After having walked for what seemed like hours, his group had yet to encounter even a single layer of ice. It seemed to him that he had teleported them somewhere entirely different from what was desired.
So much for proving himself.
Gia probably picked up on his thoughts, as she squeezed his hand. “It’s okay. We’ll find the core…some way or the other.”
Tyson was still unclear as to why he had made such a grave mistake. He had the complete details of where to go. He had even seen the images of the place.
Then why did he make that mistake?
“So,” Cameron spoke up, “Do you think Elizabeth can melt the ice layers?”
“I don’t have the experience to say anything about that,” Gia responded, “Let’s just hope that Zade’s plan works.”
Zade’s plan, Tyson though, Yeah right.
Tyson had already been suspicious of Zade ever since they entered Venn, but now, his apparent desire to be away from everyone bugged him. Not that anyone else said anything. They refused to believe that Zade could do anything wrong.
“Humor me…” They were a team, and he was in charge. Zade was supposed to explain each and every action of his. Humor me? What a pathetic excuse.
Tyson wondered why he was feeling so resentful against Zade as of late. This had never bothered him.
His thoughts suddenly shifted to Emily, and he remembered how he had first met her.
Tyson was walking on the streets of Valhalla, something that people rarely did in that city. Of course, in Valdore, they were expected to walk at all times. Riding Siauhus was only permitted to senior soldiers, and only Ray and his father used a scavenger.
Not that his father allowed him to ride anything. The children of all high-ranking soldiers were spoilt, privileged brats. Tyson, along with his sister Gia, was far from that.
It was night, and an especially cold one. He had reached his favorite place in the city, which was the public lake.
Not an actual lake, of course. Artificially created, retrofitted with 3D holograms on the bottom, which gave images various aquatic species found in the natural lakes of planet Earth a millennia ago. What were they called? Yes, ducks. They were revolving in the lake in an endless circle.
“Brrrr…” He heard someone go.
He looked to his right. He saw a girl, who he guessed to be of his age. Dark brown hair, rimless spectacles, thin, not very tall.
“You alright?” He asked.
“Y-yeah, no.” She replied.
“Then why are you out here?” He questioned.
“My father is in the administrative building. I wasn’t allowed to enter, so I waited outside the building. But it g-got b-boring.” She shivered.
“We should go someplace warmer,” Tyson blurted out. The girl blinked once, and then said, “Fine.”
Tyson led her to one of the restaurants of Valhalla, famous for its food.
“I’m Tyson,” He said, once they were seated inside, and had gotten both of them some warm drinks.
“Emily,” She replied.
“So, who’s your dad?” Tyson asked.
“Colonel Thomas Anderson”
Tyson had never heard that name before. So he guessed he must’ve been from one of the three secret cities, Venn, Helix or Xenias.
“Venn,” She said, surprising Tyson. He wondered if she could read his mind or something.
“Uh…I thought you were going to ask if he belonged to-”
“Yeah, I was.” He interrupted.
Both of them looked down, suddenly extremely interested in their respective drinks, and gulped them down.
After a while, the drone came over.
“Sir, that will be 79 Credz.”
“Credz?” Emily asked.
“Valhalla’s currency.” Tyson explained.
He pulled out his DigiCard, and gave it to the drone, which pushed a couple of key codes on the card. A mini-screen floated next to Tyson.
PAYMENT: 79 CREDZ.
DO YOU ACCEPT?
YES, I ACCEPT NO, I DON’T.
Tyson tapped the first option.
“Thank you for choosing DigiCard Payments!” An automated voice spoke from the card.
The drone floated away.
“So, now?” Tyson asked.
“Well, where do you live?” She asked back.
“The central dome.”
“Wait, people live there?”
“Only four of us.”
“Us?” She asked.
“The Valdorian defectors. Four of us, including me and my sister, escaped from Valdore and came to Valhalla.”
“So you’re….Tyson Valdore?”
“…Yeah. But I don’t use that name anymore. Just Tyson.”
“Would you like to visit the Central Dome?” He hesitantly asked.
“Uh…Yeah?” She replied.
Tyson took her there, and introduced her to everyone. Even Dr. Sycamore, who was there for that week’s health checkup.
Over the next week, the two of them had become really good friends, but then, she went back to Venn and because of the strict communication regulations the two barely had any contact. Once a while, either one of them would get lucky and have a chance to contact the other, but only seldom did that happened.
“HEY!!!” Cameron shouted, and Tyson didn’t respond, even to that. He simply kept walking with a wistful look and a blush, and crashed into something hard.
He fell down on his back, and groaned, as he held his face in his hands.
“What the?” He began.
“Dude, are you deaf or something?” Cameron shouted, “I told you to stop.”
“Sorry, I was thinking about something.”
“Something that made you blush red?” Gia teased him.
“Hey, bozo,” Elizabeth shouted at him, “In case you missed it, we’re at the first ice layer.”
Tyson regained his senses completely, as he gazed at the layer. It was just like the photographs showed. A wall of dark ice, which, as far as he could tell, was several meters thick.
“Can you melt it?” He asked.
“Okay, so maybe you actually zoned out for the past hour, because we decided that I will not be the only one attacking this thing.”
“That’s right,” Cameron added, as he extended his hands, and sparks flickered on his fingertips.
“We’re smashing this as a team.” Gia said, a frozen stone revolving around her hand.
“What about me?” Tyson asked.
“… Well, how are you going to attack it?” Cameron asked.
Tyson concentrated, and levitated Cameron’s sword out of his hands.
Before Cameron could protest, Tyson willed the sword to ram into the ice wall at the highest possible speed. As the sword connected with the wall, there were barely any scratches on it. He opened up the bag of weapons, levitated each one and chucked them at the wall of ice. Cracks started to appear on it as he repeated the action several times.
Cameron whistled appreciatively. “Nice, bro!”
As Tyson called the weapons back and shoved them into the bag, he backed away as his friends readied their respective attacks.
The three stood in a row, charging up the necessary power.
Elizabeth went first. She thrust out her hand, and yelled, and as the defiant sound tore through the death-like silence of the cave, a huge pillar of flame shot out from her hand, and made contact with the ice.
Slowly, part of it started melting away.
Cameron was up next.
He too, thrust out his hand, and out of it, following a blinding flare, tendrils of electricity shot out, connecting with the ice.
Gia simply concentrated. All around her, the frozen floor broke into boulders as they flew upwards, and rammed right into the wall of ice.
As the three of them repeatedly attacked the ice, a couple of minutes later, it was completely destroyed.
“YES!” Cameron shouted. He walked up to the shards of ice that remained, and stomped them underfoot.
“Cameron!” Gia shouted. Said person looked back, realized how stupid he looked, and stopped what he was doing, as he rubbed his head with hand sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he said, “Got happy.”
“Honestly,” Elizabeth muttered, “You’re too childish.”
“Yep, you’re absolutely right.”
“O-Okay…but aren’t you happy?” Cameron huffed.
“Happy for breaking only one of possibly eight layers of ice, and not even having reached the core yet? Yeah, we’re super hyped.”
“Always the pessimist, huh Elizabeth?”
“Always,” She replied.
The group picked up their supplies, and continued their journey.
About an hour later, they found a nice opening, which was far wider than the narrow tunnels they had been travelling through.
Everyone set up a sort of a camp right there, with Tyson making the makeshift beds using the contractible-beds and levitation magnets, Elizabeth creating some protective borders using weapons as fences, Gia preparing the food, and Cameron lazily sitting in one corner.
As Elizabeth saw Cameron wasting time, she grabbed the empty weapons bag and smacked him up the head.
"What is wrong with you?" Cameron yelled as he rubbed his head. As it turned out, the bag wasn't empty. There were a few iron blocks inside it.
Sometime later, the four of them were sprawled on their respective beds, staring into the artificial ceiling that Tyson set up using his custom-made 3D Projector. He chose the backdrop of the night sky; lit up by a million stars, but it did nothing more than make them long for home.
“Say, Tyson,” Gia mumbled as she gazed at the ceiling.
“What?” He replied.
“What do you think Zade is doing right now?”
Tyson was taken by surprise. He had neither expected the question, nor had he given any thought to it as well.
Even though he felt suspicious about him, he couldn’t help but worry. He had been nice to them as well. Plus, he was one of them.
Speaking of which…
“What do you think Zade’s abilities are?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
Gia laughed nervously, which she did only when she hid something. Tyson was yet again suspicious.
“Abilities? Well, I’d say he’s an excellent swordsman, don’t you think?”
“Well, because Shadow Blade is like another hand to him so-”
“You know what his powers are, don’t you?”
“N-no! W-why would you say-?”
“Gia,” Elizabeth’s voice came, “I think that we should-”
“We?” Tyson questioned, “So both of you know? Who else knows? Cameron?” He pointed at the boy snoring in his bed.
“Has Zade managed to turn everyone against me, keeping me in the dark? How long have you known?”
“Tyson!” Gia shouted, “What do you mean turned us against you? Zade didn’t even-”
“Didn’t what?” Tyson yelled.
“Tyson,” Elizabeth’s voice was deadly calm. “I suggest you lower your tone.”
“His powers don’t define who he is!” Gia spoke.
“Huh?” Cameron muttered lazily, as he rubbed his eyes, “What powers, what tone? Why the hell are you guys shouting? It’s the middle of the night!”
“Did you know Zade’s powers?” Tyson barked at him.
“Huh? No. He doesn’t have any except sword fighting.”
“Oh he does, trust me!” Tyson said.
“He does?” Cameron asked, yet he was half asleep. “Okay then, that’s good. See you in the morning.”
He slumped back into the bed.
“Argh!” Tyson yelled in frustration.
“Tyson, calm down.” Gia’s voice showed how scared she was.
Tyson himself was not in control. He felt angry. He felt left out. He knew that people called him a weirdo anyways, but even back in Valdore, he was shunted and ignored, and only Gia supported and noticed him. He became used to being ignored, and even developed a dislike of being thrust in the spotlight.
But there was one thing that he really, really hated.
That was when Gia hid something from him.
“Tyson…” Elizabeth pleaded, “Please, just calm down, it’s not that big a deal. It’s just that Zade made her promise not to tell anyone, and I forced it out of her. I shouldn’t have!”
“You kept Zade’s promise for that long, and only bothered to tell Elizabeth, but you forgot the promise you made to me all those years ago, Gia.” Tyson shook, not from the cold, but from the anger, and he realized his eyes were glowing purple. They did so whenever he was angry, and that had only happened once, when his father….
A howl pierced through the tense atmosphere in the cave, and all four of them were startled. Cameron fell out of his bed.
Elizabeth grabbed her sword, Cameron grabbed his lance, and Gia grabbed her staff. Tyson however, refused to do anything, but to stand defiantly in front of the group. He would deal with them later, but for now, his main concern was the howl, which was most likely from a pack of Siauhus on the hunt.
A moment later, he spotted several of them approaching the opening.
One by one, the great beasts entered, and Tyson saw riders on their backs.
“Valdorian raiders,” He spoke, “What do you slime balls want?”
The group tried to exit from the other passage, but two of the Siauhus jumped overhead, and landed right behind them, killing of any chance to escape.
Tyson’s anger was beyond the limit. He wanted to exterminate each and every one of them, but as he later realized, they were outnumbered ten to one.
Suddenly, the Siauhus in front of him, stepped aside, as something else came in.
Tyson had never seen that creature before.
It was pure black, with eyes that glowed the color of ice. The quadruped creature was the exact opposite of a Siauhu in terms of colors and significantly larger in size too. Its claws were razor-sharp, and had spikes on the sides of its legs.
Riding on its back, was the person that Tyson hated so much, that it was only succeeded by his hate for his father.
Ray laughed out, and let loose the whip he had coiled in his hands. He lashed it down on Gia, but Tyson intercepted it with his back, and fell down, gasping in agony.
“Tyson!” Gia screamed, but as she tried to move forward to support him, two of the Valdorian soldiers crossed their spears in front of her, preventing her from advancing.
“So, you’re back, huh?” Tyson croaked, “Where’s that balding bastard?”
“Your father?” Ray asked. He looked at Gia, and laughed maniacally.
“Ask your sister, why don’t you?”
Tyson, with all his strength, looked up, with his eyes full of hurt and anger, and stared into the teary ones of his sister.
“I’m sorry,” She cried, “I was going to tell you.”
“Tell me what?!” He screamed.
“He’s…dead. Killed… by Zade.” She spoke quietly.
Tyson's anger left him.
“You guys can catch up,” Ray interrupted, “When you regain consciousness.”
The Siauhus edged forward, staring directly into their eyes, and as Tyson remembered why they did that, he felt himself slipping, his thoughts being disrupted, as he lost his senses.
The last thing he he felt was intense heat, and heard a large crackle of lightning illuminating the room.