The start of something I'm planning on continuing. Please enjoy.
|Parting was the hardest part, the boy was on the verge of tears after saying good bye to his mom and dad. He was being taken far from his home to a place for the magically gifted, a strange and alien place far from the golden wheat fields and rolling hills of Sullivan farmlands. All because of a power he never asked for. He watched the land he was born in, the only place he ever knew, pass before his eyes as the train sped on to its destination. He wondered if he would ever see it again; John Timberland's homemade ice cream store, his mom's auto-body, the house he called his for nearly fifteen years. Would his time at the academy erode these memories, these places he cherished so? Poor Arthur Wayne, the world he once knew is long gone now, speeding by hundreds of miles per hour in the opposite direction as the train took him to a place for gifted people like him.
It took about a halfday before he reached the station at the academy town of Tristram, one of the many towns owned and operated by the Magister Academy. And for four years, this place would become Arthur's new home. The main school building at the center of town was silhouetted by the setting sun as the evening bells sounded in the four towers at its corners. People in school uniforms and casual clothes made their evening commutes as Arthur stepped off the train and on to the platform. He stood there, eyes wide and darting from one thing to another.
The most advanced thing he had seen back home were the automobiles and the occasional robot that came in to the auto-body, but just in this station he could see so much more. Televisions with local news broadcasts on them, they were even in color! Screens on the walls had the image of the academy on them, a blue and gold shield flanked by a pair of stags with a crown hovering above the shield's top edge. Inside the shield, there was book with the school's mantra written on it “Through knowledge comes Power.” The hum of Tesla Engines hung in the air, acting as a backdrop to the constant chatter of the crowd. It was all so overwhelming for the farm boy.
A friendly hand laid itself on his shoulder, snapping him out of his wonder-stupor. Arthur turned to look at the man who had taken him from his home to this strange, new place.
“I know it seems strange and new to you now, my boy,” he said in a calm, warm manner. He sounded like a radio host, his voice was so smooth. “But you'll get used to it soon enough.” The man gave Arthur a pat on the back and shot him a smile.
“I don't know, sir,” Arthur said quietly, his voice a bit gravely from waking up only ten minutes ago. “This seems like a bit much...”
“Please, son, there's no need to be so formal. Just call me Mark.”
“Yes, si-uh, Mark...”
“And trust me, Arthur, I came from a place not so different from where you grew up. It starts out rough but you'll get the hang of city living in no time.”
Arthur hoped what Mr. Hughes said was true. Because he could see himself getting lost real quick in this place.
“Come on, lad,” said Mark, giving him one last pat on the back. “We need to get you to your new room.”
They walked from the station to a car waiting outside, a man was waiting outside it. He was wearing the same uniform as Mark, which was the student uniform of a white collared shirt, sweater vest, slacks and dress shoes. But this guy was also wearing a blue long coat and a matching blue flat cap. After a short greeting, the three got in the car and went off down the road.
Arthur looked out his window with awestruck wonder. The buildings were so close together and so different than those back home. Everything was curved and smooth looking with neon signs on almost every building. He saw glass displays showing fancy jewelry and the latest fashions, bookstores, bars, and food stores. Banners hung from lamp posts celebrating the school's local football team, the Magister Minotaurs. People were walking to and fro, in and out of stores. But there was something that caught Arthur off guard, something he thought he would never see in his life. A nine foot tall, ghostly white woman wearing a golden and crimson crown and a silver gown. She carried a huge mace with a head as big as a watermelon and a shaft as long as Arthur's arm. Someone was walking down the street with their Animus activated. And not a single person paid them any mind.
Arthur turned to Mark, his eyes huge and his mouth agape.
“Do you see that,” he said in pure bewilderment, looking back and forth between Mark and the girl with the active Animus. “Wh-what the hell is going on!? What is that!? Why is that girl just walking around in her Animus like it was nothing!?”
Mark put his hand on Arthur's head and ruffled his silver-blond hair, giving him a reassuring smile. “Don't get so worked up, it's bad for your health. In time, you'll be able to swagger down a street with your Animus on like you own the place too. Just you wait and see, son.”
The rest of the car ride was quiet all the way to the male dorms. The image of the girl using her Animus so casually stuck in Arthur's mind the whole way and in to the night. Behind his eyes, a fire began. A fire of determination! If someone could easily use their Animus, so could he.
Mark opened the door to a modest looking dorm room. A bunk bed with a desk in place of the bottom bunk, a small wardrobe under a window that looked out in to the main plaza, a bathroom that contained a shower on top of the usual sink and toilet, and a small dining area with some counters and another sink.
“Well,” said Mark as he swung the door open. “Welcome to your new home for the next four years.”
Arthur looked around, holding with small briefcase to his chest. It looked so bare, the walls were matte white and the ceiling was a baby blue color. The best thing he could say about it was that it was spotless, not a speck of dirt on the hard wood floor or grime in the sink. It didn't feel like home. The smell of fresh pie and mud being tracked through the house was distinctly missing. He turned to Mark and back at the room.
Mark rubbed the back of his head and sighed. “Look, I know it doesn't feel like home, that all of this feels like you're a fish out of water and that you might not fit in.”
The older man knelt down and put his arm around the boy, a smile on his face. “But you'll make the best of it, I know you will. I can see it in those baby blues, kid. You have the makings of a great Magister. You'll see.”
Arthur looked back in to the man's green eyes. He could tell that he believed in him by the way he looked. Arthur returned the smile and nodded.
“Good. Your school uniform is on the bed,” he said as he stood up. “Get used to it because that's what you'll be wearing for most of the next four years. There are extras in that wardrobe next to your bed. Keep 'em clean, you hear?”
“Got it,” Arthur replied with a nod.
“Laundromat's down the road, in between here and the female dorms.”
“Between here and the female dorms. Got it.”
“By the way, don't go in to the female dorms. If you get caught, you'll be in deep trouble, Buster Brown. You hear?”
Arthur couldn't help but giggle a bit. “No creeping on the babes, I hear.”
“Good man. I'll be here to pick you up tomorrow morning at six AM sharp, so get some sleep.”
“Hey! That's Mr. Mom to you.”
Arthur laughed for the first time that day and it was the hardest he thought he'd ever laugh. “Haha. Okay, okay, Mr. Mom. Hahahaha.”
Mark gave Arthur one last pat on the head. “See you tomorrow, champ. It's gonna be a big day.”
And with that, Mark left, closing the door behind him. Arthur walked to his desk and set his briefcase on it. He began unpacking, taking out the clothes and supplies he had brought with him from home to the academy. His toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, a framed picture of his family, a deck of old playing cards, his favorite hat, and a lucky necklace his mom made him before he left. He examined the necklace first. It was a chain link necklace made of steel rings with a gear at the end. There was something laser cut in to the gear, it read “Always and forever there for You. My Sun and Stars.” He wiped a tear from his eye as he admired the piece of handiwork his mom had so lovingly crafted for him. He stood the picture up on his desk and looked at it for a minute. It was a family photo of him, his parents, and his older brother. His brother went off to the Confederate Mobile Infantry about a year ago to serve on top of The Iron Wall far in the north between Holy Victoria and Uruscoviya. He's been writing home ever since. Arthur missed his big brother, he showed him how to do everything his dad was too busy to. He taught him how to fish and how to play baseball, how to ride on horseback without a saddle, even how to use a gun (though, he was taught using an air rifle bought at Old Man Hanson's store).
He put his clothes and his toiletries away before climbing up the ladder to his bed. And sure enough, there it was, his school uniform. He sat down in his bed and examined it. It looked like the one everyone else wore, alright. Long sleeved, white button-up, dark blue wool sweater-vest, brown slacks, and black dress shoes. The vest had the school's emblem embroidered on the right breast, which Arthur thought was pretty classy. He'd never wore a school uniform before, though the ones he had always seen in magazines and in comics always looked pretty fancy to him. They always looked so clean and comfortable. He couldn't wait to try it on. But, he figured that'd have to wait for the morning. It was getting late and he wanted to get some more shut-eye before the big day tomorrow. He went down the ladder, uniform in hand and carefully laid it out on his desk.
After a quick shower, he put on his PJ’s and went to bed, the image of the girl in her Animus burned in to his memory as he drifted off to sleep.
His dream was unlike any other he had ever had. He awoke in a purple and black room on a fancy chair made of purple velvet. The chair was at the end of a long, black table, at the opposite end of which was a short man in a black suit sitting in a similar purple chair. The man's eyes were obscured by his circular sunglasses. He had a long, gray mustache that extended passed his face and curled inwards. His head was bald and seemed to be polished as light reflected off the man's chrome dome.
“Greeting, Young Master Wayne,” the man had a sinister lilt to his voice as a grin stretched from ear to ear. “Welcome to the Purple Room and to the most prestigious academy in all of Titan.”
Arthur said nothing, looking around the room. There were seats lining the walls, like a booth at a diner. There were tinted windows above the seats, like those in a car. Was he being abducted? No, that couldn't be. The room would be too large for a limo.
“I know you're confused, Young Master, but do please keep attention,” the bald man said, sound a bit irritated.
Arthur snapped to look at the man, not wanting to upset this man. Whoever he is.
“I am Pennyworth, the Man Behind the Curtain and curator of the Purple Room. And you, my dear boy, have an important role to play in the coming years.”
“What do you mean,” asked Arthur.
“There's been some strange occurrences,” Pennyworth explained. “Things out of my control. And I need help. Specifically yours.”
“Why mine in particular? There are thousands of other people on campus.”
“Because, Young Master Wayne, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Whether or not they know it, everyone here has a stake in this matter. Everyone but you.”
Arthur leaned back in his chair. “What if I refuse?”
Pennyworth's grin widened. “If you refuse then you will wake up with no memory of this ever happening, you will walk in the morning sun, blissfully ignorant to the exchange here.”
Arthur began to consider saying no. But he was wise to the ways of these kinds of deals. He always read about them in books and comics.
“What's the catch,” he asked, looking Pennyworth straight in the eyes.
“The catch is that all those who work for me will see you as an enemy and will undermine your success, both as a Magister and as a student. That includes student body and staff.”
The choice was clear.
“Good. Now, then, my lovely assistant will hand you your contract.”
From nowhere, a woman appeared to Arthur's right, slipping him a sheet of paper and a pen. He turned to look at the woman in question. She was tall, easily around Arthur's height with a brown bobcut. Her eyes were an unusual golden color that seemed to stare through his body. She wore a purple business suit with black pinstripes with a matching mini-skirt. She also had black gloves on with a pair of purple heels on her feet.
“Are you done ogling,” asked the woman. Arthur turned back to the sheet of paper. The woman sighed and stood next to him, look straight at Pennyworth.
Arthur took the pen and stared at the contract before him. On the sheet it simply said this “I [blank] humbly and completely dedicate my life and safety to the pursuit of the disturbances plaguing Magister Academy. I will terminate any and all adversaries with extreme prejudice, be they man, beast, or monster. Should I fail in my mission, Lord Pennyworth shall be the penultimate master and judge of my fate and soul. I agree to delving in to dungeons deep in pursuit of the danger that will put my life at risk. I agree to sacrifice my own safety for the safety of others, God by my witness.”
Well, thought Arthur, I already said I was in.
With that last thought, he signed his name, agreeing to Pennyworth's terms. Pennyworth's assistant collected the pen and contract and handed it to her boss.
“Excellent,” the old man said, folding the contract neatly and placing it in to his jacket pocket. “Now that you are under my employ, you will act as my eyes and ears. Don't worry about reporting back, I'm in your head now.”
“Excuse me,” asked Arthur, a little bit more than indignant. “I didn't see anywhere on that contract that you were going to swim around in my egg salad!”
“Calm down, Master Wayne, you won't even know I'm there,” Pennyworth reassured the boy.
“I'd better not.”
“Now, isn't it time for you to wake up?”
Before Arthur could respond, he woke up to the sound of his alarm clock ringing. Was that even real? What just happened? He sat up in bed, running his hands through his messy head of silver-gray hair. He had a feeling this day would be a wild one.