Intrusion From the Shadows

A signal flickered at four points all over the world, linking them all together. Well, they've always been linked by the Synchron.

The first signal jumped from the Atlantic city of Redwall to the old city of Rome in Italy.

“Hey, Garrett, how's it there in Rome?” asked the voice from the first signal point.

Garrett Heaton tapped the screen of his laptop and a window opened to show the face of a young man with gold blond hair tied into a short ponytail and bright blue eyes wearing a dark jacket.

“Christian, you do realize that its way past midnight here?” he asked.

Christian Hunter squinted at him through the shadows. “What time is it there? You're still awake. Not one bit sleepy.”

“Two o' clock. I'm stargazing before sleep. You?”

“Working. Apparently, an event happened today at a dome, and I'm manning the repairs for that place.”

Garrett sat up, seeing another signal latch to his. “Oh, another one came.”

Another screen opened on their laptops, and showed the head of a young man with short light blond hair and green eyes wearing a brown hoodie. “Who called?” Behind him was a sunny beach.

“Damn it, Kent! Are you on vacation?” Garrett stared at the background scene. Chris' background was an empty quiet office. For Garrett, he was sure that it was the very famous Collosseum behind him, as he sat outside it in a bench to pick on their signal.

“What, you wanna come to the beach to?” Kent Acheson laughed. “Hi, Chris. How's it in Redwall?”

Silence. Chris had dropped his head against his table.

“Oi, wake up!” Garrett yelled. “You're the one who's sleepier here!”

“By the way, Chris, don't you know that it's a little bad for your eyesight if you sit in the dark?” said Kent.

“Yeah, I'm aware of that,” said Chris with a yawn. “Sorry. I skipped sleep for two days by now.”

“Doing what?” asked Garrett.

“Signing in a kid that took a really long time to connect to Gladiators. I was trying to make him one of Redwall's dome Gladiators, but his powers were incredibly resisting. Maybe it's because he was asleep. He got knocked out after fighting a bunch of intruders who tried to attack a kid.”

“A new Gladiator for Redwall's domes?” said a new voice. “Sounds interesting.”

A fourth signal entered and another window opened. This time, to a young man with dishevelled brown hair and gray blue eyes. In his background, it was an office in the middle of the afternoon.

“So who called all of us?” asked Keller Thorn. “You better make it fast, since I'm short on time today.”

“Short on time?” said Kent. “You don't look like it.”

“I have to try managing things, it's really tiring,” Keller sighed, and leaned against his desk on one elbow. “It's night time where you are, right, Chris? I want to sleep now.”

Chris grinned. “Not yet, Thorn. Anyway, sorry for calling you guys out right now. Sky's got a request for you all.”

“Sky?” said Garrett, raising his eyebrows. At that, Keller and Kent also both tensed up.

“He wants the four of us to come back to Redwall. All of us. For preparations of the next Gladiators Games that will be here in four months.”

“Four months . . . seems like a long time since Kent won last year's tournaments,” said Garrett with a frown.

“Really? It feels like a short time for a year,” Keller snorted. “Why do we have to go there? And particularly now? Only the four of us?”

Garrett frowned. “If he wants the four of us to reunite, means that there's something coming up, right? Something bad is happening. I'm still in the middle of investigations here.”

“You were looking for someone, right?” said Kent.

“Yeah,” said Garrett. “I arrived just a week ago, but just today, that person's presence, wherever it had been, vanished.”

“Looking for someone?” said Chris, raising his eyebrows.

“Uh-huh,” said Garrett. “The current Overlord.”

“You definitely believe that someone is holding that title, now that Rune is gone, huh?” said Kent, amused.

“If there's no Overlord, there's no way Gladiators is able to survive,” said Garrett with a frown. “There's the Synchron Keeper already, but only now, she's the only one officially active. I don't know about my successor, though.”

“Zack Kagan was his name, right?” said Chris. “The Paladin? Don't worry about him. He's the kid I spent two days trying to link him to a dome. He's active now.”

“Zack is-” Garrett sat up. “So he's there?”

“He's here,” said Chris.

“You said he was passed out just now, what happened?” asked Kent.

“He was exhausted. The doctor said that he must have skipped sleep, too.”

“And?” Keller asked.

“He's recovering just fine. He'll be up tomorrow. All he needed was sleep. But him sleeping made it hard for me to link him to domes, so – that was the only problem. It wasn't bad.”

“So?” Keller asked. “You didn't really need to ask if I've got to go there; I'll have to be present at several tournaments that the Games will be at, so I'll be there anyway. But if if all four of us need to be present, there has to be a bad reason why we have to go. So what is it?”

“Because that, again, is happening,” said Chris with a grim expression.

“That?” Kent frowned. Then he gasped. “Wait, you're talking about – Theta?”

“Close enough,” said Chris. “But it's not them. It's a new one, and apparently followers of Theta.”

Then he stopped. “Connection's buzzing.”

The screen flickered.

“What the-?” said Kent, sitting up.

“Anyone hit something with your signal?” said Chris.

“I'm working on it,” said Keller, running his hands across the keyboard. The screen stopped buzzing.

“You fixed it?” said Garrett.

“No. It's a hacker,” said Keller. “The hacker slipped through with the opening I made.”

A fifth screen broke in and revealed a stranger with dark hair. “Good evening, Marked Gladiators. I overheard of the new selections for the Synchron Games. And I have just one request for you.”

The End

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