Coupled in Synchronicity
"I've done nothing wrong! No! No, you can't touch those!"
Blood spilled. Burned flesh withered away leaving gray slivers; bones taken. The digits were protected inside the clenched fists.
“Fingers.” I gagged. “He took the fingers.”
My hands convulsed, and even though I wanted to open them, I couldn’t. The accursed dice dug sharp corners into my palms but I couldn’t drop them. Blood dripped through my fingers.
The vision consumed me. Pain from my hands merged with the agony in my head. “Stolen, desecrated. They belonged to a Vr acum.” Bile churned in my stomach, burning as it rose into my throat.
A sharp face filled my mind, slitted eyes and a narrow mouth with dark black markings along the cheeks. The eyes, even ones so alien, couldn’t hide their suffering. It slammed into me, as if I had been the one to suffer the cruel death.
“Murderer.” My eyes snapped open, and I stared at the man held between two of my squad's soldiers. Spit flecked his chin. His eyes … Dark smears swirled in his irises. He couldn't hide it, not from me.
“Necromancer,” I hissed through the effects of the vision.
Captain Howle put a gun to his head. The foul creature shrieked and tried to get away but the gray metal was lodged firmly against his flesh and the squad members would not let him go.
Blood sprayed the black wall. The necromancer’s forehead was marred by a small red hole but the whole back of his head was gone when he crumpled forward out of the soldiers' hold. This was my first sweep with the City Enforcers; I’d never seen anyone judged before. The sudden stink of death as the necromancer’s black magic rose up from his body like a noxious cloud.
“Get the metaphysical net.” Two soldiers unreeled a silver net that glinted dully in the dim light that came through the small window’s dark curtains. The fine mesh was coated with a mutable potion that would respond to the magic the squad needed to capture. It would contain the magic that was hovering like a shadow above the dead necromancer's emaciated form.
Before Carst and Simeons could surround it, the dark magic rippled.
“Shit. It’s on the move,” Denny shouted as he scrambled back. I was frozen in place. The whispers of the necromancer’s stolen forces wove seductively in my ear as it crept closer to me.
“Miken, move! Deploy that damn net, now!”
But it was too late. Carst and Simeon couldn’t get the net between me and the magic before it settled on my body like an oily cloud. I felt the stain of it creeping inward to claim me for its own; I was about to become a physical vessel for evil.
The physical shock of the invasion froze me in place as my mind raced. My first mission and I was already fucked. My parents would find out what I’d been doing in the worst way possible. Regret flashed through me, stronger than the whispers for a moment. They had a plan for me, my entire life mapped out, but I’d wanted to do something real to help protect the humans settled on Synchronicity. The magic of the planet was a strong force; sensitives were needed to protect the people from those who would misuse it.
It looked like I was going to die at my captain’s hands instead. He couldn’t let me become a necromancer; I prayed that he wouldn’t let the power take my will and force me to hurt the very people I was trying to protect.
The whispers intensified. The bile in my stomach rose up again, flooding my mouth. I fell to my knees, vomiting onto the floor. “Please help me,” I whispered. “Please.” Death would be better than becoming a monster.
"Mine." The voice overrode the whispers, a rushing wave that roared over me, drowning out the vile words. I grabbed my head, swaying. The dice smacked against my forehead. Orange and red shimmering bands of light wove up my wrists as I watched.
"Mine, mine, mine," the voice claimed. I screamed as the bands burned into my flesh. As hard as I tried, I could not release the bone dice clenched in my fists. The floor rose up to meet me as an inky blackness swirled around me.
What. The. Fuck. I choked on the words, but I could no longer speak.
Not my own words at least.
Hisses filled the air, somehow coming from my throat.
“A life for a life. Mm’aat has claimed you; you are chosen.”
I woke on a transport. Captain Howle was sitting beside the bed. Each blink of my eye felt as if sandpaper coated the inside of my lids.
“Ca-Captain?” My throat was like a desert and I was unable to even swallow, my mouth was so dry. The croak of my voice was so garbled, I could barely understand myself.
“Miken.” The captain jumped up and pressed a button above my head. “You’re finally awake. You scared the hell out of all of us.”
“Wha—” I began to cough, struggling to speak. “Cold.” I shivered violently. I’d never felt so cold. “My throat,” I rasped.
Captain Howle held up a fluid ampoule. I reached for it greedily, bringing it up to my lips. I sucked on the slick tube coming out of the round bulb. While I was drinking the captain draped another blanket around me.
It wasn’t until my thirst eased that I noticed the wide bands around my wrists. I dropped the ampoule on the bed, ignoring the spreading wetness.
“What are these?” I rotated my arms, staring at the wide bands of orange and red. Then I caught sight of my palms.
Small white rectangles were emblazoned on my palms, just like the dice. Strange symbols marked each one. One was a swirl the other a set of geometric triangles. I flexed my hands and the symbols writhed.
“What the fuck are these?” I asked breathlessly. I looked up at my captain.
“We don’t know. You touched some bone dice at the necromancer’s shop and then all hell broke loose.”
The scene flashed into my mind, but it was like a movie happening to someone else. “The necromancer’s magic was taking me. I wanted you to kill me; I didn’t want to be consumed by it. I begged you.” I stared at the captain. “Why am I alive?” I whispered.
“Do you remember what you said?” Captain Howle asked carefully.
I shook my head. Everything was blurry.
He pulled out a tablet from his pocket. “The chronographer had been recording the investigation, as always. The robot got this.”
The scene from the shop replayed in miniature on the screen. I jerked back when the flames erupted around my wrists, spread over my body, and consumed the dark stain that was invading me. The bands around my wrist began to tingle, as if I was feeling the fires burning over my flesh again. I watched in disbelief as the foreign hissing, sounds no human throat and tongue should be able to make, heralded my final collapse.
“A sensitive from the Council at the base scanned you. He said no necromancy had tainted you, but something was happening to you he could sense but not explain. Can you tell me what you said?” Captain Howle froze the screen when I was crumpled on the floor, my fists pulled tight to my chest.
“A life for a life,” I said slowly as I searched the fuzzy memory, “Mm’aat claims you as chosen. Sort of.” I looked up at my captain. His lined faced stared back at me, his mouth set in a grim line. “I have no idea how I know that. I don’t speak Vr acumish.”
“No human does,” he said shortly. “There was a falling out between our species a long time ago. We do know Mm'aat is their name for Synchronicity though.”
Confusion made my head spin. “I don’t … I don’t know what’s going on.” I yanked the blanket up and huddled under it, trying to get warm. I grimaced when the wet spot clung to my arms, cold and damp.
The captain patted my shoulder. “There are reasons for everything, soldier. Synchronicity has been a lesson that we humans know far less about the universe than we thought. Who knew magic was real a thousand years ago when we first got here? Look at how much we’ve learned since then. Trust that we’ll figure it out.”
I sank back against the pillow. “How will we figure this shit out?” I asked, then added a belated, “Sir.”
“We’re on a transport to Vr acu. Maybe they will have the answers. At the least, by the planetary treaty, they are owed an explanation of what we found.”
Castle, the squad medic, came into the room. “You’re conscious.” He exchanged glances with the captain. “That is very, very good. They'll be less difficult.”
“Who will?” I asked slowly. “Why do you seem so relieved?” What weren’t they telling me?
“Uh … the Council. You’ve been asleep for two days. As a new Investigative Council sensitive, of course they would be worried. They’d hardly want it to get out that they lost one of their soldiers on their first mission.” Captain Howle glared at the medic.
Castle began tapping at the machine at the end of the bed. It beeped several times. “Indeed. Your vital signs are holding steady, and you seem to be fine. We've been sending reports three times a day.”
Something about the way he said that caught my attention. “Seem to be fine?” Each blink felt like my eyelids were abrading my eyes. My throat hurt and my hands felt … funny. “Explain.” I added, "Please sir," when Castle shot me a look. I couldn’t believe I was forgetting protocol just out of training; no matter what had happened, I needed to remember my place even though it didn’t come naturally.
“Your heart rate has been much slower than your usual baseline.”
“Really?” My hand went to my chest. “I feel like it’s pounding.”
Castle tapped the computer behind me. “Huh. It’s coming back up, along with your blood pressure and respirations. All three were extremely depressed before.”
“I gave him water, and another blanket,” the captain said.
“Your temperature was fine while you were unconscious though. Are you cold, Miken?”
“I fe—” My words were garbled when the medic stuck a thermometer in my mouth.
It beeped and he yanked it out. His eyes widened; Castle showed the thermometer to the captain.
“What’s wrong?” I felt like a broken vid, constantly asking what was wrong.
“Your temperature has risen suddenly. How are you feeling?”
Warmth was finally chasing off the chill that had been bone deep and the tension was finally easing out of my spine. “I feel good though I could use a blanket that isn’t wet. I’m still thirsty.”
“You’re not dizzy? Nauseated? Is your heart racing; you said it was pounding.” Castle bustled around and changed the blankets as he grilled me.
I shook my head. “No, none of that. It feels like it's beating hard, but then my blood pressure would be elevated, right, and it's not, right? What’s my temperature, sir?”
“One oh three point three.”
“Fuck.” When was the freaky shit going to end? I'd been a sensitive my whole life, and weird stuff happened around me, but never like this.
“You sure you feel okay?"
“I’m confused but physically I feel fine.” I thrust one hand out of the covers, exposing the marks. “But I have no idea what these are. I don’t know what happened or how I spoke Vr acumish either.”
Castle ran a scanner of my wrist and then flipped my hand over to run the scanner over my palms. “The bands are foreign material, Vr acu cells to be exact, but bonded to your body in such a way it’s not being rejected. The Vr acum cells are somehow integrated with your own, seamlessly. It isn’t just a magical mark like we’ve seen before.”
I closed my hand when his hand came close to the marks, pulling my fist back under the blankets. A strange reluctance overcame me; I didn’t want anyone touching them.
Synchronicity acted in mysterious ways in my life, it always had. Scientists had been trying to decipher the magic of the planet since we landed; there seemed to be no guided intention to the events that happened, no sentient design, but still … things happened, important things, that could not be accidents.
Captain Howle and Castle both watched me. “How will you find the reasons for all this, sir?” I asked the captain. I hoped he’d tell me; I was the newest soldier in his patrol. I was barely out of the training corps; I’d been held an extra year as a sensitive for sensory training to control the impressions and the magic.
Nothing could had trained me for this.
“We go to the Vr acu.”
I’d expected it, but I still shivered at the idea of facing the living embodiment of the shadowy alien I'd seen in my mind. Those eyes …. “Yes, sir.”
Castle pointed to a button next to my bed. “Use that if you need anything.”
“Can I have more fluids?” My throat was so dry my breath hissed on the way out, like it was flowing over sandpaper.
“Certainly. I’ll add the orders to your chart.” Castle moved several ampoules onto a table next to my bed. “You need to stay hydrated, especially since we are headed into a desert.”
I was soon left alone in my small bed. The medic bay on the transport was compact; three beds were shoved side by side and surrounded by equipment, but I was the only patient.
Exhaustion dragged at me. I drained two more ampoules, finally relieving my thirst, though my throat continued to burn. The blankets were a comforting weight on top of me keeping the chill of the medic bay away.
Determined not to fret about everything I couldn’t change, I closed my eyes with a sigh. Sleep came for me, sending me spiraling down into the depths of a dream of hissing sand blowing across the tops of giant ochre dunes.
We were challenged before we ever stepped foot off the transport.
“Why have you come here?”
Our squad wore desert deuce gear remarkably similar to the Vr acum uniform; the lightweight shirts with short sleeves were infinitely better than the heavy fabric of our usual uniforms but we looked nothing like the alien standing at the base of the ship blocking our exit. Carst and Denny stood with their hands close to their firearms, but the treaty didn’t allow us to invade the neutral base with weapons at the ready.
I had my arms crossed over my chest, my palms cupped protectively near my body.
“We must speak with your Emissary,” Captain Howle said. He stood in front of me; I shamelessly used his body to shield me from the Vr acum that was glaring at us. His already narrow eyes thinned to slits. I wanted to fidget but breaking stance to hold him arms across my chest was bad enough; I forced myself to remain still.
“Why?” He unsnapped the cover on his weapon. "The communications system works just fine and treaty says that all contact must go through your Emissary. What sort of trap is this?" The man next to me tensed and Carst went for his sidearm. My whole body lurched forward, my palms out. I ended up in front of the squad facing the guard.
“No! No bloodshed is allowed,” I hissed.
“Mm’aat’s mark!” The male dropped to his haunches, burying his four long fingers into the sand. He was shaking when he looked back up at me. “Who are you?” he whispered.
“My name is Miken." I held out my hands. "You know what these are?”
“They are Mm'aat's mark. You are Chosen. A human has never been Chosen. How did this happen?”
“I—” I took another step closer to the Vr acum kneeling in front of me.
The captain interrupted me, “That is why we are here to speak with your Emissary.” He put a hand on my shoulder and pulled me back.
“Back into formation.” His stern warning couldn’t have been clearer. We knew so little of them and the alien had been going for his weapon. I was breaking protocol.
“Yes, sir. Sorry sir.”
"I will take you to him."
The guard kept looking over his shoulder, craning his long neck to catch glimpses of me. He led us through several streets and buildings that seemed deserted. They were the same shade as the desert sands I’d seen on the last part of the flight in, the yellow sand dunes broken with thick veins of burnt umber tendrils. It made for a striking abstract pattern and the same colors in the buildings made the small outpost blended into the surroundings just glimpsed over the high walls.
Sweat was darkening the shirts on my fellow squad members, but I felt good standing in the blazing sun. The air was comfortable and I’d finally stopped shivering. I enjoyed the way the sun was beating down on my body, warming my head through my shorn hair.
“Through here.” He gestured toward a dark opening set low into the wall of one of the squat buildings. He’d already opened the door and stood to the side while I stood there spaced out under the influence of the sun's warmth.
“Thank you.” The captain led the way into the building. The temperature dropped as soon as we stepped inside the thick walled structure. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust from the bright light outside and the entire squad had entered, the Vr acum male behind us, before I could see clearly.
The tension in the air grew so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Vr acum males stood all around us clearly protecting the one sitting at a desk at the end of the long room. The squad tightened around me until I was jostled on each side; our uniforms hardened and clicked when our sleeves touched.
Captain Howle kept his hands out to his sides. He spoke to the guard in the center of the line in front of the desk, “We have come in peace.” He looked past the guards to the alien leaning back from his desk. “You must be Ipisov, the Vr acu Emissary.”
He inclined his head. “The head of the Investigative Council sends his regrets in breaking the finer points of the treaty between our people but we have to speak with you.”
“Who led you here? How did you get past the guards? Humans are not allowed here!” he snarled.
Captain Howle spoke for us, as was proper when I wasn’t forgetting my place. "The Vr acu guard who met us at the landing pad recognized the necessity of our seeing you.” The male sitting at the desk stood up. I gaped at him; he was huge, standing at least a head above the others. His eyes narrowed as he looked behind us. His voice became a strangled hiss that started and stopped as he snarled at the guard that had brought us to him in Vr acumish.
“Caredum! How dare you bring interlopers inside the walls? That is forbidden! Your judgment is flawed; you are removed from your station. Restrain him. Punishment will be administered at—”
Two of the other aliens grabbed the guard, and began to force him to his knees. I shuddered as a strange tingle started in my palms. My hands rose up of their own volition. A voice rose in my mind, whispering to me. I pointed one at the hand at the guards who froze and the other at the Emissary. “He has not warranted punishment. Your judgment is flawed; a hasty act made without proper information is not a wise leadership example.”
The large male’s glare swung to me. “Who are you to dare speak to me this way?” He stalked around the desk and shoved his way between two of his men when they refused to move. They both slammed into the ground and slid several feet.
“Miken Svenagar.” I refused to buckle under that look. “And you’re Ipisov.” His name left my lips with a growl as I stared straight into his furious gaze.
“Man, you’re gonna start a war! What the hell are you saying to him?” Carst said under his voice. I shook my head, not looking away from the advancing alien. The captain stiffened and his hand moved to his side near his weapon as he prepared to defend me.
“How do you speak my language Miken Svenagar?” Ipisov leaned down, shoving his head down toward me.
“Back off,” Captain Howle said calmly as he took a step forward. “You’re aggressing on one of my soldiers.” It was breaking formation, again, but I could see the muscle in the back of the captain’s arm quivering he was so tense. I reached for his shoulder to pull him back.
He couldn’t stop this. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but somehow I knew that for truth. My instincts for the strange magic of Synchronicity were what made me a sensitive; I had to trust them. Right now they were screaming that to come between me and the irate alien before me was death.
My wrist was captured in Ipisov’s four fingered grasp before I could touch the captain; he held me immobile, one arm outstretched. “No human has these.” I grunted as he yanked me outside of the circle my squad had made around me. My entire uniform went rigid as I slammed into his body. "No human speaks our language."
“What are you?” he said in Vr acumish.
I stared up at him. “I am … Chosen.”
All hell broke loose around us. The slit eyes pupils in his eyes narrowed when the black markings on his body began to glow. My hands burned. My heartbeat thundered in my chest, the sound drowning out the commotion of everyone freaking out around us. A black, red, and orange trio of light wove together and surrounded us in a column of pulsing color. Ipisov captured my other hand, linking his fingers over the red and orange bands.
Flames of light rose between his fingers. I cried out as the burning rose to a pitch even stronger than when I’d clutched the dice. The Vr acum’s face was all I could see. His eyes closed and his head rolled back. Everything went dark.
“This is getting old,” I grumbled before I even opened my eyes.
“Chosen? Are you all right?”
I was on a hard surface with something slightly giving under my head; I was definitely not my bed on the transport or in the medic bay. I opened my eyes and stared up into Ipisov’s eyes, then looked around. We were still in the building the Vr acum guard had led us to initially. At least I hadn't passed out for days again.
“My name is Miken; please use it and,” I sat up with a groan that belied what I said next, “I feel fine.”
His hands hovered in the air near my shoulders. I twitched away from him, wincing at the stiffness in my back. “Are you sure?”
Captain Howle crouched in front of me. He looked strangely … sharp. I’d never noticed how his dark eyes had flecks of black through the iris, or how much gray was in his hair. I blinked several times, but his appearance didn’t change. Maybe it was the strange blue lights the Vr acum had on in the dim room making him look so odd. “What happened, Miken?”
If I knew that, I’d be a whole hell of a lot less confused. What I didn’t know kept kicking me in the ass, and I was getting sick of it. I had to bite back the urge to let my mouth get away from me. “I don’t know, sir.”
Ipisov rose to his feet beside me.
“Feel okay to stand up?” the captain asked.
I nodded, and he reached out a hand to steady me when I wobbled as I tried to get my feet under me so I could stand.
“I will help him.” The Vr acum glared at the captain, shouldering him back and crouching to reach me. “You do not touch him.” His accent garbled some of the words, elongating the vowels, but he at least we weren't speaking in Vr acumish anymore. Captain Howle's shoulders eased just a little.
Ipisov was close enough to me that I could see the markings on his face were made up of fine color shadings that impossibly complex when viewed from really close but blurred into a single shade of black. I’d never seen colors so vivid before.
I raised one hand and traced a swirl along one of his cheekbones. “These are beautiful. Tattoos?”
He froze under my hand. His eyes were a green and gold mix with orange zigzag slit pupils. “We are born with our markings.” He captured my wrist and I saw red bands around his … the same red and orange bands that had been around my wrists, now edged in black! The same markings were on my arms; they created an infinity band around my wrist with the blue additions, it was clear.
I scrambled to my feet, flinching back when he reached for me. I pointed at his wrists.
“You weren’t born with those,” I spat. I held up my arms like a shield in front of my chest. “And neither was I. I want to know what is going on!” I thought my life was complicated before!
“You called yourself Chosen. You know what is going on.” We could have been alone for all the squad and his guards mattered. We stood nose to nose, hissing at each other, though he had to bend down quite far to glare back at me.
“No, I don’t. I’m a sensitive with the City Enforcers. We were investigating a magic abuse report when I made the mistake of picking up a pair of unusual dice in the suspect’s shop. He was a necromancer and the dice were bones.” The pain and horror I’d felt when the dice activated in my hands hit me all over again. My palms burned and I swayed. “Vr acum bones emblazoned with symbols of power.”
Ipisov caught me, grunting when my uniform went solid again.
“Be careful, Chosen.”
My temper flared. “My name is Miken! I know you said I was Chosen, hell, I’ve said it several times in your language but I. Have. No. Idea. What. That. Means.” I poked a finger into the solid thickness of his chest with each word. “My magical instinct is warring with my conscious mind; I’ve got the damn planet speaking to me or through me and magical markings crisscrossing my body. I want answers!”
Ipisov stared down at me, nonplussed. “No one has ever spoken to me like that.” He rubbed one long finger over the spot I’d stabbed in anger.
“Well, I’m going to be saying things a lot worse soon.”
I turned to face Captain Howle. “I’m sorry sir, but protocol isn’t going to cover this. Something really strange is happening to me, and I know he can tell me what it is.”
A Vr acum brought over a chair for me. “For your comfort, Chosen.” I stared at the tall alien who was bowed almost double, avoiding my eyes. He inched the chair closer to me.
“See,” I waved a hand at the chair, “that. When has a Vr acum ever bowed to a human? I can tell you; never. I’ve seen the histories just like every other cadet; we came to this planet under joint ownership, but the Vr acu stay on the southern continent and do not allow any humans beyond their walls.”
Captain Howle crossed his arms over his chest. “While I do not agree with his method of inquiry,” the captain shot me a look that was a shut up now order if I’d ever seen one, and with my mouth, I’d seen plenty, “he has a point. You Vr acu are next to unknown to us. Maybe our ancestors knew more when we first settled the planet with you, but a long time ago we forgot what we knew.
“The Investigative Council was appalled when I reported our findings. We have never had a necromancer using Vr acum parts discovered by the Investigative Council before. We came here to prevent any misunderstandings between our people.”
I took the chair still being offered because I needed to sit down. It was like … split personalities. I kept hearing a voice in my head. What if the necromancer's magic had gotten into me and this was all … wrong? The anger I felt faded. I needed answers; I hated feeling so lost with no understanding of what was happening to me. "Please. I need to know what this all means." I'd beg Ipisov if I had to.
“Mm’aat long ago said a special Chosen would bridge the divide between our species,” Ipisov said. “You are he.” He shrugged as if that should explain everything. "You're not longer human. The symbols on your hands and the marks on your wrist show us who the Chosen is each generation when they are born. Vr acu have many who can use Mm'aat's power, but none strong enough to hear the voice of Mm'aat like you humans do. We have only one to interpret her will."
The name was familiar; a whispery voice spoke in the back of my mind. I sank down in the chair. “That … that was the name of the Vr acum that ….” I turned my hands palm up on my thighs. The swirls and dots on my skin pulsed.
“He was our Chosen, yes.” Ipisov gestured to his men and several other chairs were brought over. Two guards stood behind him while the rest resumed their posts around the room where they had been when we entered. Carst and Denny didn’t sit down but Captain Howle and the rest of the squad did. They flanked our chairs, standing behind the captain and me. His shuttle was ambushed and soon I felt his life force end.
"This is all new to us," Captain Howle told Ipisov. "We don't know anything about how your people are affected by the magic on Synchronicity now."
“You are right, Captain, that our people have been too separated. We have better records; Vr acu live longer than humans, but still much is unknown to us about your ways as well. The schism occurred a long time ago when the magic of this world made some of your kind very unstable. Too many went rogue and they threatened our link to the planet when they hunted our sensitives for their power. They were wiped out, all but one babe still protected in his womb.”
Ipisov gestured to his guards. “We were not a race used to violence. Peace had always been our way, which is why we agreed to share Mm’aat rather than fight over her. But to protect our last Chosen, we were forced to change too. Knowledge of our magic was hidden, and we closed our borders. Teams of Vr acum guards, the first ever to exist, were charged with eradicating the necromancers who stole the life-force of the sacred chosen who were our spiritual link to Mm’aat.”
Captain Howe leaned forward. “Your guards obviously learned how to overcome your aversion to bloodshed. I have heard nothing of this from the Council during my briefings, and it is not a part of our history. We thought the necromancers died out when they could no longer steal more of your Chosen when your borders were sealed. We hunted them too, but we found only a few.”
His mouth narrowed to a thin slit, Ipisov nodded. “They did. The rest of the Vr acu mourn our loss of innocence, but we have remained vigilant because we knew they would be back. It was foretold by that Chosen long ago one day this threat would reappear, but at the same time, our salvation would find us. A new Chosen would come, unlike any before, and herald in a new era of peace for the Vr acu.”
He turned to look at me, staring deep into my eyes. “You are that Chosen. I do not know how, but you are going to unite our two species and save Mm'aat from the dark magic that would seek to destroy her.”
I stared at Ipisov in disbelief, shaking my head. How could a magical planet need my help? “No. I don’t want that. I never signed up to be anyone’s prophet of peace or anything like that.” I ran a hand over my hair, scrubbing at the short bristles. “Damn it! This is why I refused to join in the family! I'm not leadership material.” I flopped back in my chair, crossing my arms over my chest.
Captain Howle started laughing. Ipisov and I turned to stare at him. I couldn’t have been more shocked; the captain was a model soldier for the Investigative Council; he never cracked a smile while on a mission, much less laughed. He was a professional; a lifer.
“Neither of you know,” he finally said when he calmed down. “Miken, the Emissary for the Vr acu is a member of their ruling family; in this generation, Ipisov is actually the heir as well. The council briefed me on his status when they sent us here.” He smirked at me. “And I have always known who you are.”
No, no, no. I’d been so careful. Ipisov stared at me. “Who are you?”
“I told you, I am Miken Svenagar. I’m a sensitive guard for the Investigative Council.” I looked away, shifting in the chair.
“Chosen do not lie.” He stared down at me. I narrowed my eyes back at him.
I wasn’t lying. Not exactly. Miken was who I always wanted to be. He was … He was my escape from the life I'd never wanted, that I could never live up to, but—the voice in my mind—whispered at me again. My shoulders slumped. “My name is Miniux Kevis Norzchup.”
“Well fuck me!” Denny muttered behind me. “We have a god-be-damned royal in our squad.”
The anonymity I’d struggled for, hiding away and joining as a recruit for the Investigative Council, had apparently all been a ruse on the part of my parents and the Council. They must have known where I was all along. I thought my father kept my disappearance a secret from the populace to avoid a panic while they searched for me privately. I’d wanted a chance to be normal for once so I made myself believe that.
Freedom had only been an illusion, however. My hands clenched into fists.
Captain Howle sat back in his chair, no longer smiling. “The Vr acu are not the only people with prophecies; we have our own as well. A human sensitive, the strongest one ever tested by the Investigative Council … and you thought that you'd be assigned to a lowly squad? They knew you were important; that you had a destiny to fulfill to prevent a war that would rip Synchronicity apart. They didn't know how before, but now we know. You're not just Miniux Kevis Norzchup, royal heir, you're the Vr acu Chosen.”
Shock swept through me again. The answers I sought were no comfort; each revelation made pushed me further and further from clarity. I’d always had a strong connection to the magic of Synchronicity but the strongest sensitive ever? I’d no idea! The captain wasn’t done.
“And now, the Vr acum Emissary is bound to that human Chosen." He stared at Ipisov, waving his hand at his marks. "You two are the future leaders of your respective people, and you're bound together. This is prophecy come to life; one day you’ll bring peace to Synchronicity and make us into one people.”
“Bound?” My voice squeaked when I spoke. “Who said anything about being bound?”
“What did you think the marks were for? The Vr acu leader has always had a Chosen by his side.” Ipisov leaned forward and traced the mark on my wrist in the shape of an infinity loop. “Yanodash was to be mine, before he disappeared. Now it is you. You are my link to Mm’aat. You interpret her will.”
“Or the magic of the planet, as we call it,” Captain Howe said. “You two will truly bring our two species together.”
“I don't …." I couldn't breathe and my chest was tight. "I can't ….” The voice in my head was getting stronger. I stood up, needing to move and to be alone with my thoughts. "I need air."
“No,” I said when Carst tried to follow me. I was surprised when he listened, but then again, I was no longer Miken, newest squad member. I was once again Miniux, royal heir. Of course my guards back home would never have let me go anywhere alone, but the squad didn't know that.
The sun was welcome, helping to drive the chill from my body. In the distance the Vr acu were congregated in a large square with all sorts of booths. For all their alien differences, the city people acted much like the humans. I could see them talking, shopping, going about their lives just like we did.
If the necromancers were back how could I say no to preventing the atrocity I’d seen, and felt, when I picked up the dice from happening to more of them? If I ignored their need because they weren’t human, was I any better? Humans as a whole weren’t as connected to the magic of Synchronicity as the Vr acu were; that much had been clear from the first we had become aware of the planet’s effects on our two races.
Eventually the necromancers would run out Vr acum victims and go after the human sensitives too. Only then they’d have more power; power we might not be able to stop.
The only way to prevent that would be to work together at the very top. Our kind had been too separate for too long. How could the soldiers expect to work together with the Vr acu guards, and vice versa, if we couldn't show the leadership of the planet was united against the threat of the necromancers?
I’d hoped to manage a normal life; maybe find someone someday who would want me for me, not for my family or my power. That was a dream that I would have to let go. I was sad for a moment but then the voice in the back of my head murmured at me again. Maybe one day …
I shook my head. I’d not pin my hopes on maybe. For now, I was needed to protect the people of Synchronicity. Not just the humans, but all the people, Vr acu and human alike. We had to protect the magic of Synchronicity and keep the necromancers from using it for their evil purposes.
Ipisov came outside. He stood beside me, staring at the square and all the Vr acu there. “There’s a lot we don’t know about each other,” he said. “But I hope you will give me a chance to show you that we can be allies in this. I know how you feel, how hard it can be to face the expectations."
He glanced down at me, the black swirls shining in the light that had narrowed his pupils to thin slits. "I am just as lost in this as you; I never expected to find myself with a human Chosen. The thought of facing the necromancers is terrifying. How do we find them, much less stop them? Why have they come back now?
"We will both face difficulties with our species. It is all new, but if I can make it easier for you, I will.”
He really did know exactly what I was feeling. Maybe we weren't so different. I sighed. “I guess I always knew one day I’d have to go back and face my responsibilities.” I looked over at the marks on his wrist and then down at the identical swirls of color on mine.
“Do you really think we can do this?”
Ipisov turned to face me. “Mm’aat chose you for me for a reason. I know she will guide you; she already has been. If we can find a way to work together, I believe we can stop the necromancers.”
I’d tried to avoid my fate but a chance encounter with a pair of dice had brought all that I’d thought I’d managed to escape and more. The voice whispered in my head again. Well … maybe it wasn't chance. Maybe this really was my destiny.
Who was I to fight Synchronicity?
Thank you for reading!