Flame and Shadow

By Joshua Carr All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 42

To my surprise, I did not meet with too much opposition upon reaching Nahalore. Apparently, no one suspected me of killing that one boy. The security systems must really have been out like Razo had said. I just hoped I wouldn’t run into that fiery girl…

The first thing they did was introduce me to a man, not much older than me. His name was Doshi. He proceeded to take a blood sample, and do a number of lab examinations. Doshi also asked me to perform a number of physical tests. The results of his studies were shocking. Evidently, I was not only a Nephilim, but I was a rare “shadow-caller”. Evidently, they hadn’t seen a shadow-caller for 18 years. My ability involved developing increased physical attributes when my body was in darkness. That absolutely matched up with my own observations.

After the analysis, he attempted to make me wear one of their uniforms. It was white like all the others, but had black stripes on the sleeves and pant legs. I politely declined, and informed him that he could “shove that ridiculous Power-Ranger suit up his butt”.

Next, I met the woman whom I had slashed back in our skirmish in the woods. She introduced herself as Mahsa, the directing combat instructor. She was a very intense person, and I didn’t want to get on her bad side. Somehow, though, she seemed to accept me. Perhaps she respected my martial arts talents, in conjunction with my Nephilim power. It was well known that most Nephilim had no interest in developing fighting skills. But she certainly did, and we had a mutual tolerance for each other, despite our encounter on the battlefield.

Some time later, I was directed down to the intelligence center. They wanted to have me show them the location of Tsalderek’s headquarters. I resigned myself to do what I had to. It didn’t feel right, like a betrayal. If this was my destiny, though, I would do whatever it took.

When I arrived, there was a massive commotion. It didn’t have anything to do with me. All of the information technicians were milling about, chattering about something. They had just intercepted a message from Tsalderek and, judging by their frenzied conversation, it was the first that they had ever been able to capture.

Actually, it was surprising that they were able to get one at all. Tsalderek had extremely advanced encryption systems and hidden transmission wavelengths. The only way Nahalore could have come across the message was if the sender wanted them to. Who was this sender? Looking over an analyst’s shoulder, I got a look at the message on a monitor.

He noticed me looking, and asked:

“Hey, you know how to read this? Now that we have it, I’m not sure what to do?”

I shook my head, but the truth was that I did know what it meant. I had been trained in this code for years. Each letter in the code was represented as a number, but it was a random number, 1 to 100, that the agents had to memorize. Then, a series of mathematical equations were performed on it. These equations were designated by an algorithm, usually contained in the beginning of the message. Finally, the resulting number matched with a corresponding letter. To someone who didn’t understand the code, it was a jumble of nonsensical letters. However, to an agent of Tsalderek, it contained an important meaning.

Suddenly, it occurred to me… maybe I was the intended recipient of this transmission! Why else would the first ever intercepted message be immediately after I arrived? I couldn’t tell them the location of Tsalderek’s headquarters yet. If I outlived my usefulness, they might dispose of me, and I’d never get to figure out what the transmission said.

Just then, someone got my attention with a hand on my shoulder.

“Milo! My friend!”

I flipped around to face the man. It was someone I did not recognize. He was tall, with white hair, a beard that encircled his face, and a uniform that resembled some kind of bishop’s robe, but with the same design as Nahalore’s outfits. He certainly had an air of authority about him.

“Are you ready to redeem yourself? All of your past life can be put to use right now. Just explain how we can find Tsalderek’s headquarters, and all your past misdeeds will be forgiven.”

“Um, actually, I can’t really find it from the outside.” I lied. “We were basically prisoners at Tsalderek. Enslaved, oppressed, never saw the light of day. I have no idea how to get there. However…”

I made use of my opportunity to make a grab at the coded message.

“I think I might be able to decode the transmission there. If you could let me get a good look at it, I could try to translate it for you.

Without hesitation, the authoritive man gestured to a technician, who created a printout of the message. It printed after a few moments, and it was handed to me.

“Thank you. You have finally found your true family, and your destiny. Please let me know as soon as you find something.”

I took the printout of the transmission.

“Thank you sir. I’ll do my best.”

As soon as possible, I locked myself in the bathroom with the hard copy of the message, a piece of blank paper, and a pencil. Working meticulously, I translated the random-looking letters using the cypher algorithm at the beginning of the communication. My brain easily recalled the numerical designation for the letters. It wasn’t so natural to remember the meaning of the algorithm, but once I got it, the rest of the message came fairly quickly. I was able to gather the gist of it while decoding, but it wasn’t until it was finished and I could read over the entire thing that I was able to truly comprehend the significance of what it was saying.

Hello If you are reading this then you are my longlost twin. Please contact me as soon as possible

My mouth dropped open. Impossible. I couldn’t have a twin. I mean, that didn’t even make sense! A twin that I had never even seen. It was possible that I could have been separated from him at the boys’ home, but there’s no way I wouldn’t have noticed someone with the same face as me running around Tsalderek! Unless, he was either avoiding detection with a disguise, or he had just arrived there.

Well, whether it was true or not, I elected to respond. Someone was going through a lot of trouble and taking an enormous risk, allowing their transmission to be picked up like that. I had some important questions for them.

How could I contact them back, though? Nahalore would have very tight reins on me to make sure that I wasn’t some kind of double agent. Hm…I would have to wait for an opportunity, then use the equipment in the information center to send off a message of my own.

Or…I could make my own opportunity. Whichever would be fastest. Shortly thereafter, I crept down to the information center. I hadn’t seen anyone, but I knew that there were a number of technicians directly on the other side of the door leading into the room. Taking a deep breath, I pushed the door very slowly and gently. All of the workers had their back to the door, and were unable to see me enter the room. I could see on the monitors that they were all hard at work, with the exception of one guy on the far right. He was playing Dragon Vale.

I snuck up behind him, and slapped my hand over his mouth. Without moving another muscle, he scrolled the mouse up to close the window. I whispered in his ear:

“Hey, how about I have a turn on the computer now, and I won’t mention this to your superiors.”

He nodded silently, and scooted his rolling chair slightly backward. I placed myself in front of the machine, and began to compose my output message. I already had thoughtfully written out my message, using the same cypher, algorithm, and frequency that the incoming transmission had employed. It said:

I have received your message How long have you been at Tsalderek How can I know you are really my twin ANSWERS

With my message sent, the next thing I had to do was wait for a response. I pushed the analyst’s chair forward into its position and whispered:

“Enjoy your game. Let me know if another message comes in.”

He nodded again, and pretended like he didn’t see me. I slunk out of the information tech center, and made my way back to the dorm-like room where I was staying. I then pretended to work on decoding the cypher whenever anyone came to check on me. By the time of the evening meal (which was remarkably similar to Tsalderek’s cuisine. Very plain and to the point), we had still received no new transmission.

As I lay down to go to sleep, the myriad worries that encompassed my mind were all overshadowed by one: this alleged twin. Did that make sense? Was there some part of the prophecy I didn’t know about that said I would have a twin, or should I even be thinking about the prophecy at all, now? I wonder if this person balked because I questioned them. But how could anyone prove that they’re a twin through a simple text message? Perhaps I asked too much, and scared them off. If they really are my twin, though, they’ll keep trying.

The next morning, I caught the information tech guy I had used the day before on his way to work.

“Hey, did you receive any messages from Tsalderek?” I asked quietly.

He shook his head.

“Not yet, but I’ll let you know.”

The man went inside, before come back out only seconds later.

“I’ve got something!” He proclaimed.

His voice was hushed, but I could still detect the excitement.

I followed him into the information center, and leaned on the desk as he brought up the latest transmission. Another complete mess of characters, but that’s exactly what I wanted to see. My faith that it could conceivably be my twin had increased substantially, based upon the fact that they responded at all. The technician gave me a printout of the message, and I hurried into the bathroom again to decode it. The results absolutely blew me away...

I just arrived Sagar helps me with messages and knew that we were twins Cant prove but our birthdays are both MAR 1 The time has come for us to meet at last Come to the park at the north edge of the town Bindmont I’ll be there

The fact that Sagar was mentioned gave great credibility to the claims of this individual. If anyone were to know who my twin was, it would be him. He even knew that I was part Nephilim, so he must have some idea of my past, and my family. Oh yeah. And although I didn’t know exactly when my birthday was, I had been told it was March 1st, for some reason. So that’s when I told people it was. At least he got that part right.

I decided that I would go to meet this person. Even if they ended up to be a liar, I would have lost nothing. Why on earth would anyone claim to be my twin, even if they weren’t? Now, I just had to figure out a way to get to Bindmont. I hope that the security on Nahalore’s motorcycles is as bad as on Tsalderek’s…

Epilogue

Less than an hour later, Milo perched in a tree at the edge of Barter park, on the north side of Bindmont. His stomach churned nervously as he waited, but his extensive stealth training prevented him from making a move. If he were to meet this mysterious person, he was going to be the one to make the first move, and not be taken by surprise.

For hours, he remained motionless, his eyes scanning almost the entirety of the park. There were a couple of families that came and went, but no one that could be interpreted as an agent of Tsalderek. As the sun began to visibly dip, and the air cooled, the pessimistic thought entered his mind. What if he had been set up? His contact could have been playing him for a fool, even going so far as to get him in a dangerous situation.

Eventually, he decided to leave his position. If his “twin” were coming, he would have already been there. At this point in life, Milo avoided raising his hopes too high, so this did not crush him at all, although it was a bit of a disappointment.

As he turned around to head back to his motorcycle, parked some distance away, he saw a person walk around the corner of a path which led to the park. When they made eye contact with each other, they both froze.

“You…” they simultaneously breathed.

It was the fiery girl that Milo had fought when he still was under Tsalderek’s command. He glared at her, and she glared right back. Was this some kind of joke? How could this girl be…

Sera was incredulous as well. This was far from what she was expecting. She supposed this explained why she didn’t run into him during her brief time within Tsalderek. He had defected right before she had.

Their eyes were locked for a long period of time, as they both struggled with what to do. A gently blowing breeze was the only activity, and the fallen leaves it moved made the only sound.

After the long, poignant pause, Sera smiled, and finally spoke.

“Hello…brother!”

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