Canton chroniclesrising.., p.5
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.5

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
 
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  She started heading for the door and suddenly, John Lucas decided to wake up and follow her, pleading for her to stay.

  “Valentine, please don’t go. You don’t understand. This isn’t flirting. I know who you are. I know everything about your life. I literally have been dreaming about you my whole life.”

  He caught up with her and he grasped her hand, again. Gently, but also firmly.

  You just can’t let go, can you?

  Her fear suddenly became anger, a flame bursting inside her chest. She turned swiftly, unexpectedly and grasped John by the collar of his T-shirt, surprising both him and herself with her strength. She held him tight, close to her face, his wide eyes centimetres from hers.

  “Listen dude, maybe you are crazy. Maybe that’s just your style of picking up girls. In any case, I am not interested. Get the fuck away from me, or you’ll regret it deeply, you hear me? Go find some psycho who thinks your behaviour is sweet.”

  She pushed him away, turned her back and started going. John remained there, but instead of being enraged, he looked at her with sad eyes.

  “I just wanted to tell you, I am really happy you got out from that prison you were in. It looked awful. I am glad it didn’t break you. I am really happy for you, even if you think I am crazy.”

  Every fine hair in Val’s body stood up, for a second time in a seemingly very long day. She didn’t know if she felt scared or angry anymore. She felt nothing. She just froze in place. How the hell did that fucker know about the Asylum? Nobody knew about that. No one was supposed to know. Not even Mike was aware of the details.

  John obviously translated her silence for understanding, thinking his trick had worked and started approaching her again. He was right behind her when Val started talking again.

  “I don’t know who you are or who sent you. She probably did. I warn you. Don’t even think of talking to me again. Don’t try to touch me and don’t follow me. You will regret it.”

  She said that in a low tone, almost a whisper but she knew, even with all the music and loud sound effects, he’d heard her. He didn’t move an inch. Everyone realised that something was wrong, many people looking at their way now, including the brunette girl.

  Val took a quick glimpse at the stage. Even Amy Wyatt looked momentarily in their direction, perplexed. It was time to go, and she was so close to the door. My escape route, she thought.

  She was already thinking a hundred ways of collapsing at home, when she felt it. She felt it before she saw the men coming. A sense of tiredness swiping her body, like she hadn’t slept for days or even months. She turned around, half believing that the creep had injected her with something, ready to call for help.

  And saw every single soul in the club falling to its knees, on their backs or their bellies to the cold stone floor. Everyone was fainting rapidly. Even the stage was empty now, with the Wyatt girl face down on the ground. John Lucas calling her name as he fell was the last thing she heard. Then she lost all consciousness.

  ***

  Vanessa Rehberg was standing in the middle of the “J.D”, amidst the few unconscious bodies that still remained, snoring lightly. Most of the kids were already being carried with their black vans in the Mansion. She couldn’t shake the word kids out of her mind, even though they were practically adults. But in her mind, they were just a bunch of spoiled brats.

  And, to them, you are just an ancient fossil. She shook her head as to avoid her thoughts and focused on her task ahead.

  “How many still left?” she asked her workers.

  “Not many now, Mrs Rehberg. We will be ready within the next thirty minutes.”

  “Good. Thank you.”

  Putting them to sleep was surely crude and tasteless, but it was the only way to carry them all in one piece, safe, sound and with absolute secrecy. The way Tom wanted it. Of course, he was now at his apartment, admiring the world from above, far away from this mess. And she had to be here, in the middle of the night, making sure everything was going according to schedule.

  No one was allowed to know where the kids really went. The excuse given to the parents was that their children were chosen to take part in a Council-program for the exceptionally gifted, a high honour really.

  And when those kids were powered up, properly trained and obedient, she would present them to the world, proudly. The Hero Team, her team, facing every threat in Canton, making the citizens forever grateful. Vanessa smiled cunningly.

  They’re not your property, they’re real people, her voice of reason whispered in her mind.

  But still, a little personal recognition wouldn’t hurt anybody. And maybe, just maybe, when the whole ordeal was done, she could also stay in a high-rise apartment with a city-centre view, like the High Counsellor, Tom Rosenberg was. Of course he was Canton’s highest authority and Vanessa his mere assistant, but still….

  The phone rang.

  “Speak of the Devil.”

  “You’ve been thinking of me? I am honoured.”

  There was a sad sweetness in Tom’s voice, and Vanessa felt her heart skip a beat. But she knew better than to answer.

  “I am sorry, Vanessa. How is it going down there? Are you already done?”

  “No, we still need half an hour or so, until everyone is transported safely. How are you holding up, Tom? Are you overly-excited about this?”

  “Pretty much, I would say. In fact, I just look at the view and wish you were here…”

  Don’t do this. Not now.

  “Tom, I think you’ve had enough whisky for tonight.”

  There was an uncomfortable silence for a second.

  “I am sorry, Vanessa. It’s just that we barely even talk without the cameras and recorders in the Tower and…”

  “That’s because we are partners, Tom. You are High Counsellor Rosenberg and I am your assistant”.

  And the days we were something more are over.

  She took a look at the door, having heard the footsteps.

  “I have to leave you now, the rest of the team is here. Goodnight.”

  Without waiting for an answer, Vanessa hang up the phone. She turned around and saw the four of them walking towards her. She smiled heartily and hugged everyone in turns. She had missed them so much.

  Peter and his wife Priscilla, and the Fayde twins, Guido and Beth. The five of them had grown up together, raised together. Vanessa appreciated deeply each and every one of them. She couldn’t have picked any other team to help her train the little brats.

  “Vanessa, baby! You look amazing even at this hour! The Council suits you.”

  Beth Fayde approached her with quick steps, and hugged her tightly.

  Vanessa smiled and turned to look at Beth’s twin brother, Guido. Silent and with a deadly look on his face, Guido Fayde looked far more intimidating than his sister. In all truth, he was a really sweat and deeply intuitive man. In a rare sight of affection he smiled at Vanessa and touched her cheek lightly.

  “We came to you as soon as we got the call, Vanessa. I guess I don’t have to tell you, you nearly gave us a heart attack. What a crazy-freaking-story. It’s so exciting for the Academy to be opening again. It will be our honour to help.”

  Peter spoke with his usually audacity, making everyone’s head turn. Priscilla nodded like a happy chirping bird at his side, her eyes shining and Vanessa couldn’t help but smile.

  “That’s great, Peter. Although we may have to deal with a bunch of supernatural enemies after eighty years.”

  They all looked frightened for a second, despite their usual courageous spirit.

  “Sorry. I really don’t want to be a party-breaker. And besides, a re-union is the best thing that could have happened right now, seriously. I hope I am not getting you out of your programs, guys.”

  “Everything is under control, Vanessa. A change of environment is always refreshing.”

  Beth smirked mischievously, under her brother’s stern look.

/>   “And I hope your little monkey isn’t totally mad at me for taking you away from her for a while, right?”

  Vanessa addressed the Smiths, having their five-year-old daughter in mind.

  “She can stay with her grandparents for a few weeks, Vanessa. It’s no big deal. She knows she has to be strong for Auntie.”

  “Perfect. You’ll get more info on the matter back in the car. Just follow me.”

  They started walking again, but Guido lingered behind for a second, grasping Vanessa’s arm lightly.

  “Someone is missing from the team. I am pretty sure I am not the only one to have notice.”

  Vanessa stopped right at her heels. She’d had a foolish hope that the subject of their lost partner wouldn’t be mentioned at all, but couldn’t have been more wrong. The others turned their heads and looked at her questioningly.

  I am not going to feel guilty for your sorry ass, Henry.

  “He is not coming. It’s just the five of us”.

  Guido nodded his head in agreement.

  “Fair enough”.

  And they started again, silent, to the exit of the club and the beginning of a new era.

  ***

  2. The First Night

  The new Academy -02:00, 21th July, 200 A.D

  Val opened her eyes and tried to get up. Her muscles had this weird feeling…like she had been sleeping for a very long time, even though that was impossible.

  The club… That crazy John… The men…

  All haziness went away at once. She sprung up, found her balance and felt relief, being able to stand at her own two feet once again.

  What the hell?

  That was Val’s first conscious thought. The scene unravelling before her eyes felt more like a dream than a piece of the real world. She certainly wasn’t in the club anymore. Not even in some kind of an emergency hospital room or something similar after her fall.

  The large room was circular in shape, with 8 vast marble pillars supporting its weight, four from each side. On the middle of the room, Val saw a podium large enough for only one person. The room’s ceiling was light yellow in colour, almost gold, with an amazingly detailed glass chandelier hanging down from it. The floor was covered with black, red and blue tiles, the colours of the Deities. And littered with bodies.

  We were all in the club together. We started falling one after the other. Val’s head was starting to clear up, and crazy thoughts started forming at the back of her brain. The situation looked a lot like a kidnapping… but why?

  “Rise and shine.”

  A voice interrupted her thoughts. She turned around slowly and looked at the stalker. John Lucas. He was the first one who had fully regained his senses. Of all the people in here, you had to be the first, didn’t you?

  Val was perfectly ready to charge at him, but it was clear that John himself was struggling to keep a straight face, his complexion pale white.

  “Dude, are you ok?”

  She didn’t mean to be nice to him, but the question came out instinctively. This was clearly no time to fight. Somehow there were all landed in the same shitty situation. John looked at her and his face was full of sarcasm.

  “You talk to crazy guys now?”

  “Listen, if someone was following you, talking about dreams and destiny, and then started revealing stuff only YOU were supposed to know, what would you have done? Would you have stayed calm and be like, “Yeah ok let’s be best friends”? If you say yes, you’re lying.”

  John didn’t answer, but his face was now softer, and he seemed indeed sad, contemplating her words. Finally, he apologized.

  “I guess you’re right. I must have looked like a maniac to you, but I really didn’t have time to get into details. I was just really happy seeing you well and all.”

  “Why? I certainly don’t know you. And don’t tell me you meant those dream stuff for real. You don’t seem that crazy after close observation.”

  He opened his mouth, wanting to explain, but was interrupted by Mike who was now almost next to them, yelling their names. He seemed awake, but at the same time still confused and emotional.

  “God, you guys are here too. And you are alive and well, too. I was ready to cry you know” he said, tremendously overreacting.

  “Forgive him, guys. He is still doped.”

  Sebastian was right behind Mike, unsteady at his step, but totally clear on his head, his smart eyes trailing the people who were now getting up one by one.

  The rest of the people were rubbing their eyes and stretching, not fully realising where they were and why. A calm moment before the panic setting in.

  Seb’s eyes trailed from Val to John.

  “Before you start running, let John explain why he behaved this way. There really is a reason for all of this”.

  They were interrupted for a second time. The podium was suddenly light and the soft thumbing of heels was heard. Woman’s shoes, no doubt.

  The woman standing in the podium was a small, elegant redhead. Sweet face, high bone cheeks, elegant nose, cute full lips and big watchful eyes. The air of importance was obvious around her.

  Too cute for a kidnapper.

  The woman looked at them, in a cheerful manner, like they were all playing a collective game. When she spoke, her voice was loud and clear.

  “Greetings to each and every one of you standing here, in this very room, tonight. I am pretty sure you are terribly confused.”

  The impatient whispers all around her was gone.

  “But there was no other way to bring everyone on board. You see our loving Council isn’t always the most gentle, but is, definitely and without a doubt, the most thoughtful and resourceful. But let me introduce myself first. I am Assistant Counsellor Vanessa Rehberg, and the reason you are here tonight is our Council. And Deities.”

  A wave of shocked gasps shook the crowd. Vanessa waited until they died down. Then she took a deep breath.

  “Let’s cut to the chase then, shall we? The Great War. You all know of it.”

  “Taking about cutting to the chase” remarked Seb, intimidated.

  “The War destroyed a great part of Canton’s natural resources and caused thousands to lose their lives. Our relations with the Deities were disrupted and the people lost their Powers. Since then we have entered a time of peace. Until now. For a while we’ve been receiving troubling signs of the West Villages. Disappearances, mysterious deaths and sightings. Just like the time before the War begun.”

  People gasped, others looked baffled, some even excited.

  “What the…?” John whispered.

  “We are still not sure what lays on those mountains. We lost every contact with our research team a while ago.”

  Vanessa sounded sincerely sad for their loss.

  “For a few years now, we have been working on restoring our relationship with the Deities. After a lot of discussion, always bearing in mind the latest events… After 72 whole years, Elonia and Aurelia decided to give people a chance. To give you the chance to become Heroes, like the ones of the old days.”

  The four of them looked at each other, mouths wide open. Before they had a chance to exchange words, someone was clapping. The gathered people turned their heads, towards the sound. Blond hair, green eyes, cute figure with a checkers T-shirt and black pants.

  The singer. Amy Wyatt.

  “Isn’t that a lovely story, Mrs Rehberg? A story about our reconnection with our benefactors. I have one single question however. Do we even get an opinion on this?”

  Amy’s face was a mask of disgust and rage.

  “We are real people, with real lives. You and your Council takes us all in the middle of the night, without asking, without warning and then you expect us to do what? Believe you? Get down on our knees and thank you because you will give us something we never asked for? Were we even asked if we wanted to fight? Do we even have a choice to see our families again? Or will the Deities send us in a mission wit
hout mercy? You said it yourself, that a fully trained research team is missing. Do you want us to die, too?”

  Vanessa wasn’t that surprised or hurt by Amy’s reaction. In fact, she merely showed a slight annoyance. It seemed that she was actually prepared for all possible reactions, because her answer was quick and merciless.

  “Mrs. Wyatt. The famous newcomer. Nice show, by the way.”

  Amy started turning red by the unexpected praise.

  “You are really a talented singer. I understand your point of view. Your life is exciting, maybe more than many others in this room. You may not want to change your singing career, in order to become a Hero. But you were chosen, mrs Wyatt. It is an honour, not a burden. You are not the Council’s prisoners. We just have to make sure you’ll master your gift, as fast and precise as we can. You are going to get all the help you’ll ever need. Only then, you will be allowed to take part in the operations.”

  “Still, nobody asked us if we want to be a part of all of this. If we want to fight.”

  Vanessa looked at Amy, intensely.

  “I know you are afraid. I am too. We’ve been in peace for a long time, and the mere chance of its disruption, frighten us. That’s why we need your help. Restoring the connection between the Deities and the people is of essential importance. We are the Daughters and Sons of the first Chosen People. We are different, special. The Goddesses chose us to be elevated, a state better than that of a simple man. You think that’s a burden? Just a mere responsibility? It’s not. You are blessed. We all are. It’s time again, time to realise who we are. A new era of prosperity for our Canton. Are you with me?”

  She was speaking frantically now, real excitement in her face, and her words got to them. The people looked at her with eyes shining, full of expectation, minds filled with ideas. Possibilities. There were glorious legends about the Heroes of old days. Fame and power.

  What wouldn’t these people, these bored and disappointed young adults, seeing their ordinary, miserable lives fly by, give for a change to be stronger? To change their fate. What wouldn’t I give?

  “Do you understand the necessity, Mrs. Wyatt?”

 
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