“Very well, Herman. I do not expect you to entertain the ones I brought here. “Serge answered, slumping onto a leather-bound one seater sofa. Silver took a glance at where the voice came from. It belonged to a middle-aged man, in his fifties. Beside him as a girl with auburn hair and grey eyes as well as a large albatross. The girl had to be Nyra. It had to be her. There was a steely determination around her, unlike Finnian’s carefree aura. Silver couldn’t help noticing that Tag was better off with Nyra, but who knows? The man he assumed was Prof Herman went up to Serge and they started talking like best friends. Tag and Heren got together immediately but Silver still couldn’t help the blank stares that Nyra was giving him. It felt as if he was an unwelcome intruder within their circle. But there was a hidden tenderness in that blank stare, Silver could feel. There seemed to be a fire burning underneath that chilly coldness. Silver sighed mentally to himself as he say Finnian glance at her with a gleam of nostalgia in his eyes. So they were childhood mates. Silver couldn’t help the swelling in his eyes. He didn’t have a childhood mate that he knew had not forgotten about him. Acnolgia was smiling too, looking at his littermate play with a giant bird that he recognized as friend. Tag turned to Acnolgia and waved him over. Silver felt a bad feeling well up in his heart. A grim reminder. Something was out there, ready to crush them. From their expressions, Nyra, Prof Herman and Serge knew of the premonition. Only one which was Finnian. Silver closed his eyes and concentrated on his other senses, letting whatever information he could get fill his crystal clear mind. Finnian had his senses blocked by some trauma or experience, if not he surely would have freaked out by now, having the most delicate mind among the two. Nyra had a mind that was vast with knowledge, but very sensitive and alert. Serge had an alert mind with almost no numb nerves, though he chose not to show it. Professor Herman had a mind similar to Nyra’s but was numb with age. Time had taken a large share of its toll on this poor man, Silver noted. But he was still fizzing with energy despite the circumstances. He opened his eyes to meet the grey ones of Nyra’s. Slate grey. Just like his father’s.
For as long as I’ve known, Dad has grey eyes. Mom has grey ones too, but they twinkle like stars in the night. I have a really good memory. Mom says that I inherited from Granny Chive, who has a good memory too. I try to forget things sometimes, but I just don’t know how. Scars. That’s what memories leave you with. I try to forget I have lost almost everyone that I care for. Try to forget the very fact that I have lost everyone in my direct family. As well as the fact that almost everyone on my father’s side is gone. I don’t want to lose another one. To feel the pain of losing one dear to you. For almost half a decade, I kept my senses sealed, relishing the simple joys of life in my hometown. That was ever since my parents died. My mates soon came to forget me. I once came to a point of life that I manipulated people like chess pieces. I would’ve come to a nasty end if not for the triplets. The triplets, Kan,Garfield and Tammy are my uncle’s children. Their hair color is entirely different, same goes for their eye colors. My aunt came from a mixed variety of races, Irish, British, Canadian, Asian, Japanese as well as faint traces of Nordic, thus explaining the triplet’s varied eye color. I would never forgive myself if I lose anyone again. My mother is still alive, somewhere out there. My father passed on some years ago. But my mind is still crisp and clear, just more advanced than an average’s. I know. Mrs. Alice still gives Garfield cookies. The neighbors still send us coupons. Live still goes on as normal. That’s until I met Finnian. That night, he told me about his childhood. Growing up surrounded by lab specimens. With her, who I came to know as Nyra. Nyra N. Aura. I have no idea what her middle name is, but Aura means Wind in Latin. Finnian told me that her father’s name is Zephyr. Named after the term for a light or west wind. She comes from the Aura family that owns the Wind-chime estate somewhere off the outskirts of a neighboring city. That’s a very fitting name indeed. I open my eyes only to see Nyra glaring me down. She doesn’t trust me. She has every reason in this entire world not to trust me. I wanted to gain her trust. Professor Herman turns to me and offers his hand for a handshake. I get the feeling that I want to protect those two. I don’t know why but I feel as if I have found a perfect family in them.
“Welcome! What is your name, young laddie?” He asks me as I shake his hand. His eyes were full of the power of youth and it appeared as if he would never get old.
“Silver. Nice to meet you.” I couldn’t help but to reply. He went on to smile kindly at me as he continued.
“Silver, eh? I’ve heard a lot from Sergio over there. He says that you are a genius, huh? I heard that you managed to boot up the intercom in the glass cabin.” His eyes wrinkled at the sides. He was truly impressed, I could tell.
“That is true…” He beamed even more.
“So far I’ve tried to set up the intercom system that Zephyr set up and its almost an impossible task. Oh! Is that Acnolgia? How did you…” His brows dipped downwards so drastically and for one moment I thought he was mad.
“I see! So let’s get going shall we? As guests to this lounge, it’s my duty to show you around! Come on, Finnian, Nyra and Sergio. I shall be sending you off to your rooms, right?” He clapped and whisked us to a second room which I assumed was the reception room.
“Let’s see shall we? Note down your names on the guest book, will you please. It’s the rules of the living quarters. This is the drawing room, so if you feel bored, you can come down here anytime for something.” He ushered us to a small counter similar to a hotel’s receptionist counter and flipped open a moleskin journal with yellowed pages. There was almost nothing written on the pages at all. I scribbled down a few of my particulars before taking a peek at Serge’s and Finnian’s. No last names. After that, Prof Herman showed us to the Grand Foyer, where a magnificent staircase with a fork through its first stairwell was. A giant picture hung on the wall, illuminated by crystal chandeliers. The wallpaper and carpets were crimson red and golden filigree was spread generously on the walls. A few paintings were hung on the walls accompanied by masquerade masks. The staircase led to two different antechambers.
“Ah-ha! We are in the Grand Foyer, dear guests. The right antechamber leads to les chambres, even mine, dear friends. The left antechamber leads to the hearth room, private library and studio. Well, there’s a lot more but that’ll be up to you to explore. Mind you, this place is so deep underground, but I hope you don’t mind. This is a bit small though, as compared to Wind-chime estate. Right, Nyra?”
This place is quite small, despite the endless carpet that seems to be making it appear larger and all the furniture decked out on the lobby. Our little group soon headed for the right antechamber and proceeded to the long corridor of bedrooms. The chandeliers were dimly lit, casting lazy shadows across the carpeted floor. Four doors appeared at the corridor and one more at the end.
“Did you know that you can gain access to the main lab from the private library? The entrance is activated by pulling the trigger to a trapdoor that will be activated by pulling out a certain book. However, you’ll never know which it is when you have about a thousand books to choose from! But majority have secrets hidden in them, ammunition, first aid kits, watches and many more. Don’t be surprised, there’s a weapon chamber in there that can even make ironsmiths envy!” Serge whispered to me before ushering me to my room. But he slipped me a small data chip that was to be installed to my device. I plopped down onto the queen-sized bed, feeling a wave of tiredness overcome me. The bed was well-made and a natural coldness hung in the air. The atmosphere was similar to my room’s and I straightened immediately to answer a call from my granny.
“Silver, are you eating dinner?” She rasped.
“Sorry but I’m not.”
“We’re going to the game arcade tonight. Are you sure?” Kan chipped in, trying his best not to squeal with excitement.
“No.” I replied back firmly, trying hard not to miss Garfield’s disappointed moan. Cute. The other line hung up the phone and I started work on my device. The data chip was soon installed in my device and I started browsing through its contents. The list of books in the library, a built-in map of the lab, maps of the place we were staying in as well as the lab and last but not least, an encyclopedia on the creatures in the lab, including the three. Heren turned out to be a giant albatross fit for human transportation, Tag and Acnolgia bipedal mammals of high intellect. The small blue blob I had encountered earlier was a deformed grunt, normally humanoid in form, with lower than average intellect as well as higher chances of getting on rampage. The ‘buzzers’ and ‘Wood Giant’ that Serge had mentioned were large insects the size of their prehistoric counterparts but with more advanced brains but not-so-good body. There was a light rap on the door. I shuffled to the door and opened it. Standing outside was a jolly-looking Prof Herman and a refreshed Serge with Finnian as well as Nyra.
“Let’s head for dinner shall we? I understand that you have not had your lunch for quite some time. Time here passes not like aboveground, as you can see. So we use a lemon clock and all that natural shebang to record time. With the exception of that device of yours. I trust that you have rested well, Silver. Let us get going now for there is much of this place that you have yet to discover, mes amis.”
He sounded like one’s granny trying to reason with you why offal pie is so nice. It isn’t though. He was spooked, I could tell by the way he changed his mannerism to a butler-like one, slowly ushering us out of some hidden danger, the way a shepherd herds his sheep when the night falls.
We were ushered out of the right antechamber and then into the left antechamber where we were tucked into cushioned seats embossed with golden filigree and served dinner. The spaghetti was nice with the mushroom soup that my stomach couldn’t digest properly due to the tension. During dinner, not a word was spoken and lemonade went around. Not quite romantic but we had candles to accompany the chandeliers that watched us eat. The candle slowly burned and dripped down the yellow-wish length of the remaining wax while the wick consumed itself as the flame sipped up the fats from the wax like a starving toddler sucking milk. The very essence of the melted wax lingered at the bottom of the iron candle holder, thick and white and sticky. I fondly remembered touching one a few years back and how lucky I was that the wax was almost solid at the time. The melted wax however lingered at the bottom of the holder, slowly becoming clearer and clearer. I had long finished my meal and was waiting for Finnian to finish his soup before I noticed Serge examining a small hourglass. When Prof Herman returned after collecting our cutlery, he wished us a good night before disappearing into the sanctuary of his bedroom. Suspicious, indeed. Serge casually made his way to me before nudging me.
“You noticed something off yet, Silver?”
“Yes. He seems to be spooked, you know.” Serge nodded. Nyra turned her attention and made her way to us.
“Is it about Prof Herman?” She asked, worry written all over her stoic face.
“I’m afraid so. He usually isn’t like this, am I right, Nyra?” She nodded slowly, her brows creasing.
“He has a sensitive mind.” I stated. Rather coldly for Nyra looked up and glared for a moment before relaxing to acknowledge my words.
“That’s true. There’s a place I would like to show you in place of him. Follow me this way.” She gestures towards a corridor. Finnian blinked sheepishly before tailing after Nyra as we make our way to some unknown destination. Past the hearth room and studio we go, finding ourselves in front of a locked door. Nyra fishes out a key from her pockets and unlocks the door before we head in.
“This is the private library, the place that Prof Herman wanted to show you. Since you are neither guests nor visitors, I’ll start by introducing the concept of this library. According to urban myth, if you pull out a lucky book in here, a trapdoor leading to a secret passageway will be unveiled. That, is however…” she turns, waiting for the tension.
“Partly true. When this library was designed, a passageway leading to the headquarters was designed for some reason. But almost in every book there is some weapon or sorts hidden in it. Many cases of Grunts going on rampage or even berserk have been reported in the past few days. It may be related to the unrest in this facility or the inhabitants of Spore Forest. Prof Herman needs your help on this as well as on another thing. “Her face darkens all of a sudden.
“I see. So let’s get searching, shall we? But before that, I would like to hear from you the other task.” Serge replies, casting a glance at the columns of bookshelves.
“Well… we have been sending… two squads to the second base to look after the Spore Forest. N-no… it’s Sird who does all that. Prof Herman would like the four of us to join Squad 0107, Mr. Serge as a lieutenant and the rest of us as the scouting legion. The other squad is Squad 0309. We are supposed to be the last leg of 0107 as the scouting legion with Roger, leader of Squad 0309.” Nyra states, pulling out a book before setting it back again.
“No worries then. Wait, don’t do that. It’ll take forever to organize if you do that. Let Silver do the job then. Sense any trapdoors, genius?” So he knew about what I could do. I took a deep breathe, cleared my mind and closed my eyes. The first image that appeared to me was rows after rows of books, in X-ray vision. There were small colored specks in some of them as I scoured the area. Hidden weapons, probably. Then I stumbled across a book entirely red. Flashing red. It had to be that book. I put two fingers to my temples before sprinting towards the book’s location with my eyes closed. I reached for the book with one hand and checked before opening my eyes. Encyclopedia on the Spore Forest and related topics. That was the title. I pulled it out. The sound of mechanism churning comes from beneath the floor. Serge, Finnian and Nyra are at my side, staring at the moving piece of carpet. Sorry, floor. The carpet is flicked off and a metal door is revealed. The flooring for this place was wood, so it would have been easy to spot, so no wonder they had this never ending carpet to conceal it. A staircase clicked into shape and the lights were lit, revealing a walkway. Exactly what Nyra had said. Her hands were on her mouth, a slight gasp escaping her lips. Serge was eyeing the staircase. I whipped out my device and scanned the area. Finnian was still scanning through a book, trying to find something clipped inside.
“Is…this the one?” I asked. A paranormal fear was mounting on me. What if it wasn’t the right passage? What if it was a trap? I glanced at Serge. He was uncertain, too.
“Is there another one in here?” He asked me. He was contemplating the consequences too. Finnian suddenly moved about two spaces behind where we were and tripped, falling face flat onto the ground. There was another trap door. This one was almost identical to the other. There was a glint of something in Serge’s eye. After a brief moment of though, he spoke up.
“Nyra, are you familiar with this facility?” He had a plan in mind.
“Yes.” That was the answer that Serge needed.
“Can you send the map to each of those two’s devices? “ There was urgency in Serge’s voice.
“Done. What do we do next?”
“Silver and Finnian split to this trapdoor while you and I go to this.”
“Very well then. You heard the plan, Silver?” She turned to me. I nodded.
“Let’s go then!” We all bumped fists together, including Finnian. And then we split ways.
After the group left in twos, a lone figure of a man stood outside of the door, mumbling something as he put his head to the floor and waited till footsteps could no longer be heard.
“Damned it!” He mumbled, carefully lowering himself into a trapdoor.