Chapter 7

A Door and a Dream

(A/N: Hey guys! Sorry for the long wait. Now, I'm warning you- things get a little bit dark in this chapter. Not Criminal Minds dark, more Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets dark. You'll see what I mean. As my love Theran is so fond of saying: Onward!)

The day after the letter incident, Academy students were given a slight break from their classes- they would only have to attend them during the afternoon. As a result, Akyla found herself wandering around the Palatium. Oddly enough, she'd lived in the palace for her entire life, but hadn't seen all of it.

She headed down an unfamiliar hallway- it was very narrow and dimly lit. Akyla supposed the nature of its appearance and condition indicated it was not walked through often.

Akyla ran her fingers down the wall as she passed, curious as to why it was much less ornate than most of the palace's walls. And it was so quiet- the only audible sound was the soft tap of Akyla's shoes against the carpeted floor.

For some reason, the place seemed familiar to her- almost out of a dream or a distant childhood memory. But this familiarity was frightening, not comforting.

As she reached the end of the hallway, she found herself breathing heavily at the stillness in the air coupled with the metal door in front of her.

She tried to push down the handle and found the door to be locked- refusing to budge. Shaking the handle and hitting the door proved to be in vain as well. Glaring at it, Akyla then noticed the words that had been engraved into the door. Judging by the barely legible scrawl, whoever had written them had been in a hurry; not wanting to get caught.

Death waits behind this door

Akyla raised an eyebrow in concern and ran her fingers over the etched words- if the slight depth and noticeable serration of the letters were any indication, they had clearly been hurriedly carved into the door with a knife designed to be able to scratch metal.

Akyla's breathing grew ragged again as she heard heavy thudding from beyond the door. A moment later, the gruff voice of what was most likely a Guard could be heard. A man snarling, "Tell us where the girl is!"

The reply could barely be heard- a different man, his voice shaky and weak. "I don't know where she is. I wouldn't tell you if I did, either!"

Something unintelligible was said by the Guard. A moment later, though, the unknown man's shouts could be heard as clear as day.

"No! Please! I swear I don't know-"

His voice stopped there, and was replaced by groaning and screams. Akyla squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to imagine what the hapless victim was going through. A tear fell from Akyla's eye as the man's screams faded into silence.

He said he didn't know where the girl was, she thought bitterly, not bothering to wonder what the Guard meant by "the girl". Why didn't they believe him?

She wondered whether the man was dead, and a small part of her hoped he was- if only so he wouldn't have to face what was undoubtedly torture ever again. If he is dead, though, she mused, it is a waste of life. Putting that man through the worst form of suffering simply to get information. That he didn't even have.

That was when a memory resurfaced in Akyla's mind, and the familiarity of the ominous hallway suddenly made sense.

She had dreamed of it. This very hallway had been in her dreams, despite never having seen it before. Akyla had wandered down the hallway to find the same door with the same words written on it. Only, in the dream, the words had not been carved into the door with a knife. Rather, they had been written in blood. Dark, dried blood. She had heard screaming, too- but not from a man whose voice she did not recognize. The screams had been her mother's.

At once, Akyla's resolve hardened like water instantaneously freezing into ice. She had to find out what was secretly going on in Aetha, and whether her father was aware of it or not- one way or another. She was going to spy on the Palatium.

"Alright, I've got them," Theran whispered, dumping the tiny objects onto the table in the Academy mealroom. No one else was there due to classes being done for the day, so their chances of being seen were much slimmer. "I stole as many of these things from my brother as I could, which adds up to...twenty-four. do we get the cameras up without anyone noticing?"

Across from them, Kir gave his sister a knowing look and nudged her, while Cadence grinned at Akyla. Leaning forward, she placed twenty-four- the same amount as the cameras- of what looked to be silver microchips on the table.

"They're called optical blockers. Once they link telepathically to a person, they can be placed on anything else- for example, a camera, an animal, a person, you name it. The owner of the chip can then telepathically will the target object or person to take on the appearance of something else. But it can still be used for its intended purpose."

Theran's eyes widened as Akyla returned Cadence's grin. "So we disguise the cameras with these? That...that's brilliant! Cadence, you're a genius! How exactly did you get ahold of these?"

Cadence looked very pleased with herself as she replied, "Beginning my training to work in the research lab has its advantages."

If Theran's eyes were wide before that, they became close to popping out of his head as he spluttered, " only start training people who want to work there if they're already in Year 15!"

She chortled in response, a smug look on her face. "Yeah, well...apparently I have 'potential' in the technological department. Some higher-up saw a prototype I made, and they were so impressed by it that they arranged for me to join their training program!"

Theran laughed in excitement, practically launching himself across the table to hug Cadence. "I'm so happy for you, Ca-OW!"

Cadence hit him squarely in the chest, and he fell sideways onto the floor. "Remember this the next time you think about hugging me, Theran."

"Okay," he rasped weakly, nodding.

Akyla let out a snort of barely-suppressed laughter. Before long, she was gasping for breath, and Kir and Cadence had joined in. "Are you alright?" she got out between laughs.

Theran looked extremely put out by Akyla's response, although he nodded. "I'm fine; you can stop laughing now," he grumbled.

Once they had composed themselves (and Theran had picked himself up off of the floor), Akyla inhaled sharply and began to speak. She had formulated a plan while caught up in the levity.

"Alright, there are twenty-four cameras and twenty-four chips. Seeing as there's four of us, we should all take six cameras each. We should do two per area- we don't need too many in one place, judging by the quality of these cameras. That's twelve places total. I'll do the riskiest part and put cameras in the hallway where I found that door. I'll also put two in the Council chamber and two in the Senate meeting room. The rest of you should find good spots that are likely to be visited by those who have things to hide. Memorize the interior of each area and disguise the cameras accordingly. And write down exactly where you put them- we do not want to lose track of them. We should start as soon as possible. Any questions?"

Theran nodded. "Yeah, one. How do we sneak around Rhyuta's palace without arousing suspicion?"

She shrugged in reply. "Use your imagination. I'm sure you'll think of some excuse."

Akyla didn't miss Theran's use of the name "Rhyuta" as opposed to calling him her father. Was that intentional, considering Theran knew she wished he wasn't her father? Or was it a simple slip-up?

She had no time to wonder, however, as Kir drawled, "Sheesh. Who let you give us orders?"

Before Akyla could even process what Kir had said, Theran gave him a stony glare and Cadence kicked her brother underneath the table. "Leave her alone, Kir," Cadence hissed. Theran nodded in agreement and snapped, "It's a good plan. Don't whine just because you didn't come up with it."

Kir let out a heavy sigh. "Sorry, Akyla," he murmured, and she could tell he meant it. "I just...have a bit of an issue with being told what to do. I didn't mean to sound like an ass."

Akyla smiled and shook her head dismissively. "It's fine. I've heard- and said- far worse. We've all said things we didn't mean before."

Theran smirked, still glaring at Kir- albeit now in jest. "She forgave you, so now I guess I have to. However, I will punch you if you ever talk to her like that again," he threatened jokingly.

Cadence chuckled. "She doesn't need your protection, Theran. If she wants to punch someone, she's perfectly capable of doing it herself. Right, Akyla?" she asked, smiling in her direction. Akyla nodded, grinning in return.

"See? That's what I thought. Although I suspect you'd still punch someone on her behalf if she asked."

Theran snorted. "If she asked? She wouldn't even have to ask; I'll punch anyone who tries to mess with her."

Akyla did something she hadn't done in a very long time- she giggled. "I appreciate your concern, Theran. However, I'd prefer if you didn't go around punching everyone who's ever annoyed me. You hate violence, anyway."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, that's true. But I have no objection to protecting my friends- and you are one of them." When Kir gave him a surprised look, he snapped, "What? You know me; I'm the protective type!"

Kir rolled his eyes. "And yet you've never offered to punch someone for me or Cadence. I wonder why," he murmured in jest.

"I thought you already knew I'd do that for you."

Akyla could sense an argument- a completely unnecessary argument- coming, and coughed uncomfortably. The two paid no mind to it, however- simply kept talking.

"Yeah, I kinda did; you've just never said it to us out loud," Kir shot back. "I find that to be a little weird. You've known us longer, for crying out loud! And-"

"-Boys!" Cadence shouted, interrupting them. She slammed her hand down on the table in exasperation. "Please, for once in your lives, would you just sit down, shut up, and focus on what's important here?!"

Immediately, they backed away from each other and slunk into their seats. "Sorry," they both mumbled, almost in unison, and Cadence gave an approving nod.

"That's better. Now, Akyla, is there anything else you would like to say?"

Akyla wanted to say she was impressed with the way Cadence got them to stop fighting so quickly, but obviously kept that to herself. "No, that's all there is to the plan."

Cadence smiled. "Okay. Now, before we begin carrying out our scheme, I'd like to explain the optic blockers. Linking to them is fairly easy- just touch one without gloves on and reach out mentally. Disguising them is a bit trickier, though. You have to make sure you're focused. If you can clearly picture in your mind the desired disguise, it will be much easier. Understand?"

All three of them nodded in confirmation. "Wonderful. If any of you need me, I'll be in my room. I need to let our parents know about the training program," she said, looking directly at Kir. "See you later!"

With that cheerful goodbye, she walked to the nearest teleportation site, activated it, and vanished in a flash of light. Akyla herself hadn't quite gotten over the system shock that teleporting caused yet, and so walked to most places. If it was a great distance, she would use a lightweight craft as transport. I should really work harder at getting the hang of teleportation, she mused, standing up and walking near the center of the room.

Akyla was broken out of her thoughts when Kir stood up. "Well, I'd better go. I'm behind on homework. See you morons around," he teased, before running off and disappearing in the same manner as his sister had via teleportation.

Then it was just her and Theran. The two of them standing alone in a dark, empty room. Theran laughed nervously after Kir left. "This is somewhat spooky," he joked, but frowned when Akyla didn't laugh or even smile. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she replied easily, shrugging. Sighing, she continued, "Just dreading going back to you-know-where. My father will be angry because I was out so late."

Theran gave her a sympathetic look and moved closer to her, so that he was standing just to the right of her. "He doesn't have to know," Theran murmured. "There are teleportation sites in discreet areas of the palace, correct?"

Akyla nodded. "Yes, but the problem is, teleportation makes me...kind of ill. Dizzy, know what I'm talking about."

He chuckled, putting his hands in the pockets of his robes. "Yeah, I do. Teleportation sickness- happens to everyone. Bothered me for the longest. Still does, to some extent. But..." he paused, sighing. "They say it's easier to deal with if you don't teleport alone. Until you get used to it. That's why Kir and Cadence use it so often- they started practicing when they were ten! By the time they were twelve, they could teleport anywhere, no problems at all."

Akyla smirked, looking at the floor. "Well, I guess that's the advantage to having a twin sibling. But I'm not sure what your point is, here."

"I'll do it with you," he replied quickly. "That way, you can get back to the Palatium quickly and make it seem like you got back earlier than you did!"

Akyla raised an eyebrow at Theran. "You'd do that?" When he nodded, she continued. "Well, that's...very nice of you. Problem is, I don't think you have clearance to teleport inside the Palatium. It-"

"-But you have clearance! You can override it!"

Akyla could have smacked herself for missing the obvious. "Right, I forgot about that. Come on, then," she said briskly, leading him to the site.

It, like most teleportation sites, was a simple tube, just big enough for two to three people. Akyla and Theran both stepped inside, the former placing her palm on the solid glass in front of them.

The glass wall became a screen, scanning her handprint to identify her. When Akyla of Rhyuta- High Lady flashed on the screen, Theran placed his palm on the screen so that it could identify him, too.

Once that was done, Akyla selected their destination from a holographic map- a site in the east wing, near Callista's room, which was not too far from hers.

As expected, an error message appeared on the screen.


Insufficient Clearance For Teleportation

Akyla sighed, more out of inconvenience than anything else. "Override on my authority," she said clearly, and the red ERROR was replaced by a flash of green light and the words Command Recognized. Push To Begin Sequence.

She inhaled deeply, bracing herself for the unpleasant sickness that was sure to come. Theran glanced over at her and took her hand in his own.

"You ready for this?" he murmured, squeezing her hand reassuringly.

Akyla nodded, making sure her fingers were firmly entwined with his. "Let's go."

There was a flash of white light, a moment of nothingness, and then they were standing on the floor of the Palatium, near Callista's room.

Akyla shook her head to clear it- she was slightly dizzy, but not as much as she had been the last time she teleported somewhere. Grinning, she whispered excitedly, "It worked, Theran! My symptoms aren't as bad as before!"

Theran turned and smiled at her. "That's good. I didn't feel anything at all, to be honest. First time that's ever happened." He paused, clearing his throat. "Will you be alright, Akyla?"

She nodded. "Fix your glasses, Theran, they're all crooked," she teased, laughing. As he did so, a frown on his face, Akyla sighed. "You should probably go," she murmured. "Before someone sees you in here."

"Right! Well, since you don't need me, I you farewell, my lady," he joked. He turned around to leave, but Akyla stopped him before he walked into the tube.

"Wait!" she hissed, running towards him. Theran spun around, startled, just in time for Akyla to run into his arms and hug him tightly. After he got over his initial shock, Theran put his arms around her, albeit somewhat hesitantly.

"Akyla?" he asked slowly. "Is something wro-"

She shook her head, cutting him off. "Thank you," she whispered.

"For...for what?"

Akyla shrugged, tightening her grip on him. "Everything, I guess. You're just so...kind to me. Even after all the names I called you and me making you deal with my problems; I-"

"Akyla," he said gently, a note of playfulness in his voice. "Don't thank me. I did what any friend would do." Theran removed himself from her grasp, looking her directly in the eye. "Listen, I really have to go." He sighed, turned around, and walked back towards the teleportation tube. Before stepping inside it, however, he paused. "For the record, Akyla...I'm not sure why, but no matter what happened between us...I always liked you. Anyway, I'd better head back. Ciao!"

Without further ado, he stepped inside the tube and vanished a few moments later.

Theran's words rang in Akyla's ears for a long time after that. I always liked you, too, Theran, she decided. No matter how much I tried to convince myself I didn't.

(A/N: I wanna make one thing clear: everything seems all mysterious now, but we have a big storm coming and it'll all come into the light, crashing down. Like in Harry Potter, but with one book instead of seven. Added up, this'll be a full-length novel that I intend to publish. Once that happens- although it won't for a while- I'll be taking this version down.)