“Your friend Ed Terrell was an… interesting case, to say the least.” General Vynr says this like he’s a part of the CIA. (Or KGB, for that matter.) “His psychological state led us to believe that he was split. However, further testing - part of the normal Academy programs, actually - proved him completely unreceptive to Light energy. He wasn’t mortal, but he wasn’t Luminescent or Darkling either. He was nothing. And if Phoenix hadn’t shown up to ruin everything, I might’ve figured out why before Kass broke out and the goddamn world ended.”
“But, that’s enough talk for now. Let’s get inside before the tide washes in.” The general turns around and starts walking down the hallway he came from.
“Tide? I thought The Republic and whatever the hell this place is called were floating islands, ever since we woke up on that barge.” I say to Ernest as we hurry afetr Vynr.
"You don’t want to know Mesa. Trust me, the tide is scary ass shit."
The doors all close behind us as Vynr leads us down a bright, sterile-looking hallway like the ones in the Republic. This one is cramped, though, and we can only walk down it in a line. It doesn’t have enough room for all of us to walk normally. The hallway feels very long.
When we finally reach the end, Vynr opens a door, and I am shocked at how cold it is. If this actually makes sense, it smells like water, not rainwater or seawater or tap water, just water. The room behind the door is bright and full of holograms.
One is of the red egg Kassandra showed me, an object from another reality. Another is of the dark crystals I’d seen everywhere at the skyscraper. There’s a few of people, but the rest are other objects I assume matter a lot to Kassandra.
There is one of a person, however. That person is Kal, currently-at-Long-Beach-Academy Kal, Kassandra’s-ex-girlfriend Kal.
She looks… pretty much the same as when I left. Her arm is still gone, and her face still reads constant emotional pain, paranoia, and seriousness. But, she’s dressed in full Luminescent war garb, or at least what I can imagine is full Luminescent war garb. A rifle is slung over her back, and a dagger is strapped to her hip.
“Kalisinta. My daughter.” General Vynr says. “It’s a shame what happened to her arm. I suppose we could fix it with something we have, but she’s still on Blixolodon.”
We move on from the hologram room, into a hallway. It’s fairly narrow, and unlike the bright, while room we were just in, it’s dark and fairly messy. “We’re still repairing the rooms that got wrecked during the raid. Where do you plan to have Mesa stay?” the general asks, directing the question at Ernest, who’s been standing by me the entire time.
“My apartment’s got two bedrooms. She can stay with me, if that’s alright with you Sir.”
“That should work, yes. I have a meeting with Chen in a few minutes, so I’ll leave you to head up. Ave lumen, illud dirigendos pedes nostros.”
With that, General Vynr heads down the hall, leaving me and Ernest alone. “What does that mean? What he just said?” I ask as Ernest grabs my wrist and leads me down a different branch of the hallway.
“It’s an altered version of The Republic’s old motto. Originally it was ‘Ave verum, est Dominus et magister noster lucem’ meaning, ‘Hail the light, our one true lord and teacher’. A mouthful, I know. Our version, ‘Ave lumen, illud dirigendos pedes nostros’ means ‘Hail the light, let it guide us’.”
We reach an elevator, and Ernest jams his finger against the button.
The elevator begins ascending and Ernest hums The Girl From Ipanema.
“So where are we going?” I ask him.
“My apartment. One of the rebels got your stuff from Long Beach Academy, so you’ll have your art stuff there.” Ernest says.
“They didn’t talk to anyone while they were there Mesa. We don’t know anything about Ed’s condition.”
“Oh no… Is he okay?” I ask.
Ernest facepalms. “Were you even listening? But anyways, we just got your stuff as quickly as possible, then left. In the eyes of the Long Beach Academy resistance, you were essentially kidnapped.”
“Why didn’t you tell my friends? Why didn’t you tell Kal and Phoenix? Kal would probably like the information that her father survived the Dark invasion,” I said sternly.
“Do you remember what happened when I left Earth? I told Kal I was going to help with the rebuild efforts in The Republic, and she nearly tore my fucking head off. Phoenix wasn’t much better. Kal would’ve probably liked to hear General Vynr is alive, but still.”
“I thought some random rebel got my stuff. Not you.”
Before he can answer, the elevator stops and the doors open. A girl and boy are making out in the hallway right outside. “For the love of Light, get a fucking room! Oh my god, how may times does that have to get yelled at you!” Ernest shouts upon seeing them.
The pair split apart, and begin to walk away, but not before the girl flips us off.
“Just some Unlighteneds, don’t pay attention to them.” Ernest says.
“What the hell is that?” I ask.
“Unlighteneds are people who Vynr took in who either lived in the rural Luminescent Republic who didn’t know about the Darkener capture of our glorious Tang City or normal humans who just happened to live near major Breach Points.” Ernest explains.
“What’s a Breach Point? Is it like the LA area,” I ask, “where the three realms converged?”
“Yeah,” Ernest said. “There were so many. Seven in the USA at least: the LA breach, the NYC breach, the Chicago breach, the Houston breach, the Seattle breach, the DC breach, and the Miami breach. Eight in the US if you count the San Juan breach. There were tons in other places: Mexico City. Toronto. Buenos Aires. Paris. Berlin. Stockholm. London. Barcelona. Rome. Bejing. Hong Kong. Tokyo. Moscow. Auckland. Cairo. Nairobi. Mumbai. Ho Chi Minh City. Seoul. Manila. Jakarta. Delhi. Shanghai. And that’s just the major Breaches. Even a kind of funny one where a Luminescent-focused breach opened up in Pyongyang. In summary, there are a shit ton of breaches, so there are a shit ton of Unlighteneds here.”
“Why so many cities?” I asked.
“Populous areas attracted Breaches because the energy that strains reality enough to create Breaches is attracted to areas with higher concentrations of people. Something about ‘inherent human energies enhancing magical energies’ or whatever.”
We leave the elevator and Ernest leads me through a few hallways before stopping at a door. “Here we are.”
He pulled a key out of his pocket and turned it, unlocking the apartment, and opening the door.
It wasn’t very big, but it wasn’t small either. The walls were drywall, plastered over with faded propaganda posters taken from the Luminescent Republic. There was an obviously visible white couch, but it was patched over with pieces of cloth from old army uniforms. There was also a TV and some bookshelves, and a hallway.
“Home sweet home,” Ernest said.
He leads me into the hallway.
He stops at a door and pushes it open, revealing a small bedroom about two-thirds of the size of the one at the Long Beach Academy dorms. The walls are painted over with a very light blue. My bed is on one wall and my desk and easel are on the other with my CD player. On one wall is the painting I did, in a nice white frame. A post-it is stuck on it with some compliments written.
“Here you go Mes.” Ernest says, before turning on his heel and leaving.
“Thanks,” I say, smiling.
I shut the door slightly, leaving it open a crack. Then I go over to my easel.