Akarnae, p.10
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       Akarnae, p.10

         Part #1 of The Medoran Chronicles series by Lynette Noni
 

  Or rather, through the wall.

  Oh. Right. She’d forgotten he could do that. Instead of slamming into the solid barrier, she felt as if her body had been sucked into a vacuum and spat out the other side. Real pleasant.

  Steadying herself, Alex looked at her new surroundings. All she could see was, well, nothing. It was still pitch-black.

  “Let’s try and get outside,” Bear said from somewhere to her left.

  She couldn’t see either of the boys, but she was comforted by Jordan’s hand which was still on her shoulder. He pushed her forward once again, and all she could do was trust that he knew which direction they were heading in—or that they’d again be able to move through anything solid in their path.

  Walking blindly through the dark hallway was eerie, and Alex was relieved when she felt the vacuum sensation again, which meant they were moving through another solid object. Light soon pierced her eyes, and even though her surroundings were still blurry, she could easily see that they’d entered another classroom. A Chemistry lab, to be specific, and one that was currently in use.

  Alex crept with her friends towards the other side of the room, hoping neither Fitzy nor any of his students would sense their invisible presence.

  “But why is it necessary?” one of the boys in the class asked. Alex recognised him from her Equestrian Skills class, but she couldn’t remember his name.

  Fitzy either didn’t hear him or didn’t care to respond. Unlike Professor Luranda, the Chemistry teacher wasn’t staring out the door of the lab into the dark corridor beyond. Instead, he was at the head of the room, writing frantically on his board.

  “Fitzy?” the boy tried again.

  The wacky man turned at the sound of his name and seemed to realise that he still had a classroom full of students.

  “What’s that, Wilson?”

  “The Lockdown, Fitz,” the boy—who she now remembered was named Ryan—seemed exasperated. “You were telling us about the Lockdown, remember? Why is everything dark out there?” He indicated with his hand towards the corridor.

  “Oh! Lockdown, you say?” Fitzy straightened his glasses and squinted towards the corridor. “That’s not good! Why didn’t anybody tell me?”

  He hurried over to his desk to pick up his Communications Globe, but Alex didn’t find out what happened next because she was pulled through another wall into the darkness beyond.

  And then another.

  And another.

  Eventually they reached the outer wall of the Gen-Sec building where, without warning, Jordan’s hand disappeared from Alex’s shoulder and she fell like a dead weight to the ground.

  Eleven

  The drop was only short, but her breath was still forced from her lungs with an “Oomph!” when she landed on some kind of bushy hedge.

  After rolling off it and onto the grass, Alex looked up and realised firstly that her vision was clear again, and secondly that the three of them had just fallen from the second floor of Gen-Sec. She rubbed her shoulder and turned to glare at Jordan.

  “Sorry about that,” he said, offering her a hand up. “I didn’t want to risk finding some stairs to get to a lower level. And I knew this bush would break our fall.”

  Alex thought it best not to respond.

  “What’s a few bruises, hey?” Bear said, clearly excited by their escape.

  “How did we get out here?” Alex asked, brushing leaves and twigs out of her hair.

  They looked at her as if she had a few screws loose.

  “We walked. Then we fell,” Jordan said carefully. “Did you hit your head when you landed?”

  “No, Jordan,” she huffed. “What I meant is… You used your gift on us, right?”

  He continued looking at her strangely. “How else do you think we got out without being caught? And walked through walls?”

  “I just—I didn’t know people could do that. Share their gifts, I mean.”

  “Some people can’t,” he said, “but since mine is a physical gift, I can make it work for other people too.”

  “That’s… really handy,” Alex said, impressed.

  “It has its limitations,” Jordan admitted. “It only works with physical contact, which is why I had to be holding onto you the whole time.”

  “So, I’m not transcended anymore?” Alex asked. That would explain why her blurred vision had cleared—and where it, and the earlier anti-gravity sensation, had come from to start with.

  “No,” Jordan confirmed. “But we should be okay out here since everyone else will be stuck inside with the Lockdown.”

  “What is the Lockdown?” Alex asked.

  Jordan looked at Bear and they both shrugged. “No idea.”

  “That’s what we’re investigating,” Bear said, practically bouncing with anticipation. “Let’s go see what we can find out!”

  “I think we should head to the Tower,” Jordan said. “That’s where Jarvis’ll be, and if anyone knows what’s going on, it’ll be him.”

  Decision made, the three of them headed towards the centre of the grounds, carefully keeping to the sides of the buildings and staying as sheltered as possible. When Alex asked why Jordan didn’t just keep them all invisible, he explained that it was tiring to use his gift on other people. But even so, whenever they had to cross an expanse of uncovered ground, he grabbed onto them and hurried them invisibly towards the next building.

  The Tower wasn’t too far from Gen-Sec, but they took the long way around the apprentices’ dormitory and the food court so that they’d have more cover if anyone was looking out at the grounds. When they eventually reached the entrance to the Tower and stepped inside, their journey became more complicated.

  “Did anyone bring a torch?” Alex asked into the darkness. Like the building they’d just left, the entire Tower was pitch-black.

  “No need,” Bear said from somewhere ahead of her. “We’ve got Jordan.”

  Before Alex could ask what he meant, Jordan spoke. “I know my way around this place better than my way to the food court.”

  “You’d have to,” Bear replied. “This is practically your second home, what with all the trouble you get into.”

  “It has its uses,” Jordan said, and Alex felt him grab her hand and pull her forward.

  “Wait! Jordan!” she cried. “How can you see where you’re going?”

  “I can’t,” he said, still moving her through the inky blackness. “But I don’t need to. The stairs are over here.”

  Sure enough, a few steps more and Alex heard a thunk when his foot collided with the staircase. He cursed quietly from the pain, before muttering out a grumbled, “Watch your step.”

  With only those words for warning, Jordan continued to pull Alex forward, and she concentrated on stepping up the stairs without falling on her face.

  They continued upwards for so long that Alex wondered if they were climbing to the moon. The darkness was so disillusioning that she felt as if they’d ascended much higher than the Tower stood.

  “We’re almost there,” Jordan whispered as he finally led them onto a flat surface. “Just like our dorm rooms, Marselle’s office is warded against unidentified entry, so I won’t be able to use my gift to get us inside. But I should be able to get us into his antechamber. We might hear something from there.”

  “Why do we want to get into the headmaster’s office?” Alex asked. “I thought we wanted to find Jarvis?”

  “Jarvis will be in Marselle’s office,” Bear explained. “It’s the only way he could have communicated with the other teachers, since only the headmaster has primary access to all their Globes.”

  “I’ll try and get us into the antechamber but, whatever you do, don’t let go of me,” Jordan said. “And don’t make any noise.”

  Alex gripped his hand tighter when he started forward again. She felt the sucking sensation as they walked through a wall, and once more she found herself blinking stars from her shower-screened eyes as she adjusted to the light of the new room, one t
hat must have also been separated from the Lockdown’s darkness.

  “What’s taking so long?”

  Alex nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of Karter’s voice, and Jordan squeezed her fingers in warning, reminding her to stay silent.

  “When the Lockdown was activated, it shut down the Tower’s identification protocol. I have to reset the system before we can enter the room,” Doc said. He was standing beside a panel in the wall, fiddling with some wires. “I’m working as fast as I can, but please remember that I’m a historian. Technology doesn’t always agree with me.”

  He seemed frazzled as he worked methodically at separating the wires and pressing buttons on the touch-screen panel.

  “Take all the time you need, Doc,” Finn said in a tight voice, pacing near the doorway. “We’ll just wait here while he walks around the campus like he owns the place.”

  “We don’t even know he’s behind this,” Doc murmured into the panel, casting a quick, anxious glance towards the door of the antechamber. “And besides, it’s not like he could get very far out there, anyway,” he added, tilting his head towards the inky blackness shown through yet another transparent door.

  “Bah!” Finn grunted, aiming a kick at the wall. “That’s just what he’d want us to think! Not that it even matters—we all know what he’s here for. I don’t see why Jarvis called us up here when we should be out there stopping him, especially since this Lockdown is just making his job easier! I say we should just go and get the—”

  “Might I recommend we continue this conversation when we’re certain no one else is listening?”

  Alex hadn’t realised anyone else was in the room and she turned so fast that her neck cricked. Leaning against the wall on the other side of the chamber was a man she’d never seen before. He was very handsome, in a rugged kind of way, with dark hair and a strong jawline showing a hint of stubble. He was dressed all in black, with a cape similar to the shimmering one that Caspar Lennox always wore. A dagger was belted to his waist, but Alex doubted it was the only weapon he carried. Despite his relaxed position, he looked… dangerous.

  And he was staring straight at her.

  “You can never be too careful,” the man added, his dark eyes locked onto hers.

  She shivered and gripped Jordan’s hand hard enough to cause bruising.

  “Calm down, Ghost.” Finn waved his hand at the other man dismissively. “There’s no one here but us.”

  “Hunter’s right, Finn,” Karter said, his eyes darting around the room. “We should watch what we say until we know what’s going on.”

  Finn mumbled to himself but it was clear he was outvoted so he slumped against the wall to wait.

  The silence was unbearable. The dangerous man—Hunter? Ghost?—still hadn’t taken his eyes off Alex. She could feel sweat beading on her forehead and she was sure everyone could hear her frantic heartbeat. She squeezed hard on Jordan’s hand again, hoping he would get the message that they needed to get out of there.

  Before he could respond, Alex was pushed back as the room began filling with people who literally appeared out of thin air. All of her teachers arrived within seconds, along with some other people Alex had seen around the campus but didn’t know.

  She pressed herself closer to the wall when everyone in the cramped room began speaking at once.

  “What’s happening—”

  “Is it—”

  “Why haven’t we—”

  “Does anyone know if—”

  “SILENCE!”

  Like most people in the room, Alex jumped at the unexpectedly loud noise. Who would have thought that the quiet historian had such a powerful set of lungs?

  “Unless anyone else here knows how to override the Tower’s security system,” Doc said, “I would greatly appreciate it if you could keep the noise down. I’m finding it rather difficult to concentrate.”

  The new arrivals mumbled their apologies and started up quiet conversations. Since no one seemed to know anything, Alex decided just to focus on the people closest to her, much like it appeared Jordan and Bear were doing. From what she gathered, Karter had just asked Tayla and Maggie why everyone had arrived at the Tower all at once.

  “Jarvis called us,” Maggie said, waving her Communications Globe. She still held a bow in her free hand and had a quiver of arrows strapped to her back. “He asked us to come straight away to discuss the situation.”

  “I guess he didn’t realise we’d be locked out of the office,” Tayla said. “I had a spare period and was in the staffroom so I don’t know what happened outside. Were you in the middle of a class, Mags?”

  Maggie nodded. “When the Lockdown first activated, the entire campus was blacked out; even the sun couldn’t pierce through the darkness. I was teaching an Alpha class—it was pure luck that no one got shot. But when the secondary protocol kicked in, the Lockdown dispersed back into the buildings only. I moved my students to the nearest lit classroom and waited with them until I was called here. How long has Doc been at the control panel?”

  “Not long,” Karter said. “He’ll have it figured out soon enough.”

  “All done,” Doc called out, as if on cue. “We just have to wait for the system to reboot.”

  Alex noted the teachers’ relieved expressions but her attention was caught by one man in particular. Or rather, it was caught by the fact that one man was missing. The man who had been staring at her the entire time was no longer leaning against the wall.

  She glanced frantically around the room before she found him standing beside Professor Luranda. Wondering if she’d imagined the whole staring incident, Alex moved her gaze away from him, but she froze when she heard him speak quietly from across the room.

  “That boy, the one whose gift can make him invisible,” he said to Luranda, “did you have him in your class just now?”

  Alex felt her heart skip a beat.

  “Jordan Sparker?” Luranda straightened her multi-coloured coat. “Yes, I had the entire third year class.”

  “Was he in your lab when you left?”

  “Of course he was,” Luranda said. “All my students were accounted for. Sparker in particular, since I know all too well his penchant for troublemaking. When I left, he was sitting up the back of my room with his head bent over a textbook.”

  “I see,” the Hunter man said, his eyes flicking over to Alex and her friends for a fraction of a second. “That is a relief.”

  He almost looked amused.

  “We’re in!” Doc called when the door finally opened.

  “Well done, Doc,” Jarvis’s voice carried in from the next room. “I forgot that you’d be locked out, but well done indeed.”

  Alex took a step forward and tried to get a glimpse inside the headmaster’s office as the teachers streamed through the door. From her limited view, she could see that it looked like a boardroom, with a large rectangular desk spanning the length of the room. The best part was the far wall which was completely transparent and looked straight out over the entire academy.

  “All right everyone, please take a seat,” Jarvis called as the teachers continued to pour through the door. “We have a delicate situation on our hands and we must deal with it immediately to ensure the safety of everyone residing on the academy grounds.”

  Alex took another step forward, not wanting to miss anything he said.

  “As many of you might have guessed, we had an unauthorised visitor arrive just after lunch.” Jarvis’s voice was deep and serious. “We can’t be sure, but we believe the intruder was here on a scouting mission. We have no evidence indicating he is aware that what he’s after is here at Akarnae, so it could have been a simple coincidence. But coincidence or not, had his mission been successful, I can’t begin to describe how catastrophic the consequences would have been. Thankfully, the Lockdown procedure impeded his search, and he has since fled the grounds.”

  There was a loaded silence before Jarvis continued. “While earlier I was unsure, I can now conf
irm that our intruder was—”

  The last person stepped into the office. The door clicked shut.

  “Of all the rotten timing,” Bear whispered. “We were just about to hear—”

  “I think you’ve heard quite enough, Barnold,” interrupted a quiet voice that froze Alex and her friends to the spot.

  Oh, they were in so much trouble.

  Twelve

  Fear quickly overtook Alex when she saw the Hunter man standing near the door and staring straight at their ‘invisible’ faces.

  “I believe it’s time for you three to return to your class,” he said, before he opened the door to the headmaster’s office and slipped quietly inside.

  Alex didn’t know if her knees would be able to hold her up much longer, shaking as much as they were. She had only a second to take in her friends’ equally shocked expressions before Jordan yanked on her hand, pulling her forcefully after him. She barely felt the sucking sensation as they moved through the wall, and then they were sprinting off down the staircase, intent on getting as far away as possible.

  The Lockdown must have deactivated while they’d been snooping, since the corridor outside the antechamber was no longer filled with darkness. Knowing that all the teaching staff were in conference upstairs, Alex let go of Jordan’s hand so they could move easier and faster down the Tower staircase.

  Only when all three of them had sprinted the entire way back to Gen-Sec did they stop and gasp for breath.

  “That was intense!” Jordan said, exhaling with a laugh.

  “Who was that man?” Alex asked, panting. “And how did he know we were there? He was staring at us practically the whole time!”

  “That was Hunter,” Bear said, also trying to catch his breath. “Some people call him ‘Ghost’ since you never know where he is or what he’s doing unless he wants you to know.”

  “He’s brilliant,” Jordan added. “We’ll hopefully have him next year for Stealth and Subterfuge. I can’t wait. Bear and I have been counting down ever since we first heard about his class.”

  Alex shuddered at the idea of having that man as a teacher. “Why next year?”

 
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LYNETTE NONI SERIES:

  • The Medoran Chronicles
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