by m maldonado
A snap of the fingers brought a ball of blue flame into existence. Another snap made it swell, sending flickery blue light cascading across the filthy walls of the hallway.
The owner of the fingers took a few steps forward, his eyes darting across the dirty surroundings. The creaking of the wood beneath his feet made him halt for a second, listening for someone else, some stalker or maybe just another foolish kid who'd decided to follow a suspicious young man. Or maybe it was one of the Leaders, who'd seen him leave and was already raising his club to crack him good across the skull.
Such paranoid delusions were swept aside by unerring logic: no one came down this way. Everyone thought it was haunted by spirits, or dominated by deadly, eyeless monsters with huge glowing appendages. Or, at least, they were afraid of falling through the old rotten planks and dropping down into oblivion. The young man was afraid of that last, and that last only; monsters he could handle, and spirits...well, he was familiar with spirits.
Falling was big on his mind at the moment, though. This part of the fortress was at the end of a long cavern that had been converted into living space. Near the back--it was reported--it reached the mouth of a deep dark trench that went on and on for who-knew. Struts and such had been constructed over it so the maximum space could be used, but that had been a long time ago. Now all the wood was old and treacherous; it could give away at any moment.
So it was with great care and awareness that he trod through the halls. If he found what he was looking for, and didn't drop through the floor and into a bottomless pit, he could deal with the dangerous architecture. In fact, he could fix it. But only if he found what he was looking for. Only then.
Then happened five minutes later, when he stepped out of the hall into an open area--and was tackled by a dark shape.
They went down together, and the young man immediately began to struggle. Grunting, he wriggled out of the grip of his accoster, kicking wildly, drew his knife and let the edge slip against where he though the person's neck was.
"Don't move," he hissed.
His attacker froze. He grinned.
"Now...want to tell me what you're doing here? Or shall I..." He pulled the blade across the flesh, not hard or close enough to split the skin, but enough to make the person stiffen more. "No?" he continued. "You don't want to say anything? Why, that makes me so sad..." He pressed the blade a little harder--again, not cutting, but letting the person know that such a thing could happen real soon. "Are you sure you don't want to reconsider?"
He could feel the person's body moving as they flexed their fingers and toes in edgy indecision. Then it spoke:
"Damn, Viral, let me go already."
The young man laughed, withdrew the knife, and pushed the person away. In the light of the ball of flame--which had simply hung in the air when its creator had been tackled--he could see his tackler rubbing his neck and glaring.
"You knew it was me the whole time, didn't you?"
The young man flicked the indigo fireball from hand to hand. "Yep."
"Dammit, Viral, you scared the piss out of me."
The young man grinned again. "I know." His grin only got bigger when his friend's expression darkened. "Well, I wouldn't have to punish you every time you try that kind of crap if you weren't so obvious about it, Elekus." He shrugged, an innocent look on his face. "You're horrible at that kind of thing, you know. Someone has to let you know. Might as well be me."
Elekus continued to glare. "Oh, shut up." He rubbed his neck gingerly, wincing in apparent pain.
"Well, it's true." Now it took all of Viral's will to keep from laughing. "You do suck at it."
Elekus flipped him three fingers. "Sometimes I wonder why you're my friend at all..." he muttered, turning away to hide his own grin. "You're not worth it, man."
Viral held back a giggle. "Well, neither are you."
"We're through, then."
"Yes. It's over for us."
"Friends no more, right?"
"Right. You bastard. I hate you."
They looked at each other. Their faces were twitching as they tried to keep their laughter from spilling from their mouths.
It spilled anyway. The dark, dank room was filled with their laughter. The fireball seemed to throb in tune with it, as if it was laughing, too.
When they finished, Viral punched Elekus in the arm.
"How long were you waiting here?"
Elekus chuckled. "About fifteen minutes. Heard about this place from one of the boys in my squad." He looked around the room and licked his lips. "I checked it out a little while I was waiting. There's two ways in, and one way out. There's the entrance you came in, there's the way I came in--it's over there, at the other end of the room--and then there's this weird emergency escape-like thing."
Viral cocked an eyebrow. "An 'emergency escape-like thing'?"
Elekus nodded. "It's just this big, circular stone set in front of a tunnel. Real heavy and thick. Take ten men to move it." He grinned. "Not that that'll be a problem, mind."
"And where is it?"
Elekus pointed. "Over there, in that back corner."
Viral walked over to the stone, the ball of flame bobbing and weaving with him. The stone was very thick, maybe a foot and a half, maybe more. And it was about twelve feet tall. Very heavy-looking.
He looked it up and down, then nudged it with his foot.
It didn't budge.
He nudged it again--this time with purpose.
The stone rolled, exposing a crescent moon of darkness--the interior of the tunnel--before rolling back into place, rocking slightly.
He nodded thoughtfully. "This place looks good, doesn't it?"
"Almost perfect." Elekus frowned. "But only almost."
"Elekus, look me in the face and tell me what's wrong. "
Elekus rolled his eyes. "Fine, fine." He gave the room a fleeting look of irritation. "This place is also a back-up dungeon for prisoners of war. It's got about a dozen cells, over there on the west wall. Now, the only way anybody is gonna use the cells is if all the others are full, but the chance is still there. People might come back here. Maybe."
"I'm going to have to take that chance." Viral walked back over to his friend. "Is it done yet?"
Elekus shook his head. "No. Haber needs another couple of days."
"Damn. That's really cutting it close--"
"He knows. He's doing his best, you know--"
"I know. It's just that we can't screw this up, man. We've only got one chance this year; it'll be four months until it's ready again--"
"And I know that. Haber does, too. He'll get it done. Don't think you're the only one who wants this."
"Then shut up." Elekus grinned, and slapped Viral on the back. "C'mon, settle down. We'll get it done. Don't worry."
"It's my job to worry and you know that."
"Yup. But you're gonna drive yourself nuts if you keep it up. Just try and keep your mind off it for a while, all right?"
Viral scowled. "Fine. Mother."
"That's a good boy." He patted Viral on the head, and ducked, just barely dodging his friend's flying fist. "Oooo, what a bad boy. Do I need to smack you around a bit, little man?"
Viral shook his head. "Elekus, you're stupid."
"Obviously." He grinned. "Now...howsabout we get outta here? This place is a bit dusty for my tastes." He eyed the ball of flame. "Lucky bastard. I wish I could do that."
"No, you don't."
"You always say that."
"And I always mean it." Viral called the fireball over, and let it hover just ahead of him. "Come on, let's go."
Just the beginning, but I swear, there's more!
This is the beginning of a rewrite of a story I wrote...oh, in middle school. It's gone through a HUGE amount of revisions since the original draft (which was about 60 pages long), but some things have remained: the names Elekus and Viral, the blue flame, Viral being able to do superhuman things. Other things have passed from the original to this rewrite (parts of which I may post, for comparison), and I'll point them out at the end of the chapters in which they appear.
I sure hope people will read *this* story. ^_^;;;; No one really looked at Jimmy the Exploder; I don't know why that is, but I hope whatever plagued that story doesn't infect this one. That would SUCK.