- Maria Catalina Higuera
The silence that followed was even more intense than its predecessor, the dark heaviness of grief and pain in the air. “Oh…”, I finally said, father and embarrassingly long time in which the pieces began to fall into place in my mind. The missing dragon child, the one I had suspected was dead, had been The sovereign. I could hardly believe our luck, the most important dragon, the one we needed the most in this very crucial time was dead...and I wasn’t sure whether the next one had been born yet, either way, he or she couldn’t be more than three years old, so more than help we would end up protecting them until they were old enough to fight. “How?”, I whispered, still feeling a stunt, like I had got slapped in the face with a cement block. “His name was Josiah”, Calder said, turning her face away from me, his voice trembling slightly. “He...was a few years older than us, three to be precise, he was like and older brother to all of us, when...when my mother abandoned me here he was the one who took care of me, showed me what true family is like, not the sorry pieces of trash that are by birth my siblings”. He took a shaky breath, gaining some of his composure back as he coaxed Enya to take a seat again, the temperature in the room going back to something resembling normal. “He was a golden dragon like you...and The Sovereign, which made him even more important than us normal dragons and there were always a lot of measures to ensure his safety but...everything began going wrong three years ago”. Now he slowly sat back at his place in the table, the partially eaten food on his plate completely forgotten, “There was information leakage, nobody knew who exactly the traitor was, but until they were discovered the Council deemed this place no longer safe for Josiah and he was going to be transferred to another secret location but…”, he stopped short, his breath catching in his throat and I knew he couldn’t go on. Taking the kiu Draven piket up the story, “There...was an accident during transfer, it is believed the Celestials were tipped on the entire thing and they were waiting for them...Josiah was strong...but still very inexperience and he was traveling with a very small party of people who could be trusted...it wasn’t enough, they were all utterly annihilated it took days to find their bodies or what remained of them...and Josiah, his heart had been ripped out, the only true way to kill a dragon, and taken as a trophy, he was the first Dragon killed in millenia”. “Damn”, I muttered, not sure of what else to say at being presented with such information, “Damn all of this…”. “I’ve tried to call for his spirit many times”, Hela whispered from beside me in her soft voice, “But he has never come to my calling...I don't know why but I wish he would, I miss him so much”. I had never heard such an outburst from Hela, she was mostly quiet, it was easy to forget she was there, but this rare instance of so many words coming from her made me realized just how deep the wound ran in all of them, there were tears pooling in the corners of Petras eyes and all the other were deep in sorrowful silence and painful memories. Josiah had been special to them, not only because he had been The Sovereign but because he had shown affection to a bunch of love starved children that were abandoned by their parents, the people that had been supposed to care for them the most. Calder was right, I may had been a golden dragon but I could never hope to even come close to replacing Josiah, to represent what he had to them, I felt useless, honestly I would have been so much better if I had just been a grey dragon then I would’n feel guilty of being here instead of the boy they all loved so much. “He is still alive”, Petra added, trying to discreetly wiped away a tear, “A bit of every Sovereign lives on in the next one...they are all connected, we just have to wait for the new one to be born...and”, she swallowed as her voice because almost to indiscernible to be understandable, “We will protect them...no matter what…”. “You're damn right we will”, Enya jumped in, “I will never allow anybody to lay a finger on a Sovereign ever again...I won't let Josiah down this time”. There was a collective chorus of agreements and I found myself joining them. I may have never known Josiah but I did know that I owed it to him to protect the next Sovereign with everything I had to give them the chance at life he never had.
I moved my weight from one foot to the other nervously as we all stood around the large room that looked ready for a party with long tables covered in white tablecloths and every type of appetizer imaginable. The atmosphere, however, was far from festive. This morning, after a very brief breakfast, we had all been, after instructed to dress nicely, herded into this room to await the arrival of our parents, not the other’s at least since at the moment I was fresh out of those. Despite the presence of tables there was no chairs and so everybody was left to stand or pace around like a trapped zoo animal. The tension in the room could have been cut with a knife, I wasn’t expecting anybody so I technically had nothing to worry about, except the others' panic was transferring also to me, something that was probably amplified by my soul energy connection with them. I felt them coming before I saw them, and lately I had begun to notice I could feel people, or more specifically, gen carries and other dragons who had sound energy. Much like how Coach had said, I could perceive by element like no other could even when my ability was inactive. The first to enter the room was a very tall woman and nobody needed to tell me whose mother she was. She looked to be in her early twenties like my father, and tall, towering an entire foot and a half over me. Her pale face was framed with dark redish hair that fell to her waist, and the moment I laid eyes on her fierze red eyes stared back, much like her daughters only even more intimidating, I wasn’t sure how that was even possible but the thing I notice the most, was how beautiful she was, not the delicate overly doll like beauty of Hela, or Petras cute forest nymph kind of one...no this was like starting a war goddess, fierce and intense, she would look very fitting in a battle ground covered in the blood of her enemies. I averted my eyes the moment hers met mine, embarrassed at being caught staring and honestly scared for my life. Behind her came a dark skinned man with a muscular build and a face with high cheekbones and heavy set emerald green eyes that shoned with inhuman vibrance. He was chatting casually with compativel short woman who, I notice rather quickly, had quite a curvy build and that she appeared to be very proud of as she walked gracefully in a short skin tight black dress and high heels that clicked on the floor, her wavy light brown hair arrange in celebrity style perfection. Turquoise blue eyes jumping out from her dark tan skin. Closely following them and almost appearing to want to shield herself from the attention came a very short dark greyish skin woman with very marked Asian features and short chopped pitch black hair that matched her eyes. She was dressed a lot more casual than the last woman with a peach color sun dress that made her look rather young. The last person to come in was a average height man more on the lean side with noticeable big eyes that matched his face that was dollish to the point of being perturbing, fact that wasn’t help by his inhuman light violet eyes, cadaver line pale skin, and white hair and unlike all the others he was actually dress in the color of his clan, a white dress pant, shoes and bottom up shirt. For a while both groups only stood on opposite sides of the rooms, like two teams of fifth graders facing each other before a soccer match. Looking at them, it seems weird to think they were the other parent, they all looked like they could still be in their senior year of college, to think they had teenage children… Finally, Enya’s mom, who seemed to be the spokesperson for them, began walking towards us, not stopping until she was a foth away from me, her eyes digging into my very soul. I tried to meet her stare with as much courage as I could, now very conscious of how close she was...and how close I was to death. “So you are Dion’s kid?”, she asked, her contemptuous tone not escaping me. I swallowed nervously, “Yes mam”. She squinted her eyes at me as the others gathered to also stare at me like I was some form of show. Had they all...oh I don't know, forgotten about their own kids standing around me?. “Always Dion getting the best without even trying”, the woman, who I believed was Calder’s mother muttered, staring at me like I was trash that had gotten stuck to her fancy brand shoes. “Look at it from the bright side Doria”, the green-eyed man said, “Dion is now one less problem we all have to worry about”. Im not sure how anybody managed to grab me in time to avoid a murder but a strong arm was suddenly blocking my path and a familiar voice spoked. “Now, now Terran”, Coach said, now standing beside me, “You are dealing with a real Dragon here, you sure you want to be pissing the boy off like that?”. There was a second of tension between the two men, “What are you even doing here Galen?”, the man I was sure was Petra's father finally asked. “Oh, what am I doing here?”, Coach, or as his true name seems to be, Galen, echoed back, “Maybe I’m just here to make sure no fights break out, how does that sound?”. He walked to stand in front all of us protectively, or maybe to stop us from doing anything stupid, “Look, I know the last time all of you saw your kids they were young and you all could still man handle them around but now? things have changed, I have personally trained them and I can tell you, none of you stand a chance so unless you want to be humiliated by your own children I suggest you treat them with respect”. I could see fury in most of their eyes but none dared to disagree, “Good”, Coach Galen said after a while, “Now let’s continue with the event, should we? We are all here to socialize after all”. So far, I had ,probably not so discreetly, managed to wiggle myself out of every conversation and had ended up leaning against the furthest wall possible, a plate of food in my hand, quietly observing the sorry attempts at socializing around me. Everybody was more or less trying to talk to their parents but it was clear they were all strangers to each other and their progenitors were also not making much of an effort, seeming more interested in talking amongst each other. Calder was the first to join me in, walking towards my position with a platter full of food and a sour expression. “How did it go?”, I asked, quite unnecessary since his face said most of it, but it still felt awkward for both of us to just stand there staring at the others. “About as good as a train wreck”, he said trying to use his apathetic tone to mask the fact he was hurt, “She is still the same self-obsessed, power hungry snake”. Dorian, as I refuse to think of her as Calder’s mother, probably had good senses and heard that entire thing but if Calder cared he didn’t show it eating a mini sandwich in one bite. “Oh…that sucks”, I said, not sure of how else to respond to that. He only shrugged, “I’m far beyond the point of caring”. Little by little I was becoming quite adept at reading Calder and I could tell that wasn’t entirely the truth but I also knew that pressuring him was hardly the solution so I let the entire thing drop, I didn't like anything useful could come out of arguing about it. “Hey Calder”, I said to the taller boy, suddenly thinking of something, “Why don’t you guys' parents live here?”. Considering just how well they got along with their children that sounded downright hellish but on the other hand, having them here all the time would mean more protection for us, something I was a big concern here not to mention the outside world was dangerous, that why my dad and I had moved around so much, to mask our scents to make sure the Celestials could never track us down. Keeping ourselves and especially me under their radar had been hard, thanks to the fact I had such a strong scent because of my high levels of soul energy but I couldn’t imagine it would be a breeze for a halfling either. “That would be unpleasant”, he muttered, making a point of looking at his mother who was talking to Draven’s mom “But that’s not the real reason obviously”, he touched the black rock wall behind us. “Do you know what this is made of?” I bit my tongue before I could blurt out, rock? Which I knew would have earned myself an eye roll from the taller boy so I just went shaking my head, “Not really…”. He sighed, “Alex’s teaching talent are truly going to waist on you…this place, it’s made of dead dragons”. I almost choked on a grape, “Pardon?”. “Like you heard it, you know our people do have a history of bloody wars, the thousand year one and then later on The Celestial one, not to mention all the skirmishes between clans before they were united, the point is, there was always dead dragons, and their bodies had to be properly buried somewhere”. It suddenly felt icky to be casually leaning against the previously innocent looking wall, “So…you're telling me this is a dragon graveyard? And we are just all casually hanging around it?”. “Not around it, inside of it”, he corrected, which honestly made things worse. “Dragon bodies don’t decompose so to speak, they do disintegrate but on like must of everything on this planet they aren’t reabsorbed into the earth, instead they create their own material, midnight stone, witch is next to impenetrable, even by our soul abilities and also severs to hide our scent”. Oh well that certainly explained why I couldn’t hear or see through it too well, but I still failed to see how that had anything to do with the topic at hand. As if sensing my thoughts Calder quickly added, “Of Course it had its limit, too many of us together using our abilities constantly would still be very noticeable, that is why our parents live outside and we are here”.
I remember what my father had said, his words had implied that if I came here we couldn't be togudered anymore, the thought was painful, but even more so when I considered that if only he had left me here earlier he would still be free, sure outside and struggling but not in some dungeon under the power of the Celestials, it had all been my fault after all. “They all seem to respect Coach”. I commented after a while, as Hela joiend us, not looking either sad or happy, a mask of neutrality on her face. Calder looked back at the group, and at Coach who seemed to easily navigate himself from place to place, keeping an eye on things. “That is because he is older...he is from the generation before them, grew up with their parents, or our grandparents”. Well that was unexpected, I had already figured out that we aged at a much slower pace but it was still strange to believe that Coach, who looked to be in his early twenties, could be maybe fity or even sixty years old. “So...why is Coach allowed here but the rest of the adults aren't?”, I asked after a while as Draven also broke away from the group and joined us on our vigil against the wall. Calder stiffened for a second before sighting, eating the last cookie on his plate, “He came here to replace Josiah, we needed a healer and...Errapel, Josiah’s dad and Coaches son, was killed years ago, he was the best candidate to fill in the roll”. “What?”, He said, suddenly as an alarming thought crossed my mind, “Since now I'm here...and Im a healer, Coach will be sent back outside?”. I had grown to appreciate and look up to Coach a lot over the last week, despite his grueling training sessions, I didn’t want him to be sent back to the wolves outside just because of me. Calder scofed, as he ofther did we I asked someting stupid, witch hapedned a lot, “I doup it, remember even with you here we are sitll one dragon short, Coaches presence wont do much to tip the balance, afther all this place was estimated to be able to house all of us and The Soveright”. Well..that was a relief at least though it still left me wondering if there could have been a way for my dad and I to be together here, to both finally live in peace, not moving around so much, not him spending his time sick with worry over me. I tried to push the painful thought away. It didn’t help my situation, no matter how much I wished for it I couldn't go back in time and change the past, all I could do was train to change the future, one in which we would be reunited again.
“There are so many people '', I hissed at Petra who stood beside me, not looking even the slightest bit unfazed by the crowd that awaited us on stage. “Yeah, isn’t it great?”. I felt like grabbing her by the shoulder and shouting, “NO! no it's not, I have severe stage fright, I think I'm going to pass out”. With some effort I stopped myself from making such an outburst and intead went back to pacing around the small closed space in which we were all crammed together, waiting for our quo to go on stage. “Seriously if I wanted to be seen by so many people I would just have joined the drama club at school”, I muttered, almost stepping on Calder feet who was sitting on the floor pleasantly with no a care in the word, “Watch it idiot”, he said making a point of pulling his feth back and away from my anxious walking. “You literally have to do ntoing, just stand there and the Council will do all the talking”.
Yeah...the problem was that just standing there would still mean the eyes of every single resident of the Den would be on me. The “reunion” with the adults had been less than an hour before, we hadn't even goten the chance to have lunch before we were all told to dress in the traditional clothing and get ready for the presentation ceremony. So here I was, back on those stupid golden pants I hated more than anithing in this word, chest bared awating to be “precented” before the people or someting, at least thes girl looked nice in their own clothing, with tight armore bodices and long skirts, it was good I was to nerveous to actually admire them, specially Enya...whait actually I was just staring at her, ups. With a cheer one of the Council members finished a ridiculously long speech and opened the floor to a voice I recognized, that of the head Causing memer, the woman’s who’s name I still didn’t know, that had explained everything to me about who I was the second day I got here. A handler poked her into the small room “You are up”, she announced, disappearing as fast as she had comed. All around me my friend jumped to their feet, smoothing down their clothes and self consciously checking their hair as we all walked on stage in an orderly fashion, me ending up behind Enya and in front of Draven. I almost froze in panic the moment we stood all together on stage, which was simply the platform that led to the elevator that had been conveniently covered by trones where the council member sat, all but one, their leader was standing in front of the crowds cutting quite the imposing figure despite her age. A huge cheer roused from the crowd the moment we were all on stage making me tremble in anxiety. I hadn't realized just how many people lived in the Den. The crowd covered the entire main room, which I had thought was impossible as it was massive. Here and there I could see and handler, or a handler in training but most of the crowd were gen carries, people that had no choice but ot lived here to scaped the Celestials and their brutal persecutions, all of those people looked towards us as their saviours, their protectors who would one day allowed them to lived freely. The weight of having so many hopes placed on me was almost dissing and I was barely processing this fact when Draven elboy me softly making me jump slightly and looked toward him questionably. He made a sloth movement with his head, signaling towards the Coils head that was beckoning to me with a hand gesture. I swallowed, forgetting how to walk for a second as I almost stumbled taking the few steps needed for me to stand besides her. Despite her rather rough steriour, she was still an entire foot shorter than me, her white hair styled delicately, her red suit pressed and tailored to perfection. “And now”, she called with a powerful voice that echoed through the entire chamber, “I have the pleasure of presenting to you the last dragon child”. Her hand wrapped around my wrist, and despite our height difference lifted my arms in the air, like she was announcing the victor of a wrestling match. “Asher Hexun, son of Dion Hexun, grason of Levina Hexun, sixt dragon child to be born and a member of the Golden Clan”. The crowd went absolutely wild, screaming and cheering so loudly it sounded like an entire thunder storm had been trapped here. “Look at all of them carefully”, she said in a much softer but firm tone that only my hearing could catch amongst all the noise, “These are your people Asher, they depend on you to protect them, that is the role you were born to fulfill”. I frowned suddenly, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of what I was supposed to do, feeling like a fraud as I looked at all those other faces staring at me with pure adoration on their faces. I felt like shouting that I wasn't a hero or a savior of any kind, I coulnd even protect my own father much less all of them and their families, I was not the one who could free them, push them into a new age. “I'll protect them”, I lied, if anything to get rid of the woman's piercing eyes, “I’ll be their hero”.
“Damn this”, I muttered, resisting the urge to throw the book across the library and into the next continent. Despite having gotten more used to my presence David still flinched at my occasional frustrated outburst as we continued on our search in the library. After hours of futile reading I had given up on actually finding why so many books were altere and simply applied myself heart and soul to try and figure out where my dad could be. It had been a week and three days since I had gotten here and I hadn’t heard a single thing from the Council about my father. Since the other’s parents had arrived we had been doing open demonstrations of our training, which just meant I was getting my ass kicked by all the others as normal just publictly this time. So far I had gone against Draven, Petra and Hela and lost all matches, at least I got to show off the amount of damage I could heal, mostly on myself but I did have to thank Hela for providing me with a lot of material to work with. Despite all this my mind was still elsewhere, the more time that passed the more restless I and an insane plan I had been concocting over the last few days became more and more appealing. “Hey...um Asher?”, David asked nervously, spreading a map of North America on our already crowded table, “Can I ask you something?”. I looked up from silently cursing at the book for not providing me with the exact information I wanted, “Hm? Sure whats up?” “Why...are you so...invested in this? finding everything about The Celestials? Where do they usually live and stuff?....um you don't really have to answer if you don't want to”, he quickly added. It had never occurred to me that the carriers, basibly the normal people, wouldn't be up to date with what happened with my dad, maybe it was classified information? Or it was kept secret to stop panic from spreading, I wasn’t sure why but I couldn't really see too much harm in telling David at least. “My...father was capture by The Celestials” I explained, “He tried to get in between them and me...and...it all went wrong...I promised to rescue him”, I paused, looking at the mess in front of us, feeling the hopelnes of it all, “The Council is working on bringing him back but...just standing around makes me feel so useless, I want to be out there searching for him...but the best I can do is stare at maps here like an imbecile”. There were a few moments of silence in between both of us in which I wondered where all that had come from, it was like I had spoken all my thoughts out loud, the ones I had been trying to suppress for days. Instead of saying something typical like, oh I'm so sorry, or, man that sucks, Davie surprised me with his response, “Ill help you”, he promise, “Even if I have to help you scape so you can find him, anything”. I frowned, looking at him confused, where was this resolve coming from all of sudden? it wasn’t like I wasn’t looking at the same shy boy he had been moments ago. “I wasn’t born here”, he continued, some of his shyness coming back, “I was the only one in my family that manifested markings”, he said, lifting his sleeve to reveal faded dragon markings that wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet, “Neither my mom of dad was sure what it was, thought they did take me to a doctor who said it appeared to simply be a weird looking birthmark”. The chuckle bitterly, shaking his head, “When I was three my father died, he was a fisherman, not exactly the safety job, that left my mom as my only family and...well, eventually The Celestials caught up to me, she was driving and a Desolation knocketh into our car full speed, I'm not sure how we survived but..they came in to finish the job and…”, he paused taking a deep breath, “My mother she..she didn't even know what those things were but she still tried to fight them to protect...they...they tore her apart...I was only saved because a group of handler had been tracking me for a while, they came in at the right moment to rescue me...but not my mom, it was too late for her”. He sighed, having finished his sad tale, “I couldn't save my mother...but I can help you save your father, and believe me Asher, I will do everything in my power to help you find him”. For a few moemen I looked at him in stunt silence, seeing for the first time the thought interior his shy personality hid. “Thank you”, I said, for the first time feeling that there was light at the end of the tunnel, his motivation giving me new strength, “Let's get back to work”.
“I know what you are thinking”, Lionel’s voice said, making me jump in surprise as I had thought he was David, coming back with more maps. Looking around wildly at the huge library I made a point of squinting my eyes at him, “Is this one of your dreams?”. I clearly remember waking up this morning and making my way to the library after my daily beating, this time at the hands of Enya, to continue our search with David, both of us, since our little heart to heart conversation yesterday, we were both eager to pick up the search. He chuckled, sliding into the chair in front of me where usually David sat, “No...I have just dealt with several generaltions of teeagers, I wouldn't call myself an expert but I'm pretty good at reading people...and their intentions”.
I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to act casual, to not allow him to see the panic rising in my throat, “What are you insinuating?”, I asked, pretending to be offended. He shook his head at me, “How many times do I have to tell you boy? don't play games with me”. I shrug like I truly had no idea what he was talking about, “I literally don't have any idea where you are going with this”. He sighed and would have probably pinched the bridge of his nose if he wasn’t wearing a mask, “Fine, then follow me I have something to show you”. Part of me wanted to rebel and refuse to move but Lionel still evoked fear in me that was hard to overcome, and I had quickly learned that with him nothing was a request either I did something or I did it by force. “Watever”, I muttered, getting up to follow him, pretending I was doing so willingly. He guided me through familiar passages and eventually into the great hall with its imposing dimension and bustly flow of people. We walked all the way to the platform in which I had been precented before the inhabitant of the Den only four days ago and it was back to looking normal, the thrones removed allowing me to see again the shiny blakc elevator doors that promised freedom. To my surprise Lionel swiped a car over the reader and the door opened, revealing the interior that I had only seen once before. “Come on”, he said, beckoning me to follow him inside as I was still in disbelief of what was happening. I didn’t need to be told twice, in seconds I was standing beside him and the doors closed behind me. Without a sound the elevator began to ascend, again there was no marker of floor or anything to indicate just how deep we were but I knew from my last ride exactly when our journey would stop. Barely controlling myself I tried to act casual as the doors opened again, revealing the long hallway I had come through on my first day here. “Are...we going outside?”, I finally dared to ask, walking behind Lionel not even caring if my excitement was detectable in my tone. He chuckled, “Why else could we be up here?”. There had to be a catch, I thought, looking around widely, there had to be something going on here, there was no way Lionel was just doing this out of the goodness of his heart, it all felt too fishy. My suspicions were proven unpleasantly true three meters away from the wall I knew was a membrane in disguise that led to the world outside. I felt like something sharp and long, like a needle stabbed me in the back of neck and suddenly my limbs were no longer obeying me, all of them going numb and uncomfortable, a painful sensation overtaking me as I felt to the floor face first, my face smashing against the floor as I had no way to put my arms in the way to shield myself. The collar, I thought as I laid on the floor trying to figure out what had hit me, the needle prick had home from the area that was covered by the collar. “You really thought you could escape?”Lionel asked mokindly, walking toward my struggling form, reminding me of that time he had done the same to me in my dreams, but this wasn’t one of his self made words I was forced into...not this was reality, dark crude reality hitting me full strength in the face. He leaned over me, taping the collar around my neck, “These are designed to keep you safe...in more ways than you had realized. What you are experiencing is the effect of a toxin that was specially developed to paralized you and stop you from using your abilities...dont worry its not permanent, you will begin to recover in less than half and hour... but while you lay there keep this in mind, despite the toxin being stored in your collar at all time it is only used on a single occasion”. He pointed to the wall a few meters ahead of us, “The collar only injects you with the toxin when you get within three meters of that membrane...otherwise known as you trying to escape...”. “I wasn’t…”, I managed to gurgle out, “Planning to escape”. “Hm…”, he remarked, “I never accused you of planning to do so...maybe I just felt like giving you a little warning on how it would end for you if the idea ever got into your head”. He straightened back up, walking away from me, “Remember Asher, as much as this place is designed to keep intruders out...it's also made to keep you in”. His steps became fainter as he went down the hall, “I'll be waiting for you by the elevator gates so try to not take too long”.
So say I was angry wouldn't cut it, no I was livid, all my plans were going down the gutter. The truth was that I had been planning to escape, David had promised he would find a way to disable the tracking device in my collar, I wasn’t sure how but he had said he could do it...when that was done we had planet to senck out and go to all the location we had estimated my father could be in, if we found him David would reactivate my collar and hopefully, get a bunch of backup as the hadlers came to my “rescue”. Of Course the plan had so many holes in it, it might well have been strainer but I was desperate and David was loyal enough to go along with it despite it having a high risk of him ending up dead. What we both were ignorant off was the stupid build in fetur eof the collar to just paralized me the moemtn I got withign sigh tof a door. I wasn't sure whether David could disable that too but I honelty hadn’t gone back to the library to ask him intead, still feeling slightly numb, I had gone to the gym, changed into my workout clothes, and was currently punching the hell out of hologram celestials after hologram celestial, screaming all the while furiously. With rage fueled strength I went toe to toe with a desolation, of course the hologram couldn replicate its strength sapping abilities the ugly thing possessed but as I had quickly found out the first time I had trained here, they were as solid and unmovable. My hand shattered with the strength of the blow and the thing barely moved, only making an attempt to bite me in half. I utered every profanity I knew and few made up one at it as it moved out of the way and hit it again and again, hitting with one hand when the other was to rekt to even move. The truth was that I wasn’t just furios at seeing my plan ruined, more than anything I felt betrayed, hurt, by somebody I thought I could trust. I never could have expected atntihng less from Lionel but something of this type, no, it was Dc. Grace my anger was directed at. I remember now that conversation that had gone down between her and Lionel, how he had said the normal collar would work on me, and then Dc. Grace had taken a blood sample from me. At the time I hadn’t understood at the time, specially since they had call the collars by tis technical name, a V.RT, vital emote tracker, no where had she ever mention the fact it also serve to take me down at a moment's notice, or the fact that she had probably create the toxin herself. Lionel had said it only activated the moment I got close to the exit, but I found that hard to believe, like everything that came out of his mouth, I bet it could also be used if I became aggressive or overly violent, just another way they could control us… The next hit I tried to make landed on air, the hologram suddenly disappearing witch could only mean somebody had turned the simulation off. “I think that's enough training for you”, Coach said, approaching me. “Not it is not”, I snapped, “This is nothing, turn it back on”. He crossed his arms over his chest, “No...I will not, because you aren’t training here, not really, you are just punching things wildly with no thought or strategy in mind, just take a look at yourself”. Reluctantly I looked down, finding that my arms, legs and clothes were covered in blood, my own since holograms didn’t bleed, I had destroyed my body so much I was dripping with the stuff. “You know, taking your feelings and frustrations out with fighting is a good idea, I recommend it”, Coach said, “But things have their limits, you have been going at it for hours...I know your healing ability is strong but I would recommend for you to save your strength for tomorrow, it's your last public fight after all...and your going after Calder”. I really didn’t need to be reminded of the beating I was going to get soon and being honest no amount of preparation was going to save me from that fate. Now coaches toned softened, “Look Asher, I don’t know what you are dealing with right now...but what I do know is that sometime we need to go to the root of the anguer we are feeling and deal with that instead of taking it out on the rest of the world”. I felt like making some snarky remarks at him but the sincerity in his voice stopped me, “You...sound like you know from experience”. He sighed, “I do Asher, I spend many years angry at the world because...well I'll tell you the detail some other time but I lost somebody, he was dear to me, and I couldn’t save him...I was so angry for so many years blaming everything and anything until one day I finally had the courage to look inside myself and find that I wasn’t angry at the world, I was angry at myself”. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he was talking about his son Errapel who ,I had learned from Calder, was dead. Only the thought of what pain he must have experienced, first losing his child and then his grandchild, Josiah. to think he had outlived them both, it made me pause in my rampage, to stop and really think about what I was feeling. No, I wasn’t made a Lionel, or not more than usual, I wasn’t mad at Dc.Grace, she was just doing her job,I wasn’t even mad at my own failed plans, part of me alway knew they were never going to work, no...I was mad at myself, this entire thing just finally set off the charge that had been building inside of me for a long time. I was useless, a weakling, I couldn’t do anything to save my father when he had done everything for me, no matter how hard I tried, if I never saw my father would have nobody to blame by myself. “Figure it out?”, Coached asked, probably seeing something in my expresion change. I sighed, all of a sudden feeling all the strain I had just put my body through, “Yes…”, I whispered in a hoarse tone, “I think I did”. He patted me on the shoulder in a comforting gesture as I walked by him, “You are stronger than you think Asher, both inside and out, always remember that ''. I wished I could have believed him, allowed his words to comfort me but in truth I didn’t think anything in this word could help me feel any better. “I'm going to bed”, I said, avoiding his eyes. “At least try to take a shower before that”, he called after me in an attempt to cheer me up. I tried to give him a smile that probably came out more like a grimace, “Yeah...I will”.