Phoenix

Peter, an average fifteen-year-old boy, must choose between life and death when he is hit by a runaway car outside his house. When he wakes up in hospital as a ghostly form of himself, he must use what little information he is given by a Raven-haired teen to make his choice. Between sinister plots, a mysterious Werecat and not knowing who he can trust, he soon learns that choosing to live, may end up killing him.

This is the first of my Journals, detailing the last few years and all their events. This particular journal is more a collective of Peter's experiences, his coming of age you could say. Though I'm obviously not Peter, I'll try to convey his thoughts as best as I can. I hope that you will read, enjoy, and understand. Understand that the world is never as it appears.

All the best,

Aegean Brahyeux White-Fang

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7. Chapter Six

Nine—March 26th We crossed the busy foyer towards the reception desks, stopping in front of a stout woman in a crisp suit and a golden badge. “That’s Irvine, she’s the head of the Administration Department and let me tell you, you do NOT want to be on her bad side.” She certainly looked like the type to have a bad side. She had a wrinkled face and beady black eyes that looked through thin glasses dangling precariously off her nose. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say her bad side was her only side. The second we stopped in front of her she looked us up and down and raised a bony finger to silence us. She continued to type loudly, ignoring us completely for a moment before finally turning to gaze at us expressionless. “Am I to presume this is the boy?” I don’t think she really meant it as a question, though I could definitely tell there was judgment in her tone. She pressed a button underneath her desk and a square panel on the tiled wall behind her jut open. She slid it down the wall to reveal small cavities containing various pieces of strange, brightly coloured equipment. Beside it she opened up another that contained a huge bundle of paper forms. She swiftly collected a few pieces of equipment, laying them down on the desk in front of her in a neat line and expertly pieced them together. Whatever it was, it looked like one of those metres used to detect radiation. Raven began to interrupt. “Irvine he’s been with me the whole day there’s no need to--” “I’ll have none of that Mr Raven. It is my job to ensure these things are done properly. I’ll not have my head on the chopping block if you’ve brought one inside.” I looked at Raven quizzically who sighed. “She wants to make sure you’re human. A few years ago we had one slip right through as a candidate who then killed quite a few of our staff. It took nearly the whole day and over a million dollars in damage, but we eventually contained it. Security has been pretty tight ever since.” He indicated to Irvine while she was turned. “Irvine is especially paranoid about it because it slipped through her inspection.” She quickly turned around, her eyes icy and locked on Raven. He stiffened and smiled weakly. “Of course, Irvine was working with primitive equipment and has since been the sole designer of the detection and scanning equipment used in all districts.” Her face didn’t softened but she at least went back to putting together the equipment, pressing buttons and inputting data. Raven let out a relieved sigh. After pressing another three or four buttons, Irvine turned her attention to me, speaking in a cold and professional voice. “Right hand on the counter.” I quickly did as she said, not wanting to make her angry. Without warning, she turned my hand around aggressively and a sudden sharp pain erupted from my palm where small droplets of blood began to pool. “Ouch! What was that?” I had to hold my hand tightly to stop the bleeding and the sharp pain in my palm, all the while Raven cringed beside me. Irvine’s lips parted into a sly grin that meant she definitely enjoyed this part of the process; so much for a warm welcome. “I’m sure you can handle a little pain Master…” She trailed off, looking slightly embarrassed that she hadn’t asked for my name first. A part of me was delighted thqat she had made a mistake, and a part of me felt sorry considering past events. I decided despite being jabbed with a needle only moments ago to be nice. “Peter. It’s just Peter, no master.” The equipment on the desk began to give off a low-pitched whine and then the screen began displaying numerical data. Irvine scrutinised it quickly and, seemingly satisfied with the analysis, she printed out two stickers with my information and picture. She must be as good as Raven says if she could get all of that information and my photo just from a blood sample. She placed one sticker onto one of the forms from the wall cavity, signing it with a flourish at the bottom, and the other she attached to a plastic badge with a clip. “Well then Master Peter.” She walked around the end of the counter and gently adjusted the badge onto the front of my shirt. She almost seemed completely different to how she had acted only moments before, almost nice. “Now, the boss has requested that you go up to the science division immediately and the staff there will give you a tour around the place.” She turned back to the counter and put away the equipment, making sure to carefully slide the wall panel back into place. “Wow, she’s never been nice before. You have to show me how to do that--” “Mr Raven!” He stiffened again, closing his eyes as if he was praying. “I’m not finished with you. Master Peter is free to go and I suggest he goes without you. You are required to stay back for your annual check-up.” Raven’s face visibly drained and turned a ghostly white. Irvine left him standing there, clearly happy with herself. “The furthest elevator on your right will take you to the sub floors. Go down to sub five and from there take the stairs down to L7. Miss Samantha will be waiting for you there.” Raven was still pale and still as a stone carving so I decided it would be best to leave as quickly as possible before I found out what sort of pain comes with an annual check-up. Just as I was halfway across the foyer Irvine called back out to me. “And Master Peter, watch your nose.” I had no idea what that meant but Irvine had already begun to pull Raven aside into a room behind the counter. As the doors closed on the elevator, a shrill cry erupted from the room and a few of the staff started laughing. An admin worker waiting for the second elevator turned to his colleague. “Poor Raven must be having his annual check-up.” The elevator was a simple platform with a column on each corner that supported the glass walls. It was strange being able to see out of the elevator to the other elevators moving up and down, sometimes even sideways. Along the right-hand column at the door was a series of glowing silver buttons labelled from sub-one to sub-five. I gingerly pressed S5 and immediately had to hold on to one of the supporting columns as the elevator made a startlingly quick free fall. As the elevator made its descent I finally understood what Irvine had meant while I watched layers of rock pass by. The elevator wasn’t a complete box, it was in fact just the platform with the supporting beams. What I had originally thought were glass walls, was thin air; the floor, roof and four columns were all that made up this elevator. It’s a good thing I found that out earlier before I tried to get a closer look. The elevator jumped, the break finally catching, and lowered not to a set of doors, but to an open-plan room that was so packed with equipment I couldn’t even see the end of the room apart from the wall the elevator was attached to. One thing I did notice was that it was nearly blinding as bright white fluorescent lights hung down to hundreds, maybe even thousands of workspaces. Everywhere I looked there were scientists working at stations or bustling about with huge bundles of paper in their hands. Off to the sides, there were some enclosed, frosted glass offices which must have been for the more senior staff members. A group of scientists in long lab coats rushed by, some with cages in their hands and others on phones. Running behind them on four paws was a German Sheppard with a bandanna wrapped around its neck. Somewhere further into the room an alarm rang. Scientists looked up from their workstations or stopped in their tracks to look back into the furthest part of the lab and towards the alarm. The clunk of heavy boots sounded as two large men in khaki jumpsuits ran towards the sound. After a minute or so, the alarm went silent and the sounds of paper shuffling and equipment beeping continued on. Scientists returned with their hair out of place and ripped lab coats. “My my, you came at quite a busy time.” A woman who couldn’t be any older than eighteen with red hair tied into a tight ponytail approached from where the alarm had gone off. As she walked towards me, I noticed that the sleeves of her lab coat were rolled up, and three long deep cuts that were still bleeding were hastily patched. Whatever that alarm was for, I didn’t exactly want to find out. She reached out her hand in greeting, a bright smile crossing her face despite the chaos that had ensued. “My name is Samantha Longworth but most people call me Sam or Sammy. I’m the head of the Science Division and the Cloak Department.” I shook her hand and offered my name. She nodded. When Raven had told me that she was the head of both the Science Division and the Cloak Department, I had pictured her…well, older and nerdier. This girl, while a little nerdy looking, was nowhere near being old and was in fact quite pretty. I nervously coughed, trying to hide the embarrassing fact that I had started to blush. “Irvine told me to come here.” She clapped her hands together and gave me a smile that made me nervously blush again. “Ah yes! Peter, the boy Raven brought in. Sorry about before, it’s just that we don’t often get candidates through this branch, they’re either picked up by another branch or they run away before they get here so I thought Raven had somehow tricked you.” Her face darkened. “I guess I owe him a hundred dollars.” “A hundred dollars?” She nodded weakly. “Yep, I bet a hundred dollars against him. Well me and everyone me, so that’s quite a bit of money. I guess I’ll have to have cheap coffee for a while.” She grimaced but brightened back up and, pulling me behind her, began walking deeper into the lab. “Well then Peter, welcome to Nine and my laboratory.” She continued walking, pointing out each separate section as she went. “We do a few interesting things here, mainly projects for all the other districts but every now and then I get to run my own secret experiments.” I tried asking her what sort of secret experiments she conducts but she just winked and put her finger to her lips. “Over there we have weapons research where we invent supporting equipment for our fighters including portable cages that can trap a monster of any size to be brought back here.” As we passed I glimpsed a few of the cages. There must have been a few different versions sitting on workspaces while other scientists tinkered with them. One was holding a small orb about the size of a marble and when he threw it in the air it expanded to trap another scientist in a steel cage. The trapped scientist screamed in surprised and started verbally abusing the captor who just laughed before releasing him. “That’s pretty cool.” Sammy kept walking quickly but looked over her shoulder in reply. “Thanks, I designed them myself though we are still having trouble capturing the really strong monsters for longer than a few hours.” She pointed to one cage in the corner whose bars had been completely buckled and destroyed. “Now over here we have both the medical and magic departments where we design new ways to heal our staff and help them develop or utilise their elemental affinity. More about that last one later.” We continued down a narrow walkway to a silver box with a simple door. The moment we walked through the door we were on a high catwalk looking down at a control room with hundreds of screens and scientists sitting in huge leather chairs monitoring them. At the sound of the door they looked up for a moment, some nodding a greeting, and just as quickly went back to monitoring the screens. Sammy began descending a set of steep steps into the control room, motioning for me to follow. “And here is the Cloak Department where we monitor the vital signs of our fighters through the cloak we weave with magic. Like the one Raven wears.” Another scientist entered from a concealed door at the end of the room and crossed to stand in front of me. “This is Clara, she’s my assistant.” Clara nodded stiffly and held out a clipboard to Sammy. She quickly perused it, signed it, and handed it back. Clara nodded again and left as quickly as she’d come. Sammy put her hand on my shoulder, leading me towards the largest screen in the centre of the room above a console of flashing buttons. “She’s not too chatty but she’s good at what she does.” She pressed a few buttons in rapid succession on the console and a digital outline of Raven appeared. “As you can see, we can tap into the data stored by the cloak to monitor vital signs as well as communicate directly to the wearer.” I was impressed. I still didn’t understand how it exactly worked, and I didn’t ask for fear of a lengthy explanation filled with science and mathematical equations. “And you invented all of this?” She nodded. “If you don’t mind me asking, exactly how old are you?” She feigned being shocked but I could see a faint pink in her cheeks beginning to form. “That’s not exactly something you should be asking a girl! But…seeing as you asked nicely, I’m seventeen.” Definitely wasn’t expecting that. This amazingly smart girl who is the head scientist of two departments is only two years older than me. We both shared an awkward silence, then Sammy's eye went wide. “Sorry I completely forgot. The boss called me just before you came down to tell me he couldn’t make it, so I’m in charge of looking after your initiation ceremony. I’m assuming you’ve made up your mind by now about whether you want to stay or not?” I nodded. “Good, we can skip the nasty pill business. Well then, welcome to the team.” She turned to the group of scientists she had called over and begun issuing orders. “I need you to get everyone together for the ceremony. It’s quite urgent so make sure Ma gets her stuff together quickly.” They all nodded and quickly set off to do whatever it is they needed to do. “Exactly what is this initiation ceremony?” “It’s the magical rite we perform for candidates that wish to stay. It’s performed by an elder mage, and is how we determine the person’s affinity type and strength. So basically we’ll find out your element and whether you’d be best as a fighter or general staff. Ma is the current elder, no one actually knows her name but she’s sort of like everyone’s mother so we call her Ma.” “And this rite will mean I can use magic?” “That’s right! Once you have your’ affinity you’ll be tied to an element and will ultimately be able to call upon it. Of course, between the rite and you using your magic, there’s going to be a brutal training regime so don’t go thinking it will be easy. Now let’s move quickly, we have to go down to the lowest floor for the ceremony. By the way, where’s Raven?” “Irvine said he had to stay back for his annual check-up.” Sammy visibly shuddered. “Trust me Peter, what you're about to go through is nothing like you would have experienced before, and I know for a fact Raven would rather be having a check-up then see you go through this.” I wanted to ask her exactly what was going on with Raven but she shook her head before I got the chance to ask. “It’s not my place. If you want to know you’ll have to ask Raven.”
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