Episode One: Only in Your Dreams
"Good afternoon, Potter Publishing Company. This is Megara Royale speaking, how may I help you?"
By this time in the afternoon, my voice was already growing stale, and I was sure I sounded more like an automated telephone operator than a pleasant publishing assistant, but the callers never seemed to care. They always phoned in with their demands and their complaints, with but one request after another. "Put me through to Mr. O'Connor," they say. And, of course, Mr. O'Connor would choose to be 'busy' at that moment in time, so I would be scorched with ranting and raving about "deadlines" and "important clientele."
To my rather pleasant surprise, however, there seemed to be no one on the other line to speak with. I dropped the phone back on its receiver, picking up a pen and adding a signature to an unimportant piece of paper which would most likely be discarded later. Rubbing at the tension building in the back of my neck, I stood and started towards Mr. O'Connor's office door, which interestingly enough opened before I could get there, expelling a young man dressed in a dark suit I hadn't seen come in. Mr. O'Connor shook hands with this man in the doorway before he turned to leave.
"Strange," I muttered to myself. Mr. O'Connor hadn't mentioned that he'd had any meetings with any clients today. Come to think of it, I hadn't even scheduled any.
Turning from the doorway, he'd had a bright a brilliant smile on his face, something glowing through it that positively screamed success. He couldn't have been all that much older than me; I gave him two years — if that — and here he was, triumphing on my territory.
I looked down at the paper I held in my hands with my signature on it. The letters looked like a kindergartener's scrawl. Looking back up again, he caught me staring, only his expression had turned from bright and triumphant to merely troubled. I watched, dumbfounded, as he continued on towards the hallway, reaching into his pocket to extract a cell phone.
"Ah, Miss Royale, just the girl I wanted to see."
Mr. O'Connor's crisp, gruff voice effectively caught my attention — he wasn't someone you just ignored. My head snapped towards him and I finished the walk to his office door with a hurried pace. I tried to keep my face a mask a perfect impassiveness, as he always did, but I knew I looked desperately hopeful. It was reflected in the sardonic mirth that danced within his cold blue eyes.
"What's this?" he asked, indicating the sheet of paper in my hands without looking down at it. My sugar-coated iron nerve shattered; I flailed.
"Uh ... um," I stuttered, "n-nothing. Absolutely nothing."
Looking skeptical, he made a reach for it with toned, knotted hands. As though an involuntary twitch, I wrinkled it up and tossed it over my shoulder. Smirking, mockery danced within his eyes, and I had the eerie feeling he already knew what had been on the paper. Like he could read my mind. But he soon forgot my tormenting and sighed, shifting his gaze and running a hand through his white hair.
"Right." He reached into his pocket. "The office will be closing early today. I need you to drop this letter off for me in the mailbox just downstairs. Then you may go."
I bit back something bitter on my tongue.
"Anything else, sir?" I asked, taking the letter.
Smiling coldly, he added, "A cup of coffee would be nice. Thank you, Miss Royale."
"Strong, black, and two sugars," I muttered, turning back and starting away. I scooped up the crumpled piece of paper on the way, unfolding it and smoothing it out atop several folders on my desk. Sighing softly, I read over it.
Dear Mr. O'Connor,
While I am quite content with the publishing organization and all that it has done for me, including its payment of my undergraduate education in conjunction with a supplementary occupation ....
I feel my qualifications would be better used in a position higher up within the organization. I was hoping that with a recommendation from you, the Board of Executives might recognize this and consider it ....
Megara Royale Publishing Assistant
"Only in your dreams, Meg," I muttered, picking up the letter and starting for the lounge. It was only after I'd passed the empty secretary's desk next to mine that I'd heard the folders sweep off of my desk and onto the floor, scattering papers everywhere.
Once in the lounge, I grabbed a mug from the set that Mr. O'Connor liked the best — he refused to drink out of anything else — and scooped in several tablespoons of Instant Coffee, adding in two packets of Sweet and Low, and pouring in the steaming hot water we kept on the hot plate all day. Stirring the dregs around idly, muttering incoherently to myself, I reached to place an unused mug back with the others. Instead, they all toppled over the side of the counter, smashing into billions of pieces onto the floor. The Instant Coffee fell over with it, spilling everywhere.
The tension at the back of my neck had built into an infant migraine, and with a groan I grabbed the broom and began to sweep the mess up. I had barely even touched the mug I'd put back, much less all the rest of them on the counter. Being extremely clumsy at times, however, I had a knack for knocking things over with barely any contact. Sometimes I wondered if objects just decided to fly apart when they saw me coming, to save themselves before I got to them first.
By the time I'd fixed the mess, reheated the coffee, delivered it, reorganized all of the papers that had fallen off my desk, and sent off the letter Mr. O'Connor had given me, it was nearly the time that I normally left the office. Dusk was falling over the city, and a violent orange blazed off of the glass buildings, seemingly setting them aflame. Digging into my bag, I grabbed my keys, and began weaving through the rows of the garage before I came upon my humble little car.
Someone grabbed me. A leather-clad hand clamped down hard over my mouth, elbow pushing down onto my chest. His other arm came to wrap tightly around me from behind and he held me down against him. Wincing, I struggled to kick out to hit his shin, and then to kick my car to set off its alarm, but, brilliant as he must have been, he pulled me back.
"Don't fight, don't scream, and I swear I won't hurt you," he said, voice emanating a completely British accent.
This was New York City, you didn't just walk up to someone, grab them from behind and expect them not to fight back. Or not to be afraid. I kicked upwards enough, foot grazing my car, but not enough to set off the alarm. It did loosen his grip, however.
"Crystle!" he called. "She's — fighting."
"Well, what did you expect?" came a female voice, a French lilt making her voice flow like water. "It's not exactly like you're giving her a hug from behind."
I tried to move my head so that his grip over my mouth would falter, but I couldn't. He turned us around, and I saw Crystle approaching cautiously — with a syringe. Oh dear God, what was happening? I'd only heard about these sorts of things. I kicked out again, and a resounding "Christ!" told me I'd hit something. I kicked out at Crystle. Was it possible for a human being to have such animalistic instincts?
The action didn't faze her, she took advantage of it and stabbed the syringe into my thigh pushing whatever poison that was held within into my body with her thumb. Fear erupted in my mind. And the last thing I remembered before blacking out was the tinkling of glass as every one of my car windows shattered in a fierce explosion of air.
"Ouch. Damn it, did she have to go using the glass?"
"It was self defense, Aidan, you frightened her to death."
"How else was I supposed to do it?! Besides, William said she didn't know anything yet — "
"So then I didn't think approaching her with, 'Hello, miss, might I take you to our secret underground base so that I may inform you that your life is endanger because your boss wants control over your "super" powers?' Please, Crystle, even you know how utterly comic book that sounds."
Her tone rose, irritated. "Super powers," she muttered.
"That's exactly what it would have sounded like. She would have thought us both batty."
I groaned. "Be quiet." Then, remembering that I no longer had any roommates, I shot up into a sitting position, cursing at the pain that twirled laughingly about my head. It intensified as coherent thought rejoined with my memory, and I put two and two together, figuring out just who my two new roommates were. I now wished I'd been paying a little more attention to the voices I'd just been hearing in my head.
"Where the Hell am I?" I wondered aloud. It looked like a dingy basement, dungeon, and laboratory all rolled into one. My stomach roiled involuntarily.
"This is an old, abandoned factory," Crystle replied fluidly, tucking the last bit of a bandage within the folds of what had been wrapped around the hand of another. My unknown assailant, surely. "Or the basement of it, at least. We're not too far from your office, cherie."
"And you'd do well to keep it to yourself," came the sharp British-toned voice of my other captor.
"Right," I began, not bothering to keep the irritation out of my voice, "and just who am I supposed to tell down here? A spider?"
"No need to get smart," Crystle intervened, a softer tone to her water-like voice. "How do you feel?" she asked, approaching my bedside.
"Like I've been stabbed in the leg with a needle and knocked out," I replied, though I could feel my last bit of irritation ebbing away. The woman seemed to seriously be making an effort to be friendly — then again, she was also one of the ones to bring me here. She sat on the edge of the mattress and took one of my hands into hers. It was only then that I realized there was a bandage on it and a sharp sort of burning pain beneath it. Wincing, I muttered an absent, "Ouch," as Crystle began to unwrap it with ginger care.
"Oh, yes," she clucked, "you got yourself good." There were several slices on the back of my hand still shiny with seemingly fresh blood.
"What do you mean I did it?" I asked, both hotly and curious. "You kidnapped me, remember?"
"You sprayed us both with glass when you blew your car windows out," said the Brit. Aidan, had he been called? He approached to stand behind Crystle to watch her re-fix up my hand.
"Don't worry," she said amusedly, "you got him good as well."
For a moment, I just stared at him, before realization clicked loudly in my mind.
"Wait a second," I said suddenly. "You were in my office today ... oh dear God, were you spying on me?! Look, if this is about some sort of ransom thing for the company and Mr. O'Connor, you're really out of luck — he won't do anything. He doesn't care about me, I'm just a secretary!"
"Funny," Aidan replied slowly. "I always thought you liked to be called 'Personal Office Assistants.'"
"Shut up, Aidan," Crystle ordered distractedly, beginning to re-wrap my hand. She gave a quick glance upwards at me as if to say 'Pay no attention to him.' Then, in a seriously distracted tone, "Au contraire, cherie. Mr. O'Connor cares a great deal about you."
"Oh, God, I'm going to die," I muttered. "I'm just a secr — personal office assistant!"
Aidan snickered, and even Crystle cracked a smile. Criminals were always insane.
"You're not going to die, cherie," Crystle told me.
"No," Aidan agreed. "Though you're missing a key issue here."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, how you were able to shatter the glass, when I had you bound."
I was silent for a while. It was a very good question; one that I did not know the answer to. Finally, I answered, "I must've ... kicked one of the windows at the right angle. Right?" For some odd reason or another, I had the feeling that it wasn't exactly the answer he was looking for.
"All of your windows?" Crystle inquired.
Before I had the chance to respond, Aidan was walking back to the table at which both him and Crystle had been sitting at when I'd woken up. He picked up a goblet and began his return. "Are you thirsty?" And, once more, before I could think up a response, he tilted the goblet, so that the crystalline liquid within poured out of it. I could just feel it about to splash all over my face and front — but it didn't. Opening my eyes, I was staring up at a large, clear gelatinous ball.
"How in the ... ?"
I looked up at both of them, Aidan watching my face intently, Crystle seemingly distracted, concentrating on something I could not see. Placing the goblet down upon a bedside table, he looked towards me once more, referencing the liquid suspended in air hanging mere millimeters from my nose. "Psionics," he said simply.
"Psionics," he repeated, matter-of-factly. "Crystle here can manipulate water, as you might've guessed." With a small twitch from her, the globe of air-suspended water transformed itself into an exact replica of the goblet it came from, almost as though it were solid crystal instead of molded liquid. Aidan held out his hand, palm upward, and in it quite suddenly was a spark, quickly followed by a ball of flame. He removed his hand from the air beneath it, allowing it to hang in mid-air before it floated above the water goblet (in the extreme literal sense).
"What the ... ?" I was extremely speechless. The things that I was now witnessing only happened in movies — in fantasy worlds. Perhaps I was still asleep, dreaming of this odd, metamorphic happening.
"And that's how you blew out your car windows," he finished.
"What, I threw fire at them?"
The sides of the water goblet closed about the ball of fire, effectively snuffing it out in a small sizzle. The rest of the water dropped then, back into the goblet from which it originally came.
"No," Aidan replied, almost as though he were trying with much difficulty to maintain his patience.
Crystle took over. "You have the ability to manipulate objects. Manipulate them in such a way that their molecular structure is permanently affected or changed. You can move them with your thoughts, control them with your mind, and bend them to your will. Or, in this case, break them."
I stared, making every attempt to close my mouth. "H-how?" I finally stuttered, voice a whisper. It was too unbelievable; completely unable to be true.
"I'm not sure the exact explanation," Aidan intervened again, and I sensed something akin to his seeming uncomfortable. "Something to do with the second born child of certain families that descend from certain ancestors. There's one from each of seven countries: America, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, England, and Ireland —"
"That's impossible, then," I interrupted. "I'm the first born of my family. If anything my brother —" I paused for a moment, my horrified expression reflected within both Crystle and Aidan's eyes. "Oh dear God," I began, "James. That's why he ... ? But then, why do I have ... ?"
Crystle gave Aidan a pointed look which immediately silenced him. Then, while emphasizing it and turning to me, she said one more thing before the world turned upside down:
"Time to talk to William."