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Excerpt for Grimace by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The only characters that based on real people are all based on Curse Javan.


Copyright © 2016 by Javan Publishing LLC and Curse Javan

ISBN: 9780463791646

All rights reserved (Smashwords is the ONLY source to purchase this ebook at the moment.) No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of quotations in a book review (5-page-max to be considered a book review.)


Art/Illustrations by Curse Javan, Neil Book, and various royalty-free images


https://cursejavan.wordpress.com

SmashWords Edition, Version 1.0.0


Forward:

We are told that the sky is blue. But what if we aren’t seeing the same color? Someone could be seeing the color red but has been told to call it blue for their entire life. How do we actually know that we are seeing the same color? Metaphorically speaking of course.


Table of Contents

Book Cover

Day 00 Day 01

Day 02 Day 03

Day 04 Day 05

Day 06 Day 07

Day 08 Day 09

Day 10 Day 11

Day 12 Day 13

Day 14 Day 15

Day 16 Day 17

Day 18 Epilogue

About the author



Prologue

Report 1 Day 01:

I have seen horrific things…

Nothing I have read or trained for could have prepared me for this

I am questioning if I am dreaming or if I am dead, in hell. Nobody would believe the events I am transcribing in this report. Surely that will harm the integrity of my sanity, but I know what I saw.

What lies before you, the reader, is the decision whether to believe it or not. This is how it all began.

I have seen a man torn apart into pieces in front of me; a fresh coat of blood still covers me head to toe. Magic, monsters, and demons are all real. I just need someone to believe me…


ONE DAY EARLIER:


Day 00

A man named Ambiv nervously sat in an empty room. He rocked in his chair in front of a plastic table. He looked at his reflection in the one-way mirror on the wall to his right; his pale white face and bronze eyes stared back at him.

Ambiv had never been in a more polarizing room. The wall to his left ripped open like skin being torn apart. The part of the wall that bordered the opening now swelled up and throbbed like an open wound. A different man walked through the “door” and sat down at the table. The man didn’t introduce himself. Ambiv had expected his first-ever job interview to be handled more professionally. Ambiv couldn’t even properly see the man due to the dimmed lights.

“Have you seen ‘The Show?’” the new man inquired.

“No, there was no tv service on the starship that my academy was located in. We were pretty isolated, just floated out in space.” Ambiv replied.

“Your tower defense and chess scores were some of the highest ever recorded. You showed no signs of mental issues with the stress test either. What do you know about this job?”

“I was not told much. Most jobs in the security analysis field nowadays are completely secretive due to the nature of the business. I didn’t ask much and only know it is highly classified and important.” Ambiv answered to the best of his knowledge.

“Good answer. Your job is everything that goes on in the background here. You are never on tv alone. You are never credited. Your job on tv is to take care of the kids and advise them. Your real job is to manage the operation when the tv isn’t on you; mainly consisting of keeping our castle intact and the residents alive. If anything happens, every worker goes to you for an answer. On everything. Consider yourself a king.

“There is a high mortality rate for this position and it is a job that you cannot retire from. You work until you die. Vacations are allowed but only at the end of each season. You will still be on call during vacations for emergencies. All of this is a standard work contract for a GL employee. This is the highest-level position out of the entire GL.” The interviewer finished.

“Wait, the Galactic League does exist?” Ambiv skeptically asked.

<I thought the GL is widely considered to be a myth about a secret organization bent on galactic protection? It is the illuminati of space.> Ambiv thought to himself.

“Correct.” The obscured man confirmed.

“And the ‘Million-Year War’ is real?”

<There’s no way that the Million-Year War would still be going on. Every report is that it ended shortly after it started. It took place on one isolated planet. Yet the GL is rumored to have started due to the war.>

“Ongoing. Your mission is to keep the galaxy safe. Do you accept these terms?”

“What is my title?” Ambiv asked. “How would my reimbursement be handled? And why is there an opening?”

“Your title would be Lead Instructor.”

<Doesn’t sound too impressive…>

Ambiv still had doubts about the severity of the job. He was interested in helping people, but he wanted to help from afar. He had no desire to enter some long-forgotten war.

“Your salary is unlimited. You are given a payment card that can be used for any transaction with a working database that we would pay for.”

<Holy shi->

“Do you accept the position? Yes or no. We need an answer within a minute.”

Ambiv scrambled with his thoughts for 30 moments. (A moment is equivalent to approximately 1.25 seconds on Earth.)

<Unlimited salary? I never heard of that offered before. This is for a high-ranking position, a real way to help people with a lot of power…but how does a tv show tie into security like this? Save the galaxy, fight in a mythical war suddenly sound appealing.>

“Yes or no?” the interviewer asked.

“Yes…I accept.”

Ambiv made a snap decision under pressure.

“Excellent. Here is the video of the ending to last season.” The interviewer pushed forward a hologram projector on the table in front of Ambiv. “I must be going; the next season starts later today, and I must attend to the new recruits. You will join me once this is over, the walls will light a pathway to your destination if you press this key card against one.”

The interviewer pushed a blank, white card on the table next to the projector. The interviewer got up and walked out of the room. The lights dimmed, and the projector started to play.

First, there was only shaking and rumbling on the black screen. The darkness faded away to reveal a gargantuan rock covered with cracks of bright lava. The camera zoomed out and revealed the rock to resemble a gigantic, brown-colored meteor, falling towards the ground. Flames surrounded the outside of the meteor as thick smoke seeped upwards off. Then the rock began to move.

The rock changed shape in midair. The lava slowly seeped down to the bottom of the moon and formed into a shiny spike. It appeared alive. It wanted to seed itself into the soil. It was about to get its way…

CRAAAAAAAAAACK!

The screen flashed white and a loud thunder clapped. The noise caused Ambiv to jump out of his seat. The screen turned back to the scene and focused on the giant crater where the meteor’s spike used to be. Millions of little black shadows started to fly out of the crater as the moon entered a freefall. They were extremely hard to make out on screen, almost as if the quality of the video was unfocused.

The camera turned and zoomed in on a man in the distance. Suddenly, the man encompassed the entire screen. He looked surreal. A white glow surrounded his muscular build. His long, spiky hair appeared bleach white and tiny electrical sparks could be seen jumping between the strands. His eyes were completely white, and a smirk stretched across his face. White light and glowing armor encased his body with a cape blowing in the wind behind him. He was a badass with what appeared to be a thunderbolt in his hand.

The man winded up and heaved his spear at the moon once more. The black shadows from before quickly surrounded the moon and took the full brunt of the attack. A loud crack thundered again and Ambiv watched as the lightning bolt spread like fire after impact. Electricity branched out and struck countless black beings which fell dead to the ground.

The moon continued to fall and caused the video to shake during impact. The brave warrior jumped off the ledge and landed on a white cloud hovering in midair. He thrust his arms forward and the cloud carried him at lightning speed at the moon.

BOOM!

The camera followed the man who broke into the rock and began to fight off black creatures. The creatures were nearly impossible to make out; their black skin color matched the pitch-black room and walls. They jumped on the warrior and tried to cover up his glowing aura.

“Chu’ don’t scare me!” the man bellowed as he bashed two creatures’ heads together.

A white shockwave burst from the clap which pushed away several attackers. He pulled a creature off his back and ripped it in half with his bare hands. He thrusted his fists in the air. Electricity poured out of his throbbing body, targeting the black spawn. Then the man threw his arms to the right and blew a hole in the wall by channeling the awesome power of electricity. Sparks engulfed the gaping hole where solid rock used to exist, and a red glow now covered the man.

No other shadow dared to stand in his way. His muscular build still barely fit through the enormous hole he generated. He gazed at his prize after brushing the dust off his arms. A glowing, beating, red rock was perched in the center of the room like a tooth projecting from one’s mouth. It swelled after each beat akin to a heart. It was the heart of the moon.

“You never stood a chance.” The man declared. “I am the ultimate. Before you die, you will fear my name…”

A bolt of lightning materialized in his hand and shook the moon with its might. He raised his arm up and struck a pose.

“I am ZEUS!” He bellowed and brought his hand down on the glowing rock.

A bright flash of light filled the screen followed by a fade to black. The film was over.

Ambiv sat and pondered on what he saw. There was no time allotted or even access to watch videos or media at school. He had been studying on an isolated outpost on a dwarf planet at the edge of the galaxy. It was difficult to decipher what was real and what was computer-generated images. It all looked real, but technology was capable of replicating everything digitally.

<So, was that the TV show? Who was that man? Am I his replacement? Why was I shown this?>

Boop!

A soft sound emitted. A bright yellow light appeared on the door just before it slid open.

Boop!

A second sound called out. Clearly, it was trying to acquire Ambiv’s attention. Ambiv rose and walked to the door. Yellow arrows lit up on the ground and traced a path down the hallway that stood before him.

<The computer system that runs this building is pushy. I can envision having a tough time putting up with the “beeps” after a rough day.>

Ambiv followed the arrows down the hallway and made a series of turns at several intersections.

<I pride myself in having a good memory but if all the destination rooms in this place are this far away, I will have a tough time navigating without these lights guiding me.>

Finally, he arrived at his destination; another large, dim-lit and empty room.

“Come in.” A familiar voice called out.

The interviewer from before was located somewhere in the room. Ambiv stepped inside the room. The floors lit up with light revealing the interviewer standing in the center.

“My name is Blank. And I guess you can consider me your boss.” Blank said.

“Thank you for the opportunity. And I’m pleased to meet you Mr. Blank.” Ambiv replied.

“Just Blank, please. Now then, this room is seldom used, and you probably won’t come here more than four additional times in your career here.”

Mr. Blank pointed at wall around the room.

“All of the students are transported from their respective planets and arrive at this location to be sorted. There are five basic towers in this fortress that hosts students. You oversee every tower, but you are only mandated to spend time in the tower we currently are in. Don’t worry about sorting the students into different towers, the AI that runs our systems does that itself. Each tower has their own leader who focuses on the development of the students. You are the leader for this tower as well.”

SSSSSSSSSS

The walls opened and let out a hissing sound. Fog filtered out of each wall door as chairs filled with children began to slide in the room. All the children looked pretty much the same; gray-skinned, covered in slime and completely hairless.

“So, uh” Ambiv started. “Why do they look–”

“They look all the same because they were transported the same way. They are put into hibernation in this protective electrostimulation liquid that preserves their bodies from aging, decomposition and atrophy. Some of these students are coming from a much greater distance than others.” Blank finished for him.

A pile of lifeless student bodies slid out on the floor.

“It takes a little while for them to regain full brain function including memory and simple speech abilities. This is a side effect of their minds being dormant during the transportation. In a few days they will be talking like normal and remembering who they are piece by piece. Occasionally students will lose a few memories here and there, but nothing vital to the task at hand.” Blank assured.

The floor beneath the students cracked open and created a large crevice. All the students slipped down the floor into the darkness beneath them.

“Don’t worry about that.” Mr. Blank assured.

“So, what exactly do I do here?” Ambiv questioned. “What role do these students play?”

Ambiv started to feel that something was amiss.

“All of these students are going to be educated, trained and prepped for multiple purposes. The most important is the defense of this fortress from an invading alien species. The students are also recorded at all times, and the feed is used to create a reality TV show which keeps the lights on. Finally, a select few students will be playing a sports game. You need to make sure everything runs smoothly and that everyone does their job. There are numerous teachers and trainers in the fortress who specialize in specific fields. I’m sure any one of them will lend you a helping hand with whatever you may need.”

Mr. Blank raised his hand and one of the walls ripped open again.

“Step through here and I will take you to your quarters.”

The two men stepped through the wall into a tiny, vibrating blue room. The wall closed behind them after they entered.

ZAP!

The room shook violently for a moment followed by the same wall opening. A new room entirely appeared through the wall.

“Wow, that’s…what?” Ambiv struggled to find the words.

“Doors open and lead to where the user is thinking by scanning brain electricity patterns.” Mr. Blank explained. “You will find that the technology in these facilities are far more advanced than any tech you would find across the galaxy. You have the highest attainable position, so you are permitted to access any part of Pentopia as you please.”

Mr. Blank used his hand to gesture Ambiv into the room. They walked in one after the other.

“Welcome, Instructors” An electronic voice called out.

“Ambiv, meet the AI that runs this fortress: Ceep.” Mr. Blank introduced. “Ceep is the most advanced AI in creation and will help you do anything from suggesting battle tactics to recording the students’ medical records. Ceep can move any part of the fortress so just inform him what you need, and it will happen. Your new account messages, any important fortress updates and calendar reminders will be announced when you enter the room again. Just ask Ceep for a user interface if you need a visual display of any documents.

“Ceep, please set up Ambiv’s bed and provide accommodations to assist his sleep.” Blank commanded.

A large, soft mattress popped up out of the floor. A water sink, mirror and toilet rose up in the rooms opposite corner than the bed.

“Feel free to ask Ceep to set up your room how you like it. And just let him know when you are going to sleep so he can turn the lights off. So, we have a busy day tomorrow! Ceep will wake you up when it’s time for the day to start. Safe night!” Blank stepped back into the hole in the wall and it sealed up after him. A slight breeze seeped in from the floor vents.

Ambiv had so many questions running through his mind. He hardly knew what he had gotten himself into. He walked over to the bed and sat down. The questions continued, about the job, the kids and Pentopia. The breeze from the vents increased. Ambiv suddenly grew extremely tired and passed out.


Day 01

0650 Rays


“Time to wake up, Instructor.” Ceep blared out.

Ambiv woke up with a start. He was used to a loud alarm from the University Academy, but this was ridiculous. Ambiv looked down at his clothes to find a pair of sleepwear wrapped around his skin. The sleepwear changed into a comfortable, cloak-like suit as soon as he stood up. The lights grew brighter once he stepped out of bed as well.

“You have one new message, Instructor.” Ceep detailed.

“Ceep, could you lower the volume of the morning alarm please?” Ambiv asked.

“Apologies, Instructor; that is the optimal volume to wake up a subject at any deep level of sleep. Some days will be more tiring than others, so it helps to keep things consistent. To keep everything on schedule…” Ceep explained. “Shall I read your message?”

“Where did this dress attire come from? And what time is it?”

“We have fitted you the only clothing you will need. It is a super-advanced piece of technology that stretches to cover your body as is necessary. The material can maintain your body heat while protecting you from harsh environments including heat, cold and wind. It regularly cleans itself and monitors your vital signs such as your heartbeat, blood toxicity and oxygen level.

“As for the time, it is 0500 Rays* based on a 2000 Ray scale. Shall I read your message?”

*Rays are measurements of time. The exact number of Rays that make up a day depends on how long a day is on any given planet because some planets spin faster/slower/not at all. A “2000 Ray scale” means that the day is over after 2000 Rays. *

“Yes, let’s hear the message.”

“Message 1:” Ceep started.

Mr. Blank’s voice took over the speaker: “Instructor Ambiv, please meet me in the entrance hall. The door that opens will transport you to your destination.”

“End of message.” Ceep finished.

One of the walls stretched open. Ambiv washed his face off and stepped through the new door. Ambiv felt that everything was so rushed here. The door closed behind him. There was a shake of the room, followed by a soothing beep.

“Welcome…to the Room of Apocalypse.” Ceep’s voice startled Ambiv. Apparently Ceep was plugged into the room.

The door opened in front of him revealing a large room. There isn’t too much to say about this room; it seemed like every room in this fortress looked identical excluding the size and objects inside it. The only difference in this room was that a gigantic clock positioned against one of the walls with a giant pit directly beneath it. Mr. Blank was standing in front of the pit, looking up at the clock. Ambiv walked up next to him.

“That’s a beautiful clock.” Ambiv noted.

“Indeed.” Blank replied.

The outer rim of the clock was a diamond encrusted, twisted mix of sparkling gold and silver color. There was only one pitch black arrow in the clock. This arrow was pointed directly to the left. The background below and on the right side of the arrow was bleached with a fiery, bright orange color. The minute marker was nonexistent.

“What is it used for?” Ambiv couldn’t understand why most of the clock would be shaded in or what the general purpose was.

“This is the Doomsday Clock.” Blank explained. “This clock’s sole purpose is to countdown to our destruction, or ‘The End of the Series’ as some would put it. We were able to use extreme projection calculations while utilizing advanced analytics to estimate the amount of time left until we are all destroyed.”

<That’s…dark.>

“What do you mean by ‘our destruction?’ Do you mean when all life ends, or when the sun runs out in this galaxy?” Ambiv reasoned.

“I mean a galactic-wide apocalypse with the guaranteed destruction of all existing life. There are an unlimited amount of hypothetical Armageddon situations playing out. Ceep analyzes them using history and the projected future to constantly update the probabilities.”

“I had a question about that as well.” Ambiv started. This subject was interesting but didn’t seem to be important to him. He had something else on his mind. “Does Ceep watch and record us?”

“Yes. There are microscopic cameras in every wall in the fortress as well as one specifically tailored for each student. The students have floating cameras that follow their every move, so they can be viewed and accounted for. It also helps record the athletic events that take place in the form of tournaments. The cameras in the walls record everything to trace even the smallest breach in any part of the fortress. Ceep will fade into the background as you learn things on the go. You should barely notice him once we start the show and the kids take center-stage. It may seem invasive at first, but I assure you that they provide an astronomical amount of assistance in time of emergencies.

“Speaking of emergencies, The Doomsday Clock is usually a good indicator if a catastrophic event is happening. The clock has never been this close to the final hour at the start of a season. The key thing is to remain cool and do the best that you can in any given situation. There will be occurrences that are routinely out of your control. Don’t get discouraged. You were chosen for a reason.”

Ambiv’s curiosity and angst about the job/privacy was calmed by what Mr. Blank said. He figured he could manage if he bottled his questions for now and waited until the day was over to see if his questions are answered. It could also derail Blank’s lessons in case he had a method to his instruction topics.

“It may seem a little rushed today, but we have a lot to cover so let’s get going. Take one step closer to me” Mr. Blank directed.

Ambiv did just that.

The floor shook beneath the two for a moment and began to lower. It apparently was some sort of electric-magnetic lowering platform. An electrical pulse was dispersed from the floor below and magnetized the floor tile on that level; this magnetism pulled the platform down from the floor above.

“This is The Playroom.”

The room was identical to the floor above, except for the giant table in the center and the lack of any clocks.

“This is where all of the Professors gather to discuss management and preparations for the future. The first meeting should take place tomorrow. Meetings can get a little chaotic and off topic. This tends to make meetings last longer but remember this; meetings will end once you get through everyone’s reports.

“Let’s move on. We aren’t going to use the usual faculty method of transportation today. We are going to be walking around the first set of students. None of which have the clearance to use the wall transporter.”

Mr. Blank clapped his hands twice and the room began to shake. Several parts of the walls started to shake and sink into the floor revealing long corridors. Only one of the corridors was illuminated.

“Ceep should light the way if he knows where you are headed.”

The two men ventured down the lit corridor.

“I am taking us to the classrooms and training facility.”

Another room waited for the two at the end of the hall. Small, curved doors laced the entirety of both walls along the walk.

“Here are the classrooms for our Tower.” Mr. Blank said as he pointed to the doors. “The classes taught here are not the same as the other towers. Each Tower has their own specialty, ours is focused on weapon utilization. These students have a knack for harnessing powerful weaponry and channeling their own magical abilities through their weapons.

“Let us continue onward.” Blank started to walk straight through the room, skipping the training facility entirely. The wall on the other side shook and shifted down into the floor. “The gymnasiums are attached to this room.”

“Gymnasiums?” Ambiv asked.

“Correct. There are three in this Tower alone.”

The pair walked into the next room. Ambiv noticed that the floor was completely transparent. There were three giant and illuminated arenas one floor below. One was filled with water, one was filled with smooth dirt and the last was a constructed, padded room. Each arena was separated by a giant wall. Each wall stretched up to the transparent surface of the floor above. Ambiv was impressed with the size of the facilities. Pentopia could be terribly larger than he imagined.

“The students are free to train or spar here. It has a variety of terrains to simulate any battle situations they may encounter.

“The Game Room is next.” Mr. Blank finished.

The two of them walked through the room.This room was dimly lit. Numerous computer-like gaming machines were scattered randomly throughout the room. Several tables with chairs were spread out as well.

“The students come here to play games, so we can analyze their learning progress. They can get quite competitive and participants are ranked based on their winning percentages. We only have a few specific games including Castle Defense and a limited number of strategy-based board games.

“We need to progress to the next room now to keep on schedule. Up ahead is a corridor that leads to a few locations.”

Blank and Ambiv walked to the end of the Game Room and exited through a small door.

“There are 3 doorways in this corridor. The one on the left wall leads to the Projection Room. That room uses technology to create holograms that can help students prepare for battle scenarios. The room on the right is the Battle Room. The Battle Room is where the students fight 1 on 1 for glory and rankings. They don’t actually injure each other; they are equipped with shielding built into their suits that can only take a set amount of damage. The battle ends once a student runs out of shield. Only one weapon can be brought in by a student per match.”

The 2 instructors continued through the room.

“Finally, our last stop on the tour is The Theatre.” Mr. Blank exhaled in relief. “The Theatre is where we can all watch the show that is based on our lives. Ceep chooses the best of all interactions, fights and competitions between the students to show to the rest of the galaxy. You won’t be on the show much; you are more of a person in the background. Each seat is fitted with an interactive computer monitor so the students can watch specific fights or events that occur at the same time.”

“Where are all of the housing facilities?” Ambiv asked.

“We are currently on the ground floor. The floor with the clock is the second floor. The library, Eatery and medical room are all located on that floor as well. All of the sleeping facilities are on the 3rd floor. The younger students have to share rooms, while some of the older students can earn their own rooms. Let’s now go meet the students.” Blank gestured to a wall.

“Any wall would do?” Ambiv pondered.

Blank nodded and grinned. They walked to the wall and stepped through a fresh opening. The wall-transporter shook and opened again to reveal the room where Ambiv first met the students. Now, a group of around 20 children stood silently in the center of the room. Blank and Ambiv stepped into the room and the wall zipped up behind them.

“Their memory of past events has still not fully returned. They will start to remember events from now on but their memories from today may be a little hazy.” Blank noted.

Ambiv noticed that the students looked different from each other now. Some looked like they had grown a decent bit taller and thicker since yesterday. Most of them appeared to have sprouted various hair styles. One student was especially noticeable and caught Ambiv’s attention with his vibrant reddish/yellowish hair. The colors of this student’s hair shifted back and forth like a fire.

“The Gate is ready to be opened.” Ceep called out.

None of the students seemed to notice.

“Can the students hear properly yet?” Ambiv asked.

“They can hear us fine, but they won’t hear Ceep if his message is directed to Instructors only.” Blank answered. “Ceep interacts with the students on their own frequency from their uniforms.

“Listen up, students. We are about to head outside the Fortress. It is extremely dangerous to venture out so never go alone or without the proper supplies to keep healthy and hydrated. Stick together and follow me.”

Mr. Blank turned away from the kids and faced the wall he had just entered through. Ambiv followed suit and the wall slowly broke open down the middle like a door. Light trickled into the dimly-lit room and kissed the faces of everyone inside. Warmth followed. Ambiv had not been exposed to direct sunlight in a while. Each of the children soaked in the light. The gray hue that gripped the students’ skin began to fade away into real, healthy skin color. All the children’s’ skin turned into a healthier yellowish-white color, save one child. This child’s skin stayed the same gray color. This student was the only one whose expression didn’t respond positively to the light. Nobody noticed.

“Stay close to me. Keep in a straight line.” Blank ordered.

Blank looked at Ambiv and gestured his head towards outside. The two adults led the way as the students followed behind.

“This is The Deserted wasteland.” Blank announced.

Everyone walked onto a cracked, crusty surface. It was a mixture of dried mud mixed with sand on the ground, spread as far as the eye could see. There were no roads or landmarks. Only dried out tree trunks, small mounds of dirt and yellowish plants covered in spikes were visible. A single white sun glowed in the sky. The sun was positioned just above the horizon, but Ambiv could not tell if it was about to rise or set. Something akin to mountains appeared to be lined in the distance in front of them. A towering mountain was visible off in the distance to their left. A large forest was noticeable to their right as well.

<I’ve never seen differing environmental regions so close to one another…>

The group trekked through the barren terrain. After a few Rays, they finally approached something protruding out of the ground. It was a large stone platform in the shape of a circle.

“Step in the center and try not to move.” Blank instructed.

The students formed around the Instructors. Mr. Blank unhinged a type of cloth that was wrapped around his forearm. He gave it to Ambiv.

“Put it on.”

Ambiv put the object near his left forearm. The object reached out and wrapped itself around his arm. It felt slightly wet, but snug as well. Lights started to flicker on the object and it displayed a picture of a screen on the sleeve.

“That is the Processor Sleeve. Students have their own name for it, ‘videosleeve,’ I think. It can give you direct control over any technology that belongs to Pentopia. We stand on one of the numerous Checkpointers; devices that transport people or objects long distances. They were made a very long time ago. You can use that Processor Sleeve to control this Checkpointer. The number to identify which Checkpointer we are at is written all over the rim. This one is Checkpointer 3. Command it to take us to Checkpointer 15 with the screen it provided.”

Ambiv looked down at his sleeve again and noticed a tiny keyboard to interact with. It appeared to be a biopolymer material that changed color when introduced to heat, light or pressure. He punched in the command “Checkpoint 15.”

Suddenly, the platform started to spin around clockwise. The ground around the Checkpointer rose up and circled around the group. A flash of light blinded everyone momentarily. Ambiv regained his vision and gasped. The group was in a completely different location.

Ambiv was staring at Pentopia from a great distance. Their fortress tower was only the size of his outstretched hand. Giant walls were branched from out to the left and the right. Ambiv could not see where the walls ended on either side or what type of terrain existed on the inside of said walls.

Then, Ambiv turned around. Before him was the murky mountain-like terrain that he had previously seen along the horizon. The surface was definitely brown, but hardly looked like rock, dirt, mud, bark or sand at all. It was more like tightly knit ropes of an unidentified material wrapped over and around real rocks and dirt. Something or someone had put this material here.

“Where are we?” Ambiv asked.

“We are close to The Gate, entrance 1.” Blank clarified.

“What is this…material on the ground?”

“That is what the gate is trying to keep out of our world. A whole other world exists on the other side of this Gate. This magical wall is the only thing keeping the other world from swallowing ours. You’re going to get some remnants of the other world near The Gates because they are opened so frequently.”

Ambiv was still unclear about this “other world.” Several possibilities floated around his mind. Does this Gate house a magical or electrical portal that transports people between worlds? Or was a certain partition of the planet sectioned off for safety reasons?

The Gate looked like a normal, gargantuan door. A neon-colored sheet of energy stretched out from both sides of The Gate. This sheet stretched into the sky as far as the eye could see. Nothing could get through. (*By the way, which isn’t made of fucking ICE!!).

“Mr. Blank” Ambiv started.

“I know there must be many questions on your mind, Ambiv.” Mr. Blank cut him off. “We are still in a rushed schedule. We cannot afford to be late. I apologize for the limited amount of knowledge passed.

“Let’s keep moving, everyone. Follow me to The Gate.”

Mr. Blank started walking towards the walls. The rest of the group followed. The Gate was blurry from afar. Now, The Gate began to come into view as if a fog was lifted. The Gate was a very intimidating door. This door grew shinier the closer the group got to it. Different parts of the door reflected sunrays in different shades of purple. A small, cloaked man came into view in front of the door. Mr. Blank halted the group in front of the man.

“Tryin’ to get through?” The man asked.

His skin was a dark shade of green. He wasn’t taller than 40 Verts (10 Vert is equivalent to 1 foot, so 40 Verts is 4 feet.) A large hump on the man’s back caused him to perpetually hunch over.

“Yes, thank you Froad.” Blank replied. “This shouldn’t take long. Keep it open for them for 100 Rays, then take cover.”

Froad chuckled to himself. It sounded like burps. Froad turned to the door and walked in front of it. He placed a long, 4-fingered hand on the door for a few Moments. There was a loud crack, followed by the area shaking for a Moment. Froad turned back to the group and walked away from the door.

“Ambiv, I need you to walk in the back of our group and tell me if you spot anything moving around.” Mr. Blank instructed.

Ambiv nodded his acknowledgment. The door creaked open slowly but loudly. Purple and yellow fog spilled out. There was too much fog to see what was on the other side. Blank walked through the door and the kids followed. Ambiv walked up to the doorway and peered through. He could make out the figures of the kids in front of him, so he stepped through.

Ambiv struggled to find his breath in this new area. The smoke was heavy in the lungs which caused him to cough. He became lightheaded. He walked through the fog until it lessened. Mr. Blank and the kids stood in front of him. They were surrounded by giant, purple walls made of what appeared to be stone. Cracks filled with a glowing, red material ran along the walls. Each side was not evenly-shaped. They were malformed like tumors.

The sky beyond that was pitch black with no stars glistening from the distance. The group moved forward and Ambiv followed behind. The narrow pathway opened into an intersection with two paths to move forward; forward left or forward right. The group turned left and Ambiv followed. It wasn’t long before the group halted.

They reached a larger pathway that led up a massive hill. Mr. Blank said something to the group that Ambiv could not make out. Then, they pressed on forward. The group stopped at a plateau after 10 Rays had passed. Ambiv was not sure why they had stopped, they weren’t at the top of the hill. Ambiv walked up to the front to talk with Mr. Blank.

“I need you to take care of the kids.” Mr. Blank said with a serious face.

“Sorry I was just wondering what you said earlier.” Ambiv started. “I’ll get to the back in a moment.”

Mr. Blank paid no attention to what Ambiv said.

“You are going to be the man they all look to for answers and guidance.” Mr. Blank continued.

The ground started to softly shake.

“Be patient, try not to panic and please: just do your best. No one can ask any more than that.”

The ground began to shake violently. The group had to crouch down to stay balanced.

“What is that??” Ambiv questioned.

The hill began to crack open at numerous locations and red steam stormed out. Lightning boomed across the sky.

“Believe in the kids. Have faith in the system. And once you start running, never turn back around.” Mr. Blank finished.

A glowing, red light shone down from the sky onto the plateau. Wind began to swirl around it. A deafening boom rang out and the beam of light disappeared. A giant figure now stood in its place.

The figure towered over Ambiv, Mr. Blank and the children. A red and black cape covered the figure’s arms and shoulders. A gigantic red helmet with 2 L-shaped horns rested atop his head. Two red lights shone from the helmet eyeholes. The sight of it sent shivers down the spines of Ambiv.

“Blank! You know how the game goes.” The figure called out with a booming voice. It extended a massive trunk of an arm out towards the group of kids.

Mr. Blank and Ambiv turned to see the student with the flame-like hair fly from the group into the outstretched hand of the new villain.

“No!” Ambiv shouted in bewilderment.

The disbelief from seeing that happen hadn’t sunk in yet. It was like this figure had grabbed the student with an invisible arm and pulled him over. Mr. Blank put his arm out and stopped Ambiv from running forward. Blank’s face was…well, blank. Ambiv looked at the figure in horror. Every kid was huddled together and wide eyed from fear. Every kid, except one. The one gray child simply looked befuddled.

The air grew hot and wind blew towards the figure from all directions. He brought the child closer in and gazed upon him.

“This time, I actually have use for you.” The figure chuckled; the ground shaking with each laugh.

Everyone watched in horror as the kid became engulfed with fire. His screams were already muffled as he choked on his own smoky flesh. The figure continued to laugh louder. The flames grew brighter as the kid melted into a small size.

The initial shock began to fade from Ambiv’s body. Now, a combination of fear and anger kept him glued to the ground. The kids buckled down into a crouch out of fear. The one kid who wasn’t fazed now looked curiously at Mr. Blank.

The giant figure threw the child’s smoldering corpse at the edge of the plateau where it meets the center region of the gigantic hillside. The body splashed against the wall that supported a higher-level plateau. Fire lit up and spread ferociously up both sides of the hill to form an enormous flaming “V”.

The tall figure thrust both his arms at Mr. Blank and streams of white colored electricity flew from his fingertips. Those streams connected together into a single current bolted at Mr. Blank’s chest. The white lightning stretched around Blank’s body and constricted his movement. Ambiv fell violently on his ass from the force.

The figure raised his arms slowly and caused Blank to rise in the air. Blank spun around as well. Both he and the figure now faced Ambiv and the children.

“I am Lord Rofucol.” The figure announced. “Watch carefully kids and see: this is exactly what happens to those who resist us.”

“I have faith in you.” Mr. Blank offered his last sentiments to Ambiv.

Rofucol brought his arms back in before thrusting them back outward. A hefty ball of glowing electricity shot through the white current.

There was a loud snap and a flash. Mr. Blank’s body ripped apart like a moldy piece of fruit and spewed his burnt innards all over the group. Ambiv had barely enough time to close his eyes and mouth before the blood engulfed his body.

<It feels too real…too real to be a dream!! My gawd, is he the devil??>

He wiped his eyes and cracked them open. Rofucol was now levitated above the ground and laughed.

Something moved in the corner of Ambiv’s eye. He turned around and gasped in horror. A horde of blacker than night, small creatures surrounded the group of kids and himself. These creatures now covered the entire plateau, hill and surrounding land. There was only a single, narrow, uncovered path leading back to The Gate. The creatures were completely still but their piercing purple eyes instilled a sense of hopelessness in the group’s mind. Ambiv was too frightened to notice that one kid was not cowering in fear. Ambiv didn’t even waste time to notice what the creature’s bodies were shaped like.

“RUUUUUUUUN!!!” Ambiv screamed out.

The kids didn’t need to be told twice. They ran back down the path and Ambiv followed behind. He never looked back. The creatures now laced the tops of the purple pathway walls as well. The creatures started to stir a little bit. Their shoulders shifted back and forth, and a creepy, scratchy noise emitted from each one. The group ran straight through the purple maze to the portal from whence they came. They reached the portal unharmed even though it seemed like they had been running forever.

“GO GO GO!” Ambiv ordered the kids through The Gate. They reached their own world after a blinding flash of light.

The kids were stopped to catch their breath. Ambiv only gave them a moment. Froad was nowhere to be seen and The Gate was still open.

A smaller, red sun was now in the sky. Then 2 larger red suns rose up slowly past the horizon.

“We need to get back to Pentopia.” Ambiv expressed.

Ambiv was running on pure adrenaline; he hadn’t fully accepted the reality of what had just occurred. The kids picked themselves up and the group jogged back to the Checkpointer. Ambiv was just about to punch in “Checkpointer 3” into his videosleeve when an ear-retching roar burst from The Gate. The group looked back at The Gate.

A dragon made of only white/silvery bone stepped through. It didn’t have any skin, scales, leg bones or flesh attached to its skeleton. Even its wings were bone with no web skin stretched across it. Blue flames were lit in its eye sockets. The dragon geared up to roar again. Ambiv punched Checkpoint 3 into his videosleeve just in time.

The group was surrounded by sand. They were back at Checkpointer 3 when the sand lowered. They could hear the dragon’s roar off in the distance. The ground began to shake again; never a good sign apparently. More horrendous shrieks blared from monsters.

Sirens started sounding from the fortress. Suddenly, electricity and fire shot up to the sky from the gigantic mountain that Ambiv previously noticed. The dragon called out again and was seen flying towards the group from far away. Large segments of the fortress walls cracked and fell off. All these events occurred in different locations. Ambiv had no idea where safety was.

<Would we even make it back to Pentopia?>

Suddenly, little drones flew out of the fortress’ wall openings. They fired rounds of laser beams at the distance. Ambiv noticed that a line of black creatures ran towards the fortress. The line of monsters stretched as far as the eye could see. That was enough for Ambiv to make a decision.

“Back to the fortress!” he yelled out.

The group followed orders and ran. A giant spotlight shone from the fortress and covered the group.

Drones stopped flying out of the fortress. More walls fell off and revealed larger openings. Large ships filled with soldiers exited next. Their rotating blades lifted them off into battle. Ambiv first looked to his left and saw sparks and explosions in the forest. Ambiv looked to his right and saw countless human-sized robots running towards the mountain which was clearly a volcano. The red fire and electricity was no longer flowing out of it. The ground stopped shaking. Every loud noise and thunderous footsteps stopped. Ambiv and the kids stopped running as well. Something unexplainable drew their attention to the volcano. Every soldier, beast and robot stopped and gazed upon the volcano as well.

A deafening roar shattered the ears of the group. Several kids’ ears were now leaking blood. Ambiv cuffed his ears in pain. But they all kept their eyes fixed on the same thing.

One final rush of fire burst from the volcano. An intimidating, large, red figure was seen hovering above the flames. This figure was larger than Rofucol. Ambiv’s chest tightened and his legs were wobbly. A sense of destruction and despair churned his insides. This figure began to grow. It became so massive that Ambiv could almost see the creature or being’s face clearly. He could easily make out the giant red “V” plastered to his forehead. It glowed blood red.

Another two creatures let out loud cries. Ambiv looked back at the fortress and noticed 2 flying objects coming from the sky above Pentopia. One was a giant, glowing blue phoenix with sparkles of blue coming from its wings. The other was a large, pink snakelike creature that slithered through the air as if it could slide on clouds. Both creatures flew into battle and the rest of the fortress’ defense kicked into high-gear. Several large gun-like weapons started popping out of the fortress and rested on the fortress walls. The drones, soldiers and robots kicked back into battle.

Ambiv ran off with the kids.

<We’re were so close!!>

Screams and crash sounds were carried along the wind. The door to the fortress opened up in front of them. Ambiv heard several sets of wings flapping behind him to catch up. Some of the attacking creatures were shot down by the fortress’ guns. They finally reached the door and Ambiv jumped through. He turned on his back and looked back out the closing door. After one last blinding flash of white light, the doors closed.

END OF PROLOGUE



“BEGINNING” OF STORY


Day 02

0650 Rays

Ambiv


“Time to wake up, Instructor.” Ceep blared out.

Ambiv didn’t sleep. He spent the night curled up into a ball in the corner of his bed. His body shivered as if the temperature was subzero. The room was packed in on him. He was stricken with claustrophobia. A computer screen popped out of the ceiling and forced its way in front of Ambiv’s face.

"Give me some space!!" Ambiv yelled out.

The room spread out and doubled in size at his request.

"Is this enough space, Mr. Blank?" Ceep asked.

“Why are you calling me that? Mr. Blank is dead!”

“The title of every Lead Instructor is Mr. Blank. Your daily report is available for review. You must assess all events that transpired the day before.”

“Get your camera and monitor out of my face!”

The computer screen went blank and folded back into the ceiling. Ambiv exhaled with slight relief.

“Ambiv.” Mr. Blank’s voice called out.

Ambiv jumped out his bed wide-eyed. He looked around the dim room in search of his fallen mentor. Small laser lights started to pour out of the walls and ceiling. The lights met up in the center of the room and slowly formed a humanoid figure.

“Mr. Blank?” Ambiv called back.

The figure began to take color and revealed the old Mr. Blank floating in the center of the room.

“The real Mr. Blank has passed away. I am still Ceep.” Ceep replied in Mr. Blank’s voice. “I have taken this form as a projection to diminish your stress levels. I have compiled every video, speech and action that Mr. Blank took in order to realistically portray him. You can continue to call me Mr. Blank if that makes you more comfortable.”

Ceep even talked in the manner that Mr. Blank did.

“I know this can be a little shocking, Ambiv. I had to go through the same thing myself. It was a little unusual when everyone started calling me Mr. Blank at first. The job provides an unlimited barrage of nonstop work. There will never be a dull moment. I got through it by never forgetting how important this job is. It can be scary given the amount of lives are at stake. But that is also the reason why I never gave up.”

This calmed Ambiv a bit. Ceep had a point; there wouldn’t be a more important job in existence. Ambiv realized that he was brought here because his qualifications met the requirements of the position.

“We must now go over yesterday’s events. First is the student report.” Ceep explained.

A large screen drew down from the ceiling in front of Mr. Blank’s projection. The screen turned blue and letters popped up.

“Day 1.” Ceep read off the screen with his traditional robotic voice.

“Class A: 2 student casualties.”

“2 casualties??” Ambiv cried. “What happened to the second child?”

“Ceep will show you.” Mr. Blank’s projection stated.

Apparently, Mr. Blank’s projection was running like a computer program that was installed on Ceep’s hard drive; Ceep did not alter or control the program once it started running.

“First casualty: Subject A59185. Playing video.” Robotic Ceep announced.

The screen reset and filled up with purple. It was bright at first. The screen dimmed and focused the picture which revealed the dark, purple ground of the other world. The camera was hovered over the group of students and centered on the now deceased student. This video was recorded yesterday.

<I didn’t even notice a camera at any point on the trip. Where did this footage come from?>

Suddenly, the student flew in the air. The camera followed him and revealed Rofucol. Ambiv noticed that the group was already surrounded by the small, black monsters that chased the group. Ambiv pondered how could he notice them now.

<We just walked right past those black creatures…why didn’t we notice them when we first walked through? They were right there the whole time!>

Rofucol didn’t fit on the screen; he was a massive specimen. Ambiv could see his face, arms and torso. It sent chills down his spine yet again. Rofucol laughed a monstrous laugh again. The student caught on fire once more. It was much more horrid on the screen; the brightness of the fire was too bright to see in person. Now, every segment* of his body melted in high definition.

Ambiv felt sick; he had failed this kid and his death was gruesome. Was he to relive every death that occurs on his watch? Rofucol tossed the kid into the bottom of the mountain and the giant, fiery V filled up the screen.

(*Units of measurement include Segments, Measurements and Spaces.)

That V caught Ambiv’s attention. He pondered if it had something to do with the demon-like monster that had erupted into this world through the volcano.

“Ceep, can you show me something?”

“Yes, Mr. Blank.” Ceep’s robot voice clarified. “What would you like to see?”

“There was a monster that appeared in our world. He was bright red and had a giant ‘V’ on his head. Can you show me that clip?”

“Of course, Mr. Blank.”

The screen reset and filled up with a brown color. The screen focused and revealed Ambiv standing with the children in the Deserted wasteland. They were all frozen in place. Each of them was looking at the volcano off in the distance but their bodies were turned as they began to sprint.

Ambiv looked past the frozen group and focused on the volcano. He could not see the monster, but noticed a sharp, red glare where the monster would’ve been.

“Play this video.” Ambiv demanded.

The video continued. The group turned and ran to the castle in slow motion. The red glare grew brighter and brighter until it was too bright to look at. Finally, the glare turned black as if it burnt a hole in the camera lens. The camera turned and followed the group as they ran back to safety. The burn on the camera lens went away. Giant, winged creatures chased behind. The group made it to the castle and jumped through the doors. A giant light flashed, and the screen lit up. The screen dimmed and exposed the castle walls and shut door.

Ambiv felt as if he had just lived through that experience again. Big bolded words popped up on the screen: “Subject A59185 – Deceased Day 01”

“Second casualty: Subject A31621. Playing video.” Ceep stated as the screen grew dark.

Thin lines of dim colors became visible on the screens slowly. An outline of a bunk bed frame came into view gradually. A lump on the bottom bed grew visible as well; it was a sleeping student. It was impossible to recognize the child because every student looked like each other. The restless student turned in his bed. A few more turns occurred.

<Perhaps the student beds are uncomfortable> Ambiv pondered.

The student gave up and sat up in his bed. Then he turned and let his legs hang from the bed. A random, small, white light flickered in front of his face. The student squinted and looked for the source of that light. The camera zoomed out to reveal the lack of a source; it was simply a small ball of white light that flew up and down in the air. Nothing held the light up nor did it appear to have a power source attachment. This light flew and danced in front of the student’s face. The student reached out and grabbed at the light but not before it flew out of arm’s length. Then the light flew across the room and arrived in front of the closed entrance door. The student followed behind.

The light flickered and caused the door to slowly open itself. The light flew into the hallway and the student trailed it.

<Perhaps the light is some illusion shielding a person from being viewed on the camera? Or maybe the monsters were somehow responsible for leading this child astray?>

Anything was possible now that he saw magic firsthand. This child’s assured death lingered on his mind.

<How horrific is it going to be?>

The camera flew through the door. The boy skipped down the hall and made several attempts to catch the ball of light. The lights on the walls lit up colorfully as the ball of light jingled down the hall.

<The lights in the hall are reacting to the glowing orb as if it were a person…> Ambiv noted.

The orb stopped in front of the wall which ended the hallway. The wall zipped open as it did for Ambiv and Mr. Blank. The door led to the ground level outside of the castle.

<How do these walls work? The students are on the 3rd floor but this doorway opening leads outside on the ground level?>

The screen flickered and became hazy granulated. Ambiv couldn’t make out what was on the screen anymore. All of a sudden, the screen turned black.


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