Canton chroniclesrising.., p.14
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.14

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
 
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  “My real name is Amelia Rosenberg”

  “Rosenberg? As THE Amelia Rosenberg, who was found dead three years ago, under a bridge?”

  Val still remembered the story that had shook Canton to the core. Even in the Asylum she had seen the photos of the tabloids. She remembered the family crying in the pictures, heartbroken. Especially the High Counsellor.

  “That one. I was born Amelia Rosenberg, in the household of the most powerful Rosenberg to that day, Howard. I was an unwanted child, since my father already had a son and heir for his business. My brother and my father were too sadistic men, looking down on women. They used to chase me down every chance they could, and hit me. As hard as they could.”

  “What about your mom?”

  “My mom was too occupied with her depression to even care. I don’t blame her, though. She was given to my father against her will, when she was only sixteen. Her son grew up to be a bastard, and her daughter was a wild, stubborn child… The only person who ever cared about me, was uncle Tom.”

  “The…”

  “Yeah, him. I think I was around nine or ten when my brother’s beating send me to the hospital. It was then when Tom took me to live with him. I think those were the happiest days of my life. He is really cut out to be a father, you know. My happiness was sort-lived. My father claimed me back, two years later.”

  “Didn’t your uncle say anything? How did he let that happen? He is the High Counsellor.”

  “His hands were also tied, Val. I am pretty sure my father was threatening him, too. They never liked each other very much. At least, the beatings stopped. I guess they were too afraid of being exposed after the hospital incident. I have to admit, my life was at least bearable. Until my 15th birthday.”

  Val felt her skin crawling. “What happened then, Amy?”

  Amy looked at her hands.

  “I over-heard my father selling me to one of his disgusting single friends. As his future wife. He was a middle-aged man, and he was supposed to have me at my 16th birthday.”

  Val’s mouth fell open from the surprise and disgust. And rage, deep within her heart, burning bright like a flame.

  “That’s freaking disgusting. I hope you smashed your father’s face, Amy.”

  She shallowed.

  “If only I could do that, Val. I stopped eating and drinking, falling ill in bed, instead. I didn’t want to see any of them, not even my Uncle. And that’s when my mom hired this doctor, Dr. Starr. He was a kind man, who took care of me, spoke to me. There was always something creepy in his touch and look, but I was too depressed to care. One rainy night, I poured my heart out to him, told him everything about the despicable arranged marriage. And then Dr. Starr hugged me, and told me there is a way to escape my house, and my life as a Rosenberg, forever. The good doctor would help me. He had connections everywhere. He only wanted a little thing in return.”

  The little thing that every lonely man eventually asks for…

  Val felt her own eyes full with tears, understanding perfectly what came next.

  “Amy, you don’t have too…”

  Amy stopped her with a gesture.

  “I gave the doctor the little thing he asked for. More than a few times. Sometimes some of his friends would come along, for “cross-examination”, you understand. It was not against my will, Val. More than anything, it was my will. My will to get out of this place. And Dr. Starr kept his promise. He took advantage of me, but in the end I escaped my old life, forever.”

  “What about the girl found on the river?” Val asked, desperate for a change of subject.

  “A body double, so deformed no-one could really recognised her. As for me, I dyed my hair, lasered my eyes, slightly changed my features and obtained a bunch of new papers. I was sent to live with a surrogate family. Happy people, kind. They helped me in the start of my career. I owned them a lot, and plan to see them again, when I get out of here. The only thing that remained from my old life, were the hands. You know those freezing moments I have, Val? It’s like hands are tearing my skin apart, hurting my flesh. It’s terrible, but I’ve learned to control it in here, at least to an extent. No-one was allowed to touch me before, my reactions were extreme. But now with you… it just feels different.”

  Amy wiped her eyes with back of her palm.

  “No you know, Val. I don’t have to hide anymore. Not from you at least.”

  “You don’t have to hide from no-one, Amy. We are all lost souls, and have to stand by each other. It’s the only way to fight the demons that plague us. I do have a question though. Why the Rosenberg Financials? Don’t you want to forget about your family?”

  Amy chuckled.

  “There is a hidden room in that skyscraper, like a treasure of sorts. I remember seeing it by accident, when I was really young. It’s where my father kept track of every Rosenberg family member, even minor relatives. I’ve been thinking of those files, ever since my name started standing out. My family hates music altogether, and they would never give a second look to a young singer, especially one that bears no resemblance to their dead daughter. But what if, you know… I just have to look on this files with my own eyes. Just to make sure.”

  “Are you sure that is the right thing to do Amy? I mean what about your freeze moments, those hands you are talking about? Aren’t they going to get worse once you get into the building? I don’t want you suddenly collapsing in a dirty, dark corridor. The Instructors are going to monitor us”

  “I’ll make it, Val. I have too. It’s good that you know now, in a way. The hands appear when I am alone. Now I am not anymore.”

  “Glad I could help a friend. And speaking of friends…”

  “I’ll tell them Val. In time, I will. I know those idiots really do care. But I have to make sure no one knows or suspects about.”

  “What has that got to do with anything?”

  Amy looked at her like she was a five-year old toddler.

  “I don’t think you truly understand. My father is a powerful and hideous man. He has the power to threaten the High Counsellor and they have the same blood. I had to construct a whole plan, even change myself, to escape his claws. You are exposed right now, do you know that? I can’t bring that fate to Mike’s family. And John. And poor Sebastian… That fool likes me, you know.”

  “I think everyone with common sense knows that, Amy.”

  Amy smiled, turning slightly red. Val squeezed her a little tighter.

  “But I do understand. And I will help, I swear. But if everything is alright, you come clean, Amy. Promise?”

  Amy nodded decisively.

  “Promise.”

  ***

  10. Ambush

  Rosenberg Financials - 17th September, 200 A.D

  The big black van bumped dangerously on its way to the Rosenberg Financials. The beautiful scenery, the lush trees and bushes, combined with the wildness of the desert, took Val’s breath away. Of course, even the view wasn’t enough to take her mind off her stress.

  She turned her head and looked sideways at Amy, who sat on her left side and chattered away happily with Sebastian on the back. If she was nervous, there was not one sign of it on her face.

  “So what do you think it’s going to be like? Excitement is killing me. I hope we get to beat up a lot of holograms. Let out some steam you know.”

  “You’ve beating up holograms the whole month, dude. Just relax a little bit.”

  John made a sarcastic face in Mike’s direction.

  “It is kind of infuriating though, the way we have no idea what’s going to be like. I can’t even get the first group to answer their PAs. Any luck on yours Val?”

  “Not really, no. Mandy, Nelson and a bunch of others are completely disconnected. I do think it’s the right thing for the Instructors to do, though. We were just too many to be tested on one single day.”

  “And you have to admit it’s the only fair way. I know a bunch of people who picked the second day of the Exams
, just so they could cheat from the first day teams. That way we’re not allowed to know what’s in store for us. They have really thought about it through and through.”

  John showed a rare admiration in his voice.

  “Vanessa is a genius, man.”

  Amy sulked and turned her back on Seb for the rest of the trip.

  Amy’s distaste for Vanessa made a whole more lot of sense now that Val knew that she was a Rosenberg. Tom’s and Vanessa’s relationship was no secret. Being together the same time period Amy had to fake her own death, did not made the situation easier. Still… it wasn’t Vanessa’s fault that Howard Rosenberg was a cold-hearted bastard.

  The van broke down its speed, and the enormous skyscraper came into view. Wavy half-black, half-silver glass, and a gigantic metal R on the side, a sign of high architecture.

  “We’re sure no cheap people when it comes to power show-off” Amy whispered in Val’s ear.

  Indeed you are not.

  “John?”

  He closed his eyes and focused his inner sight on the building in front of them. He opened them again.

  “I sense the little hologram points on the higher part of the building, extending in three or maybe four floors. No traps as long as I can sense. Pretty straight forward”

  “Alright.” said Mike. “Then in we go.”

  They took up their standard formation, entered the building and were greeted with darkness and silence. Their PAs took off at the same time, making them jump. Sebastian opened his message first. It was Vanessa Rehberg, smiling through the screen at them, real-time.

  “Hey, guys. Glad you picked up Rosenberg Financials, since I will be the one to monitor your progress. The exam will take place between the 16th and 19th floor, as John has already guessed, probably.”

  John nodded, amused.

  “All the other floors are off limits, and you are strongly advised not to venture into them. The floors mentioned have a pretty straight forward path for you to follow. The holograms will, in rare cases, try to divert you from your path. Do not pick up a fight in non-designated areas, just let them be. Your suits have a certain red-glowing spot. Can you see it?”

  The red spot was just a tiny spotlight above their hearts.

  “Protect that spot at all costs. If you fail and you are hit, you are out of the Exam. Understood?”

  They all nodded.

  “Great. I am counting on you. You are one of the best teams out there, and one of my personal favourites. Just between us, ok?”

  The boys blushed at her words. Amy rolled her eyes.

  “Can we start already mrs Rehberg?”

  “Of course, Mrs Wyatt. Follow the path to the elevators and hit the 16th button. Good luck.”

  The transmission disappeared. Val straightened up her back and looked at them, her eyes burning.

  “Let’s do this, people.”

  The Exam was really pretty straight forward, as John had predicted. The holograms were not nearly as difficult and tricky, as they were back at the Academy.

  “I think it’s because they can’t control them so good in a real scale environment. They are so many factors they can’t control, so they must have picked up the most basic enemies to do the job”, remarked John, once they’ve all crawled into their neutral zone safe-spot on the 18th floor, with Val asking the question.

  “I think they just want to test us in the field”, added Sebastian. “They want to see the way we co-operate rather than test our strength.”

  Mike sighted.

  “I have hoped it would have been a little more difficult, you know. Anyway, I think you are right about the strength. I mean the people who got lost on the mountains were elites, right? And they still got beaten to a pulp. At times like this, they don’t have the luxury to disqualify any of us. Even people like Emma or Nelson are stronger than a normal average person. They need us.”

  “No matter what we think, we have to be cautious. We still have one floor to go. Maybe the big catch is there.”

  They all fixed their clothes, and got ready to go. Val and Amy lingered momentary behind.

  “Listen, Val, the files are upstairs. Of course, they are in an off-limit area. But we can divert the guys for a little while and go take a look. Without enemies it will only take a few minutes. I know exactly where to look. Are you with me?”

  You’ll do it whatever you want no matter what I say Amy, won’t you? So it’s not really a question.

  “Yes, we’ll do this together. No way you are venturing on your own out there, Amy. It may be harmless, but it still is a completely abandoned building. I don’t want any roof parts falling on your head.”

  Amy smiled at her.

  “Thanks.”

  Their venture on the 19th floor was a little bit difficult, but nothing out of the ordinary. The team cleared the level out of the holograms, until they were completely ready.

  “I kinda think we passed the test, guys” Sebastian said.

  “Congratulations to us then.” Amy said, not really excited.

  “But I think it’s best for us if we check the floors once again. You know, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I don’t want Rehberg on my neck, charging me with overconfidence, laughing at my back. I have a suggestion. Why don’t you guys check the first floors again, and me and Val stay on the last two.”

  John looked at her, a weird look on his face.

  “Split up, Amy? Are you sure?”

  “Well, of course I am, macho man. You think because we are girls we can’t handle enemies on our own? Is that what you say?”

  “Wow Amy, nobody said…” Sebastian started.

  Amy took a step forward and John took Seb by the arm, with Mike rolling his eyes.

  “Whatever you want, Amy, ok? Just be careful.”

  “We will John. We know exactly what we are doing. No reason for you to be concerned.”

  John nodded and run to catch the elevator. Val turned around to face Amy. “Let’s go.”

  Amy guided her friend through a dim-lit and narrow corridor to an old looking office. Papers were scattered all around and few windows were broken.

  “I would have never thought such important files are here, Amy.”

  “That’s the plan, Val. Zero suspicions. But trust me, those papers are there.

  No one would ever risk moving so many files, not even my all-powerful father. I think their location is even more perfect now, with all the abandonment. And he would certainly not try to take the documents with him in his villa or the Tower, under Tom’s nose. Besides…” she made a little pause, while tinkering the lock in the little hidden safe.

  “A little less than a year ago, when my work started being recognised, I … I went to Canton Tower. I even managed to reach my uncle’s floor, until I had second thoughts and turned back again. I waited until the sunrise on a bench outside the Tower, telling myself I will find the courage to talk to him. He got out late at night, with Vanessa Rehberg at his side. They got in the car together.”

  “Amy, it’s kinda unfair to hate Vanessa because she dates your uncle. I just wanted to say my honest opinion in this.”

  “She doesn’t anymore. Besides, I know she is actually a good person, ok? It’s just… her being there that day, I always had this as an excuse for not talking to Uncle Tom in the end. And they looked so perfectly happy… I didn’t want to spoil their moment. Then I saw a guy taking a picture of them. I realized immediately that he worked for my father. I took a risky chance and followed him. He went inside that building, and it was already abandoned by that time. That’s how I am sure the files are there.”

  With a small click, the safe opened up. It wasn’t a small compact door as it seemed to be, but a normal human-sized door that led to a chamber full of papers. Val was speechless. Amy lowered her head.

  “Val do you mind, if I go alone? It will only take a few seconds.”

  “Be my guest.”

  Val wai
ted outside, for what it seemed like hours. When Amy finally emerged from the door, a sense of relief was all over her face.

  “Well?”

  “Status: Deceased.”

  Val hugged her tight. Amy was crying.

  “It’s alright now. You are completely and utterly free. Tonight we will celebrate our victory and you’ll tell the others. Ok?”

  Amy wiped her tears in the back of her hand.

  “Let’s just get out of here.”

  ***

  The girls were smiling happily, as they made their way back to the elevators, wondering what they would tell to the boys.

  “The guys will probably be looking for us,” Amy said. “I think it’s better if we call them…”

  She stopped her sentence midway and she screamed as the PA in her hand gave her an electroshock, and got sent miles away from her hand.

  Val instinctively took out her own PA and threw it away, before it exploded in her pocket. The lights in the corridor began to flicker, in a very unnatural way. She realized what was happening and felt a sense of pure terror numbing her senses.

  Why have I been so stupid?

  She knew who was coming, even before the elevator doors opened.

  “Amy, look out” Val screamed, but it was too late.

  Alice was already in the corridor’s entrance, an electrical current in her hand, which she directed at Amy’s head. Amy was faster than Alice though, teleporting and landing a few centimetres away from the currents’ direction.

  “Don’t fight her, Amy, run and warn the others!”

  Val was screaming at the top of her lungs, but Amy was already on her way, teleporting exactly in front of Alice, ready to punch her in the face. Alice gave her a smug smile, and hit the lamp directly above Amy’s head, causing it to fall down.

  Amy had just enough time to let out a shriek and teleport to her right, the heavy ceiling-lamp falling on the left side of her head, causing her to collapse on the hard marble floor.

  Alice laughed hysterically and raised her hand again, her intention to kill the fallen Amy, but let out a scream, as her body was being pushed back by Val. Her act gave her a few precious seconds to pull her barely-breathing friend’s body next to her, with the help of her Power.

  Val banged frantically on the closed doors of the dark corridor, her palms wide open, pulling any old piece of equipment and furniture she could find, in order to create a barricade between Alice, her and Amy. She took her friend by the shoulders and shook her up, as Alice started to regain her consciousness.

 
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