Chapter 1:

"It's about time you woke up," someone said as Aaron slowly opened his eyes. Everything was fuzzy for a moment, and he thought he was dreaming. He looked around and saw a fairly inviting room, not much different from his living room. The only overall difference being the utter absence of windows. The room was lit by numerous funky lamps placed here and there around the room that consisted of trios of glass tubes that wrapped around each other and had a string of lights within each tube. "Yeah, we are underground. And Theo has wayyy too much time on his hands," the voice said again, almost as if reading his mind. "And yes, I am reading your mind."

"Who are you?" Aaron asked, looking over at her. She looked to be about twenty. Her light blonde hair was tied up in a messy bun and held in place by a small green ribbon. Her clothes were fairly ordinary. She wore a plain military-style jacket with an extremely faded Ramones tee, jeans, black converse high-tops.

"May name's Satine. And once again, I'm left alone here at central. I've been instructed to give you a working tour, so whenever you're ready, follow me," she said, standing up from her chair. Aaron stood up and just stood there. "You heard me. I said, follow." She held up her hands and made a fist in th air, and a swarm of small flies appeared out of nowhere, forming bands around his arms and legs and lifting him off the ground. He cried out for a moment, then shut up after some bugs got uncomfortably close to his mouth. She pulled her fist forward in the air, and Aaron floated towards her. When he was next to her, a bed of more flies appeared under her feet, and she too lifted off the ground.

"Well, I guess I should start with the basics. Welcome to the structure known simply as 'The Hideaway.' It is kind of the home base for the sages. The sages are you and I, Michelle and Amber, and I believe you've met Yura, as well as a few others that you should meet soon enough. I guess I really should start from the beginning.

"Elementals are beings that have been here since pretty much the beginning of time. There is an elemental of some strength for almost every person, place, thing, or idea. Most are on the lesser side, but some control unimaginable power. Way back when Humanity started, the elementals got into an argument over us. Some thought that we were nice beings and ought to be left alone. Others thought that we were just ruining their world and wanted to destroy us. Those who were on our side decided that they didn't want to risk their own destruction, which would wreak so much havoc in our world as everything they represent would go out of control. They sealed themselves in what only can be described as an invisible bubble just outside of earth. Only purified elementals, or humans invited in by elementals may enter.

"But of course, they still needed some way to fight those elementals who were against humans. They each selected a newborn baby to curse forever by giving a fraction of themselves to. Those babies are known as sages. You are born a sage, although you don't gain your full powers or sight until later on in your life, during what is known as The Awakening. It happens at different ages for everyone, although you still maintain sight signs of your sage-ness during your whole life, usually in the form of a basic affinity for your element. So, now you've officially awakened. We are going to be training you to use your powers and how to defeat the bad elementals and purify them. So welcome to the life of a sage."

"Could you repeat that?" Aaron asked, completely serious. Satine gave a look of despair and groaned.

"Forget it," she said. Their flying carpet of insects had stopped while she explained, so she pushed her hand forward and a snake that had appeared out of nowhere opened a door. The room on the inside was very long and wide, and the ceiling was way higher than the hallway, probably about twenty five feet high. 'This is where we go to train and practice with weapons and stuff. You can come here to practice with magic, but only if you can do it dry. And by dry, I mean, without any of your element around. We'll have your element pinned within a day or two. Whenever Theo gets back. He's kind of our mentor. It's really a simple matter of just putting stuff in front of you until you react. Much more simple than you'd think, really." The room, despite it's size was fairly simple. The walls were all lined with armed, apparently robotic dummies that Aaron guessed were for very realistic weapon training.

The carpet moved them to a door directly across the hallway. Just like the rest of the Hideaway, the floor was tiled, but there were large gaps in the tiling here and there. There was a circle that opened up into plain dirt. In the corner, there was a small pool of water that appeared to go deep underground. There was also a hole in the ceiling. "This is the transportation room, where we leave and arrive when we have a mission or are getting back from one." There were some ripple on the pool of water in the corner. "Speaking of," Satine said as she stared for a moment at the pool. A split second later, Michelle came rocketing out of the pool and landed on her feet, completely dry.

"Hi Aaron, hey Satine, how's it going?" she asked as if she hadn't just popped up out of an underground tunnel. "I see you're giving Aaron here the tour. I'll take it from here. Theo told me himself that I'm supposed to train him myself. Well, see you later," she said with a big smile and an enthusiastic wave. Satine just kind of shrugged and the bugs all vanished into thin air as she walked away. "So, what'd you think of Satine. In case you didn't notice, she has the ability to communicate with and hear the thoughts of animals including people, and she can also summon and control animals. Fortunately, she hasn't figured out how to control people yet. The bug thing is a little creepy though, don't you think?" she asked with a giggle.

She then proceeded to take him through the rest of the facility. She showed him the room where they would be testing him for his powers, although recently awakened powers had a tendency to get out of control, so they needed Theo before going in. She showed them the war room, which was actually just a square room with an elevated stone circle in the center. Michelle assured him that when there was actually a mission, a holographic image of the Earth would appear, and have an exact indicator of where the elemental activity was occurring.

"Okee-dokee then. Now that you know where everything is, it's time for training to start, and that's my job. Because we don't have your powers yet, we're just going to start with basic swordplay and stuff, okay?" she asked with a smile as she walked him back into the room with the dummies.

"O-okay," Aaron said, nervously eying the faceless dummies wielding all sorts of maces and axes and other weapons.

"Oh, don't worry. You're not gonna' have to fight the scarecrows. That's what we call 'em by the way. You'll be sparring with me. Don't worry. I'll totally go easy on you. I won't even use old Hari here. That's my swords name, by the way. It's kind of an olden days tradition, naming your weapon, ya know?" Michelle said with a smile. She walked over to a rack of weapons and pulled down a simple steel longsword. She fingered over the rest of the weapons before grabbing a neat katana blade between her fingers and flicking it towards Aaron, who made an attempt to catch it, but dropped it, clattering to the floor.

"Looks like we'll need to work on some hand-eye. Pick it up and lets get to work," she said, sounding much more serious than he had become used to hearing her. She came at him like a lightning bolt. Swinging from overhead. He brought up the sword to block in the nick of time. "Decent reflexes," she commented. She made a quick spin and slashed at his side. Once again, he blocked at the last second. "You could do with a little more fluidity," she said.

"Fluidity?" Aaron asked, having no idea what she was talking about.

She suddenly went into a flurry of spins and jumps, hitting him with the blade so fast that he could barely see it happening, and with so much control that it managed to make small about twenty small slits in his shirt at the sides and shoulders, but didn't even leave a red spot on his skin. "Yes, fluidity." He just gapped for a while before resuming their duel. Even though she looked like such a sweet, cute little nineteen year old, she was stronger than anyone he had every experienced in his life, even stronger than his bodybuilder cousin, but minus the obnoxious amounts of muscle. After about what felt like twenty minutes but turned out to be three hours of getting his butt kicked, but learning none the less, they finally decided to quit. Meaning that the Michelle's unnatural strength ended up fracturing Aaron's wrist in three places (because the human body is made so much of water, she has the ability to speed up healing, in addition to being able to identify any internal issues just by making skin contact).

As they walked out of the room, they were met by Amber, who had just come in from her most recent mission. Noticing the layer of ice on Aaron's wrist that Michelle had made as a combination of a bandage and an ice pack, she said, "So I put him to sleep for a few hours, and I get in big trouble. You break his freaking wrist and nobody so much as bats an eyelash at you." She rolled her eyes and walked away.

"Don't mind her. She seems all cold and prickly on the outside, but on the inside- well, she's pretty much cold and prickly on the inside too. But she's a good person, always ready to protect her friends, as well as the world. And she's way stronger than most of us. And plus, if I didn't have her to keep me in check, I would never complete any of my missions. Keeping me in check is kind of her job," she said, rubbing the back of her head in an embarrassed fashion.

"Believe me kid, you have no idea," a man said as he entered through the door. He brushed a little dirt from the knees of his jeans, and straightened out his solid black tee shirt.

"Theo, you're back early! Does this mean-" Michelle started to ask. Satine perked up halfheartedly as she noticed his return. Even Amber showed a momentary, although small, flicker of excitement.

"Yep. We should probably do this sooner than later, before he gets too much buildup and we can't handle the release. Did you give him the survey yet, Michelle?" the man asked.

"Umm, no. Sorry, I forgot. Believe me when I say that it won't take this kid long at all," Michelle said with a laugh.

She handed Aaron a small packed of about three pages of yes or no and "on a scale of one to ten" questions. Within five minutes he was done, although extremely confused as to it's purpose. Theo skimmed it over.

"Okay guys, to the nature room," he said as he started walking away and snapped his fingers in the air, pointing down the hallway.

"So, like, what's the big deal here. I don't get it?" Aaron whispered to Michelle as he realized they were walking towards the room he wasn't allowed to go in earlier.

"It's always exciting when a new recruit awakens their powers. Though hopefully yours will be a little more exciting than Yura's. Here power came so naturally to her that there wasn't really any kind of explosion of energy for us to work with. That's half the fun of this. And we promise not to let you get hurt in any way, shape, or form." she explained to him in response.

"Okay now Aaron, be careful as we come in here. If you feel anything strange, let us know immediately," Theo said. "As you will notice, we have the room all divided up into different areas where people of different elements can work in their natural environment. We had you take that survey because the element you are gifted with is often reflected in you personality. For instance, we know you aren't fire because you said you were pyrophobic. Fear of your own element just doesn't happen. With the exception of Satine here, but that's only a small portion of her ability, rather than everything there is to it. So, now we just walk."

And walk they did. The room was much bigger than he had guessed it would have been. And it was like a giant museum. One moment, they were walking through a Japanese-style water garden (Michelle was very reluctant to leave, as she was enjoying herself by firing jets of water in arcs over the path like they have at amusement parks), and the next they were walking through what appeared to be a cave (Theo himself seemed to slow down significantly as they passed through). Much to what he assumed was Amber's dismay, though not at all to his own, they passed very quickly through the craggy volcanic peaks.

About an hour of walking had ended up with nothing. Everyone was beginning to look extremely bored, as the hype of a recruit about to fully awaken wore off. That was when they hit the garden "exhibit." It looked almost exactly like the garden at his dad's house, only so much better. There were countless flowers and flowering trees all in bloom at the same time, no matter when during the year they were supposed to bloom. As they approached it, he gently started to slow his pace. By the time they arrived, everyone else was ahead of him, ignoring their surroundings in their boredom. It was at this point that, without anyone's noticing, he slipped off the path into the garden. For a while, he just stood with his eyes closed, slowly turning. For some reason, he didn't really feel that he needed to see. In a way that he couldn't really describe, he could feel the flowers where they were. It was at this moment that he heard a gentle applause. He turned in the direction of the applause and opened his eyes. Only, he couldn't see them. The massive wall of flowers, bushes, and trees that had suddenly appeared was standing right in the way. He moved to push it away, but the flowers parted neatly for him without him even touching them.

He stepped out onto the path and was met by a few small congratulations and a rather hard pat on the back from Theo. As they walked back out of the room, he talked to Michelle. "Wow, Yura's gonna' be so excited that you're awakened once she gets back. Of course, you two will get to train together all the time. Cause you know, I'm training you and Amber's training her, and Amber and I work together, So we will all be spending a lot of time together. You're power is so freaking cool too! I wish I could control plants and stuff. Okay, I totally want to work out some sweet mission outfits for you and everything. Ooh! I can make ours match. I could go with, like, a seafoamy color, and you could wear a much darker, earthier green, and then we would match and everything. Doesn't that sound fun? Ooh, and then I can help you get your personal weapon like the rest of us have and we're gonna' have so much fun," she said, getting extremely excited.

"Honestly, I'm gonna' have to pass on the matching battle outfits. You know, that'd just be kind of weird. But the rest all sounds pretty fun. But really, it's not all that big of a deal to me at all. It's just kind of weird," of course, that's what he said. But, being at the end of the line with Michelle, nobody noticed the trail of flowers sprouting up in all of the exhibits, even managing to pop up momentarily in the volcano area from a combination of forced magical release and the sheer secret excitement of discovering his powers.