In the next morning, sunlight fell on the steel floor next to Cryill’s bed. He lazily woke up, and looked out the window next to him. Near the horizon, there was a row of beautiful mountain ranges which were lit by the faint sunrise and washed in receding tones of cerulean. It was raining outside. The boy hadn’t ever been away from home before. Perhaps the change of scenery gave him a fresh perspective. Looking several floors below, he saw several troops in combat practice. His parents were still sleeping. “You two,” he thought, “stay safe.”
He looked at the clock hung above the window. It was 0558. Cyrill took a jacket from the closet then left for the outdoors.
The young man sat himself on the bleachers and quietly watched the soldiers taking their combat practice. He looked up at the gloomy sky, as if he communicated with something up there.
“Beautiful, ain’t it?” a gruff male voice interrupted next to him. Cyrill looked to his right, and a man in a dark green rain coat sat one row above him. He looked in his mid forties.
“Don' worry, you'll be safe heer,” he said in his unlike accent.
“They told us we'd be safe in our house.”
“They tell yah lots a' things,” the man replied.
“You know...”Cyrill digressed, “you haven't told me your name yet.”
“Sergeant Lee Jackson, I already know your names, ‘been assigned to take care of you guys.” He responded.
“Nice to meet you sir” Cyrill nodded. “So when do you think we'll be getting out of here?” Lee turned and perked a brow to him,
“You wanna get out there aftah what happened yestahday?”
“No, just curious”
“With all the research and development they're doing for the new security system, I'd be estimatin' seven or eight months.”
After the men in combat practice had finished, they retired to a row of well camouflaged barracks near the large gates.
“...well, we best be headin' in, you look like a drowned rat.” They both laughed and headed for the main building. Cyrill did not know whether he could trust the Sergeant or not, but he figured that was the least of his concerns — he had no clue where they were, and why anyone would want to assassinate his father. He kept his questions to him self and quietly followed.
“I’ve got a hand full of things to get done after trainin’ these fools, hope to be seein’ you soon kid.” Sarge said.
Cyrill didn't take kindly to being called a child. He returned to their room, his parents were still asleep. He looked up at the clock again. It was 0613.
He hung the coat in the closet and returned to his bed. Then he brought his mind’s attention to the incident from the day before. To all his queries, silence answered. He focused on who might have done it until he drifted to sleep.
He woke up at the bright sun shining on his eye lids. The clock indicated it was just after mid day. After a moment's worth of stretching and recollection of thoughts on the matter at hand, he noticed his parents missing from the room. There was a note on a steel table next to the door. It read:
Good afternoon Cy, your father and I are getting oriented around this place and learning about what happened yesterday, so don't you worry about us, we should be back around 1430.
Cyrill decided he would just let everything resolve itself. He quietly hummed an electronic metal song and took out his portable game console.
He liked to play video games, unfortunately though, he also lacked talent in the field. After the eighth time his character's body was riddled with plasma scorches, he turned off the system.
He took a heavy sigh and lay prostrate on the comfy bedding. He couldn't hide it any longer. The fear he had kept at bay for seventeen hours erupted from its confine and overtook his thoughts, his feelings — his mind. Tears swelled behind his eye lids, but he was just too proud to endorse it. Deep down, he had been terribly frightened to lose his father. “This is useless,” he reprimanded himself, stubbornly ignoring it’s vain.
Shortly following his emotional episode, he decided to put him self together. He approached the window, briefly nodded in approval of the image reflected back at him, then walked outside the small room. It was a lot quieter than his old house for an afternoon. Cyrill made his way across the corridor.
He went down the flight of stairs, and through the use of maps posted along the way, found him self in the cafeteria. It was lunch time, and it was packed full. Cyrill managed to thread between them just quick enough for the last serving of cheese cake. He found him self before a large chef. His strong figure completely disagreed with the profession. Most of his brown hair had been tucked inside his hat, and a badge labeled “Magnus, Nigel” was carelessly stamped on his shoulder, his sharp green eyes peered through Cyrill.
“Well, are you gonna order something kid?” His strong voice shook the insides of Cyrill.
“Yes I, I’ll have a plate of—”,
“An army marches on its stomach, so keep working slackers!” Nigel barked to his employees. “Now, where was I?” He looked around.
“Right, umm, I’ll have a cheese cake and some water.”
“…that’s it?” The chef leant over the counter, “Hmm, you’re too scrawny,” Of course, Cyrill wasn’t exactly scrawny. “Have an extra plate, on the house—”Nigel kindly smiled, but interrupted by an employee.
“You can’t do that Nigel!” a mischievous teenage voice yelled from behind the stoves.
“Get back to work Carter!” He yelled while serving Cyrill.
“Sir, can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Certainly...” he ambled his way from the counter and guided Cyrill to a table isolated in a corner. “K, what can I help you with?”
Cyrill said, “Well, I’m not exactly sure where I am.”
“Oh, right. You guys just dropped in after midnight,” Nigel said. Cyrill began to grow suspicious of the fact people seem to already know him, yet he hadn't introduced himself to anyone.
“Mhm, I guess we could start by introducing our selves to one another. I’m Nigel Magnus, the head chef of this installation, but everybody just calls me master chef ‘cause of my reputation as a third degree black belt in Jeet-kune-do, and also because of my proficiency with other forms of martial arts, such as—”
“Yes, but see—”
“Hapkido, Tae-kwon-do—” Nigel continued, but still interrupted.
“Yes, but where is this place?” Cyrill inquired.
“Ah yes, this is obviously a hidden military base, just a couple of centuries old. There are four hidden bases in this hemisphere alone. They’re all accessible by all the other nations through the consent of the international congress—”
“Okay, but where is this one base?” Cyrill said.
“Oh, right sorry. Well kid, truth is, only a handful of people know exactly where we are.” Nigel replied.
“Oh, okay.” Cyrill hung his head in disappointment.
“Sorry kid, I don’t have the faintest clue.”
“It’s alright.” Cyrill commented.
“Anything else I can help you with?”
“That’s all I got for now sir, thanks.”
He took the meal and navigated his way through the crowd. He thought maybe it is safer if there are few people who know where they were. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling of distrust hovering around him. “Maybe they have already infiltrated this place.” Then again, he was always did over analyze and add more variables to sufficiently difficult problems. This was no doubt a drastic change in his life, but Cyrill seemed to adapt to change quickly.
Back in the small room, it looked quite different from how he saw it when they first arrived. The small table was on the left of the door, and on the wall above it there was a television screen. The closet was placed opposite the table, and on the center of the ceiling there was a fan with two lights.
He found his parents reading several maps. He knew those couldn’t be the kind of maps he was looking for. His father looked just as he would any other day. He always tried to look tough for his only child in the face of adversity. His mother was every bit just the same.
“Hey champ, where have you been?” He said to Cyrill.
“I went down to the cafeteria and got some lunch.”
“What if you got lost, or hurt out there?” she said to him. His mother seemed to constantly worry about him. Cyrill was accustomed to this treatment. “You’ve never been here before.”
“I’m sorry.” Cyrill could have mentioned the maps he used. But he knew she could bring up a million other points to support her side of the argument. Besides, she was only looking out for him.
“Next time, don’t leave without telling us where you are going, okay?” He nodded, she gestured for him to give her a hug. Cyrill did so.
“So is the food any good down there?” his father added.
“Yeah, kinda – It depends on how critical you are.”
His parents left to get some food themselves. He sat on his bed and ate the two cheese cakes slowly. Cyrill had a natural affinity of looking through windows. Staring at the distant scenery, thinking about random topics and occasionally, inventing new devices. He never shared any of his ideas — he was sure they may have already been invented.
The activity didn’t yield nearly as much entertainment it usually did. Within a short while, he was completely bored, and his mind began to focus on the incident from the day before. Cyrill was unwilling to drown in these thoughts again. Consequently, he took another nap.
He was a heavy sleeper. Cyrill had slept for a long time. He woke up just after mid night. After sleeping for that long, there was no way he could fall back to sleep again. Cyrill went ahead and took the maps on the desks. They only detailed the whole complex and an outskirt of fifty meters.
He sighed, and had nothing else to do but watch the night sky, although that couldn’t be done for long on an empty stomach. Before he left for the cafeteria, he saw the gates open, and a military vehicle rolled in.
Out the small room, he stepped into the long corridor. His eyes caught the strip of fluorescent lamps fixed on the center of the ceiling. “Just like home,” he thought to himself. On his way, he also noticed an elevator, although it wasn’t listed on any of the maps. He decided not to take it. If it was okay to use the elevator, maybe they would have put it on the map.
When he opened the cafeteria door, it was completely silent, uncomfortably silent. Before he could take his first step, a garbage can had been knocked over somewhere in the room. A small team of cleaning robots whizzed about the marble floor to their destination. He shrugged and walked toward the vending machines. He punched in his ID on the keypad and purchased a bag of chips with some soda. Next to the vending machines was a ream of news papers. “They get their papers delivered at this hour,” he laughed, then picked up a copy.
Inevitably, he was back in the room again. He sat on the bed and decided to read the paper by moonlight. Cyrill wasn’t surprised what was on the front page, “Local Hero Foils Assassination.”, with his father’s name highlighted below the title. The article went to elaborate on information he already knew, anyone with common sense would already know. It finished with a short paragraph stating how the law enforcement district is still hard at work investigating for answers. Cyrill read the rest of the paper until the sun had began its ageless pilgrimage across the sky.
Just around 0500, he saw groups of soldiers pour out the row of barracks and walk to the field. He saw Sgt. Lee sat on the bleachers. Cyrill had finished reading the paper under an hour ago. He decided to go outside again, but this time he left a note.
“Ha, look who’s shown up.” Lee said.
“Yeah, it’s kinda hard to sleep after recent events.” Cyrill replied untruthfully.
“Ai undastand,” he had a cigar stuck on the left side of his mouth. The smoke curled around his face. He never blinked. “Must be hard, kid like you and this entire shakedown”
“I’ll get used to it and move on. That’s what separates the strong from the weak.”
“Now why do you say that?” Lee asked.
“Well, when the weak are faced with adversity, they keep using the same approach over and over, and then give up. The strong would use a different approach to it until they overcame that adversity.”
“Clever, very clever,” Lee turned around to him. Even his brown eyes conveyed the same message.
“Thanks.” Cyrill nodded. This was quite possibly the first time he received recognition for his ideas. His parents were always busy with their occupation.
“So anyway, how are you settling in?” The Sarge put out his cigar out of courtesy
, Cyrill was coughing.
“Pretty well, I found my way to the cafeteria yesterday.”
“With those tacky ass maps—”Lee was surprised.
“You got a brain on you kid.” He took out and used the rather dated whistle.
The soldiers formed up in rows and columns for their exercise. Cyrill hadn’t much exercise in weeks, so he asked Lee if he could perhaps join. Naturally, the Sarge allowed him. Their faces looked in one direction, and their height varied just as their built did.
“Some of them must be new.” Cyrill thought, and he was right. In the last row, he saw a young man in his age group. He appeared slightly older than Cyrill, perhaps in his late teens. He decided to join the row.
“Hey.” The young man said, “What were you and the Sarge talking about?”
“Oh, nothing really, just exchanging a few thoughts”
“Right, well, my name is Kyle Baker, nice to meet you.”
“Cyrill Reigns, nice to meet you too.”
Kyle was slightly taller than he was. He was the youngest of all the men. The black boots peeked under his military uniform’s pants. The entire uniform was at least a size larger, and it was perfectly possible this was a style of wearing clothes. He wore a cap over his short brown hair. Kyle had a neutral complexion, which seemed to be permanent.
“Alright ladies, I don’t like wakin’ up at five and I’m sure neither do y’all. ‘Cept for Parsons, he stays up doing god-knows what.” Lee shouted. “So let’s get this over with so I dun have to see yer faces again for the rest of today!”
Lee’s voice asserted an authoritative and friendly, entertaining feel, the kind of voice that drove his audience to perform better and better every time.
“Seth!” He had the habit of picking a trainee and instructing them to do a random activity. The performance would determine the intensity of the warm up. “You ready for this son?”
“Sir, yes sir!” He replied, failure would not make him anyone’s favorite.
Lee turned around and looked across the field, “Aight, on your mark!”
He prepared to dart across the field to the building and back as quickly he could.
He took a deep breath, he would run down the field, and leap over the desks, and other obstacles
“What is eight squared!?”
He took off and ran several feet away. Then he realized the question.
“Um …” Laughter erupted from the crowd.
“You’ve got two seconds! Two! —,”
“One! Whoops, now we’ve gotta do sixty-four push ups, courtesy of Mr. Parsons!” They grew disorganized in gut-wrenching laughter. They hearted Sgt. Lee because he was a comical character.
Cyrill began to slow down by the twenty-fourth. And by the time they reached the forty-seventh, he collapsed.
“What do you think you’re doing!? You’re gonna get us all killed!” Kyle whispered.
“I can’t feel my shoulders.” Cyrill was on the ground, face down.
“And neither will any of us by the time he’s through with us at this rate!”
“Damn it to hell,” Cyrill brought him self back up. He decided the least he could do is give ten percent more, so as to not get started on the wrong foot with Kyle.
“Just keep going, it won’t last forever—”
“Mister Baker! Would you kaindly educate everyone what the god-damned-hell you’re squeaking about?”
“Does the word pitiful mean anything to any of you!? Back to fifty-two! And this time don’t make me puke my guts out!” Lee cut him off and spoke to the entire group. By the time they finished Cyrill concluded he had enough, but Sarge wouldn’t allow him to leave. He saw potential in the boy. After allowing them to catch their breath, he instructed them to begin unarmed hand-to-hand practice. Kyle was the only one in the same level as Cyrill.
“Try to make this worth my while, noob.” Kyle wasn't too shy about bludgeoning Cy with his air of confidence and ability.
“The more you under estimate me, the less likely you will win”. Cy began circling his opponent, his sharp eyes fixed on Kyle. He took care to notice he was at a disadvantage in any case — sometimes not even a sharp mind will over come to sheer, brute force.
The circle grew tighter, and Kyle did not provide vulnerability. They gripped one another by the shoulders, and Cyrill managed to hold his ground against Kyle.
“Good, good,” Kyle said, he wasn't really trying
Cyrill's feet had dug into the ground. But that could only help so much. Kyle plowed him backwards in a demonstration of brute force.
Cy let up, but before he lost, he managed to steer Kyle off balance. They both fell.
“Crafty little bugger” Kyle said.
“Let me know when I should start trying”
They engaged into another lock, and Cyrill attempted to throw his opponent off balance again. Kyle whipped Cyrill over and allowed the momentum to spin him into the ground.
“I'm only getting started.” Cyrill said, while he wiped the dirt off his clothes.
“I'll only make this harder if you keep playing around.”
Cyrill charged to his opponent, he tackled Kyle in the midsection. Cyrill was overpowered and flung through the dirt.
“You've got the right tactic, but not nearly enough muscle to follow it through,” Kyle stood above Cy, with arms crossed.
“Show off,” Cyrill said, he wasted little time and found himself in the same lock again. This time though, Cyrill pushed Kyle off his ground up to a significant distance, when his unseasoned frame is brought into consideration.
“Ah, you learned,” Kyle said, he pressed his weight against Cyrill, and threw him in the same direction. Cyrill gripped Kyle’s arms right before he fell, which brought the two combatants on their knees.
The whistle blew after an hour of various exercises. Each one of them stressed both Cyrill’s physical and mental limits. But he liked that kind of exercise. He believed that if there is no struggle, then there is no progress. Some of the troops returned to the barracks, but most of them went in the main building.
“So what now?” Cyrill said. His voice sounded somewhat raspy after the cardiovascular exercise.
“Now we eat” Kyle smiled. There was a chance the smile was really suppressed laughter.
“Baker!” The Sarge yelled. He also had the habit of yelling in his instructor voice at the beginning of most conversations with the trainees. “I’m gonna be off the base after breakfast, so you’re gonna baby sit our friend until I get back tomorrow.”
“What? But Sarge—”
“Are you questioning my authority kid?”
“Then we’re good, ‘sides you’re the only one around his age.” Sarge laughed. He joined the two on their way to the cafeteria.
“Was that a little too much for you there Cyrill?” Kyle said.
“A little bit, yes. But I could have done better.”
“That’s the spirit,” Sarge commended. “You better come down tomorrow morning and follow that through.”
They took a faster route through the building to the cafeteria. Being with the Sergeant allowed them to cut in line, and have their way at any table they chose. Cyrill asked Lee if he had any information about the incident, and to his delight, he did. They would soon exchange their thoughts.
Once at the table, Kyle asked Cyrill, “So where are you from again?” At this point in time, Cyrill was extremely suspicious. He decided to drop his guard this time and try to make a friend. It would also seem awkward if he lied about it, so he did not really have a choice.
“Arthernis, it’s located about a hundred miles above the equator on the east of Cu’ Escen.”
“Sweet man, totally sweet, and is it true that there’s no speed limit on the highways across the desert?”
“Yeah,” Cyrill replied. “They’re so wide and stretch for so long that there’s simply no real way to enforce the speed limits.”
“I’ve always wanted to go there. I should go there after I’m done here.”
“Heh, don’t get too excited now. It’s also really hot around summer.”
“That doesn’t count, dude you’ve gotta tell me more about it after breakfast.”
“Alright,” Cyrill could have continued, but the words sank the moment he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. He looked over, and recognized the person behind was Nigel.
“Top of the morning boys,” he said, “do you mind if I join?”
“Not at all,” Cyrill bit hungrily into his grilled cheese. Reading the night away and the rigorous exercises had worked him quite an appetite. The three peers discussed about the recent events. Every one of them, initially, was equally clueless. After contributing their distinct information to the conversation, they achieved a better understanding, although it was too abstract to sponsor any sort of conjecture.
The forum lasted nearly half an hour. Cyrill thought it may not be in his place to seek answers for the incident. However, he couldn’t bear not knowing. Ignorance is weakness. While it was in his best interests to continue his research, he also preferred some variety in his life. Kyle guided him across the complex to the installation’s library. Quite a good library, it featured articles dating back more than seven centuries, although most were archived digitally in a storage medium.
The majority was military-themed, and Cyrill was not interested in such media. Instead, he checked out a 19th century title.
“What’s that old relic?” Kyle had checked out a documentary on the war of Chiron. It was a global campaign which occurred during the years 2309-2357.
“I think today’s entertainment,” Cyrill said, “is a beat-up remix of these old relics.”
“It’s alright if you ask me,” Kyle inserted the small cartridge containing the documentary inside his portable game console. The cartridge was quite a small unit, about the same size of old Earth’s postage stamps. A few minutes into the presentation, Kyle learnt that Cu’ Escen was a major battle ground during the war. The munitions used left it a barren wasteland for a century, and people began to re-populate fifty years later. It was no wonder its buildings were different from the other nations, they could not implement modern practices of construction on the land. Therefore, had to rely on Earth’s architectural concepts, and then retrofit them to comply with some modern technologies.
“Baker!” Lee’s voice came from the stair well across the room, “Get over here!”
“I thought I had today off, Sarge.”
“There was an injury during the exercise,”
Kyle told Cyrill he might be back later. He followed Lee down the stair wells. Cyrill found his way across the complex, and back into their room. When he entered, however, his parents were not inside. What he found was another note.
Morning champ, the administrators here have just received new information about what happened. They said it may take a while, so we don’t know exactly when we’ll be back. I also got you some new games, they’re in my jacket, and don’t worry about what’s going on right now, from the call, it sounds like this information is pretty good. Knowledge is our best tool.
He was accustomed to these notes — they were almost a secondary mean of communication between him and his parents. Cyrill was drawn into the book and read up to sundown.
Soon, his parents arrived, and they related to him the new information. He was told the investigation has led to exposing several gangs executing an order from an authority. Perhaps his father’s political opponents were behind the scenes. Cyrill thought there may be more to it than that, but once again, he always did over analyze and add variables to sufficiently difficult problems.