was looking for. Suddenly little coincidences throughout multiple texts seemed less like coincidences and more like a cohesive body of information all pointing to one solution. He sat back in his wheelchair and cracked his knuckles.

———————

Rose was extremely nervous. She found herself biting her fingernails, something she hadn’t done in years. What had she done? She had been so convinced that Samuel had deliberately bound one of the Unseen that all logical thought had abandoned her. Now that she thought back about it though, it made no sense. If he had known he was illegally binding one of them, why would he have brought her to his home?

Jessie said something.

“What? I’m sorry, I missed what you said.”

“I was just saying, Miss, that you shouldn’t get involved with Mr. Dalus. It’s not good for you.”

“Why?”

The butler was silent for a moment, then he spoke, “No one stands in Samuel’s way for long.”

“What do you mean by that?” Rose asked, curiosity perked.

Jessie clammed up. The drive was continued in silence for a few minutes, then Rose tried a different tack.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“You’re a nice girl,” Jessie’s voice wafted back to her. “I don’t want anything happening to you.”

The butler dropped Rose of at her house. She waited for his car to disappear out of sight, then turned and headed for the backyard. The front door swung open and Bradley stepped out. He called after her.

“Where are you going? Why don’t you come in and say hi to me?”

“Oh, uh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were home.”

“How is the job?”

Rose’s mind had completely lost track of the fact that she now had a job, and she looked at her father blankly.

Bradley grew worried. “Rose? Are you okay? What’s happened?”

“No, it’s fine.”

Bradley did not believe it to be “fine”, but he put it aside. “Why were you going to the backyard?”

“Oh, I left something in the backyard, I was just going back there to fetch it,” Rose lied.

Bradley nodded. “Sometimes I think you’ve forgotten I work for the CIA,” he murmured as he reentered the house

Rose ran into a shed in their backyard. Its floor was dirt, with a series of thick, exposed power cables. It was where the power surge at their house had occurred and the power company had dug the cables up to repair them. She stood there, waiting impatiently. Seconds passed, and she unconsciously began tapping her foot.

A huge man and slim woman suddenly flickered above the power cables, then phased into existence. They stepped forward silently and nodded in unison. Rose nodded back.

“Hercules, Ethena.”

“What is it?” Ethena asked.

Rose twisted a lock of hair distractedly. “Do you know of an Unseen with phasing problems in this area?”

They shook their heads, then Hercules wrinkled his brow. “Are you referring to a woman?”

Rose nodded.

Hercules’ eyes grew wide. He breathed one word, “Chrysalis.”

Tours yruly 

NaNoWriMo…


…is when you sacrifice a perfectly good bowl of lasagna for a word war and don’t regret it. (Cold lasagna isn’t that bad anyway)

You know what? Now I'm kinda glad I don't have an natural "talent" for writing. :)

You know what? Now I’m kinda glad I don’t have a natural “talent” for writing. 🙂

Tours yruly

Unseen – Right Behind You – Chapter 2 – Job Offer


lol, not you!

lol, not you! The other person.

Well, there’s another 3555 words added to this. I’m totaling up to 6634 as of now. I need to write another 3030 words though, so I can get a total of 6585 words today. Why? Well, by now, if I want to have a 100000 words by November 25, I have to be at 16000 words. However, I’m not. 😄 I’m at 6634. I did some calculations though, and if I write a total of 6585 words a day for five days straight, I will be all caught up and can return to writing 4000 words a day. We’ll see though won’t we? We’ll see.

Anyway, about the story, since I’m sure that’s what you guys are here for, I’m going to use a different technique of hyperlinking. It does not allow for as much maneuverability, but it will save me a lot of trouble. Speaking of the actual story, however, since I apparently get sidetracked very easily, last chapter we got introduced to a number of key characters. This chapter, the plot thickens, as we learn more about Samuel’s apparitions and get a deeper view of his character. Enjoy. 🙂

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Samuel tossed and turned in his bed. Memories of pain, sharp and red, bounced around in the back of his mind, an unremitting ambience. His lips moved, muttering soundless words. Faces flashed through his head too fast for him to recognize. He rolled onto his back. For a moment, his mind was quiet, then a visage, gaunt and lifeless flashed into his mind’s eye. Samuel sat up.

He glanced at his silver watch. The face, illuminated by a shaft of moonlight, showed two AM. He groaned and rubbed his eyes. When he opened them again, she was there, standing at the end of the bed, haggard, pale features facing him, expressionless eyes boring into his very soul. He gave an inarticulate exclamation and pushed himself back against the carefully engraved headboard.

“Get out!” he shouted vainly. “What are you doing here? Go!”

She cocked her head to one side and stared at him curiously, then she flickered and disappeared. Samuel wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. His chest heaved, each breath rasping in his throat.

Shuffling came from outside the door, and it swung open. There was a click, and the light came on, illuminating the room. Jessie stood in the doorway, concern etched in every wrinkle.

“Samuel! Are you okay?” he rasped, breathing heavily. A handgun dangled from a loose but experienced grip. Images streaked through his memory. A building burning to the ground, a screaming five year old child, bodies of loan sharks, it all jolted through him, each one feeling like the impact of a bullet. He had sworn never to let his young charge ever get hurt again, even if it meant his own death.

“Check the windows,” Samuel said shortly.

The servant obediently moved to the large oriel. He grabbed a handle and pushed strongly. It did not budge. He tried the other handle. It did not budge.

“The cupboard Jessie, the cupboard,” Samuel ordered, the excitement in his voice slowly dissipating.

The doors to the cupboard were swung wide. Inside it hung numerous suits. Jessie pushed them aside and searched the wardrobe thoroughly. There was nothing. Samuel sighed.

“Are you alright, sir?” the butler said, putting the formal title back into the question.

“I’m fine Jessie,” Samuel said, now in control of his faculties. “What we are up against cannot be battled with guns. Go to sleep, I doubt she will visit me again tonight, but tomorrow, tomorrow we bring the war to her side of the battlefield. Then we will see how she plays.”

The butler straightened as much as he could. This was the determination that had brought Samuel as far as he stood – or sat – now. Jessie recognized it, and he knew that it would involve great physical and mental effort. He nodded silently, then turned and hobbled back down the hallway, gun still hanging from wiry fingers, memories still haunting him.

———————

Samuel tapped an even rhythm out on the desk. He had come to a bit of a deadlock in his research on Rose. The computer vouchsafed no more information no matter what he tried. It had revealed that there had been an unrecorded visit by Rose to a shrink, and that was the limit of it. The visit was not even stored on their system, which he had hacked into, unless Rose had used a false name, but she would have had to possess a complete false ID, and while, being the daughter of a CIA agent, that was possible, Samuel doubted it.

He reread the text conversation between Rose and her father again.

Rose, where are you? Your physical-ed trainer called in saying that you had asked for exemption from class today.

It’s nothing major Dad, I’ll be home soon.

Rose, I’m worried. You’ve been acting strangely.

Don’t be Dad. It’s all part of growing up right?

I guess. Where did you go though?

Just a visit to a shrink.

A shrink? What for?

Oh, I’ve just had dreams the past two nights. I wanted to get his opinion on them.

And?

He says they’re just signs of an overworked mind.

The conversation continued, but Samuel was not interested in the rest. The shrink… He had done a probability search of possible shrinks in the immediate area, taking into account the traveling distance and time, true distance, and rating of the shrink. His search had really brought up only one office. All others were quacks or simply too far away for Rose to visit and return in a few minutes.

Samuel grunted with frustration and shoved himself away from the table. He had come so far. Such a simple thing as an appointment not recorded digitally would not stop him. With a vigorous push, he sent the wheelchair rolling to the door. Though his transport had a motor in it, on occasion Samuel felt like doing the work manually. This was one of those occasions.

The sliding doors slammed shut behind him, and as the recognition chip embedded in his foot moved away, they locked. He smiled to himself, thinking about all the science-fiction stories in which chips were embedded in the wrist. Impossible. There were too many tendons and muscles inside it that would be rubbing against the chip, causing constant pain, and wear and tear to the ligaments themselves.

The best place for a chip was in the foot. Few people, except perhaps rock climbers, had need to bend their toes, him especially. After all, he did not walk on his feet. That was left to people who weren’t hamstrung. He pushed the thought aside and patted his pocket to make sure the specially designed key was still in it.

His car required not only the chip embedded in his foot to start, but it was connected to a large encryption database which created a new encryption everyday. The only thing that was updated with that encryption was the key in his pocket, though key was perhaps a misnomer. It was shaped more like a small oval with a small protrusion at the end.

The headlights on Samuel’s car flashed as he approached, and the door to the driver’s seat swung open. Only, there was no seat behind the door. Samuel pushed his wheelchair up the ramp which had extended from the car, turned to face the windshield, and pushed his wheelchair back. Clamps behind him locked the chair into place, and the door swung shut of its own accord.

Samuel buckled his seatbelt as the gentle humming of the car retracting its ramp halted, leaving an expectant silence hanging in the air. The driver dug his key out from its pocket and inserted its protrusion into a small hole beside the gearshift. The oval part of it glowed as the encryption was downloaded from the database and the car read it, accessing the database itself to check the code was correct.

In a second, the engine turned over and the elaborately designed displays lit up, glowing with blue light. Samuel removed his key, returned it to his pocket, shifted into drive, and pushed the throttle, his substitute for actual pedals, forward. The car eased out of its parking lot and Samuel spun the wheel, sending it up a ramp and out of the carpark.

He checked his watch as the shrink’s office appeared on the horizon. His computer’s estimation had been correct. The drive had taken no longer than a few minutes. Of course, it was calculating from the Fox property when it estimated how long the drive would take, but Dalus Corp. was not much farther from the office than Rose’s home.

Samuel turned in behind the office and lined his car up with a lot in between two other cars. He tapped a touchscreen, waking it up, then indicated the location of the slot he intended the car to park in. It beeped, asking for confirmation. Upon his validation of the command, the ramp extended, the clamps on his wheelchair unlocked, the door swung open, and he rolled out of the car.

He did not look back as the door closed behind him and the car drove straight into the parking lot before shutting down and locking itself. The billionaire rolled silently past the disabled parking lots. He found them demeaning, a testament to his supposed helplessness. Well, he had proved the world wrong time and again, and wasn’t going to start giving in over parking lots.

The bell to the shrink’s office tinkled as Samuel pushed open the door and entered. A friendly receptionist looked up from some papers and smiled at him. He returned her genial smile, then declared his business.

“I would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Granger.”

“Yes sir, right away. May I have your name please?”

Samuel pushed his glasses up his nose. “Samuel Dalus.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Dalus,” the nurse muttered to herself, then she did a double-take. “Mr. Dalus? The founder of Dalus Corp.?”

Samuel allowed himself a complacent smile. “Yes.”

“Oh my! Would you mind giving me a form of ID, a driver’s license perhaps? Just formality you know, nothing more. Thank you ever so much. There, now I will just enter this in here, edit this, and there we go.”

She handed her customer back his card. “One last question Mr. Dalus. What is the cause of your appointment? Dr. Granger always likes to have a general idea of why patients are visiting him before accepting the session and giving a diagnosis.”

“Visions,” Samuel said shortly, watching closely for a reaction. Some small corner of him held hope… He didn’t need to. She fell for it instantly.

“Well, what do you know? Just a week ago or so we had a patient visit here with visions. A young girl she was, not much younger than you. Rose, I think she mentioned her name was. Funny thing though, she asked that there be no record kept of her visit. I consulted with the doctor, and he said it was alright, so not one blessed thing went on the database. Could you believe that?”

Samuel was elated with his luck. He pressed another question, “Did she mention what, exactly, she was seeing?”

“Oh, I couldn’t tell you that sir. You know, as psychiatrists, all our patient’s information is confidential. Oh my, my, me and my big mouth, always getting me into trouble it is, sir. I am so sorry, but I cannot tell you any more. I’ve already said too much.” She sighed. “I’m never going to complete my internship at this rate.”

Samuel eyed her for a moment. She noticed his gaze and shifted uncomfortably. Aquiline features etched in marble hidden behind a pair of tinted glasses did that to people.

“What if,” he said slowly, thumbing around inside his wallet. “I offered you a thousand dollars?” He put ten hundred dollar notes on the counter.

His unwilling informant bit her lip, then swept the money into her palm and stuffed it into a pocket.

“Alright, but don’t tell the doctor I said a word. He’d have me out of here in a split second.”

Samuel nodded his understanding.

“She said she was seeing people. Odd it was, ‘cause we’ve had people complaining of seeing people, but she described it differently from the rest. In particular, she mentioned that most often of all, she would see a girl who almost looked dead.”

Samuel mentally patted himself on the back, then turned abruptly and made for the door.

“Sir!” the nurse called after him. “You have not set a time for your appointment!”

“Cancel it,” the ecstatic man called over his shoulder. “I won’t be needing an appointment anymore.”

Samuel rolled into the carpark. His car, upon detecting his approach, backed out of the parking lot, executed its opening sequence, then promptly shut off. He zoomed into the car, plugged his key in, and drove out of the carpark, buckling his seatbelt as he did so.

He tapped the touchscreen, swiped over to contacts, and gave Jessie a call.

“The operation is a go,” he said clearly. “I have a lead, and am moving in on Rose’s university now. I need you to get me an exemption pass to take Rose out of her classes for the day. The battlecry is on a different side now.”

Jessie was unable to truly appreciate Samuel’s metaphors, but he grunted in acknowledgement anyway, then hung up and left to do his master’s bidding.

As his expensive vehicle burned the miles to Rose’s university, Samuel brooded over what he had learnt. Rose had visions, just like him, but she saw more than one person. She just might be the key that he needed to chase his haunting apparitions away for good.

His hands closed on the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. Ahead of him, a traffic light turned red, and with an exclamation of disgust, he pushed the throttle back to zero. The car, detecting that there was an intersection up ahead, rolled itself to a stop. Samuel tapped the dashboard impatiently as he waited for the light to change. On a whim, he reached forward and turned the radio on. Dimitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 filled the soundproofed car. He smiled. Perfect.

The light turned green, and he pushed the throttle forward until it locked. His car accelerated forward till it was at the speed indicated by the signs along the road. The power of modern technology. He said to himself. He was in a good mood. Soon the apparitions would be all gone. He would have chased them away, and maybe, just maybe, he would harness them into something useful.

———————

Rose sat in her chair, chin in her hand, staring vacantly out the window at the wispy clouds. Wispy, and almost transparent, like the people she had started seeing. It all began after that power surge at her house. Suddenly she had become aware of people, invisible to others, but all too clear to her eyes.

The doctor had been puzzled. He could not work out how she could see them so vividly and yet have no incongruities in her statements. With cases of her kind, it was usually the imagination of a stressed and fretting mind, yet she was always lucid. Then, of course, after her visit, they had started talking to her.

Not the ghost-like people of course, but actual, physical people, who claimed to be similar to the ones she saw. They explained everything to her, and Rose had been gratified to learn that her hypothesis that the situation involved an alternate dimension was not far off from the mark. They had told her she was special, and that they had had their eye on her for a while now.

A guardian had been assigned to Rose, Jessica. Ethena was Jessica’s real name, but Rose preferred Jessica. She knew all too well what Ethena was derived from, and to the young woman, Jessica seemed less like a goddess of warfare and more like a compassionate female figure she could look up to, one who had been lacking for eleven years.

“Miss Fox,” her professor said. “Could you kindly demonstrate how to take the derivative of this?”

Rose obligingly stood up and walked to the blackboard. She would be dropping the class since she no longer needed to figure out what in the world was going on with her life; one more problem couldn’t hurt. A few minutes later, she had the detailed answer written boldly on the blackboard. The teacher beamed at her as she returned to her seat.

Someone knocked on the door. All heads in the class turned as the professor permitted admittance of their guests. Rose looked on with idle curiosity as the door swung open and an old man hobbled in, his wheelchair-ridden counterpart, as young as he was old, following.

“What do you want, sir?” the professor asked in a polite, measured voice.

Samuel gave a cursory nod at Rose.

“And on what authority do you take her from her class?”

Samuel motioned with his hand, and Jessie stepped forward, handing his carefully obtained pass to the teacher. He eyed it, nodded, wet his lips, then turned to the class.

“Very well then, Rose, you may go with these gentlemen. The rest of you start working on problem forty-two from your textbooks.”

Rose gathered her books into her satchel and followed Samuel and Jessie as they exited the lecture hall. Jessie mutely extended a wrinkled hand to Rose. She debated for a moment, then doubtfully handed over her heavy bag. He shrugged it across his shoulders and continued walking obediently behind Samuel.

The trio moved in silence for a minute. Rose, now studying the two with more than idle curiosity, was burning up with multiple questions, but she wished to see if either of the two would speak first. They didn’t.

“Who are you two?”

Samuel stopped abruptly and turned around. Jessie, expecting this, sidestepped so that he was at his master’s right hand. Rose however, stumbled slightly as she halted her forward momentum. Samuel waited patiently for her to regain her balance, then he spoke.

“I am Samuel Dalus.”

Something about the way he said it, a certain pompousness, but with an underlying current of danger, etched the name into Rose’s mind. She knew instinctively that this was not someone she wished to cross.

Samuel kept his expressionless gaze for a moment, then he smiled. “This here is Jessie.”

The complacent man could see that Rose was thinking furiously, and he waited patiently for her to make the connection.

“You’re– you’re head of Dalus Corp. aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Samuel smiled. “Don’t worry, it usually takes a while for people to make the connection. I have a certain aversion to pictures.

“But, never mind that. You are probably wondering why I am here are you not?”

Rose nodded mutely.

“I am here because I wish to offer you a job.”

“A job?” Rose’s eyes widened.

“Yes, I want you to come and work at Dalus Corp. I looked into your background, you have a very good track record, and your grades are all excellent. I would like you to come and work with us at Dalus Corp.”

“I– I–”

“Of course, you will have a salary. I mean,” Samuel chuckled. “You do need some recompense for me pulling you out of university.”

“But, why? What is it about me that makes you think I would do good at Dalus Corp.?”

Samuel’s face tightened. “Don’t doubt my judgement.” There was a pause, then he continued. “Of course, I don’t expect you to make this decision on the spot. Talk it over with Bradley, see what he thinks.”

Rose nodded and watched blankly as both Samuel and his butler rounded a corner.

———————

Samuel was eating oatmeal. He hated the stuff, but according to research, the fibers in it had their benefits. His coffee; however, made up for the disgust he felt towards the oatmeal. He took a sip of it and eyed his watch idly. Bradley was late. He had expected the detective to arrive sooner. Then he heard furious tones intermingled with Jessie’s placating ones creep into the room. Speak of the devil, Samuel thought as he rolled out from the dining room.

Bradley stood, broad frame illuminated by the bright morning sunlight outside, gesturing apoplectically. He was so furious that he could say nothing, but stood there fuming, as Jessie explained soothingly that Samuel had been expecting him and would be right over.

“Could you please quiet your antics Mr. Fox?” Samuel said coldly. “My grandparents are still sleeping, and your throwing a tantrum like a five year old child does not help any.”

This got the agent, and he settled down somewhat. Still bristling with hostility, Bradley demanded to know what the job offer was about.

“It is just a job offer, no more, no less.”

“I don’t believe it,” Bradley said, veins still bulging in his forehead. “You want something with my daughter. Well let me tell you mister, that if you hurt a hair on Rose’s head, I will kill you myself.”

“Why do you think I am trying to hurt you daughter? Is it because you feel guilty of the CIA for suspecting me of illegal activities and think that I am trying to exact my revenge?”

“No!” Bradley said hastily. “Of course not. How could we suspect you? You are our number one supplier.”

“I doubt that,” Samuel said, a little testily. “You all just doubt that someone as young as me could gain such prominence.”

Bradley was quiet, then he said slowly, “Yes, we do have our suspicions.”

“Well, listen to me, Mr. Fox. Revenge is petty. I don’t do that kind of thing. Take this job as a sort of peace offering between us.”

Well, Mr. Dalus, Bradley thought smugly. Here is your first mistake in our game of chess. Rose is a sharp girl, letting someone from our side into your domain is not going to help you any.

“Alright,” Bradley said, rubbing his chin. He extended his hand. Samuel took the proffered hand and gave it a firm shake.

As the CIA operative turned and left, Samuel smiled. It was not a good smile to see.

Tours yruly