“Hey, Mercy,” I called, “This guy’s wearing a collar. Why is he wearing a collar?”
“He is?” She sounded genuinely surprised. “Huh. I never noticed before. That’s… more than a little odd.”
“For what reason?”
“Because manufacturing or possessing even a single Enslavement Collar is grounds for being convicted of treason and executed by the kingdom. So I really wasn’t expecting to see one on an officer in the military.”
Seriously? “Wait, then why did you have one for enslaving me in the first place?!”
“What are you saying, One Forty Seven,” asked Mercy with a purely quizzical look, “This installation has been stocked with one hundred Enslavement Collars for use in the creation of the new military unit.”
“A hundred?! When you can be put to death for just one?! No, wait, that’s not my business. But why are you using them on me and the girl?”
Mercy then gave me that look that was reserved for only pointing out the obvious and said, “What would be the point of summoning warriors from another world if they don’t follow your orders?”
Resisting the urge to smack Mercy upside the head, I recapped what I knew instead. “So, a high ranking military officer is overseeing a military operation involving the creation of an experimental fighting force, enslaved to him, while he himself is enslaved to someone else? This reeks of conspiracy. We all need to get out of this place, immediately.”
Especially since they had another ninety nine of those collars. That’s more than enough to enslave me and the girl on the ground over there, and then it’d be game over. I didn’t have any confidence in being able to survive or escape from a proper military torture session. Time to re-arm and find a way out. I quickly grabbed the closest usable weapon, Lumpy’s truncheon, as I had no intention of trying to yank the blood covered sword out of his chest. As soon as I picked it up, some kind of light shone brightly out of the tip like a flashlight, and then exploded like a faulty light bulb, some glittering powder flying out of the tip. I had no idea why that happened, but I’m just glad the thing was pointing away from me when it did.
“Give me that,” cried Mercy, snatching the truncheon out of my hand. Geeze, excuse you.
Mercy quickly began looking over the truncheon, and then looked down the end of the part that went flashbulb on me, upended it, and a fine clear granulated powder came out into the palm of her hand. “Amazing,” she exclaimed. I got the feeling that I was missing something here.
“Hey, hello?” I said, reminding Mercy I existed. She reacted by snapping her body to face me, then approached like a striking adder and feeling me up all over my body. It was very surprising, and I may have shrieked a little like a startled child, though I’d deny it if anyone asked, but Mercy’s probing was not all that invasive. It was a check of my pulse through my wrist, groping my upper arm, tapping my chest with her ear against it, all the way up to the pulse of the arteries in my neck, until she was staring me directly in the eyes before uttering the word, “Incredible.”
Now, I’m not against being groped by a lady, but there’s a time and a place for that type of thing. “What are you doing, Mercy?”
“I was checking your body.”
Mercy looked at me part appraisingly and part skeptically as she asked, “Specimen One Forty Seven, how does magic work in your world?”
I couldn’t help but scoff aloud (never thought I’d ever be one for scoffing) and replied, “Magic isn’t real. It’s fairy tales and sleight of hand illusionists giving children a reason to believe in fantasy.”
Very seriously, Mercy told me flat out, “Magic is very much real here, Specimen One Forty Seven.”
“Stop calling me a Specimen.”
“In this world, every creature with enough physical capacity and mental ability can use magic of one kind or another. For the purpose of our conversation, they very strictly fall under the fields of Physical Reinforcement for men, and Magic Casting for women. Rarely, men can cast magic, and women can use reinforcement, and in those cases the individual in question has an advanced inborn aptitude for it, but no one. No one. Can use both. Except you, apparently.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. How do you know this?”
“Well, I know you have Physical Reinforcement magic because you were able to keep up with Colonel Braug’s adjutants in your vulgar display of brutish violence over there-”
“Hey, that wasn’t vulgar.”
“-And when you avoided Colonel Braug’s Fire Bolt immediately after. And just now, when you picked up the Colonel’s focus, the pure quartz core overloaded and shattered. Someone with Physical Reinforcement can only circulate their reserve within their own body, but when you came in contact with the quartz a great deal of your reserve bled out, destroying the quartz entirely.”
“I’m sorry, what’s this ‘reserve’ you’re talking about?”
Mercy straightened her back and held a finger upright as she explained, lifting another finger for every designator she expounded upon. She’s totally in teacher mode. “The first form is Mana. It’s the raw form of magic energy that circulates through the world. Should Mana be stored inside a battery or powering a magic device, it becomes known as Magic Power. Conversely, when Mana resides in a person or creature, it becomes a Magic Reservoir, available for being tapped into and turned into the fourth form, proper Magic. This can be used in the form of spells, like what Colonel Braug displayed, or the advanced Physical Reinforcement you yourself showed. There are, of course, subspecies of magical definition and manifestation, but those are the broad points. And you knew nothing of this?”
As if I could know that kind of Technobabble. No, Magibabble. “Not a bit. Why are you telling me this?”
“I just told you, you can use both Magic Spells and Physical Reinforcement! My examination of you just now reinforced my conclusion. You yourself may not be aware of it, in fact that is likely, but you seem to be unconsciously making use of both channels of use for your Magic Reservoir. And even your unconscious use of your ability is great enough to surmount the gear and abilities of the other men in this room, all of which had undergone strict training in their respective abilities. You have never been trained, and you eclipsed them entirely! Don’t you understand how incredible that is?”
Mercy, your fascinated energy is not contagious. Please don’t try and infect me with it. Besides, I think it was a combination of me getting lucky and the other guys underestimating me.
“No. I have no baseline by which to understand any of that.” Mercy deflated completely from my comment. “Look, Mercy, if any of this information serves a practical purpose in regards to my being stuck inside a military compound, or the fact that one mistake will end up with my being enslaved or killed, I’d be happy to listen, otherwise we gotta scoot.”
Mercy went through some pretty obvious internal analysis just then before saying, “Alright, just, do what I tell you with an open mind, please? Close your eyes. Both of them, what’s the point of staring at me with one eye open like that? Okay. Breath deeply, and exhale completely. Relax yourself as much as you can.”
Ugh. Yoga breathing exercises.
“Allow yourself to reach a place of stillness and just, try and feel inside of yourself. Relax, and breathe, and search. Allow your senses to float, not concentrating on any one part of yourself or your surroundings.”
Shouldn’t I be sitting down for this?
“Somewhere inside should be what can only be described as an energy. A pool of power and life. Your Magic Reservoir. Don’t go searching for it, but let the feeling of it come to you. Let it bubble up to the surface, until you can feel it’s presence.”
Wait, something is there. I don’t remember feeling anything like that before.
“Imagine yourself dipping your hand into that presence. Let it fill you, cover you, flow over you. Then try and move it according to your will through your body, and feel it as it circulates.”
It was moving. It was moving according to my wishes. I could feel it in my muscles, my joints, my bones, and even my skin. I could feel it everywhere. As a test I concentrated it in individual parts of my body, then release it back into the whole. It operated unexpectedly smoothly.
“Eventually you’ll become comfortable feeling and moving that power around inside you. It will flow smoothly at your beck and call.”
It already was, Mercy, get to the next step.
“Once that happens, start feeling outside yourself. Feel everything around you, above you, beneath you. Reach out to the world, and find what comforts you. Find what feels familiar and powerful. Accept that element into yourself, even as you reach outwards.”
Reaching out. Continuing my breathing I reached out. I felt the air circulating in my lungs, which then left my nostrils and mixed with the air about me. I felt the stone under my feet, the slight chill of the underground in the stone and the air alike. I felt the pressure of my weight pressing against the earth, and the earth pressing back. I felt the atmospheric gasses pressing against my skin as my body displaces the gasses. These presences were all about me, pressing upon me as I press against them, intermingling, and then accepting. They were separate, yet part of a whole; as I sensed them I understand that. Then I understand why I understand it, for the presence that was inside me was inside the air and the ground as well. I could feel the Mana that was within my surroundings and myself as well. And with that realization, I accepted my surroundings inside me, and we become one for a brief moment. In that short span of time it felt as if something snaped apart inside me, not painfully, but as though a seal I had never known existed and that had been holding me back was broken through.
Somehow, it felt like I understood something I had never known before now. Lifting my hand and pointing my index finger like I was playing cops and robbers, I opened my eyes and pointed towards one of the walls.
“Bang,” I said, issuing my Magic into the air at the point of my finger to propel it forwards. A purple tinted bit of air with the shape of a pistol round broke the sound barrier and struck the rock wall hard enough to leave a small dent and some cracks in it, as if it was struck by a real copper jacketed bullet. “Kinda like that?” I asked Mercy beside me, her mouth hanging open. Hmm. Maybe it was a little underpowered. Lumpy blew up furniture and people when he cast a spell. Let’s play around a little, get used to this.
I released some of my magic into the air around me, not letting go of the sensation of where it was, as though I was dying the surrounding air in my power. Then, I grabbed hold of my disseminated magic once more and molded it into different shapes based on my whimsy. I reconcentrated my magic, halting the molecular movement of the air in specific shapes and with specific densities. I tried a bowling ball, a water balloon, a golf ball, a pickaxe, a wood axe, a machete, a foam football, a post digging drill, and sent all of them striking against the stone wall I had struck with the air bullet before, and each impact struck with the weight, velocity, and angle I had imagined in my rapid fire of random thoughts of random objects to experiment using the gaseous molecules about me. Somehow, I was properly turning my imagined strikes into reality.
Okay, then let’s try second gear.
I enwrapped an area about my arm with my magic and gave it a form from my more primal aggression. With a step forward, I put my body into the delivery to follow up with my imagination. My mind and body, as one, I threw a punch. The stone of the wall was crushed under an invisible impact, shattering and flattening. Pulverized stone fell from the indentation I left behind from my attack, an indentation the size and shape of a fist from an imagined mecha-powersuit three times larger than a human’s.
“Groovy,” I said aloud. I was finally starting to believe this may be another world.
Maybe I should try a kamehameha next?