The sky was free of clouds and the sun was warm as Maximilian sat on the bench, a light wind blew over the trees lined up in front of the school’s front gate. He took out his music player and put on his headphones while he waited for Simon to come out. For reasons unknown his friend always took his time when he went to the bathroom, and unfortunately he had decided to go before leaving at the end of class. Maximilian chose the playlist he liked to listen to recently, a mix of some of his favorite electro-pop songs. As he did so he leaned back on the bench and closed his eyes, opening his mind and letting rise out of his body, expanding to his surroundings. During the last week he had used his ability as often as he could, training it on every metal object he could encounter and testing its limits. He had discovered a few things. First, he now knew that he could expand his power to almost thirty meters in all directions around him and perceive any metal object in that zone as clearly as if it was right before him. Secondly, by focusing his ‘sixth sense’ enough he could discern very small quantities of metal, sometimes even in living beings (but they were mostly people with a dangerously high dose of metal inside them, hence very rare).
That way he could sense almost all the objects around him and some (more and more lately) of the living beings, but that was harder because they kept moving and so did the iron in the blood or the metal prosthetics that replaced defective limbs. Another thing he had discovered was that if he concentrated too much on his ability while he was near a magnet (or anything magnetic for that matter and with a powerful enough field of action) it would disrupt his ability and sometimes cause him heavy headaches when he would stop. One last thing he had noticed was that all objects glowed with a blue-greyish color when he would focus on them, but sometimes he could have sworn that he had seen them gleam with faint green light. As he let his mind float he concentrated on all the objects moving around him : coins, phones, rings and necklaces. He could see them all. He saw an old man with a walking stick that had a prosthetic leg made of aluminium. He “zoomed” on the leg and tried to understand how it worked. Apparently it was semi automated but used the kinetic energy of the leg to move, only relying on the electronics to smoothen the movement. He was suddenly distracted by movement on his left, he broke his concentration and opened his eyes.
Simon was coming out of the building and walking towards him with a big smile which made Maximilian think there was something more than just his usual cheerfulness.
“I get it now, why you looked so interested !” He said with a wink to his friend as he sat down next to him.
“What are you talking about ?” Asked Maximilian, very suspicious of his friend.
“I walked pass that girl from this morning, you know the one you couldn’t take your eyes off of ! And now I understand why you were so captivated. She is not my type but man, she’s cute !” The other teenager punched him in the arm as he said that. “Hey ! What was that for ?!”
“For making fun of me ! And I already told you : yes she is cute but I just thought I recognized her, that’s all !”
“Yeah, that’s all my a- Ouch !” He didn’t have time to finish his sentence, his friend punched him once more in the arm.
“Anyways !” Said Maximilian, insisting on dropping the subject by preparing another well placed punch which was immediately effective as Simon closed his mouth. “I have to go ’cause my bus won’t wait long for me and I have almost an hour before I get home so if we could start walking that would be very nice of you.”
“Of course milord ! But no more hitting please !” Said Simon in a pleading tone as he bowed to his friend. the two teenagers started walking towards the bus stops located a few minutes down the street of the school. “You know,” Started Simon. “You may have an hour of bus and I only fifteen minutes but I have to wait for it almost as long as my bus ride lasts ! So please, don’t play the great martyr…” He stuck out his tongue and sidestepped to his friend as the dark-haired boy threw a third “friendly”punch at his friend. Simon laughed like a madman and took off as Maximilian started running after him to try another punch.
When Maximilian finally sat down at his desk it was half past six. He was lucky, the classes had ended early for the first day, allowing him to leave school at five instead of six. He was now eating a quick snack while his computer was starting, he wanted to work on his program a bit before dinner and see if the new function he had finished the previous day was working correctly. As it booted up he took the small wooden box in his hand and studied it attentively. During the past few days he had tried to use his power on it a few times a day but it hadn’t shown any result despite the fact that he could feel his ability was slowly getting stronger. Each and every time he tried to “see” what was inside it he would be stopped by an invisible wall (which was quite strange to him when he considered the fact that his mind wasn’t solid) and couldn’t get past it. He decided to try once more but after a few minutes of deep concentration he was forced to accept the fact that his powers could not help him in finding out what the miniature trunk contained, he would have to open it to see. Maximilian put the box back on his desk and typed in the password to his computer.
As soon as the game started he sighed in relief, these last few days he had been so scared that it would suddenly crash and he would wake up understanding that the miraculous problem solving had been but a dream. But everything went smoothly and steadily since the previous week, he had managed to work at a steady rhythm and almost finish inputting the script of the story. The teenager had also started working on the narrator of the story. Age of Castles was supposed to be a Zork-like game with more textual and visual interactivity (as it would contain drawings of the scenes and scenery) with a narrator telling the story. It was, in Maximilian’s mind at least, to be designed to evolve as the player would advance in the game, changing the course of events in response to the player’s choice. And all this process was centered on the narrator, controlled by the computer as a small artificial intelligence, who would design the paths offered to the player from the choices he had made. Maximilian had compiled a database of all the paths the narrator could make the player explore and had designed a small soft that would exploit this database and slightly evolve in its responses over time. Today he wanted to test the limits of the soft he had designed to check what was good to go and what had yet to be done. He also wanted to add a saving function for right now each time he had to start the game over from the beginning. He entered his nickname, the one he used in most online accounts, Max0 , and started the game.
Every time he entered a command with the keyboard and got an unsatisfying response he would write it down to remind himself to check it later. The game was barely working but Maximilian was satisfied with what he had achieved up to now. He had scripted the backbone of the story, almost completed the main menu, entered all the possible inputs in a database and started working on the AI of the narrator. Though it wasn’t pro’s work it seemed pretty decent to the teenager and he was confident he could do it this time, even finish it time for the project the following year. The young man had started working on a game project a few years back, while he was still in secondary school. He had had many ideas about what he could do but in the end Maximilian had decided to remake an old game that he had played once at the school library. Zork it was called, a simple keyboard interactive game that narrated a story through which th player could travel. But he wanted to do something even better than just remake the game, he wanted to create a game that was completely interactive, a game that offered a lot more options of actions and that wasn’t linear in the story. A true interactive game. Unfortunately for the young man, that project had been to big and overwhelming for him at that time and he had given up on it. But last year, when the students had been told about the school projects Maximilian had immediately thought about his unfinished game and had decided to start working on it immediately. After almost six months of efforts, though not always constant and fruitful, he had managed to make it work. Maximilian smiled as he entered the lines of command, it maybe wasn’t finished but he had managed to make it work and that was already a feat in itself !
The young man decided to stop after a full hour of programming. He was starting to feel tired and to have a slight headache after staring at a screen so intently for so long. He quite the game, put some music on and turned the screen off before simply lying on his bed and closing his eyes. Dinner wasn’t to be ready for another twenty minutes or so, so Maximilian decided to use this time to train his powers. He took several metal objects from a small chest on one of his shelves and lined them up on his desk. A small lead soldier from his old collection, a toy car, metal marbles and an old french coin. He put the marbles and the coin aside and focused on the soldier and the car. He closed his eyes and instantly felt his mind leaving his body, expanding around him and filling up the room. Though he could have included the whole house, even the garden, in what he called his mind sphere but he prefered to concentrate only on his room for te time being. Focusing on smaller areas required less concentration and he paid a lesser toll afterwards. When he had tried to see how far he could go he had almost passed out after coming back to himself and he only had tried that for a few seconds, one minutes tops. As it had done every time, Maximilian could see (or rather sense) every detail of the little metal objects, he could zoom in or out and clearly feel the structure, how it had been built, where the pressure was applied and even if the fatigue of the material. During all his experiences on his power the teenage noticed one thing : as he trained and as it became easier to control it he needed ess concentration and could almost do it instinctively. This helped a lot because the first times he tried to do that he was at home and he hadn’t noticed that Doris was calling for him to come eat. That evening on the contrary he distinctly heard his younger brother run down the stairs and call him for dinner. He smiled, picturing the young boy running down, a big smile on his face at the prospect of eating the delicious cooking of his mother.
“I’m coming !” He shouted. “Two minutes !”
Before complying he wanted to test one last thing : he had never tried to focus on two objets at once. Though he had been training his ability in many different ways Maximilian had never thought of trying it on multiple objects at once, the thought had never occurred to him before that evening. Why ? By the way… he thought. But he had no answer to that question. The young man tried focusing on the soldier, which seemed the simpler object of the two, and waited until he pictured it perfectly in his mind before trying to add the car in. Unfortunately as soon as he tried he focused only on the car and the soldier faded in the background. He tried again, slower but it didn’t work. Even by starting with the car he couldn’t focus on both objects without being distracted by one or the other. This frustrated him. He sighed deeply before smiling again. Yes, that might work ! This time he tried picturing the whole image before zooming in on the two objects. He waited until he could clearly see every detail of the soldier and the car before slowly closing in. Little by little he came closer to both of them, he could feel his ability surging inside him, boiling like water, a feeling he had never experienced before. He was almost as close as he wanted when Jeff calling him from below distracted him.
“Damn…” He muttered feeling a little dizzy. “Almost there…” He stood up carefully, careful not to stumble, and walked towards the door, turning the light off in his room. “Coming !” he shouted. The screen of his computer lighting on and his game starting on its own. On the screen the main menu displayed a single sentence : “Welcome back max0”.
As I left my desk that evening and climbed down the stairs I hadn’t noticed that the smallest of the coins I had put on the table had moved forward. It was not much, a few millimeters at most, and at the time I hadn’t paid much attention but I can now say that it was the beginning. This is where I started to really notice the strange things going on around me and the changes that I was starting to go through (yeah, something strange other than my ability). That is when I started to understand the powers that I have and why I have them.