Olena Darsus screamed like an animal being flayed alive. Beside her in bed, her husband Prenius was being torn apart by a sharp-clawed golem as if he were a child’s play thing. Blood splattered the sheets and the side of her face as Prenius’ flesh was torn from its bone and scattered about the bedchamber. Spurred by a terror deeper than she had ever felt before, Olena sprang out of bed with only one thought on her mind—escape. Never before in her lifetime had civilized people been attacked in their homes by golems. New Nexus City was supposed to be fortified by a strong spell of protection against these things.
Before she could take three steps, another golem blocked her path in the nearly pitch- black room. She smelled the stench on its breath and caught the glow of its dingy yellow eyes leering at her. Gathering her wits, she raised both hands to cast a spell of dismissal and said, “Golem-ka be gone!”
But nothing happened. To be more accurate, nothing happened to the golem. Her husband’s screams died as the flame of his life flame flickered. Laughter taunted Olena’s ears, driving her further into terror. Then, the diminutive creature tore its sharp claws across her face, gauging her eyes and blinding her. She erupted with a piercing cry. Forcefully, he pushed her onto the bloody bed atop her husband’s dead body and ripped away the flimsy night gown. Along with his partner in terror already on the bed, the creature flung his coarse-haired body onto her soft flesh prepared to rape her…
…she woke with a start. Drenched in cold salty sweat, Olena cried out, “Prenius!”
Beside her, a muffled reply greeted her and she felt the warm body of her live husband lost in peaceful slumber. A dream. But so real. Her heart thumped so hard she held her hand to her chest to keep it from escaping. Just a dream. She felt as foolish as she did horrified.
Later that morning the Darsus family gathered for a quick morning meal. With everyone going their separate ways during the week, Olena insisted upon the gathering to help strengthen the family.
“What do you think about Kerik’s idea in the Core to use more tech than magic on the new moons missions, Olena?” Prenius asked. The Core, or Political Core, was the United Provinces of America’s chief governing body.
Olena was still distracted from last night and answered robotically, “Seems to make sense. At first there won’t be enough workers or colonists to power the habitats purely by magic, so some nuclear power will have to be used anyway.”
Prenius grunted, having already made up his mind. He was a staunch purist about using magic for most things and disagreed with the Political Core on many issues anyway. The new mission to colonize Prey, the smaller of Earth’s moons, was just more fodder for his rhetorical cannon.
“They should send up a bunch of Adepts first, and then there won’t be a problem,” Zarin interjected, purposefully disagreeing with his mother. Joining the ranks of the world’s highest ranking magician, the Adepts, had always been a burning passion to Zarin. In stark contrast to his mother, last night’s romp in her dream-world left the sadist in him darkly stimulated. He and his twin brother Yarin quite enjoyed their playtime in their mother’s dreams last night and looked forward to more games.
Smiling, Prenius said, “That’s the way to go. All that nuclear power is for the techie weaklings. That’s what’s wrong with the world today. This technology is keeping us down. If you don’t push the younger generation to use their gifts more, they’ll flounder and flail like ghost gnats.”
Pushing the younger generation was Prenius’ speciality, thought Olena. Zarin and Yarin never got a break from their father’s constant pressure to excel in all things mystical. Prenius was a good provider and protector, but sometimes he fell short of being a loving father.
As usual, Olena let the boys prattle on and did not waste a scrap of energy on trying to change their minds. It seemed as if the older the twins got, the further they drifted from her. It was a little heartbreaking but she guessed it was natural for teenage boys.
After the morning meal, everyone went their separate ways, Prenius went to work at Sculpted Living, overseeing the creation of custom furniture from tree seed pods, Olena began her workday at Vibrant Life, a large healing center across town. And Zarin and Yarin scuttled off to school, grateful to be free of their father’s unspoken disapproval and their mother’s weakness.
Second Tier Magiks. In this class, greater mysteries of the unearthly realms are revealed to older teens. At Novice or First Tier Magiks level, grounding exercises are taught to prepare the mind for more mentally strenuous magical tasks. Along with the Mundane subjects of math, writing and such taught at New Nexus City Mystical Winds Academy, Second Tier Magiks introduced the enchanted stances necessary to invoke certain effects, such as elemental conjuring. Red- haired Mona repeated this basic information to herself in an effort to staunch her nervousness of what was about to come.
It was toward the end of the school day and two dozen or so students milled about the edges of the dual gymnasium/stance floor while student Mona Deluvius took center stage to demonstrate her mastery of levitation. Not all students had the same abilities, but levitation was within Mona’s repertoire. Nervously blinking at the white-robed Adept teaching the class, Mona shook her red hair, began to move her arms and body, and she took the stance necessary to access the spirit of Earth’s gravity and negate it.
At the same time, unnoticed by most, even the Adept, Zarin and Yarin, with evil in mind, drifted about the students’ periphery. As Mona prepared herself for her demonstration, the twins combined powers and cast a spell of intense fear into Mona’s unprotected mind being careful to bypassing the Adept’s senses and focus their attack only on her.
The students gasped as Mona suddenly shot into the air. Just as quickly as she ascended, her flailing body plummeted to the rubber mat floor so fast the Adept had to intervene, slowing her with a cushion of air.
“Mona!” Plexi Solaris, Mona’s best friend, screamed. Plexi was ready to spit fire at Zarin and Yarin. More powerful and sensitive than most students, Plexi was able to feel the spell emanating from the twins’ dark minds. Plexi had noticed that the twins’ powers had been growing beyond the normal teachings, but strangely the Adepts seemed unaware of this.
Fearing that Mona was injured, Plexi and another close friend, Yingjie, ran to her. Before they could reach her, the red-head was climbing to her knees with the Adept’s help. Abruptly, threw up all over the rubber mat. Zarin and Yarin were laughing in the background, alone in their twisted mirth.
“Mona,” Plexi asked gripping her friend’s shoulder, “Are you all right?” The question sounded hollow to her own ears. Of course she was not all right.
“I’m okay,” Mona lied. “I just need a minute.”
“You need a healer,” the Adept said.
“We’ll take you,” Plexi said, taking her friend’s arm.
Yingjie got on the other side of Mona and helped Plexi support her. On their way out, Plexi sneered at Zarin and Yarin, vowing to confront them later. Right now, though, she had to get her friend to the academy healer.
Plexi stood beside Yingjie in the Academy parking lot after school, waiting by the twins’ car, prepared to give them a piece of her mind. Mona waited behind them, and as Plexi glanced back, appeared better but still a little afraid. Other students not being picked up by their parents got in the respective vehicles, ecstatic to run off in various pursuits. Like most Second Tier students, Plexi and her friends were seventeen, old enough to drive and get into trouble, but not old enough to vote.
Novices and Second Tier students were only allowed to drive Mundane cars, powered by electric batteries or solar power, but scattered about the parking lot were transport beasts for the Apprentices, also known as Third Tier students. These beasts ranged from small scaly green dragons to winged horses to shimmering land beasts with slavering mouths. All were capable of running or flying just as fast as a Mundane car and faster in some cases. Zarin and Yarin had a Mundane dark blue compact, despite their protestations of how inferior tech was to magic.
“Here they come,” Plexi said, determination setting in like concrete on her normally soft mocha face. She needed all of her concentration on the approaching trash.
Strutting like kings, the Darsus twins walked toward their car as if daring the three standing in their way to stop them. When they were close enough to see the whites of their challengers’ eyes, Zarin and Yarin cast a spell of fear into the minds of Plexi and her friends. Plexi found it interesting that they did not need to make gestures to accomplish this, although that was not completely unheard of.
“Nice try, jackasses,” Plexi said as she deflected the attack with a wave of her hand. “I think you owe my friend an apology.”
“Go suck a demon’s toe, twerp,” Zarin countered. He squinted and glanced at his brother with a raised eyebrow. Plexi should not have been able to deflect the spell of fear.
The twins were close enough to touch. Yingjie, with his close-cropped dark hair, distinguished Asian features and muscular build, edged forward to teach the gangly, greasy haired Zarin a lesson. But Plexi held him back. This had been her idea and therefore her battle. “That sounds like something little boys who pick on girls would do,” Plexi needled.
Zarin sneered, poked his finger at Plexi’s chest and called her a censored name. Big mistake.
Plexi gripped the offending wrist and twisted Zarin’s arm until his shoulder almost popped. Before he could react, Plexi shifted her center of gravity and flipped Zarin over her shoulder, decorating the parking lot with his sorry form.
Apparently the twin had either forgotten or had been unaware of Plexi’s strength. She was a martial arts expert with enhanced physical prowess easily matching a grown man’s. Humiliated, Zarin picked himself up off the ground while his brother stood by in silence as usual. Yarin rarely made a move without his brother’s instigation. A small crowd had gathered, adding further insult for Zarin.
“This isn’t over, witch,” Zarin yelled.
“Go home while you’re still standing,” Yingjie said.
“Next time you’re ours, losers!” Zarin said as he grabbed his brother to leave Academy grounds. Soon an Adept would show up and he did not want his parents to hear of this.
When they were gone, Plexi said to Mona, “Those two have always been trouble, yet the Adepts don’t seem to notice. The Adepts always encourage initiative and it’s time we took it.”
“That’s right,” Yingjie agreed.
“I suppose you’re right,” Mona admitted. “It was strange no one noticed what they did in stance class. They’re probably up to other things too the Adepts don’t know about.”
“That’s what I figure,” Plexi said. “I know one thing though, today the battle lines have been drawn.”
by Kwame Opeyo
A world where magic and technology vie for dominance is in peril. Three teenagers, Plexi Jata Solaris, Mona Deluvius and Yingjie Iffing are thrust into the line of fire in a war between dimensions. Plexi’s world is populated by the gifted, who yield magic, and the Mundanes, who do not. The powerful wizard T’navreskrad from another dimension manipulates malevolent twins from Plexi’s world into opening a dimension rift. This evil wizard and three servant magicians pass through the breach to launch an invasion. T’navreskrad also suborns the police department of Plexi’s hometown, New Nexus City, in a ploy to make the three teens fugitives of the law. Plexi and her group enlist the aid of a high-grade wizard from their own world to aid in combating this evil. A battle of mystical forces ensues with casualties on both sides– -ending in what only appear