Authors: Christopher De Sousa
Really Lance you must maintain your composure at all times,
he thought to himself, as he led Katherine and Anzu through a large vaulted doorway.
What if they'd enquired further, what if the gryphon in some way knew about the organisation's experiments?
He glanced down at Anzu, well aware the gryphon had previously served with the â
Why was I the one given the responsibility to bring them here?
He had thought that surely a senior would have proven a more suitable choice.
To this point, he considered it fortunate that both Katherine and the guardian had been so cooperative throughout this process, for it was difficult to estimate exactly of what they might very well be capable. What concerned him most however was not their possible resistance, but his own loss of self-control.
As he entered another code combination, he pondered why he'd been selected to carry out such a delicate mission instead of those more qualified. He saw Katherine as a ticking time bomb, which could very well go off once she'd learnt a few truths.
Just maybe it's because we are a lot alike
, he thought.
For as long as I care to remember, losing control has always been my greatest fear.
Once the combination registered, he led them into a large arena. This room served the project as its training facility: an expansive empty court space, with steel grated rafters, and a dome shaped ceiling. At the facility's centre, he spotted his brother hard at work. Soaked with sweat, Blake was in the middle of a strenuous training session under Walter's tutelage. The lesson revolved around a lone pail of water. He and the pair watched on as Blake extended his fingers above the pail, and worked to lift fresh water from it. Once he'd achieved this, Blake sought to manipulate the water within the space, making it swirl and swish until it took the shape of an orb before his outstretched palms. Soon as he had it formed, he then froze the water in mid-air, before splintering the orb of ice into an array of solid spears. But Lance could see he hadn't got the correct balance. He saw that Blake had lost control, and soon after the creation of ice shattered into thousands of smaller shards against the tiled floor.
“You're not concentrating hard enough,” echoed Walter's gruff voice through the space.
Lance gazed upward, his eyes coming to rest on a control room up amongst the rafters. From behind the sheeted glass wall of this room, he could see Walter's shadow seated before a technical board. He was speaking into its external microphone.
“Again,” Walter cried, his hoarse voice breaking a moment's silence.
He watched as Blake retrieved the empty pail, and trudged it over to the nearest water faucet.
Despite the mental strain,
Lance thought to himself,
what I wouldn't give to take his place. Not only because I'd then become more useful to the director's plans, but also my younger brother would no longer bear of such a burden.
“Sir, I have Ms Munroe and her guardian with me,” he said, trying to be both clear and succinct when speaking into the communication band on his wrist.
“Very well,” Walter responded. “Escort them up the stairs.”
A winding stair promptly erupted out from beneath the floor, forging a trail of steps leading up and into the control room. He beckoned for Katherine and Anzu to follow and led them up to a sealed door.
“We'll have to be patient until he's ready to see us,” Lance told them.
Inside the control room, he could hear an additional and most familiar voice resonating about the walls; a voice that was articulate and feminine, and yet so gruff that it matched Walter's in tone.
“We must act with more discretion Walter, debate is spreading through the
to test the validity of sustaining the
here in Anabasis,” said the voice. “The less interference we have with local officials the better.”
“I understand your concerns,” Lance heard Walter reply. “But I suspect the Corrupted's presence exists from deep within, and even extends beyond the local police hierarchy. To date, they've scrutinised every action we've taken.”
“The Corrupted are everywhere,” said the voice gravely. “But we must maintain the anonymity of the organisation.”
“I promise to take heed of your concerns. But let us resume with this discussion at a later time,” said Walter, the secure doorway to the control room now sliding open. “I have some special guests up here with me, and I don't wish to keep them waiting any longer than necessary.”
Having completed the call, Walter slowly spun round in his chair to address them. With fingers clasping the stubble of his white beard, he gazed down at the floor through his thick spectacle frames. “Lance, am I correct in assuming you overhead most of my conversation just now?”
“Sir, only in part,” he responded, embarrassed. “Is the technical board still on the Fritz?”
Walter frowned. “It's working as intended. I transferred the call to the phone. But the interior soundproofing isn't functioning properly. Please make sure that one of our technician's deals with fixing it. We can never be too sure who or what might be listening, especially if the information is sensitive. Step forward and let the door close behind you.”
They stepped forward.
“Welcome to Project Indigo Ms Munroe,” said Walter. “I was sorry to learn of your father's death. He was one of my most reliable officers for many years, and will be sorely missed.”
“Thank you sir,” she glumly responded.
Walter gestured for them to take another step forward as his wheelchair rolled backward.
“If you'll stand just there, that will suffice,” he said, bringing them to a halt. “I suspect you have many questions for me.”
“I do,” she replied. “And not meaning to be rude, but first who are you?”
“Of course, I apologize. It is a force of habit you see, as I'm not used to spending time on pleasantries. My name is Walter Croft, and I am the Director of this most secret project. Now, before you ask any questions, I first wish to show you something.”
Walter retrieved a control from the technical board and inputted a series of numerical codes. With all the codes entered, a holographic projection soon materialized before them and across the room's centre. Over the surface screen there soon appeared many ancient tomes and artefacts pertaining to a time that predated the bronze age of discovery. These images were of statues, tomes enshrined with gold, and of a lost civilisation's architecture crafted of fine crystal.
“What lies before you are the remnants and translations of an ancient civilisation that existed thousands upon thousands of years ago,” Walter told them. “Of particular note, inside these tomes, we learned of a citadel that once vanished, and is still yet to be found. The city of Atlantis.”
Lance glanced over at Katherine. He could instantly relate to her confused expression, he having once possessed many questions of his own. As he grew up in the care of this organisation, he'd once wondered how this city had anything to do with the Corrupted. In what way were he, and the rest of human kind connected, and to what the organisation had in store for him.
Walter paused the rotating holographic presentation and pointed to one of the many tomes depicted. He enlarged this selected one so that it could be read, by one who might be capable of interpreting it.
“Ms Munroe, I would like you to try and read this segment here for me,” Walter asked.
Katherine lurched forward, gazing attentively at the projection.
This was one of Walter's many tests
, Lance remembered,
to identify whether an individual had in fact ascended.
The written passage was in archaic hieroglyphics; with symbols reminiscent of those found in ancient Egypt, yet largely unseen by human eyes. A plethora of unique imagery was in stone: it showed complex matrices containing unrecognisable shapes, of prehistoric relics and technologies, of numerous human and animal hybrids never witnessed before.
“You can't possibly expect me to be able to read any of this, can you?” He heard Katherine respond.
“Most interesting, have you not already covered this in class?” Walter questioned, disappointed.
“In truth, we've not yet progressed that far in our lessons,” spoke a voice from out behind the secured doorway. “We were to start Egyptian hieroglyphics at the beginning of next semester. Depending of course on whether the class is ready to take this rather daunting next step.”
Now she finally arrives
, thought Lance with a sense of relief, and sensing that his duties here must be nearing their end.
That was before he received a distasteful glare from Walter, obviously in response also to his growing discontent with failing technologies. Walter then pressed a single button upon and the entranceway doors slid open.
Walter glared back toward the entrance way, impatiently tapping his fingers against his knee. “I had expected you to know better Monica, than to eavesdrop when your presence is not yet required.”
“And I had expected that you'd have the courtesy to inform me of such an arranged meeting,” she in turn replied.
Attentive, Lance turned to Katherine. As imagined, she appeared quite flummoxed by Monica's abrupt interruption.
“Ms Hawthorne,” she had stammered. “Is every adult I know a part of this organisation? What on earth is going on?”
With her eyes now locked upon the tome and seeking to draw their attention, Monica guided her index finger across a piece of its scripture.
“The hieroglyphics speak of a tragic event, one which sent the ancient city of Atlantis plummeting to the ocean's floor,” she read. “One Atlantean native, one whom sought to have individual power over the entire populace, overwhelmed the defences of his Naacal kindred through the use of a most powerful and forbidden technology. Used as a weapon, this technology proved unstable. The earth was nearly pulled from its axis, and interdimensional tears were formed across the seven planes of existence.”
“These spirits, which I encountered last night,” said Katherine, her eyes quivering before the hieroglyphics. “Did they somehow escape through these tears and enter our world?”
“That is correct,” Monica responded, impressed. “These spirits, alien to this world, made their descent through the tears. They then corrupted host bodies and assumed them as their own. But there was one even more heinous than the rest; a fiend known by the name of Namtar.”
“The Corruptedâ¦, I heard that woman Walter was talking to refer of something by that name. Is this what you call those spirits thatâ¦,” Katherine gulped, mid-sentence, “claimed a body upon their descent?”
“It is, and that's where we come in,” Walter proclaimed, having now switched off the projection. “We few members of Project Indigo were designated with a most important task; to seal these inter-dimensional tears, and to banish all alien spirits to whence they came.”
Lance watched as Katherine looked down at Anzu. She'd be right if she thought that the gryphon too was a Corrupted. But not in the same sense of the word, at least not in the way he himself deemed the term Corrupted to mean.
“And what of the Naacal?” Katherine asked. “What became of them?”
“Many of the Naacal headed eastward, to restore their lost civilisation,” said Monica. “Led by Ra; many sought to settle across the sands and establish a new world in Ancient Egypt. Then there were those who followed Anu. Many rebuilt of their homes in numerous locations in ancient Mesopotamia that coincided with the Tigris-Euphrates basin. This is where the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires were born.”
“I suppose that answers some of the questions I'd wished to ask, historically at least, but not those that I believe are most importantâ¦,” Katherine said, in a way which made Lance nervous. “I still don't have a clue what any of this has to do with me?”
Walter gazed at her intently and sought to explain. “Since the time of its inception, the organisation has sought after certain youths to aid us with our struggle against these alien spirits, and specifically that of Namtar. We've tried to find those who possess an increased level of consciousness: those who can see beyond this physical plane. Particular characteristics that have drawn us are in those individuals who possess a higher number of chromosomes, and increased usage of the brain. As we all ascend, there are those who do so at a faster rate. Then there are others who meet with a guardian and form a celestial bond. We have come to know these as the Indigo. We've therefore set out to recruit certain youths who exhibit of these specific characteristics, then track of their progress, and under the guidance of a knowledgeable faculty we nurture their natural gifts.”
It was this explanation that Lance had anticipated Katherine would find this explanation difficult to accept. And he was not wrong. Her anger now surfaced. She was wildly glaring back at them, her pupils dilated and her nostrils flared. She also looked quite distressed; for she was shaking all over, her lips were trembling, and she was fighting to stop from falling to her knees.
She glared at them, her eyes dancing with the flash of an ember. “You've used Anabasis High, its students. You've used us, as a means to farm for candidates who might serve your cause!”
“We recruit and enrol many children from across the globe,” said Walter. “We place them in the care of the organisation, that much is true, but it is to aid them in their personal growth and to keep them safe. Just think what could happen to those who were left alone and without our protection. They'd become nothing more than food for those spirit's corrupted, helpless before their cursed abilities, unable to defend themselves.”
“Ms Hawthorne, you knew about this all along,” Katherine responded. “You've taught us for so many years now; you've lied to us all this time.”