Arcana Magi - c.16: Fragile Friendship

by H-M Brown

“I made contact with my boss at Mystic Intelligence Newark Branch.' Fynir sat in the minivan looking at the Sentinels. The idea did not sit well with the girls as birds chirped in the nearby forest, where the minivans parked. He shuffled through the audio tapes each marked with the girl's names on it. All dated today, July 23rd. ‘I know you can't trust anyone from Mystic Intelligence, but we need allies. We can't go on a personal war against Avalon Tech. Their influence is everywhere. If my boss and I could get these tapes to Internal Affairs at the main headquarters in Merydia, we should be able to expose Avalon Tech.”
      The idea gave Alysia hope. To send Oryn and Vyndor to jail for what they had doen to her and Reya. It was something she would like to see. The winged Sentinel looked up at the cloudy morning sky moving her short white and light blue hair back for a better look. She expected rain to happen any minute. Leaning on the minivan, she looked at her newfound friends and allies. But she sense trust was at a fragile state.
      Danica's history placed everyone on edge. She did not tell her entire story. Just what she felt they needed to know. Alysia was not sure if if she was safe to around with.
      Chisame had never been in this level of trouble before. There was a disconnect between her and the Sentinels since she still have parents and a sense of a normal life waiting for her. Alysia felt jealous of Chisame.
      Brie was hyperactive again, but her parent's legendary status has put her on the spot. Having been inside of Avalon Tech and saw first hand some of the shady activity, she showed her willingness to fight back. Brie was the only one Alysia felt comfortable to have around her.
      Suzie and Karl have been by Reya's side at all times. Alysia saw it in their eyes, regret, shame, the need to apologize for their roles in aiding Avalon Tech. Although Alysia has shown forgiveness and understanding, since Oryn placed them in the Therapy Room. The couple refused to use that as an excuse for contributing to the pain inflicted on her and Reya.
      Karyn has a reputation that was as far reaching as Avalon Tech's. Yet, she had been cautious in her approach. Despite her status, she understands that Avalon Tech was up to something far more dangerous than imaginable. There was also fear that Avalon Tech knows she was with the Sentinels. This means that the threats would be far more overwhelming if she had not been around at all. Alysia wondered what she could do with all that magic.
      Fynir has it the hardest. An agent of Mystic Intelligence, he knew something was strange going on within his branch. He never imagined it was this big. He had to earn the Sentinels trust. Words alone were not enough for the girls. They need help, but if Mystic Intelligence was working for Avalon Tech, then all resources needed to expose the scandal was out of reach. Alysia was not sure if he was a part of a bigger plan by Oryn to get them all.
      They all took the time to know one another. But knowing and trusting were two different things. This group was not ready to let their guard down to each other. It was only a matter of time before something gave and everything fell apart.
      “I say we meet Fynir's boss.” Chisame said as the Sentinels discussed amongst themselves by the Karl's minivan.
      “Who made you the leader?” Danica said as she stood eye to eye before Chisame.
      “Well I'm not going to spend my entire life running away and hiding.”
      “Yeah? Well, I'm not interested in getting caught by Avalon Tech and become a mindless freak.”
      Alysia felt a sting from the comment. She lowered her head as Brie placed her hand on the winged Sentinel's shoulder.
      “Don't listen to her Alysia.' Brie said then turned to Danica. ‘Can't you be a little more sensitive? She's been through a lot.”
      “Oh I'm sorry.' Danica said. ‘I thought she toughened up like she said and got over it.”
      “It's not easy to get over it.” Brie said as Alysia sighed. ‘It's risky, but I agree with Chisame. If we can get more adults on our side, our chances of beating Avalon Tech will be better.”
      “I don't believe this.' Danica approached Alysia. ‘Hey Shorty, don't you think this is too crazy for us to do?”
      Alysia lifted her head up. Her emotionless face made Danica jerk her head back. She felt scared about the plan, but as she lifted her hands up, she realized they had to do something. She stared at the bracelet, the teal gem reflecting off her teal eyes, she nodded.
      “We should try it.' Alysia with no emotion in her voice. ‘I want to end this, so I can salvage what's left of my life.”
      “Alysia.” Brie said. She and Chisame stood there shocked by the winged Sentinel's comment. Their felt sad for her.
      “You're all crazy. Count me out.” Danica left the Sentinels and headed for the other van where the adults were.
      Alysia looked at Brie and Chisame as they approached her and gave her a sense of comfort. It was not what she wanted.
      “Please, I don't want you to treat me like I'm weak.”
      “We're not.” Chisame said.
      “We just don't want you to feel alone.” Brie said.
      “Alone?” Alysia said as her eyes shifted back and forth between the two.
      “Yeah.” Brie said as Chisame nodded.
      “Thank you.”
      “Alright.' Chisame said with a smile. ‘Let's go tell Fynir that we'll meet his boss tomorrow. This should give us time to come up with a plan just in case it's a trap.”
      “Great.' Brie said with excitement. ‘This should give me time to analyze the hairclips and mage suits Oryn made me and Alysia wear. Maybe we could use them to our advantage.”
      “Okay Brie,' Chisame pat the little Sentinel's back. ‘We'll get started on that as soon as possible.”
      After talking with Fynir and the adults, everything was set in motion. By noon, with thunder rumbling in the distance, Karl and Fynir came out of the reception desk and assigned the rooms.
      “Suzie, Reya, and I are in room three.' Karl said. ‘The girls get room four and Karyn and Fynir will take room five.”
      Everyone went into their rooms and settled in. By the next hour, Brie and Alysia stepped out of the bathroom dressed their in mage suits. Chisame and Danica looked at the Sentinels with wide eyes as Alysia propped her hair and slipped on her hairclips.
      “Are you serious?' Danica said pointing at the suits. ‘We're supposed to wear that?”
      “Yeah.' Brie said as she straightened out her lavender and purple outfit then slipped on her light pink gloves. ‘Of course we don't know what your colors would be.”
      “Alysia.' Chisame said. ‘Would you mind turning around?”
      “Uh… sure.' Alysia turned around once as Chisame saw the mist wings flap. Alysia looked back as Brie and Chisame smiled. ‘What?”
      “You look like a superhero.” Brie said.
      “I do.' Alysia looked at herself in the mirror and stretched her wings out. ‘Do you think I could fly?”
      “Have you tried?” Chisame said as she approached the Sentinel and analyzed her teal and pink outfit.
      “No.” Alysia said as she felt Chisame tugged her light blue shrug jacket then took a closer look at her matching gloves.
      “I've never seen this kind of fabric before.”
      “It's supposed to be fireproof. I was caught in an explosion when these guys tried to kidnap Reya, the clothes that I wore burned off. So they remade the design of my mage suit to resist fire.”
      “Explosion?” Chisame looked at Alysia, wondering how the winged Sentinels survived. She turned to Brie and Danica as the girls realized she never saw the video.
      “Luckily,' Brie said as she walked to her bookbag and took out her laptop. ‘I saved the video before crashing the website.”
      The Sentinels gathered on the bed, around the computer as Brie booted up the system. Brie played the video and Chisame watched Alysia in action.
      It was the first time Chisame saw Alysia in her brainwashed state. She could see the pain in Alysia's eyes as the winged Sentinel stood in the flames. It was also the first time she heard Reya's voice. So innocent in tone, and yet so distant in nature. Having saw her in a coma, Chisame had a guilty thought of how lucky she was she did not end up like them. Then she saw Alysia's eyes looking at the computer, trembling. She could tell Alysia was trying to be strong by watching the video. Chisame turned her attention back to the video.
      “That could have been me. That could have been any one of us.”
      “I was going to be next, Chisame.” Brie said as she stared at her mage suit and clutched her shoulders. She felt Alysia's arms wrapped around her.
      “I won't let that happen.' Alysia looked to Chisame and Danica. ‘To any of you. No matter who we are.”
      Danica looked away. She did not want protection, only results. The thief walked to the window with hands on her hips. She kept her distance as Chisame shook her head side to side, dismissing Alysia's outreach.
      “Thank you Alysia. I appreciate that.' Chisame said with a smile. ‘Let's find out what your outfits could do.”
      “I'll just have to get a couple of things from Karl's bag that we stole.”
      The Sentinels arrived at room three. Brie carried her bookbag, knocked on the door, and Suzie opened it. All the adults were inside talking. Their eyes grew wide as Brie and Alysia stepped inside while Chisame and Danica waited outside with the door open. Karl and Suzie were shocked to see Brie and Alysia back in their mage suits, but for Fynir and Karyn it was their first time seeing the girls dressed like that. As Brie sifted through the duffle bags, Alysia approached Reya resting peacefully on her bed. The winged Sentinel placed her hand on Reya's chest and felt her friend's heartbeat. She felt a pair of hands on her shoulders and she looked up to Suzie who gave light smile.
      “Will she ever wake up?”
      “Of course she will, Alysia. She's a fighter.”
      “I'm the only family she has left. I have to be here for her.” Alysia said as Suzie wrapped her arms into a hug. Alysia's hand move up and down with each breath Reya made. She saw a faint pink mist enveloped the catgirl's body. She had not seen the mist since Reya's accident. It disappeared.
      “Did you see that Suzie?” Alysia looked up to the woman.
      “What did you see?”
      Alysia looked back at Reya and saw the mist was not there. She slid her hand away from Reya and stared at her gloves.
      “Alysia.' Brie said as the winged girl turned around. ‘I have what we need. Let's go.”
      “Where are you girls going?” Fynir said as Alysia walked past him.
      “We're going to test these suits and hairclips.' Brie said. ‘We're going to find out what these things could do.”
      “Running around in those clothes and casting spells. You'll attract attention. Sorry I can't allow that.”
      “Who cares what you think.' Danica said staring down the elf agent. ‘You're still on probation with us.”
      “And what about you Danica?' Fynir said getting up out of his seat. ‘You know how many agents your parents killed?”
      “I don't care.”
      “Enough!” Alysia said with sudden emotion. She held her head as she felt the enchantment activate. She walked away without saying anything else.
      “Alysia!” Brie ran out of the room and chased after her.
      The winged girl sat on the bench under a canopy, pressing her hand on her head. A sharp sting caused from the anger she felt. She took long deep breaths to help calm her emotions and collected her thoughts. As the pain wet away, Brie sat next to her.
      “Is your head okay Alysia?”
      “It's going away now.' Alysia leaned her head back. ‘Why is everyone fighting? I thought that if we learned about each other, we would be friends.”
      “I don't know, Alysia. I guess you can't make friends just by telling your story.”
      “But how did we become friends so easily?”
      “I guess it's because we were prisoners Alysia. Does that mean we can't be friends now that we are free?”
      “That's not what I meant.” Alysia faced Brie and they stopped talking as Karyn arrived with Chisame and Danica. It was a tense moment as the Sentinels avoided eye contact with each other. Karyn just observed them, analyzing their behavior. It brought a smile on her face as she remembered a little something from her past.
      “You remind of my friends.' She said with her monotone voice. ‘We were like that when we first met each other.”
      The Sentinels looked at the old lady as she walked onward. The girls followed the woman, remaining silent as they crossed the street to a nearby park. They walked into an open grassy area. Due to the coming storm, they were the only ones in the park.
      Brie sat on a bench beside Karyn and turned on her laptop. She took a gun like device with a plug attached to it. The hacker connected it to the side of the laptop and started up a program that measured mana. She aimed the gun and pressed the button to make sure it worked.
      “It's ready.”
      “So, where do we begin?” Chisame said as she received the gun from Brie.
      “Scan my body while I channel my mana. Just press this button.”
      “Okay.” Chisame aimed the device at Brie and watched the little Sentinel close her eyes and focus.
      Mist surrounded Brie's body. She took a deep breath as she stretched her body. Chisame activated the device and a thin red line appeared on the mage suit. She moved the gun upward, like a scanner, and the computer measured the mana output.
      “Done.” Chisame said as Brie walked over to the bench and saw that program registered the mana output at under twenty percent.
      “That can't be right.” Brie scrolled through the windows and found every stat reading under twenty percent.
      “Maybe, you're using the program wrong Brie.” Chisame said.
      “No this is the way the manual showed it. Naturally we should be at one hundred percent.”
      “You are correct.' Karyn said. ‘All sentient beings have a natural one hundred percent mana output unless you use enhancements.”
      “Then the mage suit may be designed to suppress mana.” Brie said.
      “Then why,' Alysia said. ‘would Avalon Tech make such a thing if their intent is to use us for our powers?”
      Chisame took a closer look at the fabric again and felt an extra layer in the outfit.
      “It feels like there is an inner lining to the suit.”
      “Yes there is.” Brie took off her glove and pulled back her sleeve. She and Chisame pulled on the lining. Then they scanned Brie's bare arm and hand. Alysia looked at the screen and nodded.
      “It's at one hundred percent.”
      “Okay.' Brie said as she stretched the lining as far as she could. ‘Now let's see the lining itself.”
      “Alysia tell me what you read and compare it to Brie's natural output.” Chisame scanned the fabric.
      “Twenty percent.”
      “What?' Brie walked over to the computer and read the stat. ‘I don't understand.”
      “That's because Ms. Williams,' Karyn said. ‘it's synthetic material. It had lost most of its natural mana output. Chances are there is a Spell Imprint on the suit as well.”
      “Spell Imprint?' Brie's eye lit up. ‘That's it. The mage suits have a suppression spell on it. Since we channel our mana, it activates the spell in the suit, and because its synthetic our own mana output is at twenty percent.”
      Alysia had a flash of memory when she and Brie fought Jonas, during their escape. She lifted her arms up and remembered how tired they were when casting spells. The winged Sentinel touched her hairclips and wondered the same thing.
      “It was to keep us from fighting them.”
      The Sentinels looked at Alysia as she took her hairclips off. She stood before Chisame and looked at the Sentinel's long black hair.
      “Would you cast a spell please, Chisame.”
      “Okay.' The Sentinel of Genbu stepped away from everybody and channeled her mana. She formed a ball of water from the mana mist and cast her spell. ‘Water bomb.”
      As it burst in the air, a wave of water splashed onto the ground blowing back the grass. Alysia propped Chisame's hair and attached her hairclips to them.
      “Do it again.” Alysia stepped back as Chisame nodded and cast the same spell.
      “Water bomb.' When the ball of water burst, it not just only wet the grass but a shockwave cut the top of the grass. Chisame felt her body tired out. She stared at her hands as they vibrated from the sudden drop in mana. ‘No way. I feel tired already.”
      “Interesting.' Brie said knelt at the impact area. ‘The hairclips doubles the strength of our spells, even the weaker ones, and force us to use a lot of mana at the same time.”
      “I really loved these hairclips.” Alysia said as she took her hairclips back.
      “Danica, do you have any thoughts on this?” Chisame said as she sat down on the bench to regain her strength.
      “I think Avalon Tech is pathetic.' Danica took Brie's hairclips and stared at them. ‘They obviously want a piece of the world, but if this is their idea of controlling people, it only means we can take them out with no problem.”
      “You think it's that easy.' Karyn said as she stood before Danica and looked down on her. ‘Have you tried using your power over people?”
      “Then where is that power now?' Karyn leaned closer to Danica and made the Sentinel step back. ‘I thought so.”
      Danica gritted her teeth. She felt fear in her heart as Karyn's emotionless expression made her next move unpredictable. The thief kept her mouth shut, as she felt exposed as some kind of fraud.
      “Whatever your intentions are, Ms. Leandros, I suggest you rethink them. Or you will be alone in the world. Even if you succeed.”
      Thunder rumbled in the clouds. It caught everyone's attention except Danica. It was time to leave. Droplets of water fell down one at a time. The girls ran across the street as the rain fell on top of them. They made it to a canopy at the motel and Karyn approached them soak and wet. Brie and Chisame started laughing as Alysia giggled while holding her head. Danica smiled with a sense of karmic retribution. It all came to end, when the old lady shook a support beam. The rainwater that gathered on the canopy fell through the crack, and splashed on the girls. They stood silent as the old mage walked away laughing out loud.
      Later in the afternoon, Suzie ordered pizza for the Sentinels. Alysia and Brie sat on the bed laying out their dried mage suits and hairclips. Chisame sat down next to them as Danica watched television on the floor.
      “I was thinking maybe we should have Madam Karyn remove the current Spell Imprint, and place in a new one.”
      “Why?” Chisame said.
      “We may have to fight. It's best if we wear this so we can react and cast spells better.”
      “Fight? As in, fight physically?”
      “No,' Danica said. ‘we tickle our enemies.”
      Chisame crawled on the bed and stopped at the edge.
      “If you can't add to the conversation, don't say anything at all.”
      “Sure sure.” Danica waved Chisame away and changed the channel.
      “Chisame,' Alysia said. ‘we have to face facts. Avalon Tech wants to hurt us and we have to defend ourselves.”
      Chisame took a deep breath and sat on her knees.
      “I'm not a fighter, Alysia.”
      “Neither am I, but they made me into one. They forced me into this situation. Did they ask any of us if we wanted to be their personal soldiers?”
      “But I never was captured by Avalon Tech.”
      “Aren't you lucky?' Danica sat on her knees and rested her arms on the edge of the bed. Her angered eyes stared down the Sentinel of Genbu. ‘Since you feel safe with the old lady, why don't you both go back home?”
      “Wait Danica,' Brie said. ‘I'm sure that's not what Chisame meant.”
      “It's exactly what she meant Brie.' Alysia said as Chisame felt outnumbered. ‘She never knew what was going on over here so she felt her life was easy going. Meanwhile, I was…”
      Alysia stopped for a moment. She knew what she was going to say, but held back her words and thoughts. Chisame took advantage of her hesitance.
      “You were going to say that you were brainwashed, tortured, and hurt. That I wouldn't understand your pain. I saw how you reacted to Reya, but it looks like you're thinking about yourself, as if you were the only one who suffered. You talked about being strong…”
      Alysia slapped Chisame across the face and her glasses fell to the floor.
      “Don't lecture me.' Alysia said as Chisame sat there in shock.
      “My glasses.' Chisame's eyes opened wide and her hands slid on the bed feeling everything. ‘Please. Help me.”
      Alysia's sat there as Chisame cried out of helplessness. The winged Sentinel saw the glasses on the floor and she reached for them. She took Chisame's arm and placed the glasses on her hand.
      “I'm… I'm sorry.' Alysia said as Chisame wiped the tears from her face. ‘I just…”
      Alysia walked away and sat on the chair across the room. She hugged her shoulders and looked away feeling ashamed for doing that.
      “Isn't this a nice turn of events.” Danica said with a smile, resting her head on the bed.
      “Shut up!” Chisame got off the bed and left the room.
      “What?' Danica lifted her head up. ‘This is quite fun to watch.”
      Brie ignored Danica and gathered the mage suit and hairclips. She left the room and saw Chisame standing in the rain with her glasses off. The little Sentinel watched her cry and wanted to say something. But she felt she would make the situation worse and decided to leave her alone.
      The afternoon continued on as Brie sat across from Karl dismantling the hairclips to look at the inside. They found them hollow. The material came from modified plastic.
      “Without the blueprints,' Karl said. ‘or the proper materials, we won't be able to convert them into communication devices like you want them.”
      “Should I hack the archives at Avalon Tech so I could get the blueprints?”
      “Don't Brie.' Karl reassembled the hairclips and handed it to Fynir. ‘To the evidence box as you requested.”
      “Thank you.' Fynir took the hairclips and placed it on top of the mage suits inside a box marked evidence. The tapes lay next to the outfits. ‘This will help in building the case against Avalon Tech. Stolen technology, the girl's testimony. The internet video Brie saved. We got quite a case against them.”
      “Indeed.' Karyn said from across the room. ‘Perhaps we can avoid risking the girls lives.”
      “Yeah.' Karl said looking at the old mage. ‘It's just a matter of getting them to believe the girls.”
      “So,' Fynir said to Brie. ‘have you girls decided your going to fight? Since you are going out of your way to make communication devices and remake these suits.”
      “Hopefully not.' Brie said. ‘If your boss is on our side and can get us to Internal Affairs in Merydia, then there won't be any need to fight Avalon Tech since we'll have protection.”
      Suzie entered into the room, carrying a bag, and placing the umbrella on the side of the wall. She approached the evidence box taking out Alysia's outfit.
       “I found a seamstress in town.' Suzie set the mage suit inside the box. ‘She looked at Alysia's mage suit and according her, the outer layer is made of spandex. The inner lining is the key. It's a combination of nylon, aramid and olefin fiber. These three are interwoven to look like a completely different material. Combined, you have a light armor.”
      “Can it be made?” Karyn said.
      “Yes. We can make it.”
      “Very well.' Karyn got of her seat and approached Brie. ‘Let's go see the Sentinels Ms. Williams.”
      Brie stood to her feet as Suzie opened the door and the Sentinel followed the women out of the room. Brie became silent when they arrived at the room. Inside, Karyn and Suzie found the atmosphere dreadful. The silence was not the source, but an aura of hate around Alysia, Chisame, and Danica.
      “Ms. Williams,' Karyn said. ‘Please sit on the bed. Everyone gather around.”
      “Later Oldie.” Danica said as Suzie reached for the television plug and pulled it out. The thief got up to her feet, ready to fight but Karyn's cold eyes stopped her. She sat on the bed as the Sentinels gathered around and kept their distance from each other. They waited for Karyn to say something as the old mage crossed her arms and walked in front of the window.
      “Why did you choose to become Sentinels?' The old mage said. ‘You choose this for a reason.”
      “Power.” Danica said without hesitation.
      “It's a start.” Karyn said.
      “I want to be a hero like my parents.' Brie said. ‘No. It's more than that. Reya sacrificed herself so that the power of the Sentinels would not fall into Oryn's hands. I don't want Reya's efforts to be for nothing.”
      “I became a Sentinel,' Chisame said. ‘because I wanted to learn more about mana and magic. To understand myself.”
      Everyone turned to Alysia as she remained silent. Her hands vibrated and she took short breaths as she tried to give her answer.
      “I don't remember why I chose to be a Sentinel. But now, after what happened to me. I don't want this power to fall into Avalon Techs hands. I don't want what happened to me, happen to someone else.”
      Karyn sat down on a chair. She looked at their faces and saw so much doubt, uncertainty, and fear.
      “Tomorrow you agreed to meet with Fynir's boss. If we're lucky, she would be on our side and we can get whatever people she knows to help us. There is also a chance that you could be walking into trap.”
      “We understand that Madam Karyn.” Chisame said.
      “Have you Ms. Murakami? So easy to make a decision, but entirely different when facing the results of your decision. You young ladies don't know what you really want or why you made such an adult decision.”
      “We didn't ask to be in this situation.” Chisame said.
      “Maybe, but you still possess the decision to walk away from this.” Karyn's eyes scanned the girls as this new train of thought struck their minds.
      “Therefore, we are now at this crossroads. Since we have tapes of your stories, Karl and Suzie's testimony as well, the video, and all the stolen technology you were able to take, you are not obligated to meet with Mystic Intelligence tomorrow. Your rights as children, are secured by law. As far as I am concerned, you can leave. In fact, you are free to quit being a Sentinel anytime. Return to your normal lives. Does that not sound much easier than going through all this? They may even leave you alone.”
      As Karyn got up to her feet, Suzie opened the door, the rain still pouring hard and lightning flashed in the sky.
      “You have till morning,' Karyn said walking past the girls as thunder roared. ‘to decide whether to be children or adults. Just remember, this is your decision and there are no excuses for making it.”
      The door closed and the Sentinels sat quiet for the remainder of the evening. They never said a word to each other or to anyone. Neither during dinner, nor when they went to bed. Once the girls opened their eyes again, the Four Elements towered before them, within the world of darkness. They expected the girls decision.

To Be Continued...