9.81 – The Center

Welcome to Volume 1 Arc 8

Warning: PG-13 minor gore/death

Hooo this one took a while, lots of world-hopping, scene setting and editing!

 

No one’s POV

“Curses are reserved for the more adept magic wielders. It’s a dark spell that if missed can lead to the death of the caster.  The only purpose this magic can be given is to kill its caster, but there are several parameters that can be placed on it which will be explained in depth in the following sections.”

Ashlynn had resumed her reading, but with less gusto than she’d begun with. Something her best friend, Kathrine, noticed. She seemed troubled by something. So much so that her reading trailed off and she looked up from her book. She frowned before looking at Kathrine, who’d leaned in to listen.

“I have this weird feeling-”

The two girls jumped as light knocking on the window caught their attention.

“Grandma?”

Crystal motioned for the two girls to come inside with a solemn expression.

Kathrine cast a questioning glance at Ashlynn, who responded with a worried one.

The two hurried back to the house – Ashe setting off on a jog. It felt like every second she wasted was important.

Inside the house, the girls were ushered in front of the tv where a news reporter was detailing the results of a bombing.

-3 found dead so far along with several injured. The rubble is still being searched for any survivors. Over 20 people are still of yet unaccounted for.-”

***

Nikolas’ POV

….

“Niko?”

 

My eyes snapped open. Darkness. A lot of it. But also – it’s…?

I looked around, unable to situate myself in any way, shape or form. Where am I? What am I doing?

I couldn’t even feel the floor underneath me.

Wait…?

I’m falling?

My limbs dangled in the air, but I couldn’t tell what direction was up and which was down.

I couldn’t tell if I was really even falling, or just hovering in suspended animation. There wasn’t any wind resisting me.

A panic started to grow as I found myself searching for something – maybe it was the floor or just some kind of stability – either way I felt like I was floundering in the void.

 “Are you okay?”

The urge to look at my watch came out of nowhere. But all at once, it felt like this simple object would solve everything.

And when I looked at the time, and saw the seconds ticking away in a constant stable manner, the panic dissipated and I felt myself slowly drop onto solid ground.

I stopped feeling like I was suspended in a void, and felt grounded again.

Dirt under my hands.

Dust in my lungs.

Tingling all over my body.

I opened my eyes with some difficulty. They slowly adjusted and took in where I was.

Oscar was above me, immobile – and if I had to guess he looked powered down.

I felt sore all over and the air felt heavy and toxic. A single breath had me coughing.

The cough sent pain coursing through my muscles – particularly in my wrist which was almost screaming at me from the pain.

My head was pounding and I was having a hard time recollecting what had happened.

“Niko?”

I looked up searching for the voice – and recognizing it. “Ashe?”

No sooner had I voiced her name that my world got dipped right into astral, with Ashlynn appearing inside my bubble of rubble.

“There you are! You’re okay.” She grinned in relief. “I got worried when I saw the explosion happened at your house – and they were listing off people that died. You’re stuck in rubble, but there are some paramedics nearby, if you make enough noise I’m sure they’ll hear you, they’re just over…”

She’d gone off on a series of words that my brain was having trouble processing. Instead it was sticking to words like explosion, paramedics, and the events were starting to unfold again.

She must’ve noticed the growing panic and confusion on my face, because her phrase trailed off.

She hesitated before extending her hand. “Seeing is going to be simpler for you.”

It’s kind of oddly shameful to think I hesitated out of fear – do I want to see what Salandra did?

But I’m starting to get annoyed with being scared all the time.

I clasped her hand and she helped my astral self out of the rubble.

At first, I was completely convinced I’d somehow woken up in an entirely different place.

This couldn’t be my home.

This place was a pile of rubble.

But the more I looked at the wreckage, the more I recognized my childhood home.

What was left of my dad’s study, the kitchen…

Salandra’s suicide bombing had effectively destroyed my home – and the people in it. My gut sank as I saw the charred remains of a skeleton that had been too close to the blast.

My eyes grabbed onto a pair of charred legs in the kitchen under a pile of rubble.

Our roof had collapsed, our walls had gotten blown down, and several places looked charred as if fires had broken out.

I could hear people talking outside, I could see a crowd looking to get a peek – paramedics were hoisting up unconscious people and rolling them away.

I could hear the distant sounds of sirens.

Even in astral I felt my knees grow weak, my vision got hazy, and my chest squeezed.

I couldn’t process it.

It was too much.

The loss – the horror – the anger – the confusion, especially the confusion. It dragged me down like a sack of boulders.

“Fuck no,” I mumbled through gritted teeth. I needed to run, I needed to get out of here.

I need to get out.

The change of scenery gave me the ability to breathe again.

“Fuck.”

I clutched my face and I groaned in exasperation, letting myself drop backwards on the cement.

Why the fuck

No my house didn’t blow up. No Salandra did not come to my pa’s funeral just to blow the fuck out of my family. That’s not something she’d do. That’s something a psychopath would do.

Salandra’s a fucking PSYCHOPATH.

I faintly registered that Ashlynn had gotten dragged along with me. She knelt down beside me slowly, as I pathetically let my emotions control me.

“Take all the time you need. Astral is fancy like that.”

…In between my fingers I could spot the trees overhead. They were completely still, not even a slight quivering of the leaves. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one who stopped time – and I was grateful she did. I hadn’t even thought of that. My body is under a pile of rubble right now, in a small enclosed place that had probably been accumulating CO2 for a while – especially if fires broke out. I’d be willing to bet a lot that Oscar went through the trouble of shutting himself down to conserve the oxygen.

Oscar jumping to protect me – James probably being behind all those people jumping on Sal to smother the blow. And I was just – caught up in it. I didn’t see it coming, even though I was the one closest to her the entire time. If there was anyone

After a while, reality managed to sink in and I brought my hands away from my face – tired of hiding my fear and confusion.

I was apparently missing out on a show.

Ashlynn had lain down beside me and she’d started to draw lines in the air.

I found myself just staring as her finger danced overhead.

I felt a lot more peaceful than several moments ago. As much as I hated my reaction –

“How are you doing that?”

“It’s pretty simple actually.” She replied. “It’s just a matter of imagining it, I guess. Try it!”

I don’t really know how much time we spent messing around with making light shows in astral – but that was kind of the point. It doesn’t really matter how much time goes by in astral.

I mean my reaction is justified I guess – my house did get bombed after all! I think that warrants a little bit of a panic attack.

Ah shit, I wonder how many people survived? Did Niki make it out? She and Maxwell we’re dragging me back, if I made it out, they have too as well right? I remember seeing Jesse heading outside too.

Oh no, Nato! I hope he was outside.

But all those people that piled on her – they didn’t make it did they?

All these people, goddamn it Sal why? Why my family? Why at all? Just because I rejected you? You can’t be that shallow.

“Are you feeling better?”

“I just wish I knew why it happened at all.” I voiced. I expected her to tell me that’s life, or not everything needs to be understood, but instead she brought her hands up.

She formed a screen with her fingers.

“Heh, I was hoping this would work. We’ve got astral for a reason right? Let’s figure out why it happened.” She said, sliding the screen over to me.

I almost told her she didn’t need to sit through this with me – because yes I did want to see if there was anything at all I could’ve done to see this coming, and better yet prevent it – but her eyes made it clear she wanted to stay.

Alright, let’s make sense of this mess.

***

No one’s POV

Nikolas woke up again, this time feeling a lot more clearheaded – despite the pounding in his head that had come back.

With Ashe watching over in astral, Niko looked up at his friend.

“Oscar?”

The response was immediate, Oscar slowly turned back on.

“Niko, you’re awake!”

“Yes, but we need to get out, there are peo-”

“On it!” Oscar exclaimed, bringing his arms higher up with a whir.

He began to push on the top of the pile, making dust and rubble fall. His gears were straining under the weight, but eventually they quieted as the rubble lifted effortlessly, liberating its two captives.

Magic had helped lift the rubble, in a kind of graceful and efficient way that Xavier had never shown.

The breath of fresh air did wonders to Niko’s headache. His eyes lifted upwards to meet his helper – disbelieving that he was actually here.

But he wasn’t imagining things, Aleccas Keeper, the man who’d shown up at the trial and taken his father, was standing beside him.

“Yeah, that’s Aleccas Keeper.” Niko murmured to someone only he could see.

A moment later and his uncle Benjamin was at his side, checking his health.

He’d been far enough from the blast to not suffer any severe injuries.

“Nikolas! Good, I was getting worried, is anything broken?” Benjamin asked, checking Nikolas with his bloodstained hands.

“Uncle Ben you’re okay?” Nikolas asked in shock – simply relieved to add another survivor to the list.

“Yes I’m fine, I was by the doorway. James was too, but he got hit with a beam and some glass. Don’t worry, he was one of the first found, he’s already at the hospital.” Benjamin explained, looking at his forehead. “You’ve got a nasty gash here.”

“My wrist hurts too, when I move it.”

Nikolas winced as his uncle handled his injured hand.

“Hm, you might have a fracture.”

Nikolas looked up to try and thank Aleccas – but the latter was distracted by his dragon, who was excitedly flapping his wings.

Niko felt his astral…tingle – for lack of a better explanation – just as something appeared in the corner of his eye.

Zac had teleported out of the rubble he’d been stuck in. He’d also been passed out, but Niko’s voyages in the astral plane had stirred him awake.

“Zac!” He called out. Zac turned his towards him and gave him a quick wave before letting himself collapse on his back. Niko hadn’t even realized Zac was at the funeral, he didn’t remember seeing him. But he was just glad that he seemed okay.

The crowd had begun to pick up at the sight of Nikolas. Dozens of people had been reviewing the footage that had been caught by the cameras just before the explosion. Salandra’s involvement was clear – but so was Nikolas’. Salandra was born a natural and Nikolas a witch. Theories began to fly that Nikolas was the one who’d instigated the explosion. The fact that his father was Xavier Whitelight did nothing to help his case.

“We better get you to safety.” Benjamin said as he overheard the accusations that were starting to take form.

“Alright, alright Atris.” Aleccas said as the dragon grew more restless.

“We can help with that.” Aleccas announced.

Nikolas scrambled to sit up straighter. “No it’s okay, uncle I can help. There must be a lot of missing people still right?”

“That’s a nice thought, but you need to get to the hospital – and away from here.”

Nato finally pulled away from his leash – which Tatiana didn’t have the will to keep holding onto – and jumped to meet his best friend.

Nato didn’t jump onto Nikolas however, he slowed his stride – aware that he was injured.

“Nato, you’re okay!” Nikolas exclaimed, as Nato happily licked his face, his tail wagging. Nikolas wrapped his good arm around him, before simply resting his head on his.

“As of now there are 5 confirmed deaths – including the well known pro-supernaturalists: Annaliese and Traz Lancaster. Several bodies have been recovered, but are currently unidentifiable. 5 injured have been found thanks to Aleccas Keeper. Reviewing the footage has revealed that Salandra Grace was in the middle of the bombing. A call was made a few moments before the explosion by Chase Grace who attempted to warn the police that he suspected his niece was considering suicide.”

***

Cloverfield – Hans Scientific Headquarters

Well known for their standing in the scientific, medical, engineering and historical worlds, the Hans hold a prominent place in society. They are the main providers of technology and medical means – as well as recently attempting to provide their expertise in political and magical matters. The Xavier trial was their opportunity to introduce technology to restrain supernaturals and to reassure naturals. The attempt failed when Xavier overcame their artifacts.

The Hans lost some standing after that event – and now the bombing of the Whitelight house was going to cost them as well if they didn’t get the situation under control.

The Hans is a family business and works under a specific familial hierarchy. The Hans family own everything and have the final say over every decision. A child born inside the family automatically inherits his or her fair share of rights over the company. The thousands of employees are then required to treat the Hans family almost like royalty.

There are however training moments for a Hans family member. Currently the Hans family have a single son meant to inherit the company. To prepare him and to let him learn, they’ve sent him to work in the department stationed beside Ridgevalley. The higher-ups of those departments were to give him projects – one of which led to this explosion.

“I swear it’s under control!” The young man who’d been pulled from an afternoon nap attempted to justify. “They can’t trace her back to us.”

His crowd – the main heads of each division – looked unsatisfied.

Under control? You mean to say you know exactly how this occurred? How did a project meant to test a multiplayer mind game give a young teenage girl the ability to blow up?”

“With all due respect Mrs. Blossom,” The Hans heir began. “your department is artifacts not tattoos.”

The lady to her right looked up at that. “I however, am head of that department and have the same question.”

“Then you have to understand I’m sure! Tattoos aren’t easy to work with. You can get some pretty weird results. It would’ve been great if she would’ve survived. The tattoos were supposed to fade, if we knew how she made those lower grade ones last and do that, that could help us right?” He insisted to the disappointed and annoyed looks. “I wouldn’t worry anyways, didn’t you say people were leaning more on blaming the other teen – the Whitelight son?”

For a Hans, this boy had shown himself to be in depravation of scientific intelligence – his constant slipups being proof of this. Letting the children go at all was a mistake. Setting up the experiment by publicizing in a highschool was a mistake.

All 6 department heads turned to their superior – in the hopes that she would set this young man straight.

“She didn’t survive you say?” The woman spoke.

The man laughed as he turned. “I think we all saw the footage. She blew up, and took the house and a lot of people with her.”

“I suggest you study the footage more carefully. If we noticed it someone else noticed it as well. This is your project. You will bring her in so we can see what happened. I suggest you bring in the other kids involved in your project as well. We wouldn’t want another one to blow up.”

“Do we really want to entrust him with another project? A rest period might do him and us some good.” Mr.Amaya perked up in worry.

“Yeahhhh, maybe he’s right. That sounds like a lot of work.”

“Handling a company is a lot of work. You’re going to have to get used to it. This is your project. Now you’re free to join the rest of the meeting or to leave to begin your preparations – your time is short after all. We have other matters to discuss.”

“Yes, like Aleccas Keeper for one!” The brightly dressed man exclaimed. “That’s twice that he shows up on scenes of our failures. He’s spiting us. I’d love to know what we’re doing about this.”

“Yes I’d love to know what you’re doing for this.” Mrs. Blossom chipped in. “Wasn’t he under your care?”

“Clearly I need some help on this. He’s more than my department can handle.”

“In due time, the first matter I’d like to know is where we stand with our golden eyes.”

“Well now that we have three specimens at our disposal, it’s going extremely well…”

Feeling clearly left out on subjects he knew little about, the Hans heir felt he might be better off leaving the room – and maybe calling up some friends for some much needed rest time at a bar.

 

 

 

Credit: To Mpart for building that gorgeous Hans building at the end 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About blamsart

♪They say it's what you make♪ I say it's up to fate ♪It's woven in my soul♪ I need to let you go♪ -- Demons by Imagine Dragons
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2 Responses to 9.81 – The Center

  1. Livvielove says:

    Eeeeeeeep I read this early but am commenting late.
    Poor Niko went through so much… and Ashe was… a lot less helpful than I hoped. Dragging that poor boy around through the shit…
    BUT ZAC
    ZAC IS ALIVE.
    SO IS MY SHIP
    NikZac for the WIN.
    Oscar was precious of course, though I missed James… 😦

    ALSO
    SALLIE
    IS
    ALIVE?!
    SOMEHOW?
    WTF BITCH!
    Aleccas was pretty though, so that helped me cope with this news…

    This is some serious ass wreckage Blams, yet you’re handling this with such freaking GRACE.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Senkime says:

    Noooo Anna and Traz, how you two died in a fiery demise?!! All those who died must be avenged *shakes fist into the air*

    Liked by 1 person

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