Chapter IV: True Form

It was now day three in the cold and unnerving facility known as The Miraxis Index. Once again, the exaggerated alarm rang me to my feet. Once again, I noted the unusual passing of time visible on the clock. Once again, I was unsure of my purpose in the timeline of this world’s events. Without a scowl or mumble, I picked up my small pack and stretched. I walked over to my door and gently pushed it open as I made my way out into the quickly emptying corridor of the one-hundredth floor, all of its inhabitants heading down the elevator. They made no attempt to communicate with me but I simply ignored them in return. By now it was natural; I knew that I was avoided, and so I chose to evade in return. Yet instantly, all of the blue and drowsy feelings left my person.

I spotted Kaiyandra as she was closing the door to her room, only she was looking away as she did so, unable to see me standing behind her. In a moment’s notice, she turned around and greeted me as if she had known of my presence for some time. With a sweet expression on her face, she gently waved.

“Hey Xathoven. Did you sleep well?”

The flow of her voice added color to a lifeless void. It made me feel much less perturbed as I stood in the empty halls. I was uplifted by how polite she was to me and I graciously answered her words.

“Yes I did, thank you… And you?”

She nodded to me as she spoke. With her full attention on me, I realized how fortunate I was to encounter such a friendly figure in this of all places. Softly, she continued.

“I had a good night’s rest, though I’ve been a little worried about today, you know?”

I knew how she felt… This was the day for training; the day we would find out just exactly what was in stock for the future. Lightly scratching a cheek, I pondered for a moment.

“Don’t worry…”

I was stuck looking for words, trying to find something to say, but I myself had no predictions for the day to come. Why had I just thrown out that response so quickly?

“Come on, let’s go.”

Kaiyandra beckoned me towards her as she headed back to the familiar corner of the dormitory floor. Knowing that she was headed to the disguised stairs, I confidently followed her with haste. Unfortunately, our private path was no longer accessible.

“Huh?”

Kaiyandra slowly moved up to the wall and placed her palms upon it, physically searching for the presence of that strange staircase. The entire descending system was in fact, completely gone; in its place stood a wall, impossible to differentiate from its surroundings. There were no signs of any changes; it looked as if the wall had been there the whole time.

“Why are the stairs gone? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Upon finishing her statement, Kaiyandra turned back to me, disheartened by the loss. I frowned and thought for a moment before I replied.

“Kaiyandra, do you know how long the stairs had been there?”

She glanced around, her mind connecting details as she thought hard about her time here. With a raised hand as she wondered, she lowered her head curiously before revealing her information.

“When I first came, I remember that I found it because I didn’t want to wait in a big line to the elevator… I just came across it back here.”

She shifted around, as if looking from different angles would reveal the stairs. Though what I would note here was obvious, it was worth the investigative input.

“I can only guess that if it was there before we used it, and gone as soon as we did…”

In the middle of my statement, Kaiyandra looked to me and completed my thought aloud.

“…somebody didn’t want us using it.”

“Exactly, but why?”

The previous day, we had asked the same questions and made the same comments in relation to the officer who had warned us about using the very stairs we spoke of.

“Xathoven… what seems so weird to me is…”

She gently turned back toward the corridor and stared intently across the floor.

“Nobody else ever noticed it.”

I turned myself towards the corridor, and the unnerving sensation that ran through my body left me unsettled… I began to feel even more isolated in the facility. The entire floor was empty other than the two of us. Before all the others had left, it was clear that they never took notice of either Kaiyandra or me. They had no interest in doing so.

It almost seemed as if we were a couple of lost mice, wandering around while the rest tended to their duties. However, to persistently question the world is to be human and as Kaiyandra and I seemed to be the only ones with spiked curiosity, everything suddenly became much more uncomfortable. I sighed and came to the expected conclusion.

“I guess we’ll be taking the elevator from now on.”

With that, we made our way to the elevator of the dormitory floor. Troubled that we may have been late, Kaiyandra and I hopped into the elevator and calmly awaited the arrival at the twenty-seventh floor. A few moments later, there we stood.

The lobby was completely empty except for just one figure that stood nearby, right outside the elevator.

“There you are. I have been awaiting your arrival. Please follow me.”

Kaiyandra and I turned to each other, both of us sharing sudden anxiety. Sir Dusk seemed abnormal, as if he was in a tempered rush; there were physical signs that gave the impression we felt. Although he spoke in his usual and kind manner, it was obvious that something was bothering him. Without the liberty of choice, we tagged along as he led us down a narrow hallway opposite of the one that held his office. At the end of this hallway stood a great gray door, unsurprisingly, our destination. Sir Dusk turned towards us with thin smile of either unkempt kindness or infinite evil.

“Kaiyandra, Xathoven. Please enter the Training Chamber. A simulator will assist you in receiving and harnessing your new abilities. The other Agents have already entered separate simulators among different floors. Fortunately for me, you get the chamber on my floor. I wish you good luck…”

I nodded to the visibly upset man as he briskly turned away to leave. Though I felt a desire to determine what had left him in such a state, I knew that there were other things to take care of first. Returning my focus to the chamber, I slowly turned the doorknob and pushed it open. Within, there was only the eerie scene of blank darkness. I turned back once more and noticed that Sir Dusk was already out of the area. Kaiyandra looked to me with a discomforted expression, yet when she looked away and saw that Sir Dusk had departed, I could tell she was relieved.

In that short moment, Sir Dusk’s presence, originally one of peace and tranquility, had quickly jumped to the opposite side of the spectrum. Although it appeared that he meant no harm, there was something unorthodox about his behavior. Sir Dusk was deeply concerned by something, but we had no way of knowing what it was. Whatever it may have been, it was none of our business.

I finally slipped into the great chamber with Kaiyandra just behind me. It was cold and dark, and in the pitch-black shadows; we moved a few steps forward. The silence was broken by our echoing footsteps; they resonated throughout the chamber. It was simply too dark to know Kaiyandra’s position and just as difficult to recognize my own. We both stopped walking, unaware of how far we were from the door we had just left.

“Kaiyandra?”

“Yes?”

Her voice arose from just behind me.

“…just checking…”

As I finished speaking, a mechanical hum began to drift through the area. The obscurity all around began to light into a dark blue shade. The indistinct light was enough to show the outline of Kaiyandra just beside me, and enough for me to see my own body.

“Initializing Training Simulator… Please stand by.”

The digital voice that spoke was identical to that which the rest of the facility used. Upon hearing this voice, a white light appeared to fade in from above. I looked up to see that the ceiling, which was much higher than I had originally thought, displayed a percentage value of the simulation’s loading progress. It read “20%” and was gradually increasing.

“Huh?”

Kaiyandra quietly expressed her surprise in reaction to something. When I turned to her, I witnessed a very peculiar event. In her hands, something was materializing out of thin air. I walked over to her, astonished at what I was seeing. Kaiyandra held out her hands as the object continued to create itself. Small intersecting lines washed over the developing object. Following that grid, a layer of bright light seemed to appear, enough light that I needed to squint my eyes to refrain from damaging them. The layer of light washed away and a final layer of material appeared, completing the appearance of the object. All of this occurred in a matter of seconds. Kaiyandra held the object and observed it with great intrigue.

Kaiyandra pointed the object around. It must have been a highly advanced type of weaponry. It was a sleek rifle with a lengthy barrel and an optical scope. We both shared a bewildered expression as Kaiyandra handled the weapon. Was this what we were to fight the Shadowborne with?

“50% complete…”

Kaiyandra and I looked up to see that the percentage indicator was now a little over halfway but it progressed more slowly now than it had before. The elegant blue light around us brightened to a lighter shade, enough so that I was now able to easily recognize Kaiyandra and her weapon. Absorbed, she shifted the weapon around as she examined its features. I could now see that the object was a refined, almost futuristic rifle of some type and that it had a long and thin glowing light running down its length, pulsating with color. The training simulator appeared to be equipping Kaiyandra and myself with what we needed for combat.

As the weapon that Kaiyandra held fully completed itself, another holographic grid immediately began to run up and down the length of her body. To add to the impossibility of events so far, the holographic display appeared to levitate her. Her shoes drifted a clear foot above the ground.

The holographic grid snaked around her lifted body. Upon it, numbers and letters scrambled as if calculations were being made at a ludicrous speed. In a short series of digital tones and beeps, Kaiyandra’s casual clothing had emerged improved and battle ready. The opacity of the holographic grid began to die down and it became easy to see the end result.

After only a matter of seconds, when the lights and tones had all but left, Kaiyandra stood with a lightly modified outfit which allowed for speed and agility. Her alternate attire was similar to her casual outfit moments before, but with a few notable changes. Her long sleeve top had its sleeve length trimmed down, almost all the way up to her shoulders. She had much more room for arm movement without the drag of the top’s fabric. It now sported a blue color that matched almost too convincingly with her eyes.  A series of military chest straps on top of the shirt gave her several locations in which to hook her new weapon and other items. Her shoulders now had multiple straps, some from her top and others from the combat modifications.

Her ruffled black skirt remain unchanged, save for a light tool belt that ran around her waist. It was another location for her to dangle possessions or even her purse. Her sneakers remained unchanged and it was as if she was pretty much ready to go already. Overall, little change was made to her attire; perhaps we were meant for light combat. Other than the obvious changes, Kaiyandra also now had a few adornments high on the left side of her chest. A small horizontal label read “MIRAXIS | K-17”. Below it, a small military style ribbon in blue and black seemed to indicate her colors.

With the holographs now long gone, Kaiyandra’s body was gently lowered to the floor. She was now free to roam around once more. Left in a sitting position, she carefully observed herself, looking amused as she played with her new gear. With the slight hint of a grin, she quickly jumped up to her feet.

“I could get used to this…”

She carefully walked around, studying her own equipment and movements with every step she took. In an instant, I felt myself raise a little, no longer in contact with the floor. Expectedly, the holographic display, with its flowing grids and values, appeared all around me. The lights slowly began their work. I could feel a slight shift of weight as the system made modifications to my clothing, though the bright lights did not allow me to see the changes as they occurred.

“Something feels… strange…”

Kaiyandra’s words fell as she spoke, a strange expression on her face. More interest was displayed than fear and I promptly inquired in response.

“What do you mean?”

She continued to pace around, paying careful attention to her own movements, slowing to a crawl as she walked. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks.

“My body… my whole body feels cold. It feels like my blood is freezing.”

Kaiyandra carefully clipped her rifle to her belt in order to free both hands. She calmly felt each limb, observing them through physical contact. She suspected something.

“What do you suppose is happening?”

As she prepared to reply, a yellow flash of light zipped around her body and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, making a thundering crackle that ran endlessly through the chamber. The digital voice of the training chamber then spoke aloud.

“Genetic decryption and enhancement complete. The Miraxis Index allows for unlocking of biological systems disabled naturally on Earth. The human K-17 is now fully operable within Miraxis stability standards. Miraxis form activated”

Kaiyandra walked towards me with a slight change in her movements. It was almost imperceptible; I was unable to identify the exact cause.

“Xathoven, can you see this? This is so strange. I feel like I could…”

Kaiyandra glanced upwards. Confident in her newfound abilities, she bent to one knee and then lunged vertically. This movement should have just been a normal jump but it was different now that Kaiyandra had been “enhanced”. She leapt towards the distant ceiling at an incredible speed just before she swiftly flipped in midair. She let her body fall freely and with the softened descent of a feather, she came down to the ground. She landed down on a knee, just as she had begun.

“What was that!?”

As I exclaimed in great surprise, she turned towards me in utter confusion. She had just soared into the air and drifted to the ground, as if she weighed nothing.

“I don’t know… I just can’t believe it. It’s incredible; it feels so natural.”

Kaiyandra revealed pure bliss as she observed her arms and legs to sense their new capabilities.

“What is this power?”

She was blown away as she spoke, continuing to study these strange new abilities as she was still down on one knee.

“Genetic decryption and enhancement complete. The human X-19 is now fully operable within Miraxis stability standards.”

With a quick flash of light, I was freed from the cage of light and allowed to move around. I could now sense what Kaiyandra felt and it was just as she had described it. The strange sensation I experienced was difficult to describe. My heart pumped blood throughout my body in the usual pattern, but the blood that flowed felt different; it felt cold like steel. It stung for several seconds as the first wave of rushing and freezing blood ran through my body. Very quickly, my system was able to compensate to this new feeling and all was well from then on.

I quickly observed my new gear. Similarly to Kaiyandra, my attire had been only lightly improved. I wore the jacket I had on just moments before, but now it was a deep red color and the sleeves ended just before the bend of my elbows. I had a few military style straps similar to Kaiyandra, but a different change called my attention. My jacket had thin, angled cuts throughout the sleeves and the side of my abdomen. I tapped a knuckle against one of the angled segments; it was extremely hard to the touch. Was it some kind of armor?

On my chest I had a Miraxis label just as Kaiyandra had, and my small ribbon was red and black, just below the text. Nothing else seemed much different, but as I gently moved my arms and shoulders, I could feel a great pressure within my upper body.

“Try it out Xathoven.”

I nodded to Kaiyandra who smiled, awaiting my move as she crossed her arms and took a step back. I bent down as she had, and prepared to launch. I looked up intently and with a quick lunge, hopped straight into the air. The ceiling was not getting any closer. In fact, I had barely jumped at all. Unprepared for this sudden failure, I fell to the ground after the shameful attempt.

“Whoa!”

I looked upwards as I lay on the ground and spotted Kaiyandra who burst into uncontrolled laughter from my drop. I quickly stood back up and brushed myself off, looking around to make sure I had not left my dignity below. Kaiyandra continued to giggle as she covered her face.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it-”

Her muffled snickering continued. At least someone was amused.

“I see that leaping is not in my range of abilities.”

Following my words, a loud clunking noise began to ring through the air. Some kind of mechanism was moving around us.

“Setup Complete. Diagnostics Complete. K-17 and X-19 Enhancement Complete. Initiating Combat Simulator.”

The numbers on the ceiling faded away and the entire room glowed in a sudden layer of sunlight. Blinded for a moment, Kaiyandra and I unshielded our eyes to see a beautiful vista. The power of the training chamber was demonstrated by the surroundings it displayed. It had created a magnificent field in an untamed wilderness. All had become silent; the warm breeze and hypnotic swaying of the tall grass set up a blissful scene.

“If only it were real…”

Mesmerized, Kaiyandra lowered her guard and gazed into the horizon, beautiful yet unreal. Amidst the tranquil moment, a sudden shadow darkened the scene. The source of the earlier sounds of machinery became apparent.

“Kaiyandra, behind you!”

She snapped back to see a large combat robot of some futuristic technology. The great machine threw a menacing look while approaching her. Already harnessing her abilities with ease, she glided into the air to flip over the robot; it ignored her and veered off its original path. A moment later, I realized it was heading straight towards me.

“Watch out!”

Before my reflexes could catch up, the robot launched a massive projectile towards me. With not a second to react, I closed my eyes and waited as I saw my end approach, but it was not over yet. I felt a very soft tap on my chest. I opened my eyes to see the missile impact with my abdomen. It collided yet bent as it moved forward; it was as if I was made of an invincible alloy. The missile, now impossible crushed into an angled shape, harmlessly bounced off me and whirled around in the air. With a loud rumble and a scrambled explosion of debris and smoke, it blew up just a short distance from my side.

“What?”

Kaiyandra, with her hands on her cheeks and her eyes wide, was absolutely stunned by what she had just witnessed. The robot continued to face me, as if glaring out of anger. Within its mechanical arms, it materialized two Gatling guns and began to pound away towards me. I stood still and felt only weak vibrations as hundreds of bullets raced to my body and harmlessly ricocheted off. In the midst of the shooting, it became obvious that my armored top was not causing this miracle; several bullets bounced directly off of my exposed skin. I placed a hand in front of the bullets, hoping that my body truly was part of this invincible capability and aware that if it had not been, that would have been my end.

The robot finally gave up on the guns, but as it began to change its weapons, several monstrous firearm shots filled the air. With a thundering crash, the robot spilt apart in front of me, with pieces of its wiring burnt and its thick armor easily penetrated. As it fell, I could see Kaiyandra standing ahead, tightly holding the rifle towards the robot. She walked over to me, still astonished from what I had just displayed.

“Are you hurt? What was that?”

For obvious reasons, her eyes were wide with surprise.

“Well, you can jump fifty feet into the air, I can deflect bullets from my body... It seems like a fair trade.”

I chuckled but Kaiyandra was still dumbstruck as she walked over to me and extended her hand towards my arm. She pointed lightly to my forearm.

“May I see?”

“Of course.”

As she leaned towards me, I stretched out my right arm. With a light tap, Kaiyandra set off a thin whirring sound as her finger gently impacted upon my skin. She continued to do so softly, and with subsequent points of contact, the whir faded, though the effect could be easily felt. She tapped a little harder and then pulled her hand back in awe.

“That’s… just unbelievable.”

She could not believe what she was seeing; neither of us could. In the midst of admiring our abilities, I had forgotten about her weapon.

“How about that weapon you have there? What kind of technology allows it to shoot like that? You were able to burn right through that machine.”

We both turned to see the mechanical remains but they, along with any sign of them, had gone.

“Hmm?”

We both exchanged a troubled glance.

“Administrator Override Detected. Welcome Sir Dusk.”

Courtesy of the simulator’s vocal message system, we became aware that Sir Dusk had taken control of the training simulator’s system.

“Congratulations on your new abilities Xathoven and Kaiyandra. I hope you are finding them… useful.”

Sir Dusk’s wish was surely true. Kaiyandra and I were entirely satisfied and impressed with our unlocked capabilities.

“You two are now a Miraxis Pair. There is much to understand in this. In order to survive a fight against the Shadowborne, you must learn to work together, to work as a team. You have each been granted your own enhanced abilities and they are naturally designed so that you may protect each other as well as fight. If you focus and stick together, there will never be an opponent who can stand up to you, but separately, you will both fail. All I need say is work hard and defend each other. That is the method of victory as Miraxis Agents. For now, you will be tested in one of our short yet effective training scenarios but be prepared, for tomorrow will be the real thing. Control, end communication.”

“The administrator has disconnected…”

Sir Dusk seemed to be in much better shape than he had been earlier; he sounded much more open and friendly. I felt a deep sense that told me that he was only watching out for us but still, I needed to remember that not all in The Miraxis Index was as it seemed.

“So long as we stay together, we won’t have any trouble.”

I gazed blankly as I traced Kaiyandra’s words, wondering what these conflicts would hold in store for us. My stillness prompted her to walk over to me.

“Xathoven… You shouldn’t think so much; let’s take things as they come and move ahead. You know what I mean, right?”

She looked up to me, her eyes a little eerie as they excavated my mind. She had caught me lost in my thoughts once before. Was my mental wandering that obvious? I felt as if little details were trying to make me question Kaiyandra even now, just for a moment. I really needed to stop putting so much of my processing behind observations. I needed to pay attention to my surroundings; Kaiyandra’s mindset was more aware of the world than my own. I was lucky that I was paired with her, and with the fortune of meeting a friend such as this, I made sure to take advantage of what lay before me.

“Yes, I understand.”

Following my words, Kaiyandra placed her hand upon my arm and nodded in satisfaction.

“All right…”

When her soft grasp left my shoulder, I could feel a frigid cold wash over once more. Her touch was warm, but it seemed exaggerated. Whenever we ended any touch, I noticed that I could always feel a drastic dissipation of warmth from the point of contact. I knew not what this meant; perhaps it was all in my head. Suddenly, the simulator announced a change to our experience.

“Administrator Sir Dusk has initiated Scenario ET-BC-01. Stand by, now loading scenario…”

The scene of the grand plain faded away as once again, everything became a dark and melancholy blue. A white countdown timer appeared on the ceiling as the scenario was loading into memory. Kaiyandra and I glanced around for a moment as we patiently waited.

“Attention Unit X-19, Administrator Sir Dusk has requested equipment 09.27 for your use; please remain still as the equipment is imported.”

Kaiyandra turned to me and watched as a familiar glowing light began to flash around my body. I felt a weight grow on my hip and as I turned my head to watch, I caught sight of an exquisite handle materializing by my lower torso. After about twenty seconds, the light dissipated and I was left with a weapon handle buckled on my belt. I reached to my left and slowly pulled the handle.

As I raised the handle, the blade materialized inch by inch below it. Some insane technology was making the weapon materialize from the handle as I “unsheathed” it. Eventually the entire weapon had materialized before me and I held it still. It was a great sword with an archaic, medieval design. As I held it up, I could see the blade reflect the blue light around me, but my attention was quickly called to the blade’s sharp edges. They glowed with a pulsation of different hues. Kaiyandra moved beside me and held out her rifle, instantly making the conclusion I had.

“That light, it must be the same power that my weapon has.”

Before I was able to slip a reply out of my mouth, the control system spoke aloud once again.

“Equipment 09.27 is a prototype Miraxis Weapon referred to as Darkelle. This weapon was previously registered to a former Agent of The Miraxis Index Defense Department. Darkelle uses experimental Miraxis technology of a unique liquid chemical unofficially named Endis.”

“Endis?”

I turned to Kaiyandra who simply shook her head.

“I’ve never heard of it. Maybe it only exists here.”

I had no recollection of the name Endis. As Kaiyandra mentioned, it may have been a chemical that only was found in the void.

“Hmm… Control, what is Endis?”

A couple of seconds passed and I was sure that I would not get an answer from the simulator’s intelligence system. Interestingly, it processed my request.

“Endis is a charged liquid which divides any material it comes in contact with, safely splitting the core structure and closing off the resulting divisions. The chemical is self-controlled to avoid the surpassing of theoretical boundaries in terms of elemental properties. As a result, Endis powered weaponry is capable of penetrating every known element and is deadly to living organisms. As of today’s database date, only two weapons contain Endis – 09.27: Darkelle and 07.24: Medagien.”

Darkelle was the title of my blade and Medagien must have been such for Kaiyandra’s weapon. Content with the descriptive reply, I observed my blade and its properties. The color-shifting light, which must have been an aura of the Endis chemical, appeared to be pulsating up and down the length of the blade’s edge. I practiced a couple slow swings to feel how the weapon performed. Curiously, I felt very comfortable wielding it, regardless of its size and weight. In no time, I was whirling the blade single handedly with no worry of error.

I studied the blade once more before returning it to the mystical sheathe on my built. As I pushed the blade through the thin holster, it dematerialized until only the handle remained. Incredible. I looked around for Kaiyandra and spotted her just behind me, slowly pacing around as she appeared to be putting thoughts together in her head. I allowed her time to think as she repeated her steps, wandering around in search of an answer. She stopped moving and looked upwards, as if looking for the artificial intelligence that spoke to us.

“Control… what is The Miraxis Index?”

She looked up intently, awaiting a descriptive explanation such as the one for Endis. I had not thought of such a clever move myself.

“The Miraxis Index is –is – NULL – a facility – structured - personnel…”

The control system appeared to be suffering a technical issue… but it was much more than that. After an abrupt cut of the voice, it finally came back but with a different reply.

“-Information Classified. You are not authorized to access this information.”

Kaiyandra looked back down as she thought and with a quick turn to me, she was able to express her thoughts. The system definitely had been preparing to answer her inquiry; any barrier of code was non-existent for it would not have begun answering her in the first place, it would have just blocked the attempt. Somebody was hiding information, and she knew exactly who.

“Control, who is Sir Dusk?”

“-Information Classified. You are not authorized to access this information.”

Kaiyandra returned to her thoughts and attempted one hugely significant final test.

“Control, what is Endis?”

“… Information Classified. You are not authorized to access this information.”

In a brief moment of earned pride, Kaiyandra visibly smirked at her efforts. When she asked about Endis, it refused her access, yet it had just told us exactly what Endis was. There was more than I understood being connected. Kaiyandra had put the pieces together herself.

“Interesting…”

Kaiyandra put a finger to her lip, indicating that what she had discovered was not to be discussed here. I slightly nodded to let her know that I understood. It was a discussion for another time. Scrambling the awkward silence, I spoke aloud.

“This is really taking its time…”

I looked up to see the countdown but it had just completed a moment ahead of my glance.

“Scenario ET-BC-01 Setup Complete. Initiating Combat Simulator.”

I observed the blank area and stood ready as the blue tone that surrounded us faded to black and all was darkness again. The simulator’s voice gave us a brief note.

“This scenario covers some important talents and skills which must be used effectively in combat in order to survive. For this scenario, both Agents must work together to move through the course by following clues and signs. They must complete the objective as they progress. Mission Objective: Reach the destination.”

The darkness began to fade; a bright light appeared above us. All I could see was that sole light for several seconds as my eyes adjusted to the unfolding scene. When my vision came to clarity, I could see that Kaiyandra and I stood in what appeared to be a small storage room. The room was very tight, with shelves on one side and tall lockers on the other. It looked like a storage room; there were many cardboard boxes stacked in a corner and arranged across shelves. Just beside them stood a closed door with no indication of what stood on the other side. Immediately, Kaiyandra approached the door and proceeded to arm herself as she unclipped her rifle and raised it steadily. I moved to the opposite side of the door as she prepared to open it. She whispered softly.

“Let’s be careful and stay together. If we do well, we’ll be ready for the real thing.”

I nodded in agreement as she finished.

She began to reach for the door when I quickly nudged her arm aside.

“I should stay at the front. The chances of you getting hurt are lower if you let me go first. I’m made for this; we should use our abilities wisely.”

She hesitated for a moment, but I convinced her to stand back, after all, I was the one that was capable of deflecting damage and avoiding injury. Kaiyandra in this form was no less vulnerable than before. She was given incredible marksmanship and agility at the cost of any protection. I had to plan ahead, to know when to use my skills to protect her.

“Okay. Please be careful…”

I quietly removed my new blade and held it close to my side, ready to strike at any possible target. With my free hand, I gently pushed forward against the door, moving alongside its opening. Peeking ahead, I was able to see that the area outside was a grand hallway with glowing advertisements along the opposite wall. Confident that nothing stood preparing to attack us, I quickened my opening of the door and moved outside of the storage room. With just a couple steps, I had cleared the room’s vicinity and stood in the center of the hallway with Kaiyandra just behind me.

“Is this… an airport?”

I asked the same question in my head as I looked around to see terminal signs and gate entry posts. At the finish of one side of the hallway, there appeared to be a dead end with a wide viewing window towards a runway. Through the glass, it was easy to see that it was the middle of the night; the lights inside the structure were on but it seemed that the battalion of lights typically seen outside of an airport was not present here. After a quick study of the area, I knew that Kaiyandra and I needed to be elsewhere, so I slowly headed towards the opposite side of the hall where there was an intersection of wide corridors. I halted in the center of the split and let out a tense sigh, glancing between the two alternative paths.

“We don’t have time for this…”

I gazed down the remaining corridors but it was no use looking, both paths appeared exactly the same. I stared back and forth, quickly trying to decide which way to proceed. Clearly, this was part of the course, but where would we choose to go?

“Hey Xathoven, this one seems right.”

I turned to Kaiyandra who had extended her arm to point at a sign that hung from the ceiling. The sign read “Gate: A-22” and was flickering rapidly. I looked to the other corridor entrance and realized that there was no sign above. This was a telling hint and perhaps a perceptual test. The control system had stated to follow signs, but I had not realized that the clues were that clear.

“Oh…”

I had not meant to sound dumbstruck but that was the feeling I had. Sometimes, I thought so hard that I overlooked obvious clues. It was a silly mistake. I quickly recovered my dignity and moved quietly through the A-22 corridor alongside Kaiyandra. Walking through a few sharp turns and long paths, we passed nothing of interest for a minute or so and I constantly checked for my friend’s presence.

Still without conflict, I continued combat ready with Kaiyandra following closely, aware of our surroundings. Just a short distance ahead, I could make out a grand lobby that theoretically held the gate entrance of A-22. The lobby was just a floor above us and clearly labeled for us to know. We both stood upon a lengthy escalator that headed to the lobby when we quickly became short on time.

“Gate A-22 to flight 723 will be closed in one minute. Please proceed to the gate immediately.”

The audible announcement from ceiling speakers was enough to hasten our trip to the gate entrance and we moved through the escalator in a matter of seconds.

“We’re almost there…”

Kaiyandra muttered as we moved forward and as I quickly glanced back to her, I caught our first sight of danger.

In reality, it may have taken only a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime to me. My blood raced through my veins when I saw the dreaded red laser point which lay upon Kaiyandra’s attire, ready to strike at the heart. I had moved to far ahead and exposed her to the very danger that I was meant to counter. Immediately, I dived in front of her and stretched an arm, catching a glimpse of the muzzle blast from a stealthily placed sharpshooter hidden in the corner of the lobby. I extended my hand as far as I could, hoping to block the approaching bullet. I closed my eyes in fear but I knew the result when I felt a sting on my hand and heard the loud ring of a bullet bouncing off the hard floor below. I myself collided with the ground just moments later.

“Xathoven!”

As she rushed towards me, another crackling gunshot ran across the hall. With ridiculous speed, Kaiyandra ducked her head down, narrowly missing the bullet that sped by. She took cover behind a nearby vending machine as I slid near a table beside the opposing wall. Looking across the hall from a safe position, she inquired.

“Are you hurt?”

Kaiyandra’s worried expression faded as I displayed my uninjured palm to her. I was too bothered by my mistake to make any further response. She shook her head softly yet appeared relieved.

“Thanks.”

Poking her head out of cover, Kaiyandra caught sight of the lobby before facing me again.

“It looks like there’s just one, but I’m not sure.”

“He’s definitely good; any mistake and it is over.”

I observed my blade for a moment, wary that I would not be able to engage this ranged opponent, at least not easily. Kaiyandra noted my indecision and took matters into her own hands.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this one, just cover me-“

Faster than I could protest, Kaiyandra sprinted into the lobby. Upon entering the grand room, she hastily leaped into the air and aimed at various places around the lobby, searching for the target. I ran into the room and looked around carefully but it appeared that the original culprit had left. In his place, three more opponents had arrived.

“Kaiyandra, the other hall!”

With those quick words, I was able to alert the enemies of my presence and give Kaiyandra three viable targets as she looked to the corridor I referred to. The three figures ran towards me; they looked like heavily geared soldiers. In reality, I was fully aware that they were just lines of code in the training program and worth no mercy. Three shots in quick succession from Kaiyandra’s rifle terminated the targets with impeccable accuracy. As surprised as I was, I had no time to waste as three more of these soldiers came sprinting out of the same exit. I was caught off guard when another group of three approached from the opposite direction. I was surrounded.

Kaiyandra, whose leaping abilities had allowed her to find a home amongst the ceiling’s structural bars, came soaring down. She landed gently just behind me. I heard the gunshots of the group facing Kaiyandra and turned to see that she had managed to dodge the whizzing bullets and quickly flanked the group, striking from an advantageous angle. She had taken to her abilities extremely well. I readied my blade for combat; it was time for me to test myself.

“Now… Let’s see what this can do…”

The three opponents stood strong and each one removed a short sword from their armor. A brief standoff ensued but one of them finally rushed me. He swung his blade downward but I was able to block his attack with my new weapon. I pushed him back with the edge of the weapon and pulled the blade with me in a full rotation. The movement felt natural; I felt comfortable with the weapon, almost beyond comprehension. As I came around to him, my sword followed and with one swift slice, I was able to strike the opponent across the chest. As an artificially created foe, he faded into lights and code amidst an electric clash of sounds. Moments later there was no form remaining.

The remaining two watched. Unchanged, they both lunged at me to attack simultaneously. I was able to knock down one of the attackers but the other one was able to graze my arm with the edge of his sword; I learned of one of my vulnerabilities. He left a thin cut on my arm and a small strip of blood began to become visible. I was invulnerable to brute force but slicing attacks were still capable of injuring me, or even worse, killing me.

Now aware of this dangerous flaw, I kept a close watch on the movements of the enemy blades, making sure to avoid stabbing or slicing attacks. The first opponent was able to get up and engage in combat with me once more but by the time he had done so, I made sure that his partner was no longer active with a quick vertical slash. With only the single mercenary left, I swung my blade to take him down. I felt the cold rush that I had felt earlier, that strange sensation that came when I was originally enhanced with my abilities. This time, it was a rush of pure strength and somehow, to my own amazing surprise, I swung down with a power that was able to shatter the soldier’s blade and impact against him directly, instantly taking him out. All became quiet and I glanced around to make sure that there were no more targets. I spotted Kaiyandra simply standing still and just behind her lay the gate entrance of A-22, hopefully our intended destination. I ran towards Kaiyandra and grasped her hand as I passed.

“We need to go now!”

As I pulled her, she seemed almost weightless, likely an effect of her new abilities. I sprinted through the gate corridor, making sure that Kaiyandra was still in my hold. The passage was short and we were quickly able to enter the aircraft’s cabin that waited at the end. Upon entering, I let go of Kaiyandra in order to slam shut the cabin door and turn the lock. We now stood at the front of the aircraft’s seating arrangement. When I was done, I let out a sigh of relief. I then spent the following thirty seconds recovering the breath I did not have. I glanced to Kaiyandra to see she shared my surprise. Though brief, it was an intense fight we had just conducted, and we were both out of breath. She raised a hand to her chest as she spoke.

“This is a little-“

Kaiyandra ducked just as a bullet slammed into the cabin wall beside her. A gunshot had come from down a column of seats and missed her only by inches. I called to her quickly.

“Kaiyandra, stay here; I’ll take care of this.”

The narrow escapes were testing her patience; I never knew such a thing was possible. She let out great sigh as she slowly stood back up and brushed aside her hair with a slight hint of anger.

“Leave him to me…”

Kaiyandra suddenly sprinted down the cabin towards the origin of her attacker’s shots. I tried to follow behind her but she was too fast and quickly able to get away. Even as I ran down the column at full speed, she sped away from me. When she reached her target, she swiftly kicked him in the face. The impact was made with full force, and she almost bounced backwards from the effort. As he fell back, another one of the simulation’s opponents turned around out of a nearby entrance and approached Kaiyandra. Before he could even imagine threatening her, she had knocked him out with a massive melee attack from the butt of her rifle and pushed him to the floor. I had almost made it to her position when she encountered a third opponent in the vicinity. She simply turned the gun he held pointed to her and pulled the trigger to his own chest. He quickly fell down with no reaction, lifeless as he hit the ground and faded into nothingness.

I had finally made it to Kaiyandra and she was clearly tense. She did not like cutting it close, and I shared the sentiment. Her breathing was rapid. She took a few steps away from me and slowly placed a hand on her chest.

“This could take a while to get used to…”

For a short moment, Kaiyandra looked tragic. She gazed into nothingness with sadness. Upon one of the nearby passenger seats of the aircraft, Kaiyandra took a well-deserved seat. She appeared exhausted as I sat beside her, assuming that the last of the enemies had been defeated.

“Kaiyandra…”

After a short delay, Kaiyandra turned to me and took a deep breath as she continued to recover.

“I… I’m fine. Sorry…”

“Kaiyandra, you should not apologize. This is just a training session, you don’t need to push yourself so hard-“

“Yes, I do! I really have to Xathoven, and you do too. You heard Sir Dusk; we can actually die out there and if this is just a training session, then the real thing will probably be much harder.”

In my few days of experience with Kaiyandra, I had yet to hear her raise her voice as she had now, but it was out of concern rather than anger. Kaiyandra’s eyes veered from mine as she looked somewhere to my side, I soon realized what it was as she spontaneously jumped at me.

“Xathoven! How did you already get hurt?”

“Huh?”

She grasped my arm and observed the clean cut that I had already disregarded. In the spontaneous combat, I had no time to pay attention to my own injury. As she closely observed it in concern, the control system’s synthesized voice emerged from nothingness once more.

“This training session has been successfully completed. Please stand by as the chamber restores you to The Miraxis Index system.”

The scene grew dark and it became blanketed in eerie darkness. Cold air filled the area and I heard the click of a door unlocking just behind me. I extended a hand to find a doorknob and I quickly discovered it, turning and opening the door to reveal the corridor of floor twenty-seven of The Miraxis Index. The combat simulation was now officially over. The system restored us to reality and our gear was back to our normal clothing. Kaiyandra still held a tight grasp on my arm as we headed out of the corridor and back into the main lobby where a tall figure awaited us.

“Ah, welcome back Xathoven and Kaiyandra. I received the information on your session immediately upon completion and I will review it…”

Sir Dusk appeared to have returned to his normal state, his strange anxiety and nervous aura from before had all but left him. Whatever it had been, I was relieved to see it gone because he had only been making me more nervous. Now, all seemed well with him.

“Please, Sir Dusk…”

A soft voice emerged from beside me. It was unexpected after the strong statements Kaiyandra had expressed to me just a minute before.

“Look at his arm; he’s bleeding.”

Sir Dusk leaned in to see as Kaiyandra, still anxiously holding on, fully extended my arm. On the outer part of my forearm, a simple, thin strip of blood ran parallel to the limb itself. It felt like nothing, and looked insignificant, yet the change in Sir Dusk’s expression left me a little worried.

“Oh my, how curious.”

Sir Dusk bent a little as he closely observed the damaged area. From inside of his smooth jacket, he removed a magnifying monocle for a clearer view. After changing some angles and manipulating the arm himself, Sir Dusk finally returned to his stance to face me.

“Please give me a moment Xathoven, I will return.”

The sharp man made a swift movement back to his office where after just a few seconds; he reemerged with a small note in one hand.

“I have set the elevator to take you quickly to the medical floor. There, they will tend to your wound and send you back to your dorms. I apologize for that Xathoven. Oh, and Kaiyandra, it would be best if you escorted him there.”

“Thank you, I will take him sir.”

With his usual bow, Sir Dusk sent us of and we briefly made our way to the single open elevator across the lobby. As we headed over, we heard the strong voice once more.

“By the way you two, you did a fantastic job in the simulator. You are well prepared for tomorrow.”

Upon ending his statement, Sir Dusk headed back to his office, allowing no time for an answer. Although I did not place full confidence or trust in Sir Dusk as of yet, his words were encouraging to me. Kaiyandra and I finally made it to the elevator and turned back to the door once inside. The doors quickly shut and the elevator’s panel indicated automatic movement to floor forty-three.

“You need to be more careful Xathoven… You got lucky today so take that extra chance to be more wary from now on.”

I appreciated Kaiyandra’s concern and I hoped she knew I returned the compassion. Although we had only known each other for a couple of days, our elusive yet connected visions had left us seeing more in one another. We both knew that the other was a vital part of our memory, but if only we could see why.

“I lost my focus; I will be more careful next time.”

“You’d better be…”

That was all that was said as the elevator arrived at the medical floor of The Miraxis Index. It sported the typical look that I was now used to, the dull shades of black and white washed around the room. Instead of corridors, there were simply a few closed rooms for patients. Shortly upon arrival, a young nurse in what must have been The Miraxis Index’s medical attire approached to assist.

“Good evening to you. I received the message from Sir Dusk, please follow me.”

The nurse indicated for me to follow and as I walked behind her, I saw that she was taking me to the last of the medical rooms. Kaiyandra strolled beside me. Just outside the door, the nurse turned politely with her hands in front of her waist and spoke.

“Please enter Sir Xathoven, this will only take a moment, I apologize for the inconvenience.”

“It is no problem at all, thank you.”

Calmed by the woman’s manners, I slowly entered the medical room. As a usual patient’s enclosure, the room contained little to no objects other than an adjustable bed and a supply cabinet above a standing sink. I stood at the center of the room and turned to see Kaiyandra entering. Her progress was impeded by the kind nurse.

“I’m sorry Lady Kaiyandra, but you cannot enter.”

Kaiyandra, a little irritated by the fact, gave the nurse a puzzled expression, but she kept her composure and asked softly.

“Why is that?”

“Facility rules milady, it is not in my control, I’m sorry.”

With no choice but to wait outside, Kaiyandra hastily waved to me as the nurse closed the windowless door. The woman headed to the supply cabinet and with practiced precision, grabbed some alcohol and cloth. Although perfectly normal, her tools appeared so old-fashioned after seeing what there was to see in The Miraxis Index. She carefully approached after spreading some alcohol upon the cloth.

“Sir, could you extend your arm please?”

She acknowledged my nod and gently held my hand with hers as she slowly ran the alcohol-drenched cloth along my cut. I could not help but release a slight reaction of pain as a great burning sensation filled my arm. She stopped for a moment to check.

“I’m sorry Sir, am I hurting you too much?”

“No, no, it just stings a little.”

“I’m afraid it may feel like that for a little bit but it should heal well overnight.”

The nurse finished the simple treatment and ran another part of the cloth to wipe the small marks of blood from around the wound. Although there was the continuous sting, visually, the small injury was completely clean.

“Thank you very much ma’am.”

“You’re welcome Sir Xathoven.”

The woman returned the bottle of alcohol to the supply cabinet and quickly discarded of the blood-ridden cloth, but as she approached the door, she performed an action opposite of what I had expected. After a nervous glance around, the nurse quietly locked the door and rushed over to me. I felt a little uncomfortable as she leaned her face close to my ear and placed an arm around me to stay close, but as she spoke, I realized she was relaying important information.

“He told me that when you go to your dormitory and notice something is off, the elevator will take you where you need to go…”

The nurse placed a finger to her lips in a gesture I had already seen too many times that day. She did such so that I was unable to inquire. Curious of her words, I could only guess as she silently unlocked the door and opened it smoothly.

“Thank you for your patience milady, you may take Sir Xathoven now.”

In a moment’s notice, Kaiyandra entered the room to lead me out. I followed her in departing the room and caught a final glimpse of the nurse I had just spoken to. The nurse simply bowed as if she had never spoken those cryptic words to me, and I nodded back to her, unnoticed by Kaiyandra. I knew not what the greater plan was, but the nurse had told me all I needed to know. I patiently walked with Kaiyandra as she led me to the elevator. Before we entered, she felt that we had a safe vicinity to speak within for a moment.

“How is it Xathoven, are you okay?”

“It’s nothing at all, there’s no need to worry about it. Just a small cut.”

Reading Kaiyandra’s expression, I could see that she was not sure of the minor wound’s diagnosis.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes, of course I am. Let’s go get some rest now.”

In a short time, we had entered the elevator and its programmed destination was sending us to the hundredth floor. There was a blank silence for a few seconds, but it was absolved by Kaiyandra’s enlightened yet gentle voice.

“Hey Xathoven…”

Her tone was relaxing and quiet in the cold elevator, though it told multitudes of the importance of what she was about to reveal.

“I remember something… I just remembered something important.”

“What do you remember? Did I miss something?”

In great surprise, Kaiyandra shook her head and faced me directly. She placed a palm on my face as she studied me for a moment and I allowed her to observe. Her brow shifted as she thought deeply and carefully examined me. Then her expression seemed to loosen.

“Marlin… your name, I think it was Marlin…”

As Kaiyandra released that powerful statement, I watched her anxiously; I began to visualize something once again. Out of the infinite blue depths of her eyes, I began to see an image in my head; it seemed to be a strong memory…

“Please, please help me… Someone, anyone, please…”

A little girl appeared to be asking around for assistance but all of the people ignored her, it was as if she was of no importance. I looked around to see that I appeared to be standing in an airport. At first, everything appeared unusually tall, but then I assumed I must have been in a child’s body.

“Someone please…”

The lost girl was looking away from me, so I slowly walked towards her. I felt a strong desire to help her. This dream, this image, it appeared to be a powerful memory. Everything was blurred and time felt slow.

“Excuse me, may I help? What’s wrong?”

My words came out but my mouth never opened, I had said these words once… somewhere in the past… The girl turned towards me and looked straight into my eyes. She had great blue eyes and teardrops flowed down her cheek. Kaiyandra…

“Please help me. I’ve lost my parents; I can’t find them. Please…”

Once again, I replied, but it was my memory that spoke.

“Of course. Don’t worry at all; I’ll help you out. You’ll be with your parents in no time.”

The girl seemed relieved and smiled for a short moment, and then she brought the ultimate question.

“But… where are your parents?”

Upon hearing these words, a strange and almost demonic wave ran through the memory. Everything appeared to freeze for a moment, as if the image had been paused. A cold chill ran up my spine as the silence continued…

With no warning, the image suddenly returned and jumped to another segment of the same conversation. The shift was eerie and left me uncomfortable. The girl continued as if it had never occurred.

“Thank you so much. You’re the only person who will help… What’s your name?”

“I’m Marlin. Nice to meet you.”

Influenced by my original actions of that memory, I instantly extended a hand. The girl, who I could only assume was Kaiyandra, grabbed my hand and shook.

“Nice to meet you too, my name is-“

I felt my eyes roll back into reality and sensed a presence just beside me; the vision was over. I had returned to where I really was. Another powerful image had just passed before my eyes.

“-Xathoven… Xathoven, what’s wrong?”

Fighting to remove the feeling of fatigue, I shook my head and rubbed my eyes. When my vision cleared, I saw that the elevator door was open and that Kaiyandra still stood nearby.

“Are you all right?”

I nodded quickly to remove her suspicion.

“Yes… Let’s go, I’ll take you to your room-“

“-Actually Xathoven, may I stay with you tonight?”

Kaiyandra appeared to cringe for a moment, as if expecting me to decline her request. Honestly I felt better when Kaiyandra was around so it was easy to say yes. Gladly, I accepted her request.

“Of course. You can stay whenever you want.”

“Thank you… I hate being alone in this place.”

For a moment, a part of me felt… weird. What happened when we boarded that elevator? According to what Kaiyandra said and the ensuing vision, my real name was Marlin. Not just that, but I had a completely separate vision which contained Kaiyandra. As we stepped forward, I wondered why she did not continue her thoughts. How had she remembered my name? Why did she move on from mentioning it at all?

I walked her through the corridor to my room and quickly used my card to open the door. With a small nudge, I moved into my room and led Kaiyandra inside. I quickly closed the door and locked it with a free hand. I kept a close eye on my surroundings as I remembered the curious words of the nurse from the medical floor. I slowly led Kaiyandra to the bed and opened the cover.

“I need you to catch some sleep, okay?”’

“Xathoven, I won’t take the bed, it’s yours! I’ll sleep on the floor-“

“No, you should sleep in the bed. It is much too cold to sleep anywhere else.”

Gently, I tucked Kaiyandra in and brought myself to notice once more, her complete trust in me. She was very kind and sweet to me, and I hoped that I could repay her friendship in some way. Her loyalty allowed me to treat her with the same respect and care that she gave me.

“You’re not leaving are you?”

Kaiyandra whispered as if she was afraid of something.

“Not at all, I’ll go to sleep in just a moment. Please rest now.”

She nodded and turned over as she prepared to rest. I removed my seldom used Miraxis pack and placed it on the table near the bed. It was at that moment that I noticed something was missing. My pack… I had just put it on the table, but Kaiyandra’s purse was nowhere to be seen. I felt that I had not seen her with it for some time but it had not struck me until now that it was actually missing.

I turned to Kaiyandra to make sure she was diving into a deep slumber; she would not be aware of my leave. I had to look for her Miraxis purse. It contained her card and possibly other personal effects that she needed. I decided that I should work backwards and start looking from the hallway all the way to the 27th floor where we left the simulator. I made my way to the door, sure to be quiet and keep Kaiyandra asleep. I barely opened the door and squeezed my way through to get out into the hallway. I made sure that I was holding my card to return, and quietly shut the door. I desperately hoped that leaving Kaiyandra alone for a few minutes would not be a mistake.

“Hmm…”

I quietly questioned the location of the missing purse when I put the pieces together. This is what the nurse had meant. Whomever she spoke of stated that I would notice something and that the elevator would be ready… but what did that all mean? Had somebody stolen Kaiyandra’s purse?

I looked to the elevator and pondered the situation in my head. Was it not a coincidence that Sir Dusk had sent me to the medical floor, to that particular nurse? Was the nurse speaking the words of Sir Dusk, or another unknown man? I ultimately decided that I could not discard this chance to dig deeper; I needed to take that elevator and find out what this was all about.

With uncharacteristic stealth, I was able to maintain silence as I approached the elevator. There was nobody to avoid, but a gut feeling inside of me kept me thinking that someone was watching me. The elevator’s doors slid open and I glided my way inside, careful not to create unnecessary sound as I entered. The doors abruptly shut and the panel flashed the destination.

“The twenty-seventh floor…”

The deep rumble of a grand descent filled the elevator. I slowly observed all corners of the elevator as if looking for a sign. It was a quick and pointless check but as I continued along the path that the nurse’s words had sent me, I began to become wary of my surroundings. Was this all a trap? The elevator’s shaking began to die down as it approached the Miraxis Agency floor. After a short pause, the doors split open and I began to walk out of the elevator. However, just as I took my second step out, I felt something block my forward movement. I scrolled my eyes downward to see that same cane blocking my way. Turning to my right, I spotted a familiar figure, the man I had encountered as I first approached The Miraxis Index facility. A familiar voice flowed through the air.

“…So we meet again.”

He raised his cane and allowed it to roll through his fingers as it leaned against his shoulder.

“I have little time to say much and that which I desire to say cannot be said yet, hence what I must say will be said hastily, understood?”

He raised a brow as he awaited my response.

“Who are you-“

“My name is Avlis. You cannot learn any more than that, not yet. You need to finish your part and then I will arrive when it is time.”

“Finish my part? What do you mean?”

My questions blurted out with great intensity and Avlis looked around as if he were afraid of any watchful eyes.

“No more. Follow your instincts and you will find your way.”

I prepared to ask for more clarification but this man, Avlis, displayed an expression that convinced me to hold in my curiosity. His state of understanding was far ahead of mine, his eyes showed his true depth and I could see his knowledge of our surroundings; he had been here before.

“Good luck… You can have this back now. I needed something to bring you back here…”

Avlis reached behind his back and removed Kaiyandra’s small purse. He handed it to me and I grabbed it carefully, holding it tightly.

“Keep her close to you… Together, you two can accomplish what you need to, and then it will only be a matter of time.”

He glared straight ahead as he grasped his cane with both hands and held it vertically above the floor. A movement I had seen before.

“Farewell…”

He tapped the floor and in a quick flash, completely disappeared from my view. I slowly looked around but I knew that he was nowhere to be found. This had happened once before and I was aware that there would be no trace of his appearance. Who was this Avlis? I lifted my hand and closely observed Kaiyandra’s purse. On the exterior, nothing was unusual, however, who knew what was inside? Had Avlis placed anything unusual or possibly dangerous in Kaiyandra’s purse? I wanted to take a look, but I fought the urge. It was not any of my business to inspect its contents. I wondered about Avlis’ trustworthiness, but I was aware there were greater things at hand. I needed to bring back the purse and make sure that Kaiyandra was okay. Whatever Avlis had planned… I made sure to keep it on my mind.

I quickly walked into the open elevator doors and awaited the journey back up. The doors closed and I took the smooth ride back to the dormitory floor of The Miraxis Index facility. It was only a minute before the doors finally split and I was able to return to the corridors where many slept. With a quick glance around, I confirmed that I was alone and rushed back towards my room. I swiped my card and slid inside of the dorm, making sure that there were no eyes watching in the darkness.

Finally inside of the room, I let out a long sigh. I was exhausted and just wanted to get some sleep as quickly as possible. I gently placed Kaiyandra’s returned purse beside her side of the bed and made my way over to the other side where I stood for a moment indecisively. Kaiyandra lay quiet in a deep sleep; it was then that I realized that it may have been inappropriate to sleep beside her. In order to avoid any unease, I grabbed a thick pillow from the vacant side of the bed and placed it on the cold ground. It was possible that Kaiyandra assumed I would join her on the mattress, but I did not want to intrude in her personal space. Although I was cold on the floor, my drifting thoughts kept me distracted from the low temperature.

The day was finally over. In addition to my already convoluted thoughts, I now had much more to think about. Kaiyandra was worried about how we would fare out in real combat; it had hit her hard to realize the true extent to which both she and I would be exposed to danger, to a second death. We both had to be responsible and focused. My push to go forward became that much greater after I heard the words of the mysterious Avlis. I first encountered Avlis just before I first entered The Miraxis Index. Now, I had met him once more. I knew not what his motivation or intentions were. He was capable of simply disappearing the two times we met. He never answered my questions directly but he gave me some sort of a clue as to where I should be heading. Of course, it was possible that he was only tricking me…

I did not know anymore… what was right? What was wrong? Was I supposed to fight for The Miraxis Index? Everything began to lose sense as I felt my body crawl into a slumber.